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It seems as though many of the year-end posts I’ve seen on social media are glad to see 2012 go, but I can’t say I feel the same way. As much as it has held some dark moments for me, this year was the one which brought me my son and all of the amazing moments that come with him. I am a little sad to see it go, when it comes down to it. Still, time marches on, and now is the point in the year where we all tend to take stock of where we are.

I love being a mother more than anything in this world. I was made to do this, and I feel more whole and balanced in my life now than I ever have. I am amazed at where I am now, and I am so happy to be here. My goal in the new year is to stay focused on where my son is right now, of being present with him as much as I can, and treasuring his little moments as much as his big ones. I don’t think that one will be all that difficult, really. 2012 will always be the year that made me a mother, the year that made me James’s mama. Anything else is really just a side note, when you get down to it.

Of course, there’s the really big side note. For years, my driving (career) goal has been to become an OB/GYN. 2012 is the year that broke that dream into tiny little pieces. I keep looking down at all the little fragments and trying to figure out how to put them back together again, but it occurs to me that first I have to figure out what shape I want them in. It’s true that if I am still determined to deliver babies, I can (probably) make that happen for the summer of 2014, which then leads to the question of whether that’s actually what I want anymore. To be honest, I don’t know. There are so many emotions and complications around the whole issue now, among them that I am very, very burned out on fighting tooth and nail in my career. This year I will have to come to some resolution with all of this, or at least begin to make sense out of what I want to be when I grow up (again). For now, I am trying not to worry over it and instead giving God and the universe time to work on untangling and putting back together.

In the meantime, I have determined that this year I want to get my creativity back. My job has me working “normal-people” hours, albeit with an annoying commute thrown in for good measure, and I get TWO WHOLE DAYS off every single week. I hardly know what to do with myself. Our new(ish) house has a dedicated craft space, and this year one of my goals is to carve out time to journal, to write, to work on memory books (I am a huge fan of Project Life), to knit, and to quilt. I have so many I need to finish, and so many I want to start. I want this year to be the year I make time to make things again.

My other goals for 2013 are the typical ones: get fit, pass (and then improve on) my fitness test, run another half marathon and maybe tackle a full, continue to hammer down (and then improve on) our financial status. Win the lottery. You know, run of the mill New Year’s resolutions.

When I look at the overall picture of where I am right now, I’m really in pretty good shape. I’m happy, for all the foibles and pitfalls of the last year. I want to stay happy, and improve on it. At the same time, I feel that I am at a significant juncture in my life, stable but with many options about where I can go from here. It’s not a bad place to be, but I need to think hard about what the next step is. It seems as though I have the seeds of good things planted where I am right now, and this year is about nurturing them, letting them grow, and seeing what fruit comes of it.

Here’s to a fruitful 2013 for all of us.

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In all of the talk leading up to our move, BWB has been very focused on it only being for a year. It’s been so heart-wrenching to say goodbye to our friends and to leave our city that he kept telling people we would be back next year. And hopefully, we will be. We have our fingers crossed that the match this year will finally work out for us, and that we’ll find ourselves back in New Orleans again this time next June.

Still, the way he kept saying it was bothering me, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. After some thought, I came up with an answer.

When I was four, we moved from a small town to a small city. It was supposed to be just for a year or two, and so I approached the situation as temporary. It wasn’t until six years later, when we moved from one permanent house to another, that it dawned on me that we were not, in fact, moving back to the small town I still for some reason thought of as home. This perception of impermanence colored how I interacted with the city I grew up in. After watching the documentary BRATS: Our Journey Home with my father, I realized that not only did this movie give me insight into his childhood, but it explained a little bit about mine, too. The expectation of leaving made it harder to feel rooted to any place or person, even though in my case that expectation was false.

It would be easy to approach New City with this same transience, to resist putting down any solid foundations or making any solid connections here. After all, we think we’re only going to be here for a year. Or will it be three years? Or five? It could be five. And even if it is a year, aren’t we doing a disservice to ourselves to spend a year feeling disconnected and disjointed? I brought this up with BWB, and we talked about it.

It’s true that this town is only going to be home for a year. It is, however, still going to be home. Rather than rest here only long enough to take off again, we have made the decision to land here with our full weight, build a nest, and settle in. It might make leaving harder when we go, but the time between now and then will be richer for it.

I went to boarding school in the age before email, or at least before it became common and easy. My mother the writer sent me actual letters, which I received in an actual mailbox, and I would read these actual pieces of paper over lunch. (Actual lunch? It was boarding school food, that’s debatable.) Some were short notes, some were newspaper clippings, sometimes comics she found funny. She still does this, by the way; the quantity of actual, physical, handwritten mail that arrives at my house regularly astounds my friends. That, however, is a subject for another time.

One such letter contained a copy of the following poem. On the back, my mother wrote about how much it reminded her of me, that I was so often motivated to “eat the last meal in my old neighborhood.” That clipping was posted on my wall through college and beyond, and I still have it. I think it’s in a box somewhere. (That’s a joke, in case you missed it. Sigh.) I wonder if she knew, writing on that scrap of paper, how prescient her words were.

Re-read the instructions on your palm. Find how the lifeline, broken, keeps its direction. Have faith, and move forward.

Shooting Script
Adrienne Rich

Whatever it was, the image that stopped you, the one on which you
came to grief, projecting it over & over on empty walls.

Now to give up the temptations of the projector; to see instead the
web of cracks filtering across the plaster.

To read there the map of the future, the roads radiating from the
initial split, the filaments thrown out from that impasse.

To reread the instructions on your palm; to find there how the
lifeline, broken, keeps its direction.

To read the etched rays of the bullet-hole left years ago in the
glass; to know in every distortion of the light what fracture is.

To put the prism in your pocket, the thin glass lens, the map
of the inner city, the little book with gridded pages.

To pull yourself up by your own roots; to eat the last meal in
your old neighborhood.

Last night as I fell asleep, I had an image of our house.

We stayed at a friend’s house last night, and the couch was much more comfortable than the slightly leaky twin sized air mattress that my husband and I are sharing at the moment. It was late, since we had stayed up talking until far too early in the morning, and after the last week of moving my exhaustion was rapidly overtaking me as the lights went out.

In my half-awake state, I saw the house we’ve lived in for the last year, our awkwardly shaped, sideways shotgun house in New Orleans. My mind drifted through the rooms we’ve grown to love — our bright and airy bedroom, the strange loft space we had only just gotten the hang of using to its full potential, the kitchen built for an NBA player. The furniture faded to nothing, and I saw the house empty, and it hit me that I will not be returning there. My bed is not waiting for me to return to it, my desk is on a truck somewhere, and the kitchen is no longer taunting me with cabinets well out of my reach.

We don’t live there anymore, in those empty rooms.

As I write this, I sit in a different, equally empty room. The truck with all of our furniture is supposedly going to arrive sometime at the end of the week, maybe, if all goes well, but it’s not definite yet. The uncertainty is not helping my state of mind, I have to tell you. Our new house is a funny little cottage, perfectly sized for two people. We have grand plans for decorating and furnishing this place. It will be our home. Eventually.

Right now, though, all I have are a whole lot of empty rooms.

Contents:
1 Kiddush Cup, Tree of Life design
1 Menorah
1 Box of leftover Hanukkah candles
1 The Modern Jewish Mom’s Guide to Shabbat
1 Yahrzeit candle
1 Wedding/Shabbat shawl, aka future Baptismal blanket (God willing)
1 Wall Cross, Tree of Life design
1 Set of Islamic Prayer Beads sent to my grandfather in his last hours

20110605-012125.jpg

Any questions?

As I pack up my bookshelves, I am struck by how seemingly random the collection of titles is. Sharing Success–Owning Failure: Preparing to Command in the Twenty-First Century Air Force and Setup: What the Air Force Did in Vietnam and Why are nestled in next to The Best Liberal Quotes Ever.

I have three different translations of the Bible, four different copies of the Book of Common Prayer, a 1982 Hymnal and a combination of the hymnal and prayerbook. These all are kept together with the 365 Tao, book of the I-Ching, and all of the various books on Jewish life and religious practice that we’ve accumulated over the last four years.

My USMLE Study guides and medical textbooks are right next to Herbal Healing for Women, a book on midwifery, and my collection of People’s Pharmacy volumes.

Then of course we run into what is left of my medieval studies library, significantly decreased from the huge stack I left college with. I’ve kept my favorites of the secondary source materials, mostly having to do with women, family structure, and pilgrimage, and most of the primary sources. My best art book, the treasure my parents tracked down for me as a Christmas present, has already found its way onto my sister’s bookshelf, where I can only assume it will get more use than where it sat collecting dust in my house.

The truth is that none of these books are contradictory in the slightest, although at first glance some of them certainly seem to be. They are a direct reflection of who I am and what my journey has been. I am often amused at the reaction people have when they learn something new about me that doesn’t fit with what they have previously determined — they find out I am in the military after hearing me talk about politics, or I say something startling about alternative medicine when they know I have allopathic medical training. I break people sometimes, and they don’t know quite how to handle it.

Much like my books, I don’t fit neatly into a single box or categorization. I don’t think most people do, but I think all of us have a tendency to forget that. I want to try and remember not to make assumptions as we meet our new colleagues in the coming weeks; among other things, I don’t want to close doors before I even bother to realize they are there. I mean, why assume that the straight-laced future cardiologist doesn’t think Harry Potter rocks? Maybe she has a closet full of wizard’s robes and is just waiting for someone to give her the chance to be more than one-dimensional.

Or, perhaps she procrastinates from packing her house by waxing philosophical about what her library says about her. You know, hypothetically.

Driving north this time of year is like traveling back in time.

In Louisiana, the winter green has given way to late spring lushness, and the flowering shrubs are already passing their peak. The college girls are out in tiny scraps of bikini working on their tans, and we’re deciding when to run outside based on whether it’s too hot yet or not. Head up 59N and it’s a time lapse film played backwards as the flowers return to the height of their glory, the greens fade from dark to light, and the temperature drops.

In our Midwestern destination, the daffodils are standing boldly against the cold and ice (yes, ice in April — barbaric) and the trees are just starting to look vaguely greenish with buds. The early bloomers, like the tulip trees, are screaming that spring is coming, even if the weather is trying very hard to make us believe otherwise.

We’ve made this trek to give us a taste of our new city. Our intention had been just to learn some of the neighborhoods the residents favor, thinking it would make online house hunting easier in the coming months, but to our surprise we ended up finding a fantastic house and putting an application in right away. We located the important landmarks — the hospital, a few independent coffee shops, the grocery stores, and a library branch — and started to familiarize ourselves with the basic layout of the city. All in all, a very productive trip.

Before all of our exploration, I went back in time in a different way and met up with a group of friends I haven’t seen much of since graduating from college. I was nervous about this, as I really wasn’t sure what kind of reception to expect. Would it be like meeting strangers? What if nobody really remembered me? When we arrived at the event, it took a little while to find the people we were looking for, and then there they were. Some of the passage of time was obvious, visible in the increased grey in a beard or at a temple. The infant who was born shortly after I graduated is now in elementary school and her older brother is the age of our current housemate. In the ways that matter, though, it was as if we had only been apart for a month or two. Conversation came easily and jokes picked right back up where we’d left off.

It’s strange for me to be here in the region I went to college in, but I think I’m grateful that we’re going to be a few hours away from there for the next year. My friends are good people who clearly recognize that I’m a different person than I was a decade ago, and our relationships will be different because of the impact that decade has had on all of us. These changes don’t mean we have to toss everything and start over again from scratch, and after this weekend I’m looking forward to reconnecting with all of them. It’s comforting to know that this kind of time travel is possible, and even better to know that I can bring all of that history with me into the future.

Nearly two weeks ago now, we received the incredibly good news that we have both matched into residency. Not into our first choice, but in a program which is doing amazing, innovative things and which felt like one of the best options for us. The interviews I had there were among the most up-front and honest of any I experienced on the interview trail, and I am certain this program will be an exceptional place for us to learn.

It was not our first choice, however, because it is not in New Orleans.

It is a little ironic to me that I am immediately following my previous post declaring New Orleans as home with one about having to leave it, and yet here I am. It has been such a roller coaster of emotion, glad to be moving forward, glad to be in a program I liked so much, excited about exploring a new place, but then it occurs to me that I am leaving this place and my heart aches.

It is 80 degrees here this week, mostly sunny although a storm is rolling in tonight. The trees and plants have fluffed out into the proportions of spring, and the tourists seem to be getting in a few more good weeks before the heat gets too bad. French Quarter Fest is two weeks from now, and since we’re close enough to walk this year I’m planning on soaking it up. We still haven’t finished sorting the last of the Mardi Gras beads, and I guess the plans for next year’s costumes are going to have to be on hold. We have invites from friends for dinner, lunch, puppy play dates, and/or coffee every week. I get to feed random friends on a semi-regular basis. We’re finally making inroads at synagogue, and I’m going to miss both our priest and our rabbi.

I’m going to miss New Orleans for its quirky spirit, for the glorious weather, for the community of friends we have here. I’m going to miss walking the dog down to Cafe du Monde for beignets, running in City Park, and knowing that when we go out to dinner, we’re going somewhere local and eating food we can’t find anywhere else. I’m going to miss St. James Cheese Co. and the Creole Creamery and Sucre. I’m even going to miss the bizarre roads that go in strange directions, are full of potholes, and have names that only locals are sure how to pronounce.

We’re determined to come back here as soon as we can, but there’s no telling if it’s going to be next year or ten years from now. I really am grateful for the opportunity ahead of us, and I know we’re going to discover amazing things about the new city, but I’m still sad about leaving this place I’ve come to call home.

Recently, the university administration has started collecting information to put in the graduation bulletins. Where did you go to undergrad? What are your previous degrees? Where is your hometown?

Most of these are no-brainers, but I stopped short in my response when I came to that last question. Where is my hometown? No really, where is it?

Is it the small town I was born in, but moved away from when I was four? Is it the town I lived in from age four until I went to boarding school at fifteen, but haven’t been back to for the better part of 15 years? Is it, as the one administrator insisted, where my parents now reside, somewhere I have never really lived in? Maybe the last address I had prior to medical school, a place I lived for two (admittedly wonderful) years?

Or perhaps it is the city I moved to five and a half years ago with the mindset of putting down roots. The city I watched drown, the city I sobbed hysterically over having to return to. Maybe my hometown is the city I met and married my husband in, or the place I have spent more consecutive years living than I have any other town since I was fifteen years old. The city my great-great grandparents are buried in. The place I am terrified I will have to leave in a few months, and the place I want to grow old in.

New Orleans is one of those towns where if you weren’t born here, your parents weren’t born here, and your family hasn’t been here for generations, then saying you’re “from” here results in polite chuckle from “true” locals. To claim it as my hometown seems presumptuous, especially when I’ve only lived here for school. And yet, to give any other answer feels wrong. This city has engraved itself on my heart. I want to claim it, declare it to the world.

In the end, I took the wording literally. On the university-wide form, I responded with the place of my birth, the answer that every Southern-born individual considers to be where you’re “from”. The email from the medical school, however, specified that we should respond with “the place you call home.”. So that one ended up being easy.

New Orleans is my home.

It’s Friday evening, and Christmas is all over the table. Yes, as of the first week of February, Christmas has migrated into bins on the dining room table, slowly being sorted into ornaments (breakable and not), garlands and soft things, and breakable non-ornaments. Hanukkah is there too, in slightly larger proportion than when they came out of the boxes as we made a concerted effort to find more Hanukkah-related decorations this year. The jury is still out as to whether there will be interfaith storage, or if the blue bins will sit beside the red ones in the closet. All of this is progress from the last week of January, when it still looked approximately the same as the last week of December, only with slightly more wilted and brittle greenery.

With Christmas and Hanukkah holding court on our dinner table, there is no room to put out candles, wine, and bread. The smell of challah hangs in the air, filling the house with the essence I am coming to associate inextricably with Shabbat, but I fret over how this will work without a clear space to put our food or sit. How are we going to do this?

My iPhone plugs into the television, and soon Shalom Rav is quietly playing in the background. My husband and I stand in the middle of our kitchen and say prayers over the candles, wine, and bread which are waiting on the countertops. We have dinner on TV trays from the couch, listening to my very short Shabbat playlist and talking about inane secular topics like what the dog has found and whether he’s supposed to be chewing on it.

Even without the dinner table, without elevated discourse, without the good china or cloth napkins, standing in the middle of the kitchen with doughy dishes soaking in the sink, even with Christmas and Hanukkah haunting us and the stresses of school driving us both insane, even with all of that, we still eked out our little holy space tonight.

Blessed are you, oh God, who blesses Your people with Peace.

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