Tag Archives: life

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.

Delphi

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.

Things Left Untweeted

28 Jun

There really are times when I wish that I could just speak words out loud and have them appear on Twitter, because I honestly seem to have the most thoughts worth tweeting when I am either driving or away from internet access. Such was the case to, from and at my writing retreat these past couple of days. Now that I’m home, here are some of the gems you missed out on.

Baby started kicking frantically when D12’s “My Band” came on my iPod. Clearly he has awesome taste in music. 

Please tell me I’m not the only one who bickered with my friends over who was going to be Brandy or Monica when singing “The Boy Is Mine.”

For the record, I always wanted to be Brandy. 

Ahh, Farmington. Land of refineries and alpaca farms. 

Is it wrong to kill a bug in front of an author who’s talking about how beautiful the natural world is? 

“Ahhhhh! Nature! It’s all over me! Get it off!”

Yeah, I’m in bed before the six year-olds down the hall. What of it? 

“This is a new math, fool!” 

Yup, World, you’re welcome.

Reflections on Solitude

4 May

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past week or so contemplating solitude. To be completely honest, solitude is not something that I have a lot of experience with. I spent all of my youth (which makes me sound/feel much older than I actually am) living with my family. From there I went to the dorms where I first had one roommate, followed by two. Then I got married and Husband and I have lived together since. 

Even thinking beyond my actual living arrangements, I can probably count on one hand how many times I have been in the house by myself in the past year. Husband is fantastic, amazing really, at taking care of Child so that I can go out with friends, run errands, etc. He has never once told me no, it’s too much, I’m tired. But, in nearly all of these instances, I am with someone. Accompanied. Chaperoned. 

As I write this, Husband is gone at the cabin to help put in the dock, but I’m still here listening to Child talk himself to sleep in his bedroom. I find myself missing that sense of freedom and abandon. To sing my lungs out and not care if the words are inappropriate. To spend all day curled up on the couch with my writing and a stack of books. No obligations, no responsibilities. Just me. 

I’m not trying to make this sound like a whiny complaint that should be tagged with #whitepeopleproblems. I made the decisions to get married, have a child, spend time with friends, and I wouldn’t change a single one of them. All I’m simply saying is that I’ve realized just how important it is that I get that time for myself, and how much I treasure it when it does roll around.

So, as the noise from Child’s bedroom has finally subsided and this blog entry has come to a close, I have a glass of wine, an episode of Private Practice queued up, and the end of The Maze Runner to look forward to. *Cheers* 

On Life, Harry Potter and My First Love

17 Jul

I am a fan of routine. I love planning, making lists, checking things off the lists and having things go according to the aforementioned plan. I am, essentially, Rory Gilmore’s soulmate. This is why weeks like the one I have just experienced, while amazingly awesome and fun, always make me feel slightly disoriented and overwhelmed. Allow me to explain…

This past week the state of Minnesota was visited by my brother-in-law Andy, his wife Amber and their two adorable children Aiden and Avery. Marrying into another family can be a tricky business. You’re essentially saying “Yes, now I am one of you! Though I did not grow up with you, I am going to participate in your family traditions and navigate through your family’s complexities, hierarchies and drama. I will do my best not to overstep my boundaries and stomp on toes, but no promises…” Amber played a HUGE role in helping me adjust to life as a Nelson, and I do think of her as an actual sister. [Note: At the time that Dan and I got married, she was my only sister-in-law; since then I have now been blessed with another “sister” whom I also love dearly] Because of this, I am always SUPER excited when she and her family come into town and their visits are always far too short. This particular visit included a giant family gathering and a mid-week cabin trip, which contributed greatly to me feeling thrown-off my game. Who knew the lake was so quiet on Wednesday afternoons?

Top: Sister-in-Law Erika, Brother-in-Law Marty, Me, Dan, Andy
Bottom: Father-in-Law Jeff, Jack, Mother-in-Law DeDe, Aiden, Amber, Avery

While the majority of the Nelson clan stayed up at the cabin until Friday morning, I came home on Thursday for one VERY important reason: Harry Potter. I went with Husband and one of my besties (Brook) to the midnight showing of the final Harry Potter movie. There are not words to describe my love for Harry Potter. They (whoever “they” are), say that the Harry Potter book series got children interested in reading. It would not be wrong to say that it also renewed my own love for reading. I’ve loved reading ever since I knew how to hold a book, but somehow high school and the drama that accompanies high school caused me to put reading on the back burner.

I remember my first encounter with Harry Potter. It wasn’t the book series that first drew my attention, but rather a selfish cry of injustice. My mother had agreed to pull my brother out of school to see the first movie in the theatre (because he and her had, actually, read the book), and there was no way in hell my brother was going to get a “Get Out of School Free” card if I couldn’t have one too. So, my mom agreed to take me to the movie as well. I walked into the theatre that day having no idea what the series was even about. By the time the movie was over, I was spellbound (pun intended). I saw that movie in the theatre five times and began reading the books immediately. Since then, I have been to two midnight book release parties and numerous midnight showings of movies. I even brought Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with me on my honeymoon.

Watching the last movie unfold was bittersweet for me. I absolutely loved the movie and I don’t think it could have been any more perfect and true to both the book and movie franchises. But my tears throughout the movie weren’t just caused by the sadness unfolding on the screen. It was because something I had taken part in, something larger than myself, was ending. Harry Potter was what made me realize how much I missed reading. Without it, who knows when I would have realized what the empty hole in my heart was caused by? I owe Harry Potter a great debt, and I’ll never forget it. And seriously, see the movie. It kicks major ass.

I attended the 12:05 a.m. showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two on Friday, July 15th. That night, at 7:30 p.m., I was reunited with another love of mine, and my First Love: Nick Carter. That’s right folks, Friday night was my NKOTBSB concert. It was, in a word, incredible. Both groups sang all the old songs, did some of the old dance moves, and reminded me that First Love lasts a lifetime. For one night, I was 16 again. I am a Backstreet Girl, for now and always, and I’m damn proud of it. I might also, now, be a New Kids fan. I think I have to be now that Donnie Wahlberg touched my finger; it’s like an unspoken boy band law.

Thankfully, after the whirlwind week I’ve had, I’ve slowly caught up on sleep and once again adjusted to a natural circadian rhythm. I’m looking forward to reclaiming more of my routine this upcoming week, mainly in regards to my writing and workout schedule. I haven’t written a word all week, nor have a lifted a hand-weight. Jillian Michaels would not be happy, but as much as it pains me, sometimes the routine just has to be adjusted. This week was one of those weeks, but it was totally worth it.

9 Jun

When I was a little girl one of my favorite movies to watch over at my grandma’s house was Alice in Wonderland (the Disney animated one, not the creepy made-for-TV one). I used to love how Alice would lie in the tall grass and sing that song about talking to the flowers. It seemed so romantic, disappearing in that lush greenery.

What I know now, that I didn’t know then, is that the tall grass she was laying in was probably stiff and sharp. It was most definitely dirty, and when she stood up she probably had about 50 ticks on her. Or at very least, that’s what would happen to me if I were to lie in my own yard right now.

The part that freaks me out the most is the ticks. I am not, and have never been, okay with things sucking my blood. Mosquitoes – nasty and irritating. Leeches – give me the willies. And ticks…well I hate them. I hate them, hate them, hate them. This has, lately, been a problem for me because the ticks are rampant in my yard this year.

Maybe it’s the weird weather we’ve had this spring, maybe it’s the fact that I live next to a giant field of nothing, but whatever the cause, there are ticks everywhere this year. We’ve put two doses of the tick repellent stuff on Lucie in the past month, and every night when I check her she has at least two ticks on her. I’ve found them hanging out on my door. I’ve found them hanging out on the wall in my entryway. I’ve even found one on top of my garbage can in my kitchen. It’s driving me insane to the point where it took me two hours to fall asleep last night because I kept imagining things were crawling on me. Husband doesn’t know it yet, but I foresee a weekend full of him spraying pesticides on our yard. Either that or he’ll be digging a ditch three feet wide and three inches deep around our property and filling it with gravel, as one website suggested, because I cannot, and will not, live this way much longer.

Good Learning

27 May

I write this entry from the front passenger seat of my car en route to the cabin, and it’s my first time using the WordPress app on my phone, so I apologize if the formatting on this one is off.

Anywho, a bit ago Jack was being uncharacteristically quiet in his carseat so I turned around to see what he was doing. Lo and behold, my darling son was contentedly smacking himself on the head with a book.

Upon reporting this news to Husband, he said “Jack’s like, ‘I’m trying to learn this!'” A new way to transfer knowledge? My son’s a genius!