September 8, 2014

This weekend was lovely—well, yesterday was. Marshall and I had Dutch Bunnies and our respective coffee and tea on the porch, alone, together. I couldn’t believe the beauty that saturated our backyard. The morning light, the towering pines, the clean, clean air. I had had a dream the night before that he was killed in a car accident, and I had to tell Everett, and I woke up so upset. So upset. I clung to him after waking up and it took me ten minutes to stop crying. I cried some more when he let me sleep in the next morning and I saw him in the kitchen. Sometimes, I wonder why so many women voluntarily get pregnant. These dreams are becoming another appendage attaching itself to me, collecting themselves to a solid state, hard to shake off in the daylight.

The day before, I was grumpy. The boys were incessant. I was so in demand. Constant requests, talking over each other, mama mama mama mama. They spun me into a frenzy. I tried to keep my cool and not look frantic but it’s…difficult. I am only one person, I wanted to tell them. I tried starting several conversations with Marshall, and every time we were interrupted by Ian’s whining or a bickering fight. We were each other’s second places. There’s no choice, really. You have to figure out what needs figuring out with the kids.

That night, I finished Rainbow Rowell’s fabulous Landline. I came to the part below, and cried all the way through it.

Georgie was pretty sure that having kids was the worst thing you could do to a marriage. Sure, you could survive it. You could survive a giant boulder falling on your head—that didn’t mean it was good for you.

   Kids took a fathomless amount of time and energy. . . . And they took it first. They had right of first refusal on everything you had to offer.

   . . . When Georgie and Neal were smiling at each other, it was almost always over [their childrens’] heads.

   And Georgie wasn’t sure she’d risk changing that . . . even if she could.

   Having kids sent a tornado through your marriage, then made you happy for the devastation. Even if you could rebuild everything just the way it was before, you’d never want to.

Yes, I thought. That is exactly it. This isn’t a brutally self-sacrificial view on parenting—having your identity destroyed by these tiny human beings—it’s just reality. I am a big proponent of taking care of yourself, of taking breaks (even long ones), of investing energy in yourself and your partner. The reality is that those priorities can be so hard to achieve. It’s just…hard. I get angry because there’s not much of me left to prioritize or to give to my partner. That’s all.

One of my best friends, a newlywed, drilled me earlier this year on the idea of starting a family. There’s not much out there on the implications of starting a family, she says. To have kids or to not have kids. She was so earnest. It was refreshing, to really talk about the pros and cons, when so often it’s just assumed that that’s what you do in a long-term relationship—you start having kids.

I was honest with her. How amazing it is, how rewarding. How freaking difficult it is. How helpful it is to know who you are, who you want to be, before you start a family. Because a tornado’s coming, and you’re just along for the ride. ;)

pregnancy is weird

August 4, 2014

The last three mornings, I struggle to the surface; my eyes open, and tears start streaming out of them. Literally. These dreams make me feel like I’m losing my mind. The ones I awaken from are the least bizarre of the whole-night-long cranial gymnastics routine, but they are the most troubling. The first morning, I find Everett lying on the floor at school, claiming someone peed in his face and that everyone refuses to talk to him. The second morning, I pick Ian up from preschool, where he has been waiting for me for hours in the lunch room since he received no direction on what to do next; he clings to my neck like a baby animal. The third morning, Marshall confesses he has cheated on me; I wake up and stare at him, and instead of feeling anger, sadness floods over me. Cue the waterworks.

I know, instantly, that they are dreams, but I feel so betrayed, and the betrayal is so real there is no way to let it dissolve except to let the five minutes go by, tick tick tick. And then I am better, but those feelings follow me like ghosts throughout the day. I know that these dreams, in particular, are reflective of real-life anxiety I have about my babies going to school for the first time and, perhaps, occasional normal anxiety about how connected I really am to my husband. In the daylight, when the shades are up and my bed is made and my family is bouncing around me, I tsk at my hormones like they are another naughty child, then embrace them and put them to bed. They never stay there for very long.   

He knows, He knows

April 23, 2014

I didn’t go to church today,
I trust the Lord to understand.
The surf was swirling blue and white,
The children swirling on the sand.
He knows, He knows how brief my stay,
How brief this spell of summer weather,
He knows when I am said and done
We’ll have plenty of time together.

—I Didn’t Go to Church Today, by Ogden Nash

some favorites of 2013

January 3, 2014

For my 30th, Marshall whisked me to Ohio for a Barn Dance. Picnic on the lawn, front row seats, wide open sky, quick-beating hearts.

I finally switched to a Diva Cup, and wondering why I didn’t do so years ago.

I quit my job. It was so good while it was and it is so good that it isn’t.

Money management still stresses me out but budgeting is no longer a dirty word to me. It’s actually kinda fun. All thanks to YNAB.

Food management still stresses me out but meal planning and cooking are a lot more tolerable thanks to Pepperplate. (Which goes along with a general growing self-awareness of how I tick in the kitchen.)

I started a 10 year journal. It is amazing. Go get one now.

After four years of avoidance, I read Eating Animals. Vegetarianism has not been hard. (My helpful Everett told me a few days ago that to help “not cost money we should get a cow for milk and a chicken for eggs, but not a pig because you only eat the pig.”) I wonder, though, how long I’ll be on this path, or rather what this path may look like in a year.

This book unexpectedly and wholly enchanted me.

During a gorgeous sun-drunk August weekend, my two-year-old Ian led me on a 30-minute walk/run on the paths of Bethel Horizons. His curls were in full bloom and he ran with abandon through prairie grasses that soared above him. 

Our new house has been affectionately dubbed Redbird by Everett. We all love it here. I ventured out into the 3-degree air a few days ago by stepping onto our screened-in back porch. There are a few giant pines bordering our backyard and they were sighing in the wind. It’s my favorite sound in the world; the last time I had evergreens in my backyard, I was 18. It is the sound of home.

As the new year washed up to me, I was struck with how I go to bed looking forward to seeing my children in the morning and spending the day with them. It may be the novelty of this next chapter in our lives or something else, I don’t know, but I am immensely grateful for it and I’m not going to analyze why. My cup is full.

from Madeleine L’Engle’s The Irrational Season:

“There are times when all of us willingly (and sometimes unwillingly) limit ourselves for the sake of others. When my children were little I was hungry for adult conversation, for discussion of abstract ideas and concepts, but until they neared their teens our conversations had to be somewhat limited, even on our excursions up to nearby Mohawk Mountain to thrash out the problems of life and death. So I was only a part of my fuller self, but that part was still me; it was not something other than Madeleine, but it was not the whole Madeleine.”

the purge

September 2, 2013

hello, dear blog! I think about writing on here at least twice a week. And yet my last post was nearly a year and a half ago.

So nothing profound today; I just wanted to record the completion of the biggest purge I’ve had to date. After we decided to (try to) move to MN, I began to look around me with fresh eyes: do I really want to pack that up and haul it to our new place? Usually, the answer was no.

Having turned 30 has also made me approach our stuff with a more critical eye. In many ways I am the same person when I was 20 and in many ways I am not. How do my surroundings reflect the person I am now while honoring my past?

The biggest project was consolidating photos. I had several mini-albums (pictured below) from before I went to college and a few large albums from the college years. (Shortly after college, my photos were stored digitally.) After reading several blog posts (in order to work up courage) about decluttering photos, I ruthlessly culled the mini-albums and ended up with a small pile. The college albums were harder to purge, especially the ones from traveling abroad, but I went with my gut and was glad I did. I organized chronologically, to the best of my ability, and jotted down names on the back of each photo. I gave my 10-year-old self a pat on the back for jotting down names and dates for all of my growing-up photos. (Yes, my personality has always been attracted to not only the poetic dimensions of life but also the categorical ones.)

I wanted to keep photos that meant something to me, and I didn’t want bulky albums to fill up our shelves (not to mention packing them up to move). The solution, for me, was photo storage boxes. I never pulled down any of those big albums and paged through them anyway. The old mini-albums were just sitting in our basement.


Yes, when these pics are handled, they will get thumbprints on them. Yes, they aren’t protected in individual sleeves. But you know what, there’s something really intimate about being able to bring an older photo right in front of your face to peer at the details contained in that singular 4 x 6.

ImageAnd then, after all of this, I asked Marshall nicely if he would do the same with his 8-10 large albums. And he nicely obliged. His resulting photo storage box is not even half-full! Now, I just have to get him to label the backs. “I want to save at least one photo of each pet,” he said. I supported that idea, but we need to get those pets’ names on the back so that he can remember them when we’re really old. :)

I also culled our 4 CD cases—the kind that can hold both sleeves and discs and zips open like a shiny, colorful book. I kept some CDs out of sentimentality, and I tossed a lot of CDs that, when I really thought about, didn’t personally mean much to me. They reminded me of certain times of my life, but if I never ever listen to it again, what is the point of having that added weight? So from those 4 cases I consolidated down to 2. And it felt GREAT.

I sold or gave away bulky baby items. We are still unsure about whether we want a third child, so we’ve been wavering about getting rid of the baby gear. We finally decided that whatever we end up needing, we can always buy/borrow again, especially with the ubiquity of craigslist, freecycle, and baby-rearing friends. I went through the boys’ toys, which I do a few times a year, but was more ruthless this time. We’ve hidden a lot of the toys anyway as to prevent a big mess to clean up for showings, and I’ve noticed how happy the boys are with minimal playthings.

I went through keepsakes/mementos and, again, went with my gut. What was I hanging onto them for? How does keeping such dear objects stored in a musty basement giving them the respect they deserve? Reading Peter Walsh’s It’s All Too Much really helped me with this.

I read through old notes, and kept my favorites (which were still quite a lot). I looked at my tub full of journals, and still couldn’t bear to part with those. (I did skim through one of those journals and then went crying to Marshall about how I wasn’t an interesting person anymore…I used to travel! I used to meet interesting people and make interesting observations about them! I used to read all sorts of inspiring literature and write essays about them! It was a bit embarrassing to admit, because I didn’t want to fall into the typical “I’m a stay at home mom now and my nest is my world and I don’t have adult conversation and I don’t use my brain and what the hell has happened to me” sort of life crisis. He, of course, assured me I was still very interesting. And I believed him, because, you know, I still believe I’m an interesting person.)

With all of the updates Marshall has done to get our house ready to sell, it looks downright pretty now. When people are over, they ask, “Does it always look this neat and minimal?” No, of course not—we want to keep it in this condition for staging. However, I have definitely felt more peaceful ever since tossing and packing stuff away. I miss the family photos, Marshall’s whiskey wall, our colorful bookshelves, Everett’s drawings taped to the dining room wall—but all in all, there is something to be said for having everything around you have a purpose, and that you know what that purpose is.

I am still dreading, however, the actual moving part…whenever it might happen. Onward and upward, I guess.


May 23, 2012

I finished Les Miserables last Sunday night and bawled my eyes out. I’ve known that Jean Valjean dies at the end for, um, my whole conscious life. But I still didn’t want him to go. And I hadn’t known that he dies from grief, as he is cut off from visiting Cosette for a couple of weeks. He’s elevated her—his adopted daughter—to his reason for living and his salvation, second only to God. I wasn’t really prepared for this, in such a great piece of literature, a story I’ve known about since I was ten: an empty nester driven to desperation.

So I put on extra eye makeup the next day, to help mask my swollen eyelids. It was a bit jarring, to be done with this story that would take me back to a world that lived and breathed 200 years ago. I started the book in November—read the first four volumes exclusively during my pumping breaks at work. Once I stopped pumping, it took a few months to get around to starting and finishing the fifth and final volume. My evening hours are oh so limited, and I get oh so tired so quickly.

But my youngest, my dark-eyed baby who was born on the eve of June last year, is sleeping better and my zombie days are fewer. I’m trying to get some exercise right after work, which (in addition to other reasons) I’ve been putting off because I’ve felt too guilty to do that instead of going right home, but hooray, my older sister was right—the evenings feel just as special with them, as moments, not minutes, are what count with small children. This phe-ing helps my energy level at night, which leads to more time to read and more time to do what I want to do.  (Then again, it is only the middle of the week—I often feel a magnetic pull to my bed at 7:30 on Friday nights. We’ll see if that changes, as I attempt to interrupt my desk-job-induced resting metabolic rate more often.)

I’m proud that I tackled this beast, especially during the first year of one of my baby’s lives, when often all I want to do is to lie on the couch and close my eyes. I even doggy-eared pages and underlined great prose. I marked words I’d never read before, to look up their meanings. I used to do this all the time: write down the best morsels of a book; look up new definitions and feel the pleasure of learning something new. I’m happy that this part of me still gets excited. Now, the problem will be focusing on the electronic dictionary only, and not distract myself with Facebook. I sold my Webster’s to Half Price last year.

I’ve started this post three different ways now and can’t decide exactly what I’m trying to say. Maybe it’s just that vacation was wonderful, like it should be, and I was granted the privilege of seeing my sons with fresh eyes—their beauty, vibrancy, and innocence. It’s hard not to do that when strangers light up around them, gazing and commenting with admiration. I have little daily moments of the same appreciation, but that pure enjoyment of being with my boys is often competing against the daily grind. Today was right back to normal—groceries and diaper pile-ups and dishwasher-loading and constant attention-seeking from my little ones. Snow blustering outside our kitchen window and skin tightening in the dry Wisconsin air. Anna Maria already feels like a surreal dream. I’m not sad, or frustrated, or disappointed, just a little dazed. But most of all, grateful that I can vacation in the first place. That I can remind the sun that we’re waiting for her up north.

a few highlights of 2010

January 30, 2011

—-My “birthday chair” from Pier 1, picked out while wandering through the store with my mom. It’s usually draped with various items of clothing—which was the purpose of having it in the first place, to elevate piles on the floor to piles on the chair. But when the lovely pattern peeks through the mess…and then when it’s completely clear….ahhh. A bit of beauty in my corner of the house.

—-I have been wanting this print for 2-3 years now, and my man got it for me for Christmas.

—-We began the year with a joint self-employed venture, which had its ups and downs. Marshall’s still plugging away on some ideas for our company, but my daytime energy since October is spent at an office job, one that enjoy (most of the time). I’d say one of the best things about 2010 is that Marshall was totally on board with the idea that he would be the stay-at-home parent. The even better best thing about 2010 is that 95% of the time, he really enjoys the role.

—-How my job “happened.” I had ripped out a few yellow pages with listing of printers & publishers in the area. I was literally heading out the door to a coffeeshop to do a little research, when the temp agency I had signed up with a few weeks prior called. A local screen printing company was looking for a graphic artist. They would love to have me come in that morning. Was I interested? HELL YEAH!!!

—-The variety of “work” in 2010. Whether mothering or typesetting or house-cleaning or learning Adobe Illustrator better, something I’ve been wanting to do for almost 4 years.

—-The irony of what I get paid to do. A couple of months ago, a bowling league needed a logo to represent their name, Dog’s Bollocks. This is what I came up with:

Literally the night before that art request, I had been freelancing some cover mechs for Augsburg Fortress:

Love that I get paid to make testicle-art. That I get paid to embellish a sophisticated textbook.

—-I’ve scrubbed our icky drippans till my hands give out and they were still icky.

So I replaced them with shiny black ones. Hides the grime much better!

—-Stumbling across this ring for cheap at a resale shop, months and months after lusting after it in InStyle, cutting it out, and pasting it into my Lovely Things scrapbook.

—-Enjoying the summer with an 18-month-old. His corn silk hair bleached white by the sun. As the season turned muggy and laden with insect-music at night, I enjoyed the steady, authentic growth of certainty in my heart that I was ready to create another life.

—-As winter settled in and my pregnant self was still adjusting to the routine of a full-time job, one evening I felt depleted of energy and yearned for my own quiet time, a time of peace and stillness. Even if just for an hour. So Marshall told me to come home from work the next afternoon and he and E would zip to the library so I could have some QT. What I was not expecting was this set-up:

Classical music, hot peppermint tea, chocolate-amaretto almonds, yogurt with chocolate chips, and clementine slices. A blanket and my latest InStyle. After getting a bit emotional, I settled in for an hour before my boys came home. And I swear…that filled my battery for an unbelievably long time!

—-One of my favorite Marshall-treats to come out of the kitchen this year:

—A few of my favorite things that live in the kitchen:

A few favorite books:
Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage
The Help
Introvert Power
The Shipping News
If There Is Something To Desire

but to see you

November 28, 2010

It’s As If Someone Else Is With Me (#8)

The dawn comes. Leaves feel it’s time
To say something, and I feel myself drawn
To You. I know this is wrong.

To be drawn to You can cause trouble;
I do so against all advice, from that one
In me who saved me by keeping me alone.

I’ve lived in so many houses, where
You were not. If You became a dock
I became a boat and pushed away.

Those who are drawn to You become land
If You are land, or water if You are water.
I want nothing from You but to see You.

—Robert Bly