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The Book of Long Nights

baby book

(Why am I naming days?)

9/11/14, Day 14,009 (Mercena Day 27): The Book of Long Nights

This day is so named in honor of the Caliber Composition Book in which we attempt to record her every poop, pee, fuss, meltdown and blessed moment of sleep. We’ve been keeping it since 8/21/14, when we realized our emotions (and exhaustion) were coloring our memory of events. Was she really sleeping so little? Crying so much? And how many times a day was she peeing?

The book doesn’t offer an ironclad answers, as it can be hard to record a meltdown as it melts. But, it has provided an elusive (and probably illusory) sense of control at a time when we need it most. We may not be able to help her sleep through the night, or endure a diaper change without fussing, but at least we can record what happened and adapt to challenges based on more accurate reflections.

All of this to say: we knew last night was going to be trouble.

We knew it because our book showed that she’d basically slept from 3:55pm to 9:50pm, waking only for brief meals and relatively placid diaper changes.  And so it was I found myself at 11:45pm trying to console a very fussy baby, calming her to sleep after a half hour of tricks, only to do the whole thing over again at 12:45am; only this time it took over an hour to calm her all the way down because she was even more overtired.

She rallied: Heather got her down after waking again at 2:22am for a three hour spell, and after a seemingly resurgent fussiness, I had her co-sleeping for 2.5 hours and she’s sleeping again now.

Here’s the good thing:  I’m not really stressed out by these long nights, and it’s been weeks since I felt at all helpless or overwhelmed. Part of that is the reality that in spite of my efforts, Heather bears the brunt of the exhaustion, both because she’s the one with the food, and I think because in these early weeks, there is simply a more direct current of energy between mother and child. I can shake things off in a way that isn’t yet possible for her.

All the same, I am so grateful that I’ve been able to take this time for paternity leave. I don’t feel like an outside or an interloper with my daughter. I feel like her father, someone who knows what she needs and more often than not, can provide it for her.

I feel like I really know her, and that’s worth the long nights.

Technique never stands still: it only advances or retreats…

Writing: 141 out of 178 days (Untitled new play)
Spanish: 129 out of 178 days
Music: 46 out of 83 days

What small things did I do yesterday to help build the Honeycomb?
(And what does it mean to “Help build the honeycomb?”)

  • Ate and cooked local, organic, vegetarian food, and used cloth diapers for Mercena;
  • Asked NY state leadership to adopt Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards;
  • Asked Congress to take a stand alone vote on the President’s war on ISIS.

 

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sleeping beauty

(Why am I naming days?)

9/10/14, Day 14,008 (Mercena Day 26): KD and The Band, First Draft Done

To my great surprise and happiness, last night around 12:15 in the morning I finished a first draft of KD and The Band. Oh, it’s all sorts of messy, but it’s done, and in surprisingly short time: I began the play on 8/18/14, and only worked on it in daily 60-90 minute increments when Mercena was sleeping.

It is definitely a response to having read The Violent Bear It Away, wrestling with the legacy of religious fervor and a very personal relationship to God. It was instigated by Catherine Field’s poem “Mythic Beaver,” which begins with the irresistible lines:

“Yes, I’ll haul your ashes
back to Oklahoma
the Lord G-d of Abraham
riding shotgun…”

There’s some early Sam Shepard in there (a touch of True West and Tooth of Crime), and some Rattlers rhythms from Johnna Adams.  Weirdly, one of the two lead characters sounds a little like Jesse Plemons, the actor who was so memorable as Landry in Friday Night Lights and again as Todd in Breaking Bad.  The play is also indelibly stamped by the birth of Mercena, and the sleep-deprived nights we’ve had since then.

In relation to my own work, its closest ancestor seems to be Other Bodies, though the lack of direct address makes it more claustrophobic. I’ve used again the broken verse style that I learned from christopher oscar peña and Kimber Lee that I found so helpful in writing Faust. It’s definitely the most musical of any play I’ve written, and its narrative logic belongs as much in the world of songwriting as playwriting.

I have a hunch the play will wind up as a B side for me, but you never with these things. I’ll take some time away from it before returning to more thoroughly integrate the music and the band, though if I’m able to get to Flux Sundays, I hope to tinker with scenes on their feet.

And this is a great start for the Play a Month Club, though I am approaching my second year of that absurd venture with even greater humility.

Mercena had a good day yesterday, as she’s been concentrating the heat of her most flammable fussiness during the later afternoon. In the morning, she was chill enough that she made it through a YMCA stroller exercise class that Heather took ( we love exploring our FoHi neighborhood).

While most of my mental energy these days is directed inward to my family and immediate community, I am thinking of those most deeply affected by this anniversary; and am sending love to all families trying to live in peace, whether in Ferguson or Iraq or anywhere in this difficult world, and I think again of Stanley Kunitz’s words given more life by Tony Kushner:

“In a murderous time
the heart breaks and breaks
and lives by breaking.”

Technique never stands still: it only advances or retreats…

Writing: 140 out of 177 days (KD and The Band complete)
Spanish: 129 out of 177 days
Music: 45 out of 82 days

What small things did I do yesterday to help build the Honeycomb?
(And what does it mean to “Help build the honeycomb?”)

  • Ate and cooked local, organic, vegetarian food, and used cloth diapers for Mercena;
  • Asked FERC to conduct a more detailed Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Cove Point Gas Export facility;
  • Signed Dan Maffei’s petition in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act;
  • Asked the FWS to conduct a more thorough and open assessment of the Red Wolf Recovery Program;
  • Signed Color of Change’s petition in support of Net Neutrality;
  • Asked my Senators to stop the House bill that would prevent the EPA from closing loopholes in the Clean Water Act;
  • Asked Congress to close to the tax loophole that has empowered the recent inversions.

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Core Value: The Future

voting(Why am I naming days?)

9/9/14, Day 14,007 (Mercena Day 25): Core Value: The Future

This day is no named by The Will Lowry commenting on our Flux meeting conducted in five separate locations via Google Hangout and featuring a blissfully sleeping Mercena West Schulenburg (she seems to love a group of loud voices, perhaps remembering the decibel levels of the womb).

It’s also in honor of her first vote, where her Dad followed her advice and voted for the Teachout/Wu ticket, along with Toby Stavisky for our State Senate. While we were not victorious at the gubernatorial level, I was pleased by her showing, which would seem to make them both viable candidates for the future.  Based on her Twitter account, it seem Stavisky was happily re-elected.

We also had a great visit from Kelly, and overall a good day for Mercena, who resisted the Moby, but nonetheless had a lot of awake engagement time (and somehow slept through the whole Flux meeting).

Technique never stands still: it only advances or retreats…

Writing: 139 out of 176 days
Spanish: 129 out of 176 days
Music: 44 out of 81 days

What small things did I do yesterday to help build the Honeycomb?
(And what does it mean to “Help build the honeycomb?”)

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blanket

(Why am I naming days?)

9/8/14, Day 14,006 (Mercena Day 24): SpeakEasy of Shifting Sundays and Immigration Above the Tennis 

Thanks to Marnie keeping Heather and Mercena company, I was able to attend Flux’s SpeakEasy (our irregular gathering of the Friends of Flux) at The Thirsty Fan last night. It’s always weird to leave the house, but our Facebook event promised better-than-usual attendance, and I was eager to see so many friends in a single place.

Well, we didn’t have great attendance, but we did have a really productive meeting, brainstorming new ideas for Flux Sunday as fans of tennis cheered the U.S. open on the floor below. We also discussed a new project with Judson similar to Understand Our Ground that we’ve begun developing concerning immigration. Mostly, it was great to be reminded that the beautiful Flux community lives and thrives and has not disappeared while we’re in babyland.

Speaking of babyland, yesterday marked a number of small improvements, most notably, a new addition to our SWAT diaper strategy. A friend suggested that Mercena might be getting upset because of the change in temperature, so that we should cover her with one of our bigger cloth diapers while we change her. And wouldn’t you know, it’s more or less worked! It’s always an arms race to keep our fussy baby nonfussed, but this is a sizable step forward.

Over all, she was a happier baby yesterday, and her active engagement times weren’t quite as radioactive. We also consulted the pediatrician about the white on her tongue (probably not thrush) and her five-plus poops a day (totally normal).

On the train to and from the SpeakEasy, I wrote 13 pages on KD and The Band, so I’m with striking distance of the finish line, and may complete the play this week…

Technique never stands still: it only advances or retreats…

Writing: 139 out of 175 days (KD and The Band)
Spanish: 128 out of 175 days
Music: 43 out of 80 days

What small things did I do yesterday to help build the Honeycomb?
(And what does it mean to “Help build the honeycomb?”)

  • Ate and cooked local, organic, vegetarian food, and used cloth diapers for Mercena;
  • Helped Becky organize and run the Flux Speakeasy;
  • Researched who I’ll vote for in the primary today;
  • Signed yet another petition in support of Net Neutrality;
  • Signed a petition asking for Walmart to release the tapes of the murder of John Crawford;
  • Thanked Panera Bread for adopting gun sense policies;
  • Asked Google, eBay, Microsoft and UPS to stop donating to climate change denying politicians.

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Family 2

(Why am I naming days?)

9/7/14, Day 14,005 (Mercena Day 23): Those Slippery Baby Hours

There are various versions of the saying, “When it comes to raising kids, the days go slow, but the years go fast.”  I’d say that after “It’s the hardest but the best thing I’ve done,” that it’s the most popular piece of small-talk wisdom I’ve received on parenting.

But thus far (and we’re still early, aren’t we?), I haven’t felt the days go slow, not at all. If anything, the hours become terribly slippery in baby land. You start a project, and suddenly four hours go by in a blink and you haven’t done a stitch of work on it. You say you’re going somewhere at 5pm, and feel like you’re making great time until you notice you’re walking out the door at 6:30.

Slippery is the best word for it: slippery in the mind, from being so tired; slippery in deed, with so many little interruptions; and slippery overall, each busy day sliding into the next sleepy night with such an easy speed that your sense of time starts to become wobbly, uncertain; like it’s all really just one long day where the sun goes down from time to time.

How will this change when I return to work? When the hours get a little hard, and all the minutes need to be accounted for again? What will Heather’s experience be without me in slippery baby time?

Little happy unique things yesterday among all the repetition:

  • She usually likes her arms to hand down or be by her side when I’m the Singing Dad Bus, but yesterday (and this morning) she’s been raising one arm to grab a finger, which is very cute;
  • We worked the Moby back into our rotation, which was very effective during her daytime sleeping (and led to the absurd picture above);
  • We have a nice visit from Jodi, who brought lasagna and love.

Technique never stands still: it only advances or retreats…

Writing: 138 out of 174 days (KD and The Band)
Spanish: 127 out of 174 days
Music: 42 out of 79 days

What small things did I do yesterday to help build the Honeycomb?
(And what does it mean to “Help build the honeycomb?”)

  • Ate and cooked local, organic, vegetarian food, and used cloth diapers for Mercena;
  • Asked the EPA to not approve any pesticides that harm bees or other pollinators,

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Two Mercenas

(Why am I naming days?)

9/6/14, Day 14,004 (Mercena Day 22): Baby Brain Conversations

I look forward to creating a new reality TV series that will feature parents of newborns attempting to make simple decisions on too little sleep.

Yesterday’s episode of Baby Brain  Conversations was called “What Kind of Pizza?”, and featured two reasonably intelligent adult humans endeavoring to decide whether to order pizza or make a frozen pizza. Watch as they get lost in conversational loops of exhausted confusion! Laugh as they over explain utterly simple causes for their motivations! Gasp as the sounds from the baby monitor threaten to end their brief window to make this pivotal decision!

In between these gripping episodes, we had a morning visit from our neighbors and their two kids (ages 1 and 4), and then an afternoon visit from Will, Liz and their twins, Maddie and Liam (Maddie is the artist of the Mercena portrait above). It’s so helpful to share stories with folks who have been through this particular adventure.

The two-visit day made it difficult to get too much else done, especially as she went on an epic awake bender from 2:50PM up until she finally fell all the way asleep around 8pm. She’s never been anywhere near 5+ hours awake before, and she was fussy throughout, but then had a much better night’s sleep. This could be her adapting her circadian rhythms to daytime, or just another odd aberration on the Baby Journey.

Technique never stands still: it only advances or retreats…

Writing: 137 out of 173 days (KD and The Band)
Spanish: 127 out of 173 days
Music: 41 out of 78 days

What small things did I do yesterday to help build the Honeycomb?
(And what does it mean to “Help build the honeycomb?”)

 

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Mercena Week Three

crying at 3 weeks

(Why am I naming days?)

9/5/14, Day 14,003 (Mercena Day 21): Mercena Week Three

How we count life:
First in days,
Then in weeks,
Then months,
Then years,
Decades and anniversaries;
Then, near the end, months again,
Weeks, days, hours,
A moment;
Then, at last, a life.

Of course, that’s if you’e not a weirdo like me who also counts the days everyday. But, as we celebrate her third week yesterday, and my parents’ 45th anniversary today, counting life is especially on my mind.

(Sidebar: as sincere and sentimental as the poem is above, I also can’t help but hear my ridiculous Fluxers belting Seasons of Love in sweet mockery.)

And of course again, having a child prompts all of us to feel the whole of it in the present (exhausted) moment, and ask again how to hold it, measure it (if such a thing can be measured), carry it forward and hand it off in better shape or at least not too badly broken to those who come after; and I am thinking again of To The Lighthouse, the book I carried with me as I skipped my college graduation and wandered:

“…the old question which traversed the sky of the soul perpetually, the vast, the general question which was apt to particularize itself at such moments as these, when she released faculties that had been on the strain, stood over her, paused over her, darkened over her. What is the meaning of life? That was all — a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one. This, that, and the other; herself and Charles Tansley and the breaking wave; Mrs Ramsay bringing them together; Mrs Ramsay saying, ‘Life stand still here’; Mrs Ramsay making of the moment something permanent…”

I just read that passage to her as she squirmed out of a sleep next to me, making this day her first encounter with Virginia Woolf, though with me as her Dad, definitely not her last.

Yesterday was also hard: she was fussy most of the day and night. We had an oasis of a Skype chat with our dear friend Tiffany, and an aborted stroller trip that began well before spiraling into her worst meltdown yet.

I put in another hour plus of work at TCG, and am now up to page 45 with KD and The Band. I do believe I’ll be able to finish it before I return to work, which would be marvelous.

Technique never stands still: it only advances or retreats…

Writing: 136 out of 172 days (KD and The Band)
Spanish: 127 out of 172 days
Music: 40 out of 77 days

What small things did I do yesterday to help build the Honeycomb?
(And what does it mean to “Help build the honeycomb?”)

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