Returned

The kids and I have just returned from a trip that was supposed to be a long weekend in northern Michigan but instead morphed into several days thanks to (1.) confusion over the kind of coolant to add to my car and, honestly, confusion over whether or not my car even REQUIRED coolant (it did not, as it turned out, $200 later) and (2.) unpredictable winter weather. We had a wonderful time – my mom and I took the kids ice skating for the first time, which was treacherous but ultimately rewarding, and our whole family went sledding.  We visited partly to break up the monotony of an extended business trip Sam is currently taking, and we returned to Toledo grateful to be in our own home while a little saddened by the lack of snow. Winter has very little point, in my book, if there isn’t any snow.

While we were there, one of my parents’ friends passed away. She had been exceedingly ill and it wasn’t unexpected, but it was sad nonetheless. My father particularly doesn’t handle this kind of news well since so often the people passing away are his age or, often, younger.

“It seems like we are losing people right and left,” he said, his head in his hands. I don’t really know how to act in these circumstances because he is correct – he is losing friends right and left. I generally don’t say much and give him room to just be, eventually joining him to watch Jeopardy or a college basketball game. At seventy-three, my dad is as passionate about the things he loves as he ever was – great novels, hunting, gardening, fishing – but he is slowing down at a remarkable rate, almost to the point of concern. I spoke with my mom a little bit about it and she agreed he sleeps more and moves less than he used to, and sometimes she is worried, but I am actually equally aware of the changes in her. She tells the same stories over and over again and seems exceedingly quick to anger. Ten, or even five years ago, I would have pushed both of them about these changes -pointing out to my dad that Bernie Sanders is older than he is and look, he’s running for President! Or I would have gently guided my mom toward a neurological exam. What I’ve learned over the years, though, is that they need me to remain their daughter much more than they need me to be their doctor, and until I notice something really troubling – so dramatically out of character that I need to talk about it with my brother – I am going to let them be.

Our relocation to Toledo means I now only live half a day’s distance from them, and this has been a huge gift. I can be present in a way I haven’t been for over a decade.

On the whole, I’m feeling increasingly positive about things. My eyes have completely healed from their freak allergic reaction to my contact lenses, and while I will never be able to wear contacts for 12 + hours a day like I was so stupidly doing, by summer I should be able to wear them for outdoor activities, wrestling with Duncan and driving. I will never take my sight for granted again. I have organized my resume, updated my linked in account, and have embarked on an exciting writing project with my brother – more on that coming very soon! I *think* I’ve also found a way to tackle a book I’ve been hoping to write, and my goal this month is to submit one of my poems to a literary journal.

The move from Pittsburgh rocked me to my core, no doubt. Having two such small children made it worse, I think – their needs had to continuously come before my own. But here we are, nearly at the end of the first month of a new year, and a sense of normalcy is emerging. I can’t say it hurts that Duncan is days away from  turning two years old. The other morning he walked up to me with some request or another and I looked at him and said “You can get that yourself. Once my babies turn two, I get to start reading the paper again.” He looked up at me with those big brown eyes of his, flashed his dimples in the way that slays me every time, and went and had his sister do his bidding instead.

And so it goes.

staying at home

I’ve been thinking a lot about work, and what I’m going to do about it, this week. I know I wrote in an earlier post that I have a ton of different writing projects I am lining up and working on, and that remains true – what also remains true is my lack of interest in considering writing my only work. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always dedicated time to writing – it keeps the voices in my head at bay and my “what if” nature quietly in check. Certainly, I am spending more time at it now than I previously was able to, and I’m excited about the myriad possibilities before me, but I am not in a place – and probably never will be – where it is my income. And I am fine with that – there is still joy in it for me, and for that I am so grateful.

Currently, I guess, I am a stay at home mom. Well, there’s no guessing about it. My kids go to school a couple of days a week but Duncan is with me for five of the seven, Evangeline for four of them. This time with them has been a gift – it’s given them time to develop their brother/sister relationship instead of spending the majority of time in separate daycare classrooms, and it’s given me time to get to know them individually on a level that frankly, I didn’t before. It’s also been really, really hard. It might have been easier in Pittsburgh where I had a strong network of mom friends but here, because my oldest isn’t yet in kindergarten, I don’t have a support network or tribe to rely on, or any other mom friends to talk to. Right now I desperately miss having co-workers to talk to in the morning, and big ideas to discuss.

But, of course, when I was working I longed for the kind of time I have now. I don’t have to worry about vacation time or checking my email at night while the kids sleep. In my old position every vacation I took for five straight years was interrupted by a crisis back at work – I never took a vacation where I didn’t routinely check work email while I was away. That was difficult for me.

I think part of the reason I don’t ultimately want to remain at home is because, a part from cooking, very little of what it entails interests me. The kids are great but, as Sam pointed out last night, I’m not particularly crafty (although we have done some crafts!) and I’m not fascinated by interior design or home repair projects or any of the like. I basically see everything but the kids, and maybe cooking, as a big impediment to writing or, if I’m not writing, being out in the world. And since that is the case, I should probably, aside from spending time with the kids, be writing OR out in the world, not staring in despair at our bedroom because I just don’t want to paint it.

I recently attended a dinner party with Sam – it was great fun even though I was recovering from food poisoning because, PEOPLE. Several of the women were stay at home moms and several of the women held high-level jobs throughout the city. I enjoyed talking with all of them (PEOPLE) and never had an answer when they asked me whether I planned to continue staying at home or whether I was looking for work. You can’t really answer BOTH to that kind of question, but it’s where my heart is right now. I want to stay home and drink coffee and snuggle my kids under warm blankets while Sesame Street plays in the background and watch my husband emerge from our bedroom, all suited up and ready to tackle the day but I also want to wear my own suit and greet morning co-workers and talk about women’s health issues, and I want to spend time writing all the things I want to write and by the way, I would also like to audition for some plays again someday please and thank you. And also cook delicious meals but never ever again google “how to clean marble.”

The internet has become such a stratifying place when it comes to working moms versus stay-at-home moms. Popular websites publish completely shitty articles like “Things Working Moms Will Never Understand” and “Why I don’t hire moms” and all sorts of similar junk and it’s all so stupid. It’s ALL difficult to figure out. (I have two more minutes to write. I have no idea how I am going to wrap this up). We are all just trying to do the best we can, working or not, partnered or not, parents or not. The either/or of our situations is a society construct, and not true to how we really exist in the world, but yet we abide by it, making it so difficult to answer questions like whether we “work” or not – whether we want to “work” or not. Oh, but while I am here, let’s settle one thing once and for all…stay at home moms ARE working. And there is no income for scrubbing yogurt that has solidified into the crevice of the floor with a toothbrush because you ignored it for days in favor of keeping your toddler from killing himself because he climbs the china cabinet every time you blink. Not that I would know anything about that.

traveling

The problem with going so long between posts is, of course, that I run the risk of only ever publishing updates – longish recaps of where we were and where we are, completely disregarding the books I’ve read, the thoughts I’ve had, how the kids are, etc. I haven’t been posting as often as I had hoped partly because we’ve had a lot of family obligations that have kept me in northern Michigan, and whenever I am in Toledo I’m dealing with physicals for the kids or the DMV or car insurance companies. Since moving, I haven’t really made any friends or been much of a social partner for Sam – I’ve allowed myself a few months cushion to embrace my inner introvert mostly because I believe once I start accepting invitations and meeting people my social life is going to snowball. So I’ve stayed home most nights while Sam works rigorous hours, watching The Voice, reading novels and just generally enjoying my own company.

I arrived home from my last trip yesterday, however, recognizing it was time for this period of quiet to end. I’ve been present for Sam in a lot of ways – most importantly, of course, by caring almost full-time for our children so he can establish himself in his new job. I pay our bills and keep the house moderately clean – I secured a rental house for the winter and have handled all the communication with our realtors back in Pittsburgh. I haven’t, however, joined him during any of his evenings out and I haven’t made any attempts to establish friends or community here in Toledo, and it’s definitely time for that to change, for my children as well as for Sam. And for myself as well, of course.

My main goal is to establish work for myself that can be done around Sam’s schedule. I can’t keep the same kind of hours I did before and while I remain extremely interested in promoting women’s health issues, I am not interested in pursuing another corporate job to do so. I have a thousand different writing projects in mind, and I think I could potentially make a good living between balancing freelance PR work, community college teaching, and writing. Sometimes I feel a little bit like a failure since I won’t be returning to a corporate office job but I don’t want to so I’m not sure why I feel that way. What I would like is to earn enough of a living by the time Duncan enters kindergarten that I could support us if anything happened to Sam. In that way, my job in Pittsburgh was a comfort to me and while that security isn’t everything, it’s something, and it’s important to me.

I hope this is the last “catch-up” post that I write – that I am able now to dive into subject matter now and talk about working, writing, parenting, reading, fashion, maybe (hopefully) teaching and a few minor lifestyle items. I think it’s safe to say this won’t be turning solely into a parenting blog now that I stay at home – not once have I been motivated to capture perfectly-lit photos of my children in order to post them on this blog and share something insightful and/or meaningful. My children are brutes – delightful brutes, but brutes – and staying at home is alternately hella hard and absolutely wonderful. So for now I sign off with hope, that I will be here again soon, writing about the Wolitzer novel I’m reading. Thanks for sticking around – eventually it will be worth your while.

We are all so close together now

As it turns out, moving is no joke, but you probably already knew that. The last month has been out of control – within the last four weeks I ended my job with the hospital system I worked with for over eight years, packed the marginal amount of stuff I could manage in addition to the children and our dog, and joined Sam in a two-bedroom apartment in Toledo, Ohio. Our dog promptly grew critically ill from a wicked virus he picked up at the kennel where we boarded him – twice I drove to the emergency veterinary hospital prepared to put him down – more on that whole story later. It took a little over a week for Skylar to heal, and as soon as I brought him home Evangeline and I immediately departed for Colorado for a week to celebrate my brother’s wedding. The trip turned out to be a much-needed buffer between our relocation and actually living in Toledo, and I fell madly in love with Colorado. It is my experience that like people, you can’t have too many places to love. If we are lucky, life is long and wide and you don’t know where it will take you.

The apartment we moved into is the opposite of the house we left behind – one floor of modernity that has benefits and drawbacks. Benefits include an incredible easiness to clean – I feel like a housekeeper extraordinaire! There is storage here so I can put things away. For every nook I clean, there isn’t a cranny leaking century-old coal dust onto the floor. If Duncan races into another room my heart rate remains the same because there are no stairs for him to topple down (he long ago figured out the secret to baby gates) and the amenities of living in a complex designed mostly for doctors and lawyers and such to wait out relocation can’t be beat – a large pool that Evangeline prefers I refer to as azul and parks for kids, a park for the dog. But it’s small, and after our entire family life spent a house with many cavernous rooms, we are all getting to know one another a lot better. Duncan and Evangeline are sharing a room, which they enjoy but is a little trying for me. Evangeline is a hard sleeper but Duncan likes to wake up in the middle of the night and chatter – no problem when he was in his own room in his own bed but a habit my daughter finds trying, understandably so. They are working it out. On the occasions when Sam’s snoring grows too much for me to bear, or if I’m racked with insomnia, there aren’t the two extra rooms for me to escape to with my pillow and book, just the living room couch which is comfortable but not the same. And this situation is fine for me, but Evangeline was the one who alerted me to the fact that if one of them gets sick, there isn’t the “extra” room for them to sleep in with me, which I am sure I’ll miss mid-winter.

Truthfully, though, while part of my heart broke off and shattered the day I left my church and my friends behind in Pittsburgh, I don’t miss living in a city. The first time I took the kids out for ice cream and we sat on park benches looking at trees instead of concrete I knew we had made the right decision. Don’t get me wrong – Pittsburgh is a wonderful city, and a great one to raise a family – there was so much I loved and will continue to love about it, but I wasn’t born and raised there and I feel much more peaceful returning to the Great Lakes region. I’ll return to Pittsburgh a couple of times a year to visit my friends and their families and stock up on homemade pasta and prosciutto – Pittsburgh will always have a huge part of my heart, but Michigan IS my heart and to be so near again? Well, I’m home.

I have so much I want to talk about! My transition (for a while, anyway) to a stay at home mom and how I totally underestimated the snack preparation involved in staying at home, and rededicating myself to a reading, writing and teaching kind of life (what even WAS that corporate detour? Okay, not really – I loved my job for a long time and have a lot to say about it, actually) and the limbo living between Pittsburgh and Ohio, but there is time to discuss all of this. I mainly wanted to say hello, revive my blog posting and start putting my fingers to keys again. I am going to finally get with the times and probably create a Facebook page for this blog, but in the meantime you can reach me through this blog or on twitter at CPMcCrimmon or on Instagram at bookgirl1977.