Friday, November 25, 2016

A November to Remember

Yeah... let's just say November didn't really turn out that way I thought it would. 

On the one hand, Cubs fans' dreams finally came true! And it happened in the most sports-fairy-tale way possible. There was Kyle Schwarber triumphantly going to bat after getting injured at the beginning of the season, like Cinderella going to the the ball after all. (Get it - the "ball"?) Then the Cubs coming back after being down 3 to 1 in the series against the Cleveland Indians, another team who hadn't won a World Series in generations. Finally, Game 7, starting off with the lead, our hearts soaring. How about David Ross, the catcher, hitting a home run in the final game of his career? Then our hearts plummeting when the Indians tied it up. The excruciating, dramatic pause of a rain delay before extra innings. And then sweet victory, the Cubs jumping and hugging on the field, our heroes who defeated the 108-year 'curse', vindicating all the fans over the years who believed like a religion that someday, this team would win it all.

It still hasn't fully hit us.

Bruce, Emmie, Hannah, and I went to the parade with a bunch of friends. It was a shared moment we'll always have, feeling like champions, millions of happy fans, blue and red and white confetti showering down around like joyful tears.

But then came the election.

The day before, I took Emmie and Hannah and cast my ballot proudly. I was elated to take my two daughters with me to be a part of what I hoped would be an unprecedented time for America. The day of the election, Bruce and I watched TV late into the night. I went to bed in tears, utterly distraught. It's been over two weeks, and my sleep is still restless, broken by fretful fears of a country turned on itself.

This month I had been trying to write my first novel as part of NaNoWriMo. After the election, my novel felt pointless. I stopped working on it. I did write several poems, and I know I need to write the book more than ever, but I haven't had the energy to exert on it.

I dreaded Thanksgiving. My family is notoriously passionate about politics, but from a completely opposite perspective of Bruce and me. It's a sore spot, and over the past few years we've realized for the most  part that we can't talk about politics together. However, sometimes they still take twisted pleasure in making a comment here or there to get under my skin. Like many Americans, I was afraid for the worst around the table this year.

At Bruce's family's Thanksgiving, no one spoke of the election. Instead, we focused on a shared love: the Cubs. Bruce's cousin, whom I'm sure voted differently than us, texted us all this image:
At my parents' house, they made a couple cracks, but we ignored them. Overall, we had a lovely time. The baby was particularly cuddly, letting my father hold her almost the whole evening. She said a bunch of new words like "uncle" and talked to all the pets, endearing everyone. Emmie eagerly ate almost all the food, which is one of the best ways to please my mom. We all gave hugs and said "I love you" at the end of the night. The election stayed the mostly-invisible elephant in the room.

On the drive home, Emmie had questions about why we don't talk politics with certain family members. We told her that we love our family even when they don't always believe or do the same things as us. Then I realized: That's what we have to keep striving for in America. We are all these different kinds of people, in the way we look, live, worship, think. But we are all members of this country, and we must treat each other fairly and with respect no matter what. That is a principle by which I want to raise my daughters.

It is exactly what the first Thanksgiving was all about - despite differences, coming together to eat at the same table.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

W

For our grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles, fathers. For Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, Harry Caray, for all those we've loved and lost. For all of us lucky enough to be here to see this...

We love you Cubs. Fly the W.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Keep Going

Happy Halloween, it's 10 pm and I'm writing this in bed. Bruce is playing on his phone, and Emmie is in her room singing. It's way past her bedtime, but who can blame her, she probably has a sugar high. Hannah conked out hours ago, not having had any candy, worn out from Trick-or-Treating nonetheless.

After all the fun and excitement of today, just another in a long string of special days this October (baby Hannah's first birthday and the Cubs in the World Series!), I thought about not posting anything on my blog at all. I was really close to just going to sleep. But I've been trying to push myself lately.

In the past couple months, I've tried some new things. I took my first ever yoga class. It was great; I only made an ass out of myself a few times. Now that I've taken the leap, I would like to branch out and take more fitness classes. This goes along with my goal of losing the baby weight once and for all.

The thing I'm most proud of is I started sending out some poems to publishers. I've been trying to dedicate more time to writing. My writing group has been majorly motivational, and I'm ready to take the next step. My whole life I've wanted nothing more than to be a "writer." Though I have published in the past and work with words daily, I want more from myself.

A couple weekends ago we went to watch my sister-in-law run her first marathon. It was incredible. She had been training for nearly a year. Why? Not because she's in love with running. Because she decided that running a marathon was something she'd like to do, so she did what it took to get there, even when it sucked and she wanted to be done with it. That day, when I saw her appear at the top of the hill, yards from the finish line, and watched her put one sore foot in front of the other to achieve her goal, I was utterly inspired. People cheered madly for her. It brought tears to my eyes.

I'm always complaining about how I have no time, that I'm juggling three jobs and two kids and housework and this and that and the other. So many excuses for putting things off. But you know what? Everyone's got their something. It's important to make time for yourself, and live life in a way that makes you proud. I see other people doing it. I need to, too.

So I'm writing this blog post in bed, because otherwise I'd feel bad about not sticking to my goal of writing here at least once a month. And tomorrow, my alarm is going off at 4 am so that I can attempt to write my first novel during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Part of me feels like there's no way I can do it, not with an online class just started and another very full night class. I think there's a good chance I'll fail.

The other part of me says, this is your marathon. Make yourself do it. Put one word down after another, and eventually you'll cross the finish line. But only if you keep going.

So, go Cubs! And go me.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mom Friends

My mom friend is moving away. 

I remember when I was nine, and I was the one who was moving away. I was hanging from the monkey bars with my friend Heather, who had yellow hair and lived one street over. I remember knowing it was the last time we’d play at my house, or ever. I had a vague sense of loss, but only in that dull way that children have of not fully realizing.

Losing my mom friend reminds me of that time, for some reason, but with a much sharper sense of loss.

When I was pregnant with Emmie, there were other people I knew who were also expecting, but no one really close. One of them was my friend’s sister. Her little girl and Emmie sometimes play together, and really like each other. But that mom lives 40 minutes away and is very busy working hard and raising her kids, as am I. We don’t see each other as often as I’d like.

My dear friend, the sister, is also a mom. Her daughter is in middle school. We love their whole family. I’ve been friends with the dad since middle school, which is crazy to think his daughter’s almost the age we were when we met! But again, we don’t see them as often as we’d like, with family obligations and everything else that fills up our schedules. I have other great mom friends who live elsewhere, with whom I text or visit occasionally.

One of my best friends is a mom of a sweet little 2-year-old boy, but she lives across the country. We text and talk every week, and I don’t know what I’d do without her. She’s as close as I have to a sister.

My two closest friends live in Chicago and don’t have kids. They are the friends I can be my easy self with, who know me inside and out, who make me happy when I even just think about being with them. With the two kids, however, it’s harder to see them. And their day-to-day lives are so different from mine now.

I’ve only been friends with this mom friend for a handful of years. We didn’t go to the same high school, or college, or live in Chicago together like I did with my other friends. She worked with Bruce, and then bought a house in the same town as us. At first she and her husband didn’t have kids, and we’d hang out as two couples in the basement after Emmie was in bed. But then she got pregnant with twins, and I got pregnant with Hannah.

The thing is, she was here.

There’s something about knowing a friend is close by, one whom you could feasibly get to in a short car ride. I would send her a text saying, “Hey, it’s gorgeous outside! Want to take a walk?”

Taking a stroll
And she’d reply, “Yeah, meet you at the playground in a few!” Or, “I can’t, the twins are craaazy!” Even when our plans fell through, I would know she was near, going through the same kind of chaos as me.

When we did get together, our conversations were constantly interrupted by crying babies, or curious Emmie asking questions about everything she saw, or diaper changes or potty breaks. But in between we’d get to ask, “How are you?” And the other person would listen, really listen, and understand. We could see the tears in each other’s eyes, or the pride at a new baby achievement. We’d hug each other. We’d hold each other’s children. I thought our kids would grow up together.

I’ve tried to make friends with some of the moms of Emmie’s classmates. I’ve been on plenty of playdates where I’ve made small talk and smiled. I thought one mom would be a match; she had lived abroad like me, was a teacher, and used to work at the house museum where I now work. But when we had a playdate, she chatted away incessantly, always turning the conversation back to her. It was like I wasn’t even there. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, thought maybe it was a nervous tick, but after a couple times I realized that is just how she is. Plus, she kept doing that thing like whatever she does as a parent is the best way, the only way. That drives me nuts. It seems like motherhood often has this underlying sense of competition and judgement. That’s just not something I want to be a part of.

I’m going to miss my mom friend. There’s a plethora of reasons why they’re moving. They’ve been trying to raise kids with no help or family nearby, on one income in a state with notoriously high property taxes. Bruce and I have both our incomes, with family that offers a little assistance, and it still feels like an uphill battle. It makes sense for our friends to move to be nearer to family in another state with a lower cost of living. (Don’t get me started on how the appalling lack of parental support in this country can be attributed to many families’ struggles, including theirs.)

My friend moving leaves me feeling more alone out here. I’ve never been a real girl’s girl, not one to join a sorority in college or those mom’s groups they have nowadays. My group of friends has been assembled one at a time over dozens of years, organically. I feel apprehensive at the thought of putting myself out there – trying to find a new local friend at this stage of the game.

But I’d really like to find one.

If you’ve got a good friend nearby, give a call or send a text. Make plans to see each other soon – just because you can.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Summer Vacation: Then and Now

Well, it’s official. Summer is over. I had my first day back to school last week, and Emmie has hers today. I swear, I was more anxious about it than she was. She was all cool while I fretted over her hair and rushed around and snapped a zillion photos.

But then I dropped her off, got the baby home and down for a nap… and now for an hour I’m free! It’s an incredible feeling. So many choices! I chose to write over cleaning or working, for obvious reasons. It’s just me, the kitchen table, my laptop, and a cup of coffee.

It’s nice to have time to myself again. But I’ll miss summer. It was our first summer as a family of four. We were even lucky enough to take a vacation. It’s funny, four years ago, we were living with my in-laws. That year, we took a trip with them to South Haven, Michigan. The 2012 Summer Olympics were on TV. We swam in the pool, went into town, and baby Emmie played in the sand on the beach for the first time.

Emmie looks out over the water

On the way to the beach
This year, we have our own house, but again went with Bruce’s family to South Haven. The 2016 Summer Olympics were on TV. We swam in the pool, went into town, and baby Hannah played in the sand on the beach for the first time, while her big sister made sand castles.

Mama and baby
Back then, living with the in-laws and taking a vacation with them was stressful idea. I was a new mother and still figuring out my role. It was hard to do that with my husband’s parents constantly around. My emotions ran so high. This time, I was able to truly relax and enjoy myself. Sure, it’s not easy taking a vacation with two little ones. In fact, it was exhausting. But whereas Emmie lived with her grandparents, and we all got plenty of quality time with them, Hannah only sees them on visits. She’s more reserved than Emmie was, more cautious about people holding her who are not her parents. This was a special opportunity for her grandparents to really be with her, and for her to get to know them.

Plus, we had help! Bruce and I got to go out one night with his sister and his godfather’s daughters and their husbands to trivia night at the local bar. We haven’t done something like that in years. (We won, too!) Or Emmie’s grandpa would play with her in the pool, so Bruce and I could take a nap while the baby slept. They say it takes a village, and Bruce and I have been so worn out lately trying to do it all ourselves. It was a nice break.

Looking back, this was my first summer at home with a little one and an infant, trying to balance cleaning the house, tending to the garden, getting food on the table, running errands, shuttling to lessons and play dates, along with teaching a fast-paced summer course, grading papers during nap time, facilitating a writing group, and working part-time for the museum. I didn’t always do a great job, and I was super stressed out. As the kids grow, however, being a parent gets easier in some ways. I’m just now starting to feel like myself again. As the weather gets colder, I’ll be pining for summer, but life is moving quicker than ever.

Got to go - it's already time to wake the baby and pick up Emmie.

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