Thoughts, Book Recommendations book recommendations, book review, what to read Brooke Hoehne 1 Comment
Thoughts, Book Recommendations book recommendations, book review, what to read Brooke Hoehne 1 Comment
I’m pretty sure Trever and I are on the verge of snapping. We are STILL not moved. Yes it’s a tragedy, but we decided that it makes more sense to bite the bullet and get our kitchen done before Colette arrives. You know dust and chaos and hammers aren’t always conducive to newborn life. Because of this we are waiting until the demo is done before we move which means we’re still a week out which means we will be living amongst boxes for another week. Another weeeeek. Also our loft complex is currently painting the outside of our place so there are large plastic sheets covering all of our windows adding a dungeon/meth-lab effect to boxes and half painted walls. It’s very pleasant. I told Trever I feel home sick, like I’m traveling but I’m not.
Yesterday I had to let a guy into our place to look at the fire sprinklers and he kind of creeped me out so I left the front door open. After he left I went upstairs and noticed our cat Grey was not in her usual place of sloth and I started looking for her. I slowly started panicking as I checked all the usual fluffly comfort spots she’s drawn to for hours of hibernation and she was nowhere to be found. The panic got worse and I thought, well this is it, this is what breaks us, our fat cat runs away and we snap.
I opened the front door and she was eating a plant outside. She can’t resist eating no matter what it is. She gags down these long pieces of grass and they cannot taste good, but she’s committed so at least there’s that. So we haven’t snapped. Our fat Grey cat is happy and sleeping and we’re marching along.
We currently have two chairs in our living room. They are kind of in the middle of the room next to the pile of boxes and they’re facing each other like a therapist’s office, if therapists met in meth labs. Trever and I sat down and looked at each other after a meal of frozen burritos and finally had a second to catch up.
I’m reading a book called The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher and it’s messing with me. He’s essentially making the argument that the society that caused St. Benedict to create a new Monastic order is very similar to the cultural space we are in now. He’s not saying we should all be monks, but rather that there comes a time when culture is so in contrast with a Christian way of life that to live fully into our religious convictions there is an element of removal that must happen. He says, “we will hardly be normal, but we should never have tried to be.”
Trever and I were talking about this book, about how we want to live our lives, about choosing now what matters and how we want to be as a family. I was saying how the most depraved part of myself wants Trever to be successful for his sake and for mine, so we can travel the world together and spend the summers in Paris and have all these cultural experiences. That’s what I really want, I want to be rich and pretty and in Paris.
But then of course life throws a few curve balls and we start figuring out what matters in life. We are forced to remember why we’re here and what give us hope. Suddenly we are becoming conscious about every choice, rather than letting our life float along to an undecided future. For the first time we’re starting at our destination and working backwards.
We never want to miss God’s blessings revealed in goodness. Things like the cardiologist now saying Colette's heart is more of a suspicion and less a diagnosis so surgery may not be necessary, or that her omphalacele is a bit smaller than previously thought, hallelujah times a million for every tiny miracle along the way. And yet we never want to forget his blessing through pain. His presence in difficult seasons is a blessing unfathomable, something that changes us and gives us a faith we are otherwise incapable of. Trever and I sat in our chaotic dark living room like we were in a bizarre therapeutic session and cried. We cried because, well partly because we’re stressed, but really because we could have missed it. We could have just summered in Paris and missed the whole point. It would have been fun, and yet I wonder if we would have eventually come to regret not actually living for something bigger.
God saved us from ourselves I suppose. What a bizarre gift, something good sprouted in us from a pile of rubble. The blessing is in the miracles and yet it’s in the pain just the same, it’s the grace of God to remind us who we are. So that's where we're at, we're remembering what's written into our DNA, we're connecting with the very breath that gives us life, we're becoming conscious again. Turns out I don't want to slip back into the mindlessness of pleasure, I really want us to stay awake.
I took a grief counseling class the other day for continuing education. In an odd way it was a bizarre sort of comfort to be in a class like that. The educator took a survey during the class to see the number of people who have experienced significant losses and the percentages were far higher than one would have thought. On the other hand it is rather depressing to spend a day in a room of therapists telling stories of clients who have crumbled under grief. It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t have a glass of wine post saddest class ever.
Viktor Frankl said that despair was suffering minus meaning, and so a large portion of working through grief and experiencing healing is finding that meaning. In this class however, when we got into the details and stories of how clients found meaning the bottom dropped out. Things that gave meaning to people seemed to me hollow and almost illusory, methods for coping connected to very little reality. How do you make peace and find meaning out of nothing but the pain of this life? The room was in awe of a story of a woman whose father had died and so after he was gone she wrote letters to herself from him and mended their broken relationship. If it works for coping, fine, but it’s thin at best.
Humans have a capacity to construct their own reality and so after loss this can be done as a means of coping, the truth of something is a secondary matter to finding what works. The only substantial meaning making to me however, needed to be connected to more, not just because it works for survival but because it's the only thing that makes sense of it all - and that's faith. Of course the argument could be made that religion itself is a coping mechanism that is constructed to create meaning out of nothing, but then we’re all believing in something I suppose, believing in nothing is a belief just the same.
There were large swaths of my life that I could have gone without my religious beliefs. They helped me make good moral choices in life but it didn’t necessarily offer any true worldview shifts, encourage radical life change or provide a source of comfort that was beyond what any other non-religious American might experience. But I’m different now, and there I was in a class on grief and the only possibility for meaning to me was faith. Faith seems like child’s play until grief forces the issue of meaning and suddenly it is everything else that seems like child’s play. The only proper source of comfort becomes – there must be more. It’s in our DNA to find meaning, weaved there within the foundational human capacity to reason. And so we have to find it, which I think reveals the truth that it’s there.
I think about Syria a lot recently. Every time I pray or begin to pity myself I think of the lives lost in this evil civil war. I force myself to look at the photos depicting the ravages that have flattened cities and taken countless lives and left its survivors hollowed out from grief. I heard a very OC woman the other day talking about how we can’t just give ourselves to the needs around us because then we would just be empty. She was making an argument for boundaries, which is fine, and yet I wonder if empty is what we’re meant to be. I don’t mean non-sustainable, dysfunctional or codependent empty, I mean actually giving our lives to the broken among us. Our boundaries are so locked in we think posting on social media is action. We think churches are for creating well-funded institutions that serve to pat upper-class believers on the back. We think the chief goal of community is to create a safety huddle. We think we’re here to make our lives lovely.
I know this is all depressing, but I think when we look at the actual pain in this life we are forced to feel the weight of the world’s reality, and Lord help us it should move us into action. It should force the issue of meaning both beyond this life and within it. What’s our role? They say the church is hemorrhaging young people and we blame the institution for not being compelling, or being too this or too that. I wonder if instead we shut our rambling mouths and took on the responsibility of living lives of wisdom and action. Hipness would stop defining our relevance and compelling lives would instead be the draw.
We should make ourselves deal with this, we should connect with the pain around us, we should look at the photos of those in Africa trying to survive a famine. We should let it get us down as we see an old man in his bombed out apartment in Syria smoking a pipe and listening to old records. I’m writing to myself here because this issue nags me all the time. I’m moving at a sloths pace towards action and not because I’m supposed to but because I have to.
I think we can and should let pain change us, we can allow it to move us. We can engage the darkness for the sake of participating in shedding light. We can do it all in an effort to partner with God in changing the world, all the while waiting for and believing in restoration, all because it’s the meaning of life.
Because isn’t it?
Trever and I close escrow tomorrow. I forgot how stressful it can be buying a house. All the loan documents and paperwork is nightmarish for both Trever and my personalities. Then of course the moving bit has its own unsettling effect. I woke up in the middle of the night last night and did yoga in my kitchen, which is the only open space in my house, just to ease some tension of living in the aftermath of an explosion of things! We have too many things. I ended up waking up this morning and cleaning my house, which felt like wiping a bit of mud off a pig. I pushed boxes into corners and made my kitchen and bedroom the safe zones. I mopped the floors and cleaned the bathrooms, all of which had cycled out of control once the first frame came off the wall, and then I took a nap.
I need naps recently. I missed the tired portion of first trimester pregnancy and so I felt like I bypassed the fatigue and pregnancy wouldn’t get me down. I know all the mothers are internally patronizing me for my adorable ignorance, because of course I now feel like I returned from another time zone only yesterday and just cannot beat this jet lag. I’ll be in a meeting around 3:00 and could literally close my eyes mid sentence and likely fall quickly asleep. I have to avoid people with calming and slow voices during that part of my day.
This fatigue however, could also be due to our current diet. We went to Trader Joes this weekend and bought a bunch of frozen no cook meals for the week in anticipation of the chaos and a boxed up kitchen. On Monday night I heard the beep of my microwave, peeled back the plastic cover from a plastic plate full of Veggie Korma and placed it in front of Trever. My granola self looked upon what I had become that night and shamed me for my decisions. Trever on the other hand was rather happy, like so happy that he told me I was going to have a hard time convincing him to go back to eating the way we normally do. He's noted that lucky for us these frozen sodium packets are low in calories which is an added benefit to death by preservatives. You see, it might be important to know Trever is kind of ironic by nature. I was talking to my friend Kayla about this, how right in the center of all his good taste, fashion industry work, fine art degree and general hipness, he’s still from Hemet and would honestly prefer Del Taco and PBR to a client meeting at Nobu. Truth is though, this is actually one of my favorite things about him, shitty towns make good people, sucks the life right out of any pretentiousness.
So, I ate my sodium rich indian food and was grateful in the middle of the craziest season of life we’ve had to date. Houses are just houses and in the midst of chaos we kind of have to laugh at all that’s happening. I clutch my round belly in gratitude for a tiny life that has already changed me in ways I could never have understood before. I pray for her incessantly and can’t wait to make her a home that’s simply walls and a garden but really a place that she’ll feel loved.
I know she already is so loved. My friends and family have been so kind and gracious and grieved and celebrated with us like she was their own. And to all of you who have been following along with me, I wanted to say thank you for your love. The grace with which you have responded to me, my writing, and my family has overwhelmed me. Your continual offerings of encouragement and prayer has been an honest source of support for Trever and I. It’s been a difficult season and yet there has been comfort knowing the amount of people who have been crying over, praying for and celebrating Colette. It’s humbling to be the recipient of your love. So thank you, with all of my heart, thank you.
And that's a wrap, off to the boxes again.
Things feel good right now. I know, aren't we all relieved not to find some 100 pound post again? We got that positive news about Colette's heart and I'm running with it. Part of me wants to hold back on the relief knowing that more bad news could always be around the corner, since she still has a more minor heart condition and the omphalacele, the complications are endless. But I'm doing my best not to live like that, I'll take the joy while it's here. Someone recommended I read Ecclesiastes because it reminds us that life is hard, but it's also fleeting, and so we enjoy the times of joy and the simple bits of pleasure we get from life. This was good advice so I'm loving what's in front of me.
We're moving in a couple of weeks and we took some frames down this weekend and BAM we are unsettled. We also made the bizarre decision to sell our couch and we likely won't be moved for close to two weeks. This means, as you might assume, that we don't have a couch only our super cozy wood floors and a few chairs. I don't know why we did this to ourselves. Also they say I'm supposed to be nesting, but I can't. Partially because we're moving and partially because we decided not to do a nursery or a shower before Colette is born. I think there would be a part of me that would be tentative about celebration and constantly wondering what it would be like to have such a lovely nursery empty. We don't need to send our minds there so we'll work out room details when she's coming home.
So I cook. A lot. I have a nice kitchen in our place now, but our new home has a very old and tiny kitchen. We'll be re-doing it but for a while my refrigerator will be in another room, as in I'll forget the milk and walk out of my kitchen into another room to get the milk. This is weird. As for now I'll cook in my nice kitchen. My friend Julie told me she makes her own almond milk, I was inspired, so I did the same. I use the dried almond meal from the milk for my homemade granola, which Trever ate for three meals yesterday. Repetitive? Yes. But that's what happens when he's editing from home and I work late.
Fun fact, I had a co-worker basically tell me I would lose my brains towards the end of my pregnancy. I didn't believe him. But then the other day I turned the oven on to dry out my almond meal, left for 5 hours, and realized while at a restaurant with friends that I probably burned my house down. Suddenly gruesome images of my house melting and our cats slowing burning to death flooded my brain and I walked straight to my car without saying anything and drove home in a panic. All was well, but I drove 15 minutes back at 10:30 at night because they had ordered pizza and I like pizza. My friends were confused by me. I was confused by my brain.
I also made granola bars. They're really good and simply made from dried fruit and nuts and I make fresh bread a couple of times a week. So at any given time in my kitchen you might find jars of floating almonds, a bowl of sourdough starter that looks like soupy bread dough, and some stacks of chewy bars for the taking. Next up, kambucha. I have friends that make this too and will give me some of their scoby. Add jiggly pancake to my scary kitchen. Trever wishes I had different hobbies. Recipes to come.
So it looks like we're moving. Not to Paris like some thought, maybe one day though. But just a few blocks away from where we live now. Radical. We really wanted a yard and although we love our place now it has bad juju. The month we moved in my Dad got diagnosed with cancer and went through treatment which almost took his life, then Trever's Dad passed away, then we learned of our infertility, then we've had to endure the pain and joy of this pregnancy.
Get me OUT!
Some might say it's an interesting decision to be moving right now, it's not as if we have space for added stress, but it's also a nice distraction. The place we are moving to is tiny, built in 1920 and full of character. It's got a ton of windows and loads of sunlight, there are tiny doors leading outside all over the house and the bedroom windows pull open like a disney movie. We're going to re-do the kitchen so I've been losing untold hours to pinterest and kitchen stalking. I'm adding some of my finds to my CURATION page if you want to follow along with me in my distractions. Just as a side note, all of the images I use on my blog posts are Trever's suggestions. So if the images are creating some sort of illusion that I'm more cultured than a goof from Victorville, we can all just let that go.
Also I make jam now. Remember in Friends when Monica makes all the jam after she breaks up with Richard? This is me, except less funny. I was trying to find a natural Strawberry Jam recipe and I couldn't find one. Everyone likes to add lots of sugar and pectin. Pectin is like active yeast, it's a store bought products that makes a natural process happen a lot more quickly. Jam gets its thick quality when the sugar, fruit, acid and heat work together for the good of those who love it. We speed this up with sugar and pectin, and really the sugar is just because it tastes good.
So I experimented. I made several batches of stawberry jam made with just the fruit, honey and lemon. It takes longer to cook down but then when I lather it on my toast I don't have to feel bad. Also when it's hot off the stove before I bottle it I drizzle over vanilla ice cream.
So...I chop up 5 cups of fresh ripe strawberries and place in a saucepan. Then I add 1 cup honey and the juice of a lemon and let the jam simmer for close to two hours - until the jam sticks to the back of your spoon. That's it. Then we consume it like ice cream. Yum
I’ve never being great about reading the Bible but recently I’ve been reading the Psalms all the time. For most of my life I read the Bible because I was supposed to and I felt guilty if I didn’t. Then later in life I did it for intellectual and academic purposes. Now here I am and reading the Bible feels like breath. The Psalms give me words for parts of me that I hardly know how to articulate. They give me prayers when I’m speechless. They help me grieve when I’m tied up in knots. They offer solidarity in the full range of emotions. They’re a bit of clarity in the chaos.
It appears I have learned something in all of this pain. I look back at who I was in early pregnancy before everything went south. I had just found a newer and deeper sense of faith after a year of intensive spiritual practice and study. I had chosen to believe. Then we got our baby’s diagnosis and I saw my minds ideas for the thin beliefs that they were. I got mad at God for a while, I wrestled with the notion of his goodness, muttered wordless painful prayers, sustained the shattering of the delusions I had about my future, and then finally at some point, belief found me. I was suddenly believing in a very deep part of my soul, it was something that felt profound, something that felt given to me, and something that felt unaffected by life’s cliffs.
I’ve been doing a lot of work to understand God’s involvement in our world, his intervention if there is any, and his goodness and power related to pain and suffering. In the middle of it all and in my darkest place I had a perspective shift that I wrote about earlier which released me from figuring it all out. I have found some clarity in the bigger picture of God’s sovereignty, but I have stopped trying to find out the minutia of how it plays out today.
I heard this quote from David Bentley Hart, who wrote an essay in the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami.
…of a child dying an agonizing death from diphtheria, of a young mother ravaged by cancer, of tens of thousands of Asians swallowed in an instant by the sea, of millions murdered in death camps and gulags and forced famines…Our faith is in a God who has come to rescue His creation from the absurdity of sin and the emptiness of death, and so we are permitted to hate these things with a perfect hatred…As for comfort, when we seek it, I can imagine none greater than the happy knowledge that when I see the death of a child, I do not see the face of God, but the face of His enemy. It is a faith that has set us free from optimism, and taught us hope instead.
That last line of Hart’s quote – It is a faith that has set us free from optimism, and taught us hope instead – it’s all my inarticulate thoughts encompassed.
We are released, potentially via pain, from the clenching of our fingers around this life. We no longer need to fight for the perfection of our tomorrows, which will undoubtedly fail us. And once we finally and truly see this, it has the effect of offering a hope that is unaltered by circumstances. It frees us into joy, and moves us from wishful thinking about our future and into an unshakable hope that exists beyond this life. But first, we must be pealed back from our optimism, we must have our expectations shattered, and that shattering changes us. We no longer have the luxury and the delusion of the plans we make, so that even when life gets a little easier, our scars will forever remind us that we wait for something more. Another’s pain we no longer objectify while thinking how grateful we are that at least it’s not us, and instead their pain reminds of what has always been true - that it keeps hurting until the day we’re rescued and then suddenly it’s somehow worth it.
I was laying on yet another ultrasound table staring up at those ugly square ceiling tiles. We were doing a follow-up cardiac ultrasound and they were meant to be confirming Colette’s diagnosis of DORV and looking to see if there was another heart condition our doctor was concerned about. This second condition would mean immediate surgery and likely working with Stanford’s cardiac surgeons due to the complexity of the issues. Earlier that day I was at breakfast with my Dad in the morning and when Trever picked me up to head to the appointment he had a song blaring from before he got out of his car. He turned it down but it was a blast of a chorus that says, “for endless days we will sing your praise, Oh Lord, Oh Lord our God.” I hardly noticed it until I was staring at the tiles waiting for our results and singing the song in my head over and over.
It was representative of a heart change in me that was given to me and nothing I earned. I sang it waiting for a doctor to tell me that my daughter would have low chances of survival. I sang it anyways. I sang it without contingency of a miracle. I sang it until the doctor interrupted us to finally give us the news, which is a moment we have learned to deeply dread. Then the doctor told us that he had misdiagnosed her and that the first condition was no longer present, and neither was the second, and that she had a narrowing of an artery that may require surgery but is significantly less concerning.
And so what do you say? I weep in gratitude and find myself wordless.
But certainly God has heard; He has given heed to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God. Who has not turned away my prayer nor his lovingkindess from me.
We had an echocardiogram for Colette yesterday. The doctor told us it would take between 20 and 40 minutes and 40 minutes later when he was still silently staring at the ultrasound monitor I figured it wasn’t great news. He came back from reviewing the results and said, “you’re baby has congenitive heart disease.” I don’t remember what else he said except that he kept drawing on this large illustration of a heart. He said the condition isn’t life threatening and she’ll have a normal life expectancy but then our other doctor, who is likely the most depressing person I have ever met, told us her prognosis isn’t good have both omphalacele and this heart condition. This doctor is a big advocate for termination so he really likes to lay it on thick.
I spent some time researching and am hoping to move up to CHLA for her treatment as it's much higher in ranking than CHOC. I found a woman online whose child has the same combination of diagnosis. Unfortunately her daughter didn’t make it because she was also born early. I sobbed when she told me. I sob all the time right now. Then I met another woman whose child has the same combination and just brought her six-month old home from the hospital. She sent me photos. When I imagine our future I have two narratives playing out in my head. One where we’re in the hospital a lot and one where we’re home alone.
We fell into our routine of grief. We sobbed in the office, drove home in a daze, sobbed in the living room, then I went sleep with the TV on and Trever did something productive. We both cancelled all our plans and I thought about quitting my job, moving away, and finding any way to escape life. Then I remembered the pattern. Yesterday is the worst, it’s all a blur and shocked grief. Today we wake up with headaches and puffy eyes, stay home most of the day, cry less, go out to dinner and start to let it settle in. Then I’ll slowly need the TV on less, we’ll probably see people in a couple of days, we’ll start re-entering life and we’ll start accepting what is. It does get better, I know the pattern and now I know how to ride the wave. But this time I’m holding her with an open hand, not because I want to but because life has pried my fingers flat. As for that part of it, I’m not sure it follows the pattern. I don’t know if one can make peace with the looming potential of losing your baby, I’m not sure that pain will ever dull.
I met with an former professor of mine this week. He has been through so much suffering in his life and I needed some perspective. It was an interesting meeting because I left really encouraged and yet looking back he didn’t say a single encouraging thing about this life. He has what they call, an eternal perspective. I think it’s what we’re meant to have, and I wonder if we only are truly capable of one when life becomes too painful to cling to. He genuinely finds hope alone in the belief that the pain of this life will be unworthy to be compared to the joys of the eternal. He’s banking his life on that, that restoration will make the pain of today no longer worthy to be noticed.
He didn’t encourage me with talk of miracles (although we keep praying), he encouraged me by agreeing that life is hard and then you die. And yet true hope cannot be squashed, because although we pray for miracles today, our true peace and belief and promises lie in the hope of what is to come, that whether we live or die we are the Lords.
Because, surely every man at his best is a mere breath, so we have hope only in what is to come, and yet pray for mercy today.
I've been trying to figure out a healthy granola recipe. Most recipes have some unhealthy oils and use a lot of sugar. Instead I used coconut oil and honey to make a really healthy and yum version.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Combine in a large mixing bowl:
10 c. oats // 1 1/2 c. unsweetened shave coconut // 1/2 c flax seed // 1 c. slivered almonds // 1 c. sunflower seeds // 3/4 c. chopped walnuts // 3/4 c. chopped macadamia nuts // 1/2 c. ground flax seed // 3/4 c. wheat germ // 3 tbsp. cinnamon // 1 tsp. nutmeg
Combine in a sauce pan and warm until blended:
1 c. coconut oil // 1 c. honey // 1/2 c. molasses // 2 tbsp. vanilla extract// 1 tsp. almond extract
Pour the ingredients from the saucepan into the mixing bowl with dry ingredients and mix together.
Spread the granola across two baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.
Optional: Add 1 c. dried blueberries to cooled granola
I read this article the other day from a prominent Christian author who, within a span of a few months, had divorced her husband, come out as a lesbian and had her partner move into her home with her children. I’ve done a lot of studying on the issue of homosexuality and Christianity, but it’s not the issue I really want to write about.
What was most interesting to me was her strong rhetoric about being 'your true self', which is what she feels she is doing. There was so much positive encouragement for her on social media, as this was the brave thing to do in the eyes of her readers, and it was. But that was what intrigued me, unrelated to her sexual orientation I was most interested in the bravery theme. I haven't got the foggiest idea what it must be like to be this woman so I'm not making a value judgement about her choices - you do you - ya know? But it's always interesting to review our culture's narrative and direction.
I find this 'be your true self' language to be very interesting. It is very clearly culture’s soundtrack right now and there are elements in this way of thinking that can be truly liberating for people. The pendulum is swinging from the days of suppression, of keep calm and carry on, of immovable moral and behavioral structures, to something meant to be more honest. So, now we are in a time where the highest thing we can do is be true to who we are.
I see why culture prizes the true self and I applaud those who have made difficult counter-cultural decisions to be honest. I suppose it’s an issue of defining terms though. If we actually mean our 'true selves', the truest thing about us is the person we are meant to form and grow into, it is our best self. But my suspicion is that when people say, “true self” what they mean is, "do what feels right," the phrases have become almost interchangeable.
With the latter understanding of the phrase as "do what feels right," it is interesting to me how powerful this message is in religious communities. I generally think that doing what feels right is rather simple to do. Most of the time it’s not brave, it’s easy. And although bravery is really important, especially when instilled in children to combat all those school age expectations, but it has to be lived out in tension with other values. From my understanding of Christianity there is a belief that we are broken and made for more, if so, then I think what we should be striving for is our best self. Of course there is grace for the fact that we'll never truly arrive, and we need to be sure that our best self is formed from true heart change and not suppression and behavior modification, but I think we should all be aiming for something better, not the depravity of our basic being.
I would imagine this 'true self' grows out of our therapeutic culture that bases all understanding of the self on feelings. They are the dominant theme of talk therapy. This is my field, but I was trained to think differently and after years of experience I agree with my professors. When feelings drive decision-making we can value the easy choice over the discerning choice, our desires over true wisdom, and often times the self over the other. This isn’t to say emotions don’t matter and that sometimes they lead us to the right decision, they do. We need to understand our emotions, recognize them, utilize and listen to them, sometimes set them aside and sometimes work to adjust them. But that’s just the point, we can’t always take our emotions at face value as being true wisdom, they very rarely are.
My sister and I were talking about her parenting the other day. She teaches her kids to have self-control over their emotions. We talked about the balance of suppression and self-control and how we can teach children to understand their emotions and yet not be solely driven by them. We can teach them self-efficacy and to embrace who they are even when it doesn’t fit the cultural square, and yet to teach them to be truly good we teach them how to change, we teach them to do what is right not just what feels right.
I’m reading the book Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman right now. Druckerman is a journalist who moved to Paris with her husband and later had children there. After living in the country for so long she has been able to make some interesting distinctions between common parenting themes in America vs. France. It’s a great book, but what I found most interesting was how few French women she interviewed were able to articulate why they parent the way they do, even though they all carry the same strong themes. I gather that this is the case because it's very difficult to critique the culture we are immersed in. When we’re outsiders or foreigners themes are so clear, and yet when we’re within, our norms are unseen like the blue of the sky. It’s good for us to review the background noise sometimes, if for nothing but to stop and listen to what we are hearing.
I’m working on some crib research and Trever and I are on VERY different pages concerning the nursery. Trever prefers wildly uncomfortable and very hip looking housing products. We recently switched out our metal wire chair for a wooden chair that is so deep it necessitates 3 pillows stacked against one another in order for one’s legs to make it to the ground. Plus as an added bonus - the edge of the chair is a cornered piece of wood that is so sharp, if the chairs current resident doesn’t understand the need for said pillows they will have a very red and painful mark at the mid-point of their calf. The cats don’t even like it and they like sleeping inside plastic bags. But daaamn if it doesn't look good in that space. It's like a piece of art, for looking not touching.
I should have known this registry kerfuffle was coming. When we got married we tried to register together and it was not cute. We weren’t that little engaged couple floating around West Elm squealing over our new home together. No, no, I was walking around trying to figure out what we needed (which was everything) while Trever gave a distracting background narrative the entire time, while constantly articulating the things he was convinced we did not need - not a big fan of clutter.
It's all deja vu related to baby paraphernalia. We apparently need 4 grey onesies, some diapers, and a crib (read: dresser drawer pulled out with some blankets). Trever does not feel ok with a chair that rocks, unless of course it’s Eames or some other painful hard material. He would also like to buy the IKEA crib, thus the debate. I’m pretty sure it’s made from scrap wood and likely gives splinters to any unlucky passerby, one of whom will be our newborn baby. As a note, I have put together enough IKEA products to know what they’re like when completed, many times they need to be propped against a wall for a source of support lest they collapse like a teetering jenga tower. Yes the ones I like range from $600-$1200, and yes she will not be in it THAT long, and yes that costs more than our bed, but the gold one is just so pretty. No I don’t manage our budget, why do you ask?
Also I’m going to betray his trust and tell you about Trever's new inventions because I'm not overly concerned about you taking the idea. You know the soundproof blankets made out of hazardous materials that they use on the walls in sounds studios? Well the world needs a baby version of these so parents can cover themselves and our crying babies on planes and it will silence the noise, potentially via suffocation but that will be left out of the marketing copy. Also, a one day diaper. When a child’s diaper needs changed parent need not remove soiled material, clean and replace, they just twist off the bottom of the diaper that contains waste and it will reseal the diaper (think diaper genie directly on baby bottom).
Who knows, maybe we’ll be millionaires off this one day. Ooooh, then maybe we can buy the fancy crib.
I heard a sermon the other day that wrecked me. He started out by saying, “I wanted to speak really quickly about sadness.” He went on to explain the intense experience of sadness and its great presence in the life of eternal beings, as we spend so much of our life ultimately letting go. He discussed the use of sadness and grief and what it does to our souls, and yet how easy it is to let that turn to anger because at least in anger we feel like we have control. Of course anger is generally unproductive as an emotion and keeps us from true growth and true comfort and mostly it keeps us from the capacity to see God.
Well if you have read my previous blogs you might have gotten a small teeny tiny sense of anger weaved within them. I didn’t want to delete them out because they’re part of the process, but it’s there for me to look back on and see with clarity what becomes of me in sadness. I couldn’t pray really, I couldn’t be gracious with people who wanted to me to find peace in God like they do, I couldn’t really sustain what I thought I learned all this year. I thought I became a person of faith, and maybe I did to a certain degree, but it’s not until the real pressure comes that we see the depth of the faith we maintain. I don’t regret the wrestle with God because I think that is often necessary for true belief, but I did see my faith for what it was and can do nothing but decide to respond differently now.
In difficult seasons of life I find that a world ruled by chance seems easier for me to believe. Without divine involvement the cruelty of life can land on no one except itself. And yet there are a lot of other reasons I believe, things that make sense of the world and this life, things that bring hope to a wretched place, and those things are still true in pain although maybe a little less clear. I still want to live my life in light of belief, and although God may not feel like a real source of comfort at this point, I’m doing my best to choose faith. Hopefully that choice will ultimately seep into my soul and bring me peace, but for now it’s just a choice.
I learned a lot this year about how we cannot educate ourselves into faith, we can only participate our way into it. Here I am in a different place and yet still learning the same thing. I will never understand how pain exists in a world ruled by a good God, except for what I learn from C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain. No one will sufficiently answer it for us and yet what may seem irrational to some is the only way forward for others - the will power to stand in faith even when nothing makes sense. At some point it's simply a choice. The decision to maintain belief is just that, a decision. My soul aches and I still hate when people try to comfort me with “God’s great plan” but whatever his involvement I’m trying my best to believe he is good. And I supposed I’ll just remind my soul of what is true, until over time it becomes an accessible part of me again.
No one can tell you what life and love are like. There are so many things that are simply notions of our minds until we experience them ourselves. I suppose it’s the limits of empathy, we can never completely put ourselves in someone else’s place, because at some point our imaginations are limited to what they know.
I’ve learned this about knowing grief. There are profound experiences I understand via pain that have taught me more than I care to know. But my capacity for empathy has expanded and thus my capacity to love has as well.
The same is true of knowing love. Today is Valentines Day. Trever and I don’t make a thing of it, we usually celebrate later in the week when the crowds have dissipated and so have the prices.
But 13 years ago was our first Valentines Day and our first real date, I was 16 and he picked me up at my dad’s house in Anaheim Hills wearing a suit that was likely two sizes too big. I was wearing a choker necklace representative of the circle of life, or the circle of fashion, as it were. We had been together for close to a year at that point but because of my age, or more likely because of his (20), we had to wait to officially date. But finally on February 14th, 2004 he took me to the ballet and after we drove to the beach blaring Deathcab.
I look back at us and what we were, and as beautiful as it was I’m amazed at the distance we’ve come, amazed at the life we’ve lived. Somewhere along the way we learned to love, which has a lot to do with choosing. But I think more than that we became capable of love as we knew it from each other, it seems that I had to be loved to be able to love in return.
And then to motherhood. I’ve watched so many of my friends melt into puddles when they became mothers and I could not seem to attain a sense of comprehension for what looked like a loss of self from my view. And yet now there is a scary love growing within me, a love for one who never could have loved me first. Tiny arms and legs keep kicking me all day and every time it happens I am nothing but a mother.
I can only assume there are unknowable depths of love as we live life. I find it interesting that this one word holds so much. Something that swirls itself in and through our beings and lives and attaches us to those around us. As it intertwines itself and unites us to others our beings become less and less singular and more and more a piece of connection, and ultimately the connection itself is what we’re made of.
My dad wrote me a letter today. He outlined bits of my life and like a poem ended each stanza with, “and then I loved you more.” I sobbed. I’ve always known he loved me and yet only now do I know that I never ever came close to really knowing his love. I’ve expanded a bit and can now begin to grasp a little more of what I thought I always knew.
I hope this is true of the divine, that we are incapable of understanding the depths of love One has for us. As we grow in love through friendship, family and marriage, I can only assume that by the slow growth of love over time can we come close to comprehension and even then fall extraordinarily short.
Happy Valentines Day.
I had the weirdest day yesterday. Trever was in Palm Springs all week for work and so I had decided to join him for one night so I could sit by the pool in the sunshine all day while he worked to pay our bills. I did an amniocentesis last Monday because there is a high correlation to genetic abnormalities with babies who have omphalacele. That was really our biggest fear because if there were genetic abnormalities the likelihood of survival is much lower.
I knew results would be coming back soon and every time I thought about it I would develop a pit in my stomach. But I have been doing a lot of forcing myself to relax, doing yoga, binge watching TV to keep my mind somewhere else, and reading books by the pool. So that’s what I did all day at the Parker in Palm Springs. There were three huge photo shoots happening on the property and so it was super fun to have models come lay in the lounge chairs next to me during their off hours, especially with the almost-pregnant belly but more like a burrito belly look I have going on. But that’s beside the point.
I was on my way home and I saw an unknown number coming in, I answered it and was told that everything came back normal so we were in the clear for genetic abnormalities. I don’t know how to explain the relief, except to say it was so strong it felt physical. Just like that a level of deep fear dissipated. So now it’s a lot of surgery and hospital time during the baby’s first year, but if all goes well she’ll have a really normal life beyond that. It’s funny what you realize you’re capable of handling once you're faced with the worst that could happen, surgery seems like a cake-walk now.
Two minutes after hanging up, literally, she kicked for the first time. I had expected to feel flutters for a couple weeks before feeling kicks and I was told those flutters wouldn’t come until around 21 weeks. But no flutter just bam, it happened, out of nowhere, she kept kicking and wiggling around and I sobbed. At home that night her kicks were so strong Trever could feel them and everything became a little more real a quite a bit brighter than before.
So today is a new day. This feels in a way like a new pregnancy. We started talking about names again. We went to dinner to celebrate and I’m so grateful for her tiny little life.
I don’t know what to say about God, if you’re wondering. I won’t make you keep joining me in my whiplash. I will say though, that the people that are the wisest I know, are the ones who have had to deal with making peace with God in the midst of suffering. They have developed a robust faith that is honest and capable of wrestling with God and yet never withers in the storm.
My farmer friend Barbara tells me that when you water plants you have to knock them around a bit so they get stronger. This is not meant to be an analogy of God as the great good gardener, or of life's tragic winds, but that when our branches spring back up from being knocked over they’re harder to knock down the next time. So I’m hoping that after this crazy bit of life as we slowly make our way back to standing upright, I’ll be less likely to wither in the next storm. Although probably not, maybe there is grace for the moments when our feeble little branches have been blown over, even if we keep staying forever feeble, I hope so.
Oh her name…Colette Iva Hoehne
Colette means victorious, Iva means God's great gift.
Also, Hoehne is German and means 'giant bear cub' or 'to get angry'…seriously I just looked it up, it’s so intense. Plus I’m part Polish Jew, so trev and I have some real ancestral angst.