Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Notes from a Lonely Housewife

Last Monday, Paul left for a 5 day work trip to Washington D.C.  I got a call that night as I sat in Paul’s parents’ sitting room situated on the other side of the state. Paul said his trip was extended a week and should he fly home in between or just stay there.  We decided for him to stay there and for me to linger around the care of his parents for a few more days. They pour magical cocktails.




Signature look on Alistair. Cautious amusement from cousin Everette. 
Baby Gladiators.
I know a lot of life to be happy accidents. I also feel like some things just are.  Like my decision to be a teacher. My desire to dance. The way my chest gets pulled up in a happy ache as I walk up to receive Communion.


This is how I feel about Paul traveling and his work.  Somehow, the life of a lonely housewife foreshadowed into my fifteen year old heart.  I’m okay with that stretching that happens between us when he’s out of sight, out of state, or just darn unavailable.  It’s okay because I always wanted to be the supportive wife.  When I was 19 and thinking of landing such a role, I had something else in mind: packing a UHaul in our Missouri driveway (I’ve lived here all my life.) and waving goodbye to friends so we could lay down roots in a climate that labels 40 degree weather frigid. Traveling trophy wife.  Instead, I lean over my Missouri kitchen counter and yell past the chocolate stuffed in my mouth that I’ll be right there to wipe Thomas’s butt.


For your pleasure and in no particular order, I present unglamorous details of a wife holding down the house without the better half.  And they all start, because I say so and I’m in charge here, once upon a time


… I took Thomas to Chic-Fil-A to break up a super bleak and very cold stretch of days with just the kids. Invisible food poisoning on his plate. At 3 in the morning Thomas walked into the bedroom and threw up into his hands. I canceled the playdate for the next day, the only time I would have talked face to face with an adult during the five days Paul was gone.


… I watched 8 parts of a documentary about the Boxing Day tsunami on YouTube with my iPhone in between nursing babies and eating bowls of cereal. End of story.. I watch weird stuff when he’s gone as some twisted preemptive strike against disaster.  Two trips ago it was The Dahmer Files.  Two nights ago it was Blackfish.  I once lay in our big empty bed listening to a 911 call. The comforting phone operator lulled me to sleep.


… Paul walked in the door from a 4 day trip a few months after I had the twins.  On this trip everything went perfectly. I was so together and so great with the kids. I held the twins in my lap on the couch.  Paul walked through the door in mid-afternoon on a call, waved hello and turned the corner to go straight into the office to finish the day’s work. I burst into tears, the babies bouncing a bit until I knew he couldn’t hear me over that conference call.


Oh, but these are the bad stories.  There’s so many great things about Paul traveling (and working a lot) too. Like, how our clumsy re-entry into togetherness has sometimes brought a glass of wine to my lips or how I’ve acclimated to solo parenting by talking to myself a lot and liking it.  Two weeks ago I walked into the family room where I found Thomas stirring his Lincoln logs with a Lincoln log. I threw out my arms and shouted, “WILL YOU PLEASE JUST CALM DOWN. JUST. CALM DOWN” before I stole myself into the other room and started my 3rd podcast of the day.


This trip has been different. Thomas is still at Nana & Papa’s. Paul is still in D.C. The twins occupy each other in the sun room with happy shrieks and swiping of toys.  I really am on my own.  


I’ve actually gotten things done this time too.  I spent time with my sister, Amanda, this weekend shopping and catching up.  I filled out these beautiful baby shower invites for my sister, Andrea, who’s expecting identical twin boys this summer. And I visited Target 3 times in the past 5 days for, among many other little projects, revitalizing our master bedroom. Think soft. Think sheek. Think vavoom. Think the walls will paint themselves?


Thank goodness for Paul’s family for taking me in last week and letting Thomas play “I live here” for another week.  Thank goodness for my sisters (and sister-in-laws too!) for helping me fill the hours. Thank goodness for a wee bit of peace to write this out to you.


Thank goodness for a man still waiting on his trophy wife to bloom.


xoxox
Ash

Thomas arrives sometime tomorrow. Paul arrives tomorrow night. Ba da da da da. I'm lovin' it.


The twins begged me to get a photo with their uncle E. Bunny

Monday, March 31, 2014

Paul Bought Me a Chromebook


Paul bought me a little Chromebook. I’m typing on it these very words. Typing and smiling. Smiling and typing. I don’t even care what words show up. They’re all welcome today. Every last one of them.


My husband knows my passions and cheers me on despite my arguments to dig in and let safety trump risk. He wants to see me put in the hours wrestling words.  I have to pry criticism from him. When he does, he gives me one point of advice. Genius, that man. He knows I already have enough fear clamoring within. There's this general impression he's nodding his head, some stoic coach while I sweat out the thoughts.  A really great paragraph. A nod.  A flop of a post. A nod.  Something worked and I laughed at an image I created. A nod.  


This Chromebook is another nod from him. Don’t stop writing.  I love this nod.  Anywhere me and my crazy thoughts go, so there are my children clawing at me. But also now, my Chromebook too!


This weekend, I wrote over 3000 words. All I wanted to do was get a feel for the keys. I've read about pushing oneself to a word count of so many thousand in a week or in a session, but this wasn't about that at all.  The boys were all asleep and Paul was at an eye appointment and I lost time in between opening up Google Docs and looking up from the screen. When I stopped it was because I had been typing so long I had become thirsty. I wrote for myself. It was so wonderful.


For the first time in a very long time, writing made me happy. I wasn't editing it with my parents in mind. I wasn’t trying to be cooler or smarter or more together than I am. It felt as simple as a quick walk around the block breaking off into a sprint. I finished, surprised by myself and grinning wide. I’ll take more of this, please.


I’m pursuing writing with intention now, but this isn’t to be confused with pursuing writing with seriousness. There’s a time to be critical, to take a step back or a closer look with a red pen.  I had been doing so much of that, I had nothing left to say.  


In all the things I’ve loved, they wilted when my focus became a grave, white-knuckled grip. 

My mother had to remind me last summer to think kind thoughts about my son first before untangling the mess I had made (yelling all the time and letting him run wild or watch t.v. until his brain fell out of his head) after the twins were born.  

I climbed early up the ranks as a high school cross country runner. The faster I became , the more passionate I became and that passion translated into crunching numbers and thinking way too much. It drove out all the joy and when I should have been peaking, I failed, cheering for those who still had that spirit of running for running’s sake. 

When I struggled in my new job last year and fear kept flashing inside me, I wasn't able to move forward until I remembered that the simple things like laughing with my students was my most important priority, not the last.


This unexpected gift, this Chromebook, reminds me writing is a treat to myself. If it ever becomes something enough for someone else, bonus!


My writing is going to start here on a blank document and when I see it spill over from things just for me to things I’m okay sharing, I’ll move them to my blog because I never want to stop sharing.


As a mom of three boys, I live in prevailing anxiety over their safety.  Before this Chromebook, I had a computer Paul set up in the home office.  But I can’t form a cohesive paragraph in front of a computer if it means either waking up at 4 am or ignoring “adventures in detachment parenting” happening on the other side of our ranch house.


Stephen King said something in On Writing of having a place to go in and shut the door. He said nothing of what to do with the kids on the other side.  If he had, it would’ve been something like “buy your wife a $200 Chromebook.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Technical Difficulties

Way back photo. I'm this now but dark circles under my eyes and longer hair.

I miss this place. Or rather, I think I miss how I felt about this place, this blog.

The last few months I have just felt so quiet, like even those things I'm sifting through and figuring out, they're just not really worth sharing. I use to feel like I had these big, beautiful thoughts, and I was happy to parade them around. Maybe a word or two here, an image there, a paragraph--maybe it did mean something to someone/s sometimes. You're gonna hit the right note if you bang on the piano for awhile.

I write and I post it on this blog, but I wouldn't call it blogging. Much like the way I've been in my relationships (every single one right down to my marriage), I throw up my words and turn up my noise and then slip out of the room.  Vulnerability is not my forte. Now that I'm passionately working on listening, I'm desiring something greater than the solo dance of me on stage, alone.

Hello there. I see you. This is me waving.... hi, friend!

Thomas delivered his rendition of The Very Hungry Caterpillar to the babies before their nap time earlier.  Emerick perched on my lap and I spotted the parallel. I gorge myself on food for the soul constantly. Reading books. Discovering new ideas with friends. Podcasts over dishes. Kissing the cheeks of little souls and wondering what story is inside those smiling eyes. Cookies. (yes, they count!)

I'm always buzzing with a new thought, a new improvement, a new interest, a new project, a new person, a new method. Always something. But there's something markedly different about this season I'm in right now. I feel as if I've been gorging on humility. Not the falsehood of humility, the I'm-not-good-enough or I'm-not-important or I'm.... I'm....I'm....I'm... mememyselfmeMEMEmeeeeeeee!

This humility is me seeing that:

I should be happy for others' gifts as much as my own. (Am I?)

I should seek to understand others as much as I seek to be understood.  (Do I?)

I should give others grace just as I hope for it from them.  (Do I?)

I should reach past independence into interdependence, past myself into community, past perfection into vulnerability.  (Have I?)

I love a stage. I always will. As a kid, I was shy and I was quiet until I spoke and then I was loud. A little awkward.  Like, hey kid, turn down the volume kind of loud. I'm comfortable dancing crazy, writing crazy, thinking crazy for all to see. It's a thrill, a joy, that thing that clicks all things perfectly into place inside of me.

I want to write my life loud. I want to lean into the beauty I find in words. Right now that just looks very different than what it has meant in the past. Now it's this: Journaling more. Being an ordinary mommy with no more of an agenda that to serve and seek to understand her children (by things no more extraordinary than measuring flour, listening to his dreams of ninjas and speaking in a calm voice when he's lost his cool for the 3rd time in less time than it would take me to nurse two babies). Reading lots and nodding to those voices different than mine. And listening to others (especially that wonderful husband of mine who has been waiting for me to turn down the volume for years).  I'm trying my best to weave authenticity into my days rather than run here each time I think I've found a tiny piece of it.

Blogging is so weird, isn't it? Here's my mind and heart. Bon appetit! So is dancing in front of large crowds of people I don't know and I love that too. I can't help it. I've tried. It's a sickness.

I'm not leaving here. Just rearranging some things.  And hoping to let down my guard, join in more, and show you I'm a happy mess who is a great many things hiding too.

I'm having some technical difficulties. Voice. Audience. Purpose. Pretty much everything important when it comes to writing. I'm praying when the mic comes back on, you're still here.

Much love and coffee.
Ash



Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Guaranteed Grace of Sacrifice





I feel myself beached. My little sailboat of a soul happened upon an island this past month or so.  This island bears a banner: Rest Here! It also has a tiki bar with free alcoholic beverages and there's always an available lounger (equipped with umbrella) for me to stare out at those rocky waters I've just escaped and dig my feet into wet sand where little waves rise and sink, tickling my toes.  Never mind in real life this sort of leisure is packaged in a childless trip to Mister Hotshine where I say "yeah, yeah, okay, sounds good, no I don't think I'll get that today" to the service worker and go right back to laughing at Erma Bombeck with complete disregard for the stoic gentleman to my left.

Two years ago I feverishly applied for my dream job and felt great heartache in between letting go of my teaching post of five years (which had become an enormous comfort) and starting the position I had secured. Then, I threw myself into my new job and found myself up to my eyeballs in humility because it was quite the transition. Just as I was finding my bearing that first year, I found out about the twins and made the decision with my husband it was time to go home and stay there for a bit to play day care provider, etc, etc. 

Having twins was the job which was given to me amidst all this and without my written request, but even if that doesn't count in your book, in the past 18 months I've acclimated to two new and significantly different jobs: a high school English teacher in an inner city school and a stay-at-home-mom with three boys at her feet typically begging for more food.



I've been thinking of what I've gleaned through the hard work of taking on new challenges. Last week, I pulled out an index card and penned my rookie mistakes, then went about the house tidying up and running memories through me of the tears, the grit, the plans quickly tossed, and the kids who all but laughed in my face. Mostly, I smiled about how there were days I thought I was going to finally resort to hating my life. 

And now here's this Lenten season where we will ourselves into the hardship rather than wait for it. When we tie up our intentions with a wee bit of suffering, we wonder if there really is much of anything to reap from turning off the t.v. for a month, skipping dessert, or talking in kind tones to our children rather than yell scream. And what more of placing more fears at the feet of Jesus and more blessings at the feet of those more needy than ourselves?

I'm happy to look back and see things have turned out quite well so far. My sons seem happy, I'm delighted to be at home, and my husband's stamp of approval is tentative which I can only respect him for considering the enduring state of the laundry. I consider this a wild success. Maybe my expectations are low. You go have yourself some twins. Oh shoot, I can't go saying things like that. Even my sister has twins on the way. 

Anyway, life goes on. People can either jump into the hard or find themselves there, but either way, if determined enough, they'll find a way. I've found my way to all kinds of things. Some success. Lots of joy. New skills. And a monthly Amazon subscription to strong coffee! 

Okay, kids. Time for mommy to slip into the bedroom and ignore things for 5 minutes.

But, and that's a BIG but, I wouldn't have made it this far (to the beach with a daiquiri sparkling under the sun) if I hadn't given up some of myself. 

Some of my ideals. Some of my self-righteousness. Some of my sleep. Some of my free time. Some of my fears. Some of my plans. Some of my waist line. Some of my pride. Some of my answers. Some of my map. Some of my absolutes. Some of my failings.  And lots of my money.

Two years ago I started that new teaching job thinking I knew a lot about a lot to do with teaching. And then I was stripped of a great deal of that.

About a year later I started that thing where you just hang out with your kids all day while running back and forth from room to room to read books, change laundry, load dishes, shred unwanted credit card offers, and re-binkie babies. I thought I knew a lot about how to be the best new mommy with the invisible SAHM label. And then I was stripped of a great deal of that. 

And here I lounge on the beach and smile at those waves thinking about how little I knew. It was a fun ride even when I was scared shirtless I was going to drown out there with no one to rescue me, no one to bring me home, and no one to write up an obituary about all my selfless causes. 

A difficult two years seem behind me, and I just confessed to Paul last night: I've never been happier in my life. Maybe even by a landslide. To let loose and find I may not be as fabulous or all-knowing as I thought--it's wonderful, it's exciting, and it's freeing. 

I wish you the best with your Lenten resolves. Throwing yourself into the difficult is a courageous feat. Don't be surprised if the hard leaves a hole, a space, an island--and joy rushes in at your side to deliver you a daiquiri! (Or that book you put on hold at the library. I can't exactly make any promises.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sit Down and Shut Up

I'm shifting gears here a bit--pulling away from Facebook in big ways, dialing down my blog voice, and waking up to journal each morning.  I'm intentionally changing habits where I'm reaching for a cup of immediate gratification. That race to be loud and knowing and awesome all the time is acidic. It's gobbling up something bigger and I'm backing away a bit to remember that. 

Oh my. Poor flowers. That water.....


Sometimes, I run to say things here when it should be I run to my husband with thoughts.

Sometimes, I act like I know things and the morning sun sees me bent over the sink and scanning my heart for my fumbling and fallen bits.

Too many times, I let Facebook fracture my focus, my drive, my resolve to live my best, glorious in all its ordinary, life. 

Sometimes I need to sit down, shut up, and listen: to my family, the birds, the quiet voice inside that needs a little more room to breathe.

I need to write out questions I don't want to answer or about things I don't have the first clue how to tackle because they're ugly or they're private or they're just freaking hard. I need time for those things tucked in my heart and not because I want to use them later, to lasso them in to stand on stage and be a part of something I can announce. 

This isn't to say I'm going away. I would hate to crush my 10 readers. Nope, not going. Just searching for a little better balance between my public and private life and where I want my writing to come alive in all of that. 

If you at all struggle with any of this, please let me know. We can raise our coffee cups in the air to each other and offer up a virtual hug.

Much love!


Friday, February 14, 2014

When You Didn't Get All You Had Secretly Wanted

Someone silence the V-day haters. This winter can't afford anymore grump. Down with the card companies, they say. Down with the historical misrepresentation, they shout. Down with the cheeriness because that's just ridiculous, they mumble!

Well, I say let's make of the day what we want. Throw some confetti. Bake a cake (or pick up one of those gourmet cupcakes) for yourself because I say you should. For those loved ones, spend $5 or $50 or nothing but the effort it takes to cut out a hundred little hearts and call it good. Power to the people! {cue awkward fist pumps}

I capitalize on any opportunity to celebrate life (or just pass the time with connect-the-parties until we've finished with this longest winter), but even I can see why February 14th puts some of us on edge.


One year, maybe our 1st or 2nd year of marriage, Paul surprised me with an enormous bouquet of tiger lilies and friends. The bold and the beautiful cascaded and burst vibrancy in that vase for over two weeks. I truly loved it. Also, I floated. Stuff dreams are made of--walking back from your workplace's office truly stunned with a proceeding bouquet three times the size of your head. I also feared, in between doe-eyed elation, that maybe the garden on my desk was a week's worth of groceries on the straight and narrow path to death. 

Oh, I loved that bouquet so very much, but I also think there's a lot of love in a gift which never came to be.  It takes a great deal of confidence and self-control for a spouse/boyfriend/fill-in-the-blank to want to give all the things on all the special days, but instead give a little of what he or she can and practice restraint on the rest.  There's something sexy about a "no", especially when it's a part of something bigger, a yes to other things.  Yes, let's uproot and go follow that dream of yours. Yes, I think one more baby will be okay. Yes, you can stay at home with the kids for a while.  Yes, we really should bulk up our savings.  Yes, you totally need a new car. Yours doesn't reverse or have any air conditioning, is 15 years old and the speakers have all blown but one. (Hint: the car one is from real life experience.)

I've been married to Paul almost six years.  We've had to say no to each other many times.  Sometimes it's out loud.  Others are known with just a look.  And now we're having to say no to kids.  Sometimes it's a gift which never came to be. It doesn't miraculously become easier the 100th time.  You just get a little bit more comfortable in your skin and with each other to know that your love transcends that initial disappointment felt.  

Maybe you are in doubt in some way today because a little secret hope tickled you jealous at the gourmet chocolates on Facebook or because you crossed paths with an absurd bouquet proceeding your friend and her mouth wide enough for a dental exam shouting, "I JUST AM TOTALLY SHOCKED HE DID THIS?!"
Case in point... probably not Paul's wildest dreams to receive a frame for love day.
Just this past week, Paul and I discussed snatching one of those Edel tickets (a mommy conference taking place this summer in Austin). We have the money and we both wanted me to go, but it was ultimately a "no".  It was a hesitant-because-Paul-would-love-to-do-all-the-things-for-me no, but it was a no. Which only could mean there's a bigger YES that edged it out and for that, all his giving and his holding back, I felt completely loved. 

I'll say it. I'll just come right out and say it. Every Valentine's Day I want it all.  I want the chocolates.  I want the flowers.  I want those stuffed animals with balloons that would make me vomit the 364 other days of the year.  I want a stack of new books five feet tall and me up to my neck in a bubble bath of solitude whispering, "I just am totally shocked he did all of this!" and grinning from ear to ear like an idiot while my kids run/crawl circles around my husband beyond the door.

I want all those things, but I love when he doesn't do them all just a little bit more.  The next day anyway. Not today. Today is for eating those chocolates I was going to give him because I think he may have forgotten to buy me any. (Hint: absolutely real life experience from just two minutes ago.)

Hugs and kisses!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Catching My Breath

I could write out a "to do" list a hundred different ways, and I have, but the INFP in me doesn't jive with structure on default repeat.

Some days I tackle the basics. Other days, I do less and just hug and kiss my babies and read chapter after chapter after chapter plus all the picture books on every surface in the living room.  Other days, like when I was blogging about painting the bathroom & laundry room, I drink a lot of coffee and attempt to do all the things.

Today was a declared Guilt Crusher holiday.  Ever have one? They're fabulous.  It's simple.  Think of the thing you keep feeling nagged by and would rather throw yourself into a blazing fire or play Bill Murry in Groundhog's Day than do.  Then you do that thing.

My thing was this:


That's right! Updating baby books...that were about 1% completed before today's blitz.

I dove right in and found myself coming alive with each little memory tucking in between these covers.  I was scribbling details on loose leaf to piece together ideas, making lists, writing in little stories that made me smile, dropping pics in my "to print" folder, and pulling my hair out at the devastating lack of organization that is my photo storage.

Recalling everything from finding out we were pregnant (2nd pregnancy) to the 1st ultrasound and 1st heartbeat check and finding out the one was two and then our trip to CA and reading all those crazy books about multiples and making the leap to be a SAHM and prep and more prep and then their arrival and the crazy happiness and the crazy highs (higher than back alley drugs) and then an exhaustion that would make he who shall not be named shudder and the 1st circle of hell transitioning into a family of 5 and the hundred other things that is just normal life scattered in between and on and on and OH MY GOSH!! This past year has been so insanely intense. Intense. So intense.  And there's all those things I can't share with you because even the gushiest girl likes to keep a sliver of privacy.  Physically intense. Emotionally intense. Spiritually intense. So. Very. Intense.

I caught my breath today. I wrote and I smiled and I remembered all the things and I caught my breath.

No matter what I do, I'm always consumed by this hunger to do more and be more and stretch my skills and time and hopes for this big, big tomorrow. I've been "rested" for a few months now since the boys are mostly sleeping through the night, but really I went right from recovering and adjusting to being a SAHM to sketching out all the next things: dabbling with homeschooling, finding...err...mommy friends (what? I'm an introvert! that's a huge undertaking), planning the garden, writing out the huge list I shared with you, and so much more.  I love living big and pushing myself, but crap. Sometimes you just need to take a step back and say it. Put a name on highlights of the past. That was good. That pushed me to the edge. That was one wild ride.  That looked like a keg of beer on my front side.


I need more of this: writing, journaling, walking (without Pandora filling up the quiet), using little corners of my time to document the things that had me laughing, hoping, worried, and soaring with joy. Mostly, I need to remember that I am capable of far more than I would like to think, that working really hard and reaping the rewards is one of the best experiences this world offers, I am no island (and acting like that is just plain dumb), my husband is my hero like you wouldn't even know, and don't wait eight months in between baby book updates. Just don't. Or else running to your blog to escape the emotional tsunami.