To opt for chaos

Snowed in today. This is for real: snowing sideways this morning, now sleeting hard and cold. I have been puttering around the house most of the morning, doing laundry, reading, cooking. I made nut brittle, spiced pecans, and chocolate cherry cookies (really more like little bundles of yumminess, not really cookies). It is a no-holds-barred TV day. Surprisingly relaxing, when the children aren’t trying to kill each other.

Lacy sent me a great book about pregnancy and early motherhood that I loved (thanks, Lace!). I am following it up with a collection of essays on the same topic by some of my favorite writers. It is a trip through some familiar, soothing words – an excerpt from The Blue Jay’s Dance by Erdrich, and some of Adrienne Rich’s journal entries that I quoted in my thesis. Nothing better on a day like today than the well-worn, deeply-known cadences of sentences and paragraphs I have read over and over again.

“Life seems to flood by, taking our loves quickly in its flow. In the growth of children, in the aging of beloved parents, time’s chart is magnified, shown in its particularity, focused, so that with each celebration of maturity there is also a pang of loss. This is our human problem, one common to parents, sons and daughters, too – how to let go while holding tight, how to simultaneously cherish the closeness and intricacy of the bond while at the same time letting out the raveling string, the red yarn that ties our hearts.”

“In talking to other women over the years, I begin to absorb them somehow, as if we’re all permeable. Some days, I’m made up of a thousand mothers who have given one ironic look, one laugh at the right moment, one exasperated wave, one acknowledgment. Mothering is a subtle art whose rhythm we collect and learn, as much from one another as by instinct. Taking shape, we shape each other, with subtle pressures and sudden knocks. The challenges shape us, approvals refine, the wear and tear of small abrasions transform until we’re slowly made up of one another and yet wholly ourselves.”

both Erdrich, from The Blue Jay’s Dance

“To opt for kids is to opt for chaos, complexity, turbulence, and truth. Kids will make you love them in a way you never thought possible. They will also confront you with all the painful and unsavory emotions that humans put so much energy into trying to avoid. Children will teach you about yourself and about what it’s like not to be up to the demands of the most important responsibility you’ll ever have. They’ll teach you that you are capable of deep compassion, and also that you are definitely not the nice, calm, competent, clear-thinking, highly evolved person you fancied yourself to be before you became a mother.”

“I also think that kids are the best teachers of life’s most profound spiritual lessons: that pain and suffering are as much a part of life as happiness and joy; that change and impermanenence are all we can count on for sure; that we don’t really run the show; and that if we can’t find the maturity to surrender to these difficult truths, we’ll always be unhappy that our lives – and our children’s – aren’t turning out the way we expected or planned. Life doesn’t go the way we expect or plan, and nobody’s perfect, not ourselves or our children.”

both Harriet Lerner, from Vulnerability and Other Lessons

Birthday party invitations

Having technical difficulties with first birthday invite, but these are 2, 3, and 4. 3 was supposed to be ponies at Verrill Farm, but it snowed so we wound up at our house with Silly Willy.


What a treat to come home to this happy birthday poster last night – made by Grace and Whit with help from Anastasia (bonus photograph of my dear goddaughter Emma on the right). Had a great celebration last night with Whitney, Annie, Brooke, and Suzanne, and this morning had breakfast with my mother and my daughter – what’s more special than that?

Email from Daddy, which made me cry:


It was 33 years ago that you arrived, and I left the hospital in the early morning to lecture about land use models at an executive education program at MIT. A fond memory.

And what a furrow you have carved!

Running history

I remember several years ago, when I was deep in my yoga phase, a comment by Lacy: she noted that I had always been a runner and that my commitment to yoga signaled some kind of new comfort with being still. I think there is some truth to that, but when I really think back, I think it’s more that those 4 or 5 years of yoga were an interval in a lifetime of running.

All of which is to say, I spent this morning’s run by the river thinking back over years and years of runs. I also thought of GodMomGloria, whose birthday was yesterday (and remembered 2 years ago, at Whit’s christening, when I opened the door to see her and realized I had forgotten her birthday – we put candles in the brie at the party, but still, I feel terrible!), and who’s celebrating 33 by herself in Prague running a half marathon. Fantastic. I’ve set my Tivo to record Jim who is anchoring WNT tonight, as well.

I started running almost 25 years ago, keeping my Dad company on his Fresh Pond circuits … I have very vivid and happy memories of those early runs, and also recall him panting to me, “Linds, NO MORE questions until we’re done!” as I ran along beside him, yapping like an annoying lap dog. I also started running 10Ks before I was 10, often with Tory McEvoy, who has reentered my life lately in a serendipitous way.

The first time I ran in earnest was at Exeter. I ran cross-country, for one thing, but it was really that long, dark winter of my incredibly sad senior year when I ran, and ran, and ran. All I remember of those short days and long nights are miles and miles of running and Mr. Valhouli. Literally. When it was truly too cold to run in the woods I would go to the cage by the gym and circle the 1/4 mile track over, and over, and over. This morning when the Grateful Dead came on my ipod I was thrust back to those circuits of the cage (weird running music, for sure, but I maintain that Sugar Magnolia is a great love song).

At Princeton I kept running, mostly junior and senior year. I remember getting up at 7am, feeling like the only person awake on campus, and running on the tow path and through the institute for advanced study. I could run 6 miles, have breakfast at Ivy, and still be at a 9am class. This was perhaps when I realized how fully I am a morning person.

In the early BCG years I really discovered the Charles and its various bridges, all of which meted out different mileage opportunities and different vistas. During HBS this was still where I ran, though now from Cambridge and headed into Boston, vs. the other direction. Pam Houston may celebrate the clarity and mind-clearing properties of sunshine on fresh snow (see tabblo about this here) but I think my version is the early morning fog rising off of the Charles, an occasional single or double shell slicing through the water, the sun coming up through the Boston buildings.

Marion, too, has its share of my footprints – the morning of our wedding I remember running out to Converse Point and watching the sun come up over the dark hump of the vineyard, distant on the horizon.

Random musings for a Saturday morning. My hip hurt a bit this morning (odd, have never had pain there) but it eased as I warmed up. Am really thinking about doing the Covered Bridges 1/2 marathon in May. Need to look into that.

Whit turns two

So, Whit is two. Seems like yesterday we were at Verrill Farm at Grace’s very elaborate second birthday party. Poor Whit had to make do with Bread & Circus cupcakes and a few dear friends in the kitchen. Company was excellent, the planning a little less detailed than Grace’s bash. It’s amazing how differently I feel about them at age two. At two Grace felt like a little person – I re-read yesterday the letter I wrote to her on her second birthday, and she was clearly such a little personality already. Whit is clearly himself, of course, but he’s just so much less fully formed. I’m sure at least half of this is my own self wanting to keep my last baby a baby, and it may also be a boy/girl thing … it’s certainly driven in large part by how much less verbal he is than she was. But I still think of him as my baby – I still call him that, I still carry him most of the time, I seem unready for him to be launched into the life of his own independent childhood! I’m not aware of this unreadiness, by the way, intellectually, but when I reflect on the way I treat him, that is the emotion that seems to be manifest. It also seems odd to think that at Grace’s birthday I was six months pregnant with Whit – it’s hard to imagine being pregnant now.
Well, I guess it’s official: no more babies in the Mead-Russell house. It’s a cliche and it’s also powerfully true: the days are long, and the years are short.