Friday, October 30, 2009

Six Months

Six months ago today, Jack Henry came into the world. It wasn't the perfect, awe-inspiring moment I envisioned. I was strapped to a table and sawed open, and when they lifted up this writhing, meowing little creature so I could see him, the first thing I felt was profound sadness. I expected a thunderbolt of love to clap me smack in the heart. I expected to be overwhelmed with love the way they say it is supposed to be. But I wasn't. I felt desolate and lost, and entirely alone, and vastly disappointed in myself as a mother. Because I had to have a c-section. And because I didn't love him. I didn't feel like I loved him.

Those first few weeks--maybe even months--the only indication I had that I loved this child of my body was the fear I felt. I was afraid for him, always, as if I were caring for one of my own organs outside of my body. Fear, concern, and worry were the only constant emotions I had toward him. There were glimpses of true tenderness, but they were few. Mostly there was checking he was breathing, biting my lip as I tried--painfully--to breastfeed, and making sure he was warm enough, dry enough, happy enough. That was all.

My love for my son was not like a thunderbolt; it was more like a seed buried someplace deep. It needed nurturing to grow. But mostly it just needed time. My love for him has grown alongside him, and now they are both constantly outgrowing constraint. Finally, it is what I always imagined it would be, this love--something astonishing and powerful and devastatingly sweet.

Kind of like him.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

To the pumpkin patch we go!

I love fall. Apple picking, hayrides, pumpkin carving, Halloween--what's not to love? Last weekend we made it out to Patterson's farm to pick apples and get Jack his very first pumpkin. We think he liked it...

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Brief History of this Blog

Six years ago today, I started a blog. I'd never even heard of a blog before, but my boyfriend at the time, tech savvy Jef, introduced me to them. I wish I could remember the exact conversation, as I always do when some new technological marvel is absorbed into my life, but it's patchy. I remember looking at a few "blogs," which looked nothing like the blogs of today. Ah, things were so simple back then.

We were both moving across the world--he to South Korea and I to Israel--and we wanted a way to keep in touch with friends and family back home without the old mass email trick. This blog started on typepad, Jef's choice; I paid eight dollars a month for two years before I realized I could have one for free. Back then it was called Bar Kochva, after the street I lived on in Israel. I was still a born-again Christian at the time, fresh from serving as a missionary in the South Pacific, but burdened with doubts. I was getting my Masters in Religious Studies. I wanted to document my experience with grad school and my travels in the Middle East; I wanted a place to post pictures and impress everyone with my superior and witty prose. Obviously.

So, six years. A lot has taken place in that time, some of it recorded here, some of it just memories in my head.

In that six years...

I lived in Jerusalem.

Holy to three of the world's religions, it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is also one of the most dangerous. When I was there in 2003, buses were still blowing up every day. The number 19 bus--my bus--blew up one morning, packed with students. The Israelis took the bus and set it in front of the hotly contested separation wall, to remind people why the wall stood there. I went to see it.

I saw what the Palestinians wrote on the wall to remind people that they weren't animals to be caged in.

And I saw soldiers everywhere, all the time, reminding me that I was living in a war zone.

I was in Israel when they caught Saddam Hussein. I was there when Arafat died, and later, when the pope died. I was there for dozens of bombings, and I was there when they practically stopped altogether.

I learned Hebrew and I speak it well; I learned Arabic and I can barely read a newspaper headline. I studied history, philosophy, the anthropology of religion, the Pseudepigrapha, the early Christian martyrs, Maimonides, Mohammad, biblical theory. My faith suffered.

Still, I spent Maundy Thursday in Gethsemane, walked the Via Dolorosa on Good Friday, and spent Easter Sunday at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christ was buried.

I traveled to Jordan.

And Egypt.

Somewhere along the line I fell in love with Judaism. And I fell in love with a Jewish boy.

I didn't write about him on this blog, because he read it. Instead, we moved to New York City together in 2005. I didn't write for two years. I didn't write about teaching English in a community college on 52nd Street. I didn't write about the ups and downs of our relationship. I didn't write about my 14 month conversion to Judaism, how I studied with an orthodox rabbi, how I kept kosher and shabbat, how I learned the 613 commandments.

I didn't write about our breakup and my subsequent breakdown, though I'd written of my struggles with depression before. I didn't write about how I couldn't eat or sleep, how I lost ten pounds in as many days, and how I started taking effexor. I didn't write about how it started working immediately.

I didn't write about finding a job as an intern at a fledgling business magazine called Success, and how that turned into an assistant editor job and later an associate editor job. I didn't write about having my name appear on something I wrote that 650,000 people read. I didn't write about my Scottish boss, the one who drove me crazy and sometimes drove me to drink after work, but who also managed to become a good friend.

I didn't write about going to the mikveh and finishing my conversion. I didn't write about throwing myself a bat mitzvah for my thirtieth birthday, in which I went back to 1989 (the year I should have had one) and brought my friends along with me...

I did write when, in the summer of 2007, I traveled to Germany, and went back to Israel. But I didn't write about the fact that while I was there, Success was sold and we all lost our jobs. I didn't write about how my Scottish boss--you may know him as David--emptied my desk for me, and how I went to his apartment on Horatio street to pick it up, and how we got a bit wasted and made out, and how we spent one blissful unemployed month in the big city in the summer, falling in love.

I didn't write about how I helped him pack and he moved back to Scotland.

I did write about going to Argentina for six weeks. I wrote about meeting up with some Uruguayan theater students in Montevideo. I wrote about getting beat up and mugged by a gang of children in Paraguay, and how I had to bribe the guards at the border.

I wrote about having to leave early because my grandpa was ill, but I didn't write about how he died and my heart broke.

I didn't write about my first trip to Scotland to visit David, and how blissfully in love I was, and how he asked me to come live with him there.

I did write about moving there and starting a life together. But I stopped writing when I found out I was pregnant, and I stopped the effexor, and the world fell apart. So I didn't write much about my pregnancy.

Not until he was born.

And then I wrote all about him.

And that's pretty much where we are now. Six years later.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Decisions are the worst.

Choice makes me crazy. I personally believe it makes all of us crazy, but me especially. I have a love/hate relationship with choice actually. Because I'm American, and if I didn't have choices I would feel as if I were being denied something essential to freedom. Part of me loves endless options and equates it with grandiose ideals like the pursuit of happiness and the ability to create the life I want. But the other part of me--the neurotic, indecisive part--can never get over the fact that once I've actually waded through all the options and made a choice, maybe--in fact, probably--I've made the wrong one. Maybe I was too hasty! Maybe there was something better!

This is true of nearly everything in my life: from the tiny (the paint color in my kitchen, the name of my blog, the gym I joined) to the enormous (my major in college, my chosen career, the house I live in). So difficult are these choices that until now I have never put roots anywhere, flitting from place to place every two years, safe in the knowledge that I could always pull up my feet and choose differently should I feel the need. In fact, I have never been truly committed to anything (or anyone, really, but that is a different post altogether).

When I am sick, (and I use that word to denote my mental state, i.e. depressed or anxious) the problem of choice reaches ludicrous proportions. Last night I got my invitation to Google Voice, the service that allows you one number for the rest of your life, (meaning you can link whatever cell phone, work number, or home number you have even if they change over the years), and the process of choosing said number was long, arduous, and still destined for regret. I spent an hour thinking about it, another hour searching, another hour choosing, and the rest of the night regretting my choice. I mean, this is my number FOR LIFE! It has to be good! It has to be me! Even now I keep wondering if I can change it. But what would I change it to?

The same goes for my house. I spent a lot of time decorating it, haven't even finished, and already I want to change it all. I am torn between a colorful, bohemian style--eclectic, thrift store furniture, funky art, and lots of texture--and a minimalistic, modern style--neutrals with pops of color, clean-lined furniture, and no clutter. One makes me feel warm, cozy, and creative, the other makes me feel relaxed, clear-headed, and energized. At the moment my house can't seem to decide which one it wants to be, and as a result, negotiations have stalled and it just stays as is, half-finished. Living in a half-finished state makes me more depressed, which in turn makes me more indecisive, and on and on in one of those vicious little cycles. It's no good, I tell you. No good at all! I am stalled. More than a little stagnant. And unable to choose a way out. Help me!

P.S. I love Halloween. LOVE it. Have changed blog accordingly. What do you think of my Rubick's cube costume, lovingly made by my super-creative mother?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Home Again

Well, somehow we made it back. I do not recommend traveling solo with an infant on a twelve-hour, two-leg journey, but as I said, we made it. Thankfully Jack was really good, minimal crying, maximum charm, and good luck with seatmates who were helpful and sympathetic. But still, no matter how good the baby, it is simply exhausting. He's not big on crying jags, but if he's hungry and I'm too slow he can scream with the best of 'em. At one point, when Jack leaked through his diaper and was screaming for dinner, I managed--oh yes--to change his diaper while breastfeeding. This, for me, is a transcendent mother moment. Not only because of the multi-tasking, but because I managed to do anything while breastfeeding. A few short months ago, I never would have imagined a world where breastfeeding did not involve pain, enormous amounts of pillows, and a huge, sticky mess. Hurray for me!

So we made it, but now it's back to the dull doldrums. Scotland was wonderful, perfect, full of relaxing days, great food, and stimulating adult conversations that didn't revolve around poop. Now, here I am, home all day, alone except for Jack (who hasn't got beyond the bubble-blowing stage yet). I don't have a car; all my friends work, and I'm really isolated here. My brain, which was busy expanding in Scotland, is once again beginning to atrophy. Not good! Changes must be made, but how?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Country Walks

We've taken to long walks (we being Luise, Jack, David's mother, Angela, and I), and so far Scotland is cooperating beautifully, weatherwise. There have been a few hours of sun nearly every day, and the temperature has been perfect--warm enough that you only need a sweater, cool enough to keep your cheeks rosy. It's a good thing too, because with the way we are eating the clothes I just started fitting into would be too tight if we didn't get some exercise.

The routine seems to be a pub lunch, followed by a long walk in a place where we can push Jack in the stroller. (He, by the way, is a miracle baby, and hasn't slowed us down in the least. He is content to sit and play with his hands while we eat, and content to watch the trees go by while we walk. He is well behaved even when surrounded by strangers--in fact at the wedding he fell asleep in his stroller and we stayed out until eleven! Not late by the standards of my youth, but pretty damn impressive with a baby. I'm not trying to be smug posting this; I am just blown away by how lucky we are. Which of course means that our second child will be a hellbaby, as karma dictates. But I digress.) Anyway, here are a few shots of the past couple days:

At night we laugh, talk, and eat. Oh, and drink. A lot. David's father, Kerry, is a member of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, and the other night he took Luise and I to its headquarters in a Georgian Mansion, where you can taste drams of whisky and eat by the fireplace in various rooms of the house. I, of course, loved this, and even enjoyed the whisky, which I drank with a bit of water as is proper.

Just look how proper I am:

And artsy, too!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Finally, a few spare moments...

It's quite hard finding time to write over here. Yesterday Luise and I were out all day in town, then out all night pub-hopping. I held up remarkably well considering the hangover I woke up with yesterday. Needless to say, I had a good time at the wedding. The bride and her family, as I said before, are very close friends of David's family. In fact, David's father was the best man, and also gave the bride away, at her parents' wedding thirty years ago. The father of the bride, one Angus MacInnes, is most well-known for playing Gold Leader in Star Wars. For those of you as dorky as me, that is pretty awesome. But lets not forget that he was also the bad guy who dies in the silo in Witness, the sergeant who finds baby Hellboy in Hellboy, and a slew of other memorable characters. In their house I took a couple snaps of his office, where he keeps the scripts from the movies he's been in:

And the man himself:

And here are a few shot of the wedding (or at least the cocktail hour), including one of baby Jack belly-up to the bar. Don't worry, we didn't let him drink too much.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

'Allo, mates!

It's been terribly busy the past few days, as we've shuttled Jack to and fro to show him off to everybody (to great success, obviously, as he is perfect). Today my dear friend Luise arrives from Berlin, to keep me company here as David, poor soul, has to return home tomorrow and go back to work. Luise and I haver tried to see each other once a year since we left Israel, and we've done pretty well so far. And since a flight from Berlin to Edinburgh is a whopping 70 Euro, well, we just couldn't pass up the chance for her to meet Jack (and David, for that matter!) She'll be staying with us at David's parents, who have kindly opened their doors for strays, and we'll live it up in Scotland as best we can with a baby--starting tonight, at the wedding of David's pseudo-sister Anna. My first Scottish wedding! Though I've been told there will be no kilts, as only a "tit" wears a kilt to a wedding, apparently.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Ah, Scotland

We've been having a lovely trip so far. When I left this place a year ago I was pregnant and had just gone off effexor, meaning my mental state was cloudy and miserable (to say the least). So it's wonderful to be reminded how much I like it here. In fact I'm ready to come back for a while, or at least ready to leave Cleveland. A year ago, it's the only place I wanted to be, and now my itchy feet have come back with a vengeance. So even if it lasts only two weeks, a mini Scottish adventure is just what I needed.

Besides the Big Surprise birthday party for David's father on Sunday, we've been seeing as much as we can of Edinburgh and the countryside. On Tuesday, we headed down to the borders, where David grew up, to the pretty little village of Peebles.

That's the River Tweed Behind me there:

We also stopped at Traquir, an old Scottish country house...the oldest continuously inhabited house in Scotland apparently.

But we didn't bother going in; we just walked around the gardens and grounds.

And David and I tried, unsuccessfully, to conquer the maze: