Gratitude list, November 2022

stars glittering
the night sky, when I’m up late
feeding the baby, falling into
& the arms of my spouse
for a few more hours of sleep before
fresh coffee & hot oatmeal
little hands reaching for me
for games of peekaboo
songs & cuddles
for the wide embrace of our village —
dear friends
good neighbors
our congregation — with whom we raise
our children
for music while I’m doing dishes and folding
warm towels just out of the dryer
for naptime, blessed naptime,
a moment of peace amidst the chaos of
Legos & crayons & rounds of Uno & kitchen dance parties & “another snack please!” & playdates & playgrounds & tag
long walks in the neighborhood
the scent of burning leaves
& the way sunight catches in the leaves
at golden hour
dinner to make,
bathtime bubbles & squeals,
for sharing stories & poetry & prayers,
goodnight kisses & “I love you”s
& when the dog curls up on my lap
& the whole house is
holding a freshly sharpened pencil
& a blank page on which to praise
this one holy and beautiful life.

Diary of one day

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

5 a.m. ~ The sound of chimes, my iPhone alarm, breaks my dream. My eyes dart open. The bedroom is bathed in darkness. My dog is snuggled up against my husband, who’s snoring blissfully on the other side of the bed. I wrestle myself out of bed; the cool air shocks my body awake. I’d much rather retreat to warmth of my covers, the delight of my dream. Instead I rise. Time to start my day. First, a shower.

5:30 a.m. ~ A few mornings a week, I set aside time to tackle freelance projects and write for myself. My wet hair is drying and I’m dressed for the day, so I flip open my laptop and get to work. I prepare an invoice for a story I wrote for The Everymom and answer a couple emails. I scroll my Instagram feed a bit. OK, enough. I set down my phone and switch back to the laptop.

Finally I start to write. I’m workshopping an essay about my tendency to hover parent and my son’s tendency to stick close to me. I type: He is always in my orbit — I’m the earth, he is my sun. I pause and think. Maybe it’s the other way around? I go on: I’m barely done with my meal and my son is already tugging my hand toward his playroom. He wants to sit in my lap and play with his blue playdoh, make snakes and snowmen and pretzels with it. He wants me to be in his orbit, and honestly, I do too. So why do I feel so ashamed of this?

I keep writing, thinking, writing, grasping for the story.

7:08 a.m. ~ “Mom-my, Mom-my, Mom-my, Mom-my!” My son’s squeals derail my train of thought. I haven’t finished the essay but I’ve made decent progress. I stand, satisfied, and head to his room to start our day. (I don’t always feel satisfied. Some days I feel annoyed, reluctant to leave my work. Sometimes I skip my morning writing altogether in favor of sleep.)

I open the door to Jack’s room. He stands at the end of his crib, ready for breakfast. “Good morning, my love,” I say, striding toward the window. I open the blackout curtains and light spills into the small space. “Mommy, I hungry!” Jack shouts. Before we head to the kitchen I heft Jack up on the changing table, which faces the window, and give him a fresh diaper. He whines and rubs his eyes as they adjusts to the morning light. I change his diaper easily, thinking soon I’ll be doing this less and less, once we start potty training. Now we’re ready for breakfast. My husband is stirring across the hall, but I see Gus, our dog, nestle deeper under the covers, unready to face the day.

Breakfast of champions.

7:45 a.m. ~ After munching on Eggo waffles and fruit and washing it down with milk (his) and coffee with cream (mine), then getting Jack dressed, it’s time to pile on our winter gear and head to Jack’s Montessori school. This, along with getting dressed, is one of the most difficult parts of the day. It’s hard convincing our strong-willed toddler to get ready when he’s too busy exploring the world around him. Today he’s decided to scatter his sock collection around his playroom like confetti. Never a dull moment here.

8:10 a.m. ~ We are finally out the door and en route to Jack’s school, after kissing my husband farewell. Kissing goodbye and hello is a ritual in our family — we try to do it no matter what, even we’re fighting or having a not-so-good day. It’s those times especially when I think we need the physical affection, a little reminder to be softer with each other and ourselves. I turn on NPR and drive cautiously; the roads are icy today.

8:20 a.m. ~ This morning while dropping Jack at school, I meet his new teacher. Now that Jack’s two and talking lots, he’s transitioning from the toddler to the twos classroom. Jack stands waiting at the door to go in his classroom. “Hug and kiss?” I ask. He nods and I wrap my arms around his little frame and kiss his cheek. “I love you!” I shout after him as he bounds toward his peers.

8:57 a.m. ~ I’m logging into my computer now, prepping a file for my one-to-one meeting with my supervisor. I only have a few things on my list for her so it should be a relatively quick conversation. That’s good because my editing list is quite long — it’s deadline day for our magazine’s features and I have several stories to file and another meeting to attend.

Werk, werk, werk, werk, werk, werk, werk.

9:20 a.m. ~ I hunker down in my cube and pull up my first story to edit. I’m refining a second draft of a story about medical justice. The copy’s fairly clean, just need to tighten up a few more turns of phrase here and there. Editing requires one to cut and rearrange words to make a story more clear while maintaining a writer’s voice. It’s a fun job, one that consistently challenges me. I dig in, losing myself in words.

10:35 a.m. ~ It’s time for another meeting, this time with my coworker Allison. Allison runs our brand’s social media accounts and I’m lead for my publication’s social media, so we try to meet on a monthly basis to discuss relevant content for our shared audiences. As we walk through the building, I list off our best articles from our February issue so Allison’s team might share a few on their Facebook account, which has a sizable following.

11 a.m. ~ Back to my desk for another hour of work. I have another story to work on, plus emails to tend, which keep me busy until it’s time for lunch.

12:15 p.m. ~ My coworker Michelle and I use our lunch break to run a quick errand at Target. I have to make a return and pick up a few toppings for dinner tonight — turkey tacos. She has to pick up supplies for a presentation. We move quickly; lunch and work await us at our desks.

Wearing my smarty pants glasses today.

1:30 to 4:30 p.m. ~ I eat a salad at my desk and finish editing my last story for the day, then I write and work through more emails with writers. I’m finishing my last assignment for our May issue, and starting on preparations for June. I look out my fifth floor office window. There’s still snow on the ground. The sky is gray. Summer feels light years away.

4:45 p.m. ~ After saying goodbye to my coworkers, I head toward the elevator. It’s time to pick up Jack, and my heart feels light. I also have a 30-minute drive to look forward to where I can listen to a podcast. This evening I choose Modern Love. I’m catching up so I select last week’s episode, which is a replay of the essay, “You May Want to Marry My Husband,” written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal before she passed away from cancer. It’s a beautiful, funny, poignant story, and the reader does an exquisite job capturing the complex emotions in her story. Tears build up in the corner of my eyes when the essay reaches its climax. Eventually it ends; I switch to NPR as I navigate a tangle of traffic.

5:20 p.m. ~ I’m at Jack’s daycare. His teacher opens the door to his room and yells “Jaaaack!” He comes rushing toward me, smiling. “Mommy!” he says. “Hey buddy!” I wrap him in a bear hug and kiss his cheek. “How was your day?” I ask.

5:45 p.m. ~ I unlock the side door and usher Jack into our warm house. I smell turkey tacos, Jay must have started dinner early. I hear Gus whimpering and scratching, anxious to greet us. We remove our winter layers — first scarves and hats, then jackets, finally boots — and Jack is chattering away. “Daddy?” he asks and I see Jay open the door at the top of the stairs. Jack lumbers up the stairs toward his father. We are home.

6:30 p.m. ~ Dinner’s finished and Jack and I are in his playroom, building towers of red, green, purple and yellow plastic blocks. It’s time for Jay to go to the gym. He lifts Mon/Wed/Fri when he’s not traveling for work, and I practice yoga on Tue/Thur, when he’s in town. I feel dread sink in my stomach. Lately evenings with have been hard. Our son doesn’t want to go to sleep, and I struggle with all my might to convince him to do so. Bedtime antics are at an all-time high, “I want milk,” “I want a snack,” “More stories,” “More songs,” anything that will delay sleep, my son will try it. I don’t want to do bedtime alone.

I try to smile as I say goodbye to Jay. I try to focus on the fun I’m having with our son but inside I’m anxious. I pull out my phone and distract myself as I scroll through others’ highlight reels on Facebook. I stop on an article from The Atlantic about “sharenting,” I begin delving into the story, then bookmark it for later and switch attention to my son, who is currently scaling his little gray armchair like a little daredevil. (I finished this article later and instantly checked myself by setting my Instagram to private, but I’m still pondering how I can respect my son’s privacy while also sharing meaningful stories about our lives with friends, family and followers.)

Scenes from The Velveteen Rabbit.

7:40 p.m. ~ I’ve successfully executed the first leg of Jack’s bedtime routine, which includes: bubble bath; diaper; “jamas” (tonight Jack selects a dinosaur pair); teeth brushing, which Jack and I do together; and an extra glass of milk. Now it’s story time, my favorite part of the evening. We select three different books: The Book With No Pictures; The Velveteen Rabbit and Jack’s Winnie the Pooh storybook. Jack snuggles in my lap and we read together in his rocking chair, Gus curled up like a cat near my feet.

I love reading to my son, and sometimes he even joins in repeating words and phrases from his favorite books. I love children’s books; my favorites are the ones with actual stories not just rhymes — The Snowy Day, Corduroy, Where The Wild Things Are. In this moment, reading to my son, I feel happy and present and loved. After we finish I will sing to Jack and place him down gently in his crib. I know this will be hard. I’ll ask him to lie down, and he’ll resist. I’ll lie down next to him and sing some more, encouraging him to quiet his mind and go to sleep. I’ll try to quiet my mind, too.

So. Tired.

9:10 p.m. ~ Finally I retreat from Jack’s room to mine, exhausted. Some nights I go straight to bed after this, others I read for fun and do what I call “evening pages,” essentially journaling stream-of-consciousness to get out all my errant thoughts, write prayers, record special moments during my day, especially with Jack, and make mental notes of to-dos. Tonight I rustle under the covers next to Jay, who’s munching a bowl of Raisin Bran and drinking a protein shake, eager to tell me about his latest PR at the gym. Gus snuggles up between us in the bed. I try to listen but I slowly nod off to sleep. It was a long, full day. A good day.

This busy life of mine — raising a toddler, nurturing a marriage, juggling full-time work and freelance gigs, working out, connecting with family and friends and making room for me — reading, journaling, prayer, a hot shower — is such a blessing. I thought writing this diary-style blog might make me feel exhausted and burnt out and overwhelmed. Instead it made me immensely thankful for the life I’m privileged to lead. Writing my story summons within me a deep gratitude for everything God’s given me. That’s what I try to remind myself anyway, even when the day feels not-so-good, wasted, ruined, dull, unproductive. Each day is an opportunity to learn, grow, encounter grace. Each day is a gift.

What does a regular weekday look like for you? I’d love to hear from you.