I thought this would be forever

My hopes for this on-again, off-again blog always center around it becoming a resource – a place to learn, exchange thoughts, maybe even be inspired. These are lofty goals for my measly thoughts, but we always have Annie!! Lift us up Annie!!

Anywho, here’s my deep subject for today: Have you ever been shunned by a family member? Because let me tell you, being shunned is the worst.

I’ll admit that I absolutely hate it when people share what they learned from a difficult experience but refuse to give the details. I mean, what’s the point really?

But I’m going to sort of do that here, what with the expansive nature of the Internet and all.

What I can share are my own foibles! And that's info, right? So, here we go:

Last summer, I opened my big mouth and spoke out of turn about a family member. And because I live a charmed life, that judge-y statement made it back to the people I’d judged. When I found out that my terrible nature had (at long last) been exposed, I felt horrible. The tattle-talers had not represented me well. For sure, the re-telling was intended to cause hurt, but I cannot deny that I talked about someone else behind their back. And any way you look at it, that’s just wrong. I was wrong. I freely admit it.

With the knowledge of my wrong-doing clutched tightly in my heart, I girded up my loins and went over to the offendees home to offer up a sincere apology. I really psyched myself up to not get into the particulars, to not equivocate – just apologize. I was genuinely sorry, and I wanted them to know that. I wanted them to know that I loved them and valued our relationship. I did my very best to convey those sentiments. Even now, as I try to evaluate my actions as objectively as possible (is that even possible?), I can unabashedly state that my apology was heart-felt.

I left that day thinking that we could all move on.

But I was sorely mistaken.

Over the next few weeks, the news came to me in drips and drabs that they had not found my apology sincere – that my sin was more grievous than the apology could cover. And still later I learned that there were hard feelings going back for years. I hadn’t been friendly enough at certain family functions. I had not nurtured relationships in the manner expected. My efforts, in their eyes, just flat weren’t enough.

Maybe those accusations are true? I don’t know. Certainly, my failures weren’t intentional. And I could type you up a list of ways I thought I was extending the hand of friendship. But what good would that do?

It’s now been over eight months since the shunning began. There has been extremely limited contact. I’ve re-issued the original apology, much like you’d re-enter a once-denied credit card number. If I just type these Same. Numbers. More. Carefully. This darn thing will work. I’m sure a bigger, more loving person could somehow stop it, could throw enough love and generosity into the mix to MAKE IT STOP. But my little, stingy heart is too hurt. It cowers in the corner.

I don’t think you’ll probably find my take-away on this situation inspirational. But maybe you might find it comforting, that is if you find yourself in the position where you can’t control someone else (the absolute bane of my existence). So here goes:

I can’t change the actions or feelings or thoughts of another person. I can only learn from my mistakes and work on bettering myself. I can’t be responsible for the happiness of others (although I’d like to contribute where I can). I also can’t make other people responsible for my happiness. I can only work on me and take responsibility for myself. As my Maddie would say, “You be you, Mom.”  So, this me is working to relinquish the bad juju of this situation. I can’t feel sad much longer. I’m going to have to release those feelings into the wind, point my face in the direction of the sun, and move myself along.

Because what else is there to do?


So, yes -- rather a heavy topic as I re-enter the Nest & Launch waters. But fear not! I'm happy and healthy and ready to share things like . . . how to make watermelon boats and strawberry popsicles and to dream with you over my plan to relocate our empty nest (once it's actually empty, of course) to NYC!! Stay tuned.

A few good gems revival

When we were unpacking after our recent move I found a bunch of journals from my growing up years. "Bunch of journals" sounds like I was a diary writing fiend but really I was sporadic and fickle, switching to new ones midway through the last.

Thumbing through them,  I noticed that every time there was a time gap between writing, I spent the whole next entry talking about how I hadn't written for so long--it kind of crushed the narrative juju, ha! 

So I have good precedent for that habit but I'm going to try not to do it here.  Except to say: Hello, friends, sorry I haven't written for so long!  Nesting and launching are in full sway around here and we have lots to catch up on, you and us.  But it's a Friday so how about we start with a few good gems: 

  • The power of talking sideways to teens. Yep, I second this. Some of the best talks with my kids have been in the car or working next to each other
     
  • Sam shared this music video with me and it's a no-fail, happy-making clip. It came out about a year and a half ago but it's new to me! (I wonder if it helped Emma Stone land the LaLa Land role?)  Even if you've already seen it, maybe this will still brighten your day:
via The Porch Swing Company

via The Porch Swing Company

Or what about a bed swing?!

  • Isn't Edie Wadsworth's kitchen lovely? I love that green hutch, the brass pendants, the light gray cabinets, and all the rest.

Have a fantastic weekend, all! I'm hoping to explore a local trail, grade some papers,  and mostly just cozy up at home to listen to conference together. What's on for you?

Ginger Lincoln and the throng of bands

There's a white lined index card tucked behind a jar on our kitchen counter. It looks like a wacko list of unrelated terms but it represents a mini tradition we acquired a few years ago where we create random future band names from word combinations that come up in our regular conversations. 

For example: One day Sam is especially excited as he broke open a freshly purchased loaf of our usual brand of bread in Australia (Helga's). As he takes out the first two slices he announces, "Oh, I love first-day Helgas!" We look up with a grin and say it in unison: "Band name." It goes on the list.

If future anthropologists discovered the card, I'm not sure what they would make of the kooky random word pairings. Each entry takes me back to the moment: the laugh of recognition, the race to jot it down on the card. It's one of those organic little traditions that have emerged in our midstage family life and I love how it pins down the elusive moonbeam of a moment. When we packed up to move, that little battered card was one of the few documents precious enough to tuck into my journal to bring along with me, in person.  

Here are a few of the bands--you can probably imagine some of the backstories. Others are pretty...situational and need a little explanation: 

  • First Day Helgas
  • Ginger Lincoln
  • Involuntary Doughnuts
  • Defective Tomato
  • 6 a.m. Shanks (This one probably needs a little explaining: Greg had a weekly early morning call with a guy in the US with that name)
  • Dichotomous Key
  • Sticky Figs
  • Downton Abbey on the Sly
  • Rogue Pinky
  • Time Zone Overlap
  • American Dairy
  • Bat Pee Rainstorm (after we made the unfortunate choice of sitting under a couple of trees at an outdoor concert that ended up being the home to a whole fleet of bats)

If I were fancier I'd turn it into a special journal or chatbook but that might make it too precious and ruin it. (In fact, I'm hoping that just writing about it here won't mess with the band name juju!) It's just a battered list on a notecard. But it's also more than just the paper--it's a snapshot of a laugh, an artifact of connected delight. 

What little artifacts do you save that represent aspects of your family life? What tiny, random traditions mean the most to you?

Home for the holidays

Huntsville State Park, Thanksgiving 2016

Huntsville State Park, Thanksgiving 2016

Greetings from Texas! I'm still here. Still plugging away. Definitely missing my Nest & Launch life.

I feel like I've lived a lifetime in the six months or so since I posted on a regular basis. So, I'm going with bullets -- less transitions. Sometimes I have a hard time putting together the thread of my own story. . .

  • Work. Have I told you I'm working full time? It's wonderful and confusing and downright illuminating. Some of you may be wondering about my teaching. I wonder the same thing. Where in my life does the 20th century British novel fit?  I don't know. I'm in a holding pattern on my dissertation. Right now I'm doing marketing for a software company, and I sort of love it. It's a little steady for my taste (they make me work every day!), and it's cutting in on my travels and fun time -- but it's also rewarding in its own right. I don't know if I will do this forever. But it's good for now, and I'm learning all sorts of things about the working world -- like how alluring it is to stay at work till all hours, and how daily business lunches make one fat, and how working really, really, REALLY is easier than staying home with kids. Tell everyone. I've tried out both. I know for sure.
  • Kids. My third little baby, Rebecca Kate, left for college this Fall. Like her sisters, she is far away in Utah. I thought maybe this time would be easier -- I know the ins and outs of this business of child-leaving. But really? Not easier at all the third go-round. It still left me dazed, sitting for hours in front of Netflix as I pondered my new world.  Plus, we are left with a very different home life -- just one, lone child rambling around an upstairs built for four. Sterling pitches in tons with Parker, so I'm on my own a good deal. How did I go from four children under the age of seven to this? It's amazing. And weird. And liberating. And bewildering. Hold me.
  • Holidays. The college kids came home for Thanksgiving, which made all of my dreams come true. We camped for Thanksgiving!! We saw Dickens' A Christmas Carol at the Alley. We watched Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Everyone helped cook and haul tents and decorate the Christmas tree, and I thought back to the years of dragging my people through the holidays and sighed, "Yes. For this I am truly grateful."

Tomorrow it's back to work (I told you they make me go A LOT!) But I'm gearing up for Christmas (how to buy presents for a son-in-law). And skiing! Have I told you that once Parker graduates Sterling and I are going to make a major life change? Here are the current options: 1. Live in Brooklyn. 2. Be ski bums. 3. Live in Missoula, Montana and own goats.  Or, perhaps some combination of the three. And guys, I'm not even kidding. (Please vote for your favorite in the comments section.) Be back soon!

To Fresh Starts

Happy November! I'm writing this from an all-but-empty house here in Australia, where we're capping off the last four weeks of our 51-month adventure. The movers came a month ago and packed all of our earthly belongings into a shipping container to put on a slow boat bound for the US. (It's probably around the horn of Africa right about now, don't you think? I'm kicking myself for not packing a little GPS beacon in with our stuff to check in on it now and then. Wouldn't that be cool?) 

In the meantime we rented a few pieces of furniture to hold us over for the final couple of months--a table, a sofa and loveseat, two beds, and a desk and chair for Sam's studying as he takes his final IB exams this month and finishes high school. (Oh, and a ROWING MACHINE because why not? I've always wanted one. Side note: turns out rowing machines are not magic rides of joy. It's still exercise but it's not bad.) 

I keep reminding myself that while the empty house is a persistent reminder of a bittersweet ending, it also represents a Fresh Start--a capitalized, PART THREE declaration between the chapters of what came before and those that encompass the unknowns ahead.

Light on the Bulbs, Carol Marine

Light on the Bulbs, Carol Marine

In the book of our marriage, PART ONE: dating and giddy early marriage; PART TWO: parent bootcamp years and full time family life; PART THREE: is.....what? (Can we agree it's not a married couple of a certain age holding hands and watching the sunset, each sitting in his/her own (mystifyingly outdoor) bathtubs?) I'm excited about Part Three. We planned our early parenthood start with Part Three in mind. I went to grad school with Part Three in mind. I just don't know how to summarize it yet. And that's the beauty, I guess. We get to make it up. 

With this move we've crafted a new plan of what our next few years (or decades?) will look like, based on a few priorities from a lifetime collection of wishes. We've found a delightful-but-scruffy vintage home to fix up (paging Chip and Joanna, stat) in a charming college town and accepted new jobs that excite us both. It's a Part Three for us as a couple but also for each of us as individuals. We've considered and accepted some unique trade-offs to our new arrangement--working three hours away from each other being the major one--but also feel the sweet assurance of "it's-going-to-be-fine" peace (even if it perplexes some of our onlookers a bit; sorry, worried onlookers, we love you! ). The unknown can be scary. But I feel confident in our trust of each other and in those peaceful, prayerful feelings enough to brave the first steps into this Fresh (but unknown) Start.

I came upon this poem yesterday that lit up my brain. I taped it to my empty wall with some leftover masking tape. It's by the wonderful poet William Stafford, who incidentally didn't publish poetry until he was 46. Maybe that was his Part Three. 

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found: carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life.

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

-William Stafford

Do you have a looming fresh start? How do you feel about your Part Three (or four or six...)?