Back from Vacation Marriage Monday Post

I have three or four drafts of posts I need to complete that actually AREN’T Marriage Monday posts but I’ve just returned from vacation and wanted to check in briefly. I traveled to Michigan with Evangeline for ten days, visiting various friends and family and let me tell you, after being primarily E’s sole parent for 10 days I feel like I ACCOMPLISHED something -I managed to make sure she got all of her meals and snacks, provided a reliable bedtime and enjoyed a dozen different experiences with her, from learning how to play in a sandbox to swimming in Lake Huron.  It’s one thing to manage a toddler at home with all of our creature comforts and another thing entirely to hit the road with one, but we had a great time and arrived home with minor chest colds, sun on our cheeks and bellies full of homemade wild blackberry pie.  S. showed up now and again – he arrived a few days later, left a day early and spent the middle portion of the trip at our family cabin – which was our agreed upon plan from the beginning.

It turns out some of friends have been rather horrified by our laissez-faire approach to vacation, claiming they would never want to take a week’s vacation and not spend it with their spouse. S. and I have taken vacations together and separately throughout our marriage, sometimes out of necessity and sometimes out of desire.  At heart I am fundamentally a beach/boat/water kind of girl – there is no where I would rather be than on a beach, swimming in the lake or ocean, boating, etc.  I feel most like myself make-up free with sand beneath my feet.  S. is fundamentally NOT a beach person. He doesn’t like deep water and he  burns easily regardless of how much SPF lotion he lathers on himself, but he does like the Great Outdoors and hiking, especially on cloudy days or beneath canopies of trees, both of which I tolerate but don’t love. However, we both love cities large and small and we are always able to construct a great vacation by choosing a city (say, New Orleans) and then exploring the world outside of it as well.  We are also incredibly fortunate that my family has kept the cabin my grandfather built in Northern Michigan decades and decades ago, which rests on a private lake and is only six miles from a beach, offering an endless array of hiking, swimming and fishing opportunities to satisfy both of us.  I’ve long since come to terms with the unlikelihood that S. and I will ever spend money to lounge around the beaches of Jamaica or Mexico but I comfort myself by remembering that S. loathes the idea of cruises as much as I do so I’ll never have to get on a cruise ship, at least.

For the most part, we travel well together. We both like drinks, snacks, naps, long walks and a little unnecessary shopping.  Our biggest moments of tension occur in the actual preparation for the trip and occasionally, the travel home. We have very different ideas about what constitutes an appropriate time to arrive at the airport, for instance  – his idea being substantially fewer hours than mine.  We fluster at different obstacles and are usually able to talk one another out of any potential freak-outs so vacations and holidays are almost always enjoyable. S. tends to stay up later and sleep in later than I do, but this is the only signicant difference I can think of that is highlighted by traveling together.

Do you and your partner travel well together? Have the same idea of what constitutes a good vacation? How important is traveling well together, do you think?

 

Posted in Marriage Monday | 15 Comments

Marriage Monday – Do you have a “dealbreaker”?

I feel a bit sheepish admitting this, but I’ve been following the split between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes relatively closely. I’m not so far gone that I’m seeking the information out myself but if yahoo is featuring an article on the divorce, I’ll read it – if Good Morning America covers it, I’ll watch. Like so many people, I find myself cheering wildly on the inside for Katie Holmes with nothing more than tabloid fodder to substantiate such an emotional reaction.  Katie Holmes and I pretty close to the same age (she’s two years younger than I am) and I loved watching her on “Dawson’s Creek” as well as her early foray into movies, particularly “Wonder Boys.”  I wouldn’t consider her my favorite actress but I found her extremely talented. When she and Tom announced their romance the whole thing just felt too weird for words and while it was tempting to fall down  the rabbit hole wondering whether she was pregnant or not or whether Scientology had corrupted her or not I mostly just ceased paying attention because really, there are only so many hours in a day and if you spent too many of them thinking about Suri, Tom and Katie the chances of finishing Anna Karenina are even less than they were to begin with.

But their split? I am paying attention to it if only because of the lengths Katie went to distance herself from Tom. From disposable cell phones to lining up lawyers in three different states, Katie did her damndest to ensure she had primary custody of Suri and that she would be the one in charge of her “spirit” and education.  If we take at face value that it really was because of Tom’s desire to send Suri away to Scientology school for her education and Katie’s steadfast determination to prevent any such thing from happening, then I think we know what Katie’s dealbreaker is – separation from her daughter and/or her daughter’s participation in Scientology.

All of this has me thinking about “deal breakers” in marriage.  I would hope that verbal or emotional abuse would be a deal breaker for everyone reading my blog – infidelity I think is a little trickier. I am at a point in my marriage where I honestly would like to *think* if S. cheated on me it would be a deal breaker but ultimately I am not sure at all I could do that to Evangeline – I honestly don’t even like speculating on it and instead just remain grateful that S. is the wonderful man he is!

In term of deal breakers in our household, I really believe that if I enforced a vegetarian or vegan diet on the household S. would at least consider leaving me.  It might sound funny to an outsider but S. is a meat and potatoes kind of guy – his girlfriend prior to me criticized his adoration of bacon and he made tracks faster than Mitt Romney running from his history with Bain.  He eyes the tofu and soy-based food I buy for my lunches with the utmost trepidation and groans out loud if he witnesses me making overnight oatmeal complete with chia seeds.  It’s been a bit surprising to see him remain so steadfast on this even as we move to our mid-thirties – a time even the most dedicated meat eaters often consider a vegetarian night or two a week, but he remains as serious as ever on this and I know that if I were to become really passionate about this issue it would cause a serious rift at the very least.

A deal breaker for me, potentially, would be if S. were to  return in a serious way to his Catholic faith. I’m not bringing this up here to start an argument – I think there is a lot that is magnificent and lovely about the Catholic church, but I also know I could not allow my daughter to be raised in that faith.  If S. took his faith to the point where, for instance, he didn’t want us practicing birth control or became one of those people protesting with hideously blown-up abortion photos in front of Planned Parenthood – well, either of those would be a deal breaker for me.  It’s easy to say, of course, that this would never happen but we’ve also witnessed his father return to the faith recently – he advocated strongly for a Catholic presence at Evangeline’s baptism which we didn’t agree to accommodate.  To be clear – if S. ever chooses to worship as a Catholic, I would be okay with it – but I do not consider Catholic school an option for our daughter.

Do you believe in deal breakers, or does the very concept violate the vows you took? Do you have deal breakers of your own?

Posted in Marriage Monday, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

it’s the little things (marriage monday)

You hear over and over and over again –  “it’s the little  things” that make a marriage or partnership work…the coffee your partner brews for you each morning or the neck rub he/she gives you each night. The small considerations we do for one another…taking out the trash, picking up the dog poop, making the bed a certain way – these are the kind of daily considerations that contribute to a successful marriage.

We’ll talk about those some other day.

I also think it’s the seemingly small things that can drive you absolutely bananas in a marriage.  While not necessarily capable of causing a signficant rift in your relationship, certain small things can, in the immortal words of Amanda when I wrote a similar post on the matter, make you stabby.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, ever since we had central air installed in our house. Firstly, thank all Gods S. convinced me this would be a good idea. I’ve spent most of my life without air conditioning  and despite some pretty wicked seasonal allergies it isn’t something I would have advocated for when so much needs to be accomplished around the house, but S. insisted we would need it this summer now that E. is old enough to dash this way and that and he was right.  Central air offered tremendous relief during our recent heat wave and ensured we all slept well.  It has, however, emphasized the different temperature tolerances S. and I have – an argument converation that has occurred off and on since our first six months of dating.  In more recent years I’ve mused to myself, friends and even on occasion to S. directly that the best-case scenario for us when we retire is living side-by-side in apartments somewhere, each with our own thermostat while the worst-case scenario is retiring in totally separate environments, not separated or divorced so much as finally comfortable with the temperature.

The AC does an amazing job of keeping our house cool, and for that I am grateful.  Where our differences surface, though, is at exactly what temperature it should be turned on and when it should be turned off and the windows opened for some much-needed fresh air. I love the feel of the breeze blowing through open windows in the summertime – something S. could  take or leave, I think.  S. is much more sensitive to heat, as well, and requires a particularly  cool room to sleep in, which means unless I get the whole pajama/sheet/blanket ratio just right AND he doesn’t steal the covers from me in the middle of the night (and yes, sleeping and marriage will certainly be a marriage Monday post down the line) I end up much too cold. In the summer. During heat waves. Which is ridiculous. And also an entirely privileged problem, I realize.

Temperature – it’s something we constantly have to negotiate.  It’s just one of many little things we work through on a regular basis, not nearly as taxing, say, as moving households or even states (both of which we’ve done) but certainly more frustrating than choosing what’s for dinner.  Other little but rage-inducing things include our different approaches to grocery shopping, how the laundry is washed and folded, and arguing over whether or not certain frequently-used kitchen ingredients like salt and oatmeal should be left on the counter or not (I am firmly in the yes camp on this – S. is not). For the most part we are able to adjust to one another’s needs and desires and maintain a harmonious home, but there are times when, after a night of shivering in my sleep and realizing it’s because S. stole all the covers, and then finding neither the coffee or the oatmeal where I left them the day before that, yes, I feel absolutely stabby.

 

Posted in Marriage Monday | 5 Comments

Cutting for Stone

I haven’t reviewed a book here in a really long time.  It’s been slow-going reading-wise for me this year. I’ve only completed six books and four of those have required quite a bit of thought and attention, and while I’ve enjoyed the books I’ve read I haven’t felt moved to review any of them until Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese.

First of all, let’s talk about the author for a minute. Before you (or I!) make excuses about not having time to write, here is his bio: Abraham Verghese is Professor and Senior Associate Chair for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at the Standford University School of Medicine.  He was the founding director of the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, where he is now an adjunct professor…a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he has published essays and short stories that have appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Granta, The Wall Street Journal and elsewhere.

See what I mean? No excuses, people! Anyway, I was somewhat hesitant a few weeks ago when  both my mom and my dad recommended I read this book, although I can’t pinpoint what caused the hesitancy.  I think it sounded “too serious” for summer. I’m glad I ignored my initial hesitation because I found this book enthralling and educational at the same time.

Part of the beauty of this book is its setting – much of the novel takes place in Ethiopia. I carried such a stereotype of Ethiopia in my mind, which this book shattered into a thousand pieces. Forced to confront my own ignorance I actually consulted a map – a map, people – to improve my understanding of Africa in general and  Ethiopia in particular. While I knew on a very basic level that Ethiopia is located in the mountains, and that the Italian occupation influenced its culture,  I had no idea the extent and breadth of the country’s environment and culture.  Since I am not overly adventurous by nature, only the most evocative senses of place in a book make me want visit…think Bill Bryson’s Australia, Pat Conroy’s South Carolina, Herman Wouk’s Poland…but I find myself incredibly drawn to the idea of visiting Ethiopia after reading Verghese’s book.

So the sense of place he creates is outstanding, but Verghese also tells the story of Marion and Shiva Stone, twin brothers orphaned by one parent and abandoned by another, who are raised in Addis Ababa while Ethiopia is on the brink of revolution. Their shared interest in medicine allows us to journey through their lives while learning about tuberculosis and fistulas and liver transplants and trauma surgery and how all of it is practiced in Ethiopia.

I’ll admit I’ve grown softer since becoming a mother – I used to devour mysteries and horror novels but lately I’ve been shying away from those kind of books. It’s surprising to realize that one of the reasons I loved this book is the heart behind most of the characters – so much love. Often the love is misplaced or misguided or, in one character’s case, crippling – but Verghese recognizes love in so many of its forms and its ability to motivate characters in the most astounding ways.

I fully recommend this book – I found it so powerful I’ve already added his memoir and the books he used to inform this novel to my to be read list.

Posted in On the Nightstand, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

no marriage Monday post today…

sick husband and baby over the weekend have me behind with work and home – there will be a non-Marriage Monday post up  by the end of the week. I am going to catch up with some of the comments in the last two posts!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Let’s talk about that Atlantic Monthly Article…

This is sort of a Marriage Monday post, although I think ideally the subject matter affects men and women, married and single, gay and straight. 

and sooo….segue.  Have you read the Atlantic Monthly article, Why Women Still Can’t Have it All? If not, here’s the link: http://bit.ly/MMyR9Q – Don’t worry – we’ll wait. See you in a month or so…

The only way I found time to even read this article was because E. went down for bed around seven on Friday night and S. had a work event.  With most of my house currently under construction, including the kitchen, I didn’t have much on my “to-do” list to prevent me from reading Slaughter’s article.  I’ve thought about a million different ways to approach posting about this article but instead I’ve decided to post the first five thoughts that I can reasonably organize into bullet points, and see what you all think.

Here we go.

  • Okay, this is a non-bullet – and rather facetious, but one of my first thoughts was, the author must never talk to her mother. Or, if she does, her mother is very very different than mine, who requires at least three hours of conversation a week. Bare minimum.
  • First of all, phew.  I am exhausted. Every single graph of this piece possesses a frenetic feel, as though the writer is writing it as much for her own self as the rest of her readership.  To me, this piece has just so much to unpack that it is almost hard to focus – it is argumentative, defensive, well-written, large in scope – as a writer I don’t feel Slaughter left us room to breath and absorb what she is saying.  She spent so much of her time defending her point of view, acknowledging that this argument doesn’t necessarily apply to lower-middle class and lower class families  – in short, defending every area where she could be attacked that I didn’t feel there was enough space to take in all of her very valid points.
  • Ultimately, and this may sound awful, I am not someone who worries about “having it all.” So I wonder if this is more of an issue for women of her (readily acknowledged) class and rank? Okay, let me see if I can unpack what I mean here…we didn’t have much money growing up.  I remember when Cabbage Patch dolls were incredibly popular and that is all I wanted for Christmas and my mom, God bless her, MADE me one because my parents couldn’t afford a store-bought doll. I loved that doll so much – I still remember her name. Alice.  From a very young age I understood that if I wanted to go to college (let alone graduate school!) scholarships would have to play a very major role, and even then it probably couldn’t be an incredibly expensive college, and also if my parents were going to assist in my college-going experience (which they certainly did) they weren’t going to support a theater major, and, well – fifteen year old me would have considered “having it all” to mean the financial wherewithal to pursue my art without compromise – and the sacrifice for that would certainly be living a life without much, if any money.  Times have certainly changed and it turned out that I ended up much more pragmatic than I ever would have thought but my point here is even as an adolescent, I understood the concept of trade-offs. Pursuing a career in acting equalled a life of not a lot of money but the ability to do what I wanted.  My thinking now, as a mother, is not really any different -I chose to have my daughter. She takes an incredible amount of time. In exchange, I will probably not end up running the hospital system I work for – and I am okay with this.  I understand that Slaughter is arguing that this very kind of thinking is what is wrong in our society, but it is how I feel – it is how my mind, my personality works.
  • I understand that Slaughter had to bring her personal life into this piece to make it work but I found out she left so much out – probably to protect her family – that I struggled with fully believing her position.  She doesn’t talk about any strife between her and her husband while she spent time away from home working but surely, there must have been…I don’t care if you are a man or a woman, if you are working and left with a majority of the parenting issues are bound to crop up. She doesn’t share any late night fights she and her husband may have had – any passing of the blame – she solely talks about her relationship with her husband through the lense of her sons, and this is something I could never, ever do.  In the piece she writes about spending from 6-8 pm at home, as though this choice allows for enough time to be a parent. And who knows, it may…but then, when do you have time to be a wife? I don’t think S. and I could survive without time to ourselves. Sure, we commit ourselves fully to E when she is awake…but when she is asleep we spend time together.  A few hours a day isn’t enough to be part of a family, in my opinion – and I noticed the fact she didn’t address it.  Now, I’m more than fine with the fact she didn’t want to but I am willing to bet there were several late-night, raised-voice conversations between Slaughter and her husband before she left her job in Washington.
  • Even though it might seem like I have a negative reaction to her story, I really don’t. I agree with many of her points, especially the idea that school schedules should match work schedules. That could address a lot of working parent issues.  I find her clarion call at the end, and her stress on the importance of more female leaders in order to improve things for women, everywhere, as incredibly important. She acknowledges that these problems are very much problems only to those of us who can afford the time to intellectualize “having it all” – but it is also those of us who should be pursuing better lives for   all women.
  • Final bullet! I could write so much more! Anyway…I think my ultimate issue is with the idea of “having it all.” Do I believe in a more intelligent way to approach work/life balance? Of course.  Do I believe in the necessity of more women in positions of power? Absolutely. But I also recognize trade-offs are bound to happen – we all have a dozen different kinds of potential within us – we could all have led different lives. The choices we make in the past define who we currently are, and, being the kind of person I am, with the kind of heart I have – I would not be able to work at the level Slaughter works. I just know it. I can actually say I do (often) love my job – I believe in doing good work for a good cause and I don’t stress about working over 40 hours a week or on the occasional weekend, but I also need time in life to read books, watch tv, practice yoga, write, play with my kid, decorate my house and cook dinner. And no matter how much I love my work,  I also want to bear witness to the life I am fortunate  enough to lead – including time with my parents as they age, hours with S. on our back porch, watching E. and the dog play in the backyard. I want to read great books and ponder curtain colors and enjoy, as I did this past Saturday, long brunches with my friends and their children.  I am fine with not having it all, but maybe that’s because I’m so grateful for what I do have, and am also cognizant of just how much work it takes to maintain?

Blarg. So much here. Did you read it? What did you think?

Posted in Marriage Monday | 11 Comments

Marriage Monday – Contemplating K-Cups

First of all, I certainly don’t anticipate this blog becoming nothing but marriage Monday posts.  It just seems to have worked out that way for the last couple of weeks but by no means will it remain that way.  And now, with that out of the way…

A week ago today found S. and me in our kitchen at 5 a.m., staring up at a leak that had broken through our bathroom floor and flooded our kitchen. Everything was covered in toilet water, from our coffee pot to my favorite salt and pepper shakers to E.’s bottles. For now I will spare you how we each dealt with the pipe disaster – that’s a different post for another day.  Over  the course of the week, with the help of our fantastic plumber, Bernie, the source of the leak was idenfied and fixed, leaving us with a kitchen ceiling that needed to be replastered and a host of household items to purchase.

Yesterday, we went shopping to purchase our new coffee maker.  We debated for several days over whether to buy a keurig or not – my biggest concern was the fact they are bad for the environment (all those k-cups going to waste!) but otherwise was interested – right now we barely have time to drink coffee in the mornings so a whole pot often ends up wasted.  There are also afternoons where I find myself wanting one cup of coffee but not wanting to fuss with making a pot.  When we were browsing at Target S. pointed out that you can buy a reusable k-cup and grind your own beans – I was sold.  Since our coffee grinder was another of the kitchen appliances destroyed by the Toilet Water Flood of aught 12, and we hadn’t researched which one we wanted to buy, we went ahead and purchased a couple boxes of K-cups to see us through the upcoming week.  As we surveyed our choices S. casually gestured to Tully’s Italian Roast and mentioned he found that his favorite. (It’s probably important to note here that we both have keurig machines in our respective offices and so we have more than passing knowledge of the equipment and coffee flavors.)

“No way,” I said, trying to keep E. from pulling every box of K-cups off the shelving. We had made the mistake of liberating her from the confines of the grocery cart and she was grabbing at things for all she was worth.  “That is my favorite brand, too!”

“Yep, it’s really good,” S. said, placing a Tully’s Itallian Roast in the cart.

“But, I didn’t know that about you!” I exclaimed. “Don’t you think it’s romantic that we share a favorite K-cup coffee brand and never knew it?”

“I think it’s sweet,” S. said,  although he certainly seemed less enamored of the whole idea than I found myself.

Here’s the thing, though. S. and I have been married for twelve years, together for fourteen and we’ve known each other half of our lives.  There isn’t that muchw we don’t know about one another beyond the secret interior thoughts everyone keeps to themselves.  I could have probably repeated within five or ten words exactly how S. responded Monday morning to the plumbing mess – and I am sure he could with me, as well. I know to never ever ever put green pepper in anything I’m cooking, not because he’s allergic to it but because he hates it that much – I know the reason he always does the laundry is because he hates the way I do it. I can tell what kind of mood he is in by a one-second glance at his face and I know what reserves he draws upon to boost himself up when he needs to.  Discovering his favorite k-cup flavor is the same as mine felt like this delightful surprise – our separate working worlds colliding in this tiny, unimportant way.  Like, if I were doubting our relationship in that moment (which I wasn’t), then this shared preference completely reaffirmed everything – our life together.

It’s silly, I know, but to me it was a small delight in a week dominated by gushing toilet water, sexist contractors and an untold amount of work stress.  Has your spouse taken you by surprise recently, for better or worse? Did it matter to you?

 

 

 

 

Posted in Marriage Monday | 9 Comments

Marriage Monday

First of all, thanks so much for such supportive and encouraging responses to my previous post. I will absolutely respond to each and every one, as I try to with every post, but for now, in keeping with my new blogging approach, I am putting the very first Marriage Monday post up! I was so ridiculously excited to find in my in-box an actual submission last week! Full disclosure, it comes from a “real life” friend and she’s asked I don’t link to her blog since there is some family sensitivity around the issue.  Anyway, I think her entry is the perfect beginning to Marriage Mondays. Here it is:

My husband’s best friend is getting married soon, and my husband is in the wedding. it’s a low-key wedding at a farm, where the ceremony and reception are in one location. sounds awesome!

but the couple are firm that no children are invited to the wedding. this includes no breastfed newborns! this means i can’t go. i’ve thought a lot about it, and even if i could pump enough milk for felix beforehand, there’s nowhere for me to pump at this wedding (can’t spend 20 minutes in a port-o-john. just no!).

i get no kids at a wedding, but no breastfed infants of a groomsman? i can’t help but feel this couple will come to regret excluding me from their wedding when they go on to have children. the bride said she’s “sorry that our no children request is inconvenient.” it’s not inconvenient so much as it precludes me from attending 😦

but i’m also trying to see my reaction from the outside–am i that friend who thinks the wedding revolves around me instead of the couple?? am i being “that” guest who makes the bride insane with special requests?

i can’t help but feel the wedding itself sets a precedent for the marriage to follow. what does this whole situation mean? bah!

The reason I find this post perfect for our first Marriage Monday segment is because it deals with issues surrounding a wedding – the very beginning of many marriages!  I share Katy’s sentiments – if you are having a formal ceremony, the wedding should set a precedent for the marriage to follow.  What that means will certainly differ from person to person, but ultimately a wedding should be a celebration while sort of setting your intent for your future together.  As I thought this over the course of a couple of days, I found myself growing more and more angry on Katy’s behalf.  In general I get the no-kids thing, especially in an environment as difficult to control as a farm. But her son is a newborn who simply cannot be separated from his mama for that length of time – he is not going to run roughshod through the place or tip the cake over or anything like that. The worst thing he can possibly do is cry, which can be solved by nursing or taking him away from the public.  Katy’s husband isn’t a distant relative or mere acquaintance – he is a best friend and groomsman. In not allowing his wife to take their newborn to the wedding, I feel this bride is essentially ignoring the importance of his family at a time when she should be embracing all the concept has to offer.  Over and over and over again I see people create these elaborate fantasy weddings that no marriage has any hope, ever, of living up to!

So I side with my friend Katy. But more to the point, I think, is ultimately how she lets this affect her own marriage.  It would be easy, I think, to want her husband to take sides – to advocate for her and to feel resentful as he goes off to wedding while she stays home with her young sons.  I think I, at least, would struggle with feelings of resentment both properly placed (the bride and groom) and improperly placed (S.) – so it’s important to recognize that the bride’s decision, despite its consequences, has nothing really to do with Katy and SO MUCH to do with the bride. And, there will be some justice, I think, when Katy’s husband is at the wedding and everyone asks him where Katy is, and he has to explain that his itty bitty baby boy couldn’t attend.  I see the ultimate goal, here, is Katy’s ability not so much to rise above the issue but to allow her husband to enjoy the event despite her “marginalization,” so to speak.  This would be a very hard thing for me to do.

What do you think?

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 8 Comments

The Evolution of Everything In Between

Over the last couple of days I have engaged in what I believe is my very first internet debate.  While I am a long-time blog reader and participate in certain message boards, and I’m even learning a bit about twitter, I have always avoided participating in internet arguments, whether they are about attachment parenting or the Paleo diet or President Obama’s birthplace.  I just don’t find them a valuable way to spend my time, generally.

But early yesterday one of the blogs I read, which I won’t link to here, seriously provoked me, so much so that I found myself commenting over and over again, arguing with people I’ve never before spoken to over the internet, and on a couple of occasions I was even told I *should* leave because I obviously didn’t understand the intention of the author’s space (to be fair, the author herself didn’t recommend this and instead said something like “these uncomfortable spaces are where we learn). On the one hand I found myself a bit baffled…I mean, asked to leave? Do these people not know me? I am funny and warm, and I ALWAYS know what fork to use at fancy dinners! On the other, as unproductive as the whole discussion might seem, it did get me thinking about my own blog, its original and current intent, and the state it is actually in.

One of the qualities that impresses me so much about the blog I was commenting on is the author’s utter fearlessness. She writes without worrying about offending people – she writes her own truth, and be damned those who are too sensitive or too uneducated to take it.  I am not a fearless writer, at all, and it has limited my nonfiction and fiction writing as well as this blog.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this last night. One of the most well-received essays I ever wrote, about growing up the daughter of a Vietnam Vet, I ended up filing away in a box because I could not – would not – out my father in this way. A lot of the essays I wrote – the most powerful and well-written essays, anyway – I ended up putting away to revisit upon the death of my parents because I am both presumptuous enough to assume the possibility of  their publication and cautious enough to have some extreme concern about the reaction of my family if they did get published.  And this kind of cautiousness is one thing – it might not be a brave choice but it a choice I made that I am fully comfortable making. The problem is, this fearfulness has extended even to my novel writing and blog writing.

The novel I wrote, which I began while working in Michigan and completed after I moved to Pittsburgh, was admittedly quite autobiographical. I packed it away, along with a lot of my other writing, because I could recognize it for what it was – an awful first novel. Even as I did so, though, I also knew the issues I was trying to tackle – Vietnam, the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and the effects of the Gulf War, were in some ways too mighty for me.  For some reason I often don’t feel like I deserve to write about these issues – as though they belong to people far more intellectually rigorous than I. I spend an enormous time doubting my ability to tackle complexity.

As crazy as this sounds, I think the internet debate highlighted a lot of this for me. When other posters accused me of not being “intellectual” enough to handle their conversation, instead of running away and never visiting the site again, I thought “screw you.” I talk about health care policy all day long. I create messages for vice presidents and leaders in my community, and internationally.  I might not be a college professor, but not intellectual?

Anyway. My point is, some of this caution has spilled over in terms of my comfort level with blogging. For instance, I might want to address certain complexities in marriages but feel uncomfortable because a friend I know is experiencing a similar situation and she occasionally reads the blog, or I might want to jokingly post about all the vegetarians I seem to know now but I don’t want to offend anyone, and on and on. You see the problem, and this barely scratches the surface of my concerns in terms of blogging content.

Well, no more. I love writing and blogging –  and I am inspired and encouraged by all the fearless authors out there, in print and online, sharing their stories. I am going to work, in all mediums, to become a little bit braver, and a little bit more honest.  I hope over time to develop this blog into something that is updated almost daily but as I move toward that, I am first going to implement what I am calling Marriage Mondays.  I’ve long wanted to start a blog tackling all the different issues the institution of marriage creates, from deeply personal issues to larger societal issues like same sex marriage.  I imagine it a cross between my favorite parenting blog – askmoxie.org and the Happiness Project.  I am not sure, however, whether I have the time or enough ideas to maintain such a blog so I am putting the idea in beta, here at everythinginbetween. 

Here is how it’s going to work. Every Monday I will either post a question from a reader, a topic in the news, an excerpt from a book, etc.  I’ll post my own thoughts on the subject and then encourage anyone who would like to engage in the comment section as well. I will still plan on posting other blog posts ( I hope to work up to some sort of “theme” for most days of the week) but baby steps, people. Baby steps. If you would like to submit a question/comment/topic for the first Marriage Monday, email me at everythinginbetween77@yahoo.com!  Other topics I hope to post about but have been avoiding include my continued efforts as weight loss (I always think nobody would want to read about that!), our current home renovations, parenting issues and workplace issues. 

I don’t know why I let myself get so intimidated and cautious but I am trying to correct that now. Onward!

 

Posted in Everything In Between, Life is short Let's Rock, Uncategorized | 13 Comments

How many pictures of the same lake can one take?

Thanks to inspiration from this month’s “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine, which my mother-in-law purchases for me every year, I have finally started culling and editing my many, many files of digital photos.  Sometime in 2010 I stopped framing or even printing our photos, and the result is thousands of photos stored in every possible combination of every computer-like device we have, from our phones to our home computers to our ipads. Organizing, printing, saving or deleting these photos seemed like an absolutely Sysyphus-like task but (a.) I have declared this summer the Summer O’ Organization (more on that, later (remind me!) and (b.) BHG really has excellent tips for this project – tips that seem so terribly simple but I needed to be told – like, delete duplicates and fuzzy photos. And be ruthless!

I have completed the first round of organization and while no other subject rivals the sheer number of photos we have taken of Evangeline, pictures of the lake at our small piece of property in northern Michigan come close. My mom and I often laugh when we are there together and someone “needs” to get a picture of the lake – there are truly countless photos of the camp lake, beginning when it was first built in the early 1940’s and moving through the decades since, and while everything from the boats docked nearby to the dogs leaping into its water to the fashion of the folks in the photos has changed, the lake itself, blessedly, has not.

It’s a small lake, barely recognizable as such on a map, full of pike, bass and bluegill, snapping turtles, water snakes, water lilies and tadpoles, and while I am no longer brave enough to swim in it (snapping turtles, people – and water snakes!) there is no place I would rather be much of the year than on its dock, watching the loon that returns every year hunt for fish or listening to the fish jump at dusk.

Perhaps it’s because I’ll be there in less than two weeks with S. while Evangeline spends two nights with her grandparents (her first time away from us!), or maybe it’s the advent of late spring and early summer that have me in a northern Michigan frame of mind, but my answer to the question, how many pictures of the same lake can one take? Thousands. Below, not a thousand photos of the lake, but a few, in case you are in a summer frame of mind as well.

The lake, from the front yard:

The lake, up close:

Handsome devil of a dog at the lake:

And finally, sunset, reflected at the lake ( I can’t seem to get this edited correctly, so you might need to tilt your head a bit):

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments