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I’ve Moved!

My blog has moved! You can find me now at:

www.gardenofmyheart.com

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Jax

Our wonderful cat Jax is missing.

He’s been part of our family for over 7 years, very much a fixture in our daily lives. Jax has always been a special cat – always purring and licking us, content to just be with. A good traveler and always happy to see you. We often joked that he must have a bit of dog in him for the way he would meet you at the door when you came home, lick you much like a dog does, or even play fetch. And he was always, always purring.

He was a bit of a goofy little cat and has never been big on survival skills. In fact, he’s tried to jump into his fair share of in-use fireplaces, hot ovens, and even set himself on fire once by getting a little too curious about a gas stove. He was also chronically ill during his life with us. We tried everything to help him (including visits to an animal acupuncturist and a foray into herbal treatments when antibiotics simply stopped helping), but it became clear that he was just a sickly little cat, happy despite his constant sneezing and coughing.

When we brought Rowenna home from the hospital, the first thing he did was climb right into her car carrier and purr. When she was doing tummy time or laying on her back gazing up at her toys, Jax would snuggle alongside her. He was the reason she first sat up, rolled, crawled, walked, and climbed. (He quickly earned the nickname “therapy cat.”) When she cried, he would gently bump her with his head and give her a few licks. One of her first signs was “cat.” The two have been a pair from the start.

It was love from the start.

It was love from the start.

We have been working hard on teaching Rowenna the concept of “gentle” and she generally went by these guidelines, but even when she didn’t, Jax would simply flop over and purr. He never once hissed or bit or scratched anyone for any reason.

Yes, Jax is riding in her baby carriage.

Yes, Jax is riding in her baby carriage.

He would sometimes sleep under her crib, and more than once I went to wake Rowenna in the morning only to find the two of them having a little morning conversation, Jax purring and Rowenna grinning ear-to-ear.

Morning conference.

Morning conference.

Our other cat, Milo, recently pawed open a door and Jax snuck out. I don’t really understand why – he rarely showed an interest in straying very far from his beloved Rowenna – but away he went. We made fliers, talked to neighbors, walked our block, and hiked through the woods behind our house and the neighbors’ houses. We left out bowls of kibble and his favorite blankets and pillows. We registered Jax as missing with the local shelter and the police department.

But he is just…gone.

Rowenna’s been walking around the house signing “cat” and making the purring noise she associates with Jax. (She’s rarely heard him meow, he’s always purring, and it’s little wonder she thinks cats make a purring noise despite us trying to teach her it’s really “meow.”) She has a very clear circuit that hits every part of the house she shared with Jax. A cubby under our tv for snuggling, our bed where we played with Jax in the mornings, the sliding door where they sat together, soaking in the sunshine. She’s been clutching his toys and laying her head on his pillow, crying. One night she sat at our sliding door for over a half hour while signing “cat” and crying. Nothing I did could console her, so I ended up just rocking her and crying along with her.

We’re trying to acknowledge her desire to see him while trying to explain he’s no longer here. We use words we think she can understand, but how do you explain to a three year old that this creature she loves more than anything is simply gone and isn’t coming back?

And while watching my sweet girl miss her cat is breaking my heart, I am bracing myself for the thing I know is coming that will be even worse: the day I realize she didn’t once go to check the cubby, the day she didn’t sit at the back door and sign “cat.” The day she gives up on him being there.

Maybe one day Jax will come back to our family, but I can’t say we’re holding much hope that it will happen. He’s slipped away. We only hope now that he is safe and happy out there on his adventure, and if he is found, found by a gentle and loving family that will appreciate him, sneezes and all.

Soaking up the sun together.

Soaking up the sun together.

Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day and I want so much to simply celebrate the girl who made me a momma.

I want to be able to say I’ve been pregnant once and have one beautiful girl. I want to go back to the time when pregnancy meant a baby in 40 weeks, for my family to grow, for my girl to be a big sister.

But here I am, three pregnancies and one sweet girl and the knowledge that babies don’t always stay. Knowing you can watch your belly grow only to have it fall slack. It’s days like these when I long for the baby that should have been in my arms for months now, or to run my hands over a big pregnant belly, just three weeks from Clementine’s due date. It’s days like these I ache with loss, when it seems my entire facebook feed is full of babies and bellies, and I’m here with my girl but also a sense of emptiness.

These kinds of days are few and far between for me now, but the idea that I should be celebrating my motherhood and womanhood just doesn’t ring true this year. It feels empty and like I’ve failed in some way.

Since sharing Clementine’s loss, I’ve heard from many of you, and for that I am grateful. It seems there is a large, silent sorority of sorts – women who carry a secret pain the world cannot handle hearing about, or maybe we cannot bear to talk about. There is no secret handshake or sign to know we’ve crossed paths with one of our sisters. Maybe just a sad smile when they hear you stumble over saying you have one child but hope so much for one more. Or the shared cringe when someone offers some well-meaning, but ultimately hurtful, advice.

We plan to spend the day arranging our flower pots and prepping the vegetable garden. I want to sink my hands in the earth, that cool and calming home for things that grow. I want only to plant and water and nurture. To watch my girl explore and dig and hear her shriek with delight at the sight of colorful blooms.

And that’s what we’ll do, just the three of us.

Relief

Relief. I could use some right about now.

It occurred to me yesterday morning, as I drove home from the hospital, the stress I’ve been under lately. And the stress hubby has been under. It hit me like a ton of bricks and the realization overwhelmed me.

We lost a baby. Became pregnant again shortly after and spent 12 agonizing weeks worrying and worrying about that baby, only to lose her. Had surgery only to develop a post surgical infection that healed, then came back. Went through the holiday season (which is stressful in even the best years), went on a long road trip. I’ve had 2 colds and the flu, Rowenna has had recurrent sinus infections and a bout of pink eye. One of our cars reached the point of barely-driveable, forcing us to purchase a vehicle much sooner than we anticipated. Hubby works 50+ hours each week and is also taking a grad school class. He will be taking a major pay cut this fall due to things completely beyond his control. I’ve been doing political advocacy work which is rewarding but exhausting. I also want to go back to work, to contribute financially, but I haven’t yet found a job that will cover the expense of day care. Yesterday afternoon our oven completely died, and long story short, it isn’t a matter of simply replacing it, but also doing a major kitchen renovation.

And for the final straw, Rowenna just spent 3 days in the hospital for a wicked respiratory infection.

I just…can’t. I can’t do this anymore, can’t keep up this pace. Something’s got to give but I’m not sure what. Hubby walks around like a zombie. I know he’s giving his all to his job, and in his field that just goes with the territory, but it’s weighing on him differently these days. And I can almost see our financial concerns hanging around his neck. I don’t know how to help him other than to keep his after work hours as stress free as possible, but I am worried about him. I want to be a rock for him, as he has been for me, but I’m crumbling, too, and not much good for support.

I really thought we were doing ok. Honestly and truly. But Rowenna being in the hospital brought everything into sharp focus – our general parenting worries, our worries about her health, our financial worries, our worries about where to go from here.

And to be honest, I’m not really sure what to do or say or write. We’ve been working out and trying to eat healthier. We are trying to set aside time to relax and have fun. We try to spend wisely while also allowing for a little bit of fun. But it seems like whenever we take a step forward, we end up taking a leap backwards. We try to do everything the right way, the responsible way and…it still piles up. It’s like treading water with weights tied to our ankles.

So I’m writing. Putting this out there to the universe. I’m sharing because I’ve decided to blog more, and blog what I’m feeling, instead of always waiting for something cute to say about Rowenna. Hoping that things will start looking up for my family. And hoping that you all understand the need to vent as part of the healing process.

Things will improve. I know they will. We just have to figure out how to deal with the in between time.

Drought

The blog has been silent for a while as I process something that happened last month. I didn’t want to write about it, but I find that by being silent on this one thing, I cannot find words to talk about anything else. By denying this one thing, I deny its impact on the rest of my life, and I stall and stutter.

For privacy, I still won’t elaborate on what happened, but I will say this: my family has suffered a loss. A deep, unexpected, personal loss.

This has been an unimaginably difficult summer, both physically and emotionally. I’ve been sick and tired – sicker than I’ve been in years. I’ve been listless and unfocused. It’s been unbearably hot and dry; we’ve spent more time indoors this summer than ever before. I feel cut off, isolated. I can’t help but look out the window at our sun-baked yard, brown and dead for weeks now, garden destroyed by the heat, and feel like it reflects my frame of mind – dried out, brittle.

There’s no life surrounding us. There’s no abundance, no green.

There seems to be no relief, no end to the blistering heat or the scratch of dead grass beneath our feet.

Our attempts to fight back fall flat. We water and nurture and still wake up the next morning to withered plants and dust.

This drought could not have come at a worse time. I need a cool breeze or a pop of color in the garden as I walk up the front steps. I need relief. I need nature’s reminder that life moves on and grows and changes. That we can always start again.

It’s coming, I know. As with all things, this won’t last forever. I just need change to hurry up a little.

***

And while this post is a bit dreary, please rest assured that I do have a support network and seek help as needed. I just had to get something out about what’s going on – hoping that this will get my writing back on track and break down the writer’s block.

For readers that come here to keep in touch about Rowenna, please rest assured that she is just fine. Healthy, happy, and the small, much-needed spark of light in our home.

Baha’i Faith: Day 6

(Oops…forgot to post this yesterday! There will be two posts today.)

I am often asked where Bahá’ís worship. For people from a Christian background, I see where the confusion comes from. For many Christians, worship happens within a church during a service presided over by a clergy member. (and elsewhere, too, of course – but service/mass is an obvious, concrete worship time)

Bahá’ís gather every 19 days and hold something called “feast.” It is considered both a spiritual feast (prayers, deepening) and an actual feast (snacks!). Large communities may have a Bahá’í center, and those that do not meet in the home of someone in the community.

Personally, I love this aspect of the faith. It is wonderful to gather in someone’s living room or around a dining room table and listen to selections from the Bahá’í writings. It’s personal and cozy and warm.

After the spiritual feast, we move on to administrative matters of the community such as planning study circles or reaching out to members of the community who may need assistance. This is followed by snacks and a time to chat with each other.

Aside from feasts, Bahá’ís also hold devotionals (just prayers/writings from the Bahá’í faith and other religions) and deepenings (carefully studying one or two selections from the writings) for spiritual sustenance. There is also a daily prayer (your choice of 3) and a daily meditation.

We also consider work, music, art, and dance performed in the spirit of worship to be worship. We are in a constant state of worship in my house!

Bahá’ís also have several Houses of Worship around the world – one on each continent. (aside from Antarctica) North America’s temple is in Wilmette, IL.

House of Worship in Wilmette

Bahá’í temples are a little different than churches or other places of worship. While built by Bahá’ís, they are home to people of all religions. They do not hold services there, and you are welcome to pray/meditate/contemplate in your own faith tradition in a Bahá’í temple. For me, the temple feels like a blank canvas. When you enter, you are free to think or pray or simply sit in silence.

They are used for devotionals and sometimes for choral concerts. Devotionals take writings from many world religions, not just from the Bahá’í faith. The long term goal is for every community in the world to have a place like this for worship, though for now, Bahá’ís around the world are focused on nurturing the spiritual and social aspects of their communities.

You can read a little of what I have to say about the Wilmette temple here. And you can see pictures of the current houses of worship here.

Why I Knit – And a Brag

My blog has been silent for a few weeks. My laptop had a nasty virus and it took a looooong time to take care of it. I learned very quickly that while I love the new iPad, it’s totally worthless for typing anything longer than a Facebook status update. So the blog has been on a little vacation, and I have all these posts rolling around in my head.

We’ll get to some of the more serious posts later – and I know after my first training session this weekend I’m going to have a lot more to say about it all – so let’s start here, with a little something about why I knit.

I learned to knit during my semester abroad in Ireland. It rains there just as much as everyone says it does, but it was hard to wrap my mind around it until I was living it. Every. Single. Day. Oh, it was wet. And gray. I loved Ireland once the homesickness passed, but I had cabin fever in a bad way.

This mostly manifested in my cleaning our flat and doing a lot of crunches, but I definitely drove my flatmates nutty with my constant need to keep myself busy. One day, my flatmate marched me down to the craft store, put a pair of needles and a skein of purple yarn in my hands, and took me back to the flat to learn to knit. I think she wanted me to sit still for a while.

That was 9 years ago, and I’ve been knitting ever since.

The more I knit, the more I love it. Using two sticks and string, I make fabric. It’s magical. It’s mathematical. It appeals to my logical side while inspiring my creative side.

I make clothes. I make things that keep people warm. The things I make wrap people in love and warmth and softness. I love to see my girl wearing a sweater I’ve made or hubby wearing a hat I knit.

And aside from all the warm and fuzzy, I don’t know if that flatmate (now my best friend) knows what she gave me 9 years ago: she taught me how to sit still.

I have a serious issue with quieting my mind. I am always, always, always thinking. I’m that person that has to have the tv on or the radio playing to distract part of my mind so I can focus on something else.

Knitting lets me be quiet for a while. Studies have shown that knitting actually produces the same type of brain waves as meditation. (Cool, right?) Knitting is my meditation. I can knit stitch after stitch, row after row no matter how stressed or sad or frustrated I am. And as each stitch falls off my needles, I feel a little more calm, relaxed, clear.

And at the end, I have something warm and woolly to wrap around a loved one.

I like a challenge when I knit, so a while ago I took a class in the Aran knitting style. (think Irish sweaters) I took the class from a charming and witty woman straight from Donegal. I could barely understand her as she drew complicated diagrams on the chalkboard and walked around the room, watching us clumsily slip stitches back and forth to make cables and bobbles. Her idea of a written pattern is nothing like a conventional knitting pattern, but I was determined to make a small sweater and master the Aran style.

Eventually I cast on the first stitches of a Merino Diamond Lumber 22″ and started to knit. And knit and knit. I cabled and slipped and moss stitched until finally I ended up with this.

Rowenna in Her Aran Sweater

And here’s the brag: I am so stinkin’ proud of this sweater. I’ve never been prouder of a piece I’ve made. And the journey of making it brought back so many wonderful memories of fluffy sheep in deep green fields, a friendship made, a lesson learned.

My mind was never more quiet than while I worked on this sweater for my girl, and I don’t think that really crystallized for me until I was done. This sweater taught me (reminded me?) how much I’ve come to depend on this stillness and how grateful I truly am for the friend who taught me.

So thanks, pal. See you soon. ❤