Full Velocity Living

To be 5 years old (with gusto) by Christina Rosalie

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2014-02-20 16.56.30

2014-02-20 16.56.23 You turned 5 (last Thursday!) with gusto. For the week before your birthday you kept asking when you birthday would be and then counting down the days. At night you’d wrap your arms around my neck and hug me close, and whisper: “My birthday is in____days.” And I’d say, “It is” and rub your nose with my nose and stare down at him completely disbelieving.
Remember how the time between birthdays felt like an eternity? Remember that sweet feeling of anticipation that last nearly until you’d burst? Would that we could still feel that luxurious stretch of time, easy and slow with the salty sweet of anticipation like taffy being pulled. Now the days have a staccato feel: dominos tumbling one after the other in a rapid-action blur. They come they go in an instant. I keep thinking, wait, didn’t I just turn 34? How am I 36? How did two years possibly pass? Let alone 5. Let alone, my last, my baby is 5 and not a baby at all.
When the day finally arrived, you woke terribly early, and in turn woke Bean and you both came tumbling into our room. It was a school day, so there was less snuggling in our bed than might have been had it been the weekend, and when we all made our way out to the kitchen your cheeks were flushed and rosy.
On the table, crystals and shells around his plate, a fat rose in full bloom, a birthday card from Granny sent in the mail, and beneath the table, leaning against a table leg a present (the first of several) in rainbow striped paper.
“Oh my gosh!” you gasped grinning, your body practically vibrating with glee. Yet you sat down and slowly opened the letter, savoring every bit of the delight, the envelope, the card itself, the small packet of zinnia seeds she also sent like colored suns.
Even with all your gusto and volume, you have this remarkable capacity for delayed gratification, as though you really understand what the moment offers. How it’s here to delight you only for now, and then it’s gone for good.
When you unwrapped the stripes you found a a scooter, like Bean’s but smaller. You’d waited four whole days since Bean’s birthday, hoping. Next you were a whirl of speed; a streak of delight. Then waffles, then backpacks, then school, where your kindergarten teacher put on a puppet show in celebration of your arrival on this earth, and we sat there with you watching; watching you among your classmates, sort of reeling internally with wonder. Five feels old. It’s the last year of smallness.
Oh time, hold still, hold still.
In the evening you were beyond ecstatic to get the “pirate stuff” you’d asked for, and went around the house decked out in mardi gras beads and a Captain Hook arm, yelling at the top of your lungs. Fearsome with your eyepatch, and so darling I just wanted to keep hugging you even when you squirmed free, and when Nonna and Poppy gave you their gift, you literally pumped your fists in the air with delight: a long coveted lego set. Something about a museum break out. Good guys and gad guys of course. Escape vehicles. Fire hoses. You and Bean became so absorbed he had to be coaxed back to the table for the ice cream cake you’d begged for.
So many candles blown out to mark the start of a new year around the sun for you, sweet little one.
You are my teacher of gusto and joy.

Faces that I love: by Christina Rosalie

Big grin -- Christina Rosalie Rascal -- Christina Rosalie

Pouty Face -- Christina Rosalie

My oldest boy -- Christina Rosalie

My oldest boy -- Christina Rosalie

My oldest boy -- Christina Rosalie

Puppy Portrait - Christina Rosalie

I've been using my DSLR again lately, and I have to admit, I almost forgot the depth and texture that it captures. I use my iPhone so much--simply because it's always on hand. But I so love slowing down, and really looking through the lens. I think these shots totally capture the boys right now. Who they are, and what they're like--mud streaked, pen marked, dirt under their finger nails. They've been on vacation this week, and finally the weather has started to turn warm--inviting long hours of outdoor play in little aluvial streams, climbing apple trees, and building forts, Clover always nearby chasing sticks.

Through the lens on a walk today by Christina Rosalie

Empty nest - Christina Rosalie Springtime In Vermont - Christina Rosalie

Reflection - Christina Rosalie

Rings on water - Christina Rosalie

At the pond's edge - Christina Rosalie

Before the green - Springtime in VT - Christina Rosalie

Moss in spring - Christina Rosalie

Dog sipping water  - Christina Rosalie

Moss on log - Christina Rosalie

Spring runoff - Christina Rosalie

Feather - Christina Rosalie

At the surface - Christina Rosalie

Wild crocuses  - Christina Rosalie

Rural VT farmhouse - Christina Rosalie

Rural Vermont - Rosalie

Pussy willow catkins - Christina Rosalie

Pussy willow catkins - Christina Rosalie

T and I went on a walk this morning with the pup, looking for signs of spring here in Northern Vermont where the winter still has been particularly reluctant to leave. We saw an owl take off above the pond with the widest wing span either of us have ever seen, and flickers with their gorgeous, almost-neon red heads and spotted plumage pecking in the newly greening grass.
What does the world look like where you are?

I don't know how she does it, guilt, and telling another kind of story entirely by Christina Rosalie

I don’t know where I am going yet, but I know that this is the beginning. The beginning of finding true velocity: a unity of moments, a lithe tempo, a right algorithm of speed and grace.

I am still rather far from it now, in the final semester of school, with my new job already nearly full time. And I’ll be the first to admit: The days don't always offer the time I need for pondering, for the daily practice of writing, for rest. Until I’m done with graduate school, I know the hours will ignite, one after the next at a certain pre-determined heat, each one double booked, precious, full to saturation. And I'm humbled by the process. By being here again, at the outset again, new to the particular set of challenges and opportunities my life offers and asks. I spend my day tripping, sprinting, catching my balance, careening, laughing with sheer delight.

There are wins and losses: I drive Bean to school every morning; we have a part-time nanny who helps with the laundry; Sprout is finally making headway with potty training; T cooks weekday meals with the grace and kindness of saint. And I'm still trying to find an hour that offers itself for writing; time for running is inconsistent; I have a birthday party for Bean to plan, and no time to make it to the store for favors; I see my husband less than I'd like. And in the midst of it all I've realized I've somehow reached the life velocity that causes people say, “I don’t know how you do it” to me now.

I find myself shrugging at that remark. I don't know how anyone does it. We've all got our own particular mess of moments and necessities; priorities and stumbling blocks. Each life is remarkable.

But beyond that, I shrug because I'm particularly resentful of cultural paradigm from which that statement springs.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the book that spawned that phrase. Both it, and its movie counterpart have been suggested to me by no less than six women friends as a seminal narrative that “tells the story like it is.” I’ve been given two copies of it in fact, one from my mother. And I ended up watching the movie on the way back from California in the plane, but regretted my choice upon landing, as manufactured guilt clung like burrs to the back of my mind as I greeted my boys; drove home with my husband; and then helped my kids put on their pajamas and brush their teeth and go to bed.


I don’t think it is a terrible book by any means. It gets many of the details right, of a full-velocity life. The pace, the tumult, the jam-packed days. What I resent is the paradigm it perpetuates. It’s that Kate's primary emotion and modus operandi is guilt: About her work, about her husband, and her kids.

It gives fule to myth: That you should feel guilty as a woman if you work away from home; and that the smug comments of stay at home mothers are both assumed and justified. I call bullshit.

Women who work at home, and who work away from their home, and who stay at home each have the choice to frame their lives in terms of guilt or fulfillment.

Whatever you slice it, you see a different slice. There are challenges and advantages to each way of being in the world, and to tell the story of a woman who works and has children as a guilt riddled narrative does a huge disservice to all women, regardless of their childrearing status.

So as I’m writing now, about the early phases of doing this full velocity thing called life that includes work and kids and a thesis and whatever other bits fall into the mix, my hope is that I can begin telling the story in a slightly different way.

Less guilt, more fulfillment. Less culturally perceived “shoulds,” more personally perceived moments of sheer awesome.

I am at the beginning of a new phase; an epic; an adventure. It feels off kilter some days. There are days that I don’t have enough time for anything more than the barest essentials. Still, unless I read about it somewhere, guilt doesn’t factor in to the equation.

My life is asking for new definitions and capabilities. It demands that I cultivate the ability to adapt to the speed of things moving in multiple dimensions and directions simultaneously. It pushes me to imagine bigger constructs; and to see time, and speed, and distance, and success as new non-linear relatives.

My life is being altered by the nature of the work I am doing; by my expectations for myself; by the sunlight gradually softening towards spring; by my sons turning three and seven; by a dozen years with the man I love; by my thesis; and by all that is unfinished at present. And instead of guilt, what I am striving for is to acquire a certain degree of nonattachment. To do my very best, to pour my soul into the work I do, to love my boys when I am with them, to trust that when I’m not that they are flourishing, and to let go and know: Our right lives are happening now, in dynamic unison, every morning, every afternoon, every night.

Work-Life balance: Daily routines and the quality of light by Christina Rosalie

I leave and arrive now in the in-between light; the light first spreading from the un-tucked hems of the morning, or the light leftover at the end of the day that spreads like a stain across the tablecloth of evening. On the way in, I drive with Bean. For the first part of the drive we’re mostly quiet as I sip a flat white in a ceramic cup and eat fried eggs wrapped in a soft flour tortilla, and he watches me from the back seat, patient, knowing better than to demand too much interaction before caffeine and quiet have set the internal tuning fork of my mind to thrumming with alertness.

Then we talk.

He asks me to tell him about summer when I was small, and when he asks, I smile, my mind slipping to the far off drawers of memory I keep inside my head.

I tell him about going to Bryce canyon and riding horseback with an old guide named Pinky up and down the steep canyon cliffs. I tell him about packing just enough clothes to fit in a sigle drawer in the camper; about the sketch book I always kept; and about about the way my older sister would yell at me every night when it was time to set up the tend and I’d just stand there holding the stakes, staring off at a neighbor’s campsite or into the sagebrush, stalking stories with my eyes.

I tell him about the jackrabbits with their enormous ears and big hind feet, and about the full moon above the canyon and the silvery pink rocks; and then I picture what it will be like in another summer from now when Sprout is a little older and we can travel together, all four of us, across this wide, wide country through the dessert to end up at the wild Pacific where we’ll collect sand dollars and blow on bull kelp bugles.

And abruptly we’re there, in the snow covered parking lot of his little school, and I pull up in the drop-off circle and he unbuckles his seatbelt and leans forward to kiss me and then grabs his backpack and goes in.

It seems improbable, all of this.

That I am leaving and arriving in the nearly light of early morning and the twilight of a spent day; that I have a job like this, full on, full time, full of possibility; that I am the mother to an almost seven year old who does the things I remember doing. Kisses me on the cheek, grabs his backpack, goes to school.

I remember that same routine with the indelible clarity of long term memory. The feeling of my backpack, the way my sneakers looked against the walkway cement leading up to my classroom door. I had a favorite cobalt blue sweater and my bottom teeth were missing, just like his—though his are growing in crooked like T’s were.

Bean's little boy smile is almost unrecognizable to me some days. He's a certifiable kid, now. Half way to fourteen already.

And so I kiss him quickly and then he slams the car door and goes into his blue school building where he spends the day discovering the world, while I drive off into the city and park, and then climb three flights of stairs and settle into my little brick and windowed office where I watch the light shift across the walls above my head.

I drink more coffee in a white mug, and at lunch I go running outdoors along the bike path that I used to run on every day when I first moved to this city and started running years ago. It feels strangely familiar: each turn and slope somehow written into the kinetic memory that the soles of my feet recall.

Snow cakes under my shoes, and I have to kick them hard against the ground every so often to loosen it, and above the lake the light is almost entirely flat gray, save for a place where the clouds are ripped and a rosy apricot spills through.

When I return, I am red faced, sweating, and focused and the rest of the day slips by in an ellipsis of concentration; the dark gathering unexpectedly, without my watching. When I return home, the house is full of lamplight and yelling. The boys are hungry. Dinner is on the table. The dog is whirling under foot.

This is the new tempo of things. The new state of leaving and arriving; the way the quality of light reveals much about this new process of becoming.

// How does daylight mark your daily routines? What do you spend your day doing?

When opportunity arrives by Christina Rosalie

My nearly three year old Sprout settles into my arms in a familiar way that I can’t even describe. It is a language we share, between our bodies. Another way of saying LOVE, this thing that we do, folding into each other, his small arms and legs wrapped around my torso, the heft of him against my hip.

We haven’t seen each other all day, and now he reaches up and brushes my bangs out of my eyes and says, “I want to rub noses.” And so we rub noses like seals.

Across the room Bean is drawing on an index card. In another minute he brings it to me. On one side: a red heart with an arrow through it surrounded in blue. On the other, a cheetah with brown spots and a yellow sun.

“You are the cheetah, Mommy,” he explains.

He’s right. I am. I am going thisfast.

T is at the stove stirring tortilla soup. It smells heavenly, and when he looks up to greet me and his smile turns my heart into helium.

Bean shows me the picture he’s draw for T. On the front, a heart that matches mine. On the back, a tall tree with the sun above it.

“Daddy is a tree with big strong roots and he reaches up to the sky and he’s surrounded by the sun. I’m the sun, and Sprout is a lion who plays with you.” He explains happily.

Sun, Tree, Cheetah, Lion. I love how he's captured some small truth about each of us exactly.

+ + +

So. I started a job this week that combines my love of story and creative work, with my superpowers in strategy and social media. I am now the Emerging Media Strategist at a super cool design firm here in Vermont. I’ll be almost full time until I graduate, and then definitely full time after that. It’s a new position, with a lot of culture changing momentum behind it, and I’m surrounded by some of the best and the brightest people imaginable. I'm thrilled.

It is also, of course, a shift for our little family. I had every intention of working once I graduated, but none of us expected the right opportunity would arrive right now. We're making a new roadmap. Finding a part time nanny. Exploring ways to make everything that needs to happen effortlessly and well.

And the truth is, I've always been one of those people who loves to work; who wants to be full time, full on, engaged, motivated, connecting, moving and shaking things up. And when n I think about what they’re getting, my two boys, by having a mama who sparkles when she talks about the creative, awesome work she does… I know it’s the just right opportunity to do this now.

And of course, I’ll be blogging about the process pretty regularly here: about the choreography of equipoise—of making time for the things that count, and doing them. And I'm curious about your stories...

I want to year more about your experiences navigating work and parenthood in whatever context you navigate that. What do you love? What makes your heart ache? What are your truest insights?

Also… PART 2 of the CREATIVE PROCESS post is coming up on Friday. And a post very soon about my 33 before 33 list progress. Also expect some news and sparkle and possibly even a love letter on my birthday. GRIN.

7 things I'm doing to rest + recalibrate this weekend: by Christina Rosalie

1. Slipping offline for the weekend

2. Layering pretty dresses + winter cords, painting my finger nails, and putting henna in my hair

3. Taking walks alone to stalk the Piliated woodpecker in the far meadow, and follow coyote tracks

4. Emptying my inbox entirely

5. Clearing the number of feeds in my RSS reader

6. Reading Mary Oliver's Evidence. Again.

7. Getting a dog.

A creative loophole: by Christina Rosalie

That perfect letter. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wineglass. The question we ask over and over. Why? Me with my arms outstretched, feet in first position. The chromosome half of us don’t have. Second to last in the alphabet: almost there. Coupled with an L, let’s make an adverb. A modest X, legs closed. Y or N? Yes, of course. Peas sign reversed. Mercedes Benz without the O.

Y, a Greek letter, joined the Latin alphabet after the Romans conquered Greece in the first century—a double agent: consonant and vowel. No one used adverbs before then, and no one was happy.

~ From Y, by Marjorie Celona, originally from the Indiana Review, republished in Best American Non-Required Reading 2008.

How can you not be inspired, like I was, reading this, to pose and consider everything remarkable about a letter? Maybe your first initial, or your last. I'm on the lookout every day for opportunities like this: to slip through an open doorway, an imaginative loophole, a slight tear in the fabric of all that right now insists. Because everything is happening at once, as it always is. Everything converging. Projects, deadlines, discoveries, presentations. It’s easy for me to just put my head down and run hard without stopping, without looking, without pausing for a handful of moments to practice doing what I love the most. And I found this to be the perfect thing to do today, mid week, now, on the seventeenth of November, with the world blue and brown and quiet with the promise of snow, amid everything else.

At the back door there are leaves that the wind’s tossed up in heaps, brown and crackling under our feet as we make a bonfire with friends, roast marshmallows and press them between crumbly graham crackers with chocolate; drink cappuccinos, and watch the children play. They take rakes with bamboo tines and heap the leaves until one or all of them are buried, laughter rising up with the sparks toward the night sky that is full of ink and diamonds; such a mess of grandeur, are the heavens above us.

The children turn on the porch lights; four boys in hats, leaves eddying up in the dark. Their shadows are eerie and huge across the grass, and then up in the sky, the waning gibbous moon, a pregnant C up there with the spilled milk of the universe, the faintest shadow of its darker side also there, barely illuminated: a C in reverse.

C: The letter that is at once the contents and the container, the balance of negative and positive space, the curve of palms, cupped, holding a bowl, and also the shape of the bowl. It is curiosity, and the top bit of a question mark in reverse. The final slight line in a pair of parenthesis, the pause of a comma, the arc of a story, a a smile turned on it’s side. It is the consonant that invokes creativity, the third letter of the alphabet, the symbol for chemical concentration, the speed of light in a vacuum, the abbreviation for carat, century, constant, cubic. It is the first note in C major, and the way my name begins.

It's your turn!


Take 5 minutes. See what you can write about a letter. Or share a link an image or post and I’ll be sure to take a peak.

The things I carry: by Christina Rosalie

Today I carry the feeling that I’ve slipped right back to the cusp of more things not being known than things that are for certain. I am carrying the way the light looks over the pacific ocean in the morning at Bodega Head, and a homesick feeling for my fathers hands; for the way they were always warm and skilled with tools, knobby knuckled like mine, mottled with vitiligo.

I carry a secret awful wonder at what my DNA might hold for me, and a list of appointments including one at the dermatologist’s to investigate a small hard lump on my thigh that arrived without my notice sometime in the summer, and then persisted. My regular doctor shrugged. More than likely benign. Still, a referral was made, and then one appointment after another, cancelled to make room for other more urgent things.

I carry my wedding band of soft hammered gold; a hair band around my wrist, snarled with a few tangled strands of hair yanked free from a ponytail with impatience; and the memory of my tenth birthday.

I carry my father’s SANFORD LOGO II mechanical pencil; my soft-covered Moleskine reporter’s notebook; and an ache for what I know I will forget of the way Sprout is right now, small like this, speaking with a little lisp, repeating everything, begging for a convertible blue vintage VW like the one our neighbor drives. His hair is sandy gold in the sun. Potty training is a comedy of errors and stubbornness. He gives the sweetest kisses, one arm circling my neck. How will I hold all of this in the permeable container of time?

Today I carry the sight of geese cutting across the pale morning sky, one after the next; the first inklings of a second book; ideas for classes I’m planning. I carry the way comparisons always make me feel terribly small; the fact that my jeans are tighter than they were when the summer; and the muscle memory of running hard (today, 3 miles.)

Today I carry the memory of quiet; my cup of coffee; the rooster crowing; my laptop; kindling; honey crisp apples; and questions, always questions.

What do you carry?

A glimpse into my studio right now: by Christina Rosalie

Working on illustrations for the book. Mixed media collage + digital + graphite sketches.


Also: A midsummer migrane; cicadas singing into late evening.; trying to remember to drink enough water + follow garment care instructions for washing; wishing for decompression; wrapping up projects for the summer semester; singing songs to Sprout until he falls asleep in my arms (a rare occasion for us both.)

These are some moments: full velocity, full of mess, full of grace by Christina Rosalie

It's been a wild tumble of spring-turning-into-summer around here. I'm in the thick of a full, full summer semester. The deadline for my manuscript is looming in early fall. Everything is converging in a miraculous, glorious mess. There isn't enough time. I'm exploding with ideas. The Kickstarter rewards are still waiting for finishing touches that require more than a handful of free moments to complete.

Bean graduated from kindergarten last Friday afternoon with scratched knees, hair in his eyes, and big beautiful grins. Sprout is potty training and asking "why?" and exploring just how much dramatic effect a super cute pouty face can have on us. Our washing machine broke (I overloaded it.) I never manage to put all the laundry away: it sits on the back of the couch, or in laundry baskets and the boys have grown used to rummaging through them for fresh underwear or unmatched socks.

We're all doing the best we can: full velocity, full time. It's an epic, glorious, silly, catastrophic choreography every single day. Some days we barely make it out of the house. Yesterday a tractor trailer flipped on the our road just before where I needed to turn: it set me back by an hour; made me late to a meeting; and yet those long moments waiting in traffic with windows down were moments of gratitude and grace.

Morning comes early now: 4:30 a.m. and the birds are calling. A salt and pepper chicken has gotten broody. We're letting her sit on a nest full of eggs. Beside the coop another poplar fell last week. This spring has been all about thunderstorms and floods and windstorms that keep tearing things up. Our driveway is a mess of ruts. The garden is just barely dug. Dandelions are going to seed everywhere. Dishes wait in the sink.

Before night falls we walk out together to the chicken coop, T and I. Twilight hums with crickets, frogs, fireflies. The sky is already gathering stars. We wrap our arms around each other's waists: this is the first time, close, skin to skin all day. We kiss, we close the coop, we walk back, stumbling over the army of muddy boots, flip flops, sneakers tossed off at the tile by the front door. Later, as I sit at the kitchen table with the windows open, I hear our neighbor banging on a metal garbage can lid: bears, most likely. Last night, it was a luna moth that came, with enormous pale green wings, beating at the screens.

So this is life, now, this month. These are are my moments.

What are yours?