The ranch, we are still at it.


So a year has gone by.

And what a year it was. 

My child is now just shy of 16 months old. I can say, without hesitation, that the second year has thus far been immensely more enjoyable than the first. Don’t get me wrong; R. was an adorable infant, but the first year is intense. Need on top of need wrapped in need, with very little positive feedback to tide you over. They don’t call it being in the trenches for nothing. Now, the need is still there, but she is a tiny bit more independent, a tiny bit more curious, a tiny bit more observant all the time. Her personality is blooming and it is glorious. She’s so funny. And affectionate- oh, the kisses and cuddles I get from este pequeño ser, and oh, the kisses and cuddles I send right back her way. There is nothing better. 

I’m a Ph.D. now. It feels like one of those movies where, in its final moments, it speeds up and speeds up and speeds up and you know what’s coming but when it suddenly cuts out and ends with a solid black screen you’re still surprised. I’m not quite sure how I got from ambivalent ABD to done. I know it had a lot to do with a couple of timely fellowships that allowed me to focus on writing without having to attend to other duties to pay the bills. It also had a lot to do with the very thing I worried would set me back: having a baby around the house. 

Before R. was born, I was genuinely unsure of the path I wanted to take with respect to work and motherhood. I thought that it was very possible that I’d want to stay home full-time. As it turns out, I am nowhere near hardcore enough to weather that intensity day in and day out without some kind of break. Writing a dissertation, which is another intense experience but one that requires a totally different kind of energy, turned out to be the perfect break from childcare, and vice versa. Being able to leave my daughter with a trusted sitter and spend a few hours playing with the day’s writing project was such a relief after spending the rest of a given 24-hour period with a little person either attached to me in some way or begging to be. Likewise, closing my computer to go snuggle and nurse and play with my favorite person in the world was a welcome break from the isolating and tedious process that is writing the dissertation. 

My marriage was put through the wringer this year. Finishing a doctoral program and becoming a parent are experiences that, on their own, can rock anybody’s world; combining them left me with little time or energy to take care of myself, much less my adult husband. It got pretty rough there for a while, with neither of us feeling cared for or inspired to care for the other. The dawning of the second year of R.’s life, and now my recent defense, have taken some of the pressure off and we’re in a better place now than we were even a few weeks ago. And somehow, on the other side, I feel like that much more of a grownup. I think it’s related to being taken off autopilot. The great realization that emerges from that period is that it’s no longer okay to coast, to just let things happen. It’s time to Take Care of Business. 

So it is with that orientation that I am approaching my professional life at this point. I have a renewed energy and a newfound seriousness about it that still feels foreign to me, but is welcome. I am still apprehensive about full-time work, but I am more open to an academic job now than I have been since before entering grad school in large part because of the combination of challenging, meaningful work and some degree of flexibility. I know now beyond any reasonable doubt that I’m not meant to be fully at home. Because I have been around with a baby and a very open schedule, I have socialized much more in the last six months than has ever been normal for me. I’ve met a lot of very nice people, but none of them have been quite my people, and the experience has given me some insight into the contexts I probably need to be in if I’m really trying to set myself up for personal, as well as professional, success. I’m in a postdoc that involves a lot of collaboration with people I know, respect, and just enjoy like crazy, and that’s been exhilarating.

The weather in Dallas has been great this week: mid-60s and even on up to 70. We’ve taken a lot of long walks. The sun has already made quite a bit of progress back toward its summer home, and feeling the shift in seasons, feeling the spring light, is as invigorating as it has always been. What happens from here remains to be seen, but from where I sit right at this moment things are feeling pretty good.  

Welcome, 2014. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch


…I’ve been a little busy.

Somehow, Rocío is four months old. Motherhood has altered the passage of time for me. Everything is slower and faster, longer and shorter. I was wholly unprepared for how rapid some changes would be; in the first days and weeks of my girl’s life, the only thing that made me cry at all was a desperate desire to stop time. Betting that’s not going to go away.


Kiddo was born at 40 weeks, 2 days, full-term and fully-cooked. She was born fully alert, with her eyes wide open. She had several signs of a post-dates baby, but we’re sure of dates- she was just ready to rumble. Her tininess was due simply to a smaller placenta. Genetic luck of the draw. (And for a first baby, I would definitely consider it luck.) We had her at home, and it was perfect and transcendental and lots of things that sound like total hippie bullshit. She was born right around the time that day slips into night, and that was about right, as we spent the next couple of weeks in a hazy sort of dream world. Behind the veil. No time except the time between feedings, no other outside forces. Just getting to know one another, just life. New life, for all of us. Those, I think, were the most special days I’ve ever had. Pretty fucking cool.

Not that that lasts. V. went back to work after two weeks, and we slowly made our way back above ground. Now we’re a normal family, with normal stress and normal we-have-a-new-baby bickering and normal adoration of our normal AND TOTALLY ADORABLE NOT THAT I’M BIASED little girl. I am experiencing the tugs in opposite directions that most mothers do, wanting to be with my daughter instead of my dissertation and needing my dissertation to give me a break from my daughter, god love her. I am doubtful of wanting full-time work for a while, and not at all doubtful that we were never meant to raise children in isolation. I don’t feel much doubt in general. I don’t feel an identity loss. I feel stronger instead of weaker (and good thing). Relationships with family and friends have been shaken up in ways that I could not have foreseen. In some cases it’s a little bit distancing. In others it’s the complete opposite. This was the right move. This was an exhausting move. It’s a move that I am already convinced I will want to repeat (but not yet..).  My kid smells like heaven (unless she doesn’t). My kid laughs hysterically and it’s like a drug. She opens her eyes in the morning and when her brain registers that I’m there she smiles, big and almost involuntarily, because I am mamá now.

How’s about that.

Six months


(Of ten. Ten months of corporeal colonization. Ah, ah, ahhh. 25 weeks and change, of 38-42.)

This is how we’re doing time these days, when I am tethered to no other artificial calendar or clock. I officially start my fellowship in July; I can bill hourly work right now but have not been taking as much advantage of that option as a wiser person might. I’ve realized that every hour I put in now is an hour I don’t have to think about how to balance writing with caring for an infant. I’ve also realized that these silent hours alone in the house while my husband is at work are, in effect, the last such hours I’m likely to have for a very long time. Which to take fuller advantage of? Conundrum.

When we bought this house, the front yard was bare, the grass having been scorched away by a summer hotter and drier than is right or fair. When I moved down permanently in December, we bought and seeded winter rye. I remember how refreshing the first tiny shoots of grass looked when they sprung up a few days later, how hopeful. The shift into actively building the life and community that will sustain my family in the years to come, after spending the last few years doing my damndest to not put down roots, is.. a lot like that. Tenuous, and vulnerable, and not yet anything resembling lush- but a sign of what’s possible, what this could turn into if we treat it right.

So, at this moment, things are quietly pleasant. There is an underlying hum of stress around renegotiating my relationship to my work; sometimes I engage it, sometimes I block it out. Mostly, I work happily on settling into a life I’d like to inhabit much more fully than the recent past has allowed me to. And from the ‘sweet spot’ of the late second trimester, where I am no longer sick all the time and not yet big enough to be in a state of constant discomfort, I am genuinely surprised by the strength of my desire to have my girl here with me. In earlier pregnancy it was all far away enough to seem almost hypothetical, but the more she grows and makes herself known the more anxious I am for the day when I can bring her out and meet her. Who will this person be?