Snapshot (Not) Saturday: Fits and Spurts

(Everyday Bravery, Day 11)

What was that about blogging every day this month?

Sheesh. By now I’ve lost count of how many days behind I am. Part of me feels guilty about this failure but the rest of me just throws my hands in the air and sighs and acknowledges that I’m not physically capable of every day blogging. At least not until I can get a nanny. (Ha!)

And by “physically,” I mean physically. Earlier this week my friend Rita (who is also doing – as in actually doing – the Write 31 Days challenge) asked me how I was doing with it. I answered with three photos. “This is how I’m doing. And this. And this.”

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My house has become a wreck, just as I feared it would. My paperwork/school organization has come undone, just as I feared it would. And I became sick, just as I feared I would. (On the mend now though, thanks.)

And that’s with me having not-blogged most days this week.

But I’m not giving up! Not entirely. I’m still enamored with this project and I want to see it through. (Plus, I figure that if I want this bravery thing to mean anything at all, I’ve got to finish what I started.)

I’m just acknowledging that it’s going to take a good bit longer than a month for me to hit that 31 days mark. If I were very clever and organized, I’d time it to end on Election Day. But I’m neither of those things, so that’s probably not such a safe bet. We’ll have to see.

For now, allow me to share a few more snapshots with you from the past few days. We’ve been busy: On Friday I helped at my oldest son’s school and then took my two younger sons on a pumpkin-picking field trip. (With the best, bumpiest hayride.) Then on Saturday we took all four kids to the zoo to belatedly celebrate our son’s birthday, and on Saturday night I took the two oldest boys to my cousin’s farm for his annual moonlight hayride and bonfire. So much fun.

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Anyway, this afternoon, I give you this post. This evening, I’ll give you another. And I’m almost done with yet another, to be posted tomorrow. I suppose I’m doing this Write 31 Days thing in fits and spurts.

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This post is the eleventh in a series called Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge. Every day this month I’m publishing a blog post on Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. Rather, the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives. To see the full list of posts in the series, please check out its introduction.

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Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and chew on the topics of motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls on Facebook or follow the blog via email. (Click the link on the sidebar to the right.) You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my politics blog at the Catholic Review, called The Space Between.

Snapshot Saturday: State of the 31 (7QT, Vol. 42)

(Everyday Bravery, Day 7)

Oh, no – I’m falling behind! I’m pretty sure that when you do the Write 31 Days challenge you’re supposed to actually, you know, publish a blog post on each of those 31 Days. I’m not too far off from that, but I’m not quite there either. (I missed two days last week, but I actually wrote all seven posts. One was published earlier today and the other will be published on Monday.)

I’ll get there. Or I won’t quite, but I’ll still have done much more blogging than I normally do, and I’ll have learned some good lessons along the way.

At least that’s my hope.

So far I’m having Lots of Dramatic and Gloomy Reactions to undertaking this little experiment, plus a few that aren’t so negative. They’ll probably only be of interest to, like, five of my blogging friends, but I’m going to list them anyway. (Along with a photo, because I’d planned to show you a photo every Saturday and include a story about the bravery I was feeling when it was taken. This Saturday all I feel like writing are the Lots of Dramatic and Gloomy Reactions, so you’re getting a photo of my desk. Just imagine all my angst shoving my bravery right out of that space.)

Oh, and I’m linking up with Kelly for 7 Quick Takes, because my list happens to contain seven items. (Follow the link to check out all the other Quick Takers!)

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—1—

I’m tired. I’ve been staying up late nearly every night to write and then getting up early to do the same. So I’ve only been getting five to six (interrupted, because kids) hours a night, and it’s wearing me thin. I need to do something about this before I get sick.

—2—

Few people are reading my posts. I haven’t been getting many views in the past several months because I’ve done so little blogging. Which is fine – that makes complete sense. But I was hoping that with this Write 31 Days project, I could build my numbers back up. I figured I could at least get to where I was a year or so ago and I was super hopeful that I could do better than that. Instead, so far I’ve been getting something like a third of the views I was back then. And I lost several followers on my Facebook page. Which is a big bummer, because . . .

—3—

This is hard work. My mind is constantly ‘on,’ I’m jotting down notes wherever I can, and I’m sneaking up to my desk every chance I get. I push a post into existence, and then once I post it, I feel all angsty until I can determine how it’s received.

—4—

This has been a hard week. Lots of people I love are hurting or anxious or stressed or just dealing with a lot these days. They’ve had hard times of it lately and will continue to for the foreseeable future. I’m here at home, hurting for them. And wishing I could do something more concrete.

—5—

I can be an insufferable know-it-all. I don’t know why this realization (which is always kind of in the back of my mind) has become so prominent to me all of a sudden, but it’s there. It’s there telling me to put my nose down, be quiet, and just leave everybody and everything the heck alone. Hmpf.

—6—

Maybe I should just give up the blog. Maybe I shouldn’t even finish this #write31days thing. Maybe I should just throw in the towel and go clean my house and read to my kids and bake a pie or something. Because this is hard work and life is hard enough already and I’m not getting enough sleep and nobody’s reading what I write anyway.

—7—

But all that drama and doubt aside, I think I’m starting to learn some practical, constructive lessons here. I’m starting to learn to write a little faster, to be a little less of a perfectionist, to take more risks. I’m discerning my most productive times for and methods of writing. I’m learning that I don’t need to step away from social media entirely, but I do need more screen-free periods in my day for peace and productivity. I’m learning to focus more on my writing while I write, more on my house while I do its work, and more on my kids while I’m caring for them.

Those are good lessons. So for now, I’m just going to keep pushing ahead, keep working with what I’m learning. I think good things will come of this project even if those good things don’t include higher viewing stats. And if I get to the end of it and decide I need a blogging break, well then . . . I’ll go bake some pies. November will be a nice month for that anyway.

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This post is the seventh in a series called Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge. Every day this month I’m publishing a blog post on Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. Rather, the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives. To see the full list of posts in the series, please check out its introduction.

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Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and chew on the topics of motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls on Facebook or follow the blog via email. (Click the link on the sidebar to the right.) You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my politics blog at the Catholic Review, called The Space Between.

 

Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge

At the beginning of the year, I had this word floating around in my brain. It kept pushing and prodding me, calling me into account:

Brave.

At the time, my husband was experiencing what we think was a mild case of Guillain-Barré syndrome and I was weeks away from delivering our fourth child. So I was afraid that the word’s persistence meant that we were really in for it.

I had a feeling, though, that even if circumstances didn’t take a nosedive, I was being called to something. There was something I was supposed to face, something I was to work on within myself. Here’s what I wrote back then:

“A woman begs for money outside the grocery store. I hand her some cash but hardly look at her, aware as I am of how awkward the situation is. I should make eye contact. I should smile. I should stop being a wimp long enough to wish her a happy new year. I should be brave.

Touchy political and social situations rise to the forefront of the news and… I falter. I write a few paragraphs, I ponder the words and ideas as I go about my daily tasks, but I fail to commit to them. I worry more about causing trouble than I do about speaking (my small slice of) the truth. I should be brave.

I encounter the normal hardships of family life (and indeed human life) and I rebel. I act like things somehow aren’t supposed to be hard; I rail against the difficulties until I tire of doing so, and then I just cry. Instead, I should be brave. I should face my troubles, engage them, work through them, and keep my wits about me as I go.”

For several months, as my husband improved and my baby was born and we learned how to function as a family of six, I forgot that I needed to be brave. I was too busy with life to pay attention to that tug on my conscience.

But then a few weeks ago I remembered the Write 31 Days challenge.

For those of you who didn’t come to here from there, Write 31 Days is “an online writing challenge . . . where bloggers pick one topic and write a post on that topic every day in October.” (Follow the link to discover loads of great writers on a variety of subjects.)

Every. Day. Every day. Thousands of people commit to writing every single day in October, while I can generally only pull off one post a week. Normally I’d laugh at the suggestion that I participate in such a thing, but this time I felt something pushing me into it. Suddenly, one morning I woke with the understanding that I was supposed to use this opportunity to explore the concept of Everyday Bravery.

So here we are.

Every day in *October I’ll be publishing a blog post that has something to do with bravery. Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. I want to explore the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives: Standing up for our beliefs, sticking up for someone who has been treated unjustly, taking the big steps we feel we’re meant to take, pushing back feelings of discomfort and fear in order to help someone in need.

This is how I think it will go: On Saturdays I’ll post a picture from a time in my life when I was feeling brave. I’ll write about that moment, those turning-points where I went from fearing the unknown to looking forward in confidence and peace. On Sundays I’ll reflect on the day’s Mass readings, zeroing-in on the passages that feel to me like calls to bravery.

One day a week I’ll post an interview with a person I know or know of, whom I admire for their examples of everyday bravery. One day I’ll write about my attempts to raise my children to be brave. One day I’ll write a real everyday everyday kind of post, a humorous take on the bravery it takes to just keep on doing what we do as parents, neighbors, and friends.

One day a week I’ll post a link to The Space Between, my blog at the Catholic Review, where I’m trying to be brave in my analysis of this no-good, horrible presidential campaign.

And here’s the kicker: one day a week I’m going to close my eyes, take a deep breath, and hit “publish” on what is likely to be a controversial post — one I’ve been trying to write for years but have been too afraid to share. I won’t get it (them, rather) quite right and I’m sure they’ll make some of you unhappy. But they’ve been nagging me long enough; it’s time to send them off into the world.

Each day I’ll update this post with a link to that day’s post. (See below.) So if you miss a day or few, just come back here to find the full list.

I have no idea how I’m going to manage this. I have three little kids and an infant and many days we seem to just barely make it through. But I feel like I need to try.

*[Edited to say: I could NOT manage it! I mostly made it in the first half of the month and fizzled out in the second. But I’m going to keep pushing through into November until I hit that 31-day mark.]

This Everyday Bravery thing is a lesson I need to learn. I’m occasionally brave; I can do bravery in spurts. But there are so many more times I wimp out. Things seem difficult or uncomfortable or embarrassing, and I recede.

I want to be the kind of person who steps forward. I want to be brave right here, right now, in my real, everyday life. And I’m hoping this project will help me get there. If you want to get there too, or if you want some company as you ponder the bravery you encounter in your everyday life, I hope you’ll come along with me.

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Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge

Day 1 — Introduction (See above.)
Day 2 — For God Did Not Give Us a Spirit of Cowardice
Day 3 — The Kids Are Alright (And the Parents Are Too)
Day 4 — Talking About Hard Things (With Kids)
Day 5 — The Post I’ve Been Wanting to Write on Race
Day 6 — Tipping Point
Day 7 — Snapshot Saturday: State of the 31
Day 8 — Dare I Approach?
Day 9 — The Everyday Brave: James Yamakawa
Day 10 — Loyally Yours: A Letter to the Republican Party from Pro-life America
Day 11 — Snapshot (Not) Saturday: Fits and Spurts
Day 12 — Don’t Turn Away: Attempt the Politics You Really Want
Day 13 — The Everyday Brave: Abigail Benjamin
Day 14 — I Want My Kid to Be the One Who Sticks Up For Your Kid: Empowering Children to Stand Up to Bullies
Day 15 — November 8 is Not the End: Sympathy Leading Me Forward
Day 16 — Why You Should Vote — Even When It Feels Like It Doesn’t Make a Difference
Day 17 — A Prayer For Our Country
Day 18 — An Insufficient Response to the Election

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New here? I’m glad to have you! My name is Julie Walsh. I’m an outgoing introvert, a procrastinating perfectionist, a disorganized overachiever, and a stay-at-home mother to four children ages six and under. Before having kids I was a lobbyist for the Catholic Church; now I scratch that itch by offering my political thoughts right alongside my cute kid stories and musings on motherhood.

Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and chew on the topics of motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls on Facebook or follow the blog via email. (Click the link on the sidebar to the right.) You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my politics blog at the Catholic Review, called The Space Between.

Catching Up (7 Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 41)

—1—

Tap, tap, tap.

Is anyone there?

I’ve enjoyed writing at the Catholic Review for the past almost-two-months, but I’m afraid I’ve killed my (this) blog! The thought makes me so sad.

How can I find the right balance to it all? Between writing and everything else I’m responsible for, between this blog and the other, between political writing and more personal writing? I have no idea.

No idea.

I guess I’m just going to keep plugging away at it and hope it works out somehow?

—2—

My six-year-old boy started 1st grade this week. I’m currently a tad sappy about the passage of time and all that, but mostly just very proud of my boy.

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He’s been really interested in being helpful lately, so we’ve found some small jobs around the house he can do. He’s taking out the recycling and putting away the flatware and even making some sandwiches.

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Best of all, when it’s time for my crew to load into the van, he puts on the two-year-old’s shoes, ushers his little brothers outside, and then HE BUCKLES THEM INTO THEIR CAR SEATS. Truly, this is a life-changing level of helpfulness for me. I always thank him with something like, “Thank you so much! That is so helpful and it makes things so much easier for me!” He responds with a sweet little “No problem, Mommy! I like helping.”

I think I like six.

One more thing about my boy, which I already blogged about over on my Catholic Review version of 7 Quick Takes:

I had a sad but beautiful little exchange with my six-year-old son the other evening, courtesy of my almost-all-day-every-day NPR listening habit. While I was driving, my boy spotted a bug in the car and I told him that I’d seen a mosquito. “Is that mosquito virus here yet?” he asked.

“Mosquito virus? Do you mean Zika?”

He did.

“Well, it’s here in the United States,” I told him. “But it’s not here in our area. It’s in Florida.”

“Oh, that’s too bad for the babies there. There will be a lot of babies dying in their mommies’ tummies.”

Most people would probably be appalled to know that my six-year-old was thinking of such things. I’ll admit to feeling a little guilty about it. But mostly, I just felt proud. My boy is paying attention. He’s understanding. He’s asking questions. He’s caring. And he wrapped up our conversation by suggesting that we pray for the babies.

“God, please take care of the babies in their mommies’ tummies. Please keep them from getting the mosquito virus. That’s all.”

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—3—

My four-year-old boy is a funny kid. He’s been telling me he loves me for a long time now – like, laying it on thick: “Mommy, I wuuuuv you, Mommy. You’re da best Mommy in da whole world. You’re boodiful. I JUST WUV YOU SO MUCH. I wuv you more den Jesus wuvs you.”

I’m not complaining.

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But I am noticing that he tends to say these things when (1) he wants something from me, (2) I’m already helping him with something, or (3) he’s been naughty or annoying.

Clever kid, that one.

Lately he’s been adding the following into the mix: “Mommy, you’re da gweatest Mommy of aw time. You’re da gweatest PERSON of aw time! You’re MINE. You’re my mommy and no one else’s!”

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This morning when I asked him why he was doing this fake crying thing, he answered: “Sometimes people just cwy because you’re so boodiful.”

Whoah. Slow down there, kiddo.

It’s gotten to the point where every time I become visibly annoyed with him he grins at me and raises his eyebrows and whispers, “You’re mine. You’re MINE.”

And I crack up. This kid! This manipulative, clever little bugger. I think we’re going to be in real trouble when he becomes a teenager.

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—4—

Boy number three has been less charming lately. He is two. He is very, very much two. A couple of Sundays ago when our priest asked (playfully) why our boy had been screaming so loudly that we removed him from Mass, we explained that he has a major case of the TWO’s.

He is a screamer and though we are working on the screaming (i.e. lots of consequences for screaming), I will admit that the screaming is kind of driving me nutty. I do not like this phase.

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I’m hopeful (though I may be deluding myself) that the screaming has something to do with the fact that our almost two-and-a-half-year-old is not yet talking. He says twenty or so fairly indistinguishable words, but he doesn’t yet put them together and he hardly ever uses them. He mostly just grunts. And screams.

We have a speech evaluation scheduled for the end of this month. If they deem him to be more than 25% behind, he’ll qualify for free in-home speech therapy. I’ve never before thought much of looking into such services, but now I’m all, “SIGN HIM UP.”

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—5—

Our sweet baby girl, on the other hand, continues to be as sweet as she can possibly be. She’s still happy and laid-back and easy to handle. (Maybe she’s aware of our household’s overabundance of screaming?)

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She’s feeling very well and eating and growing like a champ, but she still has salmonella in her system. We’re waiting on the results of the latest stool test. The last one (in late July) was positive and they need two consecutive negatives before they’ll consider her clear. Fingers crossed that the latest (taken in mid-August) is negative; then we’ll just need to do one more.

Little girl is now sitting up fairly well (though she still falls over) and is just beginning to become really, actually mobile via that rolling and scooting thing that babies do. Yesterday I put her down on a quilt in the family room, walked into the kitchen, and returned to find her missing. It took a few moments of looking around and listening for her cries before I located her.

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I think she enjoys her new skill.

—6—

Apropos of nothing, I have recently been reminded of a few blogs I used to read. As in used to. As in no longer read. It’s been interesting to remember those blogs and what my life was like back when I was reading them and to realize that me no longer reading them actually has nothing to do with them.

It’s not you, old favorites – it’s me.

I’ve changed. I’ve moved, in some ways, into a new season of my life. What I needed then in terms of encouragement, inspiration, and commiseration, I no longer need. At least not right now.

I read different things these days, things that meet my current needs. Who knows where I’ll be looking for inspiration tomorrow.

The realization has helped me to calm down a bit re: my woe in Take #1. My readership isn’t what it used to be and there are probably a number of reasons for that. But one reason might just be that people move on and change and need things one day that they didn’t need the day before.

It’s a big ol’ lesson to me to just chill out and not worry too much about things you can’t control.

—7—

Can I tell you how excited I am about this weekend? I honestly can’t remember when I’ve had so many fun plans jammed into such a short span of time. Here’s the run-down:

Friday afternoon: Get my hair done! I plan to sit in that salon with a glass of wine and a good book and let everything having to do with Take number four just roll… off…. my… back.

Friday evening: Join one of my girlfriends and several of her girlfriends for a little mommies-only birthday party. We’re going to sit on her front porch in the cool evening air and drink cocktails and eat hors d’oeuvres and just enjoy being in each other’s company. I can hardly wait.

Saturday: Head to Virginia for this year’s Mid-Atlantic conference of the Catholic Women Bloggers Network. It’s being hosted by Rosie Hill of A Blog For My Mom and will feature Kelly Mantoan of This Ain’t the Lyceum and Mary Lenaburg of Passionate Perseverance and lots of other amazing ladies too. I’ll try to write about it when I get back. (I wrote about last year’s conference, which I hosted, here.)

Sunday: Drive to Annapolis with my husband for Mass at beautiful St. Mary’s Church (where we were married – see gratuitous wedding photo below), followed by a dedication and reception at the Charles Carroll House. Which was the Annapolis home of Charles Carroll of Carrolton, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. And on whose board of trustees I used to serve. (And, for those of you who keep up with the Catholic mommy blog world, where I once arranged a tour for Catholic All Year’s Tierney family.)


Whew! That’s a busy Labor Day weekend before even getting to Labor Day itself. I am so excited! Now let’s just pray that the hurricane/tropical storm working its way up the East Coast doesn’t dash our plans.
 

(I’m linking up with Kelly of This Ain’t The Lyceum for this week’s 7 Quick Takes. Be sure to stop by her place to see what she and the other 7-Quick-Taking crowd have been up to!)

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Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and think “aloud” on motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls’ Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

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Announcing…

No, not another baby.

Though our oldest has repeatedly talked on and on about “all the other baby girls we’re going to have,” and the next in line is so effusive in his love toward our youngest that he literally told her, “You are my dweam come twue” – so if another should ever come to pass, we know that at least half the crew in this picture would be thrilled.

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But that’s not what this announcement is about. No.

This is to tell you that I’m starting a new blog! The kind folks at the Catholic Review (the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Baltimore) have invited me to start a blog on their site, which will “focus mainly on issues related to faithful citizenship – offering commentary on the political world, legislation, civic responsibility and the upcoming election.”

I was thrilled to accept. The Catholic Review is the best-written local paper I’ve come across. I’m continually impressed with their work and I feel honored to be able to contribute to it in some small way.

I will still be here at These Walls on matters of motherhood, family life, and the odd political thing that for whatever reason doesn’t seem to be a good fit for the Review. But most of my writings on politics and society will now be found over there, on my new blog, which will be called The Space Between.

The blog’s name comes from a conversation I had with a friend about what we see lacking in most political discussions today – a willingness to admit that each side is at least a little bit right, that most people come to their positions honestly, that there remains a space for real conversation – not just conflict.

I think the name is well illustrated by something I noticed the other day while praying at the grotto outside my parish in Libertytown: Two rocks stood against each other, similarly strong and stubborn-looking, with a slight gap between them. Through the gap, I could see light – sunlight filtered through the woods behind the grotto.

People tend to focus on the discord of politics – on fighting and nastiness and sides standing in opposition to one another. But I’m interested in that gap, that space between. I’m interested in the place where the sides bang up against each other, where we get to see how different (or not) they really are. I’m interested in getting to what we really mean, what we really care about, what really motivates us – and carrying on the conversation from there.

I want to use this blog to explore different political perspectives, to work through issues that divide us (especially those rising to the fore in the 2016 presidential campaign), to consider whether we’re well represented by the categories – political party and otherwise – that the real pundits like to put us in. I have a feeling we’re not. I have a feeling that we’re often better suited for the space between than we are the rocks pressing up against each other.

Read more in yesterday’s post – the blog’s first.

For the foreseeable future I plan to post links to each of that blog’s new posts on this one too. So if you’re subscribed here you’ll still receive notice of all my new posts. But I’d love if you could subscribe there too, and like the new blog’s new Facebook page.

Fair warning: if you’re a Facebook friend of mine, you’ll likely soon receive invitations to like both blogs’ pages. I promise to just do it once. (Or at least not again for a few years.)

Oh! And I’ve changed both my Twitter and Instagram handles to reflect my name rather than this blog’s. They are now both julievwalsh. I decided I could handle one new Facebook page, but I couldn’t handle duplicating all my social media accounts.

I think that’s it for now. I hope to see you over at the new place!

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Always Starting, Never Ending: Monday Morning Miscellany (Vol. 11)

—1—

I think you should know that I’m really, really good at starting blog posts. Like, you would be amazed at the quality of writing I can pour into three opening paragraphs on any given subject. Especially Donald Trump.

I’m about 15% tempted to start publishing blog posts akin to those group story-telling games we used to play at sleepovers. I’ll write the first three paragraphs, then another blogger can take the next three, and so on and so forth until we have some wacky, meandering, hilarious tale like nothing any of us could have created on our own.

—2—

This happened over the weekend:

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That’s right folks – stare at it while you can! All of my dishes were clean at the same time. I washed the dirty dishes, cleaned the counters, bleached the sink, and then went to bed. Which means: I woke up to a clean kitchen. Just amazing.

—3—

This girl. She’s now four months old. I can hardly describe how smitten with her we are.

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—4—

Oops – I didn’t post anything on the blog last week. See number 1.

—5—

Nearly six years into this stay-at-home-mom thing, I somehow still struggle with how relentless the work is. I spent this entire weekend waiting for a couple of hours to myself (To organize papers and clothing! Not even to do fun stuff!) and when those hours never appeared, I found myself on the brink of tears. Not because anything was really wrong, not because the weekend had really been bad, not because I was overly tired – just because my days all look the same.

Monday through Friday, I’m in charge of four small children for something like 14 hours a day, I take care of all the cooking and dishes and laundry and cleaning and familial logistics, and I’m at the whim of ever-interrupting hands and mouths and diapers. Call me crazy, but I’d like the weekends to look a little different.

Sometimes they do, but lots of times my husband (who really is a very involved father) works on (necessary! good!) home stuff, so isn’t available to help with much other than breakfast. One part of me gets that. The other part stands at the end of a Sunday night and looks toward Monday morning with something like desperation. Because this work is constant. It is never-ending. And I still haven’t gotten used to that.

—6—

We had some storms Sunday evening and when they cleared, the sky was breathtaking. Though it wasn’t quite amazing enough to knock me out of the aforementioned funk, it sure did remind me that funks are temporary. Thank goodness for beautiful skies.

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Can you spot the beehives?

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—7—

Thank goodness for breezes and low-humidity days too. We haven’t yet turned on the air conditioner, so lately I’ve felt like we lived in a jungle or a swamp, or on cooler days, England or Ireland. But today! Today is gorgeously clear, dry, and breezy. It’s just glorious. Hopefully this bodes well for the week!

Happy Monday!

These Walls - Always Starting, Never Ending

Sunday Coffee

A few weeks ago I resolved to mark my third year of blogging (the anniversary of which is this coming week, I think?) by taking 30 minutes each day to write and by posting on the blog at least three times per week. I’ve mostly succeeded. I think I’ve written almost every day, though a couple were such blurs of activity that I’m pretty sure they were left off. I did the thrice-weekly posting for the first two weeks, but this week I’m likely only fitting in two.

Oh well! On we march. The whole point of that little promise I made to myself was to exercise my writing muscle, so to speak, and I’m doing that.

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Being the weekend and all, I have my mind on lazy mornings and delicious coffee, and I’m thinking about what I would say to you if we were sitting down together for coffee.

First

I think I would mention this post and how some people seem to have gotten the impression that I had lost my cool with my son and was therefore writing from a place of regret.

(Now imagine me laughing while looking a little embarrassed.)

Um… if you think that was me losing my cool, you are far too generous. I promise that I am capable of some truly outrageous meltdowns. Like, spittle and popping veins outrageous. Once I was so mad I even had to go outside to run laps across the backyard.

So that post? That was just me recognizing the opposing tugs a parent feels while administering a punishment. And being decently comfortable that (in that one particular situation) I’d dealt with it the right way.

Next

I’d remember that I never updated anyone on how my children behaved at Mass last Sunday. The verdict? I mostly got off easy. My second son turned out to still be too ill to be taken to church, so he stayed home with Daddy. As did the toddler, because… toddler. So I was left with the five-year-old and the baby. And it all went fine except for the two minutes in which the baby spat up all down her front and the boy exclaimed, “She exploded!”

Then

I’d probably complain about being really, really tired of having somebody in the house sick for, like, two months straight. Currently we’ve got two boys (hopefully!) wrapping up their colds. I’m praying that we enjoy at least a small period of good health before somebody else goes down.

I’m sure I’d complain about all this cool, rainy weather we’ve been having. (Seriously – where did May go? Haven’t we been having March for like three months now?)

I’d tell you that I’d failed, once again, to find lamps to replace the ones my boys destroyed ages ago. It turns out it’s not so easy to find lighting that is (1) sturdy enough to withstand being knocked off tables by little boys and (2) not so sturdy that it will seriously injure little boys while falling off tables.

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Finally

If you and I had time to discuss all the ideas we have for our homes and gardens, a la this post, I would report that I exercised some restraint by only planting tomatoes and herbs when I really wanted to go whole-hog and establish The Most Amazing Kitchen Garden Ever.

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I’d tell you that we really need some fresh paint around here. And that I’m itching to hang more things on the walls. (Any idea as to how to get your husband to take up a task without nagging him to do it?)

I might admit to making myself yet another schedule to try to get a handle on my life.

I’d say how we really just need to decide whether to get a playset and patio furniture, already.

And that Brennan and I are leaning toward putting on that kitchen addition one of these days, but that we also daydream about having This Old House do an entire home renovation for us. (Oh, the dreams that boring 30-somethings can come up with…)

By this point I’d have bored you to tears – and we’re caught up by now anyway, so I’ll sign off. Time to see what kind of Mass behavior my boys give us this time.

Enjoy your Sunday!

These Walls - Sunday Coffee

Three Year Itch

It’s been almost three years, you know. Three years since I began trading disaster-kitchens and toddler TV time for (interrupted) hours of mental stimulation courtesy of this little blog.

Goodness, how I miss it.

I’ve tried to be practical these last several months. We’ve been in survival mode or by-golly-I’m-going-to-make-all-this-work-somehow mode for most of that time, and I just haven’t felt like I could afford the luxury of writing (much). I’ve been pushing through my days, running running running (with the notable exception of social-media-fueled nursing sessions) from early morning to late night, desperately trying to get a handle on my mothering and housekeeping responsibilities.

And surprise, surprise – I can’t seem to keep up. No matter what little enjoyments I deny myself, there’s always something (lots of somethings!) left to do.

So at this point – nearly three months after baby #4’s birth and nearly three years after the blog’s – I’m ready to throw up my hands and say, “Hey, if it’s not going to all get done anyway, I may as well have a little fun around here.”

Tonight, I’m leaving the kitchen a disaster. Tonight, I’m eating a brownie and tapping away at my computer and scratching the itch that is wanting-so-badly-to-be-writing-but-never-feeling-like-I-have-the-time.

The blog will mark its third anniversary at the end of this month. To celebrate, I plan to gift myself with 30 minutes a day in which to just sit and write. (Dishes be damned.) I plan to publish blog posts (probably just short, simple ones – but still!) three times a week. And I’m going to work on a few “housekeeping” changes to the blog that I’ve been thinking about for some time.

I hope you’ll come back to check them out. ‘Till then!
These Walls - Three Years In

 

GoodBYE December, Hello January

Knock, knock.

Anybody there? Remember me – your unreliable blogger? The one with the three little boys and the political opinions and the big ol’ belly?

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This is the kind of shot you get when the 4-year-old mans the camera.

Yes, I managed to fall off the face of the internet again. At first it was, “Okay Julie, you really need to set aside the computer for a bit – you’ve got Thanksgiving coming up and Christmas to begin prepping for and all those jumbles of dishes, laundry, and toys you’ve been neglecting. Mom up.”

But after a few days of happy productivity (Thanksgiving dishes made! Christmas decorations up! House decently neat! Christmas shopping well underway!), we began our decline.

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I have to show off my Thanksgiving tart. Isn’t she lovely?

I didn’t so much notice it as we went along, but as Advent gave way to Christmas and events in our household took a step up in intensity, it really hit me: This month has been hard. I am worn down. And we’re not done.

Allow me to pause here to say to the few of you who noticed my absence for the past (more than a) month: I’m sorry. I do believe it’s been my biggest lapse yet. Until a few days ago, I felt this nagging guilt about it, especially regarding the things I’d left hanging (like my Home to Me blog hop). But now I feel no guilt. Now I realize that we’ve been in survival mode for most of this time. And as far as I’m concerned, things related to blogging simply don’t matter when one’s in survival mode. This is what matters:

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(Well, them and dishes, because if dishes paralyze the kitchen, then the kitchen paralyzes the household.)

So, what’s the deal? It goes something like this: sob story, sob story, icing on the cake, admitting how overwhelmed and worried I’ve felt, then a dose of pull-yourself-together reality.

Sob Story One

In the first week of December, I started to feel faint – like all the time faint, like “Gee, might something actually be really wrong?” faint. So I went to the hospital, where they found my blood pressure to be a bit high, but otherwise gave me a clean bill of health. (I had no markers for preeclampsia, for those of you who know about that sort of thing.) Another kinda-high blood pressure reading the following week won me another round of bloodwork, but that too, thankfully, came back normal. Since then I’ve continued to experience episodes of faintness (not fainting, thank goodness). At first they came every day, but now it’s down to every two or three.

In sum, I started the month by experiencing yet another round of “Julie develops weird symptoms that doctors get worried about until they realize she’s perfectly healthy.” The frequency with which this happens is, frankly, pretty embarrassing, and gives me very little confidence in my own assessment of my health.

Sob Story Two

As my daily episodes of feeling faint tapered off in the middle of the month, my husband began to experience some strange symptoms of his own: His hands went numb. Soon enough his feet did too. And his lower legs. And his lower arms. And he began to experience weakness in those areas. Last week, when the numbness reached his elbows, Brennan took himself to the ER.

The poor guy underwent a barrage of tests, one of which (spinal tap!) he’s been suffering the effects of for a full week. Thankfully, the tests quickly ruled out the scariest possibilities: stroke, brain tumor, multiple sclerosis. But we’re still waiting for the rest of the results. The doctor’s best guess at this point is that Brennan has a mild case of Guillain-Barre Syndrome. (Guillain-Barre is a condition in which a person’s immune system attacks his nerves. It causes numbness, weakness, even paralysis – sometimes of a person’s entire body, and can take months to recover from.)

Scary and stressful enough, right?

But then there’s the context: It’s Christmas. (Brennan came home from the hospital the evening of Christmas Eve and felt too unwell to attend Mass with us the next morning, or indeed to make it to any of our family gatherings over the weekend.) We have three small boys. (Daddy was able to read “The Night Before Christmas” to them at bedtime, but barely had the energy to open gifts on Christmas morning.) And of course, we’re expecting a baby at the end of January.

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This pic will always make me a little sad because it shows that Brennan wasn’t with us.

Icing on the Cake

A few days before Brennan’s symptoms worsened, our toddler cut his eye on a decorative metal bucket, the other two boys had keep-you-up-in-the-night-coughing colds, and I started having “real” contractions. When my obstetrician confirmed their “real” work, she told me to take it easy. I laughed. “So… what about me taking three small boys into Baltimore this evening for a visit to a pediatric ophthalmologist? For the toddler? Who cut his eye?”

“After that,” she replied.

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Stupid decorative culprit.

In retrospect, my laugh should have been louder and crazier. It certainly has been in the days since. I’ve been telling my girlfriends that I don’t want to hear the words “You’d better take it easy!” unless they’re accompanied by a live-in nanny and/or housekeeper.

Overwhelmed and Worried

Ever since he came home, Brennan has been weaker than usual, exhausted, suffering headaches, and (in an effort to control the headaches, which come from a lack of spinal fluid) limited from carrying anything heavy or moving in certain ways.

So for me, “taking it easy” has looked like lugging around and wrestling into submission the 32-pound toddler. Through my contractions. It’s looked like three hours of sleep after a late, late Christmas Eve spent wrapping presents. It’s looked like ushering various combinations of three little boys to two Masses and three family gatherings by myself. In and out, in and out of the car, contracting and hobbling and feeling faint, loading and unloading ad infinitum.

Or at least that’s how it’s felt in my woe-to-me worry-fests. (What if Brennan’s symptoms continue to worsen? What if he’s out of commission when I have the baby and I have to manage all three boys, a newborn, and my own recovery without his help? What if he too ends up needing my care?)

Pull! Yourself! Together!

Calm down, Julie.

Honestly, I know the reality is much brighter than my worries would have me believe. Brennan’s health problems seem to be temporary. (Indeed, as of this morning, he was feeling better than he has in some time.) My wonderful dad came to help me with the boys while B was in the hospital so I could focus on him and on our remaining Christmas preparations. We’ve had lots of offers of help in the days since then. (Though, mundane as our needs are, I don’t know how to make use of them!)

And while, at eight months pregnant with my fourth child, I’m contracting all the time, occasionally feeling faint, and suddenly feeling very uncomfortable – I’m healthy. And so is the baby. Even if she comes early (and I doubt she will), she should be fine. Full term is just over a week away, and that’s a great place to be.

Our boys are dealing with nothing more daunting than colds and silly childhood injuries. (The toddler’s eye is healing nicely.) They don’t seem to have noticed our concern over Brennan’s health. (Me: “Daddy’s been feeling a little funny lately. He’s at the hospital to have it all checked out, so Grandpa’s coming to help take care of you.” Them: “GRANDPA’S COMING!”) Our mess of a floor is a testament to the many treasures they acquired over the past week, and they’ll probably remember this Christmas as the one when they sat on the sofa with Daddy to watch their first-ever Star Wars movies.

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Right now I don’t have it in me to write a grand “Year in Review” post. I can’t sit and reflect on the sum of 2015 or come up with resolutions for 2016. But I can tell you that December was hard and I’m hoping January will be better.

I pray yours will be too. I pray that your hurts will heal, your hopes will be realized, and your joys will be amplified. Thank you for reading along in 2015 (except… yeah… for December); I hope to meet you back here more frequently in 2016.

These Walls - Goodbye December Hello January

Home to Me

Over the summer, a beautiful post by Laura Kelly Fanucci got me to thinking about the concept of “home.” She writes:

Right now I am home.

Sitting in the house that we own. Where we are raising our children. Where mail arrives daily bearing my name. Where we welcome family and entertain friends. Where I pull weeds and paint walls. Where my car pulls into the driveway and my shoes slip off in the doorway.

And I am writing about going home. Which is not here.

“Home” is something I’ve spent much of my life thinking about: Growing up in a state where my family has been for hundreds of years (and so having a strong sense of place), but in a part of the state where I had no family (and so feeling disconnected from that place). Moving out of the home in which I was raised. Watching the land around my family’s homes sprout housing developments. Trying to find something to call home as a young adult, when I had no immediate family to bind me to the communities in which Iived. Building a sense of home with my husband and then my children. Working to feel like my physical, legal home is one on an emotional level too.

(Overthink things much, Julie?)

So I wrote my own post on home, trying to process it all. When I shared it, I found that the topic resonated with people. Friends and readers had had similar experiences – or different experiences, but similar struggles in coming to terms with what “home” meant in their lives. A couple of friends even suggested that they would like to share their own stories.

I stewed on that thought, wondering how I could encourage others to share their stories of home – where they’ve found it, how they’ve sought it, or whatever else feels meaningful to them on the subject. A couple of months later, chatting with some connections I’ve made through blogging, I settled on the idea of a blog hop. That is, of a series that is shared by a number of bloggers, each of whom contributes one post on her own blog.

So that’s what we’re doing. Now. This here post is the introduction to the blog hop, which we’re calling “Home to Me.” During the two weeks from Friday, November 13 (tomorrow!) through Thanksgiving Day, more than a dozen bloggers will share about what the concept of “home” means to them.

They include women who have moved from home to home every couple of years and those who have said final goodbyes to homes in which they’ve spent their whole childhoods. One woman is actually raising her own children in the home in which she was raised. Some are figuring out how to raise their families in proximity to their hometowns, some far from them. One watched in wonder as her adopted children found home with her. A German friend of mine will write about the sense of home she found here in the United States while a foreign exchange student. I, in turn, will write about the sense of home I found in the small German village from which one of my ancestors came some two hundred years ago.

“Home” can been elusive or steady. It can be found in unexpected places. It is sought and cherished and mourned. It is wrapped up in the people we love. As we turn our minds and hearts toward home at the beginning of this holiday season, please visit the following blogs to explore where/what/who is “Home to Me.”

November 13 – Julie @ These Walls
November 14 – Leslie @ Life in Every Limb
November 15 – Ashley @ Narrative Heiress
November 16 – Rita @ Open Window
November 17 – Svenja, guest posting @ These Walls
November 18 – Anna @ The Heart’s Overflow
November 19 – Debbie @ Saints 365
November 20 – Melissa @ Stories My Children Are Tired of Hearing
November 21 – Amanda @ In Earthen Vessels
November 22 – Daja and Kristina @ The Provision Room
November 23 – Emily @ Raising Barnes
November 24 – Annie @ Catholic Wife, Catholic Life
November 25 – Nell @ Whole Parenting Family
November 26 – Geena @ Love the Harringtons

These Walls - Home to Me