Sometimes, We Cry Over the Silliest Things

For Mother’s Day, I shared a snippet of my journey through being a mom of a baby in the NICU. I thought I had faced most of those demons, but we defrosted our fridge last weekend.

When I came home from Texas Children’s Hospital, the Milk Bank sent me home with over 100 bottles of breastmilk I had pumped while staying at the hospital. They represented hours of work and tears. I put them all in the chest freezer. We did not use bottles and they all just sat there. I knew the effort that I had put into those bottles, so I started looking into donating them. It turns out that donating breastmilk is not at all easy to do. Nearly impossible, which is very sad.

Then, Hurricane Ike made an appearance.

We live less than four miles from the coastline and, while we may be at the high point in our neighborhood, we are always in one of the first zones to evacuate. We went north to safety with our four month old baby in tow. Our house was fine, but the electricity went out for about 24 hours. The chest freezer contents were alright, but I did not want to take a chance on the milk if it had even defrosted a little. I had to throw it all out. It was difficult, but I did it.

There was this one bottle though, wedged in a corner and cemented in ice. It would not budge and I left it there.

Seven years later, it was time to defrost the freezer. Past time, actually. I unloaded all the other contents and there was that bottle. I had forgotten it was there, covered up by some cranberries and juice from the lemon tree. It was wedged tight, still. I turned off the freezer and waited. A couple hours later, I knelt down, pulled out the bottle, and took it inside.

I put it on the counter.

I never could fill these things up by pumping. I'm in awe of working moms who do.

I never could fill these things up by pumping. I’m in awe of working moms who do.

The label has his name, medical number (which I had memorized after a few days because I wrote it so often), the date (6/2/08), the time (8am), and medications (which I never listed because I was too tired to write advil every dang time).

I moved it around the counter.

I carried it around the kitchen. I put it in the fridge. I took it out. I put it back on the counter. I looked at it all day.

I could not throw it away.

That night, I was washing dishes, looking at it sitting on the counter, and I started to cry.

That bottle was hours of sitting in a curtained off space in the Milk Bank at Texas Children’s. It was oceans of tears shed while I begged God for the life of my son or the fortitude to survive if he did not. It was words of prayer sent up. It was almost seven weeks of sleeping at the hospital, going to the Milk Bank every 3 hours without fail to pump. It was mastitis and wondering if I was making an effort for nothing. It was pain and heartache.

That bottle was realizing that my baby might live. It was falling in love with Mr. R all over again as he read C.S. Lewis to our boy who we had never yet heard cry. It was holding Gideon for the first time when he finally got off ECMO and was stable. It was rejoicing when I was able to feed him for the first time. It was joy and peace.

That bottle is still sitting in my fridge. Mr. Rochester asked me today if I wanted him to throw it out. I said no. I think I will pour out the milk and save the bottle.

I want to be reminded of that time. I want to remember the tears and the joy. I want to look at it and remember to be thankful for what I have been given because it is a blessing, that child that lived against all odds. I want to remember what it feels like to be cast into the fire and come out refined. I want to remember so I will remember to share my story.

Sometimes we cry over silly things and sometimes we remember why we are blessed by those tears.

Making a Better To Do List

I am not the most organized person owing mostly to the fact that I like piles. Piles of paper. Piles of books. Piles of stuff. My secret organization technique is to leave something in a nice pile for a few months, go through it, realize most of it is too old to be useful, and throw it away. Mr. Rochester does not approve of this.

The one thing I do that is organized is keep a To Do list. Honestly, who does not love crossing things off a list with a fist pump into the air every time you finish a chore? Sad people, that’s who.

About a month ago, a friend pointed me to a To Do list created by Ann Voskamp. (You have to sign up for her newsletter to download the PDFs, annoying, but effective.) I loved that her To Do list had different sections because I often found myself making multiple lists for different things. I decided to try out the list for a month, see what I liked, and what I wanted to change.

What I loved about Ann’s lists:

Menu: I make a weekly meal plan but it was nice to list out the meal for the day on my daily list. It helped me double check ingredients in case the boys had consumed all the milk, cheese, everything in the pantry since I made the weekly menu and went to the store.

She has a section that includes a memory verse, a relationship you were working on, and doxology (a place to write what you are thankful for). These three sections helped me be intentional about what verse or chapter of the Bible I was reading that day, who I wanted to pray for or pay special attention to, and giving thanks for the very many blessings I have in my life.

There is a section for “The Day’s Dire,” things that absolutely must get done that day in addition to a regular To Do list. There is also a timeline for the day so you know if your list is longer than the hours you actually have.

What I did not find useful:

Ann lists Daily To Dos and Domestic To Dos separate from other To Dos. It annoyed me to have my To Dos in so many places. I also never used the “Dailies” list because how disheartening is it to write dishes, laundry, pick up. Every. Single. Day. Just thinking about it makes me sad. Writing it down makes me want to cry. Daily housework sucks out my soul and I did not need to be reminded of that monster eating me bite by bite. The Domestic To Dos list was annoying in the same way but I just disliked having them in a different place. Laundry and vacuuming are not on a different priority level than running errands so I wanted them all together. If I do not go to the store, we starve. If I do not vacuum, the dust bunnies revolt against their human overlords. Either way, we die a horrible death.

I never used the area for workout, food log, or water intake. I do not currently work out and I feel no guilt whatsoever about this.

New and Improved, for Me

I created a new Daily Lists sheet this morning (link goes to a pdf of the form below). It includes everything I liked about Ann’s list and got rid of the things I did not need.

Daily List Pic

 

I changed “Memory Verse” to The Word. I like to read the same sections or chapters for a week or so at a time, then move on. While I was testing Ann’s lists out, I was (and still am) reading through Galatians, one chapter a week at a time. I kept the work “Doxology” because it reminds of singing the Doxology in the church I grew up in. It also reminds me that while I am to be thankful for blessings I have been given, they have also been given to be used, not hoarded.

I put all the To Dos together. The items that are pressing for the day are starred and at the top.

I bought a cheap clipboard, covered it in purple owl duct tape, and viola. I have a fun new way to keep my daily life organized.

One Caution: No matter how many lists and plans you make, remember to always be flexible. Every day has it’s own surprises and we need to be mindful when we are called to change our plans in service to God and others.

Happy list making.

I Was Never Sure I’d Get Here: a Mother’s Day Post

I spent my first Mother’s Day as a mom as Texas Children’s Hospital. At the time, I had never heard my baby cry. I had only heald him briefly for a picture before he was hooked up to machines that beeped and keep him alive. It was days after Mother’s Day happened before I knew if I would ever spend another Mother’s Day with that precious child. I tried to be thankful that first Mother’s Day, but I did a lot of tearful praying and sometimes just in tears.

By the grace of God, that boy, Gideon, did come home eventually, healthy and ready to conquer the world.

Seven years later, I know have two boys, no longer so small as I think they are, who fill my life with laughter and the kind of shenanigans only boys can dream up.

I'n not sure what's more adorable, the turtle or those two boys.

I’n not sure what’s more adorable, the turtles or the boys.

Being a mom has been harder than I ever dreamed it would be and more rewarding than I imagined possible. Being a mom has made me a better person, though admittedly, I get by most days by the skin of my teeth and a large dose of God’s grace.

Mother’s Day is hard for some and joyful for others. If you are a mom, I hope you are showered with extra blessing today. If you are not a mom or if your mom is not here for you to hug, I hope you find someone to hold tight today and share a laugh with because this day is really about how we love each other. May your day be overflowing with love.

I never thought I would get to this place, but I am so thankful and happy I am here.

For the Joy of Books

My boys were on spring break this week so my days were filled with activities with them and revisions on Storm in the Mountains.

Monday, I woke early and crept quietly into the living room, curled on the couch, and continued to devour Written in Red. Gideon, the 6 year old, woke up first, grabbed his own book and joined me. Soon, we were a threesome when Wash came bearing his own book. We sat, snuggled together, reading, for over an hour. My boys bring me joy all the time, but the quiet peace of that morning was perfect.

This week, I was able to introduce my boys to one of the wonderful things about vacation: Buying new books for a trip. It took some convincing to get Gideon not to start reading his new books the very moment they arrived. I ended up hiding the books for the trip.

I remember hauling around stacks of books on vacation, even as a kid. My family drove everywhere, they still do, and I used those hours in the car to read.

Vacation packing is different now that I have a kindle, but I still need a handful of options for every trip. Here are some of my options, not all, for this trip:

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

The Trouble With Magic by Patricia Rice

Ready Player One by Earnest Cline

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle

Have a lovely week. I am going to have my nose in a book.

Fly Me To the Mountains

I recently went on a family trip to Keystone, Colorado. I grew up going to Colorado for summer camping vacations. Sometimes, there are places where you know you belong. My soul belongs in the jagged peaks of the rocky mountains. I have lived at sea level in sweltering heat my entire life, but I have always known this was not where I belonged. When I sat down to write a story with characters who needed a wild and beautiful place, there was no question where it would be. I chose a fictional Colorado mountain town called Turning Creek.

The skyline in Keystone, Colorado.

The skyline in Keystone, Colorado.

Turning Creek, in my mind, is outside the mineral belt of Colorado, somewhere west of Leadville. Some of the mountains have similar names to other peaks in Colorado. Pikus Peak is a play on Pike’s Peak, one of the fourteeners. Silvercliff is a Christian camp my church takes our youth group to every year. It is a place I have found peace and joy as I watch young people I love find peace and understanding with the Lord.

Silvercliff is named for the silver white rock face shown here.

Silvercliff is named for the silver white rock face shown here.

It was a singular joy to go to Keystone this past week and see real, honest to goodness, road-closing snow for the first time in my life. We went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming three years ago and while there was plenty of snow, very little of it fell during our trip. I know some of my readers from the great white north are laughing, but I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen real snow. I have also never seen real fall leaves, but I digress.

This post is about the mountains and what I did there not how deprived of seasons this southern girl might be.

Everyone went skiing, except me. I am horrible at it and am not too fond of the endeavor so I sat for two days and consumed more caffeine than is recommended at a delightful place called Inxpot. As an unexpected bonus, Inxpot serves Mules, a colonial era drink featuring ale or ginger beer, alcohol, and lime. I had one with ginger beer, honey whiskey, and lime. It was wonderful. In case you were wondering, and I know you were, I researched Mules and a drink called Flip for Letters in the Snow, a Turning Creek novella featuring Iris, which comes out this summer. Flip was the drink that got Paul Revere drunk on his overnight ride to warn the militia.

Inxpot: excellent coffee and treats, plus books for sale!

Inxpot: excellent coffee and treats, plus books for sale!

I sat, drank coffee, and wrote the first couple chapters of Plagues of the Heart, the third Turning Creek book, featuring Dora. I walked around quite a bit breathing deeply and remembering all the reasons I love the mountains. Did you know that mountain streams smell different than other moving bodies of water? They do and it is a fabulous smell.

Mostly it was an amazing  trip because it has been a very long time since I was able to go on a family vacation with my boys.

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I wish all of you a place of joy in your life, where your soul feels at home and where there are people with which to share the view and a good drink.

 

 

Now Showing

Now showing on a TechSource Blog near you… little me, again!

TechSource was my first real writing gig and I am fabulously happy to be back writing for them again. My first post will go up tomorrow, so keep your eyes peeled, lovely readers!

Other fun things happening:

I finished most of the work I have been doing on a book for Information Today, Inc. This means I can actually write other things now, in this space and for TechSource. I am very glad about having that mostly done. There will be more information about the book, Mob Rule Learning, in the coming months.

The Bairn Rochester is in pre-school twice a week which means, besides a quiet hours for a few hours, I can sit down and write without yelling things like, “That is not a toy!” or “Stop trying to sit on the dog’s head!” or “Calm down!” or “What are you doing?” Pure bliss, I tell you and worth every penny.

The Bairn Rochester will be joined by another wee one in March. I will have to think of something fun to call it here, since Bairn is already taken.

–Jane, busy bee

I Usually Have No Idea What I Am Doing Here

The Wee Bairn is running around the house unsupervised so that I may share this flowchart with you. I have a few family members who would benefit from owning a printout of this comic.

I know enough about my computer to brake it occasionally and then I can only fix it about half the time. Lucky for me, Mr. Rochester is better with the technical aspects of computer ownership aka he has almost infinite patience whereas I am ready to throw the offending machine or program out the window after 5 minutes. My lack of patience is the main reason I am terrible at learning programming.

I teach people how to use stuff; I do not make the stuff. I know what people like to see; I can not build what people like. I know my limitations.

–Jane, and knowing is half the battle

In Case of Zombies with a Side of Fisticuffs

A cautionary tale of how a family full of geeks can carry a thing too far.

On Saturday, my family got together to see the new Star Trek movie, eat homemade pizza, an enjoy the good company. Well, we really just wanted to talk about how cute our babies are, but who can blame us?

Star Trek was great. One of the first scenes is, naturally, a bar fight and I was thinking, “Fisticuffs! No movie is complete without a good bout of fisticuffs!” It made me think that fisticuffs is a wonderful word and highly underutilized. The movie really is great and I loved all the inside jokes for the Trekkies. I appreciated that it explained the universe for the uninitiated. Catch it while you can in the theater or before you get sidetracked by one of the many other great things coming out this summer.

Over delicious pizza, I brought up a very serious topic: What the family plan should be in case of a zombie attack/outbreak*. As soon as I mentioned it, my brother said in jubilation with hands in the air, “Thank you! It is about time someone brought this up!!” He was obviously relieved someone else has been as concerned as he as been. What followed was a detailed discussion on the pros and cons of various plans.

We think the safest place for our family would be the Lake a la Rochester, which is about 3 hours away. If we made it there, we could live out on my parents’ pontoon boat. Obviously, zombies can’t swim, so out on the water would be the best place to hide. We could take excursions to shore to gather supplies as needed.

The problem is that Mr. R and I live on the south side of Houston. I am concerned about getting across the city. Mr. R thinks we can do it if we circumvent some of the major road ways. I observed that, as in hurricane season (which is now upon us! already!) I need to keep the gas tank full in the car. No more getting down to Empty. You never know when you may have to escape a zombie horde. Or a hurricane.

My brother pronounced this plan sound and proceeded to discuss the kinds of shotguns he thinks we would need to repel an attack. While the family Rochester does own several guns among us, (sadly none at my domicile) not one of us has a cricket paddle which served Shaun so well. My brother thinks a double barrel, sawed-off shotgun would be a fun zombie weapon, but my dad countered that gun would only be good at short range. My brother wanted to argue the coolness factor though if you are running for your life from zombies perhaps cool is not the most important fact when choosing a gun.

The conversation went on and by the end I am almost certain that my mother, sister, and father thought the rest of us were crazy. Perhaps. But we will be prepared.

–Jane, we could always resort to fisticuffs

*Mr. Rochester and I started talking about escaping zombies after watching 28 Weeks Later. Not because the movie was good. On the contrary, it was horrible for so many reasons it is hard to describe them all in a way which makes sense because the movie itself is ridiculous and requires the absence of all sane logic and reason. The first movie, 28 Days Later was great. This one, not so much with the good.

With a Thankful Heart

It has been a banner year for thankfulness at the Rochester household. Some things I am thankful for are simple and some are more dear, more complex. Here is a list of things this year has brought me.

Good coffee with real cream – My mother-in-law always drinks real cream in her coffee, and after a recent vacation with her, I have realized that nothing quite beats the creamy goodness of cream in coffee. Foolishly, I have tried substitutions, but nothing beats the original. I recently discovered Peet’s coffee and I think this duo has made mornings a beautiful thing. Something has to make getting up around 5:30 a pleasure, besides the little smile and big blue eyes that greet me. The Wee Bairn wakes my heart and the coffee wakes my mind.

Good books and movies – While nursing the Wee Bairn, I have spent many hours reading and watching movies (Thank you for movies that come in the mail!). In the past few months, I have escaped as everything from a Spook to a dragon rider.

Family – The Rochester clan is large, noisy, opinionated, stubborn, and has a propensity to imbibe a bit too much at times, but I can not imagine going through the past year without them.

Mr. Rochester –With the crazy first wife in the attic business behind us, he is the most amazing man and the very best Dad.

The Wee Bairn – He had a rough start, my wee man, but he brings joy to my life everyday. I never knew that you could love in quite this way. I have come to realize that God must love us for the beauty that we hold in infancy and that is the image He keeps of us as we grow into headstrong adults.

Provisions for each day and the breath to enjoy it – I have all that I need and I am alive to see the sun each day. What a blessing!

–Jane, is thankful and wishes blessings upon her readers

Priorities

Life amuses me.

For about the past 4 months I have agonized over my lack of time to do a few things:

    Clean the entire house at once. It is now done in batches.
    Read my RSS feeds on library news or any news for that matter.
    Check my email everyday.
    Write in this space or any space.
    Take naps.

I worry that you are all wasting away for lack of posts here, in this space, though I know the world goes on without me and that is hard as well. (Ironically, as I type this, the reason for my compressed schedule has awoken with an expressed need for me and so I will continue this later.)

(days later, it turns out) When I used to talk about technology in libraries, people would often ask where they were supposed to find the time for these new things. Time for the learning curve. Time in the daily routine. Simple Time. My reply was always the same. If it is important, you make time. You trim the things that have become less important. It was true then and it will always be true.

You spend time on the things you value. Where you spend your time, there your heart is also. (paraphrased Luke 12:34)

I have decided to stop beating myself up about my lack of posts here. I will post when I can and feel good about it when I do. I will stop being sad about not writing more and simply be happy when I do find time and have something to say. Rest assured this space will not go away, I just will not be as prolific as I have been in the past. I hope you will keep this in your feed readers so that every other week or so you can still get a dose of Jane.

I think as the Wee Bairn gets a little older my time will free up in different ways.

In this season of my life, my family is more important than anything else. The Wee Bairn only gets one Mom and I only get one shot at this Mom thing for him. I want to enjoy it and be free in that choice.

I will still be around in other ways. I am mentoring an Emerging Leaders group and I am working on a sweet unconference shindig with Meredith Farkas as part of Jim Rettig’s Presidential Initiatives. ALA Annual 2009 will be my first conference after a long hiatus.

–Jane, happy to have this written, finally