Friday, November 21, 2014

making room

I cleaned out my closet this week.

This may not sound earth-shattering. In many ways, it isn't. And yet...

It was the first time I've ever (ever) successfully cleaned out my closet. I didn't stop halfway through, defeated, or shove what I was too tired to hang back into a hamper in the corner of the room to deal with later.

It also felt a lot more like therapy than cleaning.

A couple weeks ago, I started reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The author, a Japanese organizational expert, is eccentric, unconventional, and exactly what I needed. Clearly, there is a reason she has a three-month wait list for her services. I'm so glad I gave her a chance! Here's how magic went down...

On Tuesday morning, while Caleb was napping, I brought every single piece of clothing I owned into the living room. I emptied every closet, dragged in every hamper, took all the coats off the hooks, grabbed my shoes from their shelves, and made a big ol' mountain. It was a ridiculous amount of stuff.

I stared at the pile for a little while and sipped my coffee, then finally worked up the courage to start. One at a time, I took each item in my hands and asked if it "sparked joy" in my heart and soul. I didn't ask if I'd worn it recently. Or if it was functional or trendy or new or old or WHATEVER. I did what the KonMari Method told me to do and asked ONLY if the thing in my hands sparked joy.

And I was AMAZED, people. One ratty shirt could leave me feeling deeply loved and cherished (a faded blue Coldplay T-shirt, from their 2005 tour--Andy surprised me with tickets as a "welcome home" present when I first moved back from Germany); another might contain deep feelings of shame and vulnerability (the high school hoodie I pretty much lived in at the age of 16. And by "lived," I think I mean "hid"). There were "classic" pieces my heart wanted no part of but that I'd held on to for years, because they'd always be in style. (Never mind that they'd never be my style.) I was surprised by what ended up as toss or keep, and I was shocked by the emotions I'd been storing up via my closet.

It makes sense. I've spent the better part of the last decade trying to find my footing, bouncing from one classroom, apartment, and country to the next. My closet told the story of my first teaching job in Berlin, followed by my return home less then six months later, when I lived with my parents for a year and spent way more than I saved, usually on cute clothes. There were long skirts and wide-brimmed hats from Abu Dhabi next to tank tops and short dresses I purchased when we first moved back. And in each of those impulsive indulgences I sensed a pang of guilt: I was only able to wear them a handful of times before discovering I was pregnant.

My life and body have been in a state of constant flux for over five years. There was so much upheaval. It's only now, after three consecutive years Stateside, that I can say I finally feel like I'm settling back into myself. Andy and I are much more focused on thriving right where we are, rather than striving to figure out where we'd like to be. Becoming parents definitely has something to do with it: We're in a season of establishing roots. It's time for our home--and my closet--to reflect that.

In the end, I packed up three trash bags to haul to Goodwill, and I have a fourth of newer, name-brand items that I'm planning to sell. The clothes I put back in my closet have room to breathe again (an apt metaphor). I also have a much better sense of my personal style: Tomboy with a feminine twist, folksy with a bit of polish or edge.

In lieu of a big family vacation this spring, we're setting aside some dollars to rebuild our wardrobes with quality pieces that suit the place we're at in our lives right now, in line with the slow fashion philosophy. My biggest priority? New socks, underwear, bras, and tank tops. Yes, I held each of these in my hands one at a time as well, and let me just say: Not a whole lotta joy going on in that department. But really, these are the things I'd like to feel best about. They're the items of clothing I wear closest to my body, every day. Same goes for pajamas. I'm going to choose just a few sets I feel GREAT about, then cherish them.

It probably all sounds so nutty and privileged, and I guess it kind of is. But I've been on such a high this week! There is so much FREEDOM in letting go of both the physical items and the emotional baggage they represent. As I say, therapy--some of the cheapest, most satisfying therapy I've ever had. Who knew?

And now... time to tackle the books!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

monday's cup, no. 4

[Notes: I chose this photo because I'm currently eating butter on sourdough and drinking prosecco splashed with pomegranate juice. The Tuesday night equivalent of a Monday morning. Or something.

Ah, anyway.

Better late than never?]

Image via

“I myself am made entirely of flaws, 
stitched together with good intentions.” 

Augusten Burroughs

Saturday, November 15, 2014

happy weekend

A little bit of this + that...

Cheers ;)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

(i hope i'm) not done

Image here

Yesterday there was a post on Cup Of Jo about knowing when you're "done" having children. Here's the thing: I don't think it's up to me. Not even a little. What life has taught me over and over again is that the universe unfolds as it should, and you just never know.

I have never been on birth control. Ever. And in our three-and-a-half years of marriage (and decade-long relationship) we have one child to show for it. So far. Hopefully, there will be more, whether through birth, adoption, foster care, or a combination.

If there is one Catholic teaching that resonates deeply and absolutely with my heart and soul right now, it is that on family planning. Life is intricately linked to the act that creates life, and this makes sex sacred. Why is it we allow our culture to rob us of this gift, to tell us that sex is mere pleasure, and that this pleasure is our right? Life is a right in my mind, and sex is what brings forth that life. This doesn't mean sex can't also be enjoyable; but recreation is not the sole purpose or end-goal. Besides bringing forth new life, sex has a lot more to do with intimacy and connection than pure, gluttonous pleasure...

. . .

As I was busy drafting this post, our gorgeous child woke up from his nap, and since Andy took the day off today, the three of us hung out together before I left to run a few errands. This was followed by a work project, which was followed by dinner, then a bath and bedtime for Cabey, and now, finally, here I am. I spent the last two hours down the rabbit hole reading other blogs, eventually landing on this post that speaks so strongly to where I'm at right now. 

I think it's OK to say things that have already been said when you yourself are realizing them for the first time. The act of writing is more about processing and understanding, not about saying things perfectly or "better." But in this case, I'll let Blythe tell you what's on my mind. (Not so much the conversion part. I'm not completely there yet. More the sex part. Good, important stuff.)

(Also, she was clearly nervous as she wrote and posted her piece, and I have to say, I kinda can't believe I'm making all this known about myself. Please be kind, even if only in your own head! x)

Monday, November 10, 2014

monday's cup, no. 3

Image here

"The universal longing for heaven is not about immortality so much as the wish for a world in which everyone is always kind." 

Susan Cain

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

on the eve of your first birthday

Caleb Gordon Steven Kiger, less than a day old.

My Sweet Pumpkin Baby,

Where did the time go? Tomorrow you will be one. One whole year grown. Meanwhile I've grown another decade in that same slice of time.

Your first months here feel like a dream I can't quite remember. The days and weeks and moments blur together, and you as a tiny, stationary baby has become so... intangible. Even harder to recall is the person I was, or thought I was. 

Your birth was the meeting of a miracle. Everything went so blessedly according to plan. Perhaps it was easier for this to happen when the plan was simply: Have a baby. Without drugs, preferably in the water. Be open to changes as the situation warrants. 

That was it, and that's what happened. How lucky we were that no changes were necessary, and to have such capable people around us. This, I now know, is rare. 

I was on top of the world after you were born, Caleb. I felt like I could've climbed Everest. (Not right at that moment, of course, as in reality I could hardly walk; but more as a general concept: It just seemed so incredibly possible.)

Someday I'll write for you the story of the day you were born. I read so many of these kinds of stories before my labor and delivery, and it helped to reinforce what I already knew: That women's bodies were made for this, and that babies are born all sorts of places in all sorts of ways. I knew it would be OK. The Biggest Deal of All--your birth--was, in fact, no big deal.

I wasn't afraid, Caleb. I kept waiting to be scared, but it never happened. I actually looked forward to giving birth. Finally going to the hospital, after a month of false starts, was my "on the airplane" moment. Someday you'll travel on a plane, and you may come to know, as I have, the relief that sets in when you're finally nestled in your seat about to take off. No more planning or packing to be done, no more worrying about whether you'll make your flight on time, or how long the security lines are going to be. It's just you and an hour or two or ten to enjoy the journey. 

I knew labor would probably feel like that for me, too. Nowhere to go, nothing to do but breathe, be, and hopefully enjoy the experience.

And I enjoyed it so, so much, dear one. The pain was excruciating towards the end, but I kept hearing my yoga teacher's voice in my head: "Feel the pain, say OK, then push anyway." The pushing was the hardest part, a burning sprint to the finish at the end of an all day marathon. I thought it would go faster than it did, but in the end it didn't matter. Suddenly you were on my chest, every glorious ounce of you. With a blink and a wail, your daddy and I turned the page of our life story to begin a chapter of profound change. We were parents. Just like that.

Cabey Baby, you can't understand this now, but your dad and I are returning to our Catholic faith after years (and for him, a lifetime) away. We want to be able to give this foundation to you. And oh, sweet boy--how you love church. You love the people and the statues and the singing. You always try to talk to the crucifix, and you love conversing with the painting of the Holy Family that hangs on the north wall of the transept. One day, though, you'll learn what has caused so many to abandon ship: The Church isn't perfect, and sometimes it can hurt people. 

I hope you stay anyway. 

Because nothing run by humans will ever be perfect. This doesn't make it worthless. 

To be human is to make mistakes, and to be alive is to experience suffering. Sometimes the pain is so great that we think we'll die from the weight of it. But miraculously, we keep going, one foot in front of the other, one breath at a time; and eventually we notice moments of grace and joy and peace and beauty in our midst. People hurt one another, and yet even those that hurt you remain worthy of love. Those that cause the most pain are usually hurting even more deeply themselves.

This, Cabey--this is what the life of Jesus Christ represents. The grace in the suffering, the freedom in the sacrifice. I hate that you are going to live through pain and darkness and hardship. But know this: You will always, always, always be worthy of the light on the other side, and I will love you no matter what. There is nothing you can say or do or be that will ever diminish my love for you. You are my son, but more importantly you are a child of God. Any fear or pain this world conjures up has already been conquered, and in that there is such hope.

You are still so much "closer to the source" than the adults that love you, and I pray you're able to stay that way. To stay vulnerable in the face of heartbreak, and brave in the face of defeat. You are so much more than the sum of your earthly parts. You are perfectly imperfect, made in and of Love--and baby? I'm just so glad you're here. You and Jesus, Caleb--both pieces I never knew were missing, until you helped bring me to one another. Your birth was a kind of birthday for me, too, in more ways than one.

So happy, happy, happy first birthday, my darling boy. And because I can't say it enough: I love you.


Your mama