This and That

Two things have been eating at me lately.  Not just nibbling at me, but E A T I N G at me.

All caps.

One’s a big deal, but it’s a long running problem with no quick solutions, so my urgent anger produces nothing other than hot air and pent-up frustration.  The other is a little deal, a little inequity in a customer service situation, nothing a few deep breaths shouldn’t handle.  And yet, here I sit, steaming.  I’ve been steaming for days.  Truthfully, I’ve been a little anxious that I’ve been so steamy, not understanding the sudden urgency.

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Motherhood feels like the trenches lately, a moody tween and a teething baby adding chaos to a space that already lacked calm to begin with.  I realized tonight that my unresolved anger from the prior situations was really displaced frustration from not knowing how to handle these closest-to-my-heart situations.  I’m pretty sure Freud just winked at me from his grave.

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You know my stolen camera?  In a shocking twist of events, it came home.  I’m not even joking!  The museum lady said – and I directly quote, “They [the person who took it] said they found it on a bench in the Skyline exhibit, and I don’t know why they chose to leave the museum with it, but they came back to turn it in and we have it here for you.”

I tried to give the benefit of the doubt.  Although I’m quite certain they couldn’t have mistaken it for their own since it has a bright yellow strap on it, and it’s very distinct, I thought maybe it was a person who saw the camera, thought it was unattended, picked it up and intended to turn it in.  But, amidst the chaos of the day with their own kids, they forgot they had the camera to turn in until later, when they returned with it.

Then I got the camera back.  The screen had been flipped, the back of which sports a new scratch, the battery had been drained, the onboard menu had been changed, and the mode dial had been turned, something you can’t do unless you press a button and turn the dial at the same time.  Would you use something you found and thought another family had lost?  I wouldn’t, never in a thousand years!

Oh, and they also left their name and phone number.  How kind.  Color me jaded, but I think they either stole it and had a change of heart, or took it with the intent to try to collect reward money.  But it really doesn’t matter, because it’s home now and it still works and I might kiss it and sleep with it under my pillow for a few weeks in celebration.

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Keeping right up with the times…The Good Wife.  I’m so happy I found her!  Especially since Amazon took The West Wing off Prime when I only had half of the last season to go.  I might get Netflix (which apparently still has it) just so I can see how the series ends.  But that might be excessive, since I could just read the show summaries online since the show is approximately 132 years old in internet years.

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I’m going away next week to a conference.  By myself.  Which is super exciting, except I realized pretty late in the game that if I didn’t want to take Jude, I needed to pump, which I had stopped doing, so my freezer stash was a whopping 16 ounces when I started.  I have now have 10 days to pump 60 more ounces, which is a near impossibility since a good day nets me about…oh, 2.5.

I see some formula in his future.

As well, I see two full nights of sleep in my future.  Which makes the pumping and formula totally worth it.

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And because it’s not a real blog post without a picture, here’s a picture I finally had time to edit last night.  It’s from May.  I’m not behind at all.  We all still look exactly like this.  Except the children have grown, my hair is curly, and Tahd has a beard.  So, basically identical.

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Ramblings About Attitudes and People and Cameras and Jeans

Saturday morning started with a bang, namely an argument about one of the finer things in marriage – the way we slice toast.  I wish I were kidding when I said Tahd and I spent actual minutes arguing over, examining critically, and feeling judged about toast, but I’m not.  That’s exactly how we spent Saturday morning, feeling personally affronted over our toast slicing skills.

After a morning like that, I’m sure you’re assuming that these two yahoos got over themselves and determined to have a better remainder of the day, but that’s where you’d be wrong.  Next, we argued about going places in a timely manner, and also about the hvac system in our car, which was noticeably non-functioning on our way to Chicago.  It’s really miraculous that we were even speaking to each other by the time we navigated the absolutely frenzied wall-to-wall city traffic.  Seriously, Chicago.  SATURDAY AFTERNOON.  What gives?  (Side note – potentially baseball is what gives, but since I don’t care about things like that, I’m annoyed anyway.  Which is totally mature of me.)

By the time we got to the Chicago Children’s Museum, I was sort of like a guitar’s high e string stretched nearly to g, just waiting for ONE MORE QUARTER TURN to pop.  I don’t play guitar, so I just had to google all those things, including the names of all the guitar strings as well as how high you can tune a string before it snaps, to which I got a host of interesting answers that included inexplicable mathematical formulas, which is basically equal to how I felt – ready to explode due to inexplicable mathematical reasons.

I stormed – literally stormed – around the museum with Isla while Tahd and Gabe played upstairs.  Oh, wait – I forgot that we’d forgotten the wipes and Jude had two poopy diapers.  Fun.  Then I stormed around the museum until I got tired of my drama and we went back upstairs to check on the boys and I tried to find a better attitude.

We’ve been to this museum once before in 2009 or 2010, and their Skyline exhibit is Gabe’s favorite.  Basically, my nontechnical, nonhandy self would describe this technical, handy exhibit as a bunch of sticks of random lengths with predrilled holes as well as an endless supply of bolts, nuts, wingnuts, and washers.  I apologize for the amazing lack of depth in that description, but here are some pictures of Gabe there five years ago so you can get a better idea.

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The other thing I loved about this exhibit was the light.  One of the three walls in the room is made entirely of south-facing windows, meaning the afternoon sun is lovely and the room is bright, a great place to take pictures.  I’d remembered my camera and had even remembered to take the photos off the memory card before we left.  It was a greater win than I realized at the time.

So.  Cue a rocky morning followed by a rockier afternoon, tired/hungry kids (did I mention we skipped naps AND lunch?), and two adults trying to have better attitudes.  As well, a fun setting, great light, and some picture-taking.

Then, somebody stole my camera.  No joke.

We were getting ready to leave the building exhibit and Tahd had started gathering our things.  We’d each taken some pictures and had periodically set it down to help the kids with something.  It didn’t seem particularly risky because we weren’t in a very busy area of the museum, both Tahd and I were there, and the space we and our stuff occupied was really small.  I’d had a vague sense that I didn’t know where the camera was, but I assumed Tahd had picked it up or I’d put it in the stroller or something like that.  As I started gathering things and didn’t find it, I began to get alarmed.

Diaper bag?  Check.

Purse?  Check.

Camera?  No.  Where it is?

We searched the stroller.  We searched the structures the kids were building.  We searched the room.  We searched the adjacent room.  It was not there.  It was just gone.

There was more searching and museum employees searching and lots of searching and searching.  The manager checked with the front desk to see if a camera had been turned in.  Nothing.

I wasn’t scared and I wasn’t angry.  I was just upset, mostly that I’d spent half the day with a rotten attitude for absolutely no reason, only to have my camera stolen.  What a waste of a good morning and afternoon!  If I’d have known the day was going to end up stinking so much, I would have made an effort to enjoy the positive parts.  Why did I waste good time on cranky spanky energy?  Gah!

The whole time we spent talking to security and the police officer, I kept reminding myself to hold grace and forgiveness in my heart toward the person who took the camera rather than anger and revenge.  I kept imagining how much they must really have needed the money in order to be motivated to steal my camera, or perhaps they had a difficult childhood that led them down a path of stealing valuables from families at museums.  Obviously I have no idea as to the thief’s why, nor do I think the why lets them off the hook, but imagining the why made it easier for me to be gracious and loving, so I went with it.

And then there was today, when, once again, my cranky energy abounded.  I nearly boiled over when Tahd took Gabe’s freshly tye dyed t-shirt and ran it through the wash.  I’d wanted to do my regular laundry first and do the t-shirt last in case there were any lingering dye issues in my machine, giving me a chance to run a few empty loads before I’d need to wash our clothes again.  Instead, he washed the shirt first and it sorely cut into my time to get the laundry done this evening.  Again, cue storming around and general crankiness.

I ended up taking laundry over to my parents’ house so I could get some done before we needed the clean clothes tomorrow.  That way, there’d be no risk of inadvertently dyed clothes from my own washer.  I tried to have a good attitude, but it was a struggle and I mostly failed.  On my last trip over, while changing a load from the washer to the dryer, I bent over to pick up a shirt I dropped only to back my derriere into a shelf with a sharp edge and split the seat of my jeans.  The nice pair.  The only pair of jeans that really fits, and the one I wear four days a week in the winter.  This did not help the crankiness.

My mom does this great thing with my kids.  She lets them play with most everything at her house, and when little fingers inevitably break something, she tells them, “People are more important than things!”  I love that. I love the grace, I love the way it lessens anxiety, I love the way it affirms their hearts and their value and their place in her life.

When my camera got stolen yesterday, I kept chanting in my head, “People, not things.  People, not things,” and I felt embarrassed that I’d been nastier to Tahd about toast than I was about a situation that would end up costing me a lot of money.  If I can give grace over stolen valuables, how much more grace should I be giving to the people I love?

I’m pretty sure the jeans were jut one more manifestation of this.  Yes, my washer had dye in it and it needed attention and extra love.  Yes, it cost me some time.  Yes, perhaps some of our clothes could get ruined if the dye hadn’t fully rinsed away.  But more important than that?  Being kind to my husband and children.  People.  Not things.  I knew the jeans were God’s way of saying it a little louder.  “PEOPLE, NOT THINGS, DUDE!  CUT THE CRAP!  DID YOU GET IT THIS TIME???”

I’m working on it.

Hopefully, this story will end with a better attitude and a new camera body.  There were two silver linings. First, I lost almost no pictures.  I took about 400 pictures off the card just a couple hours before it was stolen, and the only images lost were photos we’d taken at the museum.  I can’t even imagine how sad I’d be if I’d lost the last photos we took in Florida, the first day of school photos, and the other things from the last few weeks.

The other silver lining is that I never really loved the camera or the lens that was stolen.  I loved them but didn’t love them, if that makes any sense.  I may replace them with exactly what was taken, but I may also go in a different direction, of course, depending on price and possibly how many more things go wrong before I learn this lesson.  This could be an opportunity to make a decision that makes me photographically happier in the long run.

I was thinking back over our actions, trying to decide if I regretted putting it down, and you know, I don’t.  I should be able to go to a children’s museum and take pictures of my children and play with them and not worry about someone coming within a few feet of me to take something.  Apparently I can’t, but I should be able to, and so I don’t regret it.  My financial well-being regrets it, but I don’t.

In conclusion, these are my recommendations to myself:

1.  Don’t argue about crap like toast.

2.  People, not things.

3. More unagi.

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For sure, more unagi.

Ten Down…

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Ten summers down, nine to go.  How can it be that we’ve already done more than half of them?  It’ll be licenses and jobs and college before we know it!

The Only Hope

School has begun again and can I just give a big old, “WE MADE IT!”

Truthfully, I feel guilty that I want to gleefully dance on my rooftop while I whoop with joy. I’d rather emulate my own mom, who mourned the end of breaks as much as we did. I wanted to end this summer feeling like we soaked up every fun adventure and every opportunity to explore and have fun and do things together. But that was not this summer.

This summer was plain old hard, and I wasn’t anticipating that. Partly, it was Jude, no longer colicky, exactly, but not super content, either. He and Isla both needed naps on varying schedules, and juggling those with the rest of life plus a tired mama and a bored 9-year-old was overwhelming. I always felt like someone was getting the short end of the stick. Gabe, I’ve more fully learned, is intense, and when you throw intensity into small, closed quarters with little structure to channel the energy, the situation is combustible at best. Then we traveled for threeish weeks, and that was just a lot. I don’t mean these to be complaints so much as…facts. They just were. These were the things that made it hard.

We reached Labor Day weekend with a little sadness, but I harbored a little bit of hope for relief on the horizon – the relief that only comes from structure and predictability and known expectations. Sure, none of those things can make Jude sleep regularly, but they can’t hurt, right?

As it was, Jude’s sleep ended up being the impetus for a new layer of tumult, one that caught me completely by surprise.

Saturday night into Sunday morning was a difficult night for Jude (and me, by extension) – lots of crying, lots of frustration, and lots of sleeplessness. I had developed a plan in my head that involved me handling things until 7:00 AM, at which time I hoped Tahd would get up and take over so I could sleep for an hour or two before I tried to put Jude down for a nap.

When 7:00 AM rolled around and Tahd got up, interrupted sleep had taken its toll on Tahd, too, and he snapped at me, angry and frustrated and confused.

Like many married couples, Tahd and I have a handful of arguments we’re drawn to revisit, and there’s one that touches an especially deep nerve in me, one that leaves me feeling inept and foolish and disappointing. In fairness, he always says he didn’t mean things in the way I receive them, but it’s still a very tender spot in me, and it was this particular nerve he hit Sunday morning, and I disintegrated.

Choking back tears, I whisked Jude out of the room and out of the house and into the stroller, where I set out on a neighborhood walk to burn off my frustration. It wasn’t my most stellar moment, leaving without telling Tahd where I was going, but I didn’t know what else to do and fell back on my “Urgent! Withdraw from Conflict!” tendencies.

I came back about 40 minutes later, and we started the painful process of pulling at the string, unraveling the layers of the problem bit by bit – a process that took us several days between family gatherings and errands and first days of school.

The more we pulled, the deeper things went, and when we’d finally pulled out all the loose string into a pile at our feet, we found bits and pieces of the pain that grew out of lost babies and hopes and dreams and four years of attempted healing from miscarriage and infertility.

I didn’t expect that. I didn’t expect that four years later, the aftermath of a very painful miscarriage would result in that much ongoing relational pain. It had been there all along, I suppose, and we’d both spoken of some nebulous, underlying resentments in our relationship that we couldn’t quite put our fingers on. But I didn’t realize there were such concrete, clear-cut issues at play until this weekend.

When I miscarried our baby, I tumbled into the lowest pit I’d ever seen, lower than the ones I’d been in previously when I was “only” dealing with infertility. I’d tried to claw my way out of my infertility pits with minor success, and when the hole got deeper by way of miscarriage, I suddenly tapped into a new vein of determination in which I refused to live the rest of my life as a victim of painful circumstances. Come what may, I would learn to throw myself headlong into a full, rich life, even if it wasn’t the life I’d originally hoped to have.

Tahd, on the other hand, didn’t tumble into the same pit as I, and the meaning he created from our loss took on an entirely different form. I didn’t realize this, and couldn’t understand why he wasn’t making the same changes I was making–why he wasn’t pursuing a lighter and more joyful side of himself. As such, I judged him for this, and I’m sorry to say I wasn’t always kind or very full of grace. I didn’t hold space for him to be who he was and become who he needed to become. I didn’t trust the process, I didn’t trust him, and I didn’t trust God.

This parallel process resulted in unaddressed hurts, hurts that turned into irritations that festered beneath the surface, eventually resulting in our weekend.

In the middle of exchanging a few emails with Tahd, I thought to myself, This is hopeless! We’ve broken this beyond repair. How can we ever go back? It’s worth noting that statistics on trauma in marriage support the idea that these thoughts are not unreasonable. Couples who experience traumatic things like infertility and loss do, in fact, experience higher rates of divorce. Recovering from loss produces necessary growth within each individual, but that growth does not always propel the couple toward each other. It sometimes drives them apart. I am no longer the person with whom Tahd fell in love sixteen years ago, and according to the statistics, I am less that person because of our loss than I would be if we hadn’t experienced it.

At each of the most desperate moments of my life, I’ve found myself alone in my living room or car listening to a song that became my anthem for that struggle. When I absentmindedly surfed through my phone for an encouraging tune, the lyrics to this Ellie Holcomb song stopped me in my tracks. I knew God was giving me my song for this situation. Here’s a slice (and listen to it here)…

I take all the gifts that You have given
and I stake my claim like they’re my own,
Will you help me when I forget to remember
the good I’ve got is yours alone?

Oh, ’cause I don’t wanna tell some arrogant story,
or let myself believe I’m you
Will you help remind me of what is true?
The only hope I’ve got
It’s you.
It’s you.

Well, it’s only by your grace that I heard you whisper my name
And I don’t have the power to save, to change a heart
So won’t you come and change my heart.

So, that’s exactly what I did. I asked God to change my heart and change my actions and change Tahd’s heart, too. And every moment since then that I’ve panicked that I was too far over my head, I’ve remembered that there is hope, not because we hold that much promise in and of ourselves but because we know Hope Himself.

(I also read point five in this post I wrote last year, and it hit me between the eyes as appropriate for this situation. Hope is always worth it. Not just during infertility.)

I’m thankful to be married to a man of his word who honors what he said when he gave me his vows. When we reached the bottom of the pile and realized what we were dealing with, we reaffirmed our commitment to one another and to our family and decided on a course of action. I’m thankful for a God who is bigger than four years of hurt, and for the hope in knowing that the One who created the intricacies of the universe and eternity is not overwhelmed by two broken, imperfect hearts. I’m thankful for love and new mercies and second chances. And I’m (somewhat begrudgingly) thankful for fussy babies, because without them I’m not sure I’d ever get tired or frustrated enough to face the important stuff running underneath it all.

The Rest

Nothing like finishing up a post about vacation nearly a month after you went on it.  It was delayed primarily by the vast number of photos I took and had to import/cull/edit/resize, and also by the fact of…well, you know,  life, which has been good and busy and a bit stressful, and I can’t believe we’re at the end of August already!  Hello, school!  And since this is Wisconsin, possibly hello, winter.  Hopefully not, but the forecast isn’t looking good.  Darn that Farmer’s Almanac!

We spent a weekend in Naples followed by a week in West Palm Beach for Tahd’s work.  The next weekend, we headed on a road trip to Key West, and then it was back to West Palm Beach, followed by a little more time in Naples before we came home.  Here are the rest of the things that made me smile while we were away.  You can rest assured these memories are going to be what gets me through October through April!

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Florida005When we lived in Northern Maine, we drove the north of of Route 1 all the time.  It was fun to see the southern end.  Tahd and I decided we want to drive the whole thing one day.  In theory, I’d love to take the kids with us to see all the sights along the way.  In actuality…crying; and fighting in the car; and car sickness; and crying.  This may be a retirement adventure for us.

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Florida007So…Key West in July.  Hot.  Yeah.  Especially with a baby carrier.

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Florida011The colors in Key West were so much fun!  At quick glance, it looked like autumn, with trees changing to blaze orange.  Upon closer inspection, I realized that they were actually orange blossoms everywhere, not fall leaves.  Do trees even change color in Florida?

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Florida013We didn’t stay here.  I just liked the sign.  And the color.

Florida014The area around Duval Street was certainly festive!  That’s a place I’d rather return when the kids are older – it was just so busy and noisy that I think the little people were overwhelmed.

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We didn’t take a stroller on our trip – just the baby carrier.  I’m 50/50 on that decision.  It would have been so nice in the hot, sticky weather.  But not having it definitely made travel lighter, and since we already had a metric ton of stuff with us.

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Florida018We visited Hemingway’s house and I really wished we’d had time to visit Truman’s Little White House.  We drove by it on our way out of town, but I’m a sucker for all things political and know it would have been interesting to me.

Florida019The highlight of our time in Key West was sunset on Mallory Square.

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Florida021It wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was lovely nonetheless.

Florida022Gabe was pretty impressed with the flame-throwing street performer.

Florida023The sun went down while he was doing his thing.

Florida024I didn’t expect there to be another little island off to the west!  I’m sure we could have moved elsewhere along the pier to get a view over the water, but Jace the Juggler kept us pretty pinned to one spot.

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Florida026Those skies!  Oh!

We hadn’t had dinner, so after the sun peeked behind the other island (Sunset Key, I think?), we set off to find a restaurant, eventually settling on the slowest Johnny Rocket in the entire world.  Although there’s nothing as tasty as an icy milkshake, I’m not sure it was worth it when the kids were melting down and the server (with our check) was nowhere to be found and I left, carrying the two little kids myself back to the hotel while Tahd attempted to pay.  Our hotel (which – I’m looking at you, Crowne Plaza La Concha – we strongly do not recommend), although a sore disappointment, was near all the action, which made the location really nice.

The ride back to West Palm Beach from Key West was…long.  We were all glad to get back to our hotel, especially since the sunset view from our hotel windows looked like this…

Florida027That structure across the lagoon had a Whole Foods, which we visited approximately fifty three times in four days.  The cashiers knew us by name, which was slightly embarrassing, but they had real food, which was highly coveted (by me, not my children) at that point in our trip.

We ended the week in Naples, which cemented itself as my favorite.  Marco Island, Key West, and West Palm Beach felt like vacation destinations.  Naples feels like a second home.

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Florida045She was saying, “The moon!  I see it!”

Florida044See? ;)

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Florida050My favorite picture from the whole trip was the last one I took.

2014-08-09_1407545012Holy.  Actually holy.

And that was the end of Florida!

PS – I already want to go back.  Not for 17 days, though.

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