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When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

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Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bedtime

Tucked under my arm on his back, O. arches and wriggles vigorously until he is prone. He knows we're not in his room, in the easy chair we'd finally started using for nursing just six weeks ago. We're on the guest room bed, light from the halogen bulbs in the adjoining bathroom stabbing into the dark with an almost palpable edge. My attempt at drawing a soft glow through the cracked door for this feeding hasn't quite worked, and the attractions of an as yet unexplored environment are too much for O. to ignore in favor of sleep.

He pushes up on all fours to look at the closet doors, the ironing board left at the foot of the bed, the stitching on the comforter. His mouth forms a tiny O, the expression he wears in moments of discovery. Brows knitted in concentration, he crawls toward the edge of the mattress and is ready to plunge headlong to the floor, but I scoop him up first, carrying him back to his room across the more gently lit hall. "Huh," he says in a tone that mixes surprise and disappointment. He's over it in seconds, looking to see what new territory he might investigate.

I return to the easy chair, which, of late, has been growing too small for the two of us. O. is a long baby -- all torso, with powerful legs that love to kick the back of the seat or its arms, no matter which way I turn. Nursing when he's not already sleepy is sometimes an athletic exercise. I've managed to stop him from biting since his first teeth started coming in, but kicking? We'll work on curbing this -- teaching nursing manners, some call it -- but the day's been long enough with a dead fridge and a repair man who's missed his appointment here for the second time in two weeks that I haven't been inclined to interrupt each feeding repeatedly to get the message across.

Tomorrow, I tell myself. It's just another boundary O.'s revealed that we need to enforce. Not that he understands limits yet -- that won't come for another few months. For now, we're just doing impulse management. Last week, O. figured out how to flip over mid-diaper-change on the bureau by raising his arms and grabbing the edge of the changing pad above his head for leverage. It took several days' consistent interference to discourage him from making it a habit.

Now, O. is wide awake, but I hope that in the dark, in my arms, he'll settle down and begin to drift off as he usually does when I nurse him here at bedtime. But he presses the soles of his feet into my lap, bouncing like a jumping jack. So I let him stand, holding his sturdy form close, and wait. I press my cheek to his and breathe in his babyness, knowing these opportunities are numbered.

It is the first time we've sat together this way, in his room completely unlit. Normally, when he needs to be put down, I walk the floor with his head resting on my shoulder -- if he will rest it there. He is all energy these days, eager to stand with help from any piece of furniture and itching to take his first steps alone. It's all too soon for me. O. is barely seven months old, but like D., who walked at eight, he's been early to seek ambulatory independence. I'm not ready to relinquish the baby who was once content to be cuddled for this new wiggle-worm who protests being asked to lie still, even to eat.

As our vision adjusts, I watch O.'s gaze, dark eyes searching as they do when he wants my attention. Can he see me? I wonder. He must be able to -- I notice his mouth is no longer rounded in wonder but neutral. I am not something newly discovered, or at least his perception of me, indistinct as I may be in deep shadow, is familiar. It is no accident that he reaches for my face with both hands, fingers closing with purpose, and grabs at my cheeks, my nose. I gently move his hands aside, but not before he gets in a good pinch, legs still flexing all the while.

And then his bouncing stops. His eyes have found mine. I give him a smile, which he normally returns readily, but tonight he just gazes back with a look that seems serious and penetrating. Or is it that he really can't make out much in the dark? I can't be sure. In that moment, I see wisdom in those soft, liquid stars reflecting their light at me, a peaceable security in O.'s understanding of the world as he knows it even in this shadowed state.

I'm tempted to ask him what he's thinking. I know he can't answer, but lately, he's been babbling to us as if we are fluent in his language. His unusual silence, then, feels suddenly powerful, almost uncomfortably so -- I'm catching a glimpse of an old soul, one I didn't know existed within O.'s wiggly exterior. To speak -- and elicit O.'s coos in response -- would be to scare this other presence away that lightlessness has revealed. I don't want that, as much as I also yearn for the sounds that reassure me that O. is still no more than a baby.

So I stay silent. After a minute or two, O. reaches once more for my face and brushes his fingers softly over my skin, then plunges his head into my shoulder. He's ready to sleep, even if he isn't falling asleep. We rise together from the chair, his limbs tightening ever so slightly around me against gravity until the familiar firmness of his crib mattress replaces the security of my arms. Without protest, he curls up roly-poly-style, as if nothing unusual has transpired, and I step out of his room into the light.

*

I'm linking up with Just Write this week. For more stories and essays, click the button below.

4 comments:

Kristen @ Motherese said...

This is a really lovely piece, CT. You brought me right back to my own children's early months, when I both marveled and rebelled at every sign of their increasing independence. I'm sure that it goes without saying that this dance you're doing now plays right through their childhood (or at least through the first six years; that's as far as I've gotten). It is a lovely one, but one that can break a heart in two. Enjoy that beautiful boy of yours.

C. Troubadour said...

Thank you, Kristen. It's exactly that -- marveling and rebelling as he speeds through so many milestones! The heartbreak is unique and completely unexpected. I find myself torn between spending those extra moments (or minutes or half-hours) just watching and being with him vs. getting things done around the house. But I start to lose my sense of accomplishment (mundane as it may be) when, at the end of the day, I can't say I did more than observe O., who certainly doesn't need me to hover in order for him to thrive. He's been an independent soul from day one. The most recent compromise has been running errands with him in the middle of the day -- he gets some variety in what and who he sees and I feel like I'm not slacking. We'll see how this works once he's walking and won't want to sit still in the stroller or carrier ...

Good Enough Woman said...

"Lovely" is my word for the piece, too. And I felt so gratified by the conclusion. It's so wonderful when they are tender like that.

CT, yours is a loving and appreciative voice in a sea of of irony and cynicism. That is so important.

I can't believe O is seven months. My little ones are 8 and 10 now! It is, indeed, frightening sometimes to feel the time slipping past. But every stage (so far) has been wonderful.

C. Troubadour said...

GEW, thank you :). I have my ironic and cynical side, but O. tempers that. A lot.

Your little ones are 8 and 10?!? That is amazing. Your Girl was 4 when I started reading your blog, I think. Time is like water these days -- rushing headlong in every direction, slipping through fingers despite every effort to make it stay. I suspect it will only become more so too!

Hooray for wonderful. I'm so glad you've found every stage to be so :).

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bedtime

Tucked under my arm on his back, O. arches and wriggles vigorously until he is prone. He knows we're not in his room, in the easy chair we'd finally started using for nursing just six weeks ago. We're on the guest room bed, light from the halogen bulbs in the adjoining bathroom stabbing into the dark with an almost palpable edge. My attempt at drawing a soft glow through the cracked door for this feeding hasn't quite worked, and the attractions of an as yet unexplored environment are too much for O. to ignore in favor of sleep.

He pushes up on all fours to look at the closet doors, the ironing board left at the foot of the bed, the stitching on the comforter. His mouth forms a tiny O, the expression he wears in moments of discovery. Brows knitted in concentration, he crawls toward the edge of the mattress and is ready to plunge headlong to the floor, but I scoop him up first, carrying him back to his room across the more gently lit hall. "Huh," he says in a tone that mixes surprise and disappointment. He's over it in seconds, looking to see what new territory he might investigate.

I return to the easy chair, which, of late, has been growing too small for the two of us. O. is a long baby -- all torso, with powerful legs that love to kick the back of the seat or its arms, no matter which way I turn. Nursing when he's not already sleepy is sometimes an athletic exercise. I've managed to stop him from biting since his first teeth started coming in, but kicking? We'll work on curbing this -- teaching nursing manners, some call it -- but the day's been long enough with a dead fridge and a repair man who's missed his appointment here for the second time in two weeks that I haven't been inclined to interrupt each feeding repeatedly to get the message across.

Tomorrow, I tell myself. It's just another boundary O.'s revealed that we need to enforce. Not that he understands limits yet -- that won't come for another few months. For now, we're just doing impulse management. Last week, O. figured out how to flip over mid-diaper-change on the bureau by raising his arms and grabbing the edge of the changing pad above his head for leverage. It took several days' consistent interference to discourage him from making it a habit.

Now, O. is wide awake, but I hope that in the dark, in my arms, he'll settle down and begin to drift off as he usually does when I nurse him here at bedtime. But he presses the soles of his feet into my lap, bouncing like a jumping jack. So I let him stand, holding his sturdy form close, and wait. I press my cheek to his and breathe in his babyness, knowing these opportunities are numbered.

It is the first time we've sat together this way, in his room completely unlit. Normally, when he needs to be put down, I walk the floor with his head resting on my shoulder -- if he will rest it there. He is all energy these days, eager to stand with help from any piece of furniture and itching to take his first steps alone. It's all too soon for me. O. is barely seven months old, but like D., who walked at eight, he's been early to seek ambulatory independence. I'm not ready to relinquish the baby who was once content to be cuddled for this new wiggle-worm who protests being asked to lie still, even to eat.

As our vision adjusts, I watch O.'s gaze, dark eyes searching as they do when he wants my attention. Can he see me? I wonder. He must be able to -- I notice his mouth is no longer rounded in wonder but neutral. I am not something newly discovered, or at least his perception of me, indistinct as I may be in deep shadow, is familiar. It is no accident that he reaches for my face with both hands, fingers closing with purpose, and grabs at my cheeks, my nose. I gently move his hands aside, but not before he gets in a good pinch, legs still flexing all the while.

And then his bouncing stops. His eyes have found mine. I give him a smile, which he normally returns readily, but tonight he just gazes back with a look that seems serious and penetrating. Or is it that he really can't make out much in the dark? I can't be sure. In that moment, I see wisdom in those soft, liquid stars reflecting their light at me, a peaceable security in O.'s understanding of the world as he knows it even in this shadowed state.

I'm tempted to ask him what he's thinking. I know he can't answer, but lately, he's been babbling to us as if we are fluent in his language. His unusual silence, then, feels suddenly powerful, almost uncomfortably so -- I'm catching a glimpse of an old soul, one I didn't know existed within O.'s wiggly exterior. To speak -- and elicit O.'s coos in response -- would be to scare this other presence away that lightlessness has revealed. I don't want that, as much as I also yearn for the sounds that reassure me that O. is still no more than a baby.

So I stay silent. After a minute or two, O. reaches once more for my face and brushes his fingers softly over my skin, then plunges his head into my shoulder. He's ready to sleep, even if he isn't falling asleep. We rise together from the chair, his limbs tightening ever so slightly around me against gravity until the familiar firmness of his crib mattress replaces the security of my arms. Without protest, he curls up roly-poly-style, as if nothing unusual has transpired, and I step out of his room into the light.

*

I'm linking up with Just Write this week. For more stories and essays, click the button below.

4 comments:

Kristen @ Motherese said...

This is a really lovely piece, CT. You brought me right back to my own children's early months, when I both marveled and rebelled at every sign of their increasing independence. I'm sure that it goes without saying that this dance you're doing now plays right through their childhood (or at least through the first six years; that's as far as I've gotten). It is a lovely one, but one that can break a heart in two. Enjoy that beautiful boy of yours.

C. Troubadour said...

Thank you, Kristen. It's exactly that -- marveling and rebelling as he speeds through so many milestones! The heartbreak is unique and completely unexpected. I find myself torn between spending those extra moments (or minutes or half-hours) just watching and being with him vs. getting things done around the house. But I start to lose my sense of accomplishment (mundane as it may be) when, at the end of the day, I can't say I did more than observe O., who certainly doesn't need me to hover in order for him to thrive. He's been an independent soul from day one. The most recent compromise has been running errands with him in the middle of the day -- he gets some variety in what and who he sees and I feel like I'm not slacking. We'll see how this works once he's walking and won't want to sit still in the stroller or carrier ...

Good Enough Woman said...

"Lovely" is my word for the piece, too. And I felt so gratified by the conclusion. It's so wonderful when they are tender like that.

CT, yours is a loving and appreciative voice in a sea of of irony and cynicism. That is so important.

I can't believe O is seven months. My little ones are 8 and 10 now! It is, indeed, frightening sometimes to feel the time slipping past. But every stage (so far) has been wonderful.

C. Troubadour said...

GEW, thank you :). I have my ironic and cynical side, but O. tempers that. A lot.

Your little ones are 8 and 10?!? That is amazing. Your Girl was 4 when I started reading your blog, I think. Time is like water these days -- rushing headlong in every direction, slipping through fingers despite every effort to make it stay. I suspect it will only become more so too!

Hooray for wonderful. I'm so glad you've found every stage to be so :).