Happy Birthday, Maya

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Oh, Maya. How can you possibly be one year old?

This year has been a rough one for some of us, but I think you enjoyed it more than anyone. And you have brought more joy to more people than you could possibly know. You have no idea how much you are loved. You have only a glimpse of how much I love you, and I’m just one little person.

Maya
Photo by Beth Fletcher Photography

 

From the moment you were just a sparkly thought in my mind, I have loved you. And there has never been, nor will there ever be, a moment in which my heart is not warmed by the thought of your precious, beautiful soul.

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I adore you, Maya. I can’t believe you have red hair, but it’s gorgeous, as is the rest of you. Your smile melts me every time I see it, and I can’t wait to see you grow to enjoy and understand your role in this family of ours that you help to make absolutely amazing.

May your every dream and wish come true, baby girl.

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stumped

The remains of a noble tree
The remains of a noble tree
I’m still standing. The tree, notsomuch.

A tree fell on my car.

Well, that’s a terribly self-centered way to look at what happened on Tuesday morning. The car was a 2003 Toyota Corolla. It was a machine, assembled ten years ago out of glass, metal, and plastic. It wasn’t without sentimental value; it had carried me through a journey of well over 100,000 miles and ten years of life . . . and it was pretty and comfortable and mine. But it was a car that had been a part of this world for ten years with limited expectancy for continued usefulness. It is now of lesser value than the sum of its parts, or so I’m expecting Liberty Mutual’s assessor to inform me.

But in the grand scheme of things, the car is insignificant, let alone the fact that it was mine. Here’s a better way to say what happened Tuesday morning:

A tree fell.

It was a grand, noble maple tree. A sugar maple, I think. I can’t say precisely how old it was because the high winds that tackled it to the ground ripped the core of the trunk out of its stump and left a jagged, illegible record of its life. But it was an old, old tree. Older than me, I’m sure, and probably older than my parents or even my grandparents. It was a big old tree.

So for me to link that tree’s demise with that of my car just because it’s my car . . . that just seems impossibly screwed up to me.

I can think about why the tree fell in terms of how it affects me or, worse, how I may have affected it. And isn’t that how we’re tempted to think? Why did this happen to me? What might I have done to bring this ginormous tree crashing onto my car? But it didn’t happen to me. I was there. Well, I wasn’t even there, my car was. It happened. For me to wonder for even a millisecond what role my existence played in the atmospheric struggle that brought this tree to the earth . . . or to my Toyota, ending its considerable life atop my insignificant vehicle would be nothing short of self-absorbed.

Superstition isn’t the belief in something bigger and invisible, it’s the belief that one’s own influence in the universe is bigger and more powerful than it really is.

Because my car was there in the street when the storm played Paul Bunyan, a lot of people have gazed at the wreckage and expressed their grief over my loss. I admit, I’m one of those people. But the big loss is not my Corolla. It’s not my need for a rental. It’s not the bits of glass still peppering the street.

A tree fell. A grand and noble tree that has been a part of this spot on the landscape of our world for generations has been broken, dismembered, and carted off. In the vast configuration, that’s the story. It was a beautiful thing, and I’m sad to see it die.

It’s the end of my world as I know it

Maya almost fills up an arm
4 lbs, 11 oz of beautiful.

I was a little surprised when I got the text. “They want to deliver this week.” Because, you know, Maya was supposed to be born three weeks later. I was a little more surprised when I discovered that by “this week,” they meant, “tomorrow.”

I had figured that Maya was in a hurry. But seeing it in black and white . . . or black and green, I guess. Texts can be so pretty. Anyway, confirmation of her early arrival into our sight shocked me. It shocked us. In a good way.

The next morning, I ran. I’ve been training for a hypothetical 5K for the past couple of months, I guess, and I was due for a run. The first song to pulse through my ear buds was “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. That made me laugh. It didn’t make me want to spell her name Mia, but it was close enough.

The next song was “Born to Run.” This also seemed funny. Born indeed.

And the next song made me laugh the most. “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I feel fine).” Because, you know, it is the end of the world and everything. Just ask the Mayans. See how my phone makes jokes? And, obviously, it feels like life as I’ve known it is over.

This beautiful girl has changed everything.

Maya Ryan Kellogg was born at 12:35 p.m. on Thursday, May 3, 2012. She weighed 4 lbs., 11 oz. And Heather? Holy crap, Heather. she gave birth with no pain meds. She’s a fierce woman, y’all. And she’s doing great. Seriously, as well as could possibly be expected.

And Maya? She’s small. She’s got a big heart. She’s a great eater. She’s super strong. I love her to tears.

We expect to go home tomorrow morning. So, world? Watch out. She means business.

Walk/Run

So. Tomorrow I was supposed to walk with Team James & Jake at the Valparaiso March for Babies. Ironically, poetically enough, those plans are in flux because my daughter was born three weeks early. One of two things will happen: 1) I’ll find a way to go to the walk with my team and my sons and we’ll walk like crazy (probably literally). I highly doubt this will happen. 2) I’ll run. Five miles. On my own, but not. Because I want to honor my commitment. I want to honor James and Jake Fletcher. And I want to honor the support of those who have already given.

You might not know that I’ve been running. Not very fast, not very far, but pretty consistently. Every other day, about 3 miles of running. 5 miles will probably feel like a lot, to me, but I’ll do it. I have to.

I’m hoping you’ll support me, this cause, and this family with your prayers, a gift, whatever you’d like. Thank you!

Two Boys and a Girl

On May 5, I’m walking five miles for two boys and a girl.

Addison, Colin, and I are walking in the March for Babies to raise money for the March of Dimes. Heather won’t be walking, she will (if everything goes according to plan) be just 19 days away from giving birth to our daughter.

But not everything goes according to plan. It usually doesn’t.

Neither Addison nor Colin were born prematurely or with birth defects, but when I look at them and the joy they bring to my life, I think of the many parents and children for whom things weren’t so easy. And won’t be. And I think about my daughter who is on the way I don’t really know when. How much does it mean to me to know that there are people who dedicate their lives to ensuring she has the best chance to live a long and happy life? Um, yeah.

So the least I can do is dedicate one Saturday to helping them. I’m walking for my two boys and my girl. But that’s not all.

I’m walking for two boys named James & Jake. And a girl named Beth. This is just my first year with this team, but it is the fifth and final year for Team James & Jake. I’m honored to be a part of it, and I would be thrilled if you would share in that honor with a gift in support of this walk.

Meaning


Sometimes (most of the time) I don’t care what the song means. I really don’t. Not for my personal enjoyment, anyway. If I’m going to discuss a song with someone else, I usually feel assume some ridiculous need to explore the lyrics and find a deeper meaning than what comes to mind right away.

Except, that’ crap. The musician’s intended meaning isn’t the deeper meaning, that’s the most simple explanation of a song. The concept of some string of notes and words and interwoven sounds and silences arousing an emotion within my soul independently of the author’s intent? That seems deeper to me than a conscious reason behind the song. So go ahead and tell me what this song means if you’d like. I know what it means to me. Can’t quite express it in words. But I’ll try:

I want to cry.
I like these tears.
You can’t see what fears my eye
imagines    on the other side
of the great divide between you and me and now and then and where we are and the far-away together

so. i wait but not
i love you now and see you later

I just like the song and how it feels like I’m with you.

 

And honestly, I don’t even know what that means.

Listen to Your Mother Auditions, NW Indiana: a Few Wonderful Ideas (Part One)

In May 2011, I had the great honor of reading at the Listen to Your Mother show at the Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso, Indiana. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I loved every minute of it. Now you have the opportunity to be part of the fun in 2012.

Auditions for the 2012 show have been announced. Auditions will be Sunday, March 11 (the show itself will be on May 10 at 7 pm) and both the show and the auditions will be held at the Memorial Opera House. The place is amazing and reason enough to go on its own. But if you audition, you’ll also get a chance to meet Steph who produces and directs the show. You’ll meet me, too, which I guarantee is more exciting for me than for you, but still. Exciting.

The show is a celebration of motherhood, but if you haven’t seen the show or been a part of it, you might not feel quite clear on what “celebration of motherhood” really means. Motherhood, after all, tends to be undercelebrated. Or maybe you totally understand the concept but you don’t have any idea where to start when it comes to thinking of a five-minute piece to read at an audition, let alone in front of an audience of millions (or hundreds . . . we’re not counting).

So I thought I’d use the wonderful pieces from last year’s show as points of inspiration for your own idea. Of course you’ll want to make it your piece from your heart about your own message of motherhood, but any of these premises would give you a great place to start. I’ll start with the first six and discuss the rest in a later post. (click images to view videos of the performances)

June Saavedra
© Beth Fletcher Photography

June Saavedra, “The Sacrifices Moms Make”

June took a basic theme of motherhood (sacrifice) and categorized the different ways that theme develops in the life of a mother (personal appearance, free time, sneezing with confidence, etc.). Interspersed throughout this catalog of sacrifice were anecdotes of specific examples of the various hilarious forms sacrifice takes. June tied it all together nicely with a conclusion that thoughtfully explained how all the sacrifice was completely worth it.

 

 

Heather Novak
© Beth Fletcher Photography

Heather Novak, “Reluctant Motherhood”
Heather did an amazing job of taking a before and after look at motherhood. She told us about the transformation that occurred on her way from “not interested in having kids” to “can’t imagine not being a mom.” She shuffled between hilarious and heartbreaking, and tossed in plenty of wisdom for good measure.

 

 

 

 

Meagan Francis
© Beth Fletcher Photography

Meagan Francis, “Peace Amid the Poop”

Meagan used the power of a single magnificent story to slay the audience with laughter. It was brutal and bloody and vengeful and hysterical. But that single story also delivered a seriously valuable lesson about the way a mother’s life (and expectations) change drastically in that the moments of peace become more rare, more difficult to achieve, and infinitely more precious.

 

 

 

Dork
© Beth Fletcher Photography

Adam Kellogg, “Mom’s Favorite”
I wrote this from the perspective of a child, and I took one overarching trait of my mom’s (the fact that despite there being six of us, she always had a way of making us each feel special) and talked about how that trait played out differently in the unique relationships my mom has with each one of us kids. And my family’s just kinda funny, so the humor was pretty much built in.

 

 

 

Lovelyn Palm
© Beth Fletcher Photography

Lovelyn Palm, “The Motherless”
Lovelyn just got on stage and ripped our hearts right out. The end.

(Okay, there was a bit more to it than that. Love kinda flipped the thought of motherhood inside out by telling us a story from the combined perspective of children who had no mother and from Love’s own heart, broken by the reality that she couldn’t give them everything they needed. Then she turned that idea on its head with the triumphant and compelling conclusion that she could be a mother to them with the moment she did have in their midst and that all women could serve as mothers in certain moments and opportunities when a child was in need of a mother’s love.)

 

 

Suzi Ryan
© Beth Fletcher Photography

Suzi Ryan, “While You Were Sleeping”

Like Meagan, Suzi used a single anecdote to capture a small sample of the essence of motherhood. What made this performance unique (and exasperatingly hilarious) was Suzi’s way of injecting her dry humor into elaborate descriptions of events that, in the moment, seem less than funny. Broken glasses. Running out of tape. Needing help taking the kids to their various appointments. Having her husband pick up food for dinner. Cutting the hair of the glasses breaker without the use of said glasses . . . okay, that is pretty hilarious on its own. The Seinfeldian (or Pekarian, if you prefer) hilarity was simply brilliant, but it all came from the events of an otherwise ordinary day as seen through Suzi’s extraordinarily witty and momentarily fuzzy perspective.

 

Dear Whatever Your Name Is

Hello, daughter of mine. Depending on when you eventually happen across this note to you, you might find the whole idea of this introduction a bit odd. (You might find me a bit odd, too, but you’ll get used to me.) But you see, there was a time when you weren’t here, and I want to tell you about some of the moments when I realized the days of you not being around were all but over.

See, if right now you think back as far as you can, you’ll remember something that happened before any of your other memories, the earliest memory you can reach. I hope it’s a memory that makes you smile (I love your smile, even though I’ve yet to see it). Whether it’s happy or sad, though, your earliest memory is special, because it’s the first moment in your life you and I can both discuss as informed participants. But before that, there was more. This stuff I’m talking about now? You don’t remember it, but you’re a part of it. So I want you to know. You had a beginning. And before you began, we were here.

There was a time when I wasn’t here. I don’t remember that. There was a time when I was a baby. Don’t recall that either. Then I was your age, and I can recall a couple things from that time. There was a time when Mommy and Daddy met, and I can tell you about that if you want. Some time later, we fell in love, and that’s a wonderful memory. Then we got married, and there are a few good stories about that . . . but at that time, you and your brothers were just wishes in secret little compartments in our hearts. Maybe this part of the story is boring to you.

Then Addison came along. After several years, Colin joined him. Four years later, a moment came along that I think you might find most interesting: I missed you.

You weren’t here, if by here you mean this planet, this world, this house. But I felt you here in my heart. I felt like you were on your way, but I hadn’t met you yet. And this not meeting you? I was not really okay with that, because I love you quite a lot. I like having you around. Anyway, this moment when I knew that I missed you and couldn’t wait to meet you, that was my earliest memory of you.

Your mother kind of thought I was crazy, and I should tell you, she was kind of right. But she was also very interested in meeting you, too. Then, one sweet Saturday, we found out you were coming. Babies have a way of sneaking into this world so no one can see them, but when their parents find out? We get very excited and happy and silly. When we found out, we were very surprised, super happy, and as thrilled as we’ve ever been. I really love this memory, and I hope you like it.

Before babies are born, there are nurses and doctors and the most fascinating little machines that can help us check on how you’re doing. They showed us you when you were too tiny even to recognize. They showed us your heart not long after it started beating. And, just a week before I wrote this note to you, they told us some of the most exciting news of all . . . you’re a GIRL.

I know what you’re probably thinking. Duh, Dad, I’m a girl. But our hearts got a little bigger and a little fuller when we learned this about you. Not because girls are better than boys or definitively different than boys, but because we knew you a little better. We knew we were picking out a name for a girl and clothes for a girl and toys and accessories and room colors for a girl. But not just any girl. YOU. And you are special. You are ours. You are the only you there is.

I’m writing to you now to tell you that however I am now that you’re reading this, I used to be different. Daughters have a way of transforming their fathers, I’m told. Maybe because I knew, from the moment I heard who you were, that I would do anything I could to please you, to protect you, to provide for you, and to make sure you grew up to be the girl, the woman God designed you to be. A discovery like that doesn’t leave a man in the same condition he woke up in that morning.

There is a part of my heart now, little girl, that is dedicated only to you. From that moment I knew I had to meet you, to that morning this week when I first felt you kick, to this day when you can finally read and start to understand these words . . . and on into forever, my heart is yours. I want you to know that now and remember it on the days I’m being a jerk.

I love you. Someday I’ll meet you and help name you, but those are the later memories. Those are the details that fall into place as they come. My earliest memory of you is loving you and wishing you were here in my arms. That will never change. Any time you need to know that you are special, you are treasured, and you are loved, I’ll be here to tell you and show you exactly that.

Now, what to call you . . .