Give it a Rest, Already.

What started as sniffles turned into a full-blown, wear-your-bathrobe-all-day cold. Nonetheless, I knew I would have no break from childcare, housework, or client demands. My husband pitched in more than usual, and I allowed the kids extra TV time. Otherwise, I plowed on, my “sick days” looking barely different than any other day—save for doses and doses of meds and piles of tissues.

According to Jessica Turner, author of the new book The Fringe Hours, and Brigid Schulte, author of New York Times bestseller Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, my response is the norm for women today. Both write how women have become so caught up in today’s quest to have and do it all that their bodies, minds, and souls have forgotten how to engage in of “me time,” self-care, and leisure, even when they need it most.

We desperately need to be refreshed. Or even just a nap.

Overwhelmed begins with a disbelieving scene: sociologist and time expert John Robinson exams a time journal Schulte has meticulously kept for a year and half. Schulte sees an over-busy and burdened schedule without even a minute to spare on herself; Robinson sees hours upon hours of what he deems leisure time. “Women have… at least 30 hours of leisure time each week,” he states, the implication being that they simply don’t know how to find or use it. He points to two hours Schulte spent waiting on a tow truck when her car broke down and calls it leisure time. The same for the 20 minutes she spent listening to the radio one morning while struggling to get out of bed. As infuriating as this may seem, when your life is inevitably bound to be busy and overscheduled, those periods matter.

It’s exactly those spots of not-quite-downtime that Turner, a working, blogging mother of three, embraces in her book The Fringe Hours. There are “little pockets of time throughout the day that often go underused or are wasted altogether,” she said. “If not intentionally redeemed, [these] fringe hours slip thorough one’s fingers like sand.”

You can read the rest of today’s post at Her.meneutics, Christianity Today’s blog for women.

I’m Sorry–I Just Don’t Like Your Shoes (or Tupac)

When I was in my late twenties and, after a several years’ long, self-imposed dating hiatus, decided to start dating again, I created a firm set of criteria for men:

Good shoes
Good taste in music
Liberal politics
A little older than or the same age as me

There were deeper things as well, of course, such as matters of the soul, heart, brain, and spirit. But shoes, music, politics, age… those were the immediate first impression items that would make or break the possibility of a first date.

I recall getting an email from my son’s baseball coach, Steve, sometime soon after I reached this dating decision. Steve wrote in his email that the team would be getting a new assistant coach (AC) in a few weeks, that right now the new guy was traveling in Africa but would have a lot to offer the kids upon his return. Steve said something (I don’t remember what) in the email that made me realize this new coach was probably my age and the question flitted, unbidden—unwanted even—across my mind: was Africa Guy a dating possibility?

I promise it really was a fleeting thought. I still wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to date, and I don’t recall thinking of it again. Not until I first saw Andy, anyway.

I could tell as soon as I pulled into the parking lot that the new AC had finally arrived. I saw him standing by third base, separated by only a chain link fence and a few feet of dirt from where I would be sitting. He was tall(ish) and thin, but that’s all I could tell from my car. Minutes later, as I climbed onto the bleachers to watch practice, I took advantage of my dark sunglasses and close proximity to take a closer look.

Ugh.

Bad shoes. Terrible, even. Beat up sneakers, laces dragging in the dirt. Just really, really bad.

Oh well. I wasn’t really looking anyway.

If your child has ever been on a travel team, you know that travel teams require a lot of practices, games, and, well, traveling. Parents become very close during these months of game playing and road tripping and hotel staying, and at the end of the traveling season as everyone says goodbye with empty promises to stay in touch over the break, you can’t help but feel a void where those parents had been for so many months, day in and day out, whether you wanted them there or not.

During these forced but somehow magical months together, I was surprised to find myself strategically maneuvering into whatever car this ugly-shoed guy was riding in to whatever hot-as-heck town it was we were headed to at 5am on a Sunday morning. I was even more surprised when I later realized he was doing the same thing.

During these weekend drives, I came to find out that this guy has (present tense) HORRIBLE taste in music, clothes, and shoes, and that he’s five years younger than me. In fact, I found that the only first-impression criterion he met is that he’s liberal. Very, very liberal. (also present tense)

But I also found out that he loves kids and practicing random acts of kindness, is crazy intelligent, and that my son adored him. That I was kind of starting to adore him, too.

If you’re anything like me in this kind of situation, you may agree to go on a first date that turns out to be really lame, but for some crazy reason feel in your heart that a second date is in order. And then a third. And so on and so forth until one day, crazy upon crazy, you find yourself walking down the aisle towards this man who wears very bad shoes and doesn’t even know who the Misfits are.

I promise you, this is what you might find. Of course, you might not. But you might.

And a few years down the line, you may realize that sometimes it really does make things kind of tough that you can’t share musical references, that you sometimes feel a little too irksome over something as shallow as shoes, and that, on occasion, you will make a joke that he is too young to get.

It isn’t a one-way street, of course. Being forced during kitchen clean up time to listen to honkey tonk, British folk, or screaming once-twenty-year-old punk rockers who are now in their 40s and 50s with saggy tattoos probably isn’t too fun either.

It wouldn’t be fair of me to lie and say that these things end up not mattering. They do matter and, yes, it adds a few complications to the already-complicated institution of marriage when husband and wife don’t share some things in common. But it would also be unfair of me to act like these things matter-matter. Because they don’t. 

I’m not incredibly old, and I haven’t been married an incredibly long time. But I’m willing to bet that marriage, like the rest of life, happens in stages. In the early stages you simply don’t care about anything other than the overwhelming newlywed love you feel towards one another. In the tired middle years—which is where my husband and I now reside—you care about who takes out the garbage and gets up with the baby. During the initial empty-nest stage, I imagine you might want to be with someone you don’t mind sitting with in a too-quiet and kid-lonely house. Bonus points if you can hit the RV with that person and travel to places unknown without killing each other. And I’ll bet that during all of the stages of marriage, the infamous notion of a helpmeet comes into play far more than my 25-year-old self would ever have wanted to admit. If you aren’t familiar with the notion of a helpmeet, don’t google it. All I mean is: spouses who help one another. A wife who moves across the country for her husband’s job. A husband who endures four-hours of sleep each night for month’s on end so his wife can get some recuperative rest. Partners who, together, agree to tackle finances and kids (not literally) and heartbreaking 2am phone calls and bouts of occasional melancholy.

Shoes and music and even age matter so little when you get a call from the principal’s office. Or the hospital. Or the police.

You know this to be true when you stop to think about it, but thinking in the face of a first impression or first date is typically not done. In fact, I’m willing to bet we’re at our stupidest during the heady early months of dating.

If you’re in those stupid months right now, or hope soon to be, my “old and married” advice for you on this once-religious-now-Hallmark-secular holiday we call Valentine’s Day would be to not get too hung up on the particulars of things you’re not even going to have time for later in life anyway (trust me, you won’t. Unless by “music” you mean the Frozen soundtrack and by “shoes” you mean slippers.) I could see age being an important factor in some instances, but even age may not be as important as you think. I can’t really speak to the politics part of it since that particular assistant coach and I ended up being on (mostly) the same page. I can, however, point you to James Carville and Mary Matalin, who are apparently still very much in love. I don’t really know any other examples of polar political opposites, so take what you will from their odd little union.

My “old and married” love note for my husband this Valentine’s Day will not overflow with flowery and poetic language, but rather will convey the simplest but most important of sentiments: Thank you.

I will write:

Dear Africa/Assistant Coach/Bad Shoe Guy,

Thank you for helping me so much and meeting my needs. For letting me roll my eyes at your clothes and ask you to turn your music down, especially if I’m trying to cook. For sighing when you don’t get a 1970’s punk reference, and for teasing you when you try to pretend that you do. Thank you for using your exaggerated Mark Twain accent to tell our little girl stories of a “Mr. Goldwater who in 1964 went home to fish due to one Mr. Johnson, who probably should’ve been fishing, too.” For getting our oldest concerned with sovereign debt issues, and for getting our youngest to occasionally wear pants. Thank you for loving me, neuroses and bad hair days and all.

If there’s anyone in this world I want to have so little in common with but so much love for, it’s you.

(You can read last year’s Valentine’s Day post here.)

Shrimp-tutionalized

Knowing that I just moved to the area and am searching for kid friendly ways to Get Out Of The House, a friend told me about a local swim class she attends with her two little ones. If I remember correctly, the conversation went something like this:

“You know, there’s this great swim class we take the kids to—“

“Did you say swim class?”

“Yeah, it isn’t far, and it’s relatively inexp—“

“I HATE swim classes for kids. They are TORTURE. Let me tell you….”

I went on from there, probably for a good thirty minutes, disparaging every swim class between here and Berkeley.

I’m sure I appeared both selfish (or at least a bad listener) and crazy (or at least slightly obsessed), but being selfish and/or crazy doesn’t make it any less true that my experience with kids’ swim classes is one of misery.

In the funny way life has of being weird and coincidental, shortly after that heated one-way exchange, I was searching for an old email and accidentally stumbled instead upon an email I sent Andy in 2010, detailing every painful moment of one of Rachel’s first forays into Shrimp-dom:

Today’s Shrimp class was soooo not worth it. You know how it starts at 10am, ends at 10:30am, and then it takes until approximately 11:45am to get both of Rachel and me dried off, showered, dried off again, and re-dressed? Well today I had a definite plan for how I was going to reduce that time to about 20 minutes. Seriously. Of course, I failed miserably, and I ended up driving home in my wet swimsuit.

The five other moms and babies in class seem to have it all figured out. The moms put the younger babies (6-8 months) on towels on the changing benches, and the moms with older babies stand them up in the little closed off area the benches make. One mom even gets her seven-month-old to sit on a towel the whole time. Amazing. When I try any of these things, Rachel: 

  1.  falls down
  2.  crawls on the icky floor
  3.  cries
  4.  all of the above

The mom with the seven-month-old who sits on a towel without moving saw me struggling to keep Rachel from crawling away and said, “does she know the word ‘stop?’”

“No.”

 “Oh. Well what about ‘Red Light?”

Uh, no. She’s seven months old. She thinks ‘no’ is the funniest word she’s ever heard and has not a freaking clue what a red light is. I told the women this and she smiled like she felt really sorry for me and my obvious incompetence.

This was when I decided to wear wet clothes home.

I put Rachel in the stroller and she immediately started crying and reaching up for me. Okay. Rachel out and gym bag, diaper bag, and purse in. I pushed the stroller to the elevator with one hand. This did not go well. You know how the stroller alignment is all screwed up? Well, there’s an old-person class right after the Shrimp class, and I was forced to dodge canes and walkers lest I take some old lady down. I got a lot of glares. That was especially true when I couldn’t figure out how to push the stroller with one hand while carrying Rachel and her Froggie blanket through the swinging gate to leave. The gate swings IN, which is just plain stupid, but everyone looked at me like I was the stupid one.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so disorganized: no makeup, hair half wet/half in a ponytail/half in a bun, wet swim suit soaking my clothes, one hand busy knocking down old people with my run-away-stroller, the other hand struggling to carry a grumpy baby and her Froggie blanket, all while wearing disgusting, soggy sweats as I walked the two blocks to the parking garage where I was parked on the sixth floor. Rachel freaked out as soon as I put her in the car seat, so I had to drive all the way home with my left hand while my right hand was twisted behind me holding a bottle for Rachel. I could see a mom in a minivan behind me laughing as I drove down the garage ramp.

I’ll admit that one reason I felt so incompetent is because I’m used to being the one who has it all together. I certainly did with Collin. Collin thinks things are different with Rachel because I’m “old” now. I think it’s because I don’t co-sleep with her like I did with Collin so I get up every two hours between midnight and 6am and am too damn tired to do something like change a wet, squirming baby with one hand while sitting on a cramped, stinky pool locker room floor with five other moms and their kiddos watching me, waiting to see if I’ll screw up.

Anyway, finally Rachel fell asleep in the car. Yay! We were almost home and since it wasn’t yet 1pm, Collin would be asleep, too. I figured I’d get something hot to eat, maybe write you an email about today’s Shrimp fiasco, and then take a long hot shower.

Uh, no.

Rachel did stay asleep, but as soon as I got home Collin let Bella-dog out of his room, so she started barking and whining and Winston-dog started trying to rough house with her, then Collin turned his techno music &!*$ up really loud and the bass started thumping the half of the house I wanted to relax in. Obviously I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my hot food and drink, so I went straight to the shower, desperate to get in there before Collin came upstairs and started running his day’s plans by me, such as, “can I experiment with smoking tree bark today? Can I drive the minivan to Taco Bell? Can I go to a girl’s house while her parents aren’t home and she’s having a pillow-fight-pajama party?” Honestly though, at this point I would have said yes to all those things just to get some peace and quiet in the house while Rachel was still sleeping.

Anyway, I finally managed to shower. Ready to recover from my horrible morning, I sat down at the computer with coffee and homemade blueberries muffins slathered with butter. Of course, that’s when Collin walked in and said, “Andy wants me to check my email right now.” Crap, crap, crap. So I turned on Martha Stewart, which I almost never watch, and guess what? It was one I had already seen.

Maybe someday I’ll re-write this to make it touching or funny or something more than what it is, but for right now, I just needed to get this off my chest.

Shrimp class sucks.

Author’s notes: if the person who advised me on a great local swim class is reading this (and I assume she is because I’m going to tag her on FB), now you know I am neither selfish nor crazy. I am, quite simply, still in Shrimp-covery.

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Why He Should Get Up With the Baby While I Sleep

One of the things I’m most grateful for in the parenting arrangement my husband and I have worked out is that he’s the one who gets up with the baby. There are several reasons for this (such as the fact that I usually can’t fall back asleep for hours), but the primary reason is because I stay home with the kids.

I know this arrangement may seem counterintuitive and maybe even a little unfair: He has to put on dress clothes and uncomfortable shoes and interact with actual human beings all day, whereas I can wear PJs from start to finish while eating lots of chocolate and fatty foods to get myself through until bedtime (yes, yes. I KNOW that’s a bad idea). I can usually put my paid work off until a better day, and things like laundry and dishes are done on a self-imposed deadline. But really, it makes a lot of sense and is more “fair” overall for everyone involved (because let’s be honest: so much of marriage comes down to discussions over what’s “fair” or not. It’s like a never-ending kindergarten battle over who had what toy first.)

Why is it more fair?

Because if the parent who stays home with the kids doesn’t sleep (be it the mom or the dad), multiple family members pay the cost:

  • The kids may get put in front of the TV too much, which will lead to brain rot and keep them from someday joining the ranks of contributing members of society (otherwise known as “Really Useful Engines”);
  • The kids may get disciplined instead of redirected, which will lead to absurdly high therapy bills, both for us and for their future families. Reducing tax-deductible medical costs is good both for our checkbook as well as for the national debt;
  • The kids may get snapped—or even yelled at—for minor, un-snap, un-yell worthy things (see above);
  • Etc.

All that said, there are many reasons to let the work-outside-the-home parent sleep:

  • If s/he is an attorney or judge with a trial the next day;
  • If s/he operates motor vehicles or carnival rides for a living;
  • If s/he works at a daycare;
  • If s/he works at a nuclear power plant or the Pentagon;
  • Etc.

Before you go thinking how lucky I am, I should point out that I often get up at 4am, which is when the little guy wakes up. So oddly, although my husband’s sleep is broken into chunks (a MISERABLE way to sleep), he frequently gets more sleep than me, especially on weekends.

(Ha! Equal points, people, equal points!)

There’s also the option of switching off, which can be a great way to go since it’s “fair” for both parents and reduces (or evens out) score keeping. It tends not to work for us, but, you know, once Andy starts hallucinating, I figure it’s time I step up a bit.

I recently decided to take New Year’s resolutions a bit more seriously than in the past (I mean really? Wait until 1/1/xx to start bettering ones self? Makes no sense to me, but this year I’m giving it a go), and I’m going to try the same with Valentine’s Day. With nine days to go until the big to-do, I’m racking my brain for things I love about my husband (okay, it really isn’t THAT hard). With three kids and lots of marriage under our belts, this list has turned away from things like:

What gorgeous eyes!

He’s best writer I know!

Check out those calves!

To:

He doesn’t mind unloading the dishwasher!

He gets up with the baby!

He likes to run errands!

It’s funny how things change with a bit more of life in the (I’ll-get-to-it-someday) scrapbook. The jury’s still out, but I’m pretty sure I’ll take night wakings and unloaded silverware baskets over gorgeous eyes and a well-turned phrase any day.

On our honeymoon eons ago.

On our honeymoon eons ago.

Sometimes Love Looks Like a Poop-Filled Bag and Half-Eaten Burger

Marriage necessitates so much giving up of one’s self. I’m not very comfortable with that because I kind of like all my parts and want to keep them. I like the part of me that often wants to  be alone. I like the part of me that wants calm, cleanliness, and order at all costs. I like the part of me that wants to do exactly what I want to do when I want to do it.

But I’m finding that these parts don’t fit too well in the machine of marriage.

Instead I have to think about him and his needs, which, unfortunately, don’t always match up with mine. It’s easier to think about the kids’ needs; I’ve been putting kids first since I was fifteen. (Fifteen I tell you! Can you even imagine?) I can also do this for people to whom I am not related or married. But putting the needs of my spouse first? That is where I draw the line.

I promise you, and him, and our offspring, that I am indeed trying. I don’t take this marriage thing lightly. I mean, if I’m going to give up that expensive law degree and my girlish figure and all my wonderful, fantastic, perfect alone time with cocoa and a book, this marriage thing better work out. Because I’ll be damned if after all this sacrifice I end up changing my own diapers some day.

Today I even offered to split my bacon cheeseburger and fries right down the middle with my husband, and I hate sharing food. This bit of selfless giving on my part came about because I thought my husband didn’t want fast food, but that was only because I only gave him about six seconds to respond to my text asking if he wanted fast food, and by the time second seven came around I’d already ordered and gotten my burger from under the heat lamp.

I felt bad.

I kind of also felt unhealthy and fat even though I’m trying to gain weight right now. So I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone. My husband, home sick watching The Hobbit at top volume while I worked my fingers to the bone and he pretended not to notice, declined my offer.

No matter. Now I had a point to put up on the little chalkboard in my mind. Jamie 1, Andy 827. He’d better watch out—I’m on his heels! Somewhere after my kindly act and his utter disregard, I got really snappy. I think it’s because he wanted to borrow my computer, but he has his own darn computer. He’s been saying for months now he’s going to ask his boss about getting a new one, but has he done it? Nooooo. (Note that this brings Andy down to a lowly 826 points) So this means he has to borrow my computer. The one he gave me as a gift and cost about as much as a used car. The one I pour my heart and soul into and leave my email up on, and have goofy Facebook talks with my bloggy friends on. Reminds me of my dad going through my poetry and cassette tapes, asking just what exactly it means, this album called Songs of Faith and Devotion? Faith in what? Devotion to whom? And why is that song by the Violent somethingorothers entitled Gone Daddy Gone? What does this mean, Jamie?

Bless him and his helping heart.

So anyway, Andy used it, and I gave myself half a point since I did, after all, loan it to him. I did angry, slammy things the whole time he used it maybe, or maybe I picked up poop in the backyard since it’s going to snow tomorrow and who wants to pick up half frozen/half smushy poop? And I think I seethed the whole time about how poop pick up is his job, not mine. A battle raged within me:

Yes, but he has a cold, Jamie.”

“He’s had that cold for two weeks now. One should not malinger! I gave birth with a cold! I bleach the bathtub and pre-treat whites with a cold!” And the clincher: “I cleaned the baby’s vomit as I was vomiting.” Boo yah!

But then:

You just lost a client; you have plenty of time on your hands to pick up poop.”

“You wanna’ ask me why I lost a client? Because I have to cram 26 hours of work into two-hour naps! Andy’s side of the bed is messier than mine and takes ten seconds longer to make! I do everything around here!”

Only one poop pile left now, Jamie, so you’re going to have to get over it.”

Eventually I lost to myself, and gave myself another half point, which brought the score up to a strong 826 to 2, I think.

It’s a bit after 5pm now and my tea’s gone cold. I know that Andy and the kids are almost home—picking the kids up from preschool scores Andy a whopping 200 points per child—and I’m thinking of dinner, and backpacks, and lunch box cleaning, and papers, so many papers, scattered all over my just-cleaned kitchen. And then the dishes and counters and trash, maybe the floors if I’m feeling domestic, and then the scramble to get the kiddos to bed before our backs give out.

And I’m thinking that I’m thankful, oh so thankful, that I don’t have to do all of that alone.

There’s Sick, and then there’s Homesick

When I was somewhere around 19 years old, I was the assistant manager of a wallpaper store. Wallpaper 4 Less, it was called, and I was proud of my title of “manager,” even if preceded by the word “assistant.” Truth be told, there were only two of us: the manager and me, so really, it wasn’t so impressive after all.

As assistant manager, I learned how to use a ten-key, an old school credit card machine, take inventory, deal with finicky customers, and certainly more about wallpaper than I ever thought I’d know. And I like wallpaper to a certain extent. I like paint better, but wallpaper really isn’t as bad as HGTV may tell you.

In fact, I’m wondering if I should once again make wallpaper my go-to cosmetic upgrade, and forever shun paint and it’s lustrous beauty and wide array of possible colors.

Once again, we are painting. I wrote a post back in the summer about our Berkeley painting adventures as we prepared to sell our house. Now here we are, working in reverse and making the home we just bought truly ours. Three to four guys have been here every day this week (and will be here tomorrow as well) to paint most of our main level as well as Rachel’s room.

I planned it perfectly.

Andy and Rachel would be out of town, and Aaron would go to preschool every day but Monday. That way we could avoid the chaos of our last painting experience. I made a DMV appointment and scheduled a haircut, which would get me out of the way, too. The rest of the time I would sit nice and quiet in my lovely, underused office working on interviews and writing a new pitch I have high hopes for.

Yeah, right. Best laid plans and all that jazz.

Rachel and Andy left Friday. It was bliss. Quiet, tidy, calm. Aaron ate like a gentleman and behaved nicely. All was going according to plan. For about 24 hours, anyway.

Saturday afternoon the projectile vomiting began, and it didn’t end until Wednesday. No fever or other symptoms, just throwing up. Lots and lots of it. By Monday, the day the painting began, the doctor’s office had called twice to urge me to take Aaron to the ER.

“Let him sleep for about two hours, then take him in.”

One hour and 50 minutes passed and the office called back: “Have you left yet?”

I hadn’t, because it hadn’t been two hours.

“Right,” she said. “Ten more minutes then go. But try water first, just in case. 5mls.”

Sick baby

Sick baby

So while Aaron sat in my arms, weak and lethargic, I syringed 3mls into the corner of his mouth. He gulped greedily and it stayed down. I tried 5mls more. It stayed down. This wasn’t the end of his sickness—not by a long shot—but we were out of the ER woods.

Then… I got sick. And when I say sick, I mean sick. So sick, in fact, that Andy (who was still in California) called my mom in Arkansas, and asked if she could come.

Of course,” she said.

Sixteen hours later she arrived to find me delirious and weak, with Aaron not faring much better.

And still, the men painted.

From 8am to 6pm every day, they painted. Amid delirium, vomit, crying, threatened ER trips in ice storms, and one very opinionated retired general contractor who had come to stay a while, they painted.

Still today, they paint.

And let me tell you, it looks great.

For a while, my mom and I mostly talked paint colors, but as time passed and I began to emerge from my virus-induced near death, Nana asked an essential question: “Isn’t there anyone here you could call? Not that I mind coming, but… isn’t there anyone?”

Well, no.

We’ve lived in this town since October. We’ve had folks over, and are having more next week. We know our neighbors, and some even came to Rachel’s birthday party. But who do you call for Pedialyte and Gatorade during an ice storm? When you desperately need help scrubbing the carpet before it stains and forever stinks? When your baby has gotten sick over and over again for days, but you yourself are too sick to bathe him, because who knows if you’ll pass out while he’s in the water?

That’s just a lot to ask.

“You know,” my mom said thoughtfully, “I tend to avoid the stay-at-home moms in my neighborhood.” She went on to explain, “I guess I’m afraid they’ll want to stop by and have coffee and talk, and I just don’t have time.”

“Mom,” I stared hard. “They are stay-at-home moms. THEY don’t have time.”

“True. But I’m also afraid they’ll ask me to babysit.” (in case it isn’t clear at this point, my mom is a very, very good babysitter.)

“I could see that.”

(But note: she flew from Arkansas to Maryland for a less-than-48-hour “visit” with two very sick people).

I know what she means. Sometimes I won’t even go check my mail because I’m scared I might get caught in a conversation that I’m “too busy” for. Yet… when that happens, it’s often quite enjoyable and even makes my day better. And sometimes, that little bit of conversation is just what my soul needs.

Andy and Rachel returned home last night. Andy brought me fries from my favorite California-only gourmet burger place (Barney’s, the home of our first date), and Rachel brought me lots of handmade presents and excited chatter. She and Nana stayed up past midnight doing only God knows what, and today Nana woke at 4am to fly back home, where she will spend the next few days babysitting for my sister and brother-in-law while they travel to Oklahoma for work.

After we finally shuttled everyone to their rooms for the night, I lay in bed, struggling against hunger and memories, unable to fall asleep: I miss Barney’s. I miss my in-laws so very much. The Facebook and texted pictures Andy sent this last week from their kitchen, from the Lawrence Hall whale, from Gordo’s, ran through my head, along with memories of our home, especially the Bay view we had from our deck.IMG_1763

I spent every moment possible on that deck, soaking up warm January sun and cold July fog, looking at the Oakland cranes to the left, San Francisco skyscapers to the right, and the Giants stadium in the middle. Come April (and maybe even October), I will so miss seeing their fireworks cut through night fog, not quite bright and brilliant, but beautiful. So beautiful.

I thought of these things and of my mom flying here to care for us. Of how much we love our new incredibly spacious and comfy home. I thought of my mom’s words: “isn’t there anyone here you could call?”

And just like that, I became officially homesick.

But I’ll keep waiting and watching and hoping and praying and writing of all these things in an up again/down again bloggy way, and someday it will all click perfectly into place. I know it will.

As for the paint, Andy and Rachel were both surprised and happy, because it really does look lovely. But I still wonder if next time maybe I shouldn’t try wallpaper.

Feeling better

Feeling better

2014: The Year That Really, Really Sucked.

2014 has been the worst year of my life. No really, it has been.

“Life,” of course, is lived more in stages and vignettes than in a totality of lived days. So when I say 2014 has been the worst year of my life, I don’t mean it’s been worse than the year my son passed away, or the times from my life I was completely destitute, or any other terrible year from a prior life of mine. I mean instead that 2014 has been the worst year in this stage of life—the stage in which I’m in my thirties, married with (what to me is) lots of kids, and have lived out one career and am in the early days of another.

But to be honest, 2014 is the only year that has been so consistently bad from start to finish. Rather than a series of vignettes, 2014 has been a 1.2-million-word Mission Earth kind of year.

“Why,” you may ask, “has this year been so bad?”

To which I respond, “it’s complicated.”

Complications aside, the simplistic glory of a bad year is how the good times shine all the brighter through the dark and mired days, such as:

–joyfully celebrating a fairly stress-free Christmas.

–seeing my oldest walk towards me, suitcase in hand, smiling and ready to stay a while.

–finding four walls to call home.

–witnessing a four-year-old’s first snow.

What I mostly see as I look for the constellation of pinpoints from 2014 is family. Lots and lots of family. Family gathering at the dinner table (always my favorite thing), singing in the van, packing boxes, and, yes, even saying goodbye.

Instead of a dearth of community, I see within those shining lights a husband and wife determined to make a go of it, walking hand in hand into new churches, a new neighborhood, a new town.

Instead of a lost career I see an exciting opportunity to be more, live more, create more.

Instead of children separated by miles, I see joy-filled, tear-filled reunions, brimming with tickles and stories and glitter and Elsa… so much Elsa.

Instead of overwhelming sadness, I see through always-threatening tears a friend’s newfound dedication to living a lovehard life, searching for her own pinpoint-constellation in this darkest of years.

Although I’ve always made them, I’ve never really believed in New Year’s Resolutions. If you have a goal, why wait for January 1? Why not start now? But this year I’m convinced that January 1, 2015 will start something new. Something wonderful, full of laughter and friendships and loving hard. A year in which I fail at times to exhibit patience and grace, but will succeed in forgiving myself, determined to try again. A year in which goal setting is less important than life living, and playing trains and creating crafts become my be all and end all.

Today isn’t the day to start. I have a cold. I’m tired and I’m cranky and the kids’ schools have been closed for what seems an eternity. But in these last two days, whether my family believes it or not, I will be working on building up a reserve of all the things I know I’ll need in the year to come. Should you have any of these things to spare—love, patience, grace, serenity, humor, wisdom—please feel free to send them my way. Your kindness may just help me close out 2014 with a happy bang, and usher in 2015 with the strength of community—virtual or otherwise—propelling me forward into my fresh start in a new place, shaking off the vestiges of west coast living to embrace fully this new chapter of east coast life.

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