Everything About It

It starts with a rhythm that sounds like a heartbeat. And warm, round chords that swirl around the slow pulsing. It talks about trying to write a song and escaping into the imagination for ideas.

And then the details come. Describing life in snapshots, interchanging eloquent and perfectly simple words.  Golden clouds shuffling the sunshine, a birthday party, frost creeping over a pond.

Honestly, I canʼt always tell what Paul Simon means in his songs, but I like the challenge of trying to solve the puzzle. Heʼs much smarter than me. But if I pay attention I know what his songs mean to me, and thatʼs enough.

This one seems a bit easier to understand than others, but the more I listen, the deeper it feels.  Everything about it is a love song – a line from the song, and itʼs title.  If you listen to the rest, it’s clear (to me) he’s saying every bit of life is a wondrous thing.  Sad, happy, emotional, deep, full of pain and joy and lovely detail.  Like a love song.  The mundane, the special moments, the fact that we screw up and have to say we’re sorry – added up and jumbled together itʼs a beautiful mess. When you get outside of yourself and look at living from a distance, you can see the big picture.

It reminds me of the movie Gravity.  George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are stranded in space, and the view of the earth that director Alfonso Cuaron digitally creates is breathtaking. Watching it, I wished I could do that.  Not be stranded, but see our planet and the cosmos from that vantage point. From there you see the broad strokes of color, darkness and light, swirls of clouds that cover whole continents. You see mathematical accuracy, the structure of atoms, the Periodic Table of Elements, the laws of physics played out with brilliance before you.  Added together, equaling Earth. The picture made when millions of details combine to make a whole.  You see your smallness.  And instead of it being scary or making life seem insignificant, it leaves you speechless, in happy awe.  Because your’e witnessing a moving, living piece of art.  Like something created with purposeful hands.  Like a love song.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the song begins with a heartbeat.  The sound of life pulsing beneath the chords of the guitar.  Paul Simon gets up close and examines the trees, steps away and sees the forest, and can somehow express them both in his lyrics.  What a gift.  I’m thankful for this song, reminding me of the work of art laid out before me each day.

And everything about it is a love song.

Everything about it.

Everything about it is a love song.

Everything about it.

Everything about it is a love song.


The Real Update

I bought myself a christmas card mobile this year, and I adore it.  It’s designed well, it looks pretty, and it lets me see the people I love (especially those who live far away) with a mere glance upward.  Some of those cards come with a letter, catching friends and family up on the accomplishments, the vacations, the births and birthdays of family.  I used to write one of those myself.  These days I opt for a (much easier) photo card, but if I were to revisit the annual letter, I might come at it from a new angle: the stuff that made the year memorable, whether happy or sad, funny or awful, flattering or completely embarrassing.  To give an accurate account, a real update on the lives of the Havener family.

Here’s a rough draft:

2013 started out pretty sad.  I was depressed.  Just bummed in general, and it took a while to shake it.  Februrary was pretty darn awful, as seems to always happen.  But spring brought some much-needed sun and that helped.  

We went to Florida for vacation which rocked – white sand beaches, lots of ice cream, swimming and making sand castles and family bonding.  Lily had a fit that lasted 45 minutes our last day there, which sucked, but other than that it was pretty great.  

The summer was full of kids going to camps, time at the pool, everyone driving everyone else crazy, looking for a house, and our best family friends moving away.  That was supremely hard.  But August brought a trip to San Francisco and a new house, so that helped.  

The fall was all about negotiating over the new house, selling our house, planning to move, making Halloween costumes, packing, moving and being a pretty sub-par mom through it all.   

Moving was AWFUL.  But we love our new house and are so thankful we’re here.  

To round out the year we had a trip to Nebraska for Thanksgiving; celebrated Luke’s birthday with a lego cake that Mae poked holes all over just before the party; got to see my brother, sister-in-law and cutie pie nieces; had a sewage back-up in the basement; cleaned that up for a week, had lots of good family time for Christmas (and hosted in our new house!), had a dinner party for Marc’s 40th, saw the friends who moved for New Year’s, and took three-hour naps the day after it all ended to recuperate.  

It was crazy, fun, hard, exciting and full of life lived together.  It wasn’t perfect, but I’ll take it. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  May your days be merry and bright and without raw sewage in the basement. 


The Haveners


It’s Something

So this is the new year

And I don’t feel any different

As I sat down to write today, these words from Death Cab for Cutie’s song The New Year came to mind.  Irony and cynicism abound in the first song on their Transatlaticism album (a personal favorite).  They do in most Death Cab songs.  But I love their music all the same.  I don’t share the band’s outlook on life, but they describe it with such poetry and somehow evoke happiness and sadness within the same notes and melodies.  Quite a feat.  But I digress, the point is that this song got me thinking.  Made me ask myself whether I agree.  It’s the new year.  Do I feel any different?

Not really.  But why?  Is it because I haven’t had time to consider the whole “another year is gone, a new one has begun” thing? Because the holidays were nuts, and New Year’s came and went with a blur of food-preparation and people-hosting?  Because all I could muster the day after celebrating the 1st was a three-hour nap?  Maybe so.

So this is the new year

And I have no resolutions

For self assigned pennance

For problems with easy solutions

I made no resolutions this time.  I don’t often like to, because I hate to say I’m going to do something and then not do it.  I hate that sense of failure, of being a flake, of my word not meaning a thing.  So I only make them if I mean it.  If I think it’s reasonable and probable with some effort.  Which means I don’t make many.  But I usually at least think about making them.  I do a little self-evaluation and consider what I could work on in life.  I decide what steps i could take, and weigh whether I would actually take them.  And I come up with something.

For me, though, unlike Ben Gibbard, I don’t think of it as pennance.  No one is making me do it.  I don’t think it’s anything as dark as paying for past mistakes.  For me it’s just thinking about how to make myself, and by extension those around me, happier, less stressed, more involved in living life well.  What the heck is wrong with that?  Not all problems have easy solutions, but there’s always something you can do to make things better, even in tiny increments.  Or at least make a go at it.  Any endeavor in life takes evaluation – running a business, child-rearing, marriage – to see what’s working, what’s not, how things could improve.  Seems like one’s entire life could use the same.  It’s just logical, really.  And I’m a fan of logic.

So I’m going to make some time this week to think.  I’m going to carve out a bit of quiet for some introspection, now that things have slowed down.  To see what needs tending to.  What’s working great.  Who and how I can love a little better.  For now I resolve to decide what to resolve.  That’s as far as I’ve gotten in 2014, but it’s something.



Remember Us

We’re moving to a new house in less than a week, the reality of which hit me the other day.  You’d think it would have sunk in sooner – maybe when the guy accepted our offer, or when we went over to see how the master closet was coming along, or when we closed on the house.  We own it, but we don’t live there yet so it hasn’t felt like ours.

But then we secured a date to move in, and bam, it was actually happening.

“Hooray!”  That should be my only reaction.  But it’s not.  Besides a bit of panic about getting packed, I find myself feeling sad.  Really?  After a year and a half of looking, after two months of hoping it would be ours and another month of waiting to move, now I’m sad?  Yep.

I’ll readily admit that I’m fickle.  I want what I want when I want it, unless I then decide I don’t, until I do again. Like a pregnant woman deciding what to eat.  It makes no sense.  But that’s the nature of emotions – they can surprise you no matter how in touch with them you are.  We’ve recounted the reasons we’re excited to move: no more waiting ‘til everyone wakes up in the morning to shower, because our house is so small a creaking floorboard can act as an alarm clock; no more listening to the kids’ cds playing in the loft upstairs at bedtime while we try to watch tv downstairs (Veggie Tales and The Walking Dead do not mix); no more trying to make breakfast and pack lunches with five bodies in the galley kitchen, the two year old saying “S’cuth me,” to all of us big ol’ people in her way; no more saying goodbye to everyone ‘til spring when cold weather hits because there’s nowhere for them to sit in our tiny house.  Do you sense a theme?  Yes, tiny.  I’m excited for space.  For our five bodies, and lots of others’.  For sleepovers  and Thanksgiving dinners and birthdays.  So why the sadness?

Because despite the annoying aspects of our house, it has been our home for six years.  It was our first house.  The only one Lily or Mae has known.  The house on the best block ever, with the best neighbors and the old-school brick street.  With the giant Sycamore out front that glimmers in spring and summer and drops giant, easily-raked leaves in fall.  Where my dad and uncle spent sixteen hours putting together the playset out back.  In front of which we’ve taken family photos, jumped in piles of leaves, ran through the sprinkler, tried and failed and tried again to plant flowers in the shade, held lemonade stands, ridden bikes, swung on the porch swing saying hi to everyone walking their dogs, carved pumpkins and built snowmen.  Where we spent six cozy Christmases, where the dishwasher swished and sloshed us to sleep each night, where we held awesome dance parties in the kitchen.  It’s full of our memories as a family.  And even with all it’s faults, it has served us well.  It’s hard to say goodbye.

We’re only moving a mile away, so we can certainly visit often, reminiscing about our sweet little bungalow.  But as always happens, things will change.  Someone will paint it another color, or add on or, worst of all, let the house go.  Weeds may grow, paint may chip, windowsills may rot and be left to their own devices.  And that will be a shame.  But I can’t control the future.  Only remember the past and enjoy what’s happening now.  The good thing is, both are pretty great.

So goodbye little house.  No matter what happens in your future, remember us.  We will remember you.  With time your faults will fade and you’ll be only soft and rosy in our memories – the place we started Us in full force.  The place we first called home.  We’ll always love you for that.


          I wrote a post about a year ago regarding our dear friends who, at the time, were deciding whether to move out of state.  I knew if they did we’d be saying some tearful goodbyes and it would hurt.  For a long while.  And the update is that they did, in fact, move, and it does, in fact, hurt.  About the same amount I suspected: immensely.
          A few weeks ago, the mom and two daughters visited.  It was like nothing had changed – laughing, talking, kids making a mess, swords and barbies and ice hockey on baking pans – but the knowledge of limited time ran like a current through every moment.  I was nearly able to ignore it, but not entirely.  The crackle of “tomorrow they’ll leave” got louder with every minute, until the tomorrow came, they packed in their car, and again we watched them drive away.  I was in a rush to get my kids hustled off to church, so the reality didn’t sink in for a bit, but when it did it sure did.  The rush of sadness came back, the feeling of loss, the ache of knowing they couldn’t come over tomorrow or the next day or the next.  And whenever we saw them again the same electric feeling of time slipping away would exist.  The easy, every-day part of our friendship was gone.  Replaced with a special, every-once-in-a-while one.  And that just hurt.  And still does.
          Luke and Lily made welcome-back signs for the kids and taped them to the front porch, watching for their minivan, bursting with anticipation.  When the girls did arrive the squeals and hugs and pure excitement made me realize the significance not only for me, but for my kids, of having friends like this.  The look on Luke’s face when he gave his buddy a hug was the one he saves for the people he loves most.  Not just likes, not just gets a kick out of, but truly, deeply loves.  This was a loss for my children, too.  I knew that.  But sometimes you get hit in the face with the truth of something.  This was one of those times.  And it left a bruise.
          I know that it is not the end of the world.  Not literally.  But it feels like the end of our world.  Like the end of an era.  The closing of a fabulous chapter.  There will be others, and this is not the falling action part of the story – like a novel, life has many little climaxes and resolutions.  This is only one.  But tell that to my heart, because it feels like death.  You may think that’s ridiculous.  Overly dramatic and an insult to those who have actually suffered the death of loved ones.  If so I apologize for what seems like naivete or outright disrespect.  But I can’t take it back.  To me, this is how it feels.  And whether you, or I, or my kids like it, it’s going to feel this way for a while.
          I can chalk it up to another of life’s frustrations and disappointments that will, in time, lead to wisdom and compassion and perseverance.  It is and it will.  But for now it just burns.  The hard part is willingly letting it do so without trying to put up fireproof walls around my heart.  I’m going to keep trying.  I can’t say I’ll succeed – I may need to take a sledgehammer to brick and mortar from time to time.  But even now, writing this, I’m letting myself feel the pain.  In all it’s heat and miserable glory.


          I’m looking out the window at the overcast sky, listening to some melancholy music, and it’s making me happy.  Because it fits how I’m feeling today.  It’s strange how this can happen – just having the world around you join in your mood can make it better.  Whether there’s brilliant sunshine and you’re already feeling fine, or your down in the dumps and the sky is dumping rain, just having the weather agree makes things better.  I can’t say I know why.  I’m just glad it’s so.
          Once when I was driving through Arizona, on my way home to Kansas from a visit to my boyfriend in L.A., the clouds were gloriously moody, raining and then holding back but brooding overhead.  Just the way I felt leaving Marc behind.  Knowing I wouldn’t see him for months and aching over it.  I was so thankful for those clouds that day.  My insides brightened feeling that the world understood.  It wasn’t trying to fake me out.  Wasn’t pulling a “It’ll all be ok.”  It just let me be sad, and for that, I felt less so.
          I have a photo of myself in my parents’ backyard on graduation day from college.  I am laughing – my big, real, toothy laugh – and behind me that same boyfriend is walking up – blurry but you can tell he’s smiling, too.  The sun is shining and the light is bouncing off the new, green leaves; it looks like the world is smiling with us.  I remember I felt like it was.  My boyfriend was soon to be my fiance at that point, he was home to see me, I was a college graduate and we were celebrating.  It was a good day, and everyone – the sun, the trees, my family, Marc and me – agreed.
          There are certainly times when the rain or an overcast sky can worsen my mood – when my inclination is to be in a good one, but the weather is fighting against it.  There are studies that prove this phenomenon.  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is due to, primarily, a lack of light.  Melatonin is produced, serotonin suppressed, and over time it leads to the doldrums, if not depression.  Cold temperatures make your system work harder to stay warm, lowering your immunity, making you vulnerable to illness, which is always a bummer.  And humidity can apparently make people feel worse (I know it does me).  There is ample evidence for crummy weather causing people’s mood’s to suffer.  But I’ve found nothing proving the “the weather matches my mood” theory.  Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe it’s not scientifically provable, like so many other things (love, God or no God, women’s love of shoes).  No matter really, whether I can prove it or not, there it is.  My brain likes it when the sky is as melancholy as me.
          On those days when the outside is fighting with my inside, I have to work to get out of my funk.  I have to listen to happy music (Josh Ritter, Mika, Mat Kearney, Beyonce, the Counting Crows’ Hard Candy album, the Moulin Rouge soundtrack, Paul Simon), take a walk, go to yoga, pray, read, have a boba, talk with a friend, watch a funny movie.  I have to make some effort.  But there are those serendipitous days when the humidity, the amount of light, the temperature and the cloud structure conspire with me to feel the same.  I’m glad this is one of those days.

I’ll Start

Nothing is different

But everything has changed.

That’s a line from a Paul Simon song.  And it’s the way I felt when I stepped foot off the plane in L.A. after a summer spent in Taiwan, when I looked at my husband the morning after our wedding, or when I watched the sky outside the window of my hospital room after my son was born.  My homeland, my husband’s face, the sky – they were the same as every other day, but they appeared completely new.  There were things I’d missed before.  New meanings to the familiar American landscape, the corners of Marc’s mouth when he smiled, the sunlight warming the clouds with pinks and reds.  Experiences can make that magic.  Cause us to view old things with new eyes.  Something deep in the soul changes – it sends a message to the brain: “Whoa!  Everything is new!  This is amazing!”  And the whole body responds.  It feels more alive, more awake, superhumanly able to appreciate.  To see with more clarity than before.

I thought it would be fun to gather a list of experiences like this from you, the readers of my blog.  I love a good list, and I bet you all have some neat eye-openers to share.  The great thing is, as in all stories, everyone can relate.  By reading about another person’s experience we are reminded of one of our own, reminded that we’re all in this together.  So leave a comment below, long or short or however you like, and let us know about a time when nothing was different but everything had changed.  Let’s see what we get…

Here.  I’ll start.

It was just before my junior year in college, I was at a summer training program in Colorado Springs with students from all over the country, along with my friend and only fellow-Jayhawk Marc.  I had just sent a letter to my best friend swearing off boys for the forseeable future, as they proved to consume and confuse my thoughts and I was ready for a break.  Then I left for a hike with the close group of five other friends I’d made over the two months.  Three guys and three girls, hiking up a canyon, talking, laughing, crossing back and forth over the stream that ran down the mountain.  At times one of the guys would reach out a hand to help me across the merely ankle-deep water, which should have impressed me as an act of chivalry, but instead annoyed me as a sexist view of my capabilities.  I didn’t need no stinkin’ man’s hand to cross a stream.  Until I did.  I was about to slip off a rock, so the guy in front of me reached to help.  I took it, looked up, and everything changed.  True story.  It sounds corny, and it is.  But that is how the letter to my best friend became null and void, and how I started my deep fall into love with Marc, the man I (much later) married.  He suddenly nearly glowed, I adored him so.  He had no such reaction to my hand in his, but for me it was magic.

There, now you go…


          I’ve been readying my house to sell this past week and a half, which is an enormous and exhausting task.  I’ve packed boxes, carried boxes, sorted, cleaned, purged our home of “stuff” that we don’t need, shoveled mulch and rock, dug holes for plants in 100 degree heat.  And not been the best mom.  I accomplished a lot in a small amount of time, but I haven’t accomplished my main job well – taking care of my kids.  Yes, they’ve been fed, they’ve been clothed (mostly), they’ve gotten to school with homework done and lunches packed, which at times is all you can do.  But I didn’t do it with love.  There’s been a lot of “hurry up” and “I said to put that away!” and “I just had that carpet cleaned!”  Probably a lot of mean, ugly faces.  I can tell, because I’ve seen the same kind of faces looking back at me.  Luke has reached new heights of distraction, and Lily has perfected her talent of defiance.  Sweet Mae, who is typically happy to roam the house finding things to do, smiling and singing and talking to her babies, has actually been stomping her little feet and lying on the floor in protest.  She’s attempted a few sit-ins.  She has sensed my frantic, grumpy attitude and responded in kind.  Bummer.
          One moment of calm and clarity did occur – with Mae – in the middle of the chaos.  While I was putting away Polly Pocket dolls and tea party dishes, Mae came up with some play scissors from the beauty shop set.  “I cut yo hay-ah?”  I wanted badly to keep sorting.  I was on a roll with the other two at school and I didn’t want to stop.  But her sweet voice convinced me.  I sat still.  “Close yo-ah eyth.”  I closed my eyes.  She stood above me and I could hear her breath.  The only sound in the room.  I took a peek and saw her soft, chubby cheeks, her tiny lips pursed in concentration, her blue eyes watching the pink scissors in my hair.  Everything stopped then.  I gave in to it and let the moment be a moment instead of stealing it back.  Mucking it up with things to do, the tyranny of the urgent.  She saw me looking then and giggled, and it became a game of “close yo-ah eyth” and peeking and giggling, over and over again.  It was so much better than accomplishing anything, as much as I enjoy that.  This little person who will someday think I’m a dummy wanted to cut my hair.  Wanted to giggle with me.  Wanted her mommy to sit still for a minute.  So I did, and it was worth it, and it made her feel loved, and it made me remember what really matters.  Then I got back to work and we both felt better.  Yay for moments.  Yay for the whole reason we’re moving: my family.
          I should have done more of this.  I should have taken a few moments to give them a quick hug instead of an order, or played a game, or had the wherewithall to have the older two journal their feelings about moving or something meaningful like that.  But I didn’t.  So now I have to do some reconstruction.  Go in after the damage has been done and rebuild, which is always harder than doing it right the first time around.  Some post-war reconciliation projects are in order – some snuggling, some book-reading, some dance partying – while keeping the house tidy for showings.  Is it too much to ask of myself?  Maybe.  Probably.  But I’m going to try.  I think they’re worth the effort, even if I fail.  It’s the least I can do for my little war victims. There’s a lot more stress and busy-ness and, likely, grumpiness to come as the house-selling process continues.  I can’t expect it to go smoothly, or for myself to be the perfect mother in the midst of it.  But I can try.  Each day I can do my best, and when I screw up, reconstruct and try again.  It’s a crazy time.  My goal is just a little less crazy.

It Must Be a Choice

My grandmother turned 95 last month.

I cannot imagine having lived nearly a century.

The changes she has witnessed in culture, the roller coaster of joys and aches, the countless births and deaths, the cycle of seasons experienced nearly 100 times.  Already, having lived through 38 winters, I feel a little weary of them.  And of disappointments, heartache, illness – all the negative aspects of life.  And I haven’t survived the Depression, the Spanish Flu, two world wars or the death of a child before myself.  How does one make it to old age with any amount of energy or uplifted spirit? It seems as though life beats you down over time, wears you out, spoils the innocence you enjoyed when you were young and unaware.  But it must be a choice.  It must take some effort and will to end things well.


On my drive to Nebraska to celebrate Grandma’s birthday, as the kids listened to the Sophia the First cd on headphones in the back, I listened to the cd version of the book This I Believe, the compilation of essays written by average and famous Americans about the values that direct their lives.  I’ve heard many of these essays during Morning Edition and All Things Considered on NPR, but I’d never experienced them in bulk.  In the very introduction I heard this quote, which confirmed the above sentences I’d typed myself just the day before:

“Beliefs are choices.  No one has authority over your personal beliefs. Your beliefs are in jeopardy only when you don’t know what they are.”

Each essay included in the book is really a proclamation of choice – about the principles on which each author has decided to base his or her life.  Influenced by circumstances, driven by various forces, every single one has asked the big questions, spent time contemplating, and come to a particular conclusion.  It doesn’t mean the ideas can’t shift and change at all over time, but it does mean he or she has done the work of questioning, of grappling, of exercising the heart and mind enough to discover what jives with the soul.

My grandmother has clearly made a choice.  She is sweet and kind, happy with the simplest pleasures, mostly that of being with her family.  She giggles.

She’s 95 and she giggles.

She has had four children, lost her husband and a child, been moved out of her house and into a nursing home and she still smiles to anyone she encounters.  She has lost much of her memory – she neither recognized me the first or second time we “met” at her party – but she has retained her calm, friendly spirit.  Though it’s hard to say whether she knew it was her great-granddaughter speaking, she got a kick out of Mae saying her name, she told Luke when introduced to him “That’s a good name for a boy,” and she happily watched the merriment around her even though she didn’t touch her cake.

One might think that in her dementia she is simply blissfully ignorant of the trials she’s survived in life and therefore happy.  But she has always been this way.  She’s never been an exuberant woman – not openly passionate or gregarious.  But she has always been kind, steadfast, quietly strong and patient.  And she has always giggled.  She made a choice a long time ago to live this way.  Decided what she believed, which values would direct her steps – those cliche but universally-relevant questions everyone asks at some point.  She answered them for herself and her choices have guided the rest of her days.

Listening to all the essays on This I Believe gave me a peek into many different ways of looking at the world, made me begin to form a mental essay on the subject myself, and, as the editors of the book point out is a common result, reaffirmed what I do believe.  I hope that if I live to be nearly a century old, despite all that life with throw at me, I’ll be able to smile and giggle, too (though for me a toothy guffaw may be more in character).  I hope I can end my days with the same uplifted heart my grandma possesses.

My favorite essays from This I Believe (in the order they appear in the book):

Be Cool to the Pizza Dude (Sarah Adams)

In Giving I Connect With Others (Isabel Allende)

How is It Possible to Believe in God? (William F. Buckley Jr)

The Power and Mystery of Naming Things (Eve Ensler)

The God Who Embraced Me (John W. Fountain)

The Power of Love to Transform and Heal (Jackie Lantry)

The Artistry in Hidden Talents (Mel Rusnov)

Jazz Is the Sound of God Laughing (Colleen Shaddox)

There Is No Such Thing as Too Much Barbecue (Jason Sheehan)

Always Go to the Funeral (Deirdre Sullivan)

How Do You Believe in a Mystery? (Loudon Wainwright III)

Leaving Mae

          Written April, 2012
          I just left my one-year-old baby for the first time.  I’ve left her for a few hours before, even for a long date after she has gone to bed, but that’s it.  So this five day trip from the middle of the country to the coast is going to be hard.  Perhaps harder on me than on her, but who knows.  It’s hard to tell with a baby.  Hard to tell what their little brains are thinking.  Certainly you can tell she’s sad if she’s crying, or mad if she’s throwing her bib at you when you try to give her another bite of peas.  But you can’t really look inside and see what being left by her mommy, just after being weaned no less, does to my baby girl’s heart.
          Maybe it’s not something I should dwell on; maybe I should just let it be what it is and make the best of whatever happens afterward.  That sounds good…but that’s not really me.  I like to dig, so that’s what I’ll do, and then maybe I’ll feel better about it.  Or maybe I’ll fly home.
          Sweet Baby Mae is actually, literally, should-be-in-the-book-of-facts, the most darling baby that ever lived.  She smiles all the time, sings happily with her nose scrunched up in sincerity, says “hi” clear as day to everyone in the grocery store, and gives hugs freely with back-pats included.  When she cries, you know something is very wrong.  I love being around her.
          As a mom of three I can certainly say that I could use a break from mothering for a few days.  Time to sleep through the night, drink some tea and read the paper without being asked to read the comics aloud, or go to the bathroom whenever I wish without company.  That sounds lovely.  I do need a breather from the older two – one seven and one four.  My constantly-talking, question-asking, repeat-button-on-the-cd-player-loving ones who tend to leave me exhausted by the end of the day.  I don’t need a break from my baby, though.  She says “hi” in the morning when I scoop her up from her crib, “ta-da” when I put the shades up, and her “Da-deee” is so clear and sweet and toothy I can’t even be bothered that it’s the wrong name.  We’re completely in love, and I miss her already.
          I know that part of my anxiety over leaving her is her disposition and utter cuteness, the lack of which is going to make me cry at least once while I’m gone.  And another is hoping that I haven’t scarred her for life by taking off so abruptly, for what in baby years will feel like six months.  But I think the deeper issue here is that she is my last.  As far as we’re planning anyway, this is my last baby to be born of my body, to be nursed by me, to be rocked while I sing her goodnight as she looks up with her big blue eyes and sucks her thumb, smiling slightly at the corners.  This is it.  And now I’m missing five days.
          Aha.  My self-love strikes again.  Really, this is a selfishness problem.  If I rank my reasons for being sad to leave, my own feeling of loss is at the top.  Love for my darling baby a close second.  I disguised my self-centeredness even to me.
          In light of this discovery I can rest a little easier about my trip.  I can let myself be sad about missing her, knowing that she, likely, is back at home not really realizing I’m gone.  Certainly not knowing I’ve flown so very far away, and am holding my brother’s four-month-old twin girls instead of her.  And maybe in baby years it’s actually like twenty minutes?  She does love her daddy – his is the one name she says .  So after all this fuss about leaving Mae, I’ve worked through it a bit and feel much better.  Despite my initial worries for Mae’s sake, apparently that’s what this was all about.