tidal waves

When we were little and would wake in the night afraid, my mom always had us recount our nightmares to her. She used to say that once you spoke your fear, you could get rid of it. I don't know the medical truth to this, but it did always make us feel better. Here, many years later, I need to speak some fears so that I can try once again to banish them. Bear with me, please.

For most of my life, I dreamed of the day I would become a mother. This isn't so for every little girl and that's totally okay, but it has always been that way for me. I've loved babies and children and been fascinated by pregnancy and birth for a long time. As an adult, I've now put that love into practice as a doula. However, no amount of daydreaming could have prepared me for how things really feel now. Not the borderline moodiness on certain days or the occasional bout of feeling really yucky -- those I expected, what I was totally unprepared for was the fear. Not being fearful of the birth or of being a parent or the many changes this new life will bring to our routines...in complete honesty, I've seen too many births to think it is anything other than incredible and the rest we will just figure out along the way. For weeks, what I have been battling the ever crashing tidal wave of fear that this little life could disappear and there is nothing I can do to control that.

Already many people have commented that my experience as a doula should mean I feel very prepared for what's to come. But the truth is that it also means I know the exact statistics on loss at every stage and all the many minute things that can go wrong. And as someone connected to the birth community, it also means I know a great deal of moms who have struggled with infertility and loss at every stage. Almost weekly, I see friends on Facebook who are grieving unexpected losses or celebrating the lives of babies who have spent far longer in heaven than they did on this earth. It is devastating. They are incredibly brave women and I fully support their choice to share their experience for a number of reasons. But at the end of the day, I am a new mom who is also terrified for this tiny life.

Before we became pregnant, I wrestled a lot with God and the idea that I had to trust Him to let us have a family if and when it was part of His plan. This took months of very harsh reflection and truthful prayers. After finally feeling like I had come to some kind of peace with whatever was to come, we were surprised and overwhelmingly blessed with "little b." I immediately vowed to be grateful for every step of this journey and to not rush things or complain or take it for granted -- it was far far to precious a gift for any of that. Yet at the same time, almost from day one, fear of loss has been a constantly ebb and flow through my mind. Not nightmares easy from which to wake, but sometimes graphic images, sometimes the words that would have to be spoken, and sometimes the reactions of friends, all hovering on the periphery of my joy.

I have been meditating on scriptures that speak out against fear and been praying a lot for God to help me to continue to trust Him, no matter what comes. Even though this may help for a time, I feel like I am standing in the face of constant waves of fear, crashing upon me and around me. Once one recedes, it is only a matter of time before another surges up behind it. Gratefully, I know the truth -- that our God is big enough to figuratively and literally part the seas for a clear path through, to calm the storm threatening our hope, and to even make safe passage upon the waters when our eyes are fixed on Him. Even now, the song Good Good Father has just come on in the background as I write this, reminding me that He is "a good good Father, it's who [He] is" and that He is "perfect in all of His ways" and that ultimately who I am, who Charlie is, and who our little bean is...all are rooted in being loved by Him. This isn't a guarantee of any outcome but that reassurance sure does hold back the tidal wave longer than anything I can come up with on my own.

For years, my mom has had a painting of Jesus calming the storm hanging in her living room. It was pretty but I never paid too much particular attention to it. However, last night after reading of another friend grieving the loss of her first pregnancy, I was fitfully trying to sleep and begging God to protect our little one as well as to give me the strength to trust Him. Through the fear, statistics, and mental images...that painting came into my mind and it was all I could do to just focus on it's stillness and peacefulness while repeating 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

I know this is a lot to share today but my prayer is that truthfulness about this very unexpected (and often unspoken-about) part of pregnancy will encourage another as well as myself. Speaking my fears so that they may be gone. And to the many many unbelievable women for whom pregnancy or birth ended in grief, please know that you and your beautiful babies are not forgotten.

I am overwhelmed by love these days -- love for this peach-sized person, love for and from my incredible husband who is already an amazing dad, love from the multitudes of family and friends who are sharing in our joy, but more than anything else, love for and from a God who is and has always been a good father to me, who can stand between me and my fear. And love for you, if you've read all the way through this and if you'll take a moment to pray for me, for other pregnant woman you know, any mom you know, and any mom whose baby is made whole in the glorious presence of Christ. Brief encouragement for any of them never goes amiss.

Thank you

ps - this song was sung at our church on Sunday and it was such a perfect and beautiful message:
"I need to know that you're still holding / the whole world in your hands / and that is a reason to sing"


little b

It's been awfully quiet around this space for a while, but I promise it's for a very good reason:
That's right, friends! We're expecting our first family addition (affectionately called "little bean" for the time being) to arrive around the end of January/beginning of February. We couldn't be more thrilled and have had great difficulty keeping this news to ourselves the last couple months. That being said, we are excited to share with family and friends now and look forward to this next adventure.

Lots more thoughts, pictures, and fun projects coming up, but frankly, everything else has felt very un-share-worthy compared to this lately! :)

"The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy...." Psalm 126:3


backyard compost bin

Ever the patient husband, this week during a break from the endless rain, I wrangled Charlie into yet another building project. I finally got up the nerve to ask our landlord about putting a compost bin in our backyard. He surprisingly said yes so I quickly went to work!

After chatting with Charlie's dad about how he build their bin and a trip to Lowe's, we had a stack of all our materials in the living room. Two 16' boards cut into 3' sections, a roll of chicken wire, nails, and some corner brackets ($35 total). Then I had to let it sit for a few days, taunting me, while the rain kept pouring down.
(Note: I did purchase a 4' craft board which is leaning up against the couch but we ended up not using it.)
When the rain briefly ceased, we hopped outside to put it all together. We started with the two simple side frames.
Next, we added the last two boards to frame up the back with angled nails and corner brackets. Angled nails are much easier said than done, but thankfully, since this is only holding compost, we weren't too concerned with it being perfect.
Lastly, Charlie manhandled the roll of chicken wire around the outside while I went to town with the staple gun to secure it. We borrowed a bunch of wire cutters from Charlie's parents but thankfully didn't even need them -- with the added board diameter, the roll was exactly the outer width of the bin.
We hauled it down to the edge of the yard and headed back inside just as it began to rain again.
To make the system a bit easier, we got a stainless steel under-counter compost bin (while on sale) to hold scraps till we're ready to walk down to the outside bin. I'm so excited to get a pitchfork this week and get started composting, not only for the great free soil but also as the next step in reducing waste in our kitchen!

Final note: I totally didn't plan on it being quite as big as it was...a bit of a miscommunication, but we're going with it! A two-person house may be fine with a 2' or 2.5' cube size.


2016 Anniversary Square

In January 2015, I shared on my old blog A Song for the Birds that I had decided to start an Anniversary Quilt for Charlie and I. Each block would reflect the biggest thing to happen during that year of our marriage. Block #1 represented our move from NC to PA:
This January, I had a hard time coming up with what the biggest thing for the year was. We had such an eventful 2014 that 2015 felt much more settled. Always supportive and amazing, Charlie suggested that my decision to become a doula was the biggest thing to happen over our year.

It took me a while to find a design I liked, but after some deliberating, I chose a pretty mandala with different takes on the word doula surrounding it. "Woman's servant," or "slave" technically, is the original Latin while "the one who holds" is a translation from Navajo that I feel perfectly embodies the heart of doula work.
It took about 2.5 weeks for me to finish and was all done by hand.
For the record, although I love hand embroidery and this was fun, I definitely think I'll be choosing something a little simpler for next year!

Long term goal - to connect all the squares into a wall hanging for our 25th Anniversary.

...so two down, twenty-three to go!


pantry organization upgrade

In my ongoing quest to reduce waste, organize, and make our home a healthier place, I am constantly re-evaluating different spaces to see where I can make small changes. This week, I revisited our pantry with great success!
We love having a closet pantry in this home as our previous apartment did not and it made food storage tricky. However, the built-in shelves here are pretty tall and deep so often I feel like the space is not utilized. But no more. After a quick trip to Lowe's and a small Amazon purchase, things are definitely looking up. Here's an overview of the finished space:
Top shelf: liquid sweeteners, peanut butter, coconut oil, and add-ins like hemp seeds & nutritional yeast; special event items like tea and cake trays are stored behind

Second shelf: nuts, seeds & grains (we use a lot of these for homemade granola & trail mix) and pastas/rice; I also store our canned peaches in the back so they are visible & accessible but not taking up prime front-of-shelf real estate
Third shelf: baking supplies & oats; I also store our unused quart canning jars in the back
Instead of purchasing more pricey shelf risers, I went to Lowe's this week and got two craft boards and had them cut it to size for me; each board was $4 and is 6" wide. The front board is slightly shorter to allow for our sugar container and the back one...
...longer for two-level canning jar storage in the back. As you can see, I used two taller jars as the supports for the front level board - one holds salt, which we don't often need to refill, and the other is empty for the time being.

Fourth shelf: one basket for boxed foods, my hot tea serving box, other treats, and a basket for canning jars & lids

Floor: recycling containers

Inside of the door: we installed two spice racks when we moved in - the top one from Lowe's holds specialty spices as well as our cooking wines/extracts
The chicken-wire holder was from Pier One years ago and came as a countertop set with the glass jars. We decided to mount it, however, to keep the counters clearer.
In addition to the "shelf" boards, the labels on these jars were the other excellent upgrade I've made recently. As you can see in some of the other photos, I started out using pretty kraft paper stickers on some of the jars. Over time I realized the huge flaw in that otherwise cute plan...cleaning. The labels are expensive and not waterproof so if I need to wash a jar or transfer jars, the label either had to be removed & transferred too (difficult) or was ruined. As such, I ditched the "cute" look and got a roll of dissolvable foodservice labels. After a bit of searching, I ordered these which are 1" x 2" and can easily be cut to fit smaller jars. With the spice jars above, I ended up getting 4 jars worth out of each label. A roll of 500 for $18...I'm going to be set on labels for a very long time! And under hot water, they just wash away.

So there you have it - the latest upgrade in our efforts to maintain order & reduce waste.

In addition, here's an extra photo from my garden post earlier this week, now complete with a solar lantern and my first-ever bird feeder.
It's been so fun to look out and see happy little birds in our backyard today.


2016 garden, part 1

Garden - Year Two has officially commenced!
Last year was my first attempt at gardening and it was both fun and surprisingly successful. Thankfully, I have lots of ladies in the area who are willing to share their expert wisdom with me. Although I didn't take pictures last year, I did learn one key lesson:
Happy plants occasionally require tough love.
I felt bad about trimming things back last year and the flowers got a bit out of control. So...this year, I'm going into it with that in mind and a couple fewer plants. Another exciting addition to this year's dirt-endeavor is our neighbor's small adjacent plot which he has graciously allowed me to use for veggies since our side only gets enough light for flowers. Here's our side of the plot, measuring 3 x 9 feet:
And here's our neighbor's side, of which I am using the front 4.5 x 4.5 feet:

So to start on our side, I gathered my trowel, bag of dried & crushed eggshells, and box of plants purchased at a local greenhouse the day before. As with last year, Charlie's mom helped me select which flowers might work well in medium light but would also still have enough variety to be interesting.
In the back left corner, I have a Morning Glory - Heavenly Blue which we're hoping to train up and across the top of the fence with string. Next along the back are four Dusty Miller - New Look. In the middle line from left to right, there's an Impatiens, Rhine Begonia - Valentine Red, and Coleus - Wizard Jade, the second begonia, and another impatiens. In the front, I alternated coleus and impatiens.

Admittedly, once planted, they still look a bit wimpy, but I had no idea how big things would get last year, so I'm trying to estimate better this time around.
Also, my mom brought up that cute bunny hanger for us which will soon be used with a bird feeder and solar lantern.

Now, in the adjacent patch, I did Roma Tomatoes, Sweet Basil, and Marigolds with high hopes for putting away tomato sauce and pesto. I read that those three do well when companion planted together. This is, however, my first attempt at vegetables, so fingers crossed!
I also did two pots with Sunstorm Rose Vinca in the front. They look so tiny but last year did well, so I'm hoping they fill in and brighten our entryway. And how cute is our stone bunny shared via my mom? He's been in the family a really long time so I was very happy to have him join us in PA.
So there you have it...my second year as a gardener. Hopefully, I'll have updates throughout the summer to share with successful plant progress!
Fun sidenote: It's been so rainy here all week, I worked super quickly to get things planted. It started coming down the minute I snapped the final pictures. Whew!


every-mother's day

As I doula, I must say, we get to do a lot of celebrating moms all year long! However, this coming weekend is an extra special time for everyone to recognize the beauty, strength, and sacrifice that is so characteristic of mothers everywhere. It is also the perfect time to acknowledge all the different kinds of mothers that we know and love. It's important to remember and celebrate these amazing women, no matter what their "motherhood" looks likes.

feel free to share this graphic - please link back here
And of course, a big "I love you!" to my own incredible mom!!