Fall: Reset

It feels like it was just July – my favorite month this year – and now it’s October, the start of a season of holidays and celebrations and a little bit of sadness because it won’t look the same as last year. It’s a season of beginnings – baby boy’s birth and becoming a mom of three – and endings, too – the close of 2018 and saying goodbye to 31 for both me and my husband.

 Probably one of our last photos as a family of four.

Probably one of our last photos as a family of four.

I listened to a podcast recently that talked about the things that people do to retain a sense of calm and structure when the rest of the their lives are chaotic with travel schedules or significant life changes. For some people, it’s not missing a workout, even if they end up jogging in place in their hotel room. For others, it’s eating the same thing for breakfast every day – one less decision to be made. The craziness doesn’t last forever, but the practices stay constant.

Another thought I’ve been mulling over: “Our souls have seasons,” Adam McHugh wrote. “I want to let the seasons, and their inherent gifts, rhythms, and offerings, teach me how to live and to be more human.”

Yes, and yes.

In these #last90days, I’m embracing both the discipline of sticking to ways of living that remind me who I am at my core and the practice of paying attention to the unique rhythms and experiences of this season. I am not the same person that I was three months ago, and also, I am more me than I have ever been.

I believe in letting the seasons refine us – through what we shed, and what we adopt; in the ways we grow together or apart; in the beginnings and the endings; in each choice: bitterness or grace, anger or love, disappointment or hope, what changes or what stays the same. I believe that the way things end matter as much as how they begin.

The direction I’m headed:

Mind

I have a huge list of books on my reading list (no surprise), with a memoir trend happening:

I blame it on reading Kelly Corrigan’s book, Tell Me More, especially these quotes:

“Maybe you can still be a decent-ish person, a person with a personal mission statement, a person who aspires to be someone habitually good and highly effective, and fuck up.”

and

“[on I love you].

The first time the words pass between two people: electrifying.

Ten thousand times later: cause for marvel.

The last time: the dream you revisit over and over and over again.”

Body

If this boy is anything like my first two, October might be my very last month of being pregnant. I’m more than halfway through my goal of finishing my 60-day spinning streak. I screen workouts based on their playlist, so I put together my own playlist for Peloton. I’m working on a Fall playlist, but I’ve only added three songs: Best Shot (on repeat – the perfect song to slow dance to on the rooftop of the Ole Hanson Beach Club at sunset), Reckless Love (the promise I hold onto), and Damage (because it is so hauntingly sappy, and sometimes, a girl just needs some of that in her life).

After baby comes, my “workout” plans involve walking: for five minutes a day to start, then increasing by a minute each day until the end of the year.  Two weeks after baby’s birth day, if all goes well, my plan is to begin this 8-week Core-Floor Restore program. Can you tell that I’m terrified of “abdominal separation” and “pelvic floor prolapse”? I’ve generally been a secure person in all parts of my life, but pregnancy can throw you for a loop.

Heart

More than anything, I want to be a better mom and wife this season (and really, every season). I’m prepping for labor and postpartum with daily mindfulness and meditation practices, an evening gratitude list, and working through the MomStrong study with one of my girlfriends. This is the first time I haven’t been at the same stage of pregnancy with close friends or sisters – it’s strange and a little lonely – kind of like life in general, depending on the season you’re in. My goal is to spend as much quality time with my boys as possible, especially once I’m on maternity leave. There are so many fun things we haven’t done yet or lately, like storytime at the local library, Pretend City, and Little Lido Kid’s Club.

I’ve gotten back into podcasts, also along the mom/wife theme:

I may physically be waddling my way through this next month. Or rolling, maybe? (Front heavy).  Even through the discomfort and likely sleep deprivation, I want to be present to the miracles, tangible and otherwise, that this season has to offer and to end 2018 well.

Summer Home.

We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes…
— Madeleine L’Engle, from The Rock That Is Higher
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Summer comes to a close today. This summer for me was mostly a dream, partly a nightmare, partly déjà vu – like I had been through a season like this before but could only recall the feelings and not the outcome.

I’ve been trying to make sense of these last few months, and what I keep coming back to is that the season has felt like searching for home and finding pieces of it in the most surprising places. There’s the home that we build, the home that we find, and the one of which we only get glimpses.

The other day was one that started off sour. I was in a bad mood – I just wanted to get out of the house before noon, and all I could think about was what was undone, both literally and emotionally, and the clutter everywhere. Then, after we set up our towels and umbrella at the beach, after I had coffee and a burger – because truly, is there anything scarier than a hangry and undercaffeinated pregnant woman? – I watched my boys dance around the in the sand and felt the baby kick in my stomach. We ate mud pie on the pier and watched the surfers and the waves. There was sunshine and sea breeze, and the day turned out to be all kinds of perfect.

For five years, it was just Ruth and Dave, two kids who chose to grow up together, who chose love when it felt alternately inevitable and impossible. For a season, we lived across the world and only had each other.  Now, nine years into marriage, we’re a family of four, with one of the way.

My preschooler, Noah, told me the other night, “I’m so lucky. I get to snuggle you and hold your hand.” In a season of distraction – where it felt like my heart, mind, and body were all wandering around in different places – moments like these were and are the greatest gifts.

There is no substitute for showing up to the life that you’ve built.

What I’ve learned, also, is that there are pieces of home in the friendships that I’ve invested in – relationships where I’ve found parts of myself or seen traits that I didn’t know I had reflected back to me. There are relationships that make us feel known and loved, that point us in the right direction, the ones where we feel safe even at our most vulnerable. These connections aren’t perfect – because we’re human – but I’m grateful for them nonetheless.

This season was both surprising and familiar, disconcerting and sweet, heartbreaking and nostalgic. I’ve learned that it’s ok to feel the tension between two disparate states of being. The tension is a reminder that there is a home that we can’t quite grasp – one that we can sense but feels just out of reach. It’s ok to mourn not only for what we have lost, but also for what was never ours. There are things that we want that are not for this lifetime. Or maybe they are, and we just can’t see the way to them from where we stand.

Seasons are porous, especially in California. One day, you can drive with all your windows rolled down because of the chill in the air, and then the next day, it’s melting hot. Summer and fall bleed into each other like watercolors, like the sand on a shore, washing in and then out again.

Tomorrow: fall, with its birthdays and celebrations and Thanksgiving.  Tomorrow: apple orchards, cider, and all things pumpkin. But I’ll carry with me this summer and what it taught me about home.

Summer: Refresh

It’s not officially fall yet, but I do love the back-to-school season. After the emotionally intense month that August was, I’m more ready than ever for September.

 Throwback to last year's Oak Glen day when I wasn't a million weeks pregnant.

Throwback to last year's Oak Glen day when I wasn't a million weeks pregnant.

A list to kick off the summer/fall transition:

PLACES

  • I'm starting off the month with a pregnancy massage (here, for all you OC locals) and a Sephora shopping date (see my picks for the VIB sale below).
  • Labor Day weekend means that the apple orchards at Oak Glen are officially open! Los Rios Rancho is our go-to – their apple cider, cinnamon crumble apple pies, and caramel apples are unrivaled, and on the weekends, they smoke tri-tip. We've never tried the cider donuts further down the hill, but maybe we will this year.
  • My work leadership retreat is on a Hornblower yacht, which means I'll get to spend the afternoon in Newport Beach and finally try the new Tanoshi Hour at Nobu. Speaking of Lido Marina Village...
 Vintage wagons in front of the Lido House Hotel. DREAM.

Vintage wagons in front of the Lido House Hotel. DREAM.

FAVORITES

  • ... how cute is this vintage wagon in front of the Lido House Hotel? All the cool California vibes. Reminds me of this art piece from McGee & Co (15% off for Labor Day!). I'm looking at art for our downstairs powder room and am currently debating getting this photo printed and framed or purchasing the McGee piece.
  • The 2019 Day Designer planners launch on September 5! The printed covers are my "pop of color" in my workspace.
  • So many Labor Day sales! Linking my favorite purchases and my September beauty shopping list:

ON MY MIND

You learn that the people who love you do, in fact, love *you* – not what you do, not what you accomplish, not what you “do for God”… And so you are worth the relief of honesty. Take a deep breath. Speak your truth. Let the chips fall as they may. You will be far more grateful than you ever imagined.
— Sarah Bessey, https://www.instagram.com/sarahbessey/
All I’m saying is, this boy loves that girl, and that girl loves this boy, so much that perfect strangers can see it from their living room window. That’s the kind of love I’m going to keep believing in.
— Ashley Brooks, https://www.ashleybrookswrites.com/love-story
You are to pay special attention to those who, by accident of time, or place, or circumstance, are brought into closer connection with you.
— Augustine
  • Rise Together Podcast with Chris Heuertz – The Sacred Enneagram was one of my favorite reads this summer, and I loved hearing Chris Heuertz talk about the Enneagram in this podcast, particularly about 3’s (which I identify with) and 9’s and the relationship between those two types. I especially related to this about 3's: “They look into the relationship they value… and they see what’s missing – and it’s on the subconscious level – they volunteer themselves, they say, “I’ll fill that space. I’ll take on another role.” Attending a grounding retreat (the schedule is up for their September session) at the Gravity Center which he and his wife lead is on my bucket list for 2019. 
  • Streak: What I Learned From Running Every Day for a Year by Laura Vanderkam – I’m not a runner, but I do have a Peloton (find me @ruthiegyll) that makes it insanely easy to exercise. My new goal from now until baby comes: ride everyday – even if the ride is only 10 minutes. As long as I don't go into labor super early, I should be able to hit a 60-day streak at minimum.

Any tips for the end of summer season? I'd love to know!

The Transition.

I thought the summer of 2005 was hard, when I had to pack up for college and leave all my best friends. I went to a small, Christian school, which was like its own world – a bubble – hard to really understand unless you grew up in the same environment.

What I know now is that there is leaving what you knew, and there is loss of what you believed to be true. Those are not the same. That summer was an emotional rollercoaster, but this summer is soul-searching heartbreak and confusion.

Necessary change and sudden loss are so entirely different. One is like being in water that is turned up so slowly, you don’t realize that it’s boiling until you’ve spent some time simmering in it. It hurts, but you become acclimated. The other is an amputation, quick and irreversible, so abrupt and shocking that you wake up in the morning still reaching for that phantom limb.

There is so much that I’ve learned recently in the most painful way. So much that I wish I knew even a few months ago. There were feelings that I thought I buried, unchecked assumptions, and unmet needs that all came bubbling to the surface like a science project volcano. The gasoline was everywhere, but I was still convinced that no one would possibly dare to the light the match that would set everything on fire.

I learned that even good intentions can get complicated, something I only knew before cerebrally – it’s the number one takeaway from the field of international development. Proverbs 18:21 (MSG) has never rang more true: “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.” Honesty is bittersweet, and even things that are true are sometimes better left unsaid. We never really know what’s lying beneath the surface that can resurrect into the perfect storm of human error.

I find myself trying to do everything possible not to sit with the grief. My coping strategy is to read a million books (currently on my nightstand: Bittersweet, The Meaning of Marriage, Becoming Mom Strong, How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids, The Eternal Current, What Comes Next and How to Like It, Be the Gift, The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted, You and Me Forever), to move the ache from my heart space to my head space, because it’s easier to understand up there.

I made new goals, new lists – everything is a task. If you’ve listened to the most recent Typology podcasts with Claire Diaz-Ortiz, that’s me, right now, in a nutshell. I have appointments lined up, a wardrobe refresh in progress, birthday parties planned, and my postpartum exercise regimen researched (yup, still 7 months pregnant). I even signed up for the Sprouted Kitchen Cooking Club. I mean, good food heals all, right?  I was operating at 60%, and now it’s time to bump it up to 100, because it’s easier to forget what’s broken when you keep moving towards the better and the best. The record playing in my mind: what’s next, what’s next, what’s next, do better, do better, do better.

Spoiler alert: Move on and move on fast is not a strategy that works. There is no fast-forwarding. There are no shortcuts. If you’re lucky, there are second chances, but no do-overs.

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I’d rather have all the sunshine and iced lattes, but I’m learning that the layers of love and loss, lessons and let-it-be’s are moving me closer to wholeness. Shauna Niequist wrote: “Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity.”

Fall is a season of layering, of falling leaves and sweater weather. Even as I prepare for it – buying cardigans and faux leather leggings (that in reality, I won't be able to fit into for six months), I don’t wish for it to come sooner. There’s still healing to be had in the long days and golden hours and warm, beach nights, but even those days are coming to a close. Now is the in-between.

There’s a point in childbirth known as the transition. It’s the absolute worst. (I’ve had two unmedicated natural births with the obvious impending one on my mind). It’s the lowest point in all of labor, the point where it feels like the contractions are never going to end. They hit back to back, and there’s no relief. It doesn’t feel like dying. It feels like you are very much alive, and what you want is to not feel everything quite so much. Like, right about now would be an excellent time to go numb or pass out until it’s all over.

That’s the point when you know that you’re close. You just need to hang on a little bit longer. You need to breathe deeply and hold tightly to your husband’s hand. Time will pass at the slowest rate possible.

And then, your baby comes.

The time that seemed to pass at a snail’s pace, stops. Completely.

Not every real-life transition ends with something as transcendently beautiful as a newborn baby. But there’s hope in that. The cross was not the end of the story. It was the in-between, the transition, the slow passing of time. The story is still being written.

I came across an Instagram post recently that said that sometimes the wisest and kindest thing you can do is walk away. Part of walking away is giving up knowing how the story ends. Uncertainty about what comes next has never been easy for me, but I hold onto the belief that the ending is always about the deepest, fullest kind of life and that the transition is what gets us there.

Summer: Rituals.

In this season, I’m finding that the rituals that we have as a family are the ones that carry me through the hard days of exhaustion, emotions, and crazy pregnancy hormones.

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Even when I don’t sleep at night, I know that in the morning, there will be coffee and scrambled eggs and #fabfour smoothies and little boy snuggles.

After a hard week, we still have Friday night. Whether we stay in for tacos, or go out for Costco pizza, we start off the weekend together.

“We’ll always have Saturday” is my grown-up-mom-of-three-boys(!) version of “we’ll always have Paris.” Less romantic, for sure, but the nostalgia is still there. Even when we have no plans, we still have each other.

We stroll the farmers’ market, then hit the playground, then the library. Sometimes we go to church on Saturday night, so that on Sunday morning, we can sleep in – as much as you can sleep in with a toddler and a preschooler – before hitting our circuit of Starbucks, donut shop, breakfast burritos and sometimes Bagels & Brew.

We have rituals with words, too. I love you. I’m sorry. Do you want to snuggle? Can I kiss it better? Thank you, Jesus.

In the strongest relationships, the mind, the heart,  and the body come together to form a rope of three strands. Do you have my attention? Am I showing you that I love you? Am I physically present?

I hope that our little ones remember the trips and weekend getaways. I hope they remember what it feels like to roast marshmellows by moonlight at the lake and to jump into a pool surrounded by pine trees. But I hope they also remember the quotidien. I know I will.