Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Adventures of George in a Year of Photos

George makes his first friends.

George draws back his bow.

George battles the bath.

George sends smiles and giggles to his Chicago peeps.

"George visits the island." "George patches in to Grandpa's motorcycle club." "George rues the day." "George remembers the Alamo." "George gets an education." George contemplates his first jump- mar 20 George goes to the movies- mar 25 George takes a break- mar 26 George supports the ba eagles- mar 30 George celebrates Easter- apr 8 George hangs with uncle Andy-apr 15 George strikes a pose- apr 16 George headbutts the camera- apr 18 George meets cousin sol- may 5 George goes to school- may 12 George gets behind the wheel- may 16 George steal grandmamas birthday cake-may 21 George takes his first yoga class- may 23 George conducts George goes undercover- June 6 George goes hunting- jun 17 George makes a discovery- June 29 George celebrates his independence- jul 4 George plots escape-jul 12 George expands to fill his space-July 16 George naps-jul 17 George hangs-jul 18 George meets jack- jul27 George takes flight-jul28 George experiences the flaming lips- jul 25 George rides bareback-aug 3 George goes shopping-aug 7 George charms the models at the Atlanta runway-aug 8 George meets his match- aug 8 George goes to the office-aug 17 George pleads the fifth-aug 18 George storms the castle-aug 28 George goes to market-aug 30 George ice skates-aug 31 George plays with th predators-aug 31 George gets tough-aug 27 George visits our nations capital-sep 2 George joins the clean plate club-sep 17 George grabs life by the horns-sep 17 George reinacts that scene from big- oct 27 George helps with the laundry-oct 3 George bundles up- oct 29 George dresses up- oct 31 George tries to fit in- oct 12 Georg hits the polls- nov 6 George snuggles up- nov 13 George parks it in the new world -nov 24 George gives thanks- nov 25 George brushes his tooth- dec 2 George meets Santa- dec 23 George packs for Christmas vacation- dec 251 George shovels the driveway- dec 26 George meets a snowman-dec 27 George window shops-dec 29 George takes a call George goes on a valentines date George reaches out- feb 12 George makes a scene- march 12

Photo Closet

I upload digital photos into folders on my computer in the same way that I discard the day’s clothes into piles on my closet floor. I let them stack and build and pile there until eventually, the mess overwhelms me (sometimes to the point of despair) and the closet is no longer able to function as a closet, so I am forced to organize and clean up. Well, despite snow at the end of March, Spring Cleaning has arrived, and I finally sorted through that messy photo closet and put together a family photo album of George's first year. Every year I buy a photo book on Groupon, and I feel really good about all the money I saved in so doing until I get that email reminder to "Go use your Groupons" which are on the verge of expiration. Still, I procrastinate. Who wants to straighten and organize a messy closet? Then I spend all day the day before expiration trying to beat the clock as I frantically upload and assemble photos into a photo book. As a result, I give our photo pages ridiculously simple summative captions such as "We really enjoyed the quesadillas" to describe our experience in the hospital when George was born, or "George loved the subway" to sum up our entire time in New York City at Thanksgiving, or “George discovered pickles” to describe our family reunion at the beach… (Incidentally, in my frantic rush, I forgot to include the photo of George ravenously devouring a pickle). I feel compelled to wrap the visual representation of our experience into some sort of narrative package, but with the pressure of the last minute deadline, that narrative is reduced to the first random sentence that comes to mind when I remember the event pictured. It is an unsightly work of free association. When the album finally arrives in the mail, and I force Matt to sit down and reflect on our year together, we get a good laugh. I suspect Matt enjoys making fun of my captions more than he enjoys looking at the photos, although I think the typos actually grieve him. (He is kind enough to not say this out loud). His grief is understandable. Our family generations to come will believe their ancestors ignorant of standard English language and usage, and it will be my fault. One of my favorite English professors in college constantly drilled in the mantra that "The real writing is in the rewriting," stressing the significance of revision. My unrevised albums are definitely testament to that truth. They are not shining moments in our young family's recorded history. The photo album task for the year 2012 was particularly cumbersome because I took twenty times the amount of photos that I normally take in any given year. It was George's first year, and prior to our son's birth, at least a handful of well-meaning advice givers told me, "Make sure you take photos of everything or you will forget. It all goes so fast." That kicked my already overzealous shutter happy index finger into overdrive, and it impressed on me the false conviction throughout the year that I had not taken enough, and I was therefore already forgetting precious moments with my firstborn than I could never get back. Thus, on more than one occasion, I had a "serious talk" with Matt (bless his patient heart) which featured blame casting as a primary confrontation technique--me telling him that our firstborn would not remember his mother at all because I was always behind the camera and never in front. If you looked at our photos, it would seem that my husband was a single parent. Of course, this would be all Matt's fault. Fearful of a Mama Bear's wrath, sweet Daddy Dear kicked his photo ventures into overdrive (these little "talks" may have permanently scarred him). We both overcompensated (one of us at “gunpoint”). The result was having to wade through a near 10,000 photos to make final selections for the 2012 photo album which I imagine no one will ever look at except for me and my distant descendants (one can hope), and probably George’s grandparents. I think it's safe to say that the declining caption and photo quality as the book nears October, November, and December reflects the tiresome burden of digging through so many images. When I clean out my closet, I usually take two bags to Goodwill, overwhelmed by the amount of clothes I have hoarded since the last cleanup. So, now, just in time for my second child's arrival, I repent of the digital photography age which has spoiled me. Back when I paid for film, I thoughtfully framed and considered each shot. I told Matt that if I am not careful about swinging hard in the opposite direction, Baby #2 is either going to think he was adopted or that he entered into the world as a one year old (I feel certain my digital repentance stage will be short-lived). All this to say, as I went back through our photos, I was reminded of some really special moments-- moments I hadn't forgotten yet, but that I was happy to be reminded of. Throughout George's first year, I posted them to Facebook for George’s grandparents and other friends see. Now, in an effort to organize the messy closet that is my desktop photo folder, I thought I'd post some of them here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Fresh Start

I love a fresh start, almost as much as I love green mint-chocolate chip ice cream in the heat of summer (or the dead of winter). As a pregnant lady trying to limit myself to one bowl a day, that says a lot. I am a planner and a compulsive resolution-maker, so a clean slate, replete with the possibility of newness and change, motivates the mess out of me. I can sit and list and plan and dream of the unwritten future for hours. Of course, certain days really tap into this joy. You can guess what they are: the first day of a new year, the first day of a new semester, the first day of a new season, the first day of the month or the week--the first, the first, the first. I like to begin at the beginning. You won’t find me starting a diet on a Tuesday or beginning an exercise regimen on Friday. If we are running so late for the movies that we’ll miss the previews, I’d rather not even go. Even the “Go to Jail, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200” card in the board game Monopoly stresses me out. Stepping in "en media res" is just not my game. What can I say? Orderly sequence comforts me. Does this sound neurotic? Probably. But we all have a little bit of that, especially once we’ve become mamas. And there are some of us who are even "lucky" enough to suffer with it for the 30 some years prior to receiving that oh so blessed title. So, with a complex about starting fresh, you can likely imagine how much I appreciated it when my firstborn son entered the world on a January Sunday. Hallelujah and hallelujah! A new year, a new week, a new baby—talk about a fresh start. His organized and timely arrival was a small kindness that I do not take for granted. Each time that I count out another week of his life, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that he has made that task so easy for me by starting on a Sunday. I didn’t know it at the time, but our son’s easy and intuitively considerate arrival into this world was a hint of the ease to come. He is an easy baby, and he truly “eased” both his Daddy Dear and me into parenting. Without our even trying, the boy ate, slept, travelled, and woke up with ease. From the beginning, he behaved like a joey in his mama's pouch—content just to be along for the ride. As a 3 month old, he wanted to feed himself by holding his own bottle, and by 6 months, he was trying to help to dress himself. Everyone has told me that I will pay for the ease of the first with my second. Well, payday is right around the corner. We are expecting Baby #2 in June  . . . on a Tuesday. A Tuesday!  The middle of the middle! My husband doesn’t get this obsession with starting at the beginning. He can start anything anytime, free from the constraints of time. But, not me. Sunday is my day: the beginning of a week, a mini-new-year gifted anew every 7 days. I am already fantasizing about the year 2017, the next time that January First will fall on a Sunday. Until then, however, I am trying to allow my husband's can-do, just-do-it approach to inspire me to greater productivity. He is the sweet, level-headed voice of reason in this lopsided union. I often send up a prayer that my neurosis will be seen by him as romantic comedy cute and not crazy. It's probably half and half. It is thus with some degree of exultation that I recognize that although today is February 16 (the middle of the middle) and that my hopes of starting a blog at the “beginning” (i.e. January 1) have lapsed for the second year in a row, I am starting something new anyway, trying my best to keep the discouragement of the mucky middle at bay, an effort I do not undermine as painless. After George, our easy firstborn son, was born, I experienced the sweet joy that is paid maternity leave, and later, the delight of becoming a stay-at-home mom. I anticipated maternity leave for 9 solid and hopeful months. And in that time I sat with my journal and listed some big, big plans for my "time off." I anticipated the arrival of my first child as the glorious arrival of a new epoch in which time would be flattened, and I would have endless hours to be creative. If you were one of the knowing mothers who most likely laughed behind my back when I told them how I was going to finally read through a stack of 10 books on my bedside table, begin violin lessons, and start painting again during my 12 week maternity leave, then let me say this: you were right to laugh. Beginning motherhood is hard! Even if your baby is easy, easy, there is precious little time for leisure, and no rest for the weary. Between scrambling for clean diapers and snagging a few seconds of sleep for myself here and there, I missed every “new beginning” chance to start crossing off my resolution list . . . and mine was an EASY baby!  My heart goes out to first time moms whose baby is not. Among other things in my list of creative goals for maternity leave, I thought I would start a blog and keep it up-to-date effortlessly and painlessly. George turned a year this past January, and I didn’t even start a blog in time to start at the beginning of his second year . . . or read all 10 books or start painting again. I missed the beginning again, but that’s okay. One of the obvious lessons of parenthood, one that really sanctifies the soul of a neurotic perfectionist, is that not everything is or ever will be perfect. You don’t always get time to put your ducks in a row and start at the beginning. A lot of the time, you have to pick up the pieces of the mucky middle and muddle through. The present is now. So, here I am at the end of winter, scrambling to pick up the pieces "en medians res" and learning to be okay with missing the beginning. All this to say, starting a blog today is honestly a personal feat. If I had a (regular) psychiatrist (and I probably should), we would definitely stop and acknowledge this as growth in the right direction.