Make a New Friend

For those of you following or participating in the Spring Photo Diary Challenge, here is my entry for “make a new friend”. I observed this snake playing in the rain yesterday. After conferring with snake savvy friends, it appears that he’s a rat snake and not a water moccasin like I first suspected. Meeting him was interesting because I don’t have much experience around snakes and I went through many emotions in a short period of time – think the 5 stages of Grief, Reptile Edition in warp speed.

First, I felt my stomach turn a little when I saw him swiftly SWIMMING across the road on our way home. Next, I felt worried that I’d accidentally ran him over with my car because he crossed right in front of us and we felt a little bump. After dropping off Mossy and the kids, I circled back to check on him and found him looking alive and well, slithering to and fro and opening his white mouth to taste the rain (I might have just romanticized that part but it’s sure what it looked like).

snake meme

I felt amazed while I watched him slither, glide, and explore his surroundings. He was mesmerizing to watch. I was very hopeful that I hadn’t hit him after all. Next, I felt protective of a small dog that was running around in the rain and began approaching the snake as if to sniff it. I wasn’t yet sure what type of snake he was or if he was venomous so I shouted at the dog to “SHOO!” (surprisingly effective) and he ran away unscathed.

I sat in my car, parked with my hazards on, watching as car after car sped by, not noticing and almost hitting him. He managed to dodge every tire and I soon found myself rooting for him. “Get to the storm drain!” I found myself saying. The rainwater was rushing off the streets into drains below the sidewalk and I wondered why he didn’t seek refuge. Soon, a woman drove up in a truck and asked me if I was okay. It hadn’t occurred to me that I might look odd, parked in the middle of the street with my windows down during a storm, staring at the road.

lurk meme

I let her know that I was just watching the beautiful snake in the road. Without missing a beat, she gunned her gas and drove right at him. Then she threw it in reverse and tried to back over him. My stomach flipped and I immediately felt enraged. She tried to squash him three times until I honked at her and pleaded that he might not be poisonous. She shrugged, said she had to get home to her son, and sped off.

Her reaction deeply unsettled me. I can understand being nervous about a large snake being close to a popular park with a busy playground. But there wasn’t a single person out that day and he was minding his business in the street. The knee-jerk reaction to just destroy something we don’t immediately understand, be it race, religion, or anything remotely off-center or mysterious, recalled way too many examples from current events. My heart dropped and suddenly I not only felt sympathetic but allied with the snake.  By this point, he was curled tightly into a protective spiral. I watched the minutes tick by with dread, knowing that I had to leave him soon or I’d be late for work. The last drops of rain trickled down my windshield as the sky started to brighten and I sent my scaly new friend a nod of solidarity.

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As I drove away, I realized that I was suddenly filled with an appreciation for something I don’t get to see everyday. And that’s one of my favorite things about making new friends.

Giving Thanks Through the Water

Giving thanks through the water

Today is Easter and in this season, filled with hope, rebirth, baptism, and the liturgical color of gold, it feels fitting to share a journal entry I started writing the night my youngest daughter was born. After a harried 24 hours with an extremely fast labor, equally fast removal of Doe to the nursery for oxygen, then to the NICU for an unspecified amount of time (it ended up being 9 days),  I was finally able to take my first postpartum shower (an event which I’m sure many mamas can attest can feel close to holy). Mossy and Posey were tending the home fires for me, the visitors had all gone home, and I sat on the stool in the hospital shower at midnight by myself in complete silence for close to two hours, letting the water soothe my sore muscles and lull me into this trancelike reflection (aided, I’m sure, by sleep deprivation and the postpartum hormonal rollercoaster).

It’s an absolute miracle that any of us exist. The act of giving birth– producing life from the warm, safe, waters of the womb is amazing. Water itself is central to so many of my favorite rituals and places —the ocean, a bath, a baptism, a cup of tea, rivers, lakes, rain . . .

Our bodies are simultaneously incredibly fragile yet so strong. My newly postpartum body in its saggy, stretch-marked, distorted, aching state is equally beautiful, resilient, and capable. As I soak in the streams of hot water, I thank my body over and over for all of the hard work it does – not only in a monumental effort like childbirth – but day to day as it carries me around, climbing in and out of cars, working in the garden, walking up and down the sidewalks of my small town, kneeling in church, bending to pick up my heavy preschooler, flexing minuscule muscles in my fingers to pluck the strings of my instruments, and on and on. I’ve grown up with a distrust of my body due to health issues that have prevented me from being able to run, play sports, or even turn certain ways without risking a sprain or dislocation and I have a heart condition that makes me extra sensitive to stimulants, stress, and fatigue. None of these ailments are debilitating by themselves and I feel very lucky have a working, healthy body most days. Many people aren’t granted that luxury. However, growing up with injuries that could spring up out of the blue and stick me with bandages, braces, and crutches for weeks at a time trained me to doubt my body.

I walk with a sort of tentativeness that feels a little like walking on eggshells. I haven’t run since I was 8 years old. I’m protective and guarded with my movements because I know that simply stretching the wrong way in the morning could trigger a shoulder dislocation. I’m getting closer to 40, so my physical quirks are mostly unconscious now and don’t command my attention until I have a careless moment where I accidentally overextend myself and incur an injury. My heart condition is the reason we delivered in a hospital rather than a birth center or at home. It was a precaution we took so that I could have the medication and support on hand if my heart went haywire. I’ve been extremely lucky that both of my labors have been fast and complication-free. They’ve been two of the rare times in my life that I’ve experienced total confidence and trust in my body. So, I sit in the hot water of the hospital shower and keep thanking it.

I also picture Doe’s pink, vulnerable body in the NICU crib, connected to monitors and tubes. She’d felt so strong and solid to me when she was born –a whopping 9lbs 12 ozs. But she was whisked away to the NICU so quickly and now she looks so small. The doctors seem unclear on her diagnosis, so they started antibiotics and the uncertainty is nerve-wracking. Not being able to hold or nurse her for fear of overstimulating her feels painfully unnatural. But we have family and friends around, helping us and praying for her and we have faith that she’ll be coming home soon. So I sit in the hot water and say thanks for that.

I also reflect on how my husband continues to be unflinchingly hopeful and thoughtful about me and Doe while being the sole provider and comfort for Posey until I’m discharged. I’m not surprised at his strength. We’ve weathered enough trials together that I know he’ll rise to any challenge. But it’s still such a gift and a comfort. So I sit in the shower some more and send a prayer of thanks for him. I also feel a flood of gratitude for community — a friend who is willing to show up with a magazine, wine and chocolate in the middle of the night just to keep vigil and celebrate with you is worth fighting for. I send some more silent thanks through the water.

By now the hot water had turned my fingers and toes to prunes and sleepiness was finally starting to take over. Before I shuffled back to the bed I said a thank you to my new vantage point. As seems to happen in major life events, the scope in my world had clicked from macro to micro. The previous day, my husband and I had been devouring spicy food and pineapple and speed-waddling around World Market in an attempt to induce labor before our scheduled induction. Everything about Doe still felt hypothetical then, veiled in the pinkish watercolor world of the womb. Now my focus is zoomed in to the pinprick focus of her tiny fist curled around my finger in our first moments together and to the joy in seeing my first, hard-earned drop of colostrum. Even though I’m yearning to be reunited with her physically, that drop symbolizes a tangible beginning of a lifelong journey with her. So I give one last thanks for that golden-hued drop that contains so much hope and I make my way out of the water.

Spring Photo Diary Challenge

SPRING

Spring has sprung in full force here in the South. I love this time of year. Posey has spent the past two weekends helping me plant our garden. She was delighted to discover lots of worms when she dug her holes (and so was I because I took it as a sign of healthy soil). I’m a sucker for time-lapse and this beautiful French video ushers in spring so nicely!

What kind of flowers and wildlife are you seeing where you live? Bluebonnets and cardinals are all around us here and irises in every shade of the rainbow are going strong too. We spend a lot of time outdoors right now because we’re in that short but sweet window before blistering hot summer comes and we park it at the splash pad and pool. In addition to disturbing worms, we like walking to our awesome neighborhood park, visiting the botanic garden, and having picnics.

Hike it Baby recently shared this cute graphic with outdoor activity ideas to do with children (although I think anyone’s inner child would enjoy these). We’re planning to do over the next month. Want to join us? I’m a tech dinosaur (still working out many kinks on the website and I still own and I haven’t given into the smartphone revolution yet). But I’ll share our progress here and on the FOTB instagram account (if I can figure it out) & I’d love to see yours! #fotbspringdiary 🌱

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Why Musical Theatre Still Gets Me

I confess. I’m a big, nerdy lover of musical theatre. I performed in plays and musical throughout high school and started my college career at UT majoring in theatre and dreaming of moving to New York to pursue acting someday. That dream was nipped in the bud in my first year when I realized that a) I wasn’t nearly tenacious enough to act full-time and b) I really wasn’t that good. A withdrawal from school and subsequent six year break followed, which I spent traveling, pondering, and generally “finding myself”. I think this detour was necessary for my personality type. Some…probably many 19 year olds just don’t know what their passion is yet. I probably could have spent those years in more productive ways than traveling the east coast while living in a van for six months, then drifting through a comfortable but complacent life in the “velvet coffin” of Austin, TX. But all of that wandering eventually led me to fortuitously discover musical gifts which lead me to form connections with wonderful bandmates turned lifelong friends and then to my eventual career as a music therapist. But I digress…what is this post about? Oh yeah, musical theatre!

Being an extremely introverted, dramatic, and sensitive kid whose home life was rocky, musicals seemed to hold the key to channeling all of my suppressed, oversized emotions. While I generally hunched in a backseat in my classes and had few close friends throughout school, I could often be found belting the entire score of West Side Story, note for note, while prancing gracefully flailing around my living room. Maybe part of my affinity for musicals was my introversion. Although plenty of extroverts love musicals too (and often star in them), there was something truly cathartic for an introvert (especially a gawky, misunderstood teenaged one) to lose themselves in the lights, colors, and songs of musical theatre. As mentioned my home life was unstable at best. An atmosphere tense with aloofness, verbal abuse, depression, fits of rage, and too much alcohol helped craft me into a classic “parentified child” and taught me how to mostly stay quiet and out of the line of fire. During that time, musical theatre provided a suspension of reality at its sparkliest.

I discovered A Chorus Line at the onset of puberty and it became my newest obsession. I could easily imagine myself on stage with the line of ambitious auditionees…just waiting for my big break. Soon after, I discovered Rent, and that romanticized my impression of what New York living would be like someday. I would surely be singing from the fire escapes and living “la vie Boheme” in artsy cafes in no time. My high school theatre teacher fueled the fire by playing us the Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman recording of Phantom…often. I memorized every emotional crackle and belt in their performances and swooned along with Christine.

As I grew older, I met people who dismissed musicals as “cheesy”, “over-the-top”, and “a waste of time” and I felt truly crestfallen. Of COURSE musicals are over-the-top. That’s part of the beauty of them! When you’re having a spectacular day don’t YOU want everyone in your vicinity to bust into a spontaneous, perfectly choreographed dance number? No? That’s just me? It’s probably why I love watching artsy flash mob videos too. I think we need more joyous outbursts to shake us out of our humdrum routines.

I also think that musical theatre can do more than help us escape. Its oversized qualities remind me of Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings. She said she painted flowers at blown up proportions because she realized, “If I could paint the flower exactly as I see it no one would see what I see because I would paint it small like the flower is small. So I said to myself – I’ll paint what I see – what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it – I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers.”

the-white-flower

And she was making that observation in the 1920s. I think it only rings truer today. We’re distracted, over-busy, and inundated with stimuli. Sometimes we need points to be illustrated IN CAPS and magnified for us to pay attention. Musicals do just that. They magnify human struggles and joys to the point of humor and absurdity occasionally. But they also contain kernels of truth about the human condition and our capacity to love, deceive, aspire, and inspire.

One example which illustrates this perfectly for me at this time in my life is THE BAWLER “Slipping Through My Fingers” scene in Mamma Mia. To be fair, there are several scenes in that show which could provoke a tear or two, but this scene where the mother sings to her daughter as she prepares for her wedding and reflects on how quickly time has passed….ugggh. That scene slayed me before I had kids but now that I have two daughters of my own, that’s a full-on, pause the movie and get a box of tissues moment. Is it dramatic, over-the-top, and set to an Abba tune? Yes, yes, and yes but the mixture of joy and pain the mother expresses at how quickly her daughter has grown up rings true. My own daughters are still just newborn and toddler aged and I already grow verklempt thinking about some of the momentous, emotional milestones ahead because they’re bittersweet. Parenting is a constant process of letting go that is joyous, heartbreaking, and difficult to put into words. The fact that two actors and a score can convey that tricky mix of emotions in under 5 minutes is the magic of musical theatre and the reason I’ll keep coming back.

 

An Ode to the Mixtape

 

Copy of An Ode to the MixtapeWell I’m dating myself here, but I grew up listening to music on my parents’ record player or on cassettes heard through spongy headphones plugged into my Walkman. At a young age, I mastered the art of sticking my finger in tape holes to rewind loose tape when the spools of shiny brown stuff got jammed or came spilling out of the case.

In high school I received my first mixtape and my concept of music changed forever. Songs transformed from being vessels of personal entertainment to potential messages meant just for me, vows of friendship, or inspiring anthems to live by. One of my high school friends, who is still one of my best friends, was a master at creating mixtapes. She would select the perfect balance of vintage folk, quirky pop, interesting instrumental, and new indie releases to create mixes that could be pored over from beginning to end, the songs and lyrics flowing like chapters in a favorite book. She also meticulously decorated each tape case with various stickers, holographic paper, or collages, and the song list written with sparkly gel pens in her whimsical script. Receiving one of her tapes was always a treat and I still own several of them.

Later, crushes or boyfriends would gift me mix tapes that would be devoured for hidden meanings, secret vows of love, or hints at the compatibility of our budding relationships. I remember one in particular containing various Prince (he was still known as Prince then) and Dee-Lite tunes. I was smitten.

As time rolled on and technology advanced, my friends and loved ones continued to make and receive mixes but now they were in CD form. Maybe I’m just a nostalgic dinosaur, but something has always felt lacking since the transition from tape to CD. The sound quality is probably better and it’s convenient to pop a CD into your computer and have it downloaded forever. However, I’m also a bull in a china shop and have irreparably scratched or cracked most of my favorite CDs.

Now we can download our favorite MP3s or create playlists online with a few clicks. And there’s something to be said for the convenience of that too. It’s also easier for artists to distribute their music online to potentially reach wider audiences (although fair pay for artists has also declined since the creation of streaming sites and the ease of pirating music). But there’s just something to be said for the tangible. To me, mixtapes are to handwritten letters, CDs are to emails, and MP3s are to Facebook messages. I doubt we’ll see those analogies on the SAT anytime soon though.

My husband and I own a decent sized record collection and I enjoy the unique perks of records too —the teeny crackles and pops as the needle grazes over dusts and scratches and the large album art and inserts. But, for all my appreciation of records and tapes, I do my fair share of listening on Spotify lately. I especially enjoy using it to create and share themed playlists, including my recently created labor lists (link coming soon) for the birth of our youngest daughter, Doe.

Since it’s not practical to create and mail out sparkly mixtapes to all of my fellow music nerds, I’ve created a public FOTB Spotify page (link coming soon) and I’ll add themed playlists to it throughout the year. I’m by no means a mixmaster like my mix-gifted high school friend but I enjoy geeking out on themes. I use some of these lists in my work as a music therapist, some for my family during different special occasions, and some are just for kicks. Stay tuned and if you have theme ideas for future playlists, please share them in the comments! 🎧

The Ultimate Labor Packing List for Type A Hippie Mamas

The Ultimate Labor Packing List for the type-A Hippie Mama (1)

I write this as my midwives keep assuring me that my daughter will be here “any day now” and I grow more and more physically and mentally uncomfortable as each day passes. I lovingly titled this list for the type-A hippie mama because I’m a firm believer that it’s best to go with the flow during labor and delivery itself but you’d better believe that my bags have been packed for almost a month so I can be prepared for lots of scenarios and I thrive on making and checking off all. the. LISTS. If this sounds like you or someone you know and love, read on!

As we began compiling our packing list I couldn’t for the life of me remember what we’d taken to our first daughter’s birth. I was stuck on things like toothbrushes, salt lamp, uhhh…knowing there must be more. So, after several weeks of obsessing contemplating, I came up with this and I hope it genuinely helps some of you who are gearing up for labor day or at least amuses those of you who just want to see my priorities. Also, if there are labor essentials that YOU have that I didn’t think of, please add them in the comments.

GENERAL

  • Comfortable clothes (3 changes for myself and husband)
  • Pajamas
  • Nursing bras
  • Lightweight robe
  • Big sis gift (for us to present to our older daughter when she comes to meet little sis for the first time)
  • Hair ties
  • Brush and comb
  • Lip balm
  • Bubba (huge water cup) and straw
  • Betablockers, prenatal, melatonin (any medicines or supplements you need)
  • Camera and camera charger
  • Tucks pads (hemorrhoids are evil)
  • Pads, disposable underwear, and big ol’ granny panties for after labor
  • 3 newborn outfits
  • Newborn socks (for feet and hands to prevent her scratching her face with her tiny, razor sharp baby nails)
  • Receiving blanket
  • Newborn diapers and wipes (provided at hospital but it’s nice to have extra). If you’re planning to cloth diaper from the get go, then more power to you & include those on the list. We’re planning to transition her after a few months.
  • Car seat (already installed…our first daughter came unexpectedly early and we hadn’t even bought one yet). Trust me and save yourself that panic.
  • Toothbrushes/toothpaste
  • Trial size shampoo, conditioner, body wash
  • Phones, chargers
  • Wallets, insurance cards

TOOLS

  • Hard copies of birth plan (there’s an excellent free format for one that you can download on the Earth Mama Angel Baby page).
  • Salt lamp (it just relaxes me a lot and makes a hospital room feel more like home)
  • Essential oil diffuser
  • Bag of oils (including: peppermint, lavender, rose, geranium, orange, lemon, clary sage, texas cedarwood, ylang ylang, and chamomile)
  • Laptop, iphone, headphones, and external speakers with Labor playlists on Spotify (with the help of my amazing friend who is a board-certified music therapist and offered us a Birth Music Consultation …I created 4 lists to use loosely in the different stages of labor. For early labor I made a “Labor Folk” list with favorite folky, pop, singer-songwriter tunes with lyrics. For active labor and transition I made both a “Labor Harp” list (because I love the sound of the harp and didn’t want to hear many vocals during the most intense parts of my first birth) and a “Labor Vocal” list that includes mostly relaxing choral or chanty songs. Finally, I made a “Bonding” list for during placenta delivery, the first skin to skin time, nursing, and postpartum herbal bath. During the birth of our first daughter, I only listened to one song (Deep Peace set by Bill Douglas) on repeat during all of early labor and one instrumental album (String Quartets by Peter Garland) during all of active labor and transition. That was more due to her unexpected arrival, but the music helped me significantly. We have many more prepared options this time, so I’m curious to see how they play out during the actual labor and will report back.
  • Sound machine (we had ocean sounds on during labor beneath the music and in the hospital room and our room at home for the first 2-3 weeks of our eldest daughter’s life). The womby sounds and white noise were really comforting for me and her.
  • Favorite pillows from home
  • Favorite blanket
  • Massager
  • Coconut oil
  • Birth Affirmation book (a sweet shower gift where friends wrote quotes and affirmations for me to meditate on during labor)
  • Birth ball
  • Birth stool
  • Herbal bath supplies

LABOR SNACKS

  • Coconut waters
  • Gatorade (or your favorite hippie equivalent)
  • Veggie jerkies
  • Honey sticks
  • Peanut butter pouches

That’s it (so far!) I may tweak it a little up until go time, but I think this covered all the big bases for us. I hope this helps you. May we all have wonderful, relaxed (but prepared) 😉 labors and deliveries!

Why Am I Doing This?

grey ocean

Photo by Mossy

I’ve decided to add another blog to the deep sea of internet ramblings to discuss, among other things, some of the adventures and coping skills I encounter on my parenting journey. It will partly serve as a time capsule for me to look back on as my daughters grow and an outlet for me to sneak in some quiet, creative Mommy time in between tantrums, cuddles, and diaper changes.

I’m currently writing at 38 weeks pregnant, in the middle of a Texas summer, with sweat rolling down my arms and my swollen grapefruit ankles propped up on pillows. Nice image huh? Hopefully I don’t electrocute myself on the keyboard before this post is through.

I’ve found myself turning to many parenting blogs over the last 2 years. This became important especially when Posey suddenly became very ill and was hospitalized for a week and words like biopsy and cancer suddenly became part of our vernacular. She, thank God, is completely healthy and happy today. But during that 9 months or so of questioning, worry, and exhaustion, finding warm voices out there in cyberspace kept me sane through many sleepless nights.

Some blogs I return to again and again for their comic relief, some for inspiring articles on faith and lifestyle, some for frugal tips, and others for recipes. We all wear many hats, so I collect these favorite blogs like favorite teas to hit the spot depending on my mood. When I decided to start a blog, I hesitated because I wasn’t sure what my focus would be. I may write about music one week (as I add to my gallery of themed playlists), and share tales from the parenting trenches or favorite recipes the next. I’ll try to follow where the wind (or breath if you’re grokking the site title) blows me.

 

Welcome! I’m a thirty-something music and nature loving lady living in a small town in the South. I’m married to my best friend, Mossy and I’m Mommy to two incredible girls, Posey and Doe. (All names have been changed to protect the innocent). 😉  Hildegard of Bingen, the medieval mystic, composer and my confirmation saint to boot inspired my site’s name with her beautiful quote.

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Feathers on the Breath will grow to be a treasury of images, stories, music, and other tidbits that have either tickled my fancy or helped me to keep an open heart in a chaotic world. If even one thing you encounter during your time here strikes a chord with you, that will be music to my ears! So now that introductions are out of the way, you are officially invited to bring your favorite cuppa, pick a comfy place away from the noise of the day (or the night if you too have young children), and explore.