Newborn babies, dreams of jumping and birthdays, and handbells: On celebrating life

Last night, I had a dream. I’ve been dreaming vividly more often these days, and sometimes I end up doing things because of my dream. When I had a dream about my aunt, I gave her a call. We re-connected and had a wonderful conversation. When I had a dream about a friend, we got in touch.

I dreamed that I was following someone else, running and leaping over wider and wider crevices in the ground. I jumped over the first few with ease, but near the end the gaps stretched to a few feet wide, and I hesitated. I can’t remember if I did jump over the last one, but I did. I also dreamed that someone (maybe the same person, but I’m not sure) asked me my birthday. I answered, hesitantly, and the person asked me whether I were sure and if that were really my birthday. I said yes, and in the end we left it at that.

I’m not a dream-ology person or believe too much in dream interpretation, but I was curious. I went to a dream symbol dictionary and looked up what it means if you jump in a dream and if birthdays come up.

Guess what?

Jumping can evoke great changes in your life, and being hesitant about the jumping can mean being hesitant about the change.

Birthdays can evoke (self-)acceptance, love, and knowing you are valued.

Here at Casa Vitsky, it was a rough start to the weekend after a rough end of the week. After a long time coming and heroic efforts on both sides, a family member and I will part ways. I’ve done everything in my power, with every breath in my body, to prevent this from happening. I believe family is our moral center and that we need families in order to navigate our lives. I also was raised to believe that we don’t give up on people. Perhaps we distance ourselves for protection on one or more sides, and perhaps we limit contact or do any number of other things, but family is irreplaceable. I will do almost anything for family.

Friday was the first time I allowed myself to face this decision and its long-term ramifications. Out of respect for the people involved, I’ll need to give some other people some space for a little while. It hurts me to do it, and it will hurt the other people who have had no part in this years-long difficulty. Yet sometimes, we have to make the difficult choice to preserve integrity. I hate hurting anyone, and to withdraw (because there is no other solution, and continuing to engage will only cause greater hurt) feels cruel. Yet…there is no other choice at this moment, no choice that will eliminate hurt, only choices that will minimize it.

On Friday, the world seemed dark and dreary. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in such a difficult place, and Saturday dawned difficult as well. Yet, out of the sadness came a new desire–to reach out and connect. I’ve seen signs of a new baby at my neighbor’s, but they are very private and rarely outside. Two days ago, for the first time since my next-door neighbor moved in a year ago, I brought a loaf of homemade bread. No one was home the two times I tried, so I left it hanging on the doorknob. Yesterday, I screwed up all of my guts and knocked on their front door. I was half-turned to flee, afraid they’d be angry at my intrusion, when a young woman answered the door with a tiny, dark-haired baby cuddled at her breast. She said she’d been breastfeeding. Horrified at interrupting, I turned to leave, but she said she was already up. I said I was her neighbor and saw she had a new baby, and wondered if she could use any help. We chatted for a bit, her standing inside with her baby and me shrinking onto the front step. I felt I should go, but a wild impulse made me blurt out:

Would it be okay–I mean, can I–I mean, would you mind if I hold him?

She said sure and opened her arms. I said I didn’t want him to get cold, so she invited me in and closed the door behind us. Ten pounds of newborn sweetness nestled into my arms, clothed in a soft furry fleece sleeper. He stirred, opened his eyes, and tried to focus on me. I tried to talk to his mom, but I could see, smell, and hear only this little one. We chit-chatted about internet service providers, electricity bills, car repairs, and places to get new tires. I offered, feeling brave, to watch the baby if she wanted to go grocery shopping or even just take a shower sometime. She thanked me for coming over, and before I left we exchanged phone numbers. I texted her afterward and repeated that I’d love to baby-sit. She said thanks.

I’m still hoping.

Another friend messaged me yesterday saying he’s visiting family for the weekend. I’m just about ready to mix up some bread dough and make cinnamon raisin bread to bring for treats. I should hurry, actually, because he wants me there in 90 minutes and it takes 60 to get there. Oops, the dough will take 30 minutes to rise. Be right back. πŸ˜€

Mm, kneading bread dough is good for the soul. I love watching a sticky, flour-y mess transform into a smooth, great-smelling ball of dough. I rolled out half the dough to flavor with butter, sugar, cinnamon, and raisins before shaping it into the loaf. The other loaf will get seasoned with an egg (or perhaps butter/olive oil) wash and Italian herbs before baking. As the smell of fresh bread baking fills my home, and as I watch with amazement at the bread produced by my own hands and a few ingredients (I’ve done all kinds of cooking and baking, but bread is something I’ve always written off as “too hard”), I’m finding peace.

This morning, after a long hiatus (partly influenced by laziness and partly influenced by a crazy schedule) I returned to church. I was greeted with hugs, handshakes, and invitations. Quilting this Saturday (I’m too young and never learned to quilt, but the best part about church quilting is that it’s very easy and a great way to meet grannies who love to chat), various Bible studies and so on, and the best–handbells.

If you couldn’t guess from Simple Gifts, I was a musician in a former life. I’ve had to give it up for many reasons, but I’ve never felt quite right without music in my life. Ages ago, I played church handbells for a season or two. I loved it, but I moved on and my other churches didn’t have handbell choirs or had a stuffy music director who only wanted certain people for the team. Today, I met the music director who said they don’t have a spot open at the moment but always need an alternate. That suits me just fine because life tends to get crazy for me, too. This Wednesday, I’ll head over to practice and watch while they rehearse for a performance next Sunday. I’ll get to meet everyone and see whether I might fit in. I’ll also see just how hard their music is and whether I might even be able to handle it. Even in my handbell choir days, I always played the middle bells so I wouldn’t have to handle more than two or three. The tiny bells on top are hard, and it’s a lot of notes! The ones on the bottom are heavy and hard to manage, but the ones in the middle are easier.

Not even 48 hours after I’d experienced a loss so terrible life seemed to have lost meaning, good things have rushed into my life.

It began yesterday with trying to write 100 things that made me happy. I only made it to 54, but my mind became opened to all that is good and all that I can experience. Even better, I’ve seen others in blogland dip their toe into the water, and I’ve loved reading your list of happiness items.

Many of those close to me have experienced difficult times. Loss of a job/income, loss of family, loss of friends, depression, illness, big adjustments, conflicts, loneliness, and perhaps emptiness. People fight, we get caught in the middle, petty drama brews, nosy people nose, and all of the nastiness of life can get overwhelming. Sometimes, like on Friday, it’s hard to see what it’s all worthwhile.

Yet today, I celebrate. L’chaim.

I’m celebrating life today by sharing homemade bread and visiting friends. And hoping I’ll get to play with a new baby.

How about you?

31 thoughts on “Newborn babies, dreams of jumping and birthdays, and handbells: On celebrating life

  1. Julie says:

    Ana, I know no one else with such a capacity to take a difficult circumstance and turn it into a life-affirming post that points a way forward.

    It isn’t always easy to find a way to pay attention to the things that make us happy, but I hope you keep finding them. I’ve been focusing more on those things, and it really does make a world of difference.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Thank you, Julie. I have my moments just like everyone else, but sometimes I can channel the positive. πŸ™‚ I’m glad that you are doing that too, and that you’re find it is helping. Many positive events for your life today, I hope!


  2. Sheila says:

    All will be well, Ana. I, too, in the past had to decide to pull away from others. It was freeing and I was able to grow and become stronger for it. Now I let others in but I control how much space they take. I don’t take the negativity in. I do things that bring happiness and blessings into my life. I don’t do things out of obligations or duty. I do things because I choose to do them. Yesterday I donated plasma, spent time with authors at an author event, and spent time with my youngest sister and her family. Today I am doing laundry, cleaned out a chest of drawers (found a wallet I had been looking for for the past 20 years!), and am listening to Celtic music. I’ll make pot roast for dinner and do dishes. I’ll also spend time amongst my book groups and will feel peace. I’ll also clean the snow from the steps and sidewalk. Peace of mind is the greatest blessing you can give yourself.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      It’s a tricky balance in between isolation and suffocation, and I doubt that any of us really can get it right. πŸ™‚ It’s a learning process that takes our entire lives.

      Hooray for finding your wallet! That’s wonderful. I also listened to Celtic Woman yesterday…lovely music and lifted my spirit. Pot roast sounds wonderful. Mm.

      Enjoy your peace of mind. It sounds like you’ve earned it. πŸ™‚


  3. quiet sara says:

    This was a beautiful post Ana. Ahh, the smell and cuddle of a newborn. Not much is better than that. I’m sorry you had to say goodbye to someone. I wish I could give you a hug.

    loving thoughts,


  4. pao says:

    I’m sorry to hear that you had to part ways with a family member. I hope things will get better between family *hug* I’m glad that you have positive things happening around you, though.

    And wow, handbells! I’ve never heard of handbells till last year πŸ˜€ That’s amazing! I wonder if ‘smell of freshly baked bread’ will sell as a fragrance? I hope Ana gets to play with a new baby too!


  5. laurellasky says:

    Hi Ana,

    That was a lovely post. Perhaps you will be babysitting very soon. Today has been excellent
    I have been a volunteer captain at our police department for 16 years and spent an hour fixing up get well cards, symphthy cards and birthday cards for our 400 volunteers. My darling husband Ed is having a good day and we spent our day talking and reminiscing about things he remembers and trips we have taken and looking at photographs. Every day we have is precious and makes me thankful.

    Big hugs,



    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Hi Laurel,

      Sorry, I’m getting to comments late. It’s been rather a whirlwind here. πŸ™‚ I haven’t heard back from neighbor, sadly, but I keep crossing my fingers. Maybe soon!

      I am glad you can have a good day with your husband. You have certainly learned to value the “good” moments.


  6. constance masters says:

    I’m so pleased you got to hold the baby Ana. There’s something about the smell of a baby. I remember on an episode of Everyone Loves Raymond where Frank (Raymond’s Dad) was holding one of the twins and he was smelling him. He said he was breathing in the fountain of youth. There’s something in that. Babies make me feel peaceful. AS for the new Mom? Having someone you can call just so you can have a shower is invaluable. She’s lucky to have you for a neighbour.

    This was a lovely post πŸ™‚


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Fountain of youth? That’s something oddly sincere and nice from Frank, the king of nasty put-downs. Yet…so true. Babies make me feel as if nothing bad in the world could matter.

      Lovely comment. πŸ™‚


  7. terpsichore says:

    This is a beautiful post, Ana. I am sorry for the difficult decision you had to make and that you had to say good-bye to someone in your life. Holding a baby always brings such joy and hope, doesn’t it? And music, fills the soul. How amazing to have the ability to go through challenges and still find the wonder and happiness life has to offer at every turn. Thinking of you and sending hugs your way.


  8. Mona Lisa says:

    What a wonderful blogspot, Ana.
    Maybe it’s something in the atmosphere but I have had a tough weekend too. Nothing so difficult as yours, but still.
    Today I listened to music too and Ave Maria has opened my heart and soul and tears came out …
    Ana to let people go and take a break from them is sometimes the only way you can go.
    To be able to meet again.
    Have faith, Ana.
    The universe knows what it’s doing.

    In six years I’ve worked with newborns. Holding a newborn baby is a miracle. You can not get enough of it. I still miss it.

    A big hug to you, Ana. Now that some things have hit rock bottom, things can only get better.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      So good to hear from you again. I hope your week is shaping up much better.

      I love the Ave Maria. It has an amazing healing power. Such genius and love, all in a few notes.

      We need to find newborns on call. πŸ˜€


  9. Roz says:

    What a lovely post Ana, I’m so sorry you had to make this difficult decision and say goodbye to a family member. I admire you for your ability to focus on all the positives. How wonderful of you to reach out to your neighbour. There is nothing like the smell of a newborn baby πŸ™‚

    I’m so glad too that you are returning to church and music. Music really does feed the soul.



    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      It’s always a struggle to focus on the positive, but it’s a struggle worth fighting. What is our alternative, after all? I shudder to imagine it.

      Celtic Woman kept me company the other day, and it was amazing. It’s like a sigh, only with notes.

      Hugs back.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I hope the difficulties will ease. Sometimes it’s so darn hard, isn’t it? I hope you’ll find something to make you happy today. After I wrote my list of 54 things, I found 2-3 more that night. It helps to shift our focus, I think.


  10. Joelle Casteel says:

    I’m so glad I noticed this post in Emily’s blog roll, Ana- it was something I needed to read- after my vent this morning. Your need to distance makes me think of the scene at Cracker Barrel last night- I’m not sure why exactly we thought that a preschool aged child with severe autism would do well there, but we got to deal with him screaming, flapping, and having fits as we tried to eat. I found out later talking to my sister-in-fact that she and my brother had argued because she said that the restaurant choice was bad for my nephew. And yes, the stress of that unhappy meal- because my mother and my brother disagreeing about how to deal with autistic child added to the stress of what was supposed to be a celebration for my father and my birthdays.


  11. minellesbreath says:

    Sometimes life is so hard. When we seem at our lowest we receive answers to our prayers…thoughts and questions. Those solutions aren’t always obvious.The thing is we need to try and be aware of the answers..coming to us.You are.
    I believe things will get easier. You are making things happen. That is the next step.


  12. Teresa Wymore says:

    Ah…family. It used to be everything to me.

    My family imploded in the last two years. I have a twin sister and an older sister who do not speak to me. This was a progression of self-pity that began as children and eventually became about politics and religion–or at least that’s the cover. In any case, it was difficult, not just for me, but for my mother, who was also cut off. The sadness is the next generation of cousins (10 of them among 3 families) who won’t know each other or their grandma because of a generation too filled with self-righteousness.

    But life is big! For everyone who rejects me, another embraces me. It was difficult at first, but I discovered how emotionally draining it was dealing with them. Removing the emotional suck has allowed me to give more to myself and those who appreciate what I have to offer. I could never have cut them off, so I’m glad they did it.

    I’m often amazed how the universe takes care of me. Ana, you are embracing life, reaching out and up. Maybe the drain on you has been lifted, too. Maybe you have been freed to be more yourself, to grow your life in a way this other person wasn’t allowing.


  13. catrouble says:

    Hey Ana…I am so sorry you had to make such a difficult decision regarding the family member but I know that you didn’t have a choice. Am very happy that you connected with your neighbor and were able to hold the baby…that is such a lovely feeling isn’t it. So sorry we weren’t able to connect today. 😦 Hopefully, we can soon.

    Sending lots of prayers and positive energy your way.

    Hugs and Blessings…


  14. angel says:

    Hey Ana sorry to hear about the family It can be very hard I am glad to hear you seeing the bright side of other things that will help a little with the pain And new babies help alot they are like little bundles of happiness and joy May this week be better and filled with lots of happiness and joy Praying for you Hugs and lots of Blessings


  15. Irishey says:

    Hugs, Ana. I’ve had to do this with family, too. I don’t think I will ever not be terribly sad because of it. I’m just thankful to not feel so many other negative things so often – the way it was before the break.

    The incredibly comforting aromas of baking bread and newborn babies…perfect to help counter the effects of sadness.

    Jumping and birthdays? I don’t recall ever dreaming about either. I hope these are portents of more good things in store for you. The hesitancy over the big jumps seems logical – you do have to get a good look at your potential landing spot and judge the effort required to make the longer leap. I can think of several other metaphorical considerations related to that, as I’m sure you can. Hmmm…taking the two together… Maybe the important thing is not to jump prematurely and land on your birthday cake before the candles are blown out and you’ve eaten a piece of it. πŸ˜‰


  16. Barbara McCormick says:

    Big hugs, Ana, partly to offer comfort for having to make such a difficult decision and partly to congratulate on stepping out toward the beauty in the world. Newborns are so wonderful! They smell so good!

    I’m so glad you’ve taken music back into your life. Although I don’t play an instrument any more and dancing is, at best, difficult right now, I can still sing, by golly! I could not live without music.

    Last but not least, I love that you’re baking bread with such joy and abandon. So rewarding!

    Wishing you much joy, you generous woman!


  17. Missy says:

    Hey Ana πŸ™‚

    Wow what beautiful dreams πŸ™‚ unlike you I really do believe in them. I spent a lot of years reading about dreamology and dream interpretation. I have at times very vivid dreams and have sensed my great granddad’s passing a few days before. I have rang my cousin when I had a dream about her being upset, to find her in great difficulty, I have dreamt about job offers before them happening and predicted a major change in my life months before it happened. Coincidence ? I don’t believe in them, I believe in destiny, but I believe we can choose which path we take to reach it πŸ™‚

    I’m so sorry about your difficulties with your family. I find myself in a similar situation, and have recently chosen to distance myself to protect me and my family, it’s hard to do, but sometimes we have to do this to be able to move on, and who knows what will happen down the line, paths meet again and new situations bring change πŸ™‚ I like how positive you are about life πŸ™‚

    I love the new baby smell, I used to joke with a friend if we could bottle it, it would be a million dollar business πŸ™‚

    Btw I’m a bit dizzy when it comes to technical things regarding blogger and word press, I’ve been looking everywhere and can’t find your email address, I still owe you a bread recipe πŸ™‚

    Hugs x


  18. Ami says:

    Sometimes, years after you have given up on things, they have a habit of turning around, so I will keep that hope for you, as I know it must have been a very difficult decision to make.

    I love nuzzling the hair (what there is of it) of newborn babies. I also like when they get a few weeks older and begin to “talk” to you by making interesting little sounds. And I love “gummy” smiles.

    Handbells? Love listening to them, and also the big old bells that ring across the meadows from our local churches on a Sunday. I thought about learning to ring once, but don’t think I could manage such a big commitment. I love listening to church choirs too. You are really clever if you can ring handbells, it takes such a lot of concentration. I am in awe.

    What do you mean you’re too young and never learned to quilt? My bottom lip is now overlapping my top lip and I am in a sulk. And I am a grandma too. (I very nearly put in lots of exclamation marks here – I feel they are justified.) I think I shall have a quiet word with Mrs Claus.

    Your bread sounds so scrumptious and I am feeling very hungry. I am on a three day intensive NO CARBS OF ANY SORT diet. It says it lessens you desire for sweet things, and my sugar count went up over Christmas. As you know, I also love making bread and all this is coming very hard to me. Cinnamon is good for diabetes though, so I have heard. Sigh.

    I shall definitely do a list of things I love. I lie in bed and think about it just before dropping off to sleep, and some of the things are quite strange – a bit like Sound of Music. And you pinched some of my things for your list, so now I must think of alternatives. I think perhaps several of us will have at least some things that are the same, don’t you?

    Many hugs


    • nancygoldberglevine says:

      It is hard, Ana. I got two compliments today that made me feel good, but two of my fake brothers (acting like real brothers, at least the first one) and I had a diffrence of opinion and that kind of hurt. I’m trying to deal with the difficulties one day at a time but that’s not easy.


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