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The ancient Egyptians believed that a solar eclipse was the work of a giant snake attacking Ra, the sun God. In Viking lore, it was the work of sky wolves, and in China, a dragon. It was a terrifying and mysterious event that the was fended off by drumming or throwing flaming arrows towards the sun.

In Eugene we experienced about 99 percent totality during Monday morning’s solar eclipse. My parents came over with pinhole viewers, and sunflowers from their garden. I provided Explore One’s SunCatcher Solar Eclipse glasses, purchased several weeks earlier from Fred Meyer at $1.99 a pair. First it looked as though a bite had been taken out of the sun. Slowly the day turned to dusk and the temperature dropped. The neighbor’s chickens started squawking and someone lit off fireworks. My husband called to share in the moment — and then quickly the moon’s umbra started passing across the sun’s other side.

Who knew that the moon’s shadow could create such a stir? Some 25,000 people flocked to prime eclipse-viewing territory in the small central Oregon town of Madras, staring in awe at the sun’s vanishing act before quickly rushing off to create a massive traffic jam.

For my part, as fairly major nerd and nature-lover, I would have liked to have seen totality. But I felt I made the right choice with my kids to keep things simple and stay at home. Maybe I’ll see it in 2024, when it passes through my mom’s home states of Indiana and Kentucky, and northwest Arkansas where I used to visit my grandparents each summer.

At any rate it was nice to have a break from the relentless political media coverage, which has exposed us to shadows of another sort. Thanks to our modern understanding of our solar system we no longer have to fear the moon’s shadow, rather we can appreciate it as a majestic and rare phenomena. The shadow of the human psyche is another matter. It is something we understand very poorly, and in this case, what we don’t know can harm us.

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[A person familiar with their own shadow side] “knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.” – Carl Jung

 

All the talk of the eclipse, and the recent events in Charlottesville, have stirred up my emotions. The wonders of our universe. The horrors of human hatred. At one time I thought we lived in a post-racist society, but I see now that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

All shadows and light, shadows and light. And here we are, caught somewhere in between.

Did you view the eclipse? What was your experience like?

 

Thanks to my mom, Alice Evans, for taking the photos at the top of this post.

 

 

 

 

 

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I am feeling so many things at the same time right now. Gratitude that my husband and I just bought our first house, that we have healthy children, that we both recently started excellent new jobs.

At the same time I’m still processing the results of the recent election, and yes, I’m not happy with the results. I’m afraid of the future we are moving toward as a society. We seem to be in a place where objective truth no longer matters. We are jumping off a ledge into an abyss where the outcome on human rights, environmental protections, and foreign policy are all in question.

I also find myself questioning whether the efforts I have been making for years to make the world a better place even matter. Carefully sorting my recycling. Being an informed citizen who researches and then votes in elections. Donating to nonprofits. Signing petitions for causes I believe in. Trying to be kind. Praying. Going to church every Sunday so that I can work on becoming a better person. Telling the truth.

Does any of it matter?

I am not trying to be melodramatic. I am just being honest.

A few minutes ago I came upon this poem by Mary Oliver.

The Uses of Sorrow

(in my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

I will continue to tell the truth. I will continue to make the same kinds of choices I’ve always made. I will fight even harder to live out Christ’s teaching to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Long live the resistance.

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My wedding day, almost 10 years ago. Photo credit: TJ Cameron

Spencer and I have been going to a marriage class through our church for the past couple weeks, and it has caused me to reflect on some of the ways we are different. It’s even helped me understand some differences that I wasn’t aware of before.

Take the “nothing box” for example. Our pastor said, “Some people keep their thoughts in boxes. At work, they’re in the work box. Sometimes, they’re in the nothing box. They’re just thinking about nothing.”

As Jerry said on an episode of Seinfeld, “Men are just walking around, looking around.” Spencer has told me that he has a nothing box and prefers to spend as much of his time there as he can.

In contrast, some people have all their thoughts connected and are always thinking about lots of different things. That’s me. I’m always writing a blog post in my head, thinking about any approaching deadlines, and wondering when I’ll find time to get together with that friend I’ve been wanting to see. My internal monologue can be loud and annoying. But I do try to allow myself to clear my mind and think about nothing while I’m doing something that doesn’t require concentration, like washing dishes or going for a jog.

This is not to say that all men fit into one category and all women fit into the other. Today I came across a Science article about a 2015 study showing that male and female brains don’t fit neatly into categories. (I’d love to hear from you in the comments below about where you see yourself on that spectrum of interconnected vs. more focused thinking.)

Another point of difference between myself and my husband came up when I read an article about how we experience time. I realized that I’m very focused on the future and Spencer is much more focused on the present. I’m also very scheduled and Spencer is less so.

This can be a point of conflict, but it also means we complement each other well. It’s helpful to have a planner (like me) around who is proactive, gets things done before the deadline, and has a strong vision for the future. But I can also have a hard time being spontaneous and being present in the moment.

We need to plan and prepare for the future, but the present is where we live.

My husband and my kids are good at helping me be more present in the moment. They also help lower my stress level…sometimes.

Spencer and I have other differences too — he’s really good at putting together Ikea furniture, and the visual directions leave me completely confused. I’d rather express my feelings in writing; he’d much rather talk. He likes football; I prefer ballet.

We have some important things in common – we like ethnic food, hiking, and the color blue. We like taking our kids to church every Sunday at 9 am, and we’re committed to staying out of debt. We listen to NPR, and Jim Gaffigan is our favorite comedian.

So are we really opposites? Yes and no. We can embrace our similarities while also valuing the balance that our differences bring to our life together.

How about you? Are all your thoughts connected or are you mostly focused on one thought at a time? And are you more focused on the future or the present? Scheduled or spontaneous? If you’re married, do you feel like you and your spouse are opposites? How so?

 

 

 

January is the cruelest month, perhaps. The glitz and the busyness of the holiday season is over. We’ve overextended our budgets and our waistlines. Our out-of-town friends and visitors have gone back home, and now we’re realizing that keeping our New Year’s Resolutions may be harder than we thought. If we want to get in shape, we might actually have to exercise and cut back on donuts. Reality hurts sometimes.

This was the first year that Marie kind of understood what Christmas was about, which meant this was the first year we had to start lying about Santa. And even though we took Marie and Paul to meet Santa  and get their pictures taken, she didn’t seem to really buy it. I’ve assured her multiple times that Santa is real but she still seems skeptical. I made the mistake of putting a book that we already had in Paul’s stocking and Marie said – “Hey, we already had that book.” I didn’t think she would notice, but that is the trouble you run into when your child is more intelligent than you are. At almost 9 months, Paul certainly didn’t know the difference.

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Well, I think this guy makes a pretty convincing Santa, if you ask me.

Marie’s highlights of Christmas included a new bed (with a slide and a tent underneath!), a ballerina music box, an Elsa dress, and ballet classes. These were all gifts from various grandparents. Spencer and I only got her a couple of gifts, one was a fairy wand she had asked for and immediately snapped into two pieces on Christmas morning. I believe Paul’s highlight was the dump truck he got from my mom. For me the the nice part about Christmas was watching Marie have fun and also spending time with family and friends. I also enjoyed donating to Mercy Corps and talking with Marie about what that meant. She started praying for the people who would benefit from the donation.

We were so busy leading up to Christmas and during the week of Christmas and New Year’s, and now I have a little more space to reflect. As I mentioned, January can be a hard month. But I’m actually feeling renewed and hopeful, despite the fact that Paul is teething and hasn’t been letting me sleep much lately. I’m looking forward to this year, and I’m looking forward to this month.

A few things I’m excited about this month:

  • going to a Duck basketball game
  • doing my first community service project of the year with Marie
  • watching Paul learn to walk (he’s already taking a few steps)
  • taking Marie roller skating for the first time
  • taking Marie and Paul on play dates with her friends
  • watching Marie’s ballet lessons
  • finally finishing the Gregory Maguire novel Spencer got me for my birthday
  • Tuesday mornings at MOPS

And that’s just this month. Life is full of gifts. I’m so grateful.

 

 

Yesterday was my birthday – I turned 32. I was woken up by my 7-month-old around 6 am; I nursed him and then he went back to sleep. Around 6:45 my 3-year-old daughter came in the room, and said, “Mommy! It’s your birthday! Daddy said I could sing the Happy Birthday song to you today!” Then she burst into song.

My birthday is on Veteran’s Day, so there was no preschool. I decided to find a new place to take the kids, so we visited Old School. When I was getting Baby Paul out of the car, I discovered he had a poopy diaper. So I changed him on the front seat, trying to do it quickly because it was a very cold and rainy morning. In the process, he peed all over his onesie and coat. I found him a new outfit, but not a new coat, so he was stuck wearing the pee coat. Marie then told me she needed to go potty, even though she had just went before we left the house. She has a fascination with trying the potty in new places. After using the potty in the 5th Street Market, we crossed to the 5th & Pearl building and took the 5 foot elevator ride to the first floor, and ventured down the hall to Old School.

Maybe it was just the mini elevator ride (remember Being John Malkovich?), but I felt like I’d arrived in a magical place when I stepped into Old School. It’s just a space where kids can play and work on crafts, but something about the ambiance is very special. We arrived a few minutes before 11, an hour past my original goal, but just in time for story time. We listened to stories, made a birdfeeder, and then Marie just played dress-up for about an hour before I decided it was time to leave.

When we left, Marie told me she needed to use the potty again. We went into a new restroom (so fun!) and she laid down on the floor of the stall to look at the mom and child in the next door stall. Meanwhile, I was holding baby Paul in the Ergo carrier. “Get up Marie! You’re being rude!” I told her.

“But I’m tired,” she said. I had to pick her up off the floor and set her on the potty, while holding the baby. Then of course I had to pick her up again when it was time to wash hands. All this to say – it’s a major ordeal to go anywhere with a 3-year-old and a baby.

Additionally, I was recovering from a bladder infection that I’d been trying to fend off naturally without antibiotics. So my mom got off work early to come help me out with the kids. When she got to our apartment, I tried to get some chores done, but I got dizzy and had to lie down. She took Marie to her house so I could rest, and I was able to nap with the baby for awhile.

By the time Spencer got home from work, I decided that he should take me to the after-hours clinic. I was imagining my UTI spreading to my kidneys and of course, leading to my imminent death. So instead of a date night, we got to visit the doctor. And the good news was that we found out my UTI was gone. At that point I think I was just feeling sick from fighting off the virus that Marie turned out to have later that evening! She woke up around 11 pm with a nasty cough and a fever.

Ah. So it was a hectic day. Additionally we found out my husband’s grandma had a heart attack that morning, induced by a panic attack. And I was thinking of my friend who is battling Stage 3 breast cancer — at age 30 — and had a bilateral mastectomy scheduled the next day (today).

But I still came out of the day feeling loved and appreciated. Spencer gave me a really thoughtful gift, as he tends to do. He got me books by two of my favorite writers, T.S. Eliot and Gregory Maguire. I’d even forgotten that I love Gregory Maguire, and I didn’t know he has a new book out, about Alice in Wonderland. So by remembering that I love a writer that I didn’t even remember I love (does that make sense?) Spencer pretty much proved that he is a good best friend/husband. And I had the opportunity to hear from quite a few people throughout the day via phone and Facebook. My college friends Jay and Holly called me for a surprise FaceTime chat while Spencer and I were watching our current Netflix favorite, Jane the Virgin. And my two best friends from high school texted me to wish me a happy birthday.

So it was fun to think about all the people who are an important part of my life now, or who have been important in the past. I’m thankful to have had a lot of special people in my life during the past 32 years. I’m thankful that my husband has been my best friend for the past 12 years, and that he’s been there for me in many ways – like taking me to the ER in the middle of the night when my son was 1-week-old and I had endometritis, planning a surprise ice skating birthday party for my 23rd birthday, bringing me takeout from Pine State Biscuits after I had a miscarriage, and celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary with a trip to Kauai. I’m thankful that we are able to live near my parents who offer me constant support – my mom is in our kitchen washing my dishes right now. And I’m thankful to be sharing my life now with two precious little ones – my daughter, the feisty future Broadway performer, and my sweet happy baby boy.

It really is a wonderful life.

I tried to take this selfie a few weeks ago, but my daughter hijacked it.

I tried to take this selfie a few weeks ago, but my daughter hijacked it.

Today is my son’s 5 month birthday. I can definitely say that I’ve fallen in love with the little guy in the last couple months. I guess all the attachment parenting tactics have been working for me – breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping. I know you’re not “supposed to” co-sleep, and I actually prefer not to but I just can’t keep getting out of bed every time he wakes up in the middle of the night. So he sleeps in his crib part-time and in our bed part-time. I never planned to co-sleep with my daughter either, but it also became a necessity…and it’s only since Paul’s been born that she’s been willing to sleep by herself. Anyway…

I feel almost back to my normal self. Definitely not thriving like I was during my pregnancy, but it seems like my hormones have stabilized enough that I’m no longer feeling as moody. I feel exhausted but mostly okay lately. The one problem is that I’ve been so sleep deprived that now I’m having a hard time sleeping even when everyone else is asleep. The little ones are both asleep now, so I should quickly wrap up this post and try to get to bed.

I’m looking forward to preschool starting again soon. Of course I love my 3-year-old, but I know we’ll both be happier once she’s back in school. She needs kids to play with, and I need some time to do the dishes without being interrupted by “Mom you pretend to be the Evil Queen and I’ll be Snow White, okay?”

In other good news, I got an email from an editor today saying that my travel articles were good, and that he wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true, because he’s worked with a lot of “terrible” writers lately. So that made me feel good. I’m glad that I’m staying connected with my career even though I don’t get the opportunity to work very much right now.

My sweet baby boy is almost crawling already. That puts him about a month ahead of his sister, which was already super early. He also has a delightful laugh. Just thinking about his laugh makes my heart melt.

I was hanging out with a new friend yesterday who’s a first-time mom of a 2-month-old. She seemed to be coping as well as could be expected, but it reminded me of how overwhelmed I felt when I was a new mom. I thought of all the mama skills I’ve gained that have helped make my life easier.

Not easy mind you. But easier – today I was able to accomplish taking my four-month-old and three-year-old with me to the grocery store. And I also did laundry. And applied for a job. And tonight we took the little ones out for pizza and dancing. So it was a productive day.

My friend Catherine writes a blog called The Ten Thousand Hour Mama. There’s a theory that if you spend ten thousand hours practicing something you will become an expert at it. So, ten thousand hours of violin practice, and hopefully you’re ready for a career as a professional musician.

After 3 and 1/4 years as a full-time mom, I think I’ve easily surpassed the ten thousand hour mark. A conservative estimate of ten hours of mama time per day for 3 years puts the total at 10,950 hours as of my daughter’s April birthday. So even subtracting the hours my mom has watched my daughter or that she’s been at preschool, we can call it good.

Skills that I’ve gained? Breastfeeding has been much easier this time around. In part because of my baby, but in part because I knew what to do. I also used to be really uncomfortable breastfeeding in public because I was worried about offending people. But I don’t care anymore. My baby’s need to eat comes first.

I’ve also mastered the skill of getting out of the house. This is incredibly hard as a new mom. Packing the diaper bag with enough wipes, diapers and outfit changes. Getting the baby strapped into the carseat without too much screaming. Or just maintaining your calm throughout the screaming. Now also getting the three-year-old ready and in the car. This is actually one of the most important skills I’ve mastered – I try to have an outing every day in order to maintain my sanity.

I’ve managed to get my 3-year-old potty trained while taking care of my newborn. Or rather, she accepted the bribe of going to ballet camp if she would start pooping on the potty. Ballerinas use the potty.

The things is, you can’t ever be an expert mama because every child is different and every stage is different. I feel like taking care of the baby is easier this time because I’ve done it before and perhaps because of the baby’s personality. But age 3 is new territory and it’s hard.

Maybe once both of my children have graduated from college, then I can consider myself an expert mama. Until then, I’m still learning.