3 Beautiful Books about Grief

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Lately I have been thinking about grief and loss. It's not for any particular reason but I've been contemplating what it means to mourn and how that process can shape people's lives. Questions keep coming to me about how people deal with loss, and how dealing with it makes them alternately stronger and weaker.

Here are three fantastic books that all touch on the subject of grief in different ways. Thought-provoking and relatable, I found them to be illuminating on emotions that are rarely talked about but widely experienced.

1. Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
The word that always comes to my mind when I think about this book is 'beautiful'. Hannah is reflecting back on her life and the formative events she experienced, many of which came through losing people close to her. There are profound statements about loss and love and how the two are intertwined. This is a book that I cannot wait to read again.

2. The Magical Year of Thinking by Joan Didion
 To me, this is Didion's most poignant book. She describes her husband's sudden death and how it completely upended her life. Her descriptions of grief and how she coped are worded in the most heart-rending way possible, and certain passages have stuck with me ever since I read it.

3. Epilogue by Anne Roiphe
Roiphe's memoir is also about the grief she suffers after the death of her husband, but her writing focuses more on her struggles to forge her own life after being married for 39 years. She covers attempting to date again, the feeling of burdening her children, her desire to change and yet keep everything the same. It's a thoughtful description of a difficult time.

What's In a Name?

Monday, February 13, 2017

I'm at a stage in my life where I'm often thinking about names, whether for my own baby or during discussions with pregnant friends. Reading The Name Therapist by Duana Taha felt perfectly timed.

The Name Therapist isn't a baby name book, it's more about how our names affect us and how Duana's name influenced her growing up. One of her main points was that almost everyone has strong opinions on their own names and can describe how that name does or does not fit who they are. She believes that in many ways a name can help shape a person. If a name is offbeat, chances are the kid will be too. This got me thinking how I feel about my own name and it also made me reflect on my "rules" for naming babies.

Overall, I like my name. As a kid, I always assumed that when I grew up I would go by Kimberly, because Kimmie seemed like a little kid name. But as I got older there never seemed a good time to break away from it. I could never imagine not being Kimmie, so when I went to college I just abandoned the idea of casting off my nickname and embraced it.

But sometimes it is hard having a nickname. In middle school and early high school I had some social anxiety (although I would not have called it that at the time) and roll call on the first day of school always made me so nervous. I hated having to say (in front of everyone!) "I go by Kimmie" and then needing to spell it out because everyone tends to spell my name Kimmy, which is annoying in its own  right.

Now, as an adult, it feels weird to put Kimmie on a resume, but then it also feels weird to go in for interviews and have people say Kimberly. When people call me that it's as though they don't really know me, and sometimes it's strange that Kimberly is my "real" name. It's an interesting dynamic that I probably think about too much.

From my own name hang-ups I have developed a few rules when it comes to naming our children. As you could probably guess, I don't want to call our kids by a nickname. It's possible that going by a nickname wouldn't bother our children at all, but for my sanity I would just prefer to call them by the name on their birth certificate.

Another rule is that I don't want to repeat initials. I have the same initials as my dad and my older sister, and for some reason I disliked that I wasn't able to put my initials on something and have it clearly symbolize me. So names starting with B, J, and K are pretty much out.

I also have a "no names that end in L" rule since Brock's last name starts with an L. I worry that if our child's name ends in an L the names will kind of run together. Like if we went with Paul or Samuel, would that sound weird?

We also don't want to go with anything too trendy (although I have never heard anyone say, "Yes, I want to name my child the top name of the year", so we're not unique in that). Anytime we talk about names I itch to look it up on Baby Name Voyager, because it shows how popular names have been. I do hope that we haven't destined James to be "James L." all his school life since the name James was fairly popular the year he was born, but oh well! We love it.

With all my weird rules it's been nice to come to a name consensus for our baby boy. I'm hoping to keep it secret until the baby comes, but Brock is fine telling people, so we'll see what happens. In case you were wondering, The Name Therapist author agrees with me; she thinks that when you are naming a baby you shouldn't subject yourselves to outside opinions and just come up with a name that you love.

What are some of your thoughts on names? This is a subject I could discuss endlessly.

Figuring Out My Love Language

Thursday, February 9, 2017

I recently finished The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, which is about how each of us has a primary way ("love language") of giving and receiving love. The five love languages are acts of service, gifts, quality time, physical touch, and words of affirmation. You can take the quiz on Chapman's website here to find your language.

I referenced them to Brock often enough that he was shocked to find out I hadn't actually read it myself. Once I did read it, I realized that figuring out how to get more of my love language has boosted my happiness.

As a side note, I listened to this book on audio and I recommend it in that format. Chapman read it himself and he has a great North Carolina accent that really adds to the writing.

The book emphasizes how learning your spouse's love language can improve your marriage because you will know how to show your love and appreciation in the way they treasure most. While I understand that angle, in my own life I saw that figuring out my love language has made both Brock and me happier.

It took me awhile to figure out my own love language. None of them stood out to me until a few months ago. Brock works a lot at night (not complaining because at least he's home before 6 most days) and one night I realized I hadn't really felt connected to him in a few days. I stopped to analyze what I felt would help me feel close to him. It came to me that all I wanted was to sit and talk with him, with no distractions.

And then- duh!- that is quality time! One of the primary "dialects," as Chapman says. For me to feel loved, I need to have quality time with Brock where we sit together and have great conversations. I never felt drawn to quality time because I misunderstood the concept. I thought it was about going on dates to the orchestra or going rock-climbing together, neither of which seem necessary for me to feel loved in my marriage.

Once I learned that, it's actually been easier for me to feel loved by Brock because I have no problem expressing what I need. I'll just say, "Do you have 20 minutes tonight where we can talk?" and since he's always willing, I've been so much happier. I've made it more of a priority on the weekends and any nights when Brock finishes work up earlier to get that time together, and I've benefited by feeling a new closeness. It's absolutely wonderful.

What's Saving My Life Right Now

Thursday, February 2, 2017

It always lifts my spirits to think about what things are making my life better right now. February isn't a tough month in southern California weather-wise, but there is never a bad time to think about good things in life, right? So here are the things that are saving my life.

1. Looking at ultrasound pictures of our little baby BOY!
We went to our 20-week ultrasound today and had it confirmed by our tech that we are having another little boy! At my 12-week ultrasound they were pretty sure it was a boy, so we've been banking on that ever since, but it has been so good to know for sure. Now we can settle on a name and pull out all our tiny baby boy clothes from last time.

This smile is brought to you by Snoogle

2. Snoogle Body Pillow
I never used any type of pregnancy pillow during my last pregnancy and I had major regret about it the six weeks before I had James. But by that point I figured it was too late to bother so I just dealt with it. But this time around I knew I was not going to let myself suffer, so when I got an Amazon gift card for Christmas I bought this wonderful pillow and my sleep has improved dramatically.

3. Vaseline
For some unexplainable reason, my lips decided to go completely crazy on me about a month ago. They peeled, cracked, got little sores, and caused me a lot of pain. I put on tons of chapstick, coconut oil, an essential oil blend I've used in the past and nothing worked. Then I saw my huge container of Vaseline and decided to try it. My lips are healed!! I still have to put the Vaseline on about every 2 hours or they start to crack again, but they feel so much better than before.

4. Pampers Size 5
I feel like a bad mom for this one. For about two months James had been wetting through his nighttime diaper almost every night. It was annoying but since he fits size 4 I figured what could you do? I am such a weird rule-follower that I didn't want to put him in size 5 since he's not 27 lbs yet (I know how crazy that sounds). But I had finally had enough of him being soaked and with size 5 the problem is solved! I'm just kicking myself for not doing it a long time ago.

5. Grocery store carryout
Last week was the first time I've done this (and I did it again this week) and I couldn't stop marveling over how much simpler it made my life. The person carrying out my groceries put them all in the trunk and took the cart back before I even finished buckling James in his carseat! I am total convert and don't think I'll skip it again (as long as I have a child with me).

6. Wearing a watch
I got a watch for Christmas and I realized I love knowing the time. It's such a small thing, but I've noticed I get a little annoyed when I don't know exactly what time it is and I hate digging in my purse for my phone. The wristwatch is such a great invention and having one improve my quality of life.

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