Footnotes

On Tuesday I declared that I was diving back into blogging. And in the days since, a funny thing has happened: I haven’t regretted it.

Normally I approach writing (and life, really) with a sense of angst – inadequacy mixed with embarrassment, even hopelessness. So normally the days following a declaration like Tuesday’s would be full of self-doubt; I’d be sure I was about to fall flat on my face.

This time I haven’t really thought much about it. I’ve been a mellow kind of excited, if that makes any sense. I’m so tired of feeling helpless/guilty/unworthy/amateurish. I’m ready to move forward.

Okay, so there were several points I cut out of my last post and more I’ve thought about since then, and I want to get them up here on the blog before I move too far forward. They’re like footnotes to Tuesday’s post, I guess.

So here we go:

(1) At this point I don’t have much of a plan. I’m going to try to capitalize on the fact that, unlike my first years of blogging, I currently do have small children who will nap. I’m going to try to get a couple of posts up per week, but if life happens – then life happens. I hope to not let any little stumbles or delays keep me from bouncing back.

(2) I’m going to focus almost exclusively on politics – or rather, on my struggles with it. I’ll write up my thoughts on the issues of the day, my concern for the direction in which our country is heading, and my worries about what it might be doing to our moral development. I’ll write on the “walls within” I discussed in Tuesday’s post.

(3) At least for now, I think I’m done with the cute kid stories and musings on motherhood. I see lots of other women doing that well already. What I don’t see are many relatable writers who want to tackle the turmoil our society has stepped into, but not yell about it. Chew, not yell: That’s the place I aim to be.

(4) I’ll still be posting the cute kid pics and stories on Instagram. You’re welcome to follow me there!

(5) I’m going to re-work my website a bit. Five years of that set-up was enough; if I’m shifting my goals, I should probably shift how I present them.

(6) I think I’d also like to experiment with recording each of my posts so folks can listen to them if they want. Nothing fancy, and nothing so ambitious as a podcast (yet), but I know that I love to listen to other people’s thoughts as I go about my chores; maybe somebody out there might like to do the same with mine. If you’d like to listen to my stuff rather than read it, just look for the audio file at the end of my posts.

(7) One big challenge with trying to get going again: Facebook. You might be aware that Facebook has recently changed its algorithm. Ostensibly, this was to better connect people with their family and friends, but what it’s really meant is that they’re showing you fewer unpaid posts in the hopes that the businesses and blogs you follow will pay to get their posts into your newsfeeds. For every hundred followers a page has, Facebook might show twenty of them its posts. But as I don’t make any money from blogging, I’m not about to pay to boost my posts on Facebook. So! If you think you’d like to actually read what I’m writing, I highly encourage you to subscribe to my posts right here on my blog. (Look over there to the right: “Follow These Walls via Email.”) You submit your email address, WordPress will ensure that every blog post is delivered to your inbox. Easy.

(8) Speaking of the email thing, apparently the Europeans have gone and passed a privacy law that applies to pretty much anybody on the internet who has a European subscriber. And that includes me. So allow me to tell you now (and I’ll find a more permanent place on the blog to put this) that if you sign up to receive my blog posts via email, then… you’ll receive my blog posts via email. You’re welcome to unsubscribe whenever you like. And if you use your email address to comment, then… you’ll have used your email address to comment. In both cases I’ll be able to see your email address. But I’ll only ever use it for the reason you provided it: either to send you my blog posts or possibly answer a comment. That’s it! Simple!

(9) And speaking of commenting: For a long time I’ve held up this lofty goal of “encouraging discourse,” as I put it in my tagline. It’s a worthy thing, trying to get people to discuss their differences and come to some higher level of understanding. I commend anyone who attempts it. But you know what? I’m tired. I’m busy with five little kids under the age of eight and I simply don’t have the time or the emotional bandwidth to be monitoring other people’s political discussions. I’d rather focus on writing. So if you want to comment here or on my Facebook posts, feel free. But I reserve the right to preserve my time (and sanity?) by stepping away.

Ever since the 2016 presidential election, I have felt unequal to the moment. (Both for reasons related to the election and unrelated to it.) I have had too little energy and too little emotional space to engage on the issues of the day. And so I’ve waited. I’ve waited until I’ve felt better, until issues have been resolved. I’ve waited until I can do this perfectly.

Now, I’m tired of waiting. And I’m recognizing that perfection shouldn’t even be on the table. So I’ll see you next week, friends.

 

These Walls - Footnotes

The Walls Within

This month this little blog turns five. When I started it I had a two-year-old and a one-year-old and a new-to-us house that I hadn’t even finished unpacking. I was (am) highly distractible and my kids hardly napped at all, so I mostly wrote at night after everyone else had gone to bed.

Lots of nights I fell asleep at my laptop. Some days I drove myself batty trying to fit in blogging during TV time or “quiet” play. But I plodded along at a decently steady rate for a while, writing about motherhood and our home life and whatever political issue was bugging me at the moment.

Then I had another baby. And another. And another. And my kids got older and busier and I was spread even more thin than I had been at first. Before I knew it, I’d let a couple of years go by, hardly writing anything at all.

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2013

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2014

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2015

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2016

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2017

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2018

When I was tossing around ideas for this blog back in the spring of 2013 I landed on the title “These Walls” because I was looking for something that could work for both of the topic areas I wanted to write on: my home life and my politics. I didn’t love the title, but I thought that with my tagline (“Sharing stories from within the walls of my home; encouraging discourse on the wider world outside them”) it expressed my general goal decently well.

There was another, more fluid, line of thinking behind the title too. I mention it somewhere in my About Me (don’t go looking it up; that section is in desperate need of updating) or in one of my first blog posts: I liked the idea of discussing the figurative walls that people put up between each other when it comes to politics.

But these days there’s another kind of wall that most occupies my attention (and no, it’s not Mr. Trump’s). These days, in this age of political upheaval, of shifting loyalties, of upside-down values, I’ve come to focus on the walls within.

The walls within me. The ones I’ve hidden behind, the ones I’ve found refuge in, the ones I’ve broached, the ones I struggle to abandon.

I fancy myself a fair person. I like to think that I take in a decent representation of information and viewpoints, weigh them, critique them, and come to my conclusions based on impartial reason. I rail against those who would treat social and political issues like players on their favorite professional sports team. You know: if he’s my guy I love him, if he’s yours I hate him.

But the truth is, I’ve been struggling with my allegiances and my prejudices, my values and fears for a long time. On some issues, I’ve changed my mind. On some, I’ve become more resolved. On some, I wince and cling to my home team – not convicted, but not ready to let go either.

Which brings me back to the blog.

I’ve been struggling mightily over the thing. Not a day goes by that I don’t have a “walls within” kind of idea for These Walls and long to bring it to fruition. Not a single day.

But also – not a day goes by that I don’t remind myself how limited my time is, or how poorly I’ve been feeling, or how ill-equipped I am, personality-wise, to be a reliable presence on the internet.

Yet for months now (ironically, the same period of time in which I’ve been sick*), I have felt an almost constant pressure to get back to writing. The messages have come from many quarters, and they’ve been relentless. Whether it’s been from my spiritual reading or podcast listening or prayer life or social-media observing (or now Jennifer Fulwiler’s new book), I feel like I’ve been barraged by the following messages:

  1. You have a job to do.
  2. It’s going to require hard work.
  3. Stop getting in your own way.
  4. You don’t have to be perfect to do good.

So I think I’d better stop fighting it.

Maybe this post was starting to read as a good bye, but it’s actually far from that. It is, I pray, a hearty hello. I expect things to look different around here, content-wise, but I’m excited to be back.

I think I’d better get out of my own way and get busy doing the work I feel like I’m supposed to do. Even if I don’t feel well. Even if I have little time. Even if I have lots of little people underfoot.

Tomorrow I’m going to flesh out my plans for the blog; check back here to see where I hope to take it.

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*Those of you who follow Jennifer Fulwiler on Instagram – did you see her IG Stories on Resistance yesterday? I couldn’t help but recognize it in my own life. Did you recognize it in yours?

Also (I’m experimenting with this), if you’d rather listen to this post than read it, click here. (But realize that you’ll be getting a low-quality recording with baby noises in the background!)

Hope and Love (and the Same Old Pitfalls) in a New Season (7 Quick Takes, Vol. 45)

Goodness, it’s been too long. Again. As always. The prudent thing for me to do at this point in non-blogging would probably be to throw up my arms and walk away with a liiittle dignity. But I can’t give it up. I can shove it aside and starve it and neglect it, apparently, but I can’t give it up.

So, here you have me.

Since it’s been so long, I thought I’d do a little 7 Quick Takes to tell you how the 7 (seven?!) members of our family are faring these days. Beginning with…

—1—

Myself. Because I’m the blogger.

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(Would you believe that this, I think, is the first ‘baby bump’ photo I’ve taken this pregnancy? You may not be able to see the whole bump because of my hanger-on, but I think she adds a certain something to the picture.)

Looking at my calendar, I see that I’m now 35 weeks into this pregnancy. (Yes, I had to look at the calendar to figure that out.) Somehow, I’m feeling simultaneously comfortable/healthy/energetic and uncomfortable/unhealthy/fatigued. Part of it just depends on the day – some days I feel great and other days I am whooped. (My blood pressure has been really low this whole pregnancy and boy have I been feeling it.)

But I think a lot of it has to do with how I’m carrying this baby. She’s hanging out really low – almost entirely below my belly button. So on the one hand, I can breathe comfortably and (from my vantage, if not yours) I don’t even look that big. But on the other hand, I’m having some difficulty walking and sitting. It feels like she’s cozying right up into my hip bones. And like she might just decide to pop out at any moment.

My OB thinks that Baby’s positioning might mean that I’ll actually go into labor on my own this time. But I’m skeptical. I’ve needed Pitocin for every labor so far – even the one in which my water broke ten days early. I can hardly imagine what it would be like to experience labor without it.

Other than the pregnancy stuff, I’m fine, I guess? I’m currently feeling pretty overwhelmed about the (disgusting) state of my house, but I just don’t have the energy to get to most of it. At least not with my kids underfoot. There’s such an incredible difference between what I can accomplish alone vs. what I can do with them around me. Not just because of their (constant) needs, but also because I really struggle to focus on the tasks in front of me. I’ve found that if I put on my noise-cancelling headphones and listen to a good podcast, I can work happily and productively for a good long while. But while trying to monitor the kids, ‘focus’ is pretty much a lost cause.

Fortunately, I now have two little ones who will nap pretty much every afternoon while their brothers are at school. Would you believe that, seven years into parenthood, this is the first time I’ve experienced that wondrous, almost mythical afternoon break that is a reliable naptime? My first child was a terrible napper and my second gave it up early, and until now I’ve had at least one of them home every afternoon anyway. But with the two big boys at school, Mommy has some freedom in the afternoons. Woo-hoo! Something to celebrate!

For another month or so, that is – until we add a newborn into the mix.

So far I’ve been using naptimes to do housework or prep dinner or even take the occasional cat-nap, but I’d really like to see if I could claim at least some of it for writing. (I have so much on my mind! So much I’d like to chew on with you!) We’ll see. I’d like to promise that I will, but I feel like I’ve broken enough promises in this space.

—2—

On that cheery note, let’s move on to the baby!

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Not much to report here. Baby Girl’s pretty quiet for now. (I mean, obviously. But she’s also pretty quiet, activity-wise. I’m thinking she’ll have a more sedate personality. We shall see!)

She’s shaping up to be just as big at her arrival as her siblings were at theirs. At my 32-week sono they estimated her weight to be 5lbs, 3oz, which sets her up to weigh around 9 pounds at birth. Imagine that. Her big sibs were 8lbs, 10oz (4 days late), 8lbs 15oz (10 days early), 9lbs, 1oz (7 days early), and 9lbs even (4 days late). So I’d say that 9 pounds is a pretty good guess!

We still haven’t chosen a name for her, and as we’ve barely talked about it, I don’t see us coming up with one anytime soon. But that’s pretty typical for us. We don’t usually get very serious about our baby-naming discussions until a few weeks from delivery, when I’m so hormonal and weepy about it that Brennan takes pity on me. Then we whittle down our list to a couple of options and decide when we see the baby.

Okay, on from Baby Girl No Name to…

—3—

Baby Girl who shouldn’t really be called Baby Girl anymore!

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Can you believe this little one is now 20 months old? She’s a real toddler! And, toddler-like, she’s starting to express some opinions, exert some independence, sneak in some misdeeds, etc. Overall, though, she remains super sweet and easygoing, and we are completely in love with her.

It’s been really interesting to see how she’s coming along developmentally as compared to the boys. She’s been saying a decent number of words for months, and now she regularly uses little phrases and sentences. (She ends every meal by holding up her plate and saying, “I done, Mama!” At which point I promptly melt into a puddle of maternal mush.)

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She’s absolutely in love with babies and baby dolls, so I think she’s going to be preeetty happy here in about a month. We’re just going to have a big task ahead of us, keeping her eager little hands in check around her baby sister. Oh, well. That’s better than the alternative!

—4—

This one started preschool this fall. Can you believe it?

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I’m not sure I can, yet I rejoice in the development. (I mean, seriously, the Hallelujah Chorus would have been completely appropriate for the start of this school year.)

And it’s not just me. I think he is also much happier these days, what with the fun school to attend twice a week, the relative peace on the other three weekdays while his big brothers are at school, and a generally reliable rhythm to his days. I think this is a kid who likes to know his schedule.

He’s still a screamer, but as his language skills (slowly) improve, he’s expressing more and more and screaming (a little) less. The other day he told me, “I so angy!” and I almost laughed for joy. (But I didn’t. Because it would be really annoying for your mom to laugh while you were telling her how angry you were.)

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He’s gotten to be a (mostly) sweet big brother and good playmate to his sister, which I’m just pinching myself over. I did not see that coming. He also regularly pulls off what is possibly the cutest moment of my day, when he comes down the stairs after his nap all sleepy-eyed, smiling and whispering “Good morning, Mommy!” Again – I melt.

—5—

This one has entered Kindergarten. Kindergarten: real-deal, all-day, away-from-Mommy school. And he’s done great.

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I thought he might not. He’s my mama’s boy, the one who clings to me and smothers me with hugs and kisses each day. I thought he’d be afraid, that being away from home all day would be hard on him. But he seems fine! He loves his teacher and he’s making friends and he hasn’t complained once about going to school. It’s been such a relief.

We celebrated his sixth birthday at the end of September and I think it may well have been the happiest day of his life. We held his party at a local bounce-house place where he and a bunch of his friends and cousins were able to run and jump themselves silly. He had a Star Wars cake and got a bunch of nice (mostly Star-Wars-themed) gifts, and at the end of it all we revealed his biggest gift to him: a guinea pig.

(We should cue the Hallelujah Chorus again here.)

I am not a pet person. I have nothing against animals; they just don’t do much for me. I don’t care to really touch them or play with them, so why would I ever want to go through the trouble of caring for them? Brennan is more of a pet person than I am, but he’s also more of a practical person than I am, so it’s been easy for him to say no up until now.

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But this child. He just loves animals. (This past Sunday as we left his religious education class, he announced to me, “I want to be a saint, Mommy. I want to be an animal saint like Saint Francis, because I love animals so much.”) He loves them consistently and passionately, and it might have been the time he wanted to keep a cricket he found at the drug store, or the time he cuddled and kissed a baby snake he found in the yard, but he finally wore me down. And so Brennan and I decided it was finally time for a pet.

A caged one, but a pet nonetheless. Meet Houston:

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The kids are in love. Brennan seems to like him pretty well, and I’m guess I’m warming up to him. He is pretty cute. And thankfully, he seems to have a good temperament for being surrounded by a bunch of little kids. Our house now smells like guinea pig cage, but whatever – our house kind of smelled to begin with.

—6—

Now onto this one.

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My boy! My sweet, thoughtful, growing-too-fast firstborn. He’s in second grade now, old enough for me to start seeing glimpses of what he’ll look like, and what he’ll be like, as an older kid. It’s bittersweet.

This child has lately been my reminder and my hope regarding seasons of life and difficult phases and how they pass. The last half of the summer (the slower half) was hard for him. He’s super social and loves people and I’m seeing now that he’s a much happier person when he has people and work to occupy him. For a while there, he’d just about pulled into the lead on the ‘most challenging child’ front, but once school started, he perked up immediately. Second grade, including his lovely teacher and (from what I hear) great class have been so good for him.

Except for tiffs with the brother nearest in age to him (and what’s new in that, right?), he is such a good big brother. Our daughter adores him. She’s taken to walking next to him with her hand in his, and backing herself right into his lap when she sees him sitting still. He reads to her, and the other day I caught him helping her down one of our terrace walls in the yard: He climbed down one level, she reached her arms out to him, and he put his around her waist and lifted her down. Then he climbed down the remaining level and did the same. (Again with the melting!)

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He always humors the 3-year-old when he wants someone to play outside with him, he helps him and reads to him, and he does a pretty good job of keeping tabs on the little guy.

And even with his just-15-months-younger-than-himself brother, he can be so generous. When he received his first little cash gift from the tooth fairy, he gifted one of his (two) dollars to his brother. And he seems to have done so every time since. This week I was kind of annoyed when the 6-year-old held out his hand to receive one of the 7-year-old’s tooth fairy dollars, tossing out a flippant, “It’s mine, right? I get one every time the tooth fairy brings you two?” But there was no hesitation or annoyance on the big brother’s part: “Yes, you do. It’s yours,” he said. For all their squabbling, I think they view each other as partners, and that partnership is one of the greatest gifts in my life right now.

—7—

Now for my husband.

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I guess I’d say Brennan is doing pretty well these days. After a frustrating run at work for a good long while, he has finally started a new position. Brennan (a software engineer) has done this several times since I’ve known him, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him shift from work that was so dull to work that interests him as much as this new job looks to do. I’m relieved!

At home, Brennan has been keeping busy with projects, of course. He recently finished a section of iron fencing on a couple of the walls that surround our back patio. It was a long, dirty process: the fencing arrived unfinished, so Brennan had to grind them down, prime them, paint them, attach feet to them, and install them himself. He also added one light post, moved another, and painted all three. Here’s the final result:

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Isn’t it pretty? Now we just have to host an outdoor cocktail party or something. Once we pull all the weeds growing out of the patio. And move the sandbox out of the way. And get rid of all the junky, broken toys. And buy patio furniture. And, like, have a little TIME on our hands…

Which these guys pretty much never allow us.

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Brennan has also just finished painting the boys’ new bedroom. (The room shuffle goes like this: All three boys will be moving up to a room on the third floor. Our daughter will move into what was her brothers’ room, and we’ll put the new baby in the nursery for now. When she starts sleeping through the night decently well, we’ll put her in the same room as her sister.) Brennan’s next project? Building bunk beds!

***

Alright, I’ve bored you plenty by now. I hope that you and yours are all well and that the beginning of this new season/school year has been as good for you as it has for us. I hope to “see” you back here soon. Hope. We’ll see. Maybe you shouldn’t be surprised either way.

Also, don’t forget to hop on over to Kelly’s for the rest of this week’s Quick Takes!

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Baby Steps

Here I am after months of not writing, with too much to explain, too many ideas to number, too many things to catch you up on – and I have no idea where to start. So this will probably be a stumbling, disjointed post.

Baby steps.

I’ve been pondering how to jump back into blogging and the only thing that seems doable is for me to pop on here (with hopefully increasing regularity) with short, random thoughts. Like this one:

Back in December, I was waxing downright sentimental about a new “thing” in my life – a laptop. A brand-new laptop, one that wouldn’t be glitchy, one whose battery would hold a charge, one that wouldn’t shut off when you shifted its position, one that wasn’t so heavy and unwieldy it served more as desktop than laptop.

The month before, we’d bought me a newer, smaller, lighter, more versatile machine. And I was in computer heaven. Like, “La dee da, look at me: I’m a cute, modern lady with a cute, modern laptop. I love this thing and I will carry it around with me wherever I go. I will sit on the sofa with it because I can. I will tote it to the coffee shop because I can. I will carry it up to the bedroom because I… BANG.”

Foolish me dropped my beautiful new laptop.

It kind of limped on for a while, but now the thing issues a death siren every time I turn it on. So it sits in a drawer, waiting for me to get up the guts to see about getting it fixed. Because that’s how I go about my life: When I screw up, I shove whateveritis in a drawer and try not to think about it for a while. This is a very mature approach to life.

Ah, well… like I said, I’ve got too much to explain, too many ideas to number, too many things to catch you up on. And this sad new-computer story, written on my stupid old-computer, is but just one of them.

Baby steps.

But really, I have something so much better to tell you about. Something so much more important, so much more Catholic-mom-blog-ish:

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We’re expecting baby #5.

Unusually for me, I’ve waited quite a long time to make this pregnancy blog official. I’m already more than 20 weeks along. (More than half-way! That’s nuts!) We told our family at Easter, when I was, what, maybe 10 weeks? Then I took that pic and shared it on Facebook and Instagram around 14 weeks. But the neglected blog has remained neglected. Until now.

Baby steps.

Thanks be to God, all seems to be going well, pregnancy-wise. And THANKS be to God, I’m now feeling like a normal, functioning person again. My first-trimester-and-change was rough. (Maybe the roughest of all my pregnancies? It’s hard to gauge.) I’m just so relieved to be on the other side of it.

Anyway… due date! This little turkey is due on November 22, 2017 – just one day before Thanksgiving.

The kids are super excited – well, the ones who understand what’s going on are excited. Son #2, who is the most enthusiastically (read: aggressively) loving member of our family, promises that he’ll be a better brother to this baby than he is to his little sister. He’s been kissing my belly obsessively, saying ‘good morning’ and ‘good night’ to it, and the other day he told me, “I just can’t stop wuvin’ diss new baby!”

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Brennan and I are happy too. Happy and more relaxed than with my previous pregnancies, I think. Because when you’ve already had four? You kind of know how to deal with the pregnancy and new-baby things. Not that they don’t bring hardships! (See: morning sickness.) But pregnancy and infancy have long since ceased to be strange concepts around here, and that counts for a lot in my book.

Alright, I think that’s enough for my first little baby step back toward blogging. But I’ll be back soon! I’ve got a certain, always-interesting sonogram scheduled for Wednesday and you know what that means… (hopefully) we’ll have a gender reveal to share with you soon!

(In all seriousness, we’re well aware that the 20ish-week sono will tell us so much more about our baby than whether s/he’s a she or he. If you could spare a couple of prayers that baby proves to be healthy, we’d appreciate it.)

Thank you! May you all be well, as well.

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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.

These Walls - Everyday Bravery

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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.

These Walls - Everyday Bravery

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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.

These Walls - Everyday Bravery

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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.

These Walls - Catching Up 7QT41

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!

These Walls - Announcing

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