Happy Birthday, Baby

Dear Baby,

Has it really been a year?

Has it only been a year?

It’s funny to me now, how worried I was about your arrival.  Little did I know that the first year of your life would be the very best of mine.  I have a feeling, sweet girl, that it’s only going to get better from here.

Happy Birthday, Baby.

Love,

Mom

P.S. – in honor of Lil Mil’s first birthday (and the fact that, in the year since her birth, I wrote a novel and sold my first TV show!), starting tomorrow, I’m going to re-post some of my Embrace the Detour favorites.  If a particular post stuck with you and you’d like to see it again, let me know.

Embarkation

em·bark: verb \im-ˈbärk\:  to make a start

I am not one for New Years resolutions.

Ha.  Yeah, right.

I am the queen of resolutions.  Or I used to be.  Every year on December 31st, I’d write down a long list of ‘em.  Sometimes I was good at keeping them.  Most of the time I wasn’t, not because I was lacking in commitment or resolve, but simply because I forgot to remember them.

This year, I took the forgetfulness a step further and forgot to create the list all together.  I blew past my self-imposed deadline and thus launched into this new year utterly  resolution-less.  (Granted, it is possible to make resolutions on January 2nd, but it feels like cheating ’cause you’ve already missed a day.  How can you resolve not to swear if you’ve spent January 1st in a flurry of F-bombs?)

It was liberating at first.  And then it was terrifying.  By 6pm on January 2nd, I was scrambling to come up with something, anything, that I could resolve to do in 2011.  In 2010, it was “write a novel by May 1st!,” “blog every day!” and “stop consuming artificial sweetners!” But nothing felt right this year.  Or, rather, nothing I could come up with felt like the thing I’m supposed to be doing.  Because there is something — many somethings, so many somethings — I’m supposed to be chasing after this year, I just can’t quite figure out what those somethings are.  Read the Bible more.  Pray.  Keep writing every day.  Write something new.  Do something new and scary and challenging.  Try to be a good mom.  Fail and try again.  Sell my book.  Spend more time thinking and not doing.  Spend more time with my husband.  Spend less time with my screen.  Write more.

And now it’s January 6th and all I have is the list I just wrote.  It’s ambitious and probably too vague to be a proper list of goals but it’s all I’ve got so it’ll have to do.

Here’s to being better versions of ourselves this year, starting with this day.  And starting over again tomorrow if we need to, whether it’s January 1st or 6th or March 4th or August 9th.

Living a Laugh-Cry

It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and we were both in the kitchen.  I was on the phone with Mom and she was playing with the toys in her drawer.  A few weeks ago, in an attempt to keep her out of our pots and pans (and because I have so far been to lazy to do any official, plastic-latch-on-the-cabinent-that-even-adults-can’t-figure-out childproofing), I emptied out one of our bottom kitchen drawers and filled it with Lil Mil’s toys. Now, when I’m in the kitchen cooking (or, in this case, sitting in the kitchen floor talking on the phone), Lil Mil has something to do. She seems to know that this particular drawer is her drawer, and she seems not to care that the toys inside it are the same ones she’s been playing with since she was old enough to play.

On Sunday, she was standing at the end of the drawer, removing its contents one by one. Mom was asking about her granddaughter, so my eyes were on Lil Mil as I described the delight with which my daughter had devoured her Thanksgiving meal (the girl loves her some cornbread). Happy to have my attention, Lil Mil let go of the drawer and walked towards me.

Walked. Towards me.

I immediately screamed “she’s walking!,” and Mom and Dad cheered. Lil Mil just plopped down on her butt and laughed, totally clueless that she’d just participated in a momentous moment, and not the least bit interested in demonstrating her new skill again.

I could not accept this. I had to see it at least one more time to confirm that it had actually happened. So I stood her back up, placed her little hands on the edge of the drawer for balance, then scooted back three feet and beckoned for her to come towards me. It took a little coaxing (okay, a lot), but eventually she did it.

This time, she knew she’d done something new and possibly important (perhaps it was all the wild shrieking her mom was doing). Beside herself with excitement, she collapsed into me and dissolved into uncontrollable giggles.

“Let’s do it again!” I said, standing her back up. She looked at me and kept laughing. Or was she crying? I studied her and couldn’t tell.

Slightly concerned but determined to confirm that I hadn’t imagined what just happened, I got her all set up and scooted away.

She stayed standing, clearly up for the challenge of Round Two, but that laugh was really throwing me.  It had this slightly maniacal quality, which matched the slightly maniacal look in her eyes. She was literally beside herself with emotion. As she let go of the drawer and wobbled toward me, the laugh morphed into a full fledged cry. But she didn’t fall or sit down. She kept walking.  And then, just like that, she was laughing again.

Joy.  Excitement.  Pride.  Bewilderment.  Uncertainty.  Panic.  Anxiety.  Fear.  I could see it in her eyes, she was experiencing all of these things at once, which is why a mere laugh wasn’t sufficient. But a pure cry wasn’t right, either.  She needed to do both.  She needed to laugh-cry.

And realizing that, I understood for the first time why this was a such a momentous occasion.  My daughter was – right now, right before my eyes – exceeding her own expectations.  It was freaking her out a little, but she wasn’t letting that deter her.  She was seizing this moment and walking the hell out of it.

Joyous.  Excited.  Proud.  Bewildered.  Uncertain.  Panicked.  Anxious.  Afraid.  Watching her, I was all of these things.  As she stumbled towards me and into my open arms, I was laugh-crying, too.

Thankful

I didn’t know what I was getting into.

Exactly a year ago, on Thanksgiving 2009, I revealed my super secret “creative project” to my family.  Up until that day, Embrace the Detour was just a figment of my imagination.  Yes, I owned the domain name and yes, I had paid someone to design the site (back then, I knew exactly nothing about HTML and the ins and outs of Wordpress), but since no one knew about ETD, I could pretend it didn’t exist.

But I didn’t want to.  Not back then, anyway.  Shot through with third trimester pregnancy hormones, I was raring to go.  I didn’t want to wait until Lil Mil arrived.  Eager to convince myself (and everyone else) that I COULD DO THIS! I started working on my first post (which, I’ll admit, took me over a week to write).

While certainly supportive, my family had mixed feelings about this creative project of mine.  Husband in particular was lukewarm.  He was excited that I was excited, but at the same time, he was worried that I was taking on too much.

I was.

Of course at the time I didn’t realize that.  I honestly believed that I could write — and finish! — a novel in the first three months of my baby’s life, and I said as much on my Because page.  Believe me, if I’d known how incredibly hard the undertaking would prove to be, I never would’ve made such a grand (and public) pronouncement.

Thank God I didn’t know.

By the time I realized what I’d signed up for, it was too late.  There were too many people watching and, even more than that, too many people telling me to give up.  It was too much, they said.

They were right, of course, but I refused to accept that.  So I kept at it.  Kept juggling.  Kept struggling.  Kept writing.

Three months turned into 100 days.  My definition of “draft” morphed into something more manageable.  My blog posts became less frequent.

But I kept at it.  Kept juggling.  Kept struggling.  Kept writing.

And today, one year after this blog was born and 10 months and 8 days after my baby was born, I have a completed novel to show for it.  And!  On top of that, I have something unexpected.  A community.  This community.  Friends!  Not the fake, we-met-over-the-Internet kind, but the real, live, we-met-over-the-Internet kind.  Friends like Rachel of MWF Seeking BFF (who I met in person two weeks ago and am now obsessed with.  Rachel, if I move to Chicago can I please be your BFF?)

Thank God for unrealistic expectations.  Thank God for this blog and the book that came out of it.  Thank God for the baby who’s made all the juggling and struggling worthwhile.  Thank God for the boy who is juggling and struggling with me, holding my hand while I do it.

And thank God for you, my friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

While You Were Out

Any day now, Lil Mil will take her first steps.  Someone will be there to see it. 

It won’t be me.

Yes, I’m being pessimistic, but I’m also going with the odds.  During the week, I see my daughter for about two hours every morning.  Sometimes less.  On the weekends, I’m with her all day, but we’re usually out doing stuff, so she doesn’t spend much time on her feet.  It’s during the week, while I’m at work and she’s with S (the part-time babysitter who became our full-time nanny when we yanked Lil Mil out of daycare - see what you missed while I was away?) that she prances around the house, holding on to her wooden pushtoy, hamming it up for the applause she’s come to expect (if she doesn’t get it, she’ll plop down and clap for herself).

Most weeks, there’s at least a chance I’d be there to  witness those monumental first steps.  But this week, Lil Mil is with Mom and Dad for the week (mine, not hers), which means that if she decides to walk in the next six days, I will most certainly miss it.

Is it horrible that I’m willing my daughter not to walk just because I want to be there when she does?