it’s time for a bullet post!

Last week I sat down to blog and couldn’t think of a flipping thing to write about. No big deal, I thought. Just take a few days off and try again. Sure enough, on Friday I started a post I thought had potential but when I revisited it this morning I felt all blah about it, like who could possibly care about that particular piece of writing? My fingers paused above the keyboard, actually, literally, paused, as I considered potential posts. Part of me considered venting about some family drama I’m going through, but that didn’t feel necessary, although it maybe would have been funny. I’m still working my way through the second novel in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and while I’m enjoying it I doubt I’ll be moved to review it. I thought about skipping another blogging session, but if there is one thing I know, it’s that writing begets writing and the only solution to any kind of writer’s block, apart from a long walk alone, is to just keep at it.

Time for a bullet post, then! Eight bullet posts about the here and now mostly now.

* This is me, today yesterday. I’ve been avoiding taking selfies ever since my minister went on a small rant about how self-indulgent and ultimately joyless they are and I found myself agreeing with him, but yesterday, feeling exhausted from over 24 hours without sleep and managing a croupy one year old, I was feeling particularly blue about my appearance. To pass some time I tried snapping some pictures of me with Duncan but even sick, he won’t sit still, so I ended up with this. In our culture it’s easy to feel defeated in the face of so much manufactured beauty, and it’s only recently I not only came to terms with my appearance but have been proud of it and, at times, even felt beautiful. I like this shot because I haven’t had any sleep, I don’t have a stitch of makeup on, I’m covered in pasta sauce and yet I was able to look at it and think, well. Not too bad for a 37 year-old mom of two:

croup

* I’ve come to the realization recently that I’ve been shying away from fully utilizing my intellect at work, and yes, I realize how ridiculous that sounds. Since I’m in healthcare PR I spend a lot of time with doctors and I don’t ever expect to know the same kind of stuff they do, but within my own department I often still act like the 30 year old I was when I started, instead of owning and using my knowledge, making recommendations and believing in myself and my decisions. A lot of different events have brought me to this insight, and since realizing it I’ve taken a much more active role in my department. I don’t expect this to cure any of the frustrations I have with the position but it feels great – and belated – to have confidence in what I believe is right.

* Plenty has been written about the power of saying no, and I don’t need to belabor it all here, but I’ve recently found a ton of freedom in saying no to things that make me feel uncomfortable financially. As I’ve written about previously, paying for the cost of two children in daycare has put a strain on our finances, and our previous lifestyle – one where we could pick up whatever food we wanted to cook, whenever we wanted it without a budget, go out to eat on a whim, take vacations without saving – is temporarily gone. I occasionally get down about this and feel as though I’m failing, somehow – and then I hit myself on the forehead and remember in the last six years Sam graduated law school, we bought a house, and we had two kids. That’s quite a lot for such a short time frame and financial growing pains are to be expected. Because money is always hard to talk about, however, I’ve struggled with explaining to my friends who earn more money than we do that I can no longer afford to regularly go out for expensive dinners but I took the leap and you know what? It’s never about the expensive dinners. My friends are just as happy to come to my house and eat bad Chinese or have me at theirs for impromptu parties – some of them, I think, are even secretly relieved we aren’t spending 60 dollars on miso blackened cod. I took this approach a step further and told my parents that as much as I would love to, Evangeline and I wouldn’t be joining them in Florida this April. Frankly, this decision is crushing for all of us but my brother is also getting married this summer so I am being fiscally responsible and while it doesn’t always feel great, I’m proud of myself for exerting control in this area of our lives.

* When March began, I decided it would be the month of task completion. I am pretty sure that’s a football term, and Sam uses it all the time to celebrate or bemoan the general state of our lives with two little ones in the house. Between horrible weather conditions and illness, a lot of my goals, both short-term and long-term, were interrupted but March! March, I vowed, would be the month of Moving Things Forward. I would finish my minimalism-reorganization of the kitchen! I would have mostly have the third floor front room cleaned out and ready to become a playroom. I would have my yoga and aerobics schedule firmly in hand and for the love of all things holy I would finish Serial and Dragonfly in Amber so I could move the fuck on in my reading/listening life. I made good headway for a couple of weeks but a long business trip for Sam, a visit from my parents, and Duncan’s croup interrupted my progress (I might as well write lifeinterrupted my progress!). I have a few days left in March and while I know I won’t accomplish all of my goals, moving onto new reading material will be wonderful.

*Oh! The Counting Crows just came on the radio! I listened to the song “Anna Begins” countless times when I wrote my novel back in my early thirties – it seemed to so perfectly encapsulate my narrator. Despite their incredible progression as a band, I’m always transported back to the end of high school and beginning of college by their sound. The Counting Crows is one of the few bands I’d love to see live that I haven’t (ah – another luxury we thoughtlessly spent money on for years – concert tickets! it drives both sets of our parents nuts that we don’t yet own a proper dining room table. Oh well – we own enough memories of rock concerts, I suppose.)

* Returning to a couple of bullet points ago, regarding how slowly I’m moving through podcasts, reading material, and the like – it’s been years since I’ve been able to watch television shows in real time, which makes me fairly useless when it comes to the proverbial water cooler conversation at work. Last week one of my co-workers bounded up to (he’s sort of puppyish – bounded really is the right verb, here) and asked me if I’d seen the previous night’s episode of “The Walking Dead”. “No, but I recently finished the Sopranos,” I said helpfully. He turned away wordlessly, disgusted.

* Since the beginning of 2015, a handful of my friends have been forced to face some really scary situations. Now that Duncan is past his first year, I’ve been able to do small things for these friends – make a covered dish, run errands, check in regularly. After the love and support I received from so many people during the first years of my children’s lives, it feels amazing to be in this place, this place of helping others.

* Michigan State somehow landed in the Final Four. Usually an avid fan of my college basketball team, this year I turned my attention to Pitt since we had season tickets. A mistake, obviously. Saturday Michigan State faces Duke, Sam’s team – so it should be a pretty tense afternoon in our house. I am really looking forward to BOTH final four games – Wisconsin versus Kentucky should be spectacular. It’s not often I say this but no matter what happens on Saturday, I am guaranteed to watch the championship game next Monday – something I don’t commit to most years!

Ah, well. There you have it. I hope to have a more topic-focused post for you next time. Have a great week!

MLK Day Meltdown

I have been trying desperately hard not to carry our baggage from 2012 into this shiny bright new year. With the exception of watching Grace thrive, and the joy that comes from parenting her, 2012 otherwise sucked goat balls, pretty much, and it was with wide open arms that I welcomed the new year. So far, though, 2013 isn’t turning out much better, with three out of the three of us sick with wicked colds throughout the month, the check engine light coming on in one of our cars and the rental car company Ian used for a business trip claiming damage it didn’t “catch” during the walk through when he turned the car in.

Today I broke down and cried about all of it in front of Ian. It feels like such a shameful thing, to cry about money, especially when in many ways we have more than enough. What we don’t have, it seems, is enough to get ahead in any sort of meaningful way ever since our savings was wiped out last year thanks to a startling number of household disasters. It’s frustrating because I don’t feel like my desires are anything extravagant – I’d like to finish paying off the loans we incurred for school and I’d like a solid savings account beyond our retirement accounts. I actually do not want MORE money, what I want is for ovens and ceilings and cars and cell phones to STOP BREAKING so I can allocate the money we do have to achieve our goals. I recognize we don’t really need more money – we need one-thousand dollar plus problems to stop cropping up.

I just finished reading Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott (when you are too sick to make it to church it’s a good idea to read Anne Lamott) so I know that God is right here, in the middle of my small family, and a problem isn’t a problem if the solution requires money, but the truth is I don’t want God’s help for this – He should be in Algeria or Syria or Washington D.C. and yes, I know, He is everywhere all at once but I don’t want to use His grace for this – for something as base as money concerns. What I want is respite – even a few months would do, although more than that would be fantastic – of things to stop collapsing.

It feels so low, to cry on Martin Luther King Day, a day that is also doubling as Inauguration Day for our President. A day that I get paid to stay home from work, even. Ian and I watched the inauguration and tried explaining to Grace why she is so lucky to have been born in America, especially as a girl.

“There aren’t somany other countries where you’d want to be born a girl,” I said, even though I realize she isn’t even two years old yet. Grace stared at the television, pointed at Judge Sotomayor and asked “Is that a mama?”

Sadly, I couldn’t even answer her. My gut instinct says no, Judge Sotomayor is not a mama but the truth is I simply can’t remember whether or not she has children. I will have to look that up on wikipedia later. Instead, I said something along the lines of her being a mother to our country which ultimately ended up making no sense but had the best of intentions behind it.
*
It is evening, and things are better now. Ian and Grace went shoe shopping (even when the check engine light is on in the car, people still need new shoes) and both returned happy – I was able to write the beginning of this post. Grace and I luxuriated in her bath and bedtime, taking extra time to glide her rubber ducky across the bathwater, reading extra bedtime stories. Ian is drinking a manhattan and I have a glass of red wine – he is stirring a risotto on the stove. In a way, it makes me even wonder why I started writing about money problems – what an awful topic for a blog post!

I know why, though. When I started this blog, I committed to the idea that it would be, as much as possible, real-time dispatches from life as I live it. I read blogs – LOTS of blogs – and I know there are authors putting together the most carefully crafted, beautiful posts – full of lovely constructed photos of their children and crafts and prayers and recipes – and there are just as many authors writing about finding grace and God in the every day of family life – and then, because the internet is endless – there are just as many authors writing about how HARD everything is, because in terms of relationships and blogging, HARD TRUTHTELLING is the new black, and I know I don’t have a tremendous amount to offer, on any of those fronts, because I am not constructed in any of those ways. Instead, I’ve learned that, as much as anything else, I can talk and write about the day-to-day, so that’s what I am doing here.

So. This month. I’ve managed, with my my 2013 Fiscal Responsibility New Year Plan, to actually save ten percent of one of my paychecks. We may have to pay out 4 times by the conclusion of the month, but what the heck. There are highs and lows in every day, but there is very little at the end of the day that a toddler’s bathtime, risotto, a husband who let’s you cry, and a glass of wine can’t fix.