Wild and Precious Life – Autumn 2019

I write plenty of reflective pieces on this page but rarely give a life update. I suppose I leave that to those who happen to follow my Instagram, as I pen long captions for each photo I provide. But I feel at the same time there is this lack of personal day-to-day tales missing on this page. I grew up in the age of Xenga and Livejournal. I have years of lengthy journal entries from those sites but sometime when I moved to Virginia over seven years ago, I stopped writing in my online journals and switched to paper. But… within the last few years I stopped writing in those as well. I have to say I miss it and regret, somewhat, that I did not write lengthy entries on the large events in my life. Even here I missed out on important events: my engagement, wedding, honeymoon, and so on.

Gone are the days of writing out every thought and feeling, but still, I would like to make these entries for myself, so if you are interested in following along then welcome.

When Ryland was born in February, I immediately took maternity leave. I stayed on maternity leave for three months. Five weeks of which were paid, the rest were leave without pay. The last week of my maternity leave I quit my job and became a stay at home mom. We had planned for some time that we would be moving to New York and we felt that my job was the easiest to transfer–as in I could likely find some form of it through freelance work, at the very least. But in the time that we had left in Virginia it only made sense for me to stay home, rather than put our three month old into daycare that cost well over a thousand dollars a month.

So I remained home and I recovered from my pregnancy and childbirth slowly. There was a lot of self doubt in those days and some self-hatred. I was comparing myself to other moms without realizing it. They were seemingly healing so quickly. Their child who was the same age as mine or younger was already being brought out on jogs and the mothers were hopping back into their own businesses while simultaneously managing all other aspects of life. Meanwhile, I was at home still having the physical aftermath of childbirth leak from my body. I was in pain from my level of exhaustion. I hadn’t been able to read a book in weeks, hadn’t been able to do laundry in one day, hadn’t made dinner, and couldn’t dream about being out of the house for the work day. What was I doing wrong?

It took until we moved to New York for me to realize that I simply took longer to heal. It took longer for me to become okay with that fact. But now I can say I’m becoming more comfortable in the idea and I’ve become more patient with myself. There has been progress and perhaps not as great and rapid as others, but it’s progress all the same.

Moving to upstate New York with a four month old was…interesting. We were just beginning to get in a rhythm when I had to pack all of our things and go to my in-laws until we headed north. My mother came to Virginia to help us pack and to travel with me as I drove one of our cars north with Ryland, this way she could tend to Ryland in the back seat on the long drive and I could focus on getting us there. Bruce, meanwhile, had the other car packed to the gills along with the cats.

The final day in our apartment was horrendously hot, the humidity atrocious, and we were still not completely packed. We arrived early, the sun not having risen over the tops of the trees yet, leaving Ryland with his grandparents, and tried to rapidly pack before the movers arrived but sure enough, they came before we were done. Even still, they were pleasant and fast, packing everything we had already finished then helping to pack the final items that were oddly shaped or delicate–things we weren’t sure how to pack properly–and then we saw all of our belongings off and were left to clean the apartment.

We were lucky enough to have help from a dear friend and my mother, without the addition of those four hands I’m uncertain we would have been done in time. When we had the apartment looked over and handed in our keys, the sky grew dark and it was hard to see inside the empty apartment despite how bright it seemed after all our furniture was gone. We said our goodbyes in the dimness as the sky opened up and rain poured down, thunder shook the glass in the windows, and we strolled back to our cars. I had many issues with the complex management but I did truly love our tiny apartment. It was our home, through and through. The place we became husband and wife, the place we brought home our son. And even still, when I think of Virginia and home, I think of that place. The rain felt refreshing after sweating so heavily from moving furniture all day, but also oddly appropriate because I truly felt sadness driving out of the community for the last time.

The following morning Bruce left to go to Ithaca directly while I took more time to prepare for half the trip to my parents to spend a night before continuing on to join Bruce. In total, it was a six hour drive and I’m grateful I had my mother sitting beside the baby to entertain him or feed him as we went. The heat was pressing but somewhat cooler when we arrived to Ithaca and for that I was grateful. In the DC region air conditioners are a necessity and it’s rare to find a place without an air conditioner, but it is the opposite in Ithaca. In the Finger Lakes, where the term high heat normally is followed by “wave” air conditioners aren’t as common. Most apartments don’t have central air, nor buildings. Of course, Ithaca had unseasonably hot temperatures the moment we got there and we quickly purchased our first window unit that managed to cool off the entire apartment.

For close to two weeks we ate out every night. We had so many boxes, so piled high, and so many of our items hucked into these various boxes at the last minute we weren’t sure where half of our kitchen belongings were. We made a small clear patch on the kitchen counter big enough for preparing coffee or lunch sandwiches, but for dinner we tried the various restaurants Ithaca had to offer.

We were aching and tired, the apartment a complete mess, and I was completely done with living out of boxes, but I’ll always remember those first 10 days as having the best dinners. All the while, we picked away at boxes. Unpacking is always so tricky for me. I remember clearly where each item was housed where we lived before but that item’s home doesn’t necessarily work any longer in new locations. So figuring out how to make everything fit into a new layout in a new space is always an interesting thing that I often haven’t the patience for. I’d rather get everything out of boxes and have the boxes gone because I miss maneuvering a room without the risk of having a cardboard box cut into my calf.

In reality, we weren’t fully unpacked until August, over a month later. But our schedule was partly to blame. With the summer months being noticeably cooler than what we were used to in DC, we spent nearly every evening outdoors. All weekends were booked with activities that did not include unpacking. We visited parks, we visited farmer’s markets, and we attended outdoor concerts. Bruce worked Monday to Friday and Ryland was starting to teeth and cranky and hated to be put down, let alone left alone, so little unpacking was done during the week. By mid-September I found myself tired and ready, desperately, for the dullness of winter. I suspect I’ll regret that desire when it’s still snowing in April, but for the moment I’m allowing myself to enjoy that desire.

Mid-September presented something else that drew us outdoors: foliage. Of course we had gorgeous autumns in Virginia that were near Halloween and would continue into November, but they often were accompanied by that persistent heat. I’ve never done well in the heat despite wanting to be outdoors with the foliage and going on autumn hikes, but in Ithaca, it was doable.

The weather was chilly at night and called for sweaters, the daytime temperatures were comfortable with a simple tee, and the trees began to pick up new colors other than summer green. We started, over Bruce’s lengthy lunch, to take thirty minute walks through the nearby Cornell Ornithology Lab land at Sapsucker Woods and observed day by day as the leaves began to put on their autumn best.

At the end of September, we left for ten days to travel to my parents and then Virginia. We attended a dear friend’s wedding, stayed a week, then attended the Pennsylvania Ren Faire. Bruce and I met at the Maryland Faire six years ago, and while we returned for our five year anniversary–miserably in high heat and while I was still experiencing morning sickness–I often dragged Bruce to the Pennsylvania faire instead.

Unlike the Maryland faire, which goes from August through September, the Pennsylvania faire continues through the month of October. Bruce and I love to dress up and now with Ryland included, we were able to dress as a pirate family. However, the heat of Maryland in August and September isn’t entirely kind to those in ren faire outfits while October in Pennsylvania is much more tolerable. So off we went to the faire, much of which was altered from faires of the past because having a seven month old slows things down and makes things a little more tricky. Passing a grumpy baby back and forth while we eat, having to leave a show because he’s crying, leaving the faire early entirely due to the need to reach my parents’ before his bedtime.

Next year, we’ll just get a hotel room across the exit of the faire so that we may hopefully have an easier time and perhaps with a little one that’s almost two by that point, we’ll be able to do more activities.

Since returning to Ithaca, we’ve slipped back into our new normal. Bruce works from home during the workweek and I am a stay at home mom. Ryland and I have our daily routine of naps and books read and shows watched and our walk in the woods at noon. In the evenings, the family or one of us would run to the store if necessary but otherwise, Bruce would take over the primary duties of parenting while I would try to do my various interests that involve more attention that can’t be found while caring for Ryland solo.

Weekends have still been busy and I’ve loved every moment. It’s been a costly couple of months, with moving expenses followed by going out every weekend (sometimes for a day, sometimes Friday evening through Sunday), but our schedule is beginning to slow down. We have hiked an incredible amount and while we haven’t traveled miles on these hikes, it’s still movement that I could not do a year ago. In this, I see the continuation of my healing from childbirth.

Ithaca is blessed with multiple hiking trails and state parks, and for that we’re lucky. Over the summer and then when the foliage was at its peak we visited different parks and hiked on different trails, taking it slow and playing it cautious and always being grateful for that on the walk back to the car. We’ve also visited the local farmer’s market more times than I could count, wander around downtown with a group of people playing Pokemon, and took Ryland to many of his firsts.

His first foliage tour of the area where he stared at the falling leaves and would make the most gentle “ooh” with his blue eyes as wide as they would go, his first pumpkin patch where he gently gripped the stem of his pumpkin then wouldn’t let go, apple picking and finally Halloween activities. He dressed up as a tiny Ewok for a children’s “parade” that consisted of the children marching down the street to a nursing home where we went from person to person, sitting in the hall in their wheel chairs or next to their walkers. To see the brightness flick on in their eyes as they saw Ryland made me so happy. He was sleepy and stared quietly at each stranger, but they were thrilled and it made my heart sing. We also attended the Wizarding Weekend that the town has and Bruce dressed as Hagrid with his very important charge: baby Harry.

I write this the Sunday before Halloween and it looks like we’ll get rain on the big day. It’s unfortunate, as we intended to take Ryland trick or treating for a little bit, but we’ll see how it plays out and I honestly won’t be too upset if he isn’t able to partake.

I’m tired, Bruce is tired, and we are so very much ready for winter. This entire summer, from the moment we moved here, we have been so very busy. All of autumn thus far we have been busy too. Every evening has been filled, every weekend booked, and I’m ready for the quiet time that winter brings and the empty weekends without activities. I’ve struggled with winter depression in the past and due to it, I’ve always had a sense of dread about winter. I have always loved November and December for its holidays but after Christmas I’ve felt nothing but dread. January and February always feel so long and that was in Virginia where spring began to arrive by March, what about here? Winters last so much longer.

And yet… I’m excited. Perhaps it’s due to our activity level. In Virginia we would hide away most of the summer and autumn, waiting for the cooler weather that graced us with a few weekends where we were able to hike and do outdoor activities before we were shut indoors due to winter weather. But here, we spent all that time outdoors. My need for sunshine and activities has been met and now I have a little list of indoor activities, projects we have put off (like unpacking those last final boxes and setting up a play area for Ryland) that we’ll finally be able to do. I also have my own interests making my fingertips twitch with anticipation.

I began drawing state flowers bordered by their respective state outlines sometime over the summer and selling these drawings, along with some handlettered goods, on Redbubble. It’s made a small profit and it has been satisfying my artistic desires that I’ve ignored for years (remember, I originally wanted to go to school for art and nearly minored in it in college [and would have if the registrar gave me permission as I had enough credits for it to be a minor]). I’m getting back into reading books with utter abandon and even working on many books I’ve been lugging from location to location–books I purchased ages ago but have yet to read. I’d like to get back to work too, but I’m taking my time with this and enjoying Ryland as he grows and changes so rapidly. Time has rushed by in the four months we have been here and I can only imagine it’ll speed by all the quicker if I go back to work. So I keep an eye out and apply to jobs that are purely of my interest and I watch my son grow and change and learn.

Moving here was tough and it still is at times. We do not have our support system right down the road or a short drive away. We’re utterly alone here. It can be a struggle and we haven’t been a date by ourselves since we were in Virginia last. But at the same time, I think it’s been so good for us to have such focus on our newly made family in this first year of its creation. It has caused the most extreme of emotions as we grapple with new parenthood, a new location, and being alone, but those emotions include great happiness and wonder.

While Ryland is experiencing everything for the first time, so are we, just like any new parent. But add to that we are in a new location with new seasons, new personalities, new ways of life and we really are experiencing it all for the first time together. It’s been wonderful and I’m so grateful, I only hope this continues.

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