on Mary, mother’s milk, and me


12G77__92255.1447969985.350.350I recently added this icon from Uncut Mountain Supply to my collection. It’s a Russian icon of the Theotokos the Milk-Giver, and it reminds me that birthing and caring for Jesus was how Mary answered God’s call and that there is more than a little of the divine in the messy, embodied experience of being a postpartum woman.

Two months after I gave birth to my baby, I went to a church convention, where we gathered to worship and pray and vote on church business. The theme that year was ‘women in ministry,’ and I was looking forward to a celebration of all the ways women serve God and the church.

It didn’t entirely turn out that way, at least not for me. I cried through one session’s opening prayer and sobbed during the next day’s lunch break. Not because I was away from my baby, although I’m sure the hormones coursing through my body had something to do with it, but because I was a nursing mom. Being at the convention meant I had to pump every three hours, but being a woman in a man’s world meant there was no space–literally or figuratively–to do so. So I pumped in the busy bathroom, in the stall furthest from the door I could find, sitting on the toilet seat. And when I was done, I accidentally knocked over the milk while trying to disentangle myself, and I cried. I cried the way only new mothers can. I cried out of exhaustion and humiliation and shame.

After twelve months of nursing and pumping, I no longer have any fucks to give about all of this. In fact, at a recent event at the same location, I told them I’d need to use a conference room during breaks and just pumped there with my trusty nursing cover and a book to pass the time. When I was interrupted by two male staffers–neither of which had clearly seen a pump before–I calmly told them I would be done in fifteen minutes and they could have the room then. But two months in, all I felt was embarrassment about my unruly postpartum body and the process of making milk, this thing my body did, this thing that everyone says is so important yet receives so little support. That day, when I went back into the room where all the clergy and lay people were singing an opening hymn, I didn’t join them in song. I was too upset to sing. I stood there with tears in my eyes as I told myself that the men surrounding me, who I could only see just then as the gatekeepers of the church, those men had drunk from their mothers. That they may be powerful now, but that their mothers had once done for them what I was doing for my child. And it suddenly struck me that Mary mother of God had lactated. Mary knew what it was like to have milk leak from heavy breasts, to feel your body respond to the needs of your child, to feel the pins and needles of milk letting down and the ache and even pain that comes when you are away from your baby for too long. I stood there and I reminded myself it was a holy thing I was doing. And my tears turned to tears of fury that this was happening during a convention meant in part to celebrate women.

I cried–sobbed, rather–again that day and the next, as one way or another there was no space for me and I received the message that this was something to hide. When I left a gathering so I could pump before the evening session would start, someone asked if I was headed back to the main space early. I didn’t actually get a chance to answer, as someone else–a man, which matters, I think–told them not to ask what I was doing and that I would be back. I think about that often. I’m not naming him because he meant well, I think was trying to protect me as he could tell I felt embarrassed and uncertain about it all. But at the same time, what I heard in that was that this was something to surround with shame.

Time and time again I have learned that breastfeeding is something we like to valorize but also like to pretend doesn’t happen. It’s part of a larger message the culture sends, that women’s bodies are only there to be sexualized and are not allowed to be anything other than perfect. That our only concern post-birth is to bounce back, to lose the baby weight, to erase any sign that our bodies created and nurtured an actual human being for nine months and sustained them beyond that too. That any problems after birth are women’s issues to be hidden and talked about among ourselves, costs we ought to bear and prices of admission we ought to pay gratefully if we can, and silently in any case.

Breastfeeding came at an enormous cost to me, and my therapist often gently asked me if it was time to wean my daughter. Every time I answered that I wasn’t done yet, it wasn’t time yet, that I recognized how much this was costing me but it wasn’t something I wanted to say goodbye to yet. But I am no longer embarrassed by the milk my body produces for my daughter. I will say the word ‘pump’ in mixed company, will take up space when I need it. And that little sentence from that tear-filled day, that acknowledgment that Mary lactated, has become a shorthand for myself. It is a reminder of the lengths women go to for their children and how different this is my body, broken for you sounds after childbirth. It is a reminder that it was precisely with her expanding body and the pain and mess of childbirth and the hormonal fog that comes after, and yes, even with her leaking breasts that Mary fully served God. It is a reminder of the beauty of the incarnation and how God works through our bodies, not around or despite them. And it’s a reminder that while I was created female and I chose to become a mother, it’s up to me to determine what that means and I refuse to allow any space for shame.

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on birthing a child, or a creation story

The night before my daughter was born, a year ago yesterday, I woke up sobbing at 3AM. I’m not sure why this detail matters, but it does. The night before my daughter was born, I woke up sobbing at 3AM, and I cried until 5 when my water broke. I was both sure and unsure that it was my water breaking (how do you know what something is when you’ve never felt it before, otherwise known as the entirety of pregnancy), but the contractions told me it was serious. Right from the start, they lasted just under a minute and came every minute, every ninety seconds at most. There was no time to recover in between contractions, to employ any of the comfort techniques we had learned in childbirth prep class, to tell my husband how he could help. There was no time to breathe. There was only time to panic.

I didn’t have a birth plan. Have the baby, that was pretty much the entirety of the birth plan, although L. would add “in the hospital” to that, as the idea of a home birth was enough to give him heart palpitations. But as I got closer and closer to the birth, I wondered if I could do it, an unmedicated birth. I wanted to be able to do it. I wanted to try, and see what my body was capable of. I wanted to be tough enough, woman enough, to see it through. It turns out I wasn’t, but maybe it counts for something that I wanted to be.

When those contractions hit, so suddenly, so frequently, and so fiercely, the idea of an unmedicated birth went out the window. I wanted an epidural and I wanted it now. We live ten minutes from the hospital where I delivered, and that drive may have been the ten longest minutes of my life. On the way there, L. got stuck behind a car and if I could have, I would have yanked the steering wheel and made him pass that car myself.

And then we got to the hospital, and I promptly threw up a couple times in the trashcan outside of the entrance while L. tried to find a wheelchair to get me up to Labor and Delivery. I was panicking so much that I couldn’t let him find one for me, and I insisted we walk to L&D. So we did. We found the elevator, we took the elevator, we got to the nurses’ desk where they promptly checked me in and I probably said “I want an epidural” as the response to every question, that’s how much I couldn’t breathe. They coached me through the remaining contractions until the anesthesiologist could come, I signed the paperwork with blurry vision and shaking hands, and then–sweet relief. The pain was excruciating but the panic was worse, and the epidural took away both.

The next few hours were some of the most peaceful and blessed of my life. I was about five centimeters dilated, and while we waited for the other five, L. and I rested together. We napped a little, talked about the last nine months and wondered what it would be like to meet our little girl, he read and I listened to an audiobook, and I did whatever the nurses told me to, thankful to not be feeling anything and have someone else be in charge. When I think about G.’s birth, I think about the beauty of those quiet hours and how they marked the transition from a family of two into a family of three for me.

Of the birth itself, I don’t actually remember very much. I had a wonderful nurse who taught me how to push and then taught L. how to coach me so I could push better and longer.  I remember throwing up in between pushes out of sheer exertion and exhaustion. I remember thinking I was done, I couldn’t do this anymore, and then hearing I was almost there, just one or two more and my daughter would be here. I remember my doctor asking if she could snip me, that they needed to do something, and me saying yes, yes, this baby needs to come out, do whatever you want. And then I remember feeling this terrible need to push, and seeing my doctor and nurse conferring in the corner, and not knowing how not to push, or even that sometimes you shouldn’t, so I did. And then suddenly I had a baby on my chest, my baby, and I cried, and spoke to her in Dutch and welcomed her and told her I loved her. I knew right away that she was mine, that although I had just met her, I also knew her on a deep and instinctual level. I was her mother and this was my child.

I kept that baby on my chest as my doctor stitched me up. The miracle hour, that first hour after birth hospitals and childbirth classes like to valorize? I spent most of that with my baby on my chest and my doctor sewing me up. Later I was told that she had gotten stuck a little bit, that although she was small, so was I, but I didn’t know that at the time. Later still, I would hear that because she has descended so rapidly at the end, I had sustained significant damage. I had a fourth-degree tear, the most severe you can have, and had torn through all my muscles and then some, something I didn’t even know could happen. I was warned that any future babies would have to come by c-section, something that meant nothing to me at the time and causes me to feel a strange kind of grief now. The next morning, when I got out of bed, I would see brown-red spots on the floor–my blood, now dried, that they hadn’t been able to get off the floor the night before. That detail, like the sobbing, strikes me as significant, although I can’t really explain why.

And then we were parents, and I learned right away what it meant to be a mother. It meant to nourish a child with your own body even as you bleed and bleed and hurt in ways you didn’t know you could. It meant going through major bodily trauma and then instinctively prioritizing the cries of your child above the deep, deep aches of your own body. That, perhaps, is why I haven’t written about this before now, because becoming a mother meant there was no time to reflect, no space to process or even feel my own pain–there was only my daughter and her needs.

In the months after G.’s birth, I learned that there is no bouncing back after baby, there is only a rebuilding, a recreation. I created my daughter, and in turn she created me. A lot of G.’s first year was lost to the fog of pain and postpartum depression, of slow physical recovery that wasn’t measured in weeks but in months or indeed a year now, of a dissertation that needed to be finished and the defense that followed, neither of which provided much relief. But this was also the year of me learning to trust my instincts, to stop caring as much about what other people thought, to learn how to notice my body and what it asks of me and to attempt to gracefully work with the pain I still feel daily, twelve months later, rather than fight it. I learned I could love my daughter and what she gave me and mourn what she took from me at the same time.

Becoming a mother introduced a richness into my life that I didn’t know existed. It’s a love that’s so different from anything else I’d ever experienced. I roll my eyes at the expression “mama bear” but I am one and if you even come close to threatening my child, my hackles rise and I fight rather than flee. Don’t let anyone fool you: we may like to think of mothers as angelic creatures singing lullabies in the nursery, but I am here to tell you that with motherhood comes fierceness–or at least it did for me.

A List of Places I Have Fed My Child

It’s World Breastfeeding Week.

In the past year, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the relationship between me and my baby, this creature I carried and birthed, but also about the relationship between me and my body and the way my baby laid claim to it during pregnancy and even now appropriates it as her own. A lot of that is centered around breastfeeding, which I have been doing since her birth a year ago now. It is such an intimate act that I cherish, but it is also an act that requires a great deal of emotional, mental, and physical energy on my part, and I often find myself wondering if it’s time to wean her. Perhaps more than anything else, breastfeeding signifies motherhood to me. There’s a constant paradoxical choice to put her needs ahead of mine, and yet need to tend to my own needs lest I not be able to tend to her’s, and always, always my body and my heart on the line. 

And so I present to you, a list of places where I have fed my child. 

In a hospital bed after giving birth, still stunned that my baby was here and I was a mother now.

In my own bed, with tears running down my cheeks while blood and milk mixed in my baby’s mouth as she clamped down on me with all her might.

In the office of a lactation specialist, where both of us learned this thing that people told me was so natural.

In my bed, still sleepy, as we woke up together at five am.

On the couch, making my way through Parks and Rec or The Good Fight or NCIS while Gracie suckled contently and then fell asleep.

During a family birthday dinner at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Idaho, a state that didn’t yet offer legal protection to nursing mothers and where I dared to feed her anyway.

During heat waves in our non-air-conditioned home, where we melted into a puddle of sticky sweat together.

In hotel rooms as soon as she squawked so we wouldn’t wake the neighbors.

In a church pew, rushed and hurried, so I wouldn’t hand the priest a hungry and unruly baby to be baptized.

In a church pew, many other times, as the rhythm of the service went on around me.

In museums and the aquarium, before, during, and after visits to the exhibits.

In restaurants and at the dinner table and on the couch while my food cooled and my coffee remained just out of reach.

In my car in parking lots and gas stations on road trips and between errands and appointments.

During classes and meetings and social gatherings, when she slurps more food from me than I have to spare, and I go into new-mom-meltdown-mode without realizing why, and have to go outside to breathe and cry.

On long flights where I nursed every hour to keep my baby happy. On long flights where I got stared at by a teenage boy who couldn’t look away, even when I stared back. On short flights where I had to fight the manspreader next to me for the space of my own seat and share that with her too.

At midnight and one am and two am and three, and all the other hours of the night.

In her room, hours after she’s bit me hard enough to draw blood, and yet I offer her my body, again.

Two hours after I became Dr. Tielens, after she slept in my arms during my celebratory reception and I thought about how I’d birthed two babies in the last year, only one of which truly mattered.

In a discrete downstairs corner of a coffee place, with a blanket covering us both, where I got stared and glared at by an elderly gentleman anyway.

Between sessions at academic conferences and during lunch breaks of all day meetings, where I practice embracing my new identity as mother and more.

On cushy sofas and hard chairs and the ground, and standing when I couldn’t sit.

On the couch, while thinking through a tricky piece of the dissertation and typing notes into my phone so I wouldn’t forget my argument before I could get back to it.

At a roller derby match, hunched over on a hard bleacher seat while we watch strong and fierce women do battle on the track.

At a baseball game, while the sun beats down on our heads and the players swing and miss on the field below us.

On Sundays during coffee hour after the children’s service, as little girls gather around me and watch my daughter eat, and I tell them many of them once ate this way and they might one day do this for their own babies, too.

On a beach, sitting in the sand as I watch the waves go in and out and she throws up an arm to block the sun from her eyes.

With a body rigid with tension because I didn’t want anyone touching me, not even her.

And with a body relaxed and open, because what else was my body made for than to give her life?

on being done

Back in May, my husband reminded me he had Memorial Day off, and my first thought was, “Good, then I can get some work done!” And then I remembered, I don’t have any work. I’m done. I finished my Ph.D. And it was both a happy and a sad thought.

In April, I defended my dissertation. I was awarded a PhD, magna cum laude, a pretty good achievement by all metrics, surely. But when my committee welcomed me to the academic community (their actual words, by the way), I felt no sense of accomplishment, no pride, just weariness and emptiness. It surprised me, and it surprises me still. I worked so hard for this–shouldn’t I feel something?

(My therapist would say, there’s that word again: Should.)

***

I started my PhD in late 2011, moving to Germany to pursue this dream of a doctorate. I wrote countless grant proposals and scraped together funding from literally a dozen different places. I presented papers at conferences, finding that introvert me actually enjoyed the back-and-forth that conferences inspire, liked the spotlight and the critical questions that came after. I taught classes and realized I was good at research and writing, but I really loved teaching–something that completely and utterly surprised me. I read all the books I could get my hands on, filled notebook after notebook with quotes and ideas and outlines, and slowly began the hard work of having something to say.

Along the way, I moved from Germany to Utah to California, got married, had a baby. And always, always that work on my shoulders, that sense that I Should Be Writing, Should Be Working, or I’d never make it to that promised land of tenure-track, I’d always be stuck wandering in the wilderness. Always that work on my shoulders, and frankly, also always the sense that I was not good enough, would never be good enough, would spend the rest of my life trying to convince others and myself that I deserved to be where I was. Always that work on my shoulders, even through my pregnancy, through my maternity leave and the first year of my daughter’s life. Until it wasn’t there anymore, I was done.

***

I decided I wasn’t going to be an academic while I was still in Utah, for a myriad of personal and probably not very interesting reasons. I fought it, and then I mourned for quite a while. That’s the only way I can describe it, as a period of mourning, in which I said goodbye to a life spent among books, meaning found in teaching and research and my words on a page.  Most days I’m happy with my choice, and in fact, saying goodbye to that dream opened the door to bigger and better dreams, dreams that fit me more and honor who I’ve become, and dreams that scare and thrill me in equal measure and for that reason alone deserve to be pursued.

And yet. The other day, an acquaintance posted on Facebook that she got an offer and would start her tenure-track job this fall. She and I happened to get our PhDs on the same day. I barely know her, and yet it made me cry, made me question whether I was throwing away everything I’d worked so hard for. What use was a PhD if I immediately left the academic community I’d sacrificed so much for to join?

***

I never aspired to be a stay at home mom, and I surprised myself when halfway through my pregnancy, I floated the idea to L. that I stay home for a little while when the baby was born. For the first eight months of G.’s life, I had a dissertation and then a defense to hide behind. I had a goal to work towards and checklists to manage. And now I spend my days chasing my daughter around our living room, loving it one minute and wondering if there’s something else I should be doing with my life the next, something unidentifiable but “better” all the same.

(There’s that word again: should.)

At heart, of course, is the question I’ve always struggled with: Without outside accomplishments, outside responsibilities, outside accolades, how do I know that it’s enough?

Or perhaps more accurately: How do I know that I’m enough?

 

 

on turning thirty-one

Last year, on my birthday, I had taken the day off from frantic dissertation writing, and was puttering around the apartment, reading whatever book struck my fancy, and slowly getting ready to go into work that afternoon. I was sixteen weeks pregnant and in the magical no-nausea stage that came in between first-trimester and second-and-third-trimester morning sickness for me, and I felt pretty good, truth be told.

And then I saw the blood. I didn’t know a lot about pregnancy at that point, but I was pretty sure blood was not a good sign, especially not that much. I discovered it right as my OB’s office closed for lunch, so I had two hours to wait before I could call them, and then several more hours before they could fit me in for an ultrasound. I spent it lying on the couch and trying not to be anxious and very definitely not googling anything. Those were some long, long hours, and I kept telling the baby inside of me–a little girl, although we didn’t know that yet–to please stay with us, that we loved him or her, that we didn’t want to say goodbye yet.

You know how this story turned out, that we were lucky and didn’t have to say goodbye, despite issues with the placenta, despite gestational diabetes, despite at least a handful of other things my OB deemed “concerning.” We were lucky. But in retrospect that is the moment that this pregnancy turned from something hope-filled and joyful into something scary and fear-filled, something to be endured rather than anticipated. It some ways, that has been true for this first year of motherhood, too.

It is no secret that the transition to motherhood was rough for me, that pregnancy was rough for me, that I have spent a lot of the last year unlearning and relearning things I thought I knew, ways of being, and who I am in the world, that I have run up against the same wall of physical not-recovery time and time again as the fourth-degree tear is so very slow to heal, that I have struggled to retain parts of my old identity and fit them into something new.

Sometimes I ask myself, was it worth it? Is it worth it, to seek wholeness, to be a mother, to do those two things together? I did not know how profoundly motherhood would change me, that the act of carrying and birthing and loving a child would split my heart and my life right open, and how much courage it requires.

And then moments of supreme grace happen, like last night. In the middle of the night, I picked up our baby girl from her crib where she’d startled herself awake, and she nuzzled against me, comfortable, happy, and at home, and fell right back asleep. And I stood there, rocking her, loving her, praying I would always be that safe haven to her, and I knew it was and it is worth it, and I am thankful that she came when she did and would do it all over again and more.

On Mary, Advent, and me

This past Good Friday, my church held a reflective evening service filled with poetry, music, and meditation. One of the poems read was by Rainer Maria Rilke:

Screenshot 2017-04-16 16.38.05

It made me think back to Christmas, when I was six weeks pregnant, and discovered that being newly pregnant didn’t make me feel any closer to Mary than I usually did (which is to say, not very). I hadn’t necessarily expected to, as hearing Mary’s story read always left me feeling unsatisfied. I wanted more from Mary than the story always gave me; I wanted a Mary who spoke and doubted and maybe even railed against what was being asked of her, not a Mary who instantly acquiesced. I couldn’t relate to this pinnacle of womanhood, and honestly, sometimes that worried me. Knowing there was a clump of cells making their way to a baby inside of me didn’t magically change any of that.

But on Good Friday, I listened to this poem read while our baby girl kicked away inside me, reminding me of her undeniable and yet not-quite-real presence with every little jab and poke and flip. This past Lent was a season of uncertainty and vulnerability for me, as I seemed to receive troubling news every other time I visited my doctor, and I discovered the very real limitations pregnancy placed on my body and my life as a whole. I was so afraid we would lose her when I started bleeding at sixteen weeks (on Ash Wednesday–and my birthday–, which seemed a particularly cruel way to drive home how fleeting life is), and I was grateful every time I felt her kick and tell me she was still there, she was strong, she would be okay–and so would I. I held on to that through the long months that were to come.

And it hit me that Good Friday, and with that poem, how vulnerable this parenting and motherhood thing makes you. I didn’t sign up for our Maundy Thursday overnight vigil, but I had a vigil of my own, as that was also the week that pregnancy insomnia began. I spent a lot of time awake at night, thinking about new life and old life and the softness that was and is my body and the hard world outside. How are the two supposed to mix? Do you ever get used to it, as a mother, that the being you carried inside you and protected as best you could for nine months has to make its way into a world that will never be as kind as it should be? I’m guessing you don’t.

And now it’s Advent again. I still want to hear more from Mary. I still want to fill in the silences in her story with what I think she may have thought and felt and said. But Advent feels different to me this year, as I read and reflected on the Magnificat with my own baby in my arms, with my pregnancy still fresh in my memory. I’ve come to suspect that I was sold a bill of goods all those years, that what has always been told to me as meek obedience on Mary’s part was actually fierceness in disguise–a fierceness that the male gospel writers and the male preachers who first told me her story perhaps didn’t have eyes to see–a fierceness that carried her through her own Holy Week and beyond, and a fierceness born out of the softness and vulnerability that motherhood brings.

What I’m Into, November Edition

Reading:

I read five books this month. Most memorable are:

–Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld.

A couple Sundays ago, I got to church bleary-eyed, and the glass of wine I had with friends at lunch nearly put me to sleep. I was tired, so tired. Why? Not because baby was up a bunch that night, but because I stayed up late to finish this book. Or at least, tried to finish it. I finally had to admit defeat right before midnight and finish it in the morning.

Eligible is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, part of this series of Austen retellings. The Bennets–all but Lizzy and Jane–live in Cinncinati, Ohio: Kitty and Lydia are Crossfit enthusiasts this time around, Mary is a perpetual student, working on her third master’s degree, and Mrs. Bennet is obsessed with online shopping and marrying off her daughters. When Mr. Bennett has a heart attack, Lizzy (a magazine writer) and Jane (a yoga instructor) come home for the summer. There, Chip Bingley and his friend Fitzwilliam Darcy enter the story…and the rest is (retold) history.

Sittenfield incorporates many of the details I loved so much in the original, but adds some additional twists. One thing I liked is that Sittenfeld took the meanness out of some of the characters, adding some redemption to Kitty and Lydia, who are both shallow, vain, and frankly unlikeable and unredeemable in the original. (Luckily she leaves Caroline Bingley alone–who doesn’t want to see that bitch taken down?) Highly recommend this book if you’re a P&P fan.

–Artemis by Andy Weir.

I loved Weir’s first book, The Martian, with a fiery passion. It’s nerdy and geeky and about growing potatoes on Mars, for crying out loud. So I was very excited about this book, especially since I love heist stories, and this is one. It doesn’t disappoint. Weir is known for his incredibly detailed world building and exhaustive research, and it shows. Artemis is set on the moon and in a tourist economy, welding plays a huge part, and the protagonist is a female Saudi-turned-moon-resident. Go read it if you like space fiction, or science fiction (with the emphasis on science).

–The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald.

I read this one mainly because it kept popping up on my Goodreads and Amazon profiles. Sara is a Swedish recluse of sorts, who goes to a tiny town in Iowa called Broken Wheel to visit an internet friend/pen pal of sorts. But when she gets there, her friend has died. She stays on, opens a bookstore, and sets about accidentally revitalizing the town. It’s kind of a bookish chicklit, and I liked it mainly for the way it unabashedly celebrates readers and reading.

–Short form:

A Feminist Advent (Or: That’s What Advent Always Is) by Laura Jean. Advent starts on Sunday, and I have conflicted feelings about it. Advent is both my favorite season in the church year and one that reminds me how male-centric the church still is. I actually have a post planned about Mary and Advent and the way we tell her story: it probably isn’t a surprise to you that I think we sell her short in so many ways.

Several highlights from the linked post:

“It is a woman who proclaims the first Christmas message. It is a woman who cries out that God has not forgotten the poor and the hungry, that God has not ignored the violence of the wealthy and the powerful, that the Kingdom of God is on its way and it is literally growing inside her.

One of the most radical things about the Magnificat is that a woman sings a universal song. … Mary’s song is a fierce, unapologetic, and hopeful battle cry to the coming of the Kingdom of God for all people.” Amen to that.

Listening To:

–The Daily on Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts

I was intrigued by this because I would have totally chosen the Boy Scouts over the Girl Scouts when I was growing up. Much in the same way that I ended up quitting baseball once girls had to move to softball–looking back, I think I would have enjoyed softball, but the mandate that girls had to move to their own league as teenagers frustrated me enough to quit. Well, that and the tendon I tore which led to multiple surgeries and all that. But mostly the other thing.

Anyway, the episode interviews two sisters, one who joined the Boy Scouts, one who stayed with the Girl Scouts, and why they chose what they did. It’s a very kid-focused interview and it’s great.

–Fresh Air did an interview with Patton Oswalt, talking about his career, the loss of his wife, and comedy in general, and also talked to Father Greg Boyle, who works with gang members and ex-convicts in LA (to great success, I might add).

–Pop Culture Happy Hour did an episode on Murder on the Orient Express and cozy mysteries–my love for cozy mysteries knows no bounds so I was all over that.

Watching

Black-ish. There was a Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast about it, and I was intrigued enough to finally watch an episode. (Yes, I know I’m several seasons late to the party.) I’m now in season two and loving the Johnson family.

Thor: Ragnarok. My sister babysat while L. and I went out to dinner and then to the movies, and I loved every minute of it. (Well, except the sexualization of the Hella character. Seriously, can we stop doing this thing where women can only draw power from their sexuality?) But the fight scenes were epic and frankly, that’s mostly what I’m looking for in Marvel/superhero movies.

Doing

Dissertation writing (almost done!) and playing with this little girl, who is the light of my life at almost four months old. She’s learning new things every day and it fills me with delight to see her grow. Balancing taking care of her and writing my diss is a little hard at times, but I feel so lucky I get to be with her all day, every day.

Getting outside more. I’m still not fully healed from the fourth-degree tear, but I’m slowly getting back to exercising. We went on a hike with friends on Black Friday (#optoutside, thank you REI), and although I was in significant pain that weekend, it felt totally worth it. Mostly because we saw a banana slug eating a banana (so meta!) although the views at the top were great too.

Linking up with With I’m Into at Leigh Kramer!