June 29, 2002/2012

June 29, 2002

It was so hot that morning, like 142 degrees with 231% humidity. The AC units in our hotel bedroom barely kept up and sweat management became a serious pre-occupation. Our garden wedding in late June didn't seem like such a great idea all of a sudden.

I was doubly sweating because in addition to being hot I was nervous, though not in the cliched, "cold feet", runaway-bride kind of way. More like the "all these people, so many details, me at the center of attention, ALL THESE PEOPLE" kind of way. My stomach was in knots and I took many trips to the bathroom, you know, just to hang out.

I was trying so hard not to get overwhelmed by details, or give anyone a reason to call me Bridezilla, so when my bored hair dresser did a really fast, really lame, really slicked down version of the hairstyle I had wanted, I didn't say anything, it's just hair.  And I said hi to the hair salon bathroom.

When the flowers arrived, and they weren't at all what I had chosen, I didn't say anything, it's just flowers. I visited the bathroom.

When someone called me "Mrs. K-" even though I wasn't changing my last name, well, okay, I said something. I believe that particular something contained a curse word.

And then, of course, the bathroom

When I finally emerged from the bathroom, I got dressed and CG and I saw each other before the ceremony.

It was so hot we decided to take our schfancy, couple-y photos before the ceremony, which was smart, because 5 minutes after walking outside I had rivulets of sweat running down my legs under my mother's silk wedding gown and my forehead could have powered several lamps in Laura Ingall's Little House.

My maid of honor earned her honorific more times than I can count, including a desperate visit to - you guessed it! - the bathroom minutes before the ceremony to hold up my dress so I could greet my Aunt Flo as she arrived for a spectacularly poorly timed visit. EFF.

My BFF also earned her doctorate in Sweat Management that day.

As we got ready to line up for the ceremony I felt myself floating above my body. Am I really here? Am I really at my wedding? Is this really it?

In the months before the wedding, I had nightmares - many, many nightmares - that involved me walking down the aisle gazing at everyone I ever knew and loved and then promptly throwing up at the altar.

(Have I mentioned the bathroom?)

In another twist of fate, a few weeks before the wedding, my dad cut his finger badly, something about riding a tractor and grabbing a wire fence at the same time didn't agree with him. Unfortunately, it got infected and that meant that on my wedding day, he escorted me down the aisle with his middle finger permanently at attention.

As we were walking down that aisle, and the string quartet was playing Bach, and my dad took my elbow in one hand and gave our guests the finger with his other, I was thrilled and giddy just to be there, just to not be throwing up. As I walked I laughed, I sweated, I teared up, I laughed some more.


And then, there at the end of the aisle was CG. My guy. My chosen family. Waiting for me.

Oh right, HIM.

All those details, all those people. I was so busy thinking about flowers and sweating and not throwing up that I forgot what we were here for after all. One touch of his hands brought me back.

I'm here. I'm right here.

The rest of the night was fantastic. Freaking fantastic. We ate very little and danced very much,  danced until our legs literally gave way beneath us and we tore our mother's wedding dress (okay, that was just me).

What a perfect wedding, everyone kept saying to us, completely ignoring the sweltering heat, my ripped wedding dress, my dad's middle finger, the wrong flowers. Such a great day!

We collapsed that night into a sweaty exhausted heap, convinced that this thing, this wedding, was the start of something natural and complete and deeply, deeply awesome.


June 29, 2012

There was a night a few years back when we looked at each other from across the ocean that stretched between one couch cushion and the next and I said the thought that was worming its way into my brain: "This is why people get divorced." It was a scary thing to say but an even scarier way to feel.

There was nothing majorly cataclismic going on. But we were talking in circles. We didn't feel better at the end of our fraught conversations. We didn't feel close.  He didn't look me in the eyes. I pulled my knees in tight to my chest and did a lot of crying.

We suddenly realized that people got divorced who loved each other. People got divorced who had great weddings. People got divorced who had children they loved more than their own breath.

We are in a much better place now but that time changed us. We are no longer those children who got married on that too hot day ten years ago. We know now that marriage is not some natural extension of loving and enjoying each other, some coasting ride that requires only that you pick a good partner to begin with. It is a daily choice, to turn toward one another instead of away. To not be too afraid to be honest, too exhausted to be kind or too proud to be wrong.

Ten years ago, I underestimated the challenge of staying together. I didn't understand the way time would change us, change me. I didn't know who we'd become, who we'd create. I didn't realize how marriage is built and rebuilt every single day, every single conversation.

We wonder, is it possible to grow old together with mutual respect and admiration? Can we still challenge each other, tell the loving but hard truths, push each other even as we both get more and more stuck in our own neurotic ways?

That's our goal. Passion, admiration, respect, playful companionship.

Dare to dream.

All the details of my life overwhelm me, all the things I need to remember, all the balls we juggle suspended in mid air. I forget sometimes, at the end of the day, to really look to him. He's right there. But still, sometimes, I miss him.

Choosing the right person may not be the be all and end of all a good marriage but it sure is a good start. I chose someone who balances me out. I chose so very well.

Mostly I think, What a great marriage. And I'm not ignoring the hard times, the tears, the moments of loneliness and frustration. I am including them, proudly.

What a great marriage.


40 for 40 - so far so lame

Some of you may remember that I made a list a while back: 40 things I want to do by my 40th birthday this fall. I've been alternately thinking of ways to burn through the list and WAYS TO BURN THE LIST.

Yes, it seem I have a wee bit of anxiety about this list. I want to do them TODAY so I can cross them off . I wrote them down after all!

Let's see how I've been doing on this thing, shall we?

1.  Take a hike on the Appalachian Trail.  It's close by!  I've driven by it!  And waved! 
That's a negative. I haven't even waved at it lately.

2.  Submit writing to three different places, web or print.
Done! And I heard nothing. Weee!

3.  Go out dancing (any kind!) with my husband.
Not. :-(

4.  Visit an art museum in DC with the girls (I'll be sure to warn all you local folks so you can steer clear).
I did this! When my parents were visiting in the Spring, we went to the Hirshhorn Museum in DC and it was perfect. Small, experiential, fun. Only slightly difficult to keep E from trying to climb the sculptures. It was thrilling to see some actual, real, live art like some kind of grown-up type person.

That's my mom and E, who's running (QUELLE SURPISE), in the super awesome Suprasensorial exhibit at the Hirshhorn.
5.  Take the girls on a new hike.
Done! The girls and I went to Great Falls to hike around which was fun. Until E decided that she was terrified of ants and wanted to be carried everywhere. Then: not so fun.

6.  Take a new exercise class.
I took something called Body Pump. I was very, very sore afterward. I do/don't recommend it.

7.  Hold a freestanding headstand.
This, right here, is going to be my downfall, I think. I don't think a freestanding headstand will happen. A few months ago, I read "The Science of Yoga" and the author had a few choice cautionary words about headstands and plow and the pressure that both these poses place on the cervical vertebrae. Since I've had numerous neck injuries, I decided to opt out of headstands for awhile. Hmmm, perhaps I'll work on my handstand instead?

8.  Hold a family fire drill.
I wrote this one because Z was in phase where she was terrified of fire in any form - and house fires in particular -  and I thought it might help her to know what she should do in the case of an actual fire in our home. Now that she's calmed down a bit about this fear, I lost the motivation, but I'll try to get back to this one.

9.  Volunteer my time.  Somewhere.
Yeah. Not yet. I'm wondering if I can volunteer for Obama without having to a. knock of any doors or b. talk on any phones. Stuff envelopes? Fervently pray?

10.  Go waterskiing again. 
This summer! Vermont! Planning on it! But I can't cross it off yet.

11.  Take the girls on a hike to see my favorite waterfalls this summer in Vermont.
This summer! Vermont! ETC.!

12.  Start a baby clothes quilt (or just donate the freaking baby clothes already.)
Oh right. This one. I have an idea for how this will work but I have yet to do any of it. Pfft.

13.  Drive to West Virginia. It's so close! I've never been!

14.  Show our girls the Atlantic Ocean.  They've never seen it from this coast (Jamaica doesn't count in my book!) and that just feels wrong.
Crap. I don't know if this will happen. We were going to try to get to the beach some weekend this summer.  I don't know that it's going to happen.

15.  Take the dog for a hike, just the two of us.
Oh poor Sweet Dog. I will do my best to make this happen.

16.  Meditate.  At least once.
I've totally done this! A lot! And I still suck at it.

17.  Lie in bed until 8 am at least once.  Just because.
I did this yesterday! But only because I was super sick with some mega summer cold from hell. But I'm counting it anyway!

18.  Paint our living room.
I've pulled out our paint wheel and chosen a few colors. Now to get to the paint store.

19.  Learn to love the old rug and curtains in our living room or get new ones.
Oh god. I hate the rug. I hate the curtains. I don't think we've got the money to buy anything new this year. I'll have to think about this one. And get myself to Ikea.

20.  Hang pictures on the walls in the basement.
Nope. We are terrible about hanging pictures. It just doesn't happen, even though I love to have art and photos on the wall.

21.  Part my hair on the other side for a day.  Just to see.

How I normally look (when I don't have a ponytail in)
How I look when my hair's parted on the other side.
Not very different, huh? I clearly remember choosing the side my part would be on in high school after reading some stupid teenage girl magazine article that claimed the side you parted your hair on determined/revealed your personality. I chose the "artsy" side and never looked back.

I don't have a natural part or cowlick so I CAN part my hair where ever I want. BUT THIS SIDE FEELS WRONG. This is, I think, a part of getting old. What I've done for years is ALL I CAN STAND TO DO. Hence this list.

22.  Wear earrings at least once a week.
I've been wearing earrings! I learned a trick, wear small hoops, never have to take them out!

23.  Take a full day media/web fast.
I haven't done this. I guess I could. I felt it was a good idea at the time.

24.  Plant a new vegetable in our garden bed.
Success! We've got carrots and sugar snap peas in addition to the usual herbs and lettuces and tomatoes and they are both total successes. My vegetable-phobic girls even pick them and eat them like they're in some kind of suburban fairy tale!

25.  Take out all my camera lenses and remember what they're for.
My camera lenses have been dusted off and used and I still prefer the one that I just leave on my camera.

26.  Take at least one decent picture of the girls every week.
Oh I wish I could say I've done this one. I really intend to take more pictures of the girls but I find it so hard to lug around my good camera and even when I do, I find it SO MUCH harder to take pictures of them now.
The only decent photo I've taken of either girl recently. Z still does her grimace smile and E? IS ALWAYS MOVING.
27.  Tackle our filing cabinet.
Yeah NO. Anyone want to do that for me? Bueller? Bueller?

28.  Get our taxes done without needing an extension. *ahem* CG *ahem*

29.  Sit down with CG and take a good, brave, come-to-Jesus look at our finances.
We've done this. Sort of.

30.  Check out the local Unitarian Church.  IN PERSON.
I am so, so happy to say we've been going a bunch to the sweetest little Unitarian Church in our town and I am beyond happy about it.

31.  Pick and freeze blueberries.
Done. And blackberries and cherries- do I get extra points?? Smoothies for everyone!

32.  Make tiramisu, CG's favorite dessert, from scratch.
Why did I put this on here? What was I thinking? Jeez. Will need to research this one.
33.  Visit the National Zoo with the girls.
I will need to wait to do this one when it's a whole lot cooler.

34.  Celebrate my tenth wedding anniversary in some exciting way.
We are currently planning this for next week. Stay tuned!
35.  Take my husband on a surprise date.
Oops. I'll have to think about this one.

36.  Take a creative workshop of any kind.  Yoga.  Writing.  Sewing.  Photography.
This was the first thing I did on this list. I took a photography class that a local portrait photographer was advertising: "Just For Moms." It was a great way to dust off my lenses and get reacquainted with using my camera off the auto mode. 

37.  Write a 'just because' letter and mail it.
Pffft. Haven't done it. Anyone want a letter from me?

38.  Host a Scrabble party, since my husband refuses to play with me.
I haven't done this yet but I have gotten quite addicted to Words with Friends on my iPhone. Does that count? No? Damn.

39.  Go on a family bike ride that finishes in a picnic.

40.  Post here about these as I accomplish them!
Doing it. Right now. And again when I get more done!

16 out of 40. Hmmm. Gotta get to work! No go forth and part your hair on the other side! LIVE ON THE EDGE.


Books 2012, Part 1

Here are the books I read in the first half of this year. As usual, I write only what I remember about them, no looking anything up on the internet to help jog my famously hole-y memory.

With no further ado: the books I've read so far this year.

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. Based on extensive research, this is the true story of an American diplomat and his family in Germany just before WW11. It is fascinating to inhabit the minds of those at the higher levels of government who, in hindsight, SHOULD HAVE KNOWN about Hitler, and just ... didn't. They didn't like Hitler, but they didn't see him as the personification of evil as he would come to be known. Larson's book helped me understand this phenomena even as I spent a good portion of the book yelling at the protagonists "STOP HIM! GOOD GOD STOP HIM!!!" Larson's book "Devil in the White City" is one of my all time favorites and this has many of the same elements: a true story of a climatic time period, told in intimate detail. Unfortunately, this one failed to draw me in in the same way - especially annoying: the long descriptions of silverware in their house. WHY? Where was his editor?? -  though I had exceedingly high expectations for it, so perhaps that's not fair. If you like detailed, personal stories in historical settings, you will like this book.

Bitter in the Mouth by Monique Truong. Oh dear me. I don't remember the plot of this book AT ALL. Hmmm, I remember it being a character-driven coming of age story, with beautiful prose and a looping, disjointed structure. I remember that the language was so lovely it literally made me stop, take a breath, reread, read aloud, AND forcibly read aloud to other people who happened to be near me. Probably a good bet for those who like adventurous, poetic literary fiction.

Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan. If Bitter in the Mouth is ethereal, this novel is grounded. I loved this book. It's the story of a year in the life of an elderly woman named (Guess!) Emily. I fear that description makes it sound horribly boring and it wasn't. It's just not a flashy gem of a book. It's a small, perfectly round stone, softened at the corners, that you slip in your pocket.  I was oddly affected by this book and put a number for O'Nan's other books on my library list.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This novel has a grand, sweeping narrative: two magicians are chosen from childhood to battle one another until only one remains. I expected to love this book. Love story! Circus! Magic! I'm there! But I didn't fall in love. It seriously dragged in sections for me and I almost put it down about two thirds of the way through. The characters didn't draw me in as I expected them to. The end improved on the whole book for me but not enough for me to give a whole-hearted endorsement. I'm curious to see where Morgenstern goes with her future work, though. If the premise intrigues you, perhaps you'll like it more than I did.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. Now here's a book I didn't expect to like that I loved. Flat out LOVED. Mostly male characters! Sports! Long! Written by a man! Truth is, none of those things made me want to read it. But I read a few glowing reviews and I'm so glad I gave it a shot because I loved it. I loved the characters. I believed in them. I wanted the best for them, even if I wasn't quite sure what that would be. I felt satisfied by the ending, even as I was sad to see my friends go. Two thumbs up!

Three Stages of Amazement by Carol Edgarian. Bleh. I remember that there were parts of this novel that I liked but mostly it was a bust. It centers around a wealthy family in San Francisco and their misunderstandings. As a massage therapist in San Francisco many years ago, I worked for wealthy clients like the main characters. Except no one is really like these characters. They didn't feel real to me. While I enjoyed some of the descriptive writing, the plot felt obvious, the characters cliched. I can't say I recommend it.

Mitten Strings for God by Katrina Kenison. Um. I read this? I think?
What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen. Dude. This is a grenade of a book. Small. Tight. Ready to explode. It's the memoir of Cohen's totally unexpected late-in-life pregnancy. She is a playwright and you can tell: I kept waiting for paragraphs to leap off the page and run for the stage. As she wrestles with horrible questions of birth defects, late term abortion, and financial ruin, she doesn't pull a single punch. If you like memoirs, and mommy memoirs specifically, this will impress.

Looking for Alaska by John Green. Someone out there loves John Greene. Maybe Princess Nebraska? Maybe Jonniker? Anyway, I took whoever-it-was' advice and got this YA novel from the library. The setting is a boarding school and the plot revolves around a certain mysterious girl named Alaska and all who fall in her orbit. I liked it, the characters were believable, the structure was interesting, but the plot was a bit high strung (to be expected from YA novels, I suppose). I might get another of his books but I haven't felt compelled to yet.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. Middlesex is my all time favorite book. ALL TIME. So I had very high expectations for this novel. It's basically a love triangle between three college grads: Madeleine, Mitchell and Leonard. Mitchell and Leonard, a religious seeker and a manic depressive respectively, felt the most real to me as they try to find themselves and vie for Madeleine. Madeleine, who worries that's she's too normal, is .... too normal. Bland. Blah. While the prose is as elegant as I expected, the plot felt slow and uneventful. I kept waiting for something to happen. But! The ending! ROCKED. A seriously great ending. Thanks for that, Eugenides.

Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor.  Twenty-something and pregnant, Taylor lost her young husband suddenly. This memoir of the year after his death is sad and light at the same time. As I read, I could feel her youth, in good and bad ways. There was surprisingly little about her feelings on motherhood, most of it is about her loss of her husband and how her job as a teacher helps her heal. I love hearing how people get through the worse things that can possibly happen, it somehow assuages my own anxieties.  So if that's your thing too, you'll like this book.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillipe Sendker. I read a positive review of this novel that made me want to read it. At its heart, it's a romance and a mystery. A grown daughter sets out for Burma to find her missing father and a mysterious woman. She uncovers a love story that made me cry my way through a half a box of tissues. Sweet, romantic read.

Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott. My first book purchase of the year. I just knew I'd need to own it so why wait for the library book, you know? Lamott chronicles the first year of her grandson's life and it's told both from her point of view and her son's. Just as wonderful as you'd expect. Sweet, fast read.

The Science of Yoga by William J. Broad. A bit dry, this book, but if you love yoga you will find much food for thought here. He makes a case for how yoga can improve your mood, your sex life, and your creativity. But he also punches holes in commonly accepted logic about yoga, including the belief that it can speed up your metabolism (spoiler: it doesn't) and uncovers some truly scary potential physical effects on more advanced practitioners. It makes me want to ask every single yoga teacher if they've read it and then engage them in conversation about it.

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Roga. Another novel I had very high expectations for that didn't quite thrill me in the way I thought it would. Just after the sinking of the Titantic, newlywed Grace sets out from England on a transatlantic boat trip with her husband. When the boat sinks, Grace is one of the few who makes it onto a lifeboat and one of even fewer who make it to America.  What happens on the boat results in her being brought up on charges of murder. In my opinion, the best part about this book is the author's story:  she wrote this book many years ago while raising triplets, dusted it off, sent it in and IT'S PUBLISHED. It's like some kind of literary fairy tale!

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Strayed, who writes the Dear Sugar column, weaves magic in this memoir of her time solo hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (like the Appalachian Trail but on the West Coast) as she heals from losing her mother and her marriage. It is just fantastic. If this interests you even in the slightest, GO BUY THIS BOOK. My favorite of the books I've read this year so far.


Okay! Your turn! What books have you loved that you read so far this year?


A Brief History of Time

Z got a watch for her birthday from my parents. It's analog, which was not her preference, and at first she worried that it would be too difficult to figure out.

Now, of course, there's no stopping her.

Unfortunately, her ability and interest in telling time means that she is constantly monitoring, and complaining about, the discrepancies between clocks in our house.

I keep telling her it's simply not possible to make all clocks display exactly the same time. She is unimpressed with my logic.

"Is there a real time? A time that is true?"  she asked.

I showed her time.gov and after immediately setting her watch for the RIGHT time, she watched it, rapt.

"There goes another second! And another! AND ANOTHER!"

"Yep. Time does that; it goes on and on and on."

"Isn't is amazing?!?!?!"

"Yeah. Yeah, I guess it is."


E has zero concept of time. Every single night at bedtime, she asks if it's bedtime or nap time. The same thing happens at nap/quiet time. She has no concept of how long a minute is when I tell her she needs to wait a minute. She doesn't even grasp the basic concepts of past, present and future, though she clearly likes the sound of "yesterday".

If you ask her when something happened or will happen, she has three typical responses:

"I no know."


And, my personal favorite, "Yesterlater."


26 days, 2 hours and 33 minutes ago, I submitted an essay I wrote to several publications.

I have heard from exactly none of them.

Time. Marches. On.


Kindergarten Graduation (WTF)

Z's kindergarten graduation was last night. Her class has been practicing the ceremony every day for a month. Every morning and every evening for the last few weeks, Z has counted the days until the graduation, then the hours. She convinced me to buy her a white dress and rhinestone sandals. She learned songs with coordinated signs to sing with her class. She practiced for weeks for her important job of asking the audience to "Please stand for the pledge of allegiance." She's had multiple nightmares that she would get pulled off the stage for moving too much.

It's all a little much, in my opinion. The kid is 6.

The kid also has issues with transitions and anxiety as it is. Do we really need to heap on the expectations, to up the anticipation, any more than it already naturally is?

Instead of just allowing her to say goodbye to her friends and teachers, letting her get used to the idea of being at home for the summer and going to a new school in the fall, she's spent much of the last few weeks preparing for and worrying about this half hour ceremony that's for who? For her?

For us?

It brings out my pissy, protective mama bear. This isn't what she needs, I roar inside my head. Screw the kindergarten graduation ceremony. Screw having to practice standing still for an hour every day for weeks on end. Screw making her learn songs and speak in public and worry about whether she'll fidget too much and get taken off stage.

I know many people think that it's too congratulatory to have kindergarten graduations. It's not as if they actually accomplished anything! But I don't have that problem. I'm happy to congratulate Z for all she's learned in the past year, all the maturity she's gained through practice and hard work.

But these moments can be a big deal all on their own. We don't always need to add to it with pomp and group ceremonies. We would have celebrated it as a family. We would have made it a comfortably small big deal.

There can be meaningful celebration for 6 year olds without performance and pressure, right?

Well, at least there weren't any miniature caps and gowns.

And:  IT'S OVER.


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