Monday, December 31, 2012

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Just Call Me Pollyanna: A Lesson in Gratitude

Today, weather-wise, is about as yucky as it gets: the beautiful 8" of snow we got yesterday is melting into muck, mud and slush beneath a steady, 38 degree drizzle. The weather definitely has an effect on me. I feel at my absolute best when it's sunny and warm, and when the darker days slip in and over me, I want to just curl up in bed and hide from it. I'm grumpy. I complain. This is not anything new or unique; the majority of us, I would imagine, tend to feel this way on the bleaker, wetter days of winter.

As real as it gets, folks.

The first thought I had upon waking this morning was a complaint. Instantly. I had overslept; I felt groggy. I saw that Todd was not in bed and was suddenly angry that he hadn't awoken me. I was irritated at Baby C; I'd actually woken up just after 7:00 feeling great, but she'd been needing to nurse, so I latched her on and then proceeded to fall asleep for two more hours. Clearly, this was her fault for "making" me fall back asleep. Or maybe it was Max's fault for having a hard time falling asleep last night and keeping us up late. I was mostly upset with myself, knowing that it really was my own fault for not just getting up at 7 and taking Baby C with me to nurse in the living room. I felt like the entire day was ruined before it had even begun, all because I was out of it from sleeping too much and had wasted my morning. Besides, the weather was terrible. Obviously, no good could come from this day.

I do this, you guys. I do this and I am owning that I do it. It is something that I detest in myself, this propensity for complaint, for grumpiness, for self-pity and blame. I am so far from the person I want to become, the person I strive to be, the person who spreads cheer and encouragement wherever she goes, that sometimes it seems impossible. Something not even worth trying for.

I lay there in bed for a few moments, staring up at the ceiling despondently, feeling guilty for thinking this way and angry that I seemed unable to change the tendency in myself. Then, for a split second, another thought entered my head, a realization: It said, I don't have to keep feeling this. It dawned on me that I really don't. The tendency is there, yes. But I don't have to give in to it.  This may seem obvious, but it's amazing how hard a concept it is to grasp sometimes, or at least to put into practice.

My priest once put it this way: we have no control over the thoughts that enter our heads. We just don't. But what we DO have control over is what we do with those thoughts. We can allow them further in, dwell on them, entertain them; if we do that, we can still dispel them, but it is harder, and it is easier then for the thoughts to lead to action. But if we put the thoughts from our mind as soon as they try to make themselves known, we will have triumphed over them.

This makes sense to me. It's okay if the thoughts are there; they're there. I don't have to listen to them. I can take them and make them into something better, dispelling the negative, and ushering in the positive. This is true of situations and actions, too, not just thoughts. Take sleeping in, for example. I shouldn't have done it, but I did, and it's too late now to change that. However, that doesn't mean it's going to ruin the day ahead. I can let it, certainly - but I can also refuse to let it. I can get up and charge ahead and spread light and joy all around me, even in the midst of frozen dreariness, in the midst of wet pantlegs and holed up strollers and grogginess.

After I'd come to this realization, it really hit my hard how often I *don't* dispel the complaining and grumpy thoughts. The blame. The irritation. I'm so frequently playing the victim, I find, and I hate that about myself. So, I resolved to change it. 

So I have been. All day. Bam.

Today, my goal has been to not complain, and I have been able to accomplish that by finding the good in every situation. You can't complain about something awesome, right? It started as I lay there in bed, angry that I had slept in. I thought: Yes, I slept in and I didn't intend to, and this changes the layout of the day. And then I thought: You know, I am HERE, lying in a warm bed, in a warm house, with two beautiful little people tucked up against me, slumbering peacefully. Do you know how many people would do anything to have that? In that moment, my complaint turned to gratitude. I was so, so thankful, just like that, that I was able to be here, in this bed, with these children. That I was even able to sleep in - without having to get up and go to a job outside the home, without having to worry about going out and scrounging for food, even without being awoken by bombs and gunfire outside my window. That I and my children were warm and safe. That we were able to sleep soundly and peacefully. Who the heck would complain about something like sleeping in?? I mean, really?? I have seriously needed to evaluate my priorities. And it is starting now.

I've been trying to do this all day, this turn-the-complaint-into-gratitude-thing. And you know what? It's working. It has TURNED MY ENTIRE DAY AROUND. Not only has my day not been horrible, it's been completely full of peace and joy. My life is a FRIGGING CHRISTMAS CARD, PEOPLE. For real. And I am determined to start living it like that.

Behold the following examples.

Complaint: "My kid sucks at nursing." (She really does - she has a little mouth and had a tongue tie and still has a wicked upper lip tie, and doesn't handle her tongue well, and seems to have to fight for everything she is worth to stay on the nipple and get anything out of it. This part isn't a complaint, just fact.) "Every feeding is a complete battle and it's just not fair. Max was such a good nurser. Why can't she be the same?  I just want to be able to cuddle in and RELAX during a feeding, instead of fighting and straining to keep her on and constantly soaking everything within a one yard radius. I want to be able to nurse easily in a sitting positioning. I want to be able to nurse easily in any position. I want to be able to nurse in public without having a baby who makes sucking and clicking noises to wake the dead. I want, I want, I want, I want, I want."

Gratitude: "You know what? I am so, so lucky to be able to nurse this child. A lot of babies with frenulum issues aren't even able to breastfeed. It's not easy, by any means, but that just makes me that much more grateful for what I do have. If any of my future babies are good nursers, I will be able to appreciate it on a level that I never had when I was nursing Max. I'm also so fortunate to have a milk supply that isn't effected by a poor latch and a poor suck; many, many women are not that lucky. A lot of women would give just about anything to be able to nurse their baby at ALL, even if it involved struggle."

Complaint: "My back hurts! Argh! It's driving me crazy! OWWW!"

Gratitude: "Honestly, I am so very fortunate to have a body that is strong and healthy, even if a muscle here or there does wig out on occasion. Honestly, this little bit of back pain is a blessing: it helps remind me that things could be so much worse. Some people have to live with crippling pain, far worse than this, every minute of their lives. Besides that, you know *why* my back hurts? From lugging kids around all day. And having armfuls of kids to lug around all day is the MOST AMAZING BLESSING ever. There are a whole crapload of people out there who would give anything to lug some kids around in exchange for a little back pain."

Complaint: "I can't lose this baby weight. I'm fat."

Gratitude: "See above, re: body. Thank God my body was strong enough and healthy enough to gestate and birth two equally strong and healthy children. Thank God my hips widened to carry them and allow their passage, and are wide enough now to bear some of the brunt of the children propped on them while being carried around. Thank God I have some extra "storage" to make milk for my baby. And you know what else? Thank God I not only have enough food to eat, but have an overabundance. For reals, yo. Let's think about that for a second. People on this planet are dying of starvation. Those fellow human beings would - are you ready for it? - give anything to have even a little extra food - heck, to have barely enough food at all - let alone so much food that they would have to actually worry about eating too much of it. Especially mothers. What I, what we, have here in America when it comes to food is amazing. So it hangs around for awhile after we eat it - that's just a sign that we live in sweet and easy abundance, folks, and that's that."

Complaint: "My baby is teething/my toddler refuses to potty train/I'm tired/I don't get enough time to myself/blah blah blah."
Gratitude: "First of all, chica, this is LIFE. How can you complain about something that is a completely normal part of existence? We humans somehow seem to have come to the conclusion that life should be easy, that we are ENTITLED to ease, but that is simply not the case. Life is hard. Get over it."
 ...Okay, so that's more [well-deserved] self-admonishment than it is gratitude. Here, then, we'll put it this way: "Thank God I even have a baby to teethe/a toddler to potty train/a living body to become tired/so many wonderful people in my life that spend so much time with me." 

Ha. Argue with THAT.

I was trying to think of a title for this post and, of course, "Pollyanna" came to mind; however, I didn't really even know what that name truly represents, aside from the name given to someone who is being a cliche of optimism. So, I looked it up on Wikipedia. (Yes, I have seen the movie - calm down! My childhood wasn't full of sad deprivation, I promise. It's just been so long since I've seen it, even though I watched it regularly, that I couldn't remember what it was actually about.) Anyway, it turns out that Pollyanna was a little girl who'd had a few hard knocks in life. She coped with this by playing "The Glad Game", which involved finding the good in every single negative situation. For example, when she was given crutches instead of a doll in a donation box for Christmas, she was gladdened by the fact that she didn't have to use the crutches.  When her grumpy aunt tried to punish her for being late to dinner by sending her to eat bread and milk in the kitchen with the servant, she was thankful because she liked bread and milk and she enjoyed the servant's company. (If it were me, I would be flipping grateful that I had a servant to begin with, because that would be the BUSINESS. Ha.) When she was given a room in the attic without many furnishings or comforts at all, she extolled the lovely view from the window.
Do you know how that makes me feel?


I am humbled by the fact that there is so much darn goodness and wonder in this world and that I am privy to SO. MUCH. of it. I seriously must be one of the luckiest people alive, when I really stop and take stock of how much of this goodness exists in my own life. I mean really. I have health, food, lodging, a wonderful husband who loves me even in my craziest, most fault-laden hours; I have two smart, healthy, incredible children; I have parents and in-laws who are good and wise people and love me and my family and support us in everything we do. My husband has a job. We have presents under our very large Christmas tree. (The rockin' thing about Maine - one of the many rockin' things - is that our very large Christmas tree (seriously, it barely fit in the house, it's on the verge of ridiculousness) cost us thirty bucks. People in California and places like that have to pay approximately $7,823 dollars for even small fir trees, from what I understand. So, I'm thankful for living somewhere where you can infuse your house with piney goodness and Christmas cheer for CHEAP!)(And I'm thankful for having to vacuum up the pine needles for the SAME GOSH DARNED REASON!) 

I could go on and on.

But these speak for themselves:

I know there have been a large slew of posts out there in the blogosphere about this same topic, and this one may seem to be redundant in light of all of that. But I think these reminders and introspections are warranted, and that each one is not only equally valid but equally helpful. I don't think you can have too many reminders when it comes to gratitude. BE GRATEFUL THAT EVERY SINGLE POST IN YOUR FEED THIS WEEK IS ON THE SAME TOPIC, PEOPLE.

Also, go hug your kids. And your husband. And if you don't have any, hug your parents. Or your coworker. Or your neighbor. And if you don't have any of those, hug yourself (and for heaven's sake go get a dog or something).

Merry Christmas. Over and out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Sand: A Poem
by Sarah Nichols

(Hey! Get your mouse away from that back button, you jerk! Don't think I don't know what you're thinking! Hmph. People. They have no respect for poetry these days. They wouldn't know fine poetry if it blew sand in their eyes. (You see what I did there?))


And now, for you forward-thinking, cultured folk who have so courteously remained:


Sand on the beach

Sand in the hand**

Sand in some paint***

Sand in the stand****

Sand is red

Sand is blue

Sugar is sweet*****

And so are you.
So... here's a nice picture of a stream for you. 
For being sweet.
And reading my poem.
I'm not actually writing a poem about a stream in the second person.
That would be strange.

Let's keep going:

This sand once melted

This sand was trodden

This sand in a desert is dry and not sodden******

And holy sauce muffins, this person was brave in November!


Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go practice my speech for when I am appointed United States Poet Laureate. 

Later dudes.******* 

*Dear Blogger: Why is my last name in all caps apparently a misspelled word and worthy of your neener-neener red lining, but my last name in lowercase is not? Sincerely, Sarah. 
Dear Wordpress: We'll be there soon. Don't worry. Love, Sarah. xoxoxo

**The Toe Thumb strikes again (and again). Blast!

***That rainbow is real, by the way. Apparently Mother Nature doesn't think that my fingerpainting is good enough by its goshdarned self. Whatever, Mother Nature. 

****(Candlestand at church.)

*****And somewhat resembles sand, thus qualifying it for inclusion in this work.

******The fact that this sand is pixelated also helps make it not sodden. I have a feeling the TV wouldn't appreciate wet sand, honestly.

*******If I fell asleep at the keyboard with my forehead on the 8 and my chin on the shift it would look like this:
But don't worry, I'm still very much awake, so despite appearances to the contrary, we're not quite to that point yet. You know, asterisk-wise.

Also, if anyone ever wants to teach me how to make those crosses and little wiggly circle things and all the other footnote markers besides the noble asterisk, I'm all ears. And shift-8-key-combos.

P.S. Oh, and just in case you didn't get enough colored sand the first time around:

You're welcome.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Ειρήνη-Αικατερινη (Eirini-Aikaterini)

As many of you know, we are Eastern Orthodox

Today our daughter was baptized at St. Demetrios Orthodox Church in Saco, ME and I
thought I'd share with you some moments from our special day. :-)

Catherine Irene's patron saint is actually St Irene Chrysovalantou, which means that when she is baptized, 'Irene' (or 'Ειρήνη/Eirini' in Greek) becomes her Christian first name. 
We really love St Catherine of Alexandria, too, and wanted her to also be a part of our daughter's life. 
Thus, she was baptized 'Ειρήνη-Αικατερινη / Eirini-Aikaterini or Irene-Catherine.

Whew! I know. If you think that was long and complicated, you should try one of the services. ;-)

We love our church, though, and think it is incredibly rad.

Max and Nikolia, one of Baby C's new godsisters

Baby C gon' get dunked!

Baby C seems far more relaxed about the whole thing than her godpapa. ;-)

Baby girl and her WONDERFUL godmother, Georgia :-)

Our chanters

And... zonk.

Gettin' ready with Nanny!

She was smiling and cooing and laughing at Fr Basil the entire time.
It was splendid. She is a pretty rad chica, that Baby C.
Or a pretty rad κορίτσι, I should say.

Still smiling away as she goes into the water


Cool as a cucumber.
(Seriously, she did NOT CRY AT ALL during the entire thing. She was so peaceful.
Not that I should be surprised - that's how she rolls pretty much all of the time!)


Aaand again

Big smile for Nouna

"Well THAT was different!"

Oily oily oily. Oily. Oily. (Doesn't look like a real word anymore now, does it!)
Oily oily oily oily oily oily oily oily oily oily.
Now say it five times fast.

First haircut!

"HEY! You with the scissors! What do you think you're doing with my, like, three hairs??"

Ready to part-ay.

"I'm getting hungry and no one seems to be feeding me... maybe I'll just gnaw on this dress."
Nom nom nom.

Eirini and her new godsister Kassiani
(She really does like her, I promise. Right now she's just thinking "Why aren't you feeding me? WHY ISN'T ANYBODY FEEDING ME???")

Aaaand... zonk. Again. Post-nursies, at last.

This is what happens when your parents make you get up early and then you run around nonstop with all of your Greek friends for five hours.
I know, because it happens to me too. Both the early part and the Greek friends part. Ha.
(He seriously was so tired he just plopped down in the middle of the parish hall and stared up at the ceiling. Two of the girls picked him up and swung him onto a table and he continued to just lie there limply. You only have so much energy, I guess! Haha!)
Big happy family...
And bigger happy family!
Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to join us and help us on this blessed day. 
You guys ROCK. Hard.

Also, church folks in Idaho: We miss you tremendously. Wish you'd been here!