On Love, and Fall, and Family, Certainly

“The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.” – Charles Kuralt

Thank you, Charles.

***

Lame family-centric quotes aside, I’ve been feeling immensely grateful these past few weeks. Family is one of those things that can either be frustrating or wonderful, and I’m lucky enough to have a family that falls on the side of wonderful.

When we have dinner, we linger. We sit at the table long after the meal has ended, and I’m usually reprimanded for playing with my silverware, since I’m not one who’s mastered the concept of “still”.

My aunt from Vermont, who’s an awesome photographer – I thought her yearly Christmas book was awesome, but the facebook has allowed me to see pictures of adventures, gardening, sunsets, etc. – took pictures at the dinner we had a few weeks ago. (The one where Matt met the ENTIRE family.)

Here’s me, Matt, and my little neighbor:

This picture of my mom and brother stops me in my tracks, cracks my heart open, and makes love pour out of it. My mother and brother are not known for their willingness to engage in patient sitting for pictures, so this semi-candid shot blows my mind. My aunt has managed to capture them exactly as I see them in my mind when I imagine them. These are the faces they make during those moments when we are teasing each other about being “the worst guy” or pretending to be exasperated (sometimes it’s actual exasperation) and saying “You’re killing me, Smalls.” I am going to frame this picture.

***

Life seems to be increasingly hectic. In between all the working is the life part, and then the house-buying procedural part. This weekend was wonderful – Friday night, Matt came down to Denver and we went out to dinner, then walked and got dessert. He got to meet Jacob since we walked past the restaurant where he works. I like dinner dates with him. Somehow, it’s like we’re the only two people in the world. Interestingly enough, I’m becoming more and more self-conscious as time goes on, worried that I’m repeating myself too often, or talking too much (what’s new?), but at the same time, I’m more comfortable. It’s like we’ve been dating for years and dinners are merely a formality.

On Saturday, I worked at Dairy Queen then went to babysit, then found myself exhausted and went home. On Sunday, I worked, missed the home inspection, then drove to see Matt. He made me caprese lasagna (oh man, so good), we decorated an awesome Halloween gingerbread house, and then watched Moonrise Kingdom. 

I asked him to rub off on me with his healthy eating, so he made the lasagna with whole wheat noodles. I told him I was glad for that, and he seemed surprised. It’s not that I’m not a healthy eater, it’s just that lately, I’ve fallen into a bit of a rut as far as food goes. I’m definitely not making the healthiest choices; I can’t tell you the last time I went grocery shopping; I’m not watching my figure or anything. But I do enjoy healthy food. I don’t want to give him the impression that I’m someone who lives on McGriddles and Mountain Dew, even though right now, I totally am that guy.

Here’s the front of our house.

Halloween Haunted Gingerbread House

And here’s the back:

Spooky Haunted Gingerbread House Halloween

He got the kit at Target. I am very much enjoying his appreciation of all things Halloween. It was a nice Sunday night activity. But by far the best part of Sunday was Moonrise Kingdom.

I love Wes Anderson – he did Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited, etc. – so when Matt suggested it, I was thrilled. It’s the story of young love – the two kids are about 12 – and the consequences of running away to be together. It is, for lack of better descriptive words, precious. The kids retain their innocence through their adventure, which begins with a courtship conducted entirely via letters.

They make an inventory of what she’s brought on their escape. (He’s some sort of scout, so he’s armed with all the necessary provisions.) She brings books, a record player, and a various amount of other things. It’s a very Katie Barry packing style.

When I was that age – twelve and up – I carried around everything I cared about. It was at twelve that we began taking vacations, and it was at twelve that I did not learn that you will eventually return home, and therefore don’t need to bring everything with you. I would pack two huge suitcases (this was back when you didn’t have to pay baggage fees), and I would fill them with everything, especially books.

I think I fell in love with Suzy when I saw her unpack a suitcase full of books. But I loved the purity of their young love and their determination and their struggles. You should go watch it. It will fill your soul with happiness and remind you of young love, which is something we too often neglect.

On a Night Off, Unexpectedly

This week brought an unexpected night off – there was a 24-hour power outage at the Dairy Queen and everything melted or was spoiled. It’s not funny, but it was a nice surprise. It was even better that I didn’t have to do any of the clean up. My manager said that squeegy-ing (sp?) melted cakes out of the freezer was horrific. I imagine she wasn’t wrong.

I was anxious driving home on Wednesday. I so very rarely have time that’s unaccounted for. What was I going to do? I shouldn’t have feared. I called Jacob. When he suggested our goth bar, I was elated.

It’s not really our goth bar, of course. But it is one of my favorite places in Denver. It’s only open two nights a week. You have to enter from an alley. There are two separate rooms, connected by a dark hallway. Each room plays different music. The darker room is bigger and the walls are lined with dark couches perfect for hiding away and people-watching. The Clockwork Orange-esque room is brighter, and more upbeat.

Since I was a little goth in high school (who wasn’t?!), I feel so at home here. The people are so lovely – they’re fascinating and equally terrifying. But the best part isn’t the patrons, it’s the dancing. In my natural state, I dance like your stereotypical white man: legs spread, rock side-to-side. It’s so unattractive.

Once, at a club, Jacob grabbed my hips and started moving them in a figure-eight. Like this, he said. Start there. And so I did. So now, after a couple of years of tentative figure-eights and remembering to let go a little, I’m much better. (Much better doesn’t actually mean I’m a good dancer; it means that I am much improved.)

My ability – or partial lack thereof – is not the point here, though. It’s how thrilled I am to be surrounded by people who look like they’re doing my signature dance move, The Wet Noodle, or alternately, having hipster seizures. (Sorry to offend hipsters and seizure-sufferers.)

It’s freeing. Suddenly, I’m part of a mass of moving limbs. I let my mind go, I shift to the music as I internalize it. My eyes look down, around, everywhere. I become a kinetic observer, watching from curious eyes while not-quite-mindfully moving to the music.

This is why the goth bar is the best place. That and the terrifying bathroom conversation between two large women about how tough they are. (I lingered while washing my hands – I scrubbed my fingernails! – to be able to hear their conversation. First it was about some guys “newest fiance” and then it shifted to how thick their legs were, which meant that they were more powerful. Scrubbing completed, I dried my hands and bolted. I’m tiny, I’ve never been in a bar fight, and even though I grew up fighting my now-6’4″ brother, I’m nowhere near as tough as I’d like to think I am.)

I thought this two-faced shadow bit was cute.

Last night, i spent two hours with my wonderful mother signing mortgage loan documents. Mike and I are really buying a house! Oh my goodness. It’s a leap. Last night, he told me that since I’m taking care of the paperwork, he’ll do the packing. (And the unpacking, I hope.) This is such a good example of why we make such a good team.

We are such polar opposites as people, but in such complementary ways. He’s the detail-oriented, logical, patient one and I’m the take-charge, impatient, chaotic communicator. The screen that displays everything in his car broke and he couldn’t change CDs or radio stations or anything. So he was left to cycle through his CDs, song by song, listening to the entirety of each.

I, being as ADHD about music as I am about the rest of my life, told him that this would kill me (it was killing me in that moment. He likes jam bands whose songs are all about 8 minutes or more on average). He replied that he considered it an exercise in patience. He’s that guy. Hilarious, wise, and sometimes entirely frustrating. But for all of our sibling squabbles, we get along remarkably well.

So he’ll pack. I’ll coordinate paperwork and loans and payments. We both dig this plan.

Tonight is date night, so of course I’m antsy and excited. Not being able to see him all week builds the anticipation. Of course, we’re in nearly constant communication – emails, texts, FaceTime. It’s nice, though, to be able to maintain my life and begin to start incorporating him into it. It’s also nice to email links and running commentary about everything back and forth. People’s taste in the internet is very telling.

Uggggh, I was not going to blog about any of this. I was actually going to talk about people. But I guess I’ll do that this weekend.

On the Zoo, Over-Heatedly

My mom’s five-year old neighbor is one of the most adorable human beings I’ve ever met. (Last summer, while playing Capture the Flag, she came to let me out of jail – an overturned boat in our shared backyard – and she informed me that “that’s what best friends do.” My heart cracked and overflowed.)

For the last six months or so, she’s been reminding me that I promised her that we’d go to the zoo and have a picnic in City Park and that she’d get to meet Carlos. “I’ve never met a cat before; I’ve never met Carlos,” she tells me.

So on Sunday, my mom, my neighbor, and I piled into the car – she wanted me to sit next to her in the backseat, so I did – and headed to the zoo armed with a picnic lunch. It was too hot, so we didn’t last very long at the zoo. We were able to get about 100 feet into the new elephant exhibit, and we didn’t get to see any penguins.

I’m heartbroken – penguins are my absolute favorite things. Here are penguin pictures from Boulder’s Beach in South Africa:

(Can you tell I’m missing South Africa? Always.)

Anyway, the zoo.

We saw lots of sleeping animals – lions, tigers, kangaroos – it seemed like everyone just wanted to be left alone to sleep in the heat. We rode the zoo train. We had ice cream, and our little friend desperately wanted popcorn, so we had some of that too.

After we left the zoo, we went to my house so she could meet Carlos. I was nervous – Carlos is skittish at best around new people, and he’s never been around a 5-year old.

Carlos loved her. At one point, she kissed him right on the nose. He didn’t flinch. We fed him some wet food (is there a better way to get a cat to sit still?), and she got to scratch his back while he ate.

Then we had a picnic in the park, under the big arches.

We had turkey sandwiches, cucumbers, carrots, leftover popcorn from the zoo, and gummy bears. Then we chased each other around with squirt guns and played frisbee until we were exhausted and ready for sleep.

All in all? A great day. I hope that it was everything she imagined it would be.

On Lawnmower People, Begrudgingly

I got a picture message from my mom a few minutes ago with the subject: “Found this note in a box. Made me laugh.”

I needed the smile today. But oh man, I am so embarrassed. That’s absolutely the handwriting and indignant sarcasm of my childhood.

(Okay, so it could be worse. I did say please. Check this link out, it goes to a drawing done by a 6-year old in timeout. He asks his parents how they’re doing in hell. Hah, so good.)

 

On Bacon Ice Cream, Dejectedly

I’m panicking this week. Normally, my stress level is about 25% higher than my peers. (That’s on a good day.) This week, for some reason, there’s a nasty frisson coursing through my veins. I feel it tingling at my fingertips, nagging at my cerebellum, squeezing my stomach.

Whatever it is, I’m not sure, but in situations like this, I find myself overwhelmed to the point of inactivity. Rather than channel my anxiety into productivity, I find myself captivated by the inane.

For example: I started this blog post intending to blog about my disappointment with the dessert I had the other night. I then attempted to write about adulthood and why it sucks. And now, I’m off on panicking.

So let’s make this all three of them, and then I’ll be able to say that at the very least, I got one thing crossed off my list today.

You’ve already heard about the panic that threatens to halt my forward progress into Tuesday, supposedly the most productive day of the week, so perhaps now you’d like to hear about why adulthood sucks.

You’re probably an adult. Presumably, you’ve survived 24. Being 24 feels like being in the trash compactor in Star Wars. All sides closing in, it’s do or die. And while I doubt that I’ll be crushed by a giant trash compactor any time soon, I do feel the pressure to be everything at once. Being all things to all people is impossible, as Barack Obama is slowly learning.

But most things seem possible. My goals in life are thus: don’t be a dick, give something back to this planet, be happy, eat as much chocolate cake as possible, have a family, do something I love (but that also is financially rewarding enough to provide for travel, and  health care, and retirement, and emergency expenses, and food, and cute pants), and be satisfied with who I am at the end of every single day. Okay, so that’s pretty doable.

But here’s my one problem with the here and now: there’s too much. I work three jobs. I love my family (and therefore spend quite a bit of time with them). I have a social life (which I also happen to love). I travel. I have a boyfriend (…ready for it? I love him, too). I want to read all the blogs and all the news articles in the world. I want to understand pop culture references. I want to make time for bubble baths. I want to travel. I want to learn. I want to explore. I want to savor.

But seriously, how does one find time to do all of that and sleep at night? Between the influx of necessary-to-stay-relevant knowledge and my attempts to embrace adulthood, I’m overwhelmed. But it’s do or die, so I will complain and whine and then I will look back at this age when I’m 30 and think, “Man, if only I was 24 without a care in the world again” and be ashamed that I bothered to do so much stressing. I will realize that I have been flourishing all along.

But, whether or not I’m flourishing is a topic of discussion for a later date. The real reason you’re here is bacon ice cream.

Bacon Ice Cream, Nutella Bread Pudding, The Pullman

I was in Glenwood Springs with my mom and aunt this weekend, and for a belated birthday dinner, we ate at the Pullman.

The food itself was delicious, but I was one hundred percent dissatisfied with my dessert. Nutella bread pudding and bacon ice cream. My god, how can you go wrong? Well you can. And they did.

The bread pudding was dry without any hint of chocolate or hazelnut flavoring. The bacon ice cream was….indescribable. It was the kind of dish that you take a bite of and then smack around in your mouth trying to figure out what it is you might be eating. No distinguishable flavor. They’d have been better off garnishing a scoop of vanilla ice cream with bits of crisp bacon. I mashed the ice cream around on the plate. I was sad. More than that, I was disappointed. I’d rather just have spent the $7 on a jar of Nutella and a package of bacon. I would have been so much happier dipping a piece of bacon into Nutella.

On Everything, mostly

I’ve been avoiding blogging lately. Not because I don’t want to, but because there is so much swirling inside my head and I fear that it will all lump together incoherently and ruin the messages I intend to convey. But I am finding that the longer I put it off, the more everything builds up.

So faced with the incoherent, potentially ruinous lumping or the lack of content, I’ll take the lumping. City Park Statue with Frogs

On Friday night, Jacob and I made dinner and walked around the park as darkness fell. It was cold and rainy, but the air felt good and the conversation warmed my soul. I am grateful for my friendships. My friends are all individualistic, beautiful people. They possess the qualities that I value most in this world, and I respect them immensely.

It doesn’t hurt that Jacob and Carlos adore each other, either. Carlos doesn’t snuggle for just anyone, but he will always snuggle for Jacob. It’s cute.

Jacob and Carlos

(Side note: I got home on Sunday night, and Mike told me that he thought Carlos had died earlier. I was concerned, and upon hearing the story, I just shook my head and looked at the furry creature rubbing himself against my ankles. Mike said that the other black cat that lives in the building had somehow managed to get herself outside my window, and Carlos was howling and trying to attack her through the window. The cat had gotten himself through the blinds and was frantically trying to get at her. I’m just glad the glass held – I accidentally put my hand through one of the panes last  year – and Mike grabbed the cat and took him away from the window. I’m still not sure how I managed to adopt a cat that’s half pit bull. I’m also not sure how he can go from ferocious and wild to loving and needy, demanding that I snuggle with him. I do love him, though, so he should consider himself very lucky.)

in the Mirror

Swisher comes on Wednesday. I can hardly believe that it’s just two days now. I am so excited to not have to take mirror pictures all the time so that I can send them to him. (The great news about unlimited data plans? All the picture messaging you want! It’s allowed us to share experiences, events, mundane pictures, bad hair days, etc.) My phone is filled with pictures just like the one above, and I’m pretty sure that if someone went through my phone, they’d assume that I’m just a terrible narcissist.

I can’t wait. I guess I can, but only because I have to. We’re going to be faced with the immense task of turning our past into a relationship that isn’t long distance. I imagine that it will be an adjustment, but I also imagine that it will be quite wonderful, since both of us are committed to making this work.

I love that he loves me exactly as I am. He loves my curly hair. In fact, he prefers it. He loves my mind, my weird sense of humor, my opinionated nature. I am thrilled by the fact that he wants to cook for me, and has offered to help clean! And best of all, he’s not a purse-carrier (something my family is always quick to ask about). I love that he makes me laugh, and I love how much he teases me.

At Mother’s Day brunch, my Uncle Mike and Aunt Jan were excited to tell me that they had gotten into a debate about something. (Earlier this year, I was attempting to explain that I’d like a mate whose desire for discussion matches mine, and they thought that it was hilarious. “Should we make a list of things to debate about?” my Uncle asked, before adding, “Besides who’s going to make the sandwiches for lunch tomorrow?” I love that thirty-plus years of marriage hasn’t dampened their good-natured teasing. It’s something that I’m looking forward to if I should be so lucky to find a dude who will put up with me for thirty-plus years.)

birth mom!

Speaking of family, I was lucky enough to get to spend my first Mother’s Day breakfast with my birth mom, Lise, who was passing through town with her boyfriend. I haven’t seen her since I was 18 and had just graduated from high school.

(This is us then:)

I was excited to show her the paw print in my eye, since her spirit animal is a wolf and we’ve had a few fascinating (partly creepy, but mostly fascinating) experiences – when I was three, I was on the phone with her and told her that the wolves came to me at night and gathered around my bed, but that I got scared, and when my dad came into the room, they ran away and jumped over the fence. (It was a very intense dream. I had forgotten about the entire incident, but when she mentioned the fence detail, an image rushed through my brain of the blur of wolves and the back fence.) She tells me that the way I told her that story was so unlike a three year old and that she was very comforted by it. When I was 19, I was looking in the mirror in the car and I realized that in the blue of my eye, there is very clear dark paw print that’s set off from the rest of the blue. It’s like I carry her mark with me, and I enjoy that.

My boss, who adopted his four children, says that adopted kids always want to know two things: 1. who are my parents? (or in my case, what do they look like) and 2. why did they give me up? I think he’s right. I know the answer to the second question, and half of the first.

I will never know more about my birth father, but I am so grateful to have an open adoption. I am so glad that I get to see her. I agree with my boss when he says that he doesn’t see much resemblance. As I age, I am more and more sure that I carry a lot of my birth father’s appearance with me. I so badly wish that I could see a picture of him, but there are none. Ah, well. I will settle for the relationship that I have with my birth mother, because I am so lucky to have her in my life (and I’m not actually settling at all).

Both of us are double-jointed, so we showed her boyfriend that at breakfast. He cringed, and both of us laughed. My mom says that there were times when I was little that I would say something, and she’d turn around, half expecting to see Lise there because what I had just said sounded exactly like her. Both of us are unique, beautiful women, and knowing her has helped me to understand a lot about myself. I also love being able to compare our characteristics. As much as I am a product of my environment and therefore carry the qualities of my mother, I am also so much a product of my birth mother and therefore have much of her personality and emotions. i

It’s a beautiful thing. I should also mention that my brother Mike’s birth mother, Jill, is just as wonderful. She always comments on my photos and writes on my mom’s wall on his birthday to tell her that she’s thinking about her. It’s just good. It’s all good.

Mike has actively chosen not to know his birth father. We know who he is, and I wonder if at some point later, Mike will desire to build a relationship with him. But I love and value the fact that he has that choice, and that everyone involved respects his decisions.

Adoption is a beautiful thing. Even though the nuclear family that we were both adopted into would eventually shatter completely, we were placed exactly where we were meant to be. We have been so well loved. Anyone who discounts the forces of the universe and fate would be well advised to look deeply at my life, and at my beautiful family. We are exactly where we were meant to be.

Mom babysitting

Speaking of moms, this is my mother and two of our neighbors. She was so excited to babysit for the little one across the street this weekend, and I don’t blame her. He’s so happy. He was all smiles and he handled the attention he was receiving from the four of us beautifully. I held him and fell in love with him.

And then I ran off to do my regularly scheduled babysitting, which included negotiating story time with a very grumpy four-year old and then trying to talk a seven-year old back into sleeping after the rain woke her.

I had a bit of revelation last night. Unbeknownst to me, dinner plans with my other grandma (on my dad’s side) had been cancelled, and so upon my arrival, I found no one. I went in anyway, and ended up staying for dinner at my grandma’s.

We sat outside while it was still warmish and sunny, and talked. I was guarded, as I always am when I’m there. “Is he Catholic?” she inquired about Swisher, after asking me when he was moving here. I responded that yes, he’d gone to Catholic schools. We ended up diverting, and discussing religion. “What is it with the young people these days?” she wanted to know. I responded that choosing Benedict as our pontiff was a bad choice because he’s obviously not a fan of the social justice that I found to be such a positive part of the church while I was at Loyola.

She asked if I go to mass. I don’t. I went with them on Easter, but I usually just go as part of a family-mandated holiday schedule. The disappointment in her voice was clear. I explained to her that for people my age, the Church (church in general, to non-Catholics) represents a very challenging and hypocritical worldview. I explained that Mike finds god through nature while he’s camping and fishing, and in the introspection that he does while he’s there. I explained that I find god in people. I told her that I find god through kindness and love and acceptance and understanding. I emphasized my belief that god, whatever that means, will not bar me from “heaven” based on my lack of organized religion. I emphasized that love and kindness guide me.

I actually borrowed an explanation from Kelle Hampton, a blogger, who’s book Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected is on shelves now (20% off at Barnes & Noble, I found on Friday): after her parents divorce when she was a child, she found that the church, which she had previously found to be a beautiful, loving place, became scary in its condemnation of her father’s homosexuality. She writes in the book that church so often gets in the way of god, and I think that she makes that point beautifully. It’s everything I’ve wanted to say about organized religion as an obstacle to god, because people get so wrapped up in interpreting the Bible (or whichever religious text their religion refers to) literally that they forget to live the spirit. People forget to live lives full of love and caring. I told my grandmother that Jesus hung out with lepers and prostitutes, and welcomed all. Why can’t we attempt to do the same?

As dinner progressed, I was happy, but I was also wary. Her focus is not on my career, my baby steps to success, my tiny triumphs, my personal happiness, but is instead is on my eventual marriage and whether or not the guy that I’m dating is wealthy or not. Honestly, I find that people who were raised swaddled in money are often lacking basic life skills, including independence. They can’t do anything for themselves. That was a gross generalization, but honestly, I detest the fact that financial worth somehow equates to the worth of a person. I have watched ruin come to people who must maintain some sort of lifestyle. And I refuse to be a part of that. I wish to be happy.

For a few years now, a rift has been growing between the “other side of things” and me. I’m still not sure what exactly I did to set it off, and to progressively widen it, but I have remained steadfast in my unwillingness to engage in behavior that mirrors the actions of the people whose name I bear, the family that I wanted so badly to belong to. It was last night that I realized that I have no desire to be a part of a family that does not love me unconditionally, but at the base level, it’s about respect. I have no desire to be a part of a family that does not respect me.

I respect my grandfather immensely. He is a wonderful man who is given far too little credit for his progressive thinking and his intelligence. I have always found him to be a wonderful opponent for debating issues, as he is far more patient and wise than most people I’ve ever met. He has a keen political mind and is still incredibly sharp.

I refuse to accept the lack of transparency. One of the things that I respect most about my relationship with my mother is that she is open, honest, and willing to admit when she is wrong. It’s refreshing, and it’s shaped our relationship into something I am incredibly proud of.

I find that the inability to be upfront and honest is what has most affected (and soured) my relationships with most members of my dad’s side of the family. I reached out, and was rebuffed on two separate occasions, and then informed via third party (Grandma) that I was expected to apologize.

It breaks my heart, although I will not compromise my integrity nor will I pretend that I’m not hurt. At the end of the day, I still have no idea what it is about me that’s not okay. Is it that I don’t go to church? Is it that I was offended by my aunt’s suggestion that I start to be more financially responsible for my grandparents? Is it that I have gay friends?

Since December 24, 2010, I have been confused and hurt. I refuse to remain that way and thus have decided that it’s no longer a priority of mine to worry about the things that I cannot control. It feels good to let go. It feels good to accept responsibility for things I can accept responsibility for and make amends, but unfortunately, without knowing what I’ve done, I cannot accept responsibility for the severing of these relationships. I remain the free-spirited, open-minded person that I have been. I remain honest and true to myself. It is out of my hands, and I’m alright with that.

On Mom and fishing

mom and son fishing

I saw this and it reminded me of the story of Mike, my mom, and the man we call “the Troll.”

We were on vacation after my senior year of high school (I think it was after senior year?), and Mike really wanted to go fishing in the Potomac river. So, he found a brochure, called the guide, and scheduled it.

Mike and Mom took the train from Philadelphia to Doylestown (pronounced: Dulls-ton). Then they met the Troll and he put them in his truck and took them on a drive. My mom later admitted that she was terrified and though they were going to die.

The Troll kept looking over his shoulder at stuff along the road, while taking his eyes off the road, explaining that he lives with his mom during the winter months. He would eventually take them to a spot along the river – the same spot where he camped/lived during the summer months.

Mom wouldn’t let Mike out of her sight, and got worried when the Troll took Mike around a bend in the river and back to his camp (turns out he’s just a weird dude and not some crazy psycho-killer). She said that sitting in the hot sun on a log all day without a book was one of the most miserable experiences of her life, but she was glad to go because it meant that Mike got to go fishing. It’s a way funnier story when we re-tell it, so have Mom and Mike do that for you someday.

It’s that maternal love that you never let go of. (I had a maternal love moment the other day and then cried – because the love was too much and it had to spill out of me via tear ducts – because of how perfect Carlos’s feet are. That’s how I know I’m a mother – even if it is just to a cat – and how I know that love like that is way stronger than you can comprehend.)

And this picture, for me, reminds us that sometimes we have to do terrible things for the people we love.

For me, this means cleaning out my room at my mom’s house. It’s been my room since I was three, and now she wants it. Selfishly, I do not want to let her have it. I also don’t want more stuff at my house, since I have never been able to master the adult habit of organization. Instead, I know that all of the stuff will languish in piles or boxes in my closet or around my room.

I wish there was a picture of that I could post.

I also wish I could accurately describe the face that I’m making right now. It’s an equal mix of disgust (for cleaning), sadness (for clearing out my childhood room), disdain (for my mother’s demands), and shame (because I should have done this years ago). Mostly, it’s just a lot of nose wrinkling mixed with whatever procrastination looks like.

Procrastinating. I’m still doing it. I keep telling Mom that I’m not going to budge on my room until she sews my favorite pencil skirt. Maybe I’ll just stick to that. It’s a little bit like nuclear disarmament, but not. We just avoid the subject during diplomatic missions (or visits, whichever you choose to call them) and carry on.

But I did promise her that I’d make some headway tomorrow. Which means….she’d better break out the sewing kit and get that gorgeous black skirt back in my rotation.

On Gender and Ambition, dejectedly

(I still have backlogs of articles I’d like to address, so hopefully I can start posting and writing my critiques, comments, etc. soon!)

Madeline sent me this link last week and I thought I’d share the article with you.

Before you read it, know this: I’m a huge believer in the idea that there can be successful co-parenting, or successful relationships, or marriages full of good sex (or all of those things combined with monetary comfort!).

While I don’t think I’d last too long as a stay-at-home mom, I also don’t imagine my future to be full of trying to work 60 hour weeks and then awesome parenting while my husband just hangs out.

Note to readers: this is all coming from my childhood. My extreme paranoia about terrible husbands stems from my past experiences. My mom worked her ass off trying to support us all financially (and put my brother and I through private schools) while my dad didn’t take on the additional burden of stay-at-home dad (including, but not limited to: laundry, cooking, dishes, cleaning, childcare, etc.) even though it would have been well within his means and skill set and would have drastically improved the parental-contribution-to-the-family-via-work balance that did not exist.

Admittedly, my memories have been lost to my own subconscious erasure as well as the emotional tints that seem to color our own recollections of the past. Therefore, I can claim no exact memory validity yet still claim personal memory legitimacy. Whatever. You try to recollect and see for yourself how difficult it can be.

Regardless, as a young, twenty-something woman, I do feel pressure. Tons of pressure. Some of it is self-inflicted and some of it stems from a whole host of other influences. That pressure to succeed drives my work ethic, my independence, my stubborn sense of self, and my panic about the future. (Always panic, that’d be my motto.)

I always read the comments, too. Sometimes they’re far more enlightening than the content of the article itself. Since this one only has three, it wasn’t difficult to get through them. Here’s the lengthiest (is that a word?) one:

BRYANROBB
I expected more from you, Good. This is terribly one sided reporting, and borderline misandristic to the likes of Jezebel. No wonder men don’t want to marry, every which way we turn we’re getting boxed and blamed. Did you ever stop to consider that the older men who make more than their women counterparts are the last vestiges of a bygone era? Soon they will retire, and as the women age through the system it is very likely that these young women will make more than their male counterparts. Also, give me the kids over cut throat corporate America any day. The two earner model is the cause of our failures as decent parents, all so we can afford more stuff? I don’t care who works and who doesn’t, but someone needs to be home with the kids in the formative years. And sure, I’m definitely for subsidizing child care. For single MOMs and DADs. Too bad almost all low income entitlements go to girls and men are exempt. Stop waging war on men for Pete’s sake.

I don’t disagree that this article is very one-sided. But then again, there’s not enough space in the world to give equal time to discuss women’s ambitions while simultaneously deconstructing the reasons that men may feel maligned by the media and neglected about the social pressures they face.

This article isn’t about men.

The only time that the author (whose posts I generally adore, by the way) could REALLY use some more statistical reference is when she says,

And while women are consumed with the problems of “work-life balance”—trying to maintain a successful career while raising a family—men seldom feel as much pressure or face as much doubt about their ability to “do it all.”

I don’t know that she’s entirely correct in making that assumption. I’d argue that men are feeling the pressure to “do it all” but instead of being accepted, they’re facing the same social stigmas that have kept gendered activities as segregated as a 7th grade school dance for so many generations.
Regardless of our new stances on equality and whatnot, we are failing to accept that there are differences. In our quest for equalization, we’ve neglected so much about individuality, about personality, about biology, and in doing so, we’ve created a situation that’s arguably far worse than before.
Take the emergence of “stay at home dads,” for instance. Advertising for household items is always geared toward women. Stay at home dads aren’t given the same amount of respect. It’s emasculating, I’m sure, to know that people don’t value what you do. But then again, welcome to the flip side of things.
For me, a household has many factors for success. You need cash flow to buy supplies, necessities, etc. But you also need to address the rest of it: chores, bills, laundry, parenting, cooking, shopping, maintenance, etc. Those two elements (the cash flow and the “rest of it”) need to be in harmony in order for a household to maintain successful balance. Communication is key. More than that, all parties need to recognize the importance of contributions made for the common good of the household.
Honestly, the thing that scares me most about this article is the bad sex after marriage, not to mention the extra weight, less money and more stress. But then again, it’s up to those women (obligatory heterosexual bias of the media comment here) to stand up to their husbands and tell them what’s up. I won’t stand for more housework, more stress, and less sex. And he’ll know that before he marries me. If that’s a deal breaker, I will have chosen the wrong man.

Why Are Young Women More Ambitious? They Have to Be


The headline of a new study by the Pew Research Center claims to have discovered “A Gender Reversal On Career Aspirations.” But upon closer inspection, the study appears to imply that young women are more ambitious than men their age across the board. Sixty-six percent of 18 to 34-year-old women rate their career high on their list of life priorities, compared with 59 percent of young men. This figure hasn’t really “reversed,” but it has shifted markedly in the past 15 years—in 1997, only 56 percent of young women felt the same way, compared to 58 percent of men.

Today’s young women aren’t planning to make any sacrifices on the home front, either—they’re prioritizing their personal lives, too. The amount of young women who say that having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their lives has risen nine percentage points since 1997, from 28 to 37 percent. For young men, that stat is trending in the opposite direction—from 35 percent in 1997 to 29 percent now. More young women than men care about being a good parent—59 percent, compared to 47 percent of their male counterparts. It looks like young women are more likely to be thinking consciously about their priorities, period. Do dudes just not give thought to their futures at all?

Perhaps guys aren’t mulling their life priorities because they trust that marriage, parenthood and career usually work out better for them in the longrun. They’re right about that. When women begin their careers, they earn virtually the same as their male peers (95 cents to every dude dollar), but as they near their early thirties, the pay gap widens—women have kids, take maternity leave, and stall their careers for a few years, or else they get passed over for promotions and yearly raises. By the time a women nears retirement age, she earns around 75 cents for every dollar a man her age earns.

Although marriage is lower on young men’s list of priorities, they’ll fare better when they eventually tie the knot. Numerous studies show that married men are happier, live longer, make more money, and experience less stress, while married women are rewarded with more housework, less money, worse sex and a few extra pounds. And while women are consumed with the problems of “work-life balance”—trying to maintain a successful career while raising a family—men seldom feel as much pressure or face as much doubt about their ability to “do it all.” Women still end up performing the majority of the parenting, regardless of their jobs, and despite public platitudes revering the work of motherhood, the lack of universal childcare and inadequate (or nonexistent) parental-leave policies set women up to fail.

No amount of girl power—or denial—can obscure these deep-set gender dynamics. Women are acutely aware of the need to be especially ambitious in order to succeed—the same extra ambition any marginalized group needs to climb the career ladder and crack glass ceilings. It’s the reason more women are getting college degrees, and the reason why many women try more intently to find a mate at a younger age (although that’s changing). The sexual economy, as well as the professional one, are simply skewed in men’s favor, especially as the years go on. Why wouldn’t they be more relaxed about their life choices?

Photo by (cc) Flickr user gcoldironjr2003.

article source: GOOD

On my little brother, who will always be fruitypants to me

Mike's tent

When I got home from my quick weekend in Chicago, I was a bit surprised to see an orange tent set up in our living room. Mike was so excited to tell me all about it: how lightweight it is (3 pounds!), how it’s great for backpacking, how it’s got a rain fly and he’s excited to make oatmeal under it in the mornings if it’s raining. Lots of conversation about the possibilities of rain with this tent – apparently the rain fly can be put up before you build the body of the tent so that in case of inclement weather you don’t risk getting your tent soaked while you mess with the poles and rain fly. I think that’s marvelous.

We had to take the tent down because someone with sharp claws was just as excited as Mike about the new tent. Carlos kept sneaking around the tent, trying to get in through the flap. I’d see a swish of black tail as he got in, only to run out moments later when Mike caught him. Then I’d see the little black face sniffing around the bottom of the tent. Not wanting to have to buy a new tent due to slash-holes caused by my cat son and his nasty habit of relentless investigation, the tent was packed away. However, I did enjoy sitting inside a tent inside my living room. It brought back childhood memories of Mike and I camping in the backyard.

(This is one of my favorite pictures of us ever.)

I so love the fact that I came home to a tent. I so love that my roommate is my brother. I love that we are nearly exact opposites. Mike’s idea of fun is a week spent fishing and hiking and backpacking. That’s my idea of perfect hell. My idea of fun is dancing, or the library, or four hours in a bathtub with books, or drinking wine. I do believe that those may constitute Mike’s perfect hell.

However, give that kid some sports, and you’re all set. I really like going to games with Mike. I always learn something and I always have fun. Above, my first Cubs game ever after I graduated from college.

He’s the athletic one. I mean, he’s 6’4″ and I’m barely 5’8″. He does the heavy lifting; he opens jars; he reaches things on the top shelf. He’s the one that’s good at math (damn good). He does the detail work. He’s focused, calm, patient, way too laid-back for his own good, kindhearted, organized, neat. He’s analytical and observant. He loves his outdoor activities, but my idea of outdoor activities involves drinking in a park. He cooks, too. He’s going to be a great dad and make some lady who can’t cook very happy one day.

I’m the impulsive, energetic one. I’m loud and quite outspoken. I’m the one who thinks about the big picture, who takes care of administrative detail like paying the bills, and who is wound up 99.99% of the time. I am in no way patient or detail oriented, and I’ll never be accused of being organized or neat. And I can’t cook to save my life. (Baby steps, I keep telling myself. Noodles and sauce from a jar is totally food.)

Even though we’re not biological siblings, we’re a matched set. We make a really good team. We balance each other out. I’m impressed by his dedication to his schoolwork, fascinated by his love of strange things like his panini maker, and excited about our mutual enjoyment of tea. He knows how to calm me down when I’m stressed; he’s wise beyond his years.

We get each other. We used to climb the apple tree in the backyard together. We used to throw tennis balls at the house. When we were little, we thought it’d be the best idea ever to take out the hall closet that separated our rooms and create one giant room that was full of everything fun. Or if we couldn’t have one giant room, we wanted a secret tunnel.

During nap time (which sucks when you’re 7 years old), we’d grab Mom’s exercise mat and use it to sled down the stairs. In the summer, we’d have cannonball contests – which I never won. We dug mud holes in the garden, took our bikes and scooters all over the neighborhood, stayed out late and played hide and seek….

When I went off to college, I had a rough time the first night. I’ve never been that good at hiding my emotions, and I’m prone to bouts of hysterical crying. And so, I cried. I cried, and I cried, and I cried. (It was pretty bad.) My mom and brother and uncle and cousin left me all alone in Chicago (which would turn out to be one of the best adventures of my life, so in hindsight, no complaints). No one would have ever known about this if my uncle hadn’t told us – I’m glad he did – but apparently, Mike cried through Illinois on the way back to Denver.

My brother is one of the most amazing people I know. I’m so lucky that he’s mine. (Don’t tell him that – I don’t want it to go to his head.) I am so grateful.



On Chicago, more than happily

I’ve left so many times, for so many reasons, and every single time, I end up back in Chicago, staring longingly at the lake. It was the lake that brought me there, after all. This weekend was a lot like the weekend that I spent out there in July, but this weekend was so much better.

Chicago-style hot dog

Last week, when I told my boss that I was headed to Chicago for the weekend, he looked at me and said, “Your flight’s on Sunday night, right?” I paused. “Um….no….Monday morning, actually.” He looked at me and laughed. “I’ll see you on Tuesday,” he said.

(Remember the July trip? Waking up at 6:03 when my flight had taken off at 6:00….the long day spent laying on the couch while I killed time until my Monday night flight, a day of work lost, a terribly abrupt goodbye, the uncertainty of it all.)

Leaving Denver after work on Friday is not the best way to go. But then again, weekends are short – you’ve got to make the best of them. I was almost too tired to be excited, but simultaneously terrified that I wouldn’t make my flight. Of course, i had to stop for gas and ended up giving my dinner to a homeless man.

Sitting in my car, filling Jell-O shot containers full of shampoo and soap, I reminded myself why I do things like this. The work-life balance, but more than that. Life, mostly. The most beautiful life is the one that will never make me wonder what could have been.

The TSA was puzzled by my Jell-O shot shampoo containers. They took the bag out and marveled (my words, not theirs) at it before finally letting it go. This was immediately after I had to take cash out of my bra to get through the body scanner. I believe Charlie Sheen put it best when he said, “Winning.”

I’m a Taurus. I’m a very stubborn woman. He picked me up and I was first-date nervous. (Honestly, we’ve only ever been on about 4 dates, give or take, so it’s not like my nerves are entirely unfounded.) He made me dinner while I wandered to find beer. I interrupted him giving me directions with, “I’ll figure it out,” and ended up walking an extra 4 blocks each way to 7-11 (Chicago 7-11’s are the best – no 3.2% beer there!).

I didn’t mind the walk. I love the city.

Lights at the Congress Theater

Saturday day was him working for a bit and me going to see my friend Anne. Then it was double-date concert night. I’m not a huge fan of dubstep – it sounds like robots dancing to me – but we went and saw Bassnectar at the Congress Theater. It was loud, crowded, and fun. Some girl stepped all over the side of my heel though (until this happened, I wasn’t aware that it was possible to step on the side of a heel, all the way up to the ankle), which has left me bruised and grumpy. His brother and his girlfriend are great! We made brunch on Sunday morning, and I watched Back to the Future for the first time, curled up on the couch under a Cubs blanket.

Bassnectar

Not our best picture, but the only one I have!

Lights at Concert
I felt old for the first time. I know I was not the oldest person at the concert (by far), but I felt somehow removed from the crowd. My dress and sweater made me look like a librarian (no offense, Maddie, just making generalizations) compared to the neon halter tops and short shorts all around me. I don’t do this sort of dancing and I was entirely out of my element. By the end of the concert, I was tired of getting danced into. I was tired of dancing (that so very rarely happens) and I was tired of hearing sounds. I had so much fun, and I adore his brother and his brother’s girlfriend, but I don’t know that I’d be so willing to attend a repeat of that event. I’m glad that he understood.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
On Sunday, after a quick visit to his grandparents, we had dinner at his mom’s house. Last July, one too many “princess party drinks” (White Russians) had me doing some pathetic-late-night-love-drunk crying on his porch once we got home. His impression of that incident is nearly accurate and is hilarious – ask him to do it some time. (It’s just like the “I’ll go to DU, I swear” freshman year of college pleading, except two notches less hysterical. Maybe.) This time, I was (quite willingly) banned from drinking any. I would like to insert the fact that I’m also a lot more confident about his communication skills and where we stand, which is conducive to a no-tears environment.
His mom pulled him outside to tell him that I was too skinny before she made me eat second helpings on pasta and finish my giant hamburger. Then she walked me through making cookies from scratch.  “Beat the shit out of the butter,” she told me, after I’d failed to beat it quite fluffy enough. “Just set it on high, and walk away. Don’t watch it. Come back in five minutes.” It was terrifying, but so rewarding. I made something!!
I love his family. They’re so much like mine, sort of. Except his is definitely a little bit louder. Imagine four kids instead of me and Mike – it’s like that. It’s loud and chaotic and I feel right at home. His dad’s roommate, who I adore, came to dinner, too. We played Catchphrase, girls against boys, after dinner. The girls won quite soundly. It was the perfect ending to the trip.
DIA This time there were no tears. There was only the promise of “next time” – we’ll spend more time with his grandparents, we’ll cook again with his mom, we’ll get to see each other sooner rather than later.
This time felt good. I don’t know if it will be good forever, but for right now, it’s good, and I’m learning to accept those good things and stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. Because in time, it will.
This time, we woke up at an ungodly hour and crept through the sleeping city toward the airport. I was too tired to think about crying. He stopped the car in the second lane, using a giant, hulking van as a reason to do it (it is Chicago after all, most things go) and came around and wrapped me in his arms. There were whispers, quick conversation as he got back into the driver’s seat and I grabbed my bags. I shut the door and turned away. I didn’t look back, not even for one last glimpse as he drove away. I never look back. My smooth exit was marred only by the automatic door not working. I walked up to, so close I could have rubbed my nose against it, only to curse quite loudly when it failed to open. The automatic door marked exit was much more accommodating, and soon enough, I was standing in the long line to get through security.
Home sweet home and early for work! It was a very successful Monday morning.