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Lost Pet Anxiety (aka I Miss My Cat)

25 Oct

UPDATE: Three days after originally posting this blog, Cat showed up at our house completely unharmed, albeit a few pounds lighter. YAY!

It has been one week and one day since our adorable and, apparently, stupid cat leapt over our dog and ran into the dark and foggy outdoors. One week and one day, and there’s still no sign of her.

I spent the first five days of Hazel’s absence in a bit of denial. I was feeling pretty confident that she would come home. We had done, literally, every single thing suggested to us by the humane society, the microchip company, lost cat organizations, friends, and Twitter strangers. With all of these steps taken, why wouldn’t she come home?

But then she didn’t come home.

This whole situation has me feeling anxious, all the time. I check out the windows routinely, obsessively, and compulsively. I jump at even the slightest sound from outside. To say her loss is stressing me out is a gross understatement. I’m not accustomed to situations where there’s nothing more I can do. Usually if I try harder or devote more time I can get the results I’m shooting for. Short of spending entire days wandering our neighborhood shaking a treat bag (which isn’t exactly realistic), I can’t think of anything else I can or should be doing to bring Hazel home. I hate it.

I think what I hate most are the unanswered questions. Is she truly lost, such that she can’t find her way back home? Or does she remember where home is and just doesn’t want to come back? Did she get taken in by a nice family that for inexplicable reasons hasn’t checked with the local animal shelter to make sure she’s not already someone’s pet? Did she pledge her undying loyalty to a gang of feral cats? Or, is it the other option that I try to pretend isn’t a real possibility?

Enough people have shared with me stories of cats that have been gone for weeks before turning up at home that I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet. I just can’t wrap my mind around her being gone for good. So I’m going to continue to leave the garage door open a tiny crack. I’m going to continue to drive 2 mph through my neighborhood like I’m planning a crime. And yes, I’m going to continue to shake a tupperware of cat food out my window as I drive that ridiculously slow speed.

In the meantime, if you live near me, please keep your eyes peeled. If you don’t live near me, please keep your fingers crossed. We miss our kitty.

hazel

 

Mom Guilt

12 Oct

This past Sunday when bestie was over we somehow got on the topic of Mom Guilt.

Mom Guilt is a special brand of guilt reserved for mothers who are doing their best to do it all. It’s feeling guilty when you tell your toddler he can’t play outside because you have to stay inside and feed the baby. It’s feeling guilty when you let your baby cry for ten minutes while you finish your shower. It’s feeling guilty when you let your children watch more television than you know is good for them so that you can do the dishes. It’s feeling guilty when you neglect the dishes so that you can take the time to write for the first time in months.

Now, I don’t presume to speak on behalf of all mothers, but I have spoken to enough of my mom friends to know that most experience at least some Mom Guilt on a semi-regular basis.

I’ve been experiencing higher than average levels of Mom Guilt these past few weeks. I know that logically this is to be expected given the recent addition of Child #3 to our family. I keep telling myself that it’s normal for things to fall behind and priorities to shift while we adjust to life as a family of five. I tell myself this, but it doesn’t make me feel any better.

I’m doing my best to turn my life into a spinoff of an improv game I once played. Instead of adding, “yes, and…” to the end of each of my sentences, though, I’m adding an, “and that’s okay” to the end of each of my admissions of guilt.

Yes, Child #2 hasn’t had a ton of Vitamin D lately, and that’s okay. Yes, Child #3 had to scream bloody murder in order for me to shave my armpits, and that’s okay. You get the idea.

It’s okay because I’m doing the best I can. As much as I’ve prayed to the gods for superpowers or, even better, my very-belated Hogwarts letter, I sadly remain a mere human, and a muggle at that.

I’m not perfect. Even on my best days, there are still going to be dirty bottles on the counter and unfolded laundry in the dryer. There are going to be times when my household obligations don’t get my attention because of time spent with my children and vice versa. This doesn’t make me a failure as a mother, or as a spouse (side note: Spouse Guilt is another beast, entirely). It makes me normal.

I need to do better at reminding myself that at the end of each exhausting day [How long until babies sleep through the night, again? No, seriously, I can’t remember.] my children go to bed with all their basic needs met. Even better, they are (usually) happy, and at least somewhat clean. Most importantly, they are loved, and that is more than okay.

My Road Not Taken

29 Jul

One year ago today, to celebrate our ten-year wedding anniversary, Husband and I embarked on our first European vacation. Throughout our trip, we spent time in Rome, Pompeii, Athens, Mycenae, Olympia, Delphi, Santorini, and Heraklion. As someone whose undergraduate degree is in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, the phrase “trip of a lifetime” doesn’t even begin to cover what this vacation meant to me.

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I’ve wanted to write about our trip for the entirety of this past year, but I wasn’t sure how. How could I possibly put into words the magnitude of the significance of what I experienced? There weren’t enough words; there weren’t the right words. A year has gone by. They still might not be the right words, and Lord knows there won’t be enough. (I apologize now, at the start, for the length of this entry.) But I have to try.

There’s a scene in The Jane Austen Book Club where Prudie, a French teacher who had never been to France, is expressing her frustration about devoting her entire life to teaching youth about a culture that she herself had never experienced. It’s a scene that until last year hit all too close to home for me.

Though it may have seemed like it to my family at the time, my archaeology degree was not one that I stumbled into haphazardly. I have an “All About Me” book from my elementary school years proudly declaring that I wanted to be an archaeologist “when I grow up” to prove it. The time spent in my undergraduate courses did not feel like work to me. I could have read about amphoras and friezes and ionic columns and themes in Greek tragedies forever and been perfectly content. I had every intention of continuing my studies in graduate school, and then going to do field work somewhere. I had dreams of getting published and goals of teaching at a University myself someday. To this day I know I could have done, would have done it.

Except for I got engaged in April of my freshman year of college, and got married 15 months later. Husband and I started to talk about our future together and a life with a house and kids and before I knew it, my dreams and goals had changed entirely.

This is the part in my story when I need to be abundantly clear so there is no misinterpretation. It was my choice, made without the input of Husband, not to pursue a career in archaeology. Husband would have supported to me the moon if that’s the path I said I wanted. (He was always, and still is, steadfast in support of my dreams like that.) I wanted the life with the house and kids more than I wanted the life with my pottery shards, and yes, there probably would have been some way to have both. It would have been a way that likely meant extreme financial strain and unplanted roots, and it would not have been a way that led to my happiness. It should also be noted that I love and adore my chosen career path, and am perfectly content to continue teaching for as long as I am able.

Still, though, archaeology has always been my life unlived. There were moments where my friends sent me postcards from the sites that I spent hours studying where I thought I would literally turn green with envy. It got to the point where every time Husband and I talked about another choice in our life (another kid, a bigger house, another family vacation) where I thought I might burst if I had to wait through another life decision before I finally got my turn to at least see with my own eyes what could have been my alternate reality. This trip was no longer the trip I wanted to take someday. It was the trip I needed to take for my own sanity.

As luck would have it, December of 2014 found Husband surfing the internet and stumbling across the cheapest flight to Rome we’d ever seen, just in time for our wedding anniversary. We meticulously planned every detail of our vacation from there, making sure that I would see as much of my archaeological world as we could humanly fit into our 12-night adventure.

Obvious life events aside, those were the best 13 days of my life. To see the details of Trajan’s column up close, to walk through the original streets of Pompeii, to climb the stairs of the Propylaia… Gazing out at the view from Delphi with the stillness of summer and hearing no sound except for the never-ending chorus of cicadas made it so easy to understand why the Greeks believed it to be a mystical place. Hell, if an oracle had appeared predicting my future, I sure would have believed her. That feeling is something no number of textbooks could have ever taught me. To imagine the ancient Greeks traveling all that distance and climbing those same mountains… Like I said before, there just are no words. All of a sudden the people I had spent years studying were not an abstract concept. They were real, and I could feel them, everywhere. I’m not an overly emotional person, but there wasn’t a day of our trip that I didn’t well up thinking about the gift it was to be there. It meant, and still means, everything.

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History nerdiness aside, I was also just so grateful for the cultural experience. I am not well-traveled, and my knowledge of culture outside of my own is embarrassingly limited. I relished every moment of my time in Europe. Every bite taken of a new food, every sentence I heard spoken in a foreign tongue, and every piece of life away from home I saw just made me want to taste more, hear more, see more.

Then there were the people. Professor Camp who took time out of his day off to give us a behind-the-scenes tour of his excavation of the Agora in Athens. Gracious Louanna, whose husband Albert chauffeured us around Santorini. One of our sunset cruise boat crew members who talked to me about dreams of college and made me instantly realize how often I take my own education for granted. The military man and his wife we spent hours laughing with, promising to look each other up on Facebook later except there was all-you-can-drink wine and I’ll probably never be able to recall their names. Our trip wouldn’t have been what it was without people like these. They were, and are, essentially strangers, but now they’re also treasured memories.

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Of course, I can’t talk about the joy of my trip without talking about Husband himself. For someone who sweats basically upon contact with the sun, he was such a trooper. He spent hours in sweltering humidity and 90 degree temperatures watching me read every plaque and examine every toppled column, and he didn’t utter one word of complaint. Husband enjoys history as much as the next person, but I know that every step (and there were many, many steps) of our trip was for me.

This vacation opened up new worlds for me, both literally and figuratively. When I think about our time spent in Rome and Greece, my heart literally aches with love for what I’ve seen and done, and longing to see and do it all over again. I may have taken this trip thinking it was going to satiate my desire to experience the world outside my own, but really all I’ve done was increase my hunger. I’m not sure how and in what capacity, but I know now that travel is something I need to have more of in my life, and hopefully in the lives of my children as well. There is just so much out there to experience, and I want to do it all.

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A Childhood Comfort

30 Oct

Ever since I was a child, I have always found the hum of heat vents to be comforting. I know this probably doesn’t seem important. After all, I am hardly the first person in the world to be calmed by “white noise.” My bestie prefers a fan on even in the dead of winter. My sons both find sleep hard without their sound machines. For me, though, it’s more than just a noise. There’s a comfort in the steadiness of it, the reliability of its warmth. No matter what else is going on in my life, it brings me peace and contentment.

The best, the very best, heat vents were at my grandmother’s house. I don’t know if it was because her house was old, or if it’s just the perhaps unreliable memories of a child, but her heat vents were stronger, louder, than any other I’ve ever encountered. I loved laying in my bed at her house and just listening to it. Even then, I found it odd that the flow of air could give the illusion of stillness. When the thermostat would reach the desired temperature and the heat would stop, I would bug my grandma incessantly to turn it up, warmer and warmer, until I fell asleep. Poor woman must have been sweating bullets all night, but she never said no.

Even better, though, than the vent in the bedroom was the vent in my grandma’s bathroom. Her bathroom was small, and when the heat was on the room took on a sauna-like quality. I used to bring a blanket and some books into the bathroom, curl up, and just be. Strange, maybe, but that little nook between the sink and the door was one of my favorite places. I never felt safer than I did on that bathroom floor.

Now my grandma is gone, and odds are I’ll never visit that house or her magical heat vents ever again. While the vents in my own house will probably never live up to the ones in my memory, they do offer their own added layers of comfort. 5:00 a.m., when the heat first kicks on, has become one of my favorite times of day. In those early morning moments, the heat and my husband’s breathing are the only things I hear. My mind is the wandering kind, but in those moments there is a reprieve, a satisfaction in knowing that he is there, and that my children are warm and safe in their beds. In those early morning moments, I am reminded to count my blessings, because In those early morning moments, everything is perfect.

A Day in the Life of a Pseudo-Writer

7 Oct

I wake up. I’m immediately greeted with the thought that I want to be a writer when I grow up. I remind myself that I am a writer. I am also a grown up. Sort of. I recite the mantra, “I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer.”

I go to work. I teach. I read my students’ writing. I am envious of the fact that they are actually writing. I am envious of the fact that they have a teacher telling them to write, giving them the gift of time to write. I wish I had my own such task master.

I am inspired by their words, by their experiences, by their stories. I want to write them, for them. The ideas rattle around in my mind, distracting. The ideas turn into words which turn into sentences which turn into paragraphs which turn into pages in my mind.

The work day ends. I pick up one child, then go home and wait for the second. Snacks. Toys. Books. Homework. Dinner. Laundry. Baths. Dishes. More Books. Bedtime Rituals.

Silence.

I grade papers. Enter grades. Answer emails.

All the while the pages float, idle, waiting, impatient.

I sit on the couch. I think about how I should exercise. I eat candy instead. I think about how I want to be writing. I watch TV instead.

I crawl to bed. I pick up my phone to set my alarm and take a moment to check what’s happening on Twitter. I see my friends and my idols, all creative geniuses, all writing. Poems, blogs, books. Productive. Working. Writers.

The pages in my mind give up fighting and settle into the folds of my memory. Maybe tomorrow, I think. Maybe then. Maybe then I will be a writer who actually writes.

Indian Summer

28 Sep

I can feel the tension in the air. The seasons are dancing again. It’s a seductive tango, each fighting so hard to be that neither actually is. The temperature tells me it’s summer, but the heat lacks in intensity. The wind tells me it’s fall, but the air has not yet found its crispness.

My heart yearns for the change. I never feel so alive as I do in the fall. Something about that chill in the air… It’s a challenge to my soul, and one that I rise to. Still, I am comfortable in the in between. I am strong and I am patient. I can bide my time, because the inevitable is coming.

This year, like all years, will end the same. The dance will change; the time for romantic entanglements over. Foot flicks and passionate embraces be damned. This is a pasodoble. The bull will be fought and the fight will be won.

But for now, I wait, and just enjoy the dance.

Friendship, Change, and Sunday Nights

29 Jul

If anyone has ever been stupid silly enough to ask me what I’m doing on a Sunday night, any Sunday night, for the past seven years, my answer has always been the same: an incredulous look and an exhasperated, “It’s Sunday.” Some heavy sighs and annoyed eye rolls later, the stupid silly person typically is forced to recall that I have done the same thing on Sunday nights, every Sunday night, for the past seven years.

Try to take over the world.

Sunday nights are when Bestie and I get together for dinner and shows.

Food and television may seem like too simplistic an event to build a tradition around. Not for us.

It started, admittedly, because of Twilight. Bestie and I were both (yes, I’ll admit it), wildly into the Twilight book series. We had devoured them up that summer, and had spent literally hours emailing back and forth about the series. If you happened to know me during my Xanga days, you may remember those emails turned into blog posts. Anyway, thick into the vampire craze, we found ourselves mildly intrigued by this television show we kept seeing ads for. Maybe it was the need to fill the Twilight shaped holes in our hearts since we had finished the series. Maybe it was the advertisements that looked like liquor campaigns. Whatever it was, we decided to give True Blood a shot.

Thus, a tradition was born, and we have never looked back. Our Sunday nights have included themed dinners, show-specific cocktails, and more nudity/graphic violence than I ever thought I’d watch in my lifetime. We’ve stormed our way (sometimes through the help of DVD) through True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, the Newsroom, Girls, Game of Thrones, the Leftovers, Downton Abbey, Mad MenBreaking Bad, and Better Call Saul. Our Sunday nights have withstood my pregnancies, the births of my children, university courses (for both of us), and multiple changes in employment (again, for both of us). No matter what is going on in our lives, we make time for Sunday nights.

For me, Sunday nights have become far more than just a night of entertainment. It’s guaranteed time to catch up with each other. It’s guaranteed time to vent our frustrations about the week, and to celebrate our successes. It helps me to relax and mentally prepare for whatever is on the docket that week. There are many weeks when Sunday night has been the high point of that week. In a way, it’s something I’ve learned to count on. Even if I’m stressed or burnt out or just feeling all around shitty and pissed at life, at least my Sunday night was bound to be positive. There has not been a time when Bestie has left my house and I didn’t feel better than I did before she arrived.

I’m not going to say that our Sunday night success has been reliant on the close proximity between where my bestie lives and where I live. But, it hasn’t hurt. For the last seven years, Bestie and I have lived a whopping seven minutes away from each other. I clocked it once. It was about three miles.

Now, my bestie is moving away.

I say that in an intentionally melodramatic fashion.

She’s moving a whole 30 miles away. It will take about 45 minutes to get to her new place from my house.

For someone who has lived in the suburbs the bulk of her life, I’m used to that drive. I’m very comfortable with that drive. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s actually probably the average distance between besties, I’m guessing. We’ll be fine making that drive regularly. It won’t change anything.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

I have a lot of insecurities when it comes to friendships. I’ve seen my own friendships evolve over time. Sometimes it’s for the better, but sometimes…

I feel like I’ve been here before. I’ve been close to friends before. Then I got married. I moved in with my husband, they moved in with each other, and we’ve never fully recovered what we once had. Can I say for sure that it was due to distance alone? No. There were definitely other factors at play. But the distance made it harder to address those issues.

I’ve wondered before if I mean as much to my friends as they mean to me. If I didn’t put in the effort, would they? I’ve never wondered that about Bestie. But then again, it never took much effort before. We were so close it made regular get-togethers easy. Now that more effort is actually going to be required, those ugly doubts are surfacing again.

I also just have to call a spade a spade and be honest with myself. A part of me is jealous. My bestie has been making a lot of new friends lately, due to a new job, etc. She’s also moving in with a mutual friend of ours. The opportunities for bonds to be made and fun to be had without me are practically endless. It’s silly, and petty, and really quite unjustified, but I can’t help but feel a little left out of these new aspects of her life. It’s a situation I’m uncomfortable being in. I don’t enjoy feeling like I’m being needy.

It is healthy, and normal, that we have lives outside of each other. Logically, I know this. I have separate aspects of my own life, too. Neither of us has reason to feel guilty about that. Still, I also know that change, however positive, is always hard. This change, in particular, has been a bitch of a pill to swallow.

Last night marked the last Sunday night that we’ll have together as residents of the same city. I’m not going to lie; I may have shed a tear or two after her departure. It marks a milestone in our relationship, but I know that our friendship is stronger than a few extra miles. We’ve talked about all of these challenges, and all of my unfounded and unreasonable fears. If Sunday nights become Saturday nights, or if other accommodations have to be made, we are going to be just fine. In the end, I am positive that this challenge of distance will only make us value our friendship all that much more.

So here’s to positive changes, and a beautiful friendship. May it continue through many more seasons of HBO.

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