of polar vortexes and seeing your breath in the air.

…And then I didn’t take a breath for two months. I got all caught up and feeling pretty good, and then the holidays hit, and some things ramped up at work, and Dan’s mom came into town, and everything enveloped me again. I always really miss having time to sit down, update the blog, and just take stock for a hot second. But I enjoyed the festivities and friends and fun of this busy season, too. And I cut myself some slack in lots of different ways, and didn’t get very stressed.

Some things I don’t want to forget from the end of 2013:

  • Giving a talk to a group of VCU students about the perils of an inappropriately-curated internet presence
  • Morella eating a banana at the Thanksgiving dinner table
  • Fire pits and kitchen dance parties
  • Friendsgiving at the Bises’
  • Laughter filling the room at the Tumblr RVA holiday party when I raised my glass and toasted / roasted my colleagues
  • DK saying my dress and fascinator were the “perfect Tumblr blue,” though I hadn’t noticed that when getting dressed for the party
  • Those eggnog cookies that really didn’t turn out so great
  • Shopping extravaganza day with Dan’s mom
  • Finding the perfect sensible yet FABULOUS office heels
  • Looking for but not really needing too badly or caring about finding a new wallet — just looking for pure fun
  • Having productive work-related conversations with Joe using nothing but WTNV references
  • Meeting and befriending some new neighbors
  • My niece’s angry-sleeping-face, just like my brother
  • Morella’s little hands crumpling up wrapping paper
  • My parents’ faces when they’re playing with the baby and their voices when they talk to her
  • Those Santa-themed footie pajamas
  • Her red Christmas dress with black polka dots and a black velvet bow, and her other wintry outfit that’s just a white onesie with a skirt, with silver and red snowflakes and princess sleeves
  • Opening my presents from Dan on Christmas morning, and seeing the tintypes for the first time
  • The family hangouts, gifts, and what Morella’s into right now, already described here and here
  • Erik coining the term “selfie-righteousness” in his sermon at church
  • A cemetery walk with Kathryn
  • New Year’s Eve gently carrying in a groggy baby from the car and listening nervously to all the celebratory gunshots, at my desk with a nightcap
  • Coffee dates and brunches and cocktails on the couch, catching up with friends back from far-off lands
  • Enjoying Tolkien at the movie theater but also being nervous about whether the baby was okay while I was out
  • Pictures of everything right here.
  • Those dark witching hours spent in the nursery, streetlight filtering through the curtains enough to illuminate the face of a fed, happy, sleeping girl, on my lap for a little while longer just so I can watch her and love her and drink in her softness and beauty

As for what I’m up to at this moment in time:

Life is really, really beautiful right now. In that almost-painful, “These Are Days” kind of a way.

Work is hectic but great. I still love working with those clowns every day. We laugh so much. And eat so much. Oh man.

My look has changed a bit, at least around the eyes. At the end of the year we needed to spend all of the remaining money from our work-funded HRA card, so I ended up buying like 10 new pairs of glasses. And I’ve actually been wearing them. I had really just gotten to the point where I was squinting a lot and having trouble seeing road signs, etc. All the expected stuff that 8 years working in front of a computer will do to you. But I’m enjoying my new accessories and making the best of it.

Dan is doing well and looking forward to Ardent Craft Ales opening this spring. Other than brewing and going out to play guitar sometimes, he is mostly into his Nintendo 3DS. The man can’t get enough. Currently it’s Zelda Zelda Zelda all day long.

The baby is amazing and I mean that in the most literal sense. She amazes me every day. I’ve already talked about her ad nauseum here.


And I’ve noticed such a huge change in myself, too. As I commented on a friend’s blog recently, if you had told me a year ago that I would ever feel this way about anyone, I would have laughed. At times it’s really heartening, just to know that you can still feel so overwhelmed by joy when you’re so old and broken. And other times it’s shocking to see how primally overprotective and over-worried you can be. And other times it’s scary to see how much you’re ruled by hormones, and how little control you have over your emotions toward the baby, and how much you react exactly the same way mothers have been reacting for thousands of years. Certainly I am the Tess I have always been, and there is no other Tess Shebaylo. But also I’m not that much of an individual, and I’m not the same Tess. I’m growing and loving and surviving, and my body swells and births and contracts back again, just like millions of women before me, just like the books and the internet and everything said I would. I wake in the night and check the baby monitor frantically because my gut tells me to. I feel my entire body and everything in me relax fully when I haven’t seen the baby in a while and I’m finally holding her again, and it’s the craziest and yet the most expected sensation. It’s like there are magnets in us and nothing seems right until the magnets are together. I’m being pushed and pulled by forces of nature and in my head that seems very strange, and counter to the plodding-along-the-trail nature of my life up to this point. But in my heart and body it feels fine, and of course, there has to be a reason why these instincts and connections are the way they are. Thomas Jefferson called it “a benevolent arrangement of things.” Everything is surprising and wonderful and I am just really in love with my little poppet.

I’ve only got two standing weekly commitments right now, which is probably the lowest it’s ever been: just yoga and our city group. Both so restorative and necessary. And as far as side projects go, the big one on my plate that I’d like to focus on is Common Good RVA. There are so many causes and interesting / cool things to get involved in, but over the past few years I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed by all of the options and not knowing which thing to focus on. The point of Common Good RVA is to work for the good of Richmond and promote awareness of those who are already doing that in various organizations and in their everyday lives, so I feel like it’s the perfect thing to pour my efforts into. I guess I’ve just felt really fragmented with all my piecemeal involvement with stuff and decided I’d like to just be “all in” with this one thing and try to make a difference with it, rather than making no difference by doing a hundred things halfheartedly. Anyway I’m working on a web site for CGRVA right now and hoping to unveil it in the next month or so.

There’s always photography and blogging and wishing really hard for some time to read, but those things always get pushed off ’til the very bottom (seldom-reached) part of the to-do list. How unfortunate that they happen to be the things I like best in the world to do!

I will not go into all the baby care and house care things that still must be done no matter what — those go without saying.

I’ve never been big on resolutions, but my general goals right now are to get back outside even if it’s cold because it always clears my head and helps me remember what’s important, keep good records of the baby even if I don’t edit or publish them in a timely fashion, work on Common Good RVA however I’m needed, and continue to be hospitable always and make room for love, friendship, kindness, and dinner guests.

Today was foggy and rainy. This morning Morella did the sign for “milk” for the first time ever, at least I think she did, because she did it again around lunchtime when she wanted to nurse again. We went to a newly-opened Urban Farmhouse location a block away with our neighbors, and chatted and laughed and let the babies gnaw on whatever from our breakfasts. Then Dan and I de-Christmased, and tried to figure out why the water dispenser is no longer working on our fridge, and fed the baby tons of food, and played with her and kissed her a hundred times. Some errands were run, then Morella had bath time (her favorite!) before nursing and going to bed. Dan went to a show so I’m having some coveted alone-time in which to blog, before painting my nails and reading in bed (also coveted activities). It was a pretty mundane day in my life and yet that’s why it feels so good to describe it. I’ve been so delighted all day today and I wasn’t even doing anything that would be considered particularly fun or awesome. But it was fun. And it was awesome.  ::cue the 10,000 Maniacs::

Tomorrow we’re going on a short hike along the floodwall (trying to ease back into hiking a little with some easy walks that we can carry the baby on), and eating dinner with the whole family over at my parents’ house. I’m looking forward to taking some photos and (shocker!) learning about some history. And being outside.

P.S. New year, new blog theme. But you probably won’t see it because you’re reading this via Feedly, right? People don’t “visit web sites” anymore. And that’s good because it’s 2014 and your online life doesn’t have to be a slave to location (aka the browser bookmarks of a specific computer).

P.P.S. I realize that I probably sound incredibly goofy with all my gushing in this entry, but I really do feel that way. I feel that intoxicated and that protective and that joyful and that intense. Since I’m normally a measured old church lady who enjoys needle crafts, it seems important to try to paint these colorful days exactly as I feel them. Now I feel like I have partially eroded that sincerity by acknowledging that I feel silly. But anyway. You get it.


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