Monday, August 23, 2010

Older Love

While packing up our belongings to move (I, Anna, am moving too...into Carol's old house!), I ran across a book by Warren Hanson, Older Love (Waldman House Press, 1999). I've read it before, but as I paged through it this time, I had a completely different perspective (hint, the perspective change might have something to do with the newest member of our family, who, I am convinced, is part puppy). I was reminded, once again, of the power of ritual throughout the course of our lives. Hanson writes:

We hear this old love every day, in ways we'd never think. The gentle plink of dishes swishing in the kitchen sink. The sound of slippered footsteps in the hallway overheard, when I have risen early, and you have stayed in bed. The morning paper. Coffee in the same old favorite cups. The fond, familiar rituals that nothing interrupts. The joyful jingling of your keys. Your telephone hello. The quiet, happy humming of that song from long ago.

We could choose to get upset by the little (and big) things that bother us. Like when my husband is adamant about selling my huge, ugly-but-useful desk on Craigslist because "it won't fit in the new house" (oh I'll make it fit, darn it!). Thank you, Warren Hanson, for reminding me to always find joy and gratitude in my marriage. It's not that hard, really. He is moving without me while I attend a wedding across the country. Ultimately, it's the little things that we do, each day, that contribute to long-term happiness and success in relationships.

One of my favorite rituals these days is sharing a massive mason jar as a water glass at dinner. We share these days because one person carries Thomas to the table and the other person carries the food. 4 hands, 1 baby, 2 plates, 2 glasses. You do the math.

Be happy with the little things. Every day.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Construction Bounce

We (Carol here) are in the middle of renovating a big old house. It's a combination of "What were we thinking?" and "This is incredibly fun" and "Holy cow, how many staples did they need to put down carpeting?"

It's also a bit of my dearest husband and I having a nice little set of arguments about, well, everything from "Wear the damn earplugs before using the sawsall, seriously." and "How much did you spend on that fixture? Stop spending money!"

But ... alas ... in the midst of painting, demolishing a kitchen, pulling up carpeting, stripping wallpaper, yanking up staples and then back for another layer of painting (and, of course, baking many pans of brownies for all the people helping paint/demolish/strip/yank), I recalled the stunningly sly advice of my dear friend Molly, first shared in our Tuesday Sept 4, 2007 blog. Suga, you are so wise.

Readers, go back and find this post; it's worth it (moving/constructing/yanking/painting or not).

Long live the construction bounce!

Anyone know a good piano mover?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Another upside to love letters ...

... is finding them 22 years after you've written them, re-reading them, and enjoying them all over again. (It's Carol writing this ... although I'm guessing Anna might have similar discoveries to report?)

Although my lower back is screaming and my house is a mess of boxes because we're in the middle of moving, today's packing uncovered a box in the garage rafters marked "memories" in my mother-in-law's hand writing. My hubby had secretly tucked the box of goodies (letters, poems, scrapbooks, cards ... and a boy scout patch or two) away for, well, finding them again some day! Today he sure did.

There he was ... in a lawn chair in the middle of the garage on this 97 degree day ... with a huge smile and a rather large pile of letters I had written him during our first years together. He demanded I look at all the sweet-nothings I had written him. He could hardly contain his boy-ish joy. I could hardly believe that our world has changed so much in 20 years; who writes 4-page hand-penned love letters?

And then I asked myself a few more questions:

Did I really make my own envelopes out of magazine pages? Did I really draw silly little illustrations - most of them with word bubbles - on every page? Did I really inflate a huge balloon, write a letter in permanent marker, deflate the balloon and send it to my then sweety/now husband, complete with instructions on what to do when he received it?

Am I really telling the world how silly and corny I was as a young gal in love?

Yes, it's the 20-year return on love letters: Finding. Opening. Remembering. Laughing our heads off at how goofy in love we were.

Maybe, after we move, I'll write another love letter or two, craft an envelope out of a page of the NYTimes, and tuck it away in our new rafters. Who knows how long it will be until we find them again. But when we do, how grand it will be.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Answers to My Own Questions: 9 Months Later

Last October, I (Anna writing here) posted ten of the many questions I had as an expectant mother. So much has changed in the nine months since I wrote the original post! This post will tell us if all those anxious questions I had during my pregnancy were actually worth worrying about. Below are the things I've realized, just as all those moms who have come before me have.

1. Will I still love my work?

Yes! I still absolutely love teaching and researching. Finding the time to conduct said work is another story. While I was pregnant I thought that having a baby would change me so much that I wouldn't enjoy the things I did before baby came. In terms of work, this has not held true. Now I just need to learn how to accomplish my work while also being a mom. Trickier than I once imagined.

2. Will my husband and I struggle to find our joint parenting style?

Not yet, at least. The biggest struggle is probably with time management. Do we clean up the house, or relax and watch Mad Men? Mad Men has been winning the past couple of nights. We try to never have the tv on when Thomas is awake (and unfortunately, he's awake more than he should be! The stinker fights his sleep). Sweeping can wait.

3. Will I experience the love everyone describes they have for their children?

Yes, instantly, yes. Carol told me not to worry about this one, but for some odd reason I still did. One thing I have learned, however, is that even though the love is unconditional and so very, very strong, I still get frustrated with him. When his razor sharp nails claw me or he pulls my hair, I get a little peeved. When people kept saying, "it's different when it's your own kid," I thought it meant that these things wouldn't bother me. Wrong-o. But then he giggles and it doesn't matter anymore. Maybe that's what they meant?

4. Will my view of the world change? My thoughts on politics or religion?

Nope. I haven't experienced a shift in either of these views. Perhaps, though, my opinions have more depth to them these days.

5. Will I still like my regular tv shows?

Yes and no. I miss having the time to watch them. But if I missed an episode of my shows, it doesn't bother me. I didn't finish the seasons of several of what my favorite shows used to be. And I don't really care. I never thought I'd say that!

6. Will I finally feel like a grown up?

Absolutely not. I still look at Thomas and think, "could this seriously be my child?" Aren't I still 18 years old? Not by a decade, but it feel doesn't feel that way.

7. Will I remain connected with my friends?

Yes, I have definitely remained connected to my friends. One thing that has changed, however, is that I cannot just pick up and go anymore. It takes a long time to pack the little guy up. And as soon as we're ready to head out the door...whoops...someone needs their diaper changed again. My friends definitely accept my role as a mother and the best of friends even help out with Thomas. I love my friends for loving my baby.

8. Will my baby be as fun(ny), cute, and smart as my nephews?

He is, objectively (ha), the cutest, smartest, most fun baby that ever lived. Ever. Right up there with my nephews!

9. How will I ever survive without sleep?

Well, Thomas was an excellent sleeper for the first 4 months of his life. So, I think he eased us in quite gently. The past two months, on the other hand, have been more challenging. But each day we keep on going. Somehow. It must be one of life's little mysteries. It helps to hear people say, "this is just a phase." And I'm certainly trying to not wish away this very sweet phase of his, just because I'm not sleeping as well as I used to.

10. Will my husband and I still laugh multiple times a day? Will we adapt our rituals?

I can finally understand why, time and again, studies have found that the years with young children are some of the hardest for married couples. Yes, we laugh multiple times a day. But the laughter that was once directed toward each other is often focused on Thomas. He'll make a cute face or noise and we'll laugh. One of us will do something funny to make him laugh and then we're all laughing. Our house is full of joyful moments. But it is definitely much harder to have in-depth conversations with our new addition and work schedules. We always loved to take walks and talk together, and this ritual has only become more important to us. Only now, our walks have several purposes: getting or keeping Thomas sleepy, chatting, and exercise.

I admit, there are times when I miss the ease of my childless life, but I cannot imagine my life without my little pumpkin. What would I do without him? I never want to find out. Were all these things worth worrying about? I'm once again reminded that it all works out in the end, just the way it should.