in which i write about (and knock off) shawn smucker

I'm really behind on reading blogs. Like, a month behind. I'd be even further behind if Google Reader didn't automatically delete unread posts that are more than a month old. I've now managed to catch up to July 1, mostly through a liberal use of the "mark as read" button.

I've been a little busy lately, and my escape-consumptions of choice have looked more like York candies and the Property Brothers, less like actual words and thoughts. I have too many thoughts right now, racing in circles, laced with anxiety, bravado, and a shadow of self-loathing. It's hard to add anybody else to the mix.


Shawn Smucker has a can't-miss, must-read blog. This morning, I did some must-reading. I never regret reading Shawn.

We have some things in common, Shawn and I. We both have kids, faith in Christ, relatives in Amish country, PA, online careers with words. We've both grappled with mind-blowing, heart-shattering failures of the grown-up kind. We've both felt we were careening down a mountain, brakes failing, family along for the ride (though I don't have the bonus of having experienced this metaphorically and in real life). We're both currently living in a parent's spare rooms. We have at least a couple of struggles in common.


On July 2, Shawn talks about trust in God and needing emergency ramps. And I realized I need to reframe my situation in my own head. The scripts I've been running (many of which are to the effect of I'm a victim and I need to figure out how to overcome this thing of being abandoned by my husband and/or I am moving back to my mom's because I failed at being a grown-up and this is the "least bad" option) are not only not helpful, they're not true.

I am not a helpless victim. Yes, Brian made decisions about our marriage that I didn't want, and yes, I wish he had gone about it in a less hurtful and crazy-making way, and yes, this all went down in the weeks immediately before and after the birth of our first child, and it was all strange and weird and hard. But really, I am not so special. Marriages with kids bust up all the time. Single women raise babies all the time. Separating/divorcing while pregnant is maybe not the norm, but it happens. I'm certainly not the only one to go through this.


As a mom, it's my priority to be at home with my child(ren) while they're not in school. Hard to do as a suddenly-single parent, whether or not child support is a factor. Ideally, I would make enough through editing to support myself. Realistically, at this point in time. my choices were to find a "real job" and put Gabriel in daycare, or move in with my mom and her husband. In that (limited) light, moving back looked like the least bad option. And my mom is probably reading this and crying right now. But it's no secret to her that I prefer to be independent as much as possible, and that there's been some strain in our relationship for a long time, and that moving back home again did not make it onto my bucket list.

But I will do anything for my son. Even move back in with my mom.

Living at home (again) means that my plan for adulthood has failed (yet again) and that I am (still) not independent. I'm almost 30 and treading water in a sea of shame and self-doubt. I should be past this. I should have launched by now.

Living at home (again) also means that my family loves me and supports and trusts me - enough to buy a new house and build an apartment overtop the garage. They love Gabriel enough to uproot their lives to allow his mom to do what she thinks is best for him. That's a lot of love. They've done a huge thing.

They've been my emergency ramp.


The last time I moved away from home, I thought I would die of mortification before moving back. Only losers live at home at my age, I thought.

But that's not true. Just look at Shawn. He's pretty rad.


visiting churches

I visited a new church on Sunday. It's a church I'd never been to before, not even when I lived in Chapel Hill way back when. In fact, it's vastly different from any place I went to before.

The church scene in the area is a little different, as could be expected given the years I've been away. The place I used to attend is no longer around, and the pastor there isn't in the area anymore, either. What's more, I'm in a very different place, spiritually.

I mostly grew up in a conservative Lutheran church. When I came here for college, I felt like I was "escaping" the restrictions of the church. I wanted to be somewhere that wasn't so strictly liturgical. I dabbled a lot in some willy-nilly nondenominational free-form churches for a while. That was great while it lasted - I could go to church barefoot and play my djembe and experience the awesomeness of a loving, smaller congregation. But eventually realized that I missed some aspects of the church environment I'd left. There was a sense of reverence that I kept yearning for - church felt more like a fellowship and less like a time of worship. Fellowship is certainly important, and I don't ever want to be a part of a church that doesn't feel like family, but it's no longer the only thing that will get my bum in a pew. (And I want it to be a pew, not a chair!)

I'm currently a member of the PCUSA, which is the direct result of marrying a PCUSA minister. Now that that marriage isn't really a factor anymore, I'm in a position to go anywhere and do anything I want, without restrictions or expectations. I don't plan to stick to the PCUSA now (get burned the way I have by a clergy member, and you might not stick around, either), and I think maybe it's time to revisit the church of my past.

Right now, I'm looking for reverence and worship during the service, and a sense of family at all other times. I want to be somewhere steeped in liturgy, with hymns on an organ and communion every week. And I want to be known by my fellow congregants. I want Gabriel to be known and cared about. I want a place where I can ask my questions and contribute my talents and be a part of something that goes beyond the 11am hour on Sunday mornings.

So for now, I'm poking around the Anglican scene. I visited an Episcopal church not far from where I live. I'll probably spend another Sunday there, and then see what happens after that. Some things I liked on Sunday: loads of babies making noise in the service; the Anglican cycle of prayer. Something I didn't like so much: the crucifix. (A crucifix? In a protestant church? I'm hoping the pastor will call me, as I requested on my visitor card, because I'm wondering about that.)


our living situation

So one of the major changes I've gone through lately is my location. Gabriel and I moved from Denver, Colorado, to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I grew up in Charlotte, NC, and lived in Chapel Hill for school and then a couple of years beyond that. I haven't lived in NC for 5 years, and now I'm back. Right now we're living in the guest suite at my mom's house, as our more permanent place is finished.

This house has a detached 3-car garage with an unfinished apartment overtop. The apartment is being finished (as I write this!) and once it's done, we'll have a 900-sqft, 2br place to land. And by "land" I mean "climb the 18 stairs to get to," since it's on the second story. We have all sorts of good ideas about how to safety-ize the place, my favorite being having a Dutch door at the top of the stairs. Who doesn't love Dutch doors? They remind me of Mr. Ed. Anybody else have that random, weird association?

Finishing an apartment is no joke. The square footage was predetermined (because of the garage) and the place was framed when we took possession, but basically we are starting from there. It was framed to be this glorious one-bedroom place with a giant bedroom and an ENORMOUS closet; we wanted 2 bedrooms, so the layout had to be tweaked. There were windows already put in, which we had to work around (and that made some decisions a little tricky). But now it's reframed, the plumbing has been moved, appliances bought, and some major decisions have been made. I think the contractor said it'll be next week? that the sheetrock goes up, and then it'll start to look like an actual place where people can live. But boy oh boy are there lots of decisions to make! 

Let's be clear: I am not the one paying for the construction. With that in mind, my mom and her husband are taking my thoughts "under advisement" as they make their decisions about how their money will be spent finishing the apartment on their property. The apartment ultimately needs to be income-generating, so the primary concern is using materials that will appeal to a wide range of people and will hold up for a long time. These aren't my decisions to make, which is kind of a relief for me and maybe a source of tension (on occasion) with them - because they want me to feel involved and included (and not repulsed by my home), but my wish list is not the priority. Really, I get the easy part - showing pictures of what I like, and then living there when it's all said and done. So when I talk about making decisions about my apartment, I am not the one making decisions and it's only "my" apartment because I'll be the tenant.


getting you up to speed with gabriel

So I had a baby a few months ago. Almost seven (seven!) months ago. His name is Gabriel, and he is my greatest joy.

Developmentally, I think he's doing pretty well. His 6-month checkup was an eye-opener for me, though. Brian and I more or less separated when I was 8 months pregnant, so I spent the final weeks of my pregnancy and then all the months following just trying not to fall apart. I didn't read the infancy books, I don't know the list of foods he's supposed to be avoiding for a year or two years, and I had no idea what milestones I should have been looking for. So when the pediatrician was asking about how he handles small objects and what he does in front of a mirror, I had nothing to say. Small objects? Isn't that a choking hazard? And why would he be in front of a mirror?

So, the pediatrician, who is awesome by the way and everybody in Denver should go see her (Dr. Emily), gave me a run-down of what to look for and suggested that I do some stuff. I also picked up the What To Expect book for the first year (good golly, I hate the What To Expect books! Information OVERLOAD!) and have been paging through that. He seems to be doing just fine, though!

Now for some stats and some real info:

He clocked in (three weeks ago) at 18lbs, 11oz, putting him at the 75th percentile. This is pretty consistent for him - he's been 75th-90th percentile since his 20-week ultrasound. He's also 75th for length (I think he was over 27inches) and 60th for head circumference. As big as this boy is, he is not yet a member of the Giant Head Club. He IS my son, though, so maybe he'll still get the giant head at some point.

He's been close to rolling over for something like 3 months now, but he hasn't actually rolled himself all the way from front to back or back to front until the past couple of weeks. This child hates being face-down. HATES it. He is nowhere near creeping, and I actually wouldn't be surprised if he skips formal crawling and goes straight into walking. He was sitting up at 5 months, which I think is a month or 6 weeks earlier than average. He's very strong, but he's a little awkward and uncoordinated, even for a 6-month-old. That's probably my fault for not making him do tummy time. But hey, I've been doing the best I can in some difficult circumstances, and if he's a late crawler as a result, then he's a late crawler with a mom who managed to survive something she thought would crush her. He will reach for things, and reach pretty far if he's sitting up, but it hasn't yet occurred to him that he can use these arms and legs to do helpful things like prop himself up.

So because of his seeming lack of body awareness, I'm working with him pretty deliberately. I try to get him to roll over with more consistency and ease, which I hope will lead to a better awareness of his own strength. I'm also putting him on his tummy more (we kind of took a month and a half off) so that he can get used to using his arms and not just his hands, and maybe eventually his legs will get involved, too.

Speaking of hands, I didn't really know to look for hand-to-hand transfer, but now that I'm aware of it, I'm noticing it all the time. I'm pretty sure this is one of those skills that he mastered a while ago. Whenever it happened, he is now a champ at passing things from one hand to the other.

I go back and forth on posting photos of him here. I know that would be nice for folks wanting to see him, but I feel icky about posting photos of my baby on the internet. I think it's a privacy hangup of mine. So I'm working through that. In the meantime, updates will be in word form only, and photos will continue to go out through email.


the state of the ashley (again)

My super-awesome friend Angie keeps listing Sidetracked in her blogroll. Because her blog has actual substance and is actually read by real people, I think it's probably time to resurrect this moribund blog here. What follows is an odd, early-morning attempt.

So things are different, now. I'm living back in North Carolina, now. I'm not married anymore (well, technically I still am, but it's just a matter of time until that changes, too). I'm still very much a mom, pretty much 365 days a year. I'm still writing and editing. So...big changes and big not-changes.

I think I'm in one of those places where most people would just get a new blog and "start fresh" or whatever. I'm not really planning to do that, although I've done it before and I probably "should" do it now. This little catblog is just a log of what I'm doing, though - a disheveled, incomplete personal history of sorts. I am not interested in collecting a mass of links to my blogging history, so I'm probably here to stay, at least for a while.

I'm expecting this will more or less become a log of what Gabriel and I are up to. I'm not really aspiring to be a "mommy blogger" and I don't have much confidence that any insights I might put here will be of interest to anybody. I DO know that I now have friends and family all across the country who are interested in the baby, and this is an easy way to share what's up.

But because it's a personal blog first and foremost, I will probably do a little bit of "processing" my divorce here. (So, former family-in-law and congregants, be aware!) This isn't going to become a Brian-bashing forum to air dirty laundry, and I do think I've already come through the hard, uncontrollable-tears, fist-in-the-wall, wailing-in-the-night part of the journey, but it won't be a feelings-free zone, either. Just so you know!

So. With all that said, off we go!