Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Music Mojo: The Little Things & Something Beautiful

Don't worry, although this post starts out pretty heavy, I get my mojo back by the end of it. I wouldn't leave you in a pensive funk on a Monday, would I? If you ask me, Mondays are made for good music.

Last week in church we sang "O God Our Help in Ages Past." This is a classic hymn; it has been around since the early 1700s. It is often sung at weddings and other celebratory occasions, and I just learned from my dad that it is the official "school hymn" of the boarding school where I grew up. (I did not attend said boarding school--I picked a different one--so I wouldn't have known.) It is indeed a stately-sounding hymn. I can see why it is used at formal occasions.

Yet every time I sing it I get chills. And then I usually cry. I think this is because the hymn makes me feel so small, so corporal, so insignificant and powerless facing the grand passage of time.

After all:

A thousand ages in thy sight are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun.

And, worse:

Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all our years away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.

I stood in church last week, choking out the words to that verse, clutching two of my daughters around their shoulders, begging time to stand still, praying that my time here on earth will not in fact be forgotten too quickly. I couldn't even look at the Gutsy Dad, standing there stoically cradling Bronwen in his arms. Why can't we just be timeless?

Most of you know that this anxiety is not new to me. Several months after Jillson was born I went through a spell where I stayed up crying night after night (the gasping "life is so unfair" kind of crying) because I wouldn't--couldn't--be around forever, that there would come a time when I would be gone and my child's life would go on without me. Is this really the way the universe must operate? I've written about it before. 

For now, though, I am mostly at peace with this notion.

Except for when that hymn comes around and I am humbled by my human-ness. What is it about words and music and being in church that is so much more powerful than just words or just music or just being in church? 

I am glad we don't sing all nine verses that Isaac Watts originally wrote. A little googling revealed to me that there are at least two of the older verses (that are no longer in the Episcopal hymnal) that are even more devastating than the ones we do sing. Thank God for editors.

I know. That's enough of the hymn drama.

If you've been reading The Gutsy Mom for a while then you know that my antidote to overwhelming emotions (to anything, really) is to focus on little, everyday things. Okay, truly, my first defense is to make lists, charts, and schedules. If I can plot the way out on a piece of paper, I'm good to go. But if the problem cannot be solved by a checklist, then I go to the little things. I get out the camera and take pictures. I look through a scrapbook. I count my blessings. I revel in teeny, tiny, good things. 

Small joys, added up, equal great happiness.

This little ditty, literally called "The Little Things," came my way via Pandora one night while I was making dinner. The artist is Carlos Bertonatti. Like the hymn above, this song references the way water flows, unstoppable, from one place to another. But he's so damn cheery about it I'm unable to wallow in my self-centered anxiety. Thank you, Carlos.

Then along came Alexi Murdoch and "Something Beautiful." This is just one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard. It seemed "pretty nice" to me at first, but there must be something primal going on in this song, because by the end of my first listen I was in love with it. I think the artist sings the main refrain over and over as if to say "I will sing it until you get it, friend." And he certainly has a lovely accent. (Huge thanks to Lindsey for bringing this beautiful piece of music into my life.)

So there you have it. These tunes may not raise your heartrate as much as my usual Monday picks, but perhaps they will be the cure for whatever ails you anyway.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Today is the last day of the Gutsy Dad's pre-RLBT vacation time, which has been a total guilty pleasure considering there is no longer an RLBT on the calendar. This vacation time has been filled with visits to and from people we love, a little bit of housework, and a whole lot of just enjoying everyday life.

How wonderful not to have this time filled with the dreaded aura of "lastness." Last church service, last walk to the bus, last dinner out, last dinner in. During the lasts, happiness feels artificial, because I can't help but take note of every single "last time." Each moment is precious, but we, the participants, feel numb. We want to enjoy it while we can, but the impending departure looms. Like slowly ripping off a band-aid, the time before an RLBT can be agonizing. 

Now I wake up in the morning filled with joy and relief, so thankful not to be going through all of that. I feel almost high on it. We could do anything today. No pressure to make it meaningful, no need to wallow in its occurrence.

I want to tell you more about our trip to visit "Uncle" Gregg, our fabulous visit from Aunt Maria, and our whirlwind visit from my Aunt Ginny. How fantastic to enjoy all of these times with loved ones without the dark cloud of "lastness" hanging over them, either.

How blessed we are.

How unsurprising, given all of our good luck, that my desire to motivate is returning full force. I can hardly contain myself.

And so, I won't.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Battle Done

It has been a long, long nine (ten?) years for all of us. I still can't quite believe it is over. I have prayed and begged and pleaded for this day. I've dreamt about it. I've cheered and sworn at people on TV about it: newscasters, political leaders, misguided activists, properly-guided activists, comedians, pundits.

And then President Obama finally said that it was done. That we are done with that mess. (Okay, those weren't his exact words.) The rest are coming home, and no new ones need to go. Which of course means that my husband and his co-workers are not going over there after all. Can I get an alleluia?

Oh, my friends, this means so many things to me. Great excitement for those coming home soon. Safety. Relief. Gratitude for promises kept. Selfishly: an easier life for me. Anticipation for holidays with the whole family. Even a little panic: what will happen next?

Mostly, though, I am overjoyed. And teary. 

I feel like we eked out of this one by the skin of our teeth. Not just not having to go on the RLBT, but also that of the 4,400 American souls we lost over there my husband wasn't one of them. 

Now, if we could just wrap things up in that other place.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Having so much fun this week with Aunt Maria visiting. Updates when the dust settles! In the meantime, I came home from the grocery store the other day to find this marvelous sight. The only thing missing was the mom:

My husband walking FIVE girls.  Well, technically only three were walking. Two were being pushed.

I just love this. Gutsies out and about and enjoying a gorgeous fall day.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Music Mojo: The Lovecats

Remember this one? Have you ever heard the acoustic version? I think they pull it off quite well.

You're so wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully pretty!

Get your iTunes trigger finger ready, though. Frustratingly, this video cuts off the last few seconds of the song, right when you're really feeling the groove. So, to get your true Monday mojo going, you'll want to purchase the song (acoustic or otherwise) from iTunes.

Put it on repeat and GET SOMETHING DONE. 

Have a marvelous Monday!

The GM

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pins & Needles

We just learned that there is a strong possibility that the Gutsy Dad will not have to go on his RLBT after all. 

I am spastically elated. I catch myself feeling huge amounts of relief, imagining him here for the holidays, here for Bronwen's first year, imagining a real family routine. So much unspoken anxiety drains out of me. I feel hopeful, lightened. I even feel gratitude that our leadership is--apparently--doing what it said it would do.

But then, as in The Little Match Girl, with a gust of reality the flame of hope goes out. The optimistic visions fade away, and I am left in an emotional shiver. Nothing is for sure. I brace myself for singlehood. I kick myself for wasting time doing house chores instead of scheduling family activities. After all, if he does go, it will be soon.

In the past, when the Gutsy Dad has been assigned to an RLBT, it has been set in stone. We put the date on the calendar and marched with drudgery toward it. The date came (despite my protests), and he left. 

This is the first time I am having to learn to contend with shifting dates, shifting purposes, changes in projected length, and the possibility of cancellation all together. It's a whole new balancing act. It is both completely unnerving and completely marvelous.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed with (still premature) relief. Sometimes I feel first-date butterflies. Sometimes I feel the weight of dread so deeply that I literally ask the Gutsy Dad what I should do. Mostly, I feel strangely de-sensitized, insulated, selectively numb.

All we can do is wait to be told.

My constant prayer now has two parts: Make it definite. Let him stay.

Make it definite.

Let him stay.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One Month Old

Pardon my absence. I've been a little preoccupied with a certain one-month old.  
(Okay. I've also been a bit preoccupied by a whirlwind trip to Florida--and the subsequent recovery--along with my husband's ever-changing plans for the RLBT. But more on those topics later. Let us return to the cuteness at hand.)
Bronwen has been with us now for one month. One adorable, toot- and burp-filled month during which the Gutsy Dad and I remembered just how many of those tiny diapers newborns go through each day. And just how little sleep the parents of newborns need for survival.
I love her sweet little feet and hands. She has long fingers and long toes. She loves to lie on my lap with her feet kicked up on my chest. Pardon the view down my shirt, what I'm really sharing here is the view of those tootsies stacked up like a string of pearls.
And the view while nursing. I could spend hours (and I do) just staring down at her, wishing that everyone could feel this sense of peace and happiness. (Happiness isn't the right word--contentedness? Any mommies out there know that feeling I mean?) Bronwen is always doing something with her sweet little fingers while we nurse. Clasping her hands or holding fists up to her chin(s) or cheeks. Feeling her forehead. 
I realize I am probably sounding a little too enraptured by my own child. I know. It's a bit out of hand. But it's amazing to feel this much love. 

I promise I am getting out. And talking about things other than my baby. I even try to use SAT words now and then. And while I don't have time to "do everything," somehow I did manage to find the time to dress my infant up in a fairly ridiculous outfit just to take pictures of her. Thank God my family willingly eats leftovers for dinner.
Bronwen now weighs 8 lbs and 13.5 oz. She has gained almost 2 pounds in her first month of life. Go baby, go! She wears size 1 diapers and size 0-3 month clothing, all of which is still too large.  She has outgrown nothing.
Bronnie eats every two to three hours, though she is not yet on any regular schedule. She seems to want to eat more often at night than during the day (maybe because she has me to herself then? maybe because my schedule is less hectic?). When she nurses, it is a feeding frenzy, fast and furious. She gulps it down, slurps, squeaks, hums, gurgles. We have not yet introduced the bottle, but binky is already a good and soothing friend.
During the day she takes long, snuggly naps in the "infant corner" of our L-shaped sofa. She sleeps so peacefully and quietly there. Once her sleeping organizes itself into regular naps, we'll move her to her bassinet or crib for them. Until then, I love having her nap wherever I am. 
At night she frequently gets congested. She snorts and snuffles like a little truffle pig. I remember this from Madelyn, too.

She is only barely finding her voice, occasionally trying out the sound "ah." Other than that, she does a lot of squeaking and humming. In fact, her number one nickname these days is Squeaky. Madelyn asks for her by this name, as in: "I want to give Squeaky a kiss." She also croons "My sisty, my sisty, I love you."

Her neck is super strong. She can crane her head up like nobody's business. Like a cobra, only cuter. She loves to stretch out her limbs. 

Behind the scenes:
And, finally, a totally indulgent video. Be warned, this video contains one milk-drunk newborn.

Yours in total goopiness,
The Gutsy Mom

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Five Things That Always Cheer Me Up

I am having a cheerful day, but I thought I'd post this here in case I needed a reminder in the future.


1. The scent of favorite lotions: L'Occitane Shea Butter, Mustela Vitamin Barrier Cream, even Desitin (regular strength, creamy).

2. A favorite beverage with a straw in it: iced coffee, San Pellegrino Limonata on ice, even just iced water.

3. Thick slabs of toasted sour dough bread with a bit of salted butter.

4. Something organized, after the organizing is done.

5. A loud, lengthy sing-along in the car (grown-up songs only), during which I imagine myself on stage, knocking the socks off the audience, most of whom are surprised to learn that I have the pipes.

What little things make you happy?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday Music Mojo: Fine By Me

Better late than never with today's post. Jillson asked me to teach her how to sing this refrain at dinner tonight. It's got a great pre-RLBT theme:

It's fine by me if you never leave,
and we can live like this forever.
It's fine by me.

Happy Monday, y'all!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Her Name

She was, by far, the most difficult one to name. We settled on it only a week or two before she was born, but I have loved the name Bronwen for a long time.

One of my favorite high school teachers had a daughter named Bronwen. She was strong and spunky and adorable.

In college, one of my theater friends was named Bronwen. She was smart and gorgeous and genuinely likable.

For me, Bronwen has always been in the running.*

The Gutsy Dad took a shine to it when we were thinking up names for Madelyn. He has a soft spot for all things Irish/Scottish/Welsh/Celtic.

Indeed, the name is Welsh. It has been around for centuries. It is neither new-age nor new-fangled. It is, I suppose, unusual.  

If you googled it, then you already know that it means, literally, "white breast." There could be some rough years ahead for Bronnie if mean-spirited friends figure that one out. But the interpretation of the name is that it stands for a "virtuous and fair woman." And I like that.

All the Gutsies like the nicknaming possibilities: Bronnie, Winnie, the Bronster. (Already Madelyn says "Bronnie-Wonnie" with great frequency.)

I can tell right away if people have heard the name before or not. If they have heard it before, they tell me about the Bronwens they have known. If they have not heard it before, they balk at saying it, choosing instead to say "the baby" or "your sweet little peanut" or some such. To their credit, some good friends have tried, coming up with "Broh-win" or "Brownie" or--surprisingly--"Brandy." My sister-in-law is so afraid of the name she just calls her Little Miss B. It's okay. I know she'll come around.

The spelling? Well, we inadvertently chose the less popular spelling of the name. But I already had a child whose name ends in "-yn," and if I really am going to have three kids whose names end in the same "un" sound, I'd like three different spellings. Hence, JillsON, MadelYN, and BronwEN. Plus, historically, Bronwen apparently denotes a girl whilst Bronwyn is, traditionally, a boy. So there.

And Eliza. Oh, sweet, little, darling Eliza. I have loved the name Eliza since I first encountered "My Fair Lady" when I was (maybe) 4 years old. I wanted to be Eliza Doolittle.* Now I just think the name is charming and feminine, and it helps to balance out the strong sounds of Bronwen. And, to be frank, it sounds fantastic here in the South.

You should have heard our priest when he came to the hospital to put a blessing on Bronwen Eliza. That second syllable lasted for hours. "Bronwen El-ahhhhhhhhh-za." Blissful.

So there you have it. It was not a family name. But it is now.

The GM

*The name Amity was also always in the running for me. For a while I really was hoping I was carrying twin girls so that I wouldn't have to decide between Bronwen and Amity. In the end, the Gutsy Dad's preference helped tip the scales in favor of Bronwen. (Strangely, I know of only one Amity in real life. An adorable woman who, when I was maybe 9 or 10, married a friend of my brothers' whose last name was Doolittle. Years after her marriage I heard she had had a daughter and--undaunted by her new last name--named her what she'd always wanted to name her daughter: Eliza. Eliza Doolittle.)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Anatomy of a Mini: part four

These first two pages came together rather quickly.

The above photo in the "play" layout demonstrates my belief that imperfect photography sometimes makes for the perfect photo. This was one of those "self-portrait," hold the camera out at arm's length and see what you get type pics. We all look a little off, but somehow this picture just makes me smile. Every time.

Here's a (blurry) look at the the two layouts together. Thankfully, their pairing is less chaotic than the previous double-pager.

Next up: a fantastic word, two favorite "leftover" pictures from our wedding album from Wedding #2, and journaling that reflects exactly how I felt and feel. Scrapbooking nirvana achieved.

The final layout in the mini should come as no surprise to anyone who has read this post. The quotation on the left page holds a ton of meaning for me. It's from a larger passage of Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins. This book was a life-changing read for me. (I read it one summer during high school.) It wasn't like the other literature I was reading. It was so rogue. I think I underlined something "meaningful" on every page. 

At the end of the novel, I read this and my heart nearly stopped:

People are never perfect, but love can be. That is the one and only way that the mediocre and the vile can be transformed, and doing that makes it that. Loving makes love. Loving makes itself. We waste time looking for the perfect lover instead of creating the perfect love. Wouldn't that be the way to make love stay? 

Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won't adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words "make" and "stay" become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free. 

I've been holding onto these ideas ever since then. 

So when I was prompted with the word "free," the quotation came floating back to me. I love it even more now that I can read it in the context of my own relationship. I especially love that the word "free" holds extra meaning for us. As a young couple getting a grasp on our finances and digging ourselves out of educational and credit debt, we used to celebrate many, many things that were "free." We would challenge each other to come up with fun things to do or see that were free, and when we found them we'd say "And guess what?  It's FREEEEEEEE!" and "We love free!"

The quotation on the right is a longer excerpt from a poem called "The Daydream" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. (You can read the whole thing here.)

When the Gutsy Dad and I were first married, and he had to go to Korea for a year without me, I stayed behind in Austin, TX. As it turned out, a man who was an extremely influential mentor in my husband's early career was a guest lecturer at UT that year. He and his wife took me under their wing. She inspired me because she was kind, independent, and not defined by her husband's (extremely successful) career. That is harder than it sounds when your husband does what mine does--even for someone like me with proper and official Women's Studies training. She and I talked honestly about how I could make a go of it, being supportive of my husband without losing myself. She was enthusiastic and genuine and very patient with my naivete.

When we moved away from Austin, she gave me this calligraphy print, which was my introduction to the Tennyson poem. (It's from a different part of the poem, hence the slightly different wording.)
I've had this print, framed, hanging on my wall in every home ever since. (If you look closely, you can see the upper left corner of the print has been chewed. Tilly did this. When we lived in Gig Harbor, WA she went through a major twit phase. One day while I was at work, from what I could tell, this picture fell off the wall, the frame broke open, and Tilly helped herself to the paper.)

In its current position in our Georgia home, this quotation is, quite literally, the center of a very happy life.

And that's it. That's the end of the anniversary mini. You can see the other parts here: cover, part one, part two, part three.