As you may recall, my husband and I bought a squat in November 2013, which you can read all about here. We spent 18 long months pouring everything we had into this project and finally moved in this past June, three weeks before Wren was born (I was painting bookshelves until the very last minute). There are still a few things left unfinished — stairs to paint, speakers to install, snags to fix but we are very nearly there. Many of you have asked for before and after photos, so here they are, thanks to my lovely friend Xanthe who photographed the place when it was a squat and shortly after we moved in. I’m so grateful for these memories.
We are completely in love with our new home. It feels like we are living in some boutique hotel (a boutique hotel that has been taken over by a four-month-old baby). Sadly, it looks like we may have to sell the place at the start of the new year. It’s a long and bitter story and I won’t bore you with the details. But until that day comes, we are going to enjoy the shiznit out of our new digs. After all, it’s just a house. We can build a home wherever we go.
Someone’s son, daughter, mother, father, sister, brother, friend, lover, spouse is grieving today. I woke up this morning so grateful to have my husband on one side, my daughter on the other, my friends and family safe and sound in their own beds.
I’ll never understand why we can’t just all live together in peace on this big, beautiful planet. I’ll never understand.
“later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
― Warsan Shire
Motherhood is kicking my ass today, y’all. Do not be fooled by that angelic face. This little devil child woke up no less than EIGHT TIMES last night, two of which were for over an hour. She’s like a tiny raver, doing snow angels in the night.
Thank God she’s so cute because her sleepless ways are sucking the life out of me. If I may be so crude, my eyes are starting to look like Hugh Hefner’s ball sack (I heard that in a movie once, I think, and it felt appropriate. Come to think of it, maybe the mention of Hugh Hefner’s ball sack is never appropriate. Sorry folks.)
We’re getting a sleep expert to come and help us out this weekend. Sounds like such a modern, first world problem with a posh solution, but I’ve been woken up every two hours (sometimes every hour) for the past TWENTY WEEKS and I’m ready to do anything to sleep for five consecutive hours. Just five little hours.
I reckon the Stewart household is going to look like a zombie invasion over the next couple of weeks, as we all adjust to this new sleeping plan. I hope there’s light at the end of the tunnel, otherwise I’m afraid we are going to have to send this one back. Cute or not, she’s clearly defective.*
*That face though! How am I supposed to resist that?
… 2014. What? Yes ladies and gentlemen, we are going back in time. That was the summer when everybody called me Baby, and it didn’t occur to me to mind. That was before President Kennedy was shot, before the Beatles came, when I couldn’t wait to join the Peace Corps, and I thought I’d never find a guy as great as my dad. That was the summer we went to Kellerman’s. Oh wait! Did I get my life mixed up with Jennifer Grey’s again? I thought I’d stopped doing that when I was 13. Too many teenage fantasies of Patrick Swayze to the tune of Solomon Burke’s Cry to Me will do that to you.
Sadly, we’re not going to Kellerman’s today. But we are turning the clocks back to the summer of 2014 (well, half the summer because I’ve run out of photo space on my WordPress account), before dad died, before I got knocked up, before I stopped blogging. It’s day 12 of the NaBloPoMo challenge and we are dipping into the archives, people. I have 72 drafts behind these curtains — 72 half-finished blog posts spanning the past 7 years. This is one of them.
Earlier this year, two weeks before Wren was born, I turned 40. Needless to say, this milestone was overshadowed by the fact that I was carrying a giant watermelon, which was soon going to be pushed out of my vagina. Forty felt pretty minor compared with what was coming.
Several months in, I can now reflect on the whole thing and the truth is, I don’t feel 40. Most days, I feel too young to even be a mom.
Fact: it’s categorically impossible to feel old when you’re playing peekaboo or singing the Hokey Pokey.
Tangent: Or the Hokey Cokey as they like to call it over here. When I first heard one of the mothers at the local baby sing-along class (yes, baby parties, that’s how I roll these days) sing Cokey, I wanted to lean over and say, “PO-key. It’s Pokey with a P.” But then I realised they were ALL saying Cokey and I was the only one singing Pokey. I just can’t bring myself to say Cokey because I’ve said Pokey my entire life, but if I say Pokey, then Wren will say Pokey and they’ll probably make fun of her at nursery — along with her casual use of sidewalk, toilet, stroller, dessert and back yard. To Cokey or to Pokey, that is the question. Both sound dirty when you look at them like that. Now I’ve gone and said Cokey and Pokey too much and it’s doing my head in. This was meant to be an in-depth analysis on turning 40 and we’re now talking about the Hokey Pokey. No wonder it’s taken me two days to write this post. I think it’s time to end this tangent.
Back to the issue at hand. Yes, most days I’m fine with being 40 but I also struggle with it. You see, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and I often feel like I should have accomplished more by now. Everywhere I look, people half my age seem to have achieved twice as much. Do you ever feel that way? And becoming a mother puts the brakes on everything (at least temporarily), which makes me feel anxious, like my ambitions (whatever they were, I never really knew) are sprinting ahead and I’m running out of time. Tick tock, tick tock.
Sigh. Frankly, I am disappointed that this feeling of “not being enough” followed me into my forties. I thought maybe it would magically stay at the door, with the rest of my thirties and my twenties before that, where it bloody belongs. I mean there’s gotta be some benefits to turning 40, right?
Note: my child is currently whining because she wants the yellow toy, not the blue toy. THE YELLOW TOY, MOM!!! As such, I can’t really focus at the moment and think of a clever segue into the next paragraph, so I’m just going to jump right in if that’s ok.
Luckily, projects like like these remind me of how far I’ve come and how much I have to look forward to. “As these women tell it, aging is not a subtraction, but an accumulation of experiences that make life richer. If that kind of experience shows on our faces, then so much the better. Here’s to each of us wearing our own experiences proudly.” How awesome is THAT? Be gone feelings of inadequacy. I hereby banish you! And lo and behold, my friend Karen is featured in the article. Can you believe she is 48? What? Go on Karen, you gorgeous diva!
And for more inspiration, check out Elizabeth’s thoughts on middle age, as an island of tranquility where no fucks are given. That’s where I’m heading people. Unapologetically.
*This post wasn’t meant to be a stream of consciousness. It was meant to inspire you and make you feel like 40 is bad-ass, which is how I felt after reading the above-mentioned posts. So if you are looking for that kind of inspiration, read those. They’ll leave you feeling strong and confident and bloody amazing… as opposed to getting the Hokey Pokey stuck in your head. You’re welcome for that.
Last week, a heavy fog descended on London and for two mornings, the city sparkled with bejewelled spider webs, each one glistening with dew. Our street looked like something out of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewellery box — hundreds of strings of diamonds and crystals hanging from tree branches and lamp posts and iron gates. As my friend Sas said, it’s like the spiders threw a party while we were sleeping. Everything felt hushed by the fog and the webs shimmered all morning, until the sun burned them off and I was reminded once again that nature truly is the most remarkable artist.
“The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.” –Pablo Picasso
I came home from running errands in the rain yesterday, my umbrella abused to within an inch of its cheap life, its ribs cracked wide open and joints snapped by November’s wrath, droplets dripping from my grocery bags, and when I walked up the stairs, I saw that my husband had lit the first fire of the season. Is there anything better than coming home to a fire when it’s pissing it with rain outside? Billie Holiday was playing on the turntable and I turned the lights down low and then sat on the couch with Wren, both of us completely transfixed by the flames, while Joe marinated ribs for dinner, and I just looked over at him and said, “This is nice, isn’t it?”
A perfectly ordinary moment. Nothing exceptional, no bells, no whistles, no thrills, no trimmings. Just us. Our little family of three at home, warm, out of the rain, doing ordinary things.
We really don’t say it enough do we? This is nice, isn’t it?
Sure, I could focus on the fact that my daughter shit herself at 2:30am and she then somehow managed to pee all over the bed in that split second between my husband removing the dirty nappy and putting a clean one on. And how there is a pile of laundry the size of Everest in the corner of our bedroom and a knot the size of Jupiter in my back, and since giving birth, I’ve shed more hair than a Pomeranian in July. But there are far nicer things to focus on: Sunday morning pancakes, coffee in the park, a Skype date with my sister, those ribs smoking in the smoker, clean sheets, popcorn.
So for the next month, my goal is to say, “This is nice, isn’t it?“ to myself or anyone else willing to listen, out loud, at least once a day. Right down to this very moment, this quiet before Wren wakes, this opportunity to be creative, even if only for 10 minutes.
“For most of life, nothing wonderful happens. If you don’t enjoy getting up and working and finishing your work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then the chances are you’re not going to be very happy. If someone bases his [or her] happiness on major events like a great job, huge amounts of money, a flawlessly happy marriage or a trip to Paris, that person isn’t going to be happy much of the time. If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap, then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness.”– Andy Rooney