Category: marriage (page 2 of 5)

Record Keeper

I’m a compulsive journaler, a habitual record-keeper. I knew this about myself already, but it wasn’t until my sister-in-law asked me this week about my journaling methods (and my madness) that I had a chance to confront the problem in detail. This is what it looks like:

I’ve been keeping a hand-written journal daily since I was 11 years old. I have dozens of books filled with my daily actions and thoughts and emotions. Those volumes are much more turmoil and tedium than I can possibly contemplate re-reading. Someday, someone might, and I hope I am good and dead when they do it. If I’m not, I will probably die of embarrassment by the time they got to volume 2. I persist in writing, however, not only to record the thoughts and events of my life, of course, but also to sort and store my emotions and confusion.

If I just kept a daily, personal journal, that would probably be enough to keep me sane and self-reflective, but since I crave outside recognition as well, I started writing a family blog soon after Micah and I got married. This is less personal, less emotionally laden, more event-driven, and more for family and friends who are keeping tabs on us from a distance. It is also, I hope, more fun to read.

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Then, just because I’m crazy, I started this blog as well. It is slightly less journalistic, but definitely follows the ups and downs of our lives. I try to post things that are not entirely specific to my family here. I hope that there is something relatable for parents, runners, and those who love them. Or at least a good story or something thought-provoking or inspiring.

It doesn’t stop there. The new people in my life need journals, too, and if I don’t keep them, who will? I try to write in them 4 times a year: at birthdays and New Years. I write about their interests and fun/funny things they do, what is going on in their lives, who their friends are, what we are struggling with and what we are proud of. That kind of thing. And that’s in addition to the baby books that record all their milestones and such. Their lives are well-recorded.

After that it’s just random notes and notebooks in various places. Some on my phone, some in notebooks, some on scraps of paper. These are mostly ideas I jot down on the bus, or notes I take on talks and speeches and lessons – thoughts on things to write about, or ways I can improve my life, or funny things to share with Micah when I see him next.

But that doesn’t include the photos, which have evolved from “supplemental material” to a journaling method in itself . . . .

I wonder at times if all or any of it will mean anything to anyone down the road. But even if it isn’t, I’ll do it anyway because it means something to me to be my family’s historian/documentarian/journalist/photographer/record-keeper. I like it. I enjoy it. I think it is important to tell the family’s story, or to have a family story to tell, to share, to relate to, to improve upon.

What about you? Do you keep a journal? Are you organized about it? Is keeping a record important to you? Or do you immerse yourself in the experience, enjoy it as it’s happening, and call it good?

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In 50 Years

Micah and I used to run together a lot. It was our thing. We’d go out with the boy(s) in the jogger before work, or on a Saturday morning. We’d do speed work and long runs side by side. We’d talk through the long laps of the park and distract each other from the cramps and blisters and aches that invariably arise during those miles.

And during those runs whenever we passed an older person, gray-haired and wrinkled, we’d nod at them and say, “That’ll be us in 50 years.”

Sometimes those years seem right around the corner, a natural extension of our life and who we are as a couple.

But other times, it seems like it’ll be forever until then – until we’re able to run together instead of tag-teaming at the door of our apartment, until we’re able to give each other the full, undivided attention that we seem to only have when we’re moving, unencumbered, together – focused on the same goal, working toward the same finish line.

This essay made those years seem a little closer, and little more exciting, a little more attainable. I’m sure as we near the final laps of life – after we’ve weathered more storms, conquered more hills, enjoyed more stunning views – we’ll count each step we’ve taken together and each mile we’ve completed as a blessing.dontwelookgood

That Loving Feeling

Just before bedtime the other night I read this blog post about maintaining that loving feeling in marriage. They say it takes a lot of work. Making time for each other, talking to each other, staying out of ruts or getting caught in routines. Couples should support each other in their interests, the article says, and resist taking each other for granted. They should be open to spontaneity, surprises, and exchanging positive energy.

I texted the article to Micah, just for kicks, then left the room to manage my dental health.

A few minutes later, as I stood with my electric toothbrush in my mouth, waiting for the 3 buzzes that indicate a job well done, Micah jumped out from the behind the doorway. “Surprise!” he said.

“I love you I love you I love you!” I said, toothbrush still buzzing.

Who says maintaining that loving feeling takes a lot of work? Pshaw!

*****

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But seriously though. Sometimes I get caught up in not wanting to change too much. I want to be as young as the day we were married. Part of me even wants to be that girl who shopped in the little boys’ t-shirt section of the local thrift stores simply because that’s who I was when I met Micah. Part of me wants Micah to never ever wear a pair of blue jeans because that was something I loved about him when we were dating. But that is exactly how ruts are created and boredom is spawned and pretty soon you’re sitting on opposite sides of the couch texting your friends when you could be cuddled under a blanket feeling each other up doing crossword puzzles.

And then I remember how much I love the look of pleased surprise Micah has when he sees me try to doll myself up. Or how proud he is of me when I try something different and new. Or how much I love it when Micah gives up another piece of his college days in exchange for something more professional.

I am afraid, I think, of ruining things by not being the person I was when we married. But that’s because I forget how fun and exciting it is to evolve together, to encourage each other and watch each other succeed. Even if it’s in something as silly as unlocking the next box in “Cut the Rope” or as trivial as trying a new pair of earrings. 

Maintaining that loving feeling may take some work, but it also takes a lot of courage.

What do you think? Do you have a hard time growing up and growing together? Or is it something that comes easy to you?

(The photo captures the moment Micah beat me at Scrabble, just after Christmas our first year married. We both lived through it and no one had to sleep on the couch.)

Eight Years

We’re ditching the kids today. Going to see Les Mis. Eating at some fancy pants restaurant. Picking out something new to wear. Treating ourselves to something cold and sweet at Jeni’s or Graeter’s. Because it’s been 8 years since we got married and that’s worth some serious indulgence.

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Grateful Glasses

I just got back from that speaking engagement I mentioned last week. That one where I was supposed to talk about raising grateful children. I don’t really know if I addressed the topic at hand, or even what I said at all, but I thought I would share what was on my mind as I was babbling on about who knows what.

It was a year ago yesterday that the boys and I were on our way to the gym when Micah called and said that his contract was not being renewed. Come January 1, he’d be unemployed. I had just found out I was pregnant two weeks before. And with those two things on my mind, I shed a few tears as I wheeled the stroller down Bedford Avenue to yoga class.

We allowed ourselves to be sad for one day. And then we moved forward. This was a blessing, we told ourselves. An answer to the prayers we’d been saying, asking for new opportunities and opened doors. We’re not risk-taking people, but we knew we needed to take a risk if we were to get where we want to go. The best way to do that, apparently, was to get laid off. Once we saw it that way, it was really easy to be happy about it. And to see everything else through our “grateful glasses.”

(I’m pretty sure this is what grateful glasses look like. Because I’m grateful for these glasses.)
Because of that, this past year was one of the happiest years of my life. Despite being under-employed for much of it, despite adding another mouth to feed in the midst of it, despite all the disappointment around Manchild’s schooling, despite everything, I felt less anxious, less stressed, less worried than I’ve ever felt before.

It’s amazing the things you can see when you put on a new pair of glasses. All the little kindnesses you missed before. All the small ways people help and serve each other – even the little people who drive you crazy half the time. I love seeing the kids try to help out. And even if it turns out horribly, I’m grateful for the thought and the effort. Even if they end up spilling water all over the floor while they’re washing the dishes, or unrolling the entire roll of toilet paper when they’re trying to wipe their own bums. I try to let them know that, with my fancy new glasses on, I see it, and I appreciate it.

It’s even more amazing how easy it is to find the silver linings with those glasses. There’s suddenly very little to complain about. I’ve made it a goal to be more vocal about that too, especially in front of the kids – and even more especially when they’re having a hard time finding anything to be happy about.

Finally, did you ever do that thing, back in the day, where you made a list of all the qualities you were looking for in a spouse? You wanted someone kind, genuine, fun-loving, spontaneous, someone who loves children and puppies and helps old ladies across the street. And then you realized that if you wanted all that, you had to be all that, too?

I’m pretty sure it goes double for kids. You want to raise kind, thoughtful, grateful, children who appreciate you and don’t complain? I’m pretty sure you’ve got to be that person.

Yoked

Last night Micah met us at a free/abbreviated showing of the Nutcracker after work. He walked an unhappy Little Miss around the World Financial Center while the boys and I watched the ballet. Then he took the train with us until he had to transfer to go to a late meeting. He didn’t get home until well past 11:00. And as soon as he walked in the door, he started making my birthday cake. He tucked me into bed a little after 1:00, then finished up some work he had to do before going to bed himself.

At 7:45 this morning he sent the boys in to quietly wake me with their birthday wishes. He was making waffles for breakfast and had kept the boys quiet so I could get some extra sleep. And then, as soon as breakfast was over, he dashed out the door for another day at work.

I’m feeling really lucky, blessed, and grateful for all that Micah does. I sometimes get caught looking at things from only my perspective and feeling like I carry too much of the burden: I had to bundle all of the kids to get on the train. I had to save us a spot at the Nutcracker. I had to keep the boys entertained for nearly an hour before it started. I had to sit with them and answer all their questions about the ballet. I had get the kids all home and fed and in bed by myself. And on and on and on.

But the truth is that we both make sacrifices. We work together. One of us pulls while the other pushes, and then we trade places. We take turns sleeping in when we have late nights. We save the last slice for each other, and offer the last bite to the other when there is only one spoonful left.

I often say that Micah taught me everything I know. He has shown me how to be more thoughtful and selfless. He encourages me to pursue my interests and believes that I can succeed in them more than I do. He keeps me from getting too wound up about things that don’t matter – and about things that do matter, too, because getting wound up rarely helps any situation. He has taught me to be more observant, more aware, more intentional. He has inspired me to be better and kinder and more forgiving.

Micah and I are yoked together, pulling the same load, holding each other up, enjoying the view, soldiering on.  We work well together. We complement each other. We understand each other’s humor and frustrations. I experience life more intently and intensely at Micah’s side.

It’s a good place to be.

Three Cheers for the Boy on the Bike

Our hopes were resting on Manchild and his bike.

With three kids and only two seats in the jogger, our weekend habit of a family run down to the park for a lap or two around the loop or some ultimate Frisbee could have been history – unless Manchild could ride there.

Last spring he and I practiced a little bit. Could he keep up with me while I ran? Hmmm . . . a bit. He was shaky on the hills and sketchy with the breaks. It seemed like it might work. Maybe.

But that was more than six months ago and he and his bike have become great friends since then. Practically besties, really. Manchild jumps at the chance to ride whenever he can, and the bike rarely bucks him off. They take care of each other.

On Friday morning we had an engagement in the park. It was our first chance to see if Manchild could keep up with us and the jogger. We buckled Squish and Little Miss in and put Manchild on his bike. Then we crossed our fingers and started down the sidewalk.

There was some slow-going, lots of coaching, and a little apologizing to fellow pedestrians. Manchild rode as fast as he could, then got tired and needed a “turbo boost.” We hardly broke any records, but we made it. All together. A promising endeavor.

So the habit will not be broken. Family runs will not be history. Our hopes are safe in the hands of Manchild, and his bike.

Life on the Trails

Even when every day is the same, every day is different.

The weather is different, which means we have to dress differently. It may change our schedule or our plans. The light coming in the windows change the mood in the apartment, the perception of the passage of time.

Little Miss changes every day as well. She’s growing so quickly, learning new things, and our expectations of her change as well. Is she ready for more rolling? Are these clothes getting too small? Let’s try a new headband, just to see how she looks.

Somedays it is easy to get out of bed, no matter how late I went to sleep the night before. Somedays it is hard to get out of bed, no matter how early I went to sleep the night before.

I tell myself we’ll get out the door by 10:00, be done with the shopping by 11:00, catch the bus at 11:15. That will be our routine. Every Monday. Like clockwork. But it never is clockwork. It is always different, there are always snags and adjustments and urgent needs to see how many apples tall we are, which leads us back to the produce aisle when we should be on our way to the bus stop.

It might make my life a little easier if I had a schedule for dinner. A rotation. Every two weeks we’ll repeat. Or every month. Or maybe every Friday is pizza day. Every Sunday we have lasagna. But where’s the fun in that?

The boys are excited to play with train tracks all day one day, then all they want to do the next is read books. Some days they can’t help out soon enough, and others they act like I’m speaking a language they’ve never heard, and my requests for help are met with blank eyes and slack jaws.

If I run on roads, I get a smooth surface, predictability, fewer chances to trip and get hurt. But if I run on trails, I need constant vigilance to shift and adjust, to get over that log or under that branch, to avoid the rocks and ruts and roots. And I get a sharper mind, more precise reflexes, specific strength out of it. Running on terrain that changes constantly, with the weather, with the lighting, with foliage, with the time of day means a quicker, stronger, more flexible body, a mind more attuned and aware.

And that’s why I embrace these small changes that every day brings. There is no room for growth, no possibility for strength if there is no opposition. These forced adjustments, these unpredictabilities, these ever-shifting expectations and priorities and levels of cooperation mean learning to bend without breaking, to re-evaluate and re-direct, to be open to the possibility that nothing could go my way and it’ll still be fine.

The Best Life Ever

Sometimes I think I have the best life ever. Three cute kids. Handsome, talented, ambitious husband. Live in New York City. Spend my time pretty much how I want: writing, running, cooking, reading, playing with small children. I even get to sleep past 8:00am every now and then.

I get to be home with my kids. Watch them grow. Answer their questions. Wipe their snotty noses. I get to hear them laugh and watch them make breakthroughs from rolling over to potty training to building the awesomest train track ever.

I get to be there for my husband, supporting him as he brings home the bacon. A kiss and a smile when he comes in the door. A dish made just because I know it’s one of his favorites. (I know, I know. #sorryfeminists)

I get to do my own things, too. Running longer and faster, jotting down notes for story ideas, taking pictures so it’ll all last longer.

But sometimes I think I have the worst life ever. Three kids in a tiny apartment. No yard. Handsome husband who works really hard. Wasting my time doing things that I only hope, someday, will mean something to someone. And going to bed at 1:00am simply because there were so many dishes to do and crumbs on the floor and books to put away and e-mail to respond to that 1:00 was the first chance I had to sit down, relax, let go.

And I’m the one at home with the kids, the one who has to be patient through the rounds and rounds of circular questioning. The one who has to clean up the accidents. The one who feels lucky to talk to another adult on any given day (besides Micah, of course). I wonder if this consequence or that reward is the right one. If using that tone of voice will alienate my child or get him to pay attention. If I’m on the right track with this homeschool thing, or taking the shortcut to guilt-ridden insanity.

And I’m the one whose talents are a hobby rather than a career. The one who only wishes I could spend more time on them. The one who sits on the couch with the laptop rather than in the office chair in front of the desktop. The one who only wonders if I really could make it in the working world rather than actually making it in the working world.

And I run to get away, I write out my frustrations, I take pictures of what’s happy so those are the images that stay.

And then I choose, again, to have the best life ever. And I’ll chose it again tomorrow. And the next day and the next day and the next day.

I’ll keep choosing the best life ever because that is what I want to have: the best life ever.

The Pursuit

Every night after we get the boys in bed, Micah and I sit down at our respective computers and pursue our goals.

I write and edit photos, sometimes while simultaneously nursing the Little Miss or putting her to sleep. On occasion, I’ll work on a sewing project or some other household chore.

Micah battles with programming and designing, sometimes working on his own projects and sometimes on someone else’s.

While we work we chat on the computer or talk from room to room. When either of us needs a break, we’ll pour some juice or scoop   some ice cream or toast some bread to share. Then we’ll update each other on the progress, swap and critique ideas, or share something completely unrelated, giving our brains a break.

And then we’ll sit and work until we’re done. Or until 11:00. Or until we realize we’re too tired to make any more progress without any more sleep.

It’s not always the most relaxing way to spend our time “off.” It’s not always as productive as we would hope it would be. It’s not something we can see the fruits of right away.

We slog through anyway, hopeful that someday soon we won’t have to slog. Because we’ll have picked up some momentum, we’ll have had some successes, we’ll have earned some more free time.

Or maybe because we’ve given up. Gotten tired. Switched directions.

But right now, despite the slog, it feels good to be trying. Working. Pursuing.

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