Sunday, January 15, 2017

Snow Weekend

"Snow-flakes" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Out of the bosom of the Air,
      Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
      Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
            Silent, and soft, and slow
            Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
      Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
      In the white countenance confession,
            The troubled sky reveals
            The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
      Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
      Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
            Now whispered and revealed
            To wood and field.

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Nordstrom Sale (January 2017): Four Picks

This month, I am going on a buying fast. So, obviously, when the Nordstrom sale came into my peripheral vision, I had to buy something because my in-laws gave me a gift card for Christmas! And it's the last day of the sale!!!!

Ahem.


Main Image - kate spade new york 'one in a million' initial pendant necklace


Isn't it lovely and delicate? I wear a lot more chunky necklaces, especially ones prime to be grabbed. This one will be great for a date out.


Main Image - The North Face 'Recon' Backpack

I am throwing out/ donating bags and making room for this one. I can wear it without breaking my shoulder (because it'll be filled with diapers/wipes/crayons/juice boxes/packets, etc.), and it's adorable enough that both Will and I can wear it no problem. (In cosmic blue heather/ coral because black/ 14k gold was a little too cosmopolitan for us.)


Main Image - American Atelier Set of 4 Confetti Stemless Wine Glasses

Along the same lines of decluttering... we gave away most of our wine glasses, and are left with three. (The fourth broke.) When I was visiting my family in Cincinnati over Thanksgiving, they had stemless wine glasses and I loved them. There is always a reason for a stem, but these are stemless and have confetti - a perfect festive combo! Red wine for all!

Main Image - Levtex Drum Basket
I just gave away our toy holder to another family because the girls could not keep their toys cleaned up. Instead, it works much better to have one large container to hold everything. We're currently using a plastic tub which is much less chic than this neutral, textured basket. I am excited - I bought the medium sized one!

Are you buying anything today? Are you doing anything to kick off January? 

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Baldwin Babes: Winter 2016 Edition

It's been such a long time since writing that I can only provide highlights. Will is done with his last Trauma rotation. Will has job offers. The children are extra busy. I am (still) learning to handle challenges and, when I find myself having a good day, can hardly recognize myself from a bad day.

I am still teaching. I am cleaning out our house. I am laughing that my office has been such a wreck since I started tossing papers... oh well. Comes with the cleaning out territory, I suppose.

Today I fixed soup which I give a B (I need to work on salting better... terrified of over-salting); oatmeal chocolate chip bars which I give an A-; graded; cleaned the downstairs again; took care of the children; took care of the sick husband; reminded myself to get to bed "earlier than usual".

So, hi again. Happy Advent. Here's what we've been doing for the past month...












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Sunday, October 30, 2016

#write31days: The Art of Not Asking Questions

My grandmother is sick. She was sick for years before I found out; years before she told anyone.

When I first heard this, I went through different stages of grief. She is, after all, the only grandmother I've ever known. My paternal grandmother died before I was born.

My maternal grandmother is classy and reserved; easy to laugh and has a quick wit. She likes playing cards and once asked me if the margaritas I was helping make on a family vacation were "for the kids" - I did not add enough alcohol, apparently.

I never really understood, until recently, why she did not tell anyone. Even now, when I call her and ask how she is doing, she always answers, "Just fine, thanks!"

My dear grandmother, I understand now.

I understand that you're not fine - but I'm not the person you want to say that to.

I understand that you're not in the mood to be constantly discussing the state of your health.

I understand. I love you.

**

A hard part about having a child with special needs is that too many questions revolve around her therapy and her progress.

It is, honestly, draining.

To the outside person, it is a simple question. What is she doing? How is she improving? 

Every day, it's different. Every day, I try to balance typical expectations for a three year old while recognizing that she faces different challenges. She cannot use her right hand. I have to help her get dressed on her right side; I have to remind her to use her hand and arm too; we practice opening and closing her hand. We practice her standing on her feet evenly.

She has many therapists whom I am in constant communication with; she sees 5 therapists/week + 2 consults per month. I keep up with various doctor appointments. I have to be consistent about her - stretching and massage, putting on her braces, pushing her to try, try again.

It can break a mother's heart. You just want to see your baby not struggle. But she does, and that is okay too. She is a vibrant, loving, talented three year old. When I am having a hard day, I'll tell her. She says, "I hug you mommy. I kiss you."

**

In this family, we struggle. We forgive. We try, we laugh, and we dance.

I know there is a natural curiosity about cerebral palsy, different therapies, and even how postpartum depression manifests itself... but we humans are all processing. I am still processing my daughter's diagnosis. I am still processing my own diagnosis. Some days I think I am overreacting; other days, I want my bed to swallow me.

I'm not writing this to shut people out - this is a free country. People may ask questions. I am saying that people do not have a right to information. There is no Freedom of Information Act for your life; to the contrary, plead HIPPA, or the 5th Amendment. Too often, we don't want to offend people by saying, "No thanks. Not in the mood to discuss this with you." I am guilty of this. I'd prefer people lead with, "When you're in the mood to discuss, I'd like to hear about ___."

But Julie! You are writing this on your blog, a public forum! Isn't that an invitation for further discussion?

Yes, I am. That is my prerogative. The same way I talk about my postpartum depression. I even found myself mentioning it to people at a party last week, because I am a fun person.

In the same vein, Grace is my daughter. I'm happy to discuss her favorite colors, her favorite dress-up options, the funny things she says, et cetera. I want people to know Grace for who she is, and not her diagnosis. She's not an inspiration. She's a warrior princess, just like her sister Laura.

**

So, people of the world: let me bring it up.

Or begin by saying, "I'd love to hear at some point"... yes, I will register your request. And thank you for giving me the option to say "no" and "not now"! It shows thoughtfulness, as it's personal for me. I have more hard days now, or maybe they just feel harder. More often than not, questions feel harder too.

I cannot apologize for struggling. I am not a robot. I am a human, living this glorious experience.



As I've mentioned before, the best question to ask is the non-question. The best messages I receive are the ones of neutral support. I love talking to family and showing them the kids via FaceTime. I like catching up with friends (usually by text, if we're honest) and hearing about daily life. I like hearing about hobbies, adventures, trips and ideas. I don't like dwelling on things I can't change.

**

We live in uncertain times, though the days are patterned. I find myself pausing more and meditating on love. There are four types of love. There are five types of love languages. My husband is not verbose like me; I wrote him hundreds of letters, and talk to him about everything. He shows me love - he shows me that I am whole, when I feel broken. He shows me potential when I feel distress. Will is the calm in my storm. He and I have accepted that we will never know why Grace had a stroke, and we both agree that nothing changes the way we will always do our best for her, as we will do for all our darling children.

I find comfort in love, messy as it is; I've been re-reading lines from Mary Oliver's poem "Rhapsody":

"If you are in the garden, I will dress myself in leaves.
If you are in the sea I will slide into that
smooth blue nest, I will talk fish, I will adore salt.
But if you are sad, I will not dress myself in desolation.
I will present myself with all the laughters I can muster.
And if you are angry I will come, calm and steady,
with some small and easy story.

Promises, promises, promises! The tongue jabbers, the heart
strives, falls, strives again. The world is perfect.
Love, however, is an opera, a history, a long walk,
that includes falling and rising, falling and rising, while
the heart stays as sweet as a peach, as radiant and
grateful as the deep-leaved hills."

Let us ask about what concerns each of us - our life in the spirit, our joys, our doings, and our thoughts. We are more than our sorrow.

**

My "rules" for this series are short (especially before commenting): this topic is personal and I am currently living in it. This is not an abstract for a dissertation. I do not have 20/20 hindsight yet. I don't need any medical advice, as I keep in close communication with my own PA + Dr., as well as being married to one. My husband and I practice many different types of coping mechanisms as well, which I will write about too. My situation is 100 percent unique and I am writing only about myself. These posts are directed at no one, and still, I am opening myself up to share my experiences. If I can help one person, it will be worth it. Please respect this adult conversation at face value.

**

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Monday, October 17, 2016

#write31days: PostPartum Depression and Romance

This past weekend, Will and I had just a really hard time. I was struggling, and he was struggling with my struggles.

And this is where we should be honest about why most of us get married: we want to be with the person who is going to put up with our shit every single day.

Marriage isn't easy, people coo. I hated hearing that, especially when I was dating Will - even though I knew it was true. So I planned and we talked and we came to the same conclusions, and thus, engagement was natural. Marriage followed. Babies happened, and so did unhappiness. The growing pains of marriage are natural, and those who wish to ignore the root causes are apt to be unhappy that they will never be resolved until you take a shovel and dig them out. Claw if you must, but the longer you let ills grow, the harder it is to eradicate the problem.

I've seen it in too many marriages, and I tried to avoid it in my own. But one cannot avoid human nature. Humility is often the antidote.

So, this past weekend, we talked about my struggles, his struggles, our struggles. He was gone for most of the past week, and that's always a hard adjustment for us both- we work better together, and when we're separated, neither is the best version of ourselves. Add in my postpartum depression, and it's a mountain we're both climbing together.

And after two hard days, we had a beautiful Sunday together. In our Catholic marriage vows, we pledged, "I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life."

This is what is hard. How do you honor each other? Not making side comments. Gossiping about your spouse. Being direct. I wanted flowers from Will. I was feeling more like the maid than the wife. So, what did I do? I asked for them.


Will took the girls to Target and Wegmans, did some shopping for me, and bought me tulips. Win-win situation. I told him, and he followed through.

It's too easy to blame your spouse. I tried to last week. He bounced back what he had done. Grumble grumble. FINE BUT...

We talked about frustrations. He hates the way I do the laundry. This is no secret. In fact, this is probably what we "fight" about the most. Oh, if that's the worst you fight about, then you're fine, some people sigh. But it's how a person fights - it's not the topic. If you are constantly right and your spouse is constantly wrong, then you are wrong too. If you belittle your spouse and get passive aggressive and dismissive, you are part of the problem too - even if you are right or justified on principle.

If you want real romance in your marriage, you have to handle tough situations together, as a team. There are no winners and losers in marriage. There cannot be a right and wrong for a marriage of true minds. We must sanctify each other. We must hold each other accountable.

Romance is the intimacy of allowing your spouse be who they are. It's saying "I'm sorry"-- and he's sorry too, and you two hug. Will's biggest romantic gesture is the absolute patience and kindness he shows me when I am struggling through the day.

And surprise tulips.

**

My "rules" for this series are short (especially before commenting): this topic is personal and I am currently living in it. This is not an abstract for a dissertation. I do not have 20/20 hindsight yet. I don't need any medical advice, as I keep in close communication with my own PA + Dr., as well as being married to one. My husband and I practice many different types of coping mechanisms as well, which I will write about too. My situation is 100 percent unique and I am writing only about myself. These posts are directed at no one, and still, I am opening myself up to share my experiences. If I can help one person, it will be worth it. Please respect this adult conversation at face value.

**

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