Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Caution: Women at Work

I had been wondering when it would happen.

Yesterday, after two months back at work, emerging from what was approximately my eighty-third time pumping in a small conference room at the office--someone finally asked.

"So, what's with the 'Privacy Please: Do Not Enter' sign?"

"Well, 'Don't open this door unless you want to be scarred for life' wouldn't fit on a sign," I replied.

Just kidding.

"I'm pumping my breasts," I actually said.

The one male colleague witnessing this exchange covered his ears in jest as three women proceeded to chime in with their breastfeeding experiences--whose child would or wouldn't take a bottle, who pumped and didn't, and even a story of nursing while sitting on a crate in the aisle of a grocery store.

This went on for a few minutes, and I felt relieved to have finally explained myself (to half of my department, at least). I'm not embarrassed of it, obviously, but it is an awkward topic to bring up, and I'm always self-conscious about walking from my office (which is nice but doorless and not soundproof) to my "pumping room" carrying my pump twice a day. Since the pump bag is designed to be discreet and look like a large purse, I always worry people think I'm coming in really late or leaving really early, or returning from a long lunch at 2:30!

Overall, though, pumping at work has been easier than I expected. The hardest part is finding some pencil-and-paper work to do while I'm in there! (It's funny how computer-bound we are. I have to remind myself to save certain tasks like brainstorming, reviewing print proofs, and reading mail for pumping time.) The room is clean and seldom-used, and there's a phone so I can check in on Kate while I'm in there too.

Most importantly, I have never been barged in on once, thanks to my sign, which has now caused my male colleague significant emotional distress while giving my female colleagues and I some fodder for closer personal connection. Say what you want about certain guys being "breast men," but there's nothing like breastfeeding to bring women together.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My new blog design!

If you're reading this in a reader, please click over to view the actual blog, so you can see my new blog design! I'm very excited about it, obviously. As I've started reading more blogs and investing more time and thought in the medium, I decided I wanted to replace the blogger template with a new, original design.

With absolutely perfect timing, Jessica Turner blogged about a giveaway going on over at The Design Girl's blog: make a donation to the New Day Foster Home, and get entered to win a free blog makeover! Apparently, in many Chinese orphanages, there is not enough funding even to buy formula for the babies, so they are given juices, sugar-water, and other non-nutrative things. Given the time and energy I put in to pumping for Kate, it really tugged at my heart to read about these poor babies who not only lack a mother to make milk for them, but even formula to nourish them. So, I made a donation, and I won the giveaway!

The Design Girl was great to work with, and (you can judge for yourself, but) I think the result is pretty fantastic. She listened carefully to my preferences and ideas, guided me on what would work well and look good, and was patient with my back-and-forth requests and tweaks. If you're in the market for a new design, she is reasonably priced and very talented, so check her out!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Getting Real

This summer, I am leading a young adult book group in our home. We are reading Angry Conversations with God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir, by Susan Isaacs. I’m all about snarky and authentic, and lately I’ve really been pondering whether or not authenticity in some ways necessitates snarkiness--not necessarily anger, but some degree of negative self-expression.

Isaacs talks about how much she was affected by her mother’s statement “If you’re angry, no one will like you.” My mother similarly admonished me once for showing anger in front of some non-family folks, and that memory has always stuck with me. (In her defense, I was being a brat. In my defense, I was 13.) The memory of that admonishment (clearly!) hasn’t affected me to the point that I withhold negative thoughts and opinions when speaking, but I do often feel self-conscious if I bare too much of my true self with people who are not close friends or family members. I’ll express a strong opinion or make a TMI comment (which I am wont to do) and will subsequently have that “I’ve said too much” guilt.

I read a pastor’s wife’s blog a few months ago that talked about a “get-to-know-you” game they played at a women’s retreat. The women were to get in pairs or small groups and respond to the prompt, “To really know me, you have to know ________.” That’s a bold game. Depending on who the others were, I’m not sure I could/would answer. My current answer would involve some very angry and cynical feelings. I shared those feelings with my sister-in-law over lunch the other day, and my hope is that such authenticity takes our relationship to the next level by knowing one another's frustrations as well as our joys.

However, I wonder. . . Is there something wrong with the fact that these negative feelings about a certain aspect of my life are so central to my life experience right now? Will people not like me if I express these feelings? The fact that I am not being specific about these feelings when I write about them here (on a blog that generally only gets a couple dozen hits a day) evidences my fear that the answer to those questions is “yes.”

On the other hand, I'm wondering if negative emotions (fear, hurt, anger, etc.) are inherent to authenticity. The book group seemed to agree that people who seem happy all the time can be off-putting, both because one feels such people aren’t being “real,” or because it inhibits one’s own ability to be “real” with them. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with being a generally upbeat person, but negative emotions and experiences are part of life. No matter how good a person is at focusing on the positive and “seeing the glass half-full,” life is not perfect, and that imperfection is part of our common human experience. That doesn’t mean we should dwell on it, be bitter, or talk about it all the time, but in the context of important relationships, intentionally excluding or glossing over our struggles inhibits the depth of those personal connections.

Think of possible answers to the aforementioned get-to-know-you question. Would you feel you knew someone better if they told you “I love my kids more than anything,” or “I was abused as a child”? Hopefully, their love is deeper than their hurt, but a parent expressing love for a child is generally assumed. Maybe it’s precisely because the bad things are often kept secret that their revelation makes a relationship deeper and more authentic.

My negative feelings about a certain area of my life don’t define me, overall. If the subject comes up, chances are I'll get upset or at least sad, but I don't walk around with a dark cloud over my head. I am very happy with life right now, in fact. (“Just another day in paradise” is my new favorite mantra!) But unless you know the yin to my yang, you don’t really know me.

What do people need to know to really know you?
Is it positive or negative?
How willing are you to share negative emotions with people?
Feel free to leave a comment anonymously if you just need to share.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Great-Grands

I never knew any of my great-grandparents, so I think it's pretty cool that Kate still has five living, and she has met three of them. My two living grandparents have really enjoyed seeing her, at around 5 weeks, 16 weeks, and 20 weeks. We stopped by last weekend when I stopped in Louisville for the night between our cabin vacation and returning home for Father's Day. I took this video to capture my dear Nana and Grandpa loving on their youngest great-grandchild.

Wordless Wednesday--Bathing Beauty

UPDATED: Obviously I am confused about what day it is (at least I was when I scheduled this post late last night). Anyway, happy Tuesday!


Monday, June 22, 2009

Peace

Peace is the word that comes to mind regarding Kate and my vacation last week, in which we joined my parents and a dozen or so other relatives at the cabins of North Bend State Park near Cairo, West Virginia. Not because I debated with my parents about Christian pacifism, etc., but because relaxation was the name of the game on this delightful getaway.

I spent many hours reading (Parents magazine and Pagan Christianity by Viola and Barna) in the adirondack chairs on the porch of our cabin...
I gazed upward into a canopy of trees...I enjoyed the wildlife: squirrels, deer, beaver, and a raccoon. (My parents even saw a bobcat during a bike ride along the rail trail!)
Every morning, I dined on coffee and what I am now calling "woodland creature food" (thanks to MckMama)--yogurt with granola, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, raisins and craisins...
and each day we took Kate on a walk and/or hike. She's going to be a nature girl, we're sure! I feel my body relax just thinking about those lovely five days in the forest. Thank you Mom, Dad, and Meeker fam! Kate and I are looking forward to next year!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

We love you, Daddy!

Hi there, Daddy--it's me, Kate! Mommy had me away from you for almost a whole week, and I know you missed us terribly. We missed you too, but had a lot of fun on our woodsy cabin vacation. (Mommy will post some pictures from our trip soon.) You'll join us next year, I'm sure!

Mommy got me up really early (ok, ok, I admit--I got her up even before the alarm) to drive back to Clarksville in time for church this morning so we could spend our first Father's Day together. I hope you enjoyed my singing (er, screaming) throughout your lunch at Outback, and that you liked the gift I picked out for you! I love you very much, and want to share a few things that I have really enjoyed about our father-daughter relationship these last twenty weeks.
  • you do a mean beat box. I love dancing at "Club Daddy"! (Remember when Mommy tried to do it and I spit up in her mouth? That was awesome!
  • you are so sweet to threaten to shoot any boy that tries to date me a decade and a half from now. That really is an urgent threat that Mommy thinks you are totally reasonable for worrying about.
  • i like when you take me up in front of the church so that people will listen to your sermon instead of (while) looking at how cute I am.
  • Mommy and I love when you cry at songs like "Cinderella" and "I Saw God Today," thinking about how much you love me. You make jokes like you're embarrassed of such displays of emotion, but it is really so sweet.
  • you have been so selfless to take care of me these last eight weeks between when Mommy went back to work and when my day care opens. You sacrifice your productivity and control of your day in order to care for me. And Mommy loves it when you send her photo texts at work to show her what we do all day. You are so sweet.

Thanks for everything you do, Daddy! I love you very much. Happy Father's Day!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mom Shoes

These are my Mom Shoes. (Definitely not to be confused with Mom Jeans.)

I got them on my first solo trip to the mall with Kate. I remember wondering what a mall is like at 10am on a Wednesday, correctly assuming it’s a different demographic from the teenage mob scene of evenings and weekends, which previously was all I’d seen as a working 9-5er. 10am Wednesday, on the other hand, is Stroller City. There are moms of every age and style, promenading their Chiccos and Gracos and MacLarens all over the place.

Anyway, I’d been looking for a cute flat to wear around on maternity leave since I was used to wearing 3-4 inch heels every day to work and couldn’t wear flip flops all the time in February. They needed to be:

- cute without socks, because I hate wearing socks if the weather doesn’t absolutely require it.
- comfy enough to wear while pushing a stroller on a walk around the neighborhood
- closed-in-toe to hide the fact that I do not have time to get regular pedicures anymore (plus I have heard mixed reports on whether nail polish is verboten when breastfeeding, so I’m trying to paint sparingly).

I found them at Old Navy for $20. They came in gold, silver, and bronze. These are the silver but they look a little bronzy in certain lights. I think they fit the bill, and while I never wear flats to work (except on an occasional casual Friday), I still love to wear these on the weekends. I call them my Mom Shoes because I can run around the house or grocery store, holding Kate in the sling, and not be in pain or turn an ankle. (In the poic above, you can actually see my scar from my broken ankle surgery in 1998--I don't need another of those!)

What wardrobe changes did you make when you became a mom?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Divine Love

I’ve heard a lot of people say that after becoming a parent, you come to understand much more how God must feel about us. The love a parent has for a child is so deep and self-sacrificial, it offers a glimpse of what that all-loving Parent feels toward us, his children.

In the four and a half months since Kate’s arrival, I’ve gained some small bit of insight into this divine love. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more once she’s capable of being willfully disobedient! Right now it’s like a Garden of Eden parental relationship, and there are greater challenges to come, I know!

But, if I may be so bold as to apply my own human perspective to God, I dare make the following presumptions:

God loves when we delight in his presence. Nothing makes Matt or me happier than when Kate is giddy at just the sight of us. God must love it when we stop and smile, basking in the moment of recognizing that he is here with us.

God loves it when we go to him for comfort. I hate to see my child upset, but when she’s wailing and scared, I feel honored to be the one to hold her and comfort her. I can’t always just make it better, but I can accompany her through the distress. I’m not going to tread into a whole mess of theodicy issues, but bottom line, surely God mourns with us in our despair.

God hates to see us do things that he knows are bad for us. I’ve thought this for a long time, believing that God doesn’t make up arbitrary rules, but rather just doesn’t want to see us go through the emotional pain or physical risk that certain habits and situations can bring. Kate’s not really to the stage of making cognitive choices about her behaviors, but even little things, like sticking her hands into her mouth so far that she gags—and then doing it over and over again—make us sad (even as we’re laughing a little) that she doesn’t realize she’s bringing that discomfort on herself time and again.

God would do anything for us. I generally sum up my devotion to Kate by saying “I’d walk in front of a bus for her,” meaning I would die for her, risk or sacrifice anything for her. This analogy gets tricky because God can’t die and I’m not going to claim I would sacrifice any other children I may have for Kate. Nonetheless, Jesus did “lay down his life for his friends” to demonstrate the greatest love a person can have.

As Christians, we all strive to emulate that Christlike, self-sacrificial love, and I’m thankful to be learning more and more through this special stage of life.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wordless Wednesday -- Into the Woods

Shh... I'm suppoesd to be wordless, so I'll keep it short. Kate and I are at a state park in West Virginia, staying in cabins with my parents and a bunch of my mom's cousins and their kids and grandkids. Matt was unable to come, but we're having fun hiking and biking and just relaxing on the porch of our cabin.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Matt's Ten Year Reunion

This weekend was Matt's 10 year high school reunion. Friday, there was an after-work-watering-hole type thing at a bar. Matt went to that, but I stayed home, since a) I was sick (better than Thursday, but still fighting this cold), b) I had to pack for Kate and my trip this week, and c) our Netflix movie was a historical drama tv miniseries 1994 that Matt told me I WOULD have it watched and back in the mail so he can get something he likes for while Kate and I are gone.

Midday Saturday was the "family picnic" at a park, which was essentially a come-and-show-off-your-cute-kids event. So that's what we did! There were lots of babies and toddlers and we had fun mingling with the other young families. (There was also a little mini-tailgate off to the side, with the few bachelor guys who decided to come!)

Saturday night was a party/dance sort of thing at the Cannery Ballroom. I had been quite excited about this, given that my high school class of 21 people could not even manage to organize a time when a decent number of us could be in Louisville and get together for dinner or a party, so I will never have that iconic "high school reunion" experience like you see in all the movies--Romy and Michelle, Zack and Miri, etc. Oddly enough, that's what people kept saying throughout the event: "This is like a movie!"

It was quite a fascinating sociologial experiment and great time for people-watching, especially given that it wasn't my own reunion. I watched everyone mingling, and you could tell who had been popular, who had been dorky, and who were just the nice, normal people. Soon after we walked in, I spotted a tall, blonde girl--very stylish, very attractive--and I said to Matt, "she was the Queen Bee, wasn't she?" "Yes!" he replied, adding that when he saw the movie Mean Girls, Rachel McAdams' character had reminded him of this girl.

It was intriguing to look at people's outfits and think how just about everyone there must have taken into consideration how they wanted to present themselves to (and in keeping with stereotype, how they could impress) the people they went to high school with. The invitation had listed the dress code as "party casual: come as you like," which basically tells me nothing. I had been planning for weeks to wear a cute black dress I got before Matt's speaking engagement at Butler in April. I suggested to Matt that he wear nice pants and a sportcoat, but he was planning to go more casual--khakis and a collared shirt, untucked. As we drove there, I felt mismatched, thinking I would be overdressed and Matt would be underdressed. It made me laugh when we arrived and most girls were in cute party dresses like me, and most guys were in khakis or jeans and collared shirts without jackets, like Matt.

Sociological observations aside, we did have fun. They played 90s music, which I love, but it wasn't good for dancing, so pretty much no one danced (disappointing!) It was great to meet some of Matt's old friends, including the guys and girl who were in his band, Rimshot. One friend and I had heard so much about each other through Matt over the years that we actually hugged upon first meeting. That was cool. Another couple I really hope we'll hang out with more in the future. ("Make new friends, but keep the o-old, one is silver and the other gold..." Anyone remember that childhood song? I'm such a cheeseball.)

Here are a few pics from the evening:






Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Change the World

Matt and I had the following tongue-in-cheek conversation yesterday, as he looked over my weekend to-do list, still posted on the refrigerator:

Matt: What’s “CTW2”?
Me: Change the World, chapter 2. I needed to do some more editing on it over the weekend.
Matt: So you’re changing the world twice?
Me: No, the changing of the world is not completed in chapter 1.
Matt: But it will be by the end of the book?
Me: Yes, definitely.

We have a strange sense of humor, I know. In all seriousness, we won’t change the world just by writing, editing, or reading Change the World: Recovering the Message and Mission of Jesus (written by pastor Michael Slaughter of Ginghamsburg Church in Ohio and coming February 2010 from Abingdon Press). But we can change the world by serving as the hands and feet of Jesus on earth, ministering to the hungry, sick, and poor worldwide.

Mike’s mission is to help his congregation and other pastors and readers focus on Jesus' mission to "bring good news to the poor, release to the captive, and freedom to the oppressed," (Luke 4:18). I have been to Ginghamsburg’s annual Change the World conference twice now, and I have to say, it is an excellent experience for inspiring and equipping church leaders to make mission a top priority in their congregations and to put that priority to work in concrete action that really can make a difference for suffering people. I can't urge you to buy the book yet because (obviously) it's not out yet. But registration for the conference--October 22-23--is open, and I really do encourage you to check it out.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Show Us Where You Live--Office Edition

Last week, I participated in the Kelly’s Korner “Show Us Where You Live Friday” virtual house tour by linking to my post about Kate’s nursery back in January. This week is home offices, but I don’t really want to share our home office. It features two desks (one a lovely antique and one a generic formica/pressboard thing), more books than we have shelf space, and a litter box. So, not very picturesque, in other words.

My office office, however, is a pretty nice place to be (aside from the fact that Kate’s not here—boo). And I know the blog tour is supposed to be “where you live,” but hey—I’m a working mother, and during weekdays I spend more waking hours in my office than in my home. So there. I’m a serious homebody (about as introverted as they come, in the technical definition of the word), so if there’s any place I have to spend time outside my home, it better be a pretty decent home away from home, which is why I try to make my office as nice as possible, with framed pictures, a nice plant, pretty notepads, etc.
Here’s the view I see most of my day—computer screen, long to-do list (the orange pad), coffee mug, peace lily from my grandfather's funeral three years ago this week, and lots of pictures of Kate close at hand. On the part of the desk that wraps behind me (i.e. the messy part of my office), I’ve got another computer (not in use right now), a huge box of goldfish, file folders, and a hot water pot for making tea, oatmeal, etc.

A few items in particular that make me happy—monogram letters, dried roses, and a poster from a special week of religion lectures at Furman in October 2001: Beyond Tolerance week, discussing religious diversity and honoring victims of terrorism one month after 9/11.
I am so grateful to have windows, since my first office here was in a part of the building with no natural light at all--it was depressing, especially in the winter, when it was pretty much dark when I arrived and dark when I left. So, this is heaven, with my view of Nashville's "batman building," Sommet Center sports arena, and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

So that's that. If you're a working mom (or anyone, for that matter) visiting this blog for the first time via Kelly's Korner, please come back. Most of my posts consist of cute baby pics, thoughts on motherhood and life, and (being that I am a pastor's wife and a religious book editor) reflections on religion and culture in modern America.
Now, back to work!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Ten Years

I graduated high school ten years ago today. It's hard to believe it's been a decade. I don't feel that old! (My apologies to those who have been out of high school a couple decades and still don't feel old.) Where did the time go?

Well...
In 2000, I was still adjusting to college and dealing with a long-distance boyfriend.
In 2001, I went on a foreign study to Russia and Central Europe, declared my religion major, and broke up with said long-distance boyfriend that summer (the relationship was so significant, it's hard to believe we broke up almost eight years ago).
In 2002, I finally started to hit my stride in college. Moved in with my best friend Tracy for senior year.
In 2003, I graduated Furman University, worked a summer at Passport, moved to Nashville to start grad school, and met my future husband.
In 2004, Matt and I worked through a variety of kinks in the relationship, I started part-time at the Vanderbilt Cokesbury bookstore (part of UMPH), and I worked another summer of Passport, which gave me nightmares for many months afterwards.
In 2005, I wrote my master's thesis, started my first full-time job at UMPH, and got engaged.
In 2006, I got married (yes, that process takes a whole year in itself).
In 2007, I got the editorial job I'd been dreaming of since starting with UMPH 2 1/2 years earlier, and we moved to Clarksville for Matt's first full-time pastoral appointment at Bethlehem UMC.
In 2008, we found ourselves to be pregnant--theoretically a year ahead of "schedule," but still very exciting!
In 2009, we had little Katharine Barry, and are enjoying our third year of marriage.

So that's my adult life in a nutshell. The 2000s are finally starting to "sink in," I think. Even into 2008, I kept saying it felt like the 2000s had just begun, and yet they were almost over! Suddenly, 2007 seems like a long time ago, and 2003 seems like forever ago! Parenting must age a person quite rapidly.

Anyway, happy non-reunion to my twenty classmates. Hopefully we'll manage to get a reunion event together by the 11-year mark!

Act your age, young lady!

Kate (now 4 months old) has been rolling over for a few weeks now with increasing ease, both from back to front and front to back. She can move several feet in a few seconds with her fancy-shmancy rolling skills. She's also getting increasingly mobile with her "crabwalking scooch," which she has done since week 7 or so, pushing herself back with her feet while laying on her back.

Matt informed me yesterday that she seems to be learning to scooch on her belly now, too, in a sort of proto-crawl, rocking back and forth to get some small forward motion.

And now, she appears to be starting the teething process! (Drool, gum discomfort, increased fussiness that is relieved by a frozen teething ring...)

Slow down, young lady! Don't grow up so fast!!

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