31 October 2008

Blogs can keep us together (Think of me, Babe, whenever . . .)

Embarrassing Confession of the Day: When I was in high school, I was addicted to IMing with strangers. I would have said addicted to chat rooms, but that wouldn't be true. I actually hated the chat room atmosphere - twelve conversations flowing at once and generally at least one of them being entirely inappropriate. My strategy was to go into the chat room, find one or two (or three or four) people who seemed interesting and chat with them privately. If that went well, we became AIM or MSN Messenger buddies. Once I had a pretty good store of buddies, I stopped the chat room visits. I would talk to my new "friends" about almost anything. Until my senior year of high school, I had VERY few (try one) close friends in real life, and so these on-line confidantes were the best thing I had. They were my escape. The ones who knew the real me that I kept hidden from everyone else. They didn't know me in real life, so I could be the funny, cool, interesting girl that I was too afraid to be in reality.
When I started gaining flesh and blood friends, I realized my need for digital chatter gave way to a longing for real human interaction - going to football games, sleepovers and late-night-Steak-n-Shake runs.
However, by my senior year of college blogging had become quite the fad and I, once again, became hooked - addicted. Once again, I could reveal little parts of my soul without feeling judged. And, as I've always been better at expressing myself in writing, rather than by spoken word, I relished in the ability to get my thoughts out there to the world. And something even more amazing - others felt the same way as me!
During this blogging era, we can connect to others through these digital journals, broadcast to the world and suddenly, by reading the thoughts of another on their biggest pet peeves, struggles and inner demons, we realize - we're not that different after all. Every one of us seems to be scrambling through life, trying to pull everything together while keeping up appearances that we already have everything together so that we're not the ONLY ones who have NOTHING together and now we can see, plain as day - we're not alone! NO ONE has everything together! And it is through these on-line forums that we feel free to confess this tiny fact. Isn't it interesting?
Perhaps this blunt honesty can transfer to our true lives and soon we'll have a whole lot less fake, a whole lot more genuine and a more relaxed, free body of human beings surviving together on this rock we call Earth.

29 October 2008

Once burned, twice shy

I am a vagrant, a wanderer. In this age of the information super-highway, I am a hitchhiker in a weary land. Through these days, weeks of computer-craziness, I have packed up all my digital belongings on an external harddrive, toting it to any computer who will let me in. Not wanting to overload my husband's machine with my excess baggage, I simply kept everything neatly in its place - saved all new documents, pictures and downloads on my harddrive and zipped it up neatly at the end of the day. Now that I have a "home" again, I am like the storm-battered exile - wary to believe this place is for real - permanent. I am afraid to unpack and make myself at home for fear that this, too, will vanish - be swept away by another tornado of computer-filled anguish. So, still, I tote my bags from place to place - where goes the laptop, there goes the external harddrive - constantly working off of it, saving to it and letting nothing touch the virginal harddrive of the new machine. And yet, I still fear. What if someone stole the harddrive? Where would I be then? I need a back up of my back up! Oh the simplicity of the digital age - the ability to keep everything stowed in one, compact location - and the ability to have it all swept away in an equally poetic simple manner.

"I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name."

27 October 2008

A Brief History of the Rowland Laptop

We got a new laptop! Woohoo! God is so good!

In order for you to understand the greatness of this story, you need a little history lesson:

Once upon a time I worked at a camp for an entire summer and decided I would save my meager (VERY meager) earnings to purchase a new laptop to replace the one I had for my first two years of college which had recently taken to crashing every month or so (I mean a total and utter CRASH). Unfortunately, being a teenage girl in outlet-ridden, beach-bordered, crab-shack lovin' Maine, my paychecks were not necessarily saved as they should have been. Fortunately, God saw my need and overlooked my irresponsibility and introduced me to a girl who desperately wanted to get rid of her one-year-old laptop. I desperately wanted a laptop - see where this is going? She gave me a remarkable deal and I was, once again, happy.

After about two years this laptop began to render itself useless by it's shoddy wireless ability (and that only with an external card - that picked up next to no signal) and some various other problems. I dealt with it for another year and a half before my wonderful in-laws offered us a deal - our shoddy laptop for their shoddy laptop - which had much better wireless capability and a brand new motherboard (being that the former one had been recently replaced by Dell - for a third time). We took the deal and I was once again happy until the new motherboard inexplicably died once again only five months later - was replaced and did so again last month (only four months later this time). Dell, avoiding our request that the warranty be honored and this time-proven lacky of a laptop be replaced, "fixed" it twice more, only the last time proved to be too much for our poor friend and it refused to be resuscitated. The in-laws stepped in once more and offered us back the previously shoddy, yet still functioning, original laptop. And then it, too, bit the dust.

Tired of having no convenient laptop, I finally wrote a strongly-worded, yet respectful e-mail to Dell demanding that they step up, stand behind their product, and replace it. And - here's the crazy part - they said OK! Finally! They were going to replace it with a refurbised "comparable" model.

Only what we received via DHL today was far from a "comparable" model. Rather, they replaced our piece of shiny junk with a model that is worth TWICE what the original was. It has shiny new features, such as a built-in webcam and a thumprint reader (which I will probably never use but will always think is cool). In short, it is everything I wanted in a laptop, but thought I'd have to wait a couple more years for, until we had our debt under control. And yet, God, in his infinite goodness, has provided it now.

Now whether to sing the praises of Dell, we shall wait and see. As you may have noticed, my happiness in the laptop situation is not always well-founded. I'll let you know.

26 October 2008

Remember When?

I realized yesterday: I actually miss being pregnant. Okay, maybe I don't really miss it, but I'm saddened by the realization that I've already forgotten what it felt like. In my head, I can remember everything, but I can no longer remember the feelings. I don't remember what it felt like to have her wiggle and squirm and kick. I hear her hiccups daily, but I don't remember how it felt when those same reflexes kept me awake at night. I don't remember how it felt to not be able to sleep in almost any position other than on my side - and thus not being able to sleep at all. I don't remember what it felt like to not be able to bend over to put the clothes in the dryer without getting winded. I don't remember what it felt like to not be able to lift my foot into Philip's lap when he was vying for the Best Husband of the Year award by giving me a pedicure. I don't remember any of it.

By the same token, I barely remember how it felt to be able to take care of things around the house without wondering how long Little Bit would stay asleep before she needed my attention again. I don't remember how it felt to leave the house without wondering if I would be out long enough that she would have to eat while we were gone. I don't remember how it felt to sit in her empty nursery longing for something to do, an excuse to be in there. I don't remember not having a tiny, warm, soft body to clutch and cuddle and hug or a tiny balded head to kiss.

It's amazing how quickly six and half weeks can wipe a memory clean.

25 October 2008

Best Buy - Mommy Style

As a mom of six and a half weeks, I have noticed there are some things I am SO grateful we invested in before Micaiah was born, even if I wasn't so sure at the time if they were necessary. There are plenty of baby things on the market that are not worth the money and sometimes it's hard to sift through the good things and the bad - especially when your baby budget is not so large (or rather non-existant). So, for those of you moms, new, old, soon-to-be, or someday, maybe - I wanted to share my favorites with you! Here they are, in no particular order - what I consider to be the top five investments for your baby (aside from the obvious - of course a place for your baby to sleep is really a number one priority and maybe a way to get her from here to there - I figure there are basics you can figure out on your own - these are some extras some people may not consider . . .).

1) Cloth Diapers - Now some people may just skip over this part, disgusted by the idea of poo-covered pieces of cloth that are not destined for the trash, or cringing at the thought of using pins near your tiny precious bundle. But fear not, the cloth diapers of our mothers' era have gone by the wayside. Today's cloth diapers offer many conveniences - such as snaps or velcro, microfiber inserts to increase absorption, thus basically eliminating diaper rash and fleece linings to bring comfort to that tiny bum. It's true that not all cloth diapers are created equal, so do your research first, and the initial cost may not be too appealing, but when you consider how much you would spend on disposables over time, not to mention the inconvenience of running out of diapers just when she's had that major blowout, thus creating frantic last minute Wal-Mart runs - you can see how these may not be such a bad idea!

2) Motion Sensor Baby Monitor - If you're one who is terrified of SIDS (and what mother isn't?) - after you have taken all of the stuffed toys out of your little one's crib, made sure to lay her quietly on her back while the temperature of the room stayed low and no smoking individual was allowed within ten miles of her - you will turn on this monitor and breathe a sigh of relief that you do not have to sit there and watch her chest rise and fall for the next three years of her life. This monitor, with a pad under the mattress, detects the slightest movement (ie breathing) and alerts you by beeping if there is no motion for twenty seconds. Yes there are false alarms, but I'll take them if I can have the security of knowing that something is making sure she's alive!

3) Baby Swing - I didn't really see the need to have one if we were going to have a bouncer, but after watching a video in our birthing class where the instructor swore by the ability of the swing to calm a baby who won't stop crying, dear hubby was convinced the swing would save our lives, if not the world. I didn't quite buy it, but I did buy the swing when I saw one at a garage sale for a quarter of market value - just to make him happy. MY HUSBAND IS SOOOO WISE! It may not necessarily calm her down, but it is a great place to lay her for naps during the day or while I'm trying to get things done - especially considering she's not such a fan of the bouncer yet!

4) Temporal Artery Thermometer - I've only used this occasionally thus far and really just for the fun of it, but it's the most amazing thermometer ever! You just push the button and swipe it quickly across her forehead (or yours when you really feel like playing with it - it can even tell you the temperature in the room - I'm telling you I have fun with this toy) to see her temperature accurately displayed. She could be squirmy as all get out and it doesn't matter! Sure beats holding a digital thermometer under a flailing armpit (or in, ahem, other places) for twenty seconds.

5) Nursing Pillow - I knew I needed one because everyone has one, but I honestly didn't use it for the first couple of weeks and found myself thinking - maye it wasn't necessary. And then I started using it. And now it follows me everywhere! It definitely gives the arms a break during feeding time! Also, I use this to prop her up while sleeping sometimes when she's suffering from gas or reflux. It has a warning right on its label not to do that - but I figure I have my motion-sensor monitor to alert me in the worst-case scenario ;) (And it really does help her!)

Runner-Up - Baby carrier - We used ours at my brother's wedding so we could dance the night away and keep an eye on her at the same time. She slept through everything! In fact, she ALWAYS falls asleep in it. Love it!

That's it. It's my advice to you. Actually - even better advice: don't buy any of this at market price, please! I got every one of the top five from either garage sales, ebay, craigslist, or when all else failed, through using gift cards (you'll get some, promise). Do your research and shop ahead and you'll find a bargain every time! I can't emphasize that enough! Your baby does not NEED to have everything brand new - there is no shame in secondhand as long as it's clean and still functions. Save the money for the hospital bill - trust me!

24 October 2008

Who am I to be?

I want to be a writer. I don't think I ever quite realized that or allowed myself to dream for that. Growing up, I had decided I wanted to be a teacher. From the tender age of 7, when I started sitting my sister (who was four years older and thus not quite in need of my instruction) down so I could "teach" her to read from the discarded workbooks our elementary school sold for a dime at the book fair so as to be rid of them, I knew I wanted to do this for life. I meandered my way through school, knowing my goal - to go to college, live in a dorm, own a hamster (a girl can dream, can't she?), and major in teaching while minoring in veterinary (yes, that was a degree in my mind) so that I could work in the zoo nursery during the summers (what can I say? I was ambitious). There were a few times I allowed my mind to wander upon all the careers out there in the world, wondering how a person could ever truly settle on one - there were so many that sounded so fascinating - but knowing I would never have the guts to adjust my goal - it had been mine for so long! Meanwhile, I hoarded notebooks of writing - diaries, journals, thoughts that occurred to me during Bible study, poems, short stories, the beginnings of a novel or two (set to the style of Lurlene McDaniel - featuring a love story between two teenagers, one of whom was dying). In high school I took creative writing - loving the ability to express myself with words. But it never, not even once, occurred to me that this would be anything I would truly pursue outside of my own meanderings.

First of all, I lack the thick skin it takes to show someone else my writing and seek a response in return. I would not be able to stomach the words of critics. Second of all, writing, to me, wasn't a career! You couldn't simply go to school, earn a degree, interview for a job and go at it. No, you had to work HARD, taking rejections from all sides, all the while HOPING someone would find your writing, your own, personal self-expression worthy of the printed publication and then hoping beyond hope that someone, somewhere would actually WANT to read it. No, that wasn't something I considered an option for me. That was what other people did. I was going to be a teacher.

Something happened, though. During my first year of teaching. I liked it. I did. I enjoyed the students most of all. I liked helping them learn, bantering with them, and seeing them succeed (some of them, anyway). But it just didn't FEEL right. It wasn't where I was supposed to be.

Finally I realized. I want to be a writer. I WANT people to read what I wrote and be inspired by it. Touched, moved. I want to write something that means something - the words God wants me to relay. But I'm still scared. And I still avoid it. But I'm trying.

I once visited the website of my favorite author, Francine Rivers. Her writing is who I want to be as an author. Her books have a message and her characters touch you so deeply that I have found myself, on more than one occasion, wanting to pause to pray for them and the situations they are enduring - that they would turn back to God, or heal from their pain, or have the boldness to speak God's word - only to be reminded that this is fiction and prayer requests for fictional characters are somewhat of a moot point as their futures are already penned in the pages. But I want to have that kind of impact - have my reader get that involved in my writing. On her website, Ms. Rivers encourages would-be writers to write a little bit every day. It seems like folksy, bottle-fed advice, which is why I've ignored it for so long. I'll write what I feel like, whenever I feel like and I will not force myself to write without inspiration, thank you very much. The problem with this is I can go weeks or months without "inspiration" and then I feel dry, empty, as though I've lost my voice.

So, here I am, dear blog, using you for my daily meanderings, whatever they may be. You are my outlet for my daily purging of thoughts, feelings and rants on which I spend my days binging. Congratulations.

23 October 2008

Is God awake at 3:30am?

As a new mom, about one third of my day is spent feeding my precious tiny one (really it's down to about six times a day - God bless Micaiah for being down to one nightly feeding!). For most of the day, I find creative ways to occupy myself in this time that would otherwise be spent loafing, infant sprawled across the lap, staring off into space. Occasionally I turn on the television or a movie which can be paused and re-started at the next feeding (I'm eliminating these options from my repertoire, however, for the primary reason that I have been convicted about my obscene amounts of media in-take, but that's another story for another day). On my most spry of days, I feel talented enough to balance Micaiah on her Boppy on my lap at the dining room chair that has become our desk chair at the microwave cart that currently calls itself our office, using the side rails of the chair to prop my otherwise dangling feet because I snapped off the front foot rail in one overzealous jigsaw moment almost two years ago. Meanwhile, I attempt to keep this tiny girl from slipping with one hand while I use the free hand to maneuver the mouse and keyboard to get things done that I feel can't wait for the half-hour to forty-five minutes (to an hour! Thank you growth spurts!) it would take to fill her tiny belly. When not opting for one of the first two, however, I simply read - the Bible during my regular quiet time hour, teen novels from the 50's my mom passed down to me when I was twelve, but too cool to read books my MOM read when she was a girl (now I hope to pass them down to Micaiah, who will, of course, be totally above the cool factor), and most other times it's simply TIME magazine (I have a subscription, and if I fail to keep up, the weekly digests overwhelm my home and stress me out - because they can't be recycled until they've been read, of course). When I read, I generally do it aloud because I'm not good at making up random conversation to stimulate my child, and, thus, find my reading to her from Proverbs, or about Donna Parker in Hollywood, or (disturbingly enough) the horror of the tuberculosis epidemic in developing nations, to be the best amount of verbal intake she'll get for the timebeing.

All of these wonderful time-consuming endeavors, however, become obsolete at her middle of the night feeding (anywhere between the hours of 2 and 5, or both, but most recently at 3:30 on the dot - I should have known when she popped out right on her due date that she would excel in scheduling). During these wee morning hours, I choose not to confuse her system by turning on a light or making any unnecessary noises - thus leaving myself nothing to do while she guzzles down her midnight/3:30 snack, but to allow my eyes to meander across her toys, shelves, crib and changing table, all clothed in darkness, wondering when I will ever get those baskets for the changing table to hide the unsightly (even in the dark) clutter that has overtaken the shelves. However, it occurred to me last week (epipanies at 3:30am are, indeed, rare, but generally worth the effort when they choose to grace my presence) that there was definitely something much worthwhile with which to fill this half hour - I could pray.

In fact, as my waking hours tend to be so filled with my own personal worries - I am a very selfish being who is working on that - I am very much in the habit of sympthetically listening to a roomful of prayer requests on Sunday or Wednesday mornings and then going home, promptly forgetting to even think of these hurting and needing individuals throughout the week. No more! I now allow myself to approach the throne of God while my young daughter feasts. I approach Him with any and all prayer requests that come to my mind - and in earnestness, not idly, wishing this time would go by faster so I could return to slumber. I am finding myself feeling so blessed through this time alone with God in the dark. And I've even finally allowed myself to stop talking long enough to let Him speak to me. And, oh, the richness of hearing God's voice! I cannot help but to be humbled by His love for me, and His gentle admonishings. I will not venture to say I look forward to waking only four hours after resting my head - but if she's going to wake me up anyway, I could not think of a more fulfilling way to spend the hours between 2 and 5 in the morning.

Perhaps soon I will step aside enough to allow God to penetrate my daytime hours in the same way . . .

22 October 2008

I'm sorry, Lord

I'm sorry Lord
I find myself inactive,
Day after day,
Week after week,
It's all the same
I say I want more
I want to serve you,
I want purpose
I want adventure
All in Your Name
I pray
I pray for Your guidance
That You would show me Your will for me
But I know Your will for me
I've known if for some time now
I avoid it
Find other things to do
Make excuses

Don't get me wrong
I want to do that
To reach for that future You have laid out for me
But I'm scared
I know what You want from me
But I don't know what You'll do with it
If I ever give You what You want
So I tell myself I'll do it
When I get around to it
But my mind wanders
And like Cinderella, I toil
I make lists
I find tasks
And it seems this ball
To which You have invited me
Is ever out of my reach
One more task away, one more day
I have made sure to keep it so
I do not want to dance alone
To be in the spotlight
Into which You may place me

So I lay in bed
I close my eyes
I tell myself
Tomorrow I'll do what God has asked
Sorry, Lord
Sorry I didn't get to that today
But tomorrow, Lord
Tomorrow I'll be Yours
You're only a day away
You're always a day away

14 October 2008

A slight correction

I must confess: my most wonderful, not-slacker-dad of a husband was quite appalled at the previous post wherein I implied he was unwilling to help between the hours of 11pm and 7am, so I must clarify. He is most obliging should I ask for help. However, as he has to be at work at 8 in the morning and I have the freedom to return to sleep after he heads to work, I do the middle of the night shifts by myself - so as to allow him to sleep. Having said that, he has now fed our precious baby girl at 5am both evenings this past weekend so his beautiful wife may have a slightly longer stretch of uninterrupted slumber - uninterrupted at this point in our lives only equating to the fact that I do not have to get out of bed when my body begs me not to move.

In addition to aiding with weekend morning feedings, my husband has, in other ways, proven to be a quite amazing father and husband all-around. He will, for example, offer to fix whatever I had planned for dinner if it is quite obvious I am not up to the task. He changes diapers whenever he is home from work (I figure between my night changings and all-day-long changings, it's a fair deal). He can pick out an adorable baby outfit - and change her into it. He's better at cuddling with her than I am, by far. He, in fact, loves to hold her and is quite her favorite playmate, even at only one-month-old (her, not him).

My husband is, I would have to say, from my most humbly biased opinion, the most natural-born father I have ever met. And I love him. And, yes, ladies, he is, most assuredly, MINE!

10 October 2008

Things I've Learned

Things I've learned as a Mommy . . .

  • Sleep is a lot more meaningful when it comes in increments longer than 4 hours (although, don't get me wrong, I'm thankful to get more than one hour at a time . . . I know I am blessed for this.)
  • I'm pretty much a single mom between the hours of 11pm and 7am.
  • Changing a diaper in the dark is not as hard as it sounds.
  • Poop isn't on one's hand somehow doesn't feel as gross when it comes from your own baby - who, let's face it, was swimming around in my bodily fluids for 9 months - I guess I owe it to her.
  • A baby's head won't fall off if you fail to support it with your hand. They don't even seem to get whiplash, surprisingly enough. (Although, for the record, I AM in favor of head support - I'm just saying failure to do so will not end the world or your baby's head.)
  • A baby on a schedule = the most blessed creation in the world
  • A baby asleep on your chest = the most precious feeling in all the world
  • Babies really are slippery when wet - it's not just an over-used warning.
  • Letting a baby fall asleep in her swing is not going to ruin her for the rest of your life . . . and she will still sleep in her crib at night.
I know there's more, but, let's face it . . . I'm a little too sleep-deprived to much more thought into it than this.

09 October 2008

Why didn't anyone tell me?

Have you ever felt like you're in "the club" (whatever that may be) on technicalities only - there's a whole lot of insider info you're missing out on and no one bothered to fill you in before you got there?

I felt that way at least once before. The summer after my sophomore year of college I was going to be a camp counselor! I was very excited as I always thought going away to summer camp would be the greatest experience, full of campfires and camp activities - such as swimming in the lake or making crafts out of found objects - leaves, starfish, rocks and whatnot - and, of course, lots and lots of yarn and glue, maybe telling ghost stories by flashlight or whatever things kids did at camp - those were the stories I read about in books, and I wanted them to be MY stories. Thus, as a counselor, I knew, vaguely, that I would be corralling kids from one activity to the next, enforcing lights out and, of course, falling in love with a hunky co-counselor . . . or wait, wrong book . . . this was an all-girls' camp.
However, as new-counselor training progressed, I found EVERY day to be filled with new information I never even considered and kind of felt duped into - I was supposed to go by a "bird name" (a nickname derived from any kind of bird I chose, there's meaning behind it that I can divulge should you truly care) for the REST of the summer, meaning I had all of 2 days to get used to responding to a name I had never before considered going by in my entire life (I chose Rae - the moniker granted to my silver Cavalier only nine months previous) AND I had all of 2 days to completely forget my given name as it was supposedly a game for campers NOT to know who I truly was. In addition to the name thing, there were campfires I was supposed to build by myself at least two times weekly (and somehow got away with never building one . . . ever), there were activities I had never excelled in (volleyball, anyone?) or even thought about participating in (kayaking - who kayaks in Oklahoma?) that I would be required to INSTRUCT. I was to lead Bible Studies, a new one every day, in addition to night time devotions, also new daily - and no, there would be no repeats for the SEVEN weeks of camp, because some of my campers would be there for multiple weeks. These are just a few of the unexpected glitches I found myself running into in pursuit of my All-American Summer Camp Dream . . . and all the while I found myself thinking, "Why didn't anyone TELL me about all of this before NOW?"

And here I am again - in a new club, the Mom Club - wondering why no one ever thought to clue me in before. Before she was born, I spent nine months catching up on "What to Expect When You're Expecting", registering for baby items I assumed I'd need, buying maternity clothes, picking out names, avoiding lunch meats, trying to get exercise in, taking Birthing Classes, considering pain relief methods for delivery and all-around preparing for the arrival of a precious new human being into our family - but hardly did I consider what on earth I would do with her once she was actually HERE. I forgot to get a head-start on What to Expect the First Year, and found myself, after cracking the spine three weeks into her life, saying, "Huh, THAT would have been good to know!" I didn't know there were complications with breastfeeding (which I, fortunately, did not encounter), I just thought they DID it. I didn't even consider there was an alternative to breastfeeding (doesn't everyone do that?); I didn't know there were different thought schools on WHEN to feed (demand or scheduled?); I didn't know how long I was supposed to allow her to exist on my milk - what about baby food? When does that come in? When am I supposed to start considering it? What about her sleep schedule? Soothe her or let her "cry it out"? (When she spent the first hour or so on her first night in our room crying her poor lungs out and her daddy asking me if he should pick her up or leave her there, I literally found myself responding, "I don't know, I haven't read that chapter yet!")

And NOW, now that I finally feel I may be getting a handle on what's going on - she'll be a month old tomorrow. She's not a newborn anymore. Which means all of these things I've finally finished learning about newborns - not important anymore. She's growing - she has new wants and needs, new abilities. She'll be sleeping less (is her being awake now normal or does she HAVE to take another nap?) and eating less often (and I don't know how often that's supposed to be) - I just feel so out of the loop, shocked at how much of a loop there really is. What the heck is going on?

And why didn't anyone TELL me about all of this before NOW?!