Grief Hides in the Church __________.

Fill in the blank, I guess.

Since September of last year, visits to my church have more often than not included crying. Occasionally it’s been graceful, silent tears streaking down my cheeks; but more commonly it’s been body-wracking sobs complete with seemingly desperate gasps for air, resulting from me trying to contain said crying and failing miserably. And snot. There is typically lots and lots of snot. I cannot remember the last time I cleaned my purse and didn’t pull out handfuls of used tissues. It has not been pretty, folks.

So yesterday, when I came across an article entitled Grief Hides in the Church Bathroom, which is well worth your time, for what it’s worth, especially if you’re going to continue reading the tripe I’m writing here; I had a self-righteous moment of ‘thank God it’s not like that in MY church.’

Truth be told, that initial reaction, for me, was, if not completely delusional, then at least lacking in scope. Because in the 12-ish years our family has attended our local mainline, albeit progressive, Lutheran church; there have been countless occasions when I pasted on a smile, walked into church, recited the words in the bulletin, sang the songs, and acted like everything was A-OK. All while simultaneously falling apart on the inside.

I’ve written here about how I love my church because I feel ok admitting to being broken when there. I feel fairly safe typing that now, but 10 years ago; at a time when shit was really hitting the fan in my family*, I most definitely did NOT feel comfortable sharing our brokenness with my church community. It required a helluva lot of cognitive dissonance, because I knew I should have been able to be open about this aspect of our lives at church, but I simply couldn’t do it.

I’d like to be able to blame our silence and secrecy on my faith community, but there were many factors which kept Chris and me from wanting to share this part of our lives with anyone, let alone our church people. Which was ludicrous, because it was consuming damn near each and every one of our thoughts at the time. We were still relatively new to the church, we were still relatively new to parenthood, and we were just starting to feel like we were finding a groove in terms of living/adulting/parenting in Minnesota.** We were, I think, looking to pretend it simply wasn’t happening. We did come to a point where church leadership knew what we were going through, as did some of our closer church friends; but for the most part we didn’t talk about it at the one place we should have felt safe being authentic about our struggles: church.

I have two very specific and vivid church related memories from this period in my life. In one, we were in a circle of parents going around sharing highs and lows, and I stated that we were doing well(!) and had no current issues troubling us. It was such a complete and total crock of shit. At this point I can look back and laugh, but at the time I was thoroughly disgusted with myself for putting on such a facade.

My second vivid memory is communion on Palm Sunday, the day our family member left to self-report to a federal prison. During a prayer, the pastor had said something about praying for the imprisoned (not uncommon in our services). As I ate the bread and as the pastor poured wine into my little ceramic cup, tears streamed down my face and I had to work really damn hard at holding that cup steady so as to not spill wine all over the damn place. Prior to this fall, it’s one of the few times I remember crying in church (I’ve admittedly had a couple of ugly cries on All Saints Sundays). Nevertheless, before finishing our communion ritual, which in our church involves standing in a circle, I pulled myself together, wiped my eyes, and walked back to my seat as if nothing were amiss. It was a rare moment of graceful, contained emotion for me; drastically different from what has occurred in recent months.

So, I’ve apparently reached a healthier place in terms of owning emotion in church. Again, reasons for this are multitude. We’ve all been traversing the awful road of unexpectedly losing a pastor together, we’ve repeatedly been told to honor and share our grief, and I no longer count myself as a new member, which has made it easier for me to be real. Also, depression. Much as I’d have liked to have been able to control my emotions, there’s no way I could have.

And yet.

I still frequently feel a fair amount of disdain with myself for not being able to hold it together. And even though I’ve known it was ok to show emotion, I’ve been in a minority for doing so, because even after over a year of very intentionally building beloved community; our congregation is still largely made up of Scandinavian Lutherans. Speaking in generalities, which one really shouldn’t do (but I will, because it’s my blog), they are a lovely population. That doesn’t mean they aren’t a stoic crew, though.

And, despite any progress I’ve made in this department; most of the folks I worship with have no idea of the angst I’m typically dealing with in terms of raising our teenaged son. Other readers here really don’t either, as I’m still walking a tightrope where I balance his right to privacy with being fully truthful with my writing (though it’s possible I’m going to throw his right to privacy very soon, because this kid is bringing me to my knees on a damn near daily basis). My kids’ right to privacy within our church, though, really shouldn’t be an obstacle. If there’s any safe place to talk about what we’re going through, it’s our church. But even after 12 years there, finding what feels like the appropriate time to share our struggles feels challenging. I still feel a need to be strong, to present a brave face, to tell folks everything is ok, to seem like I have my shit together.

So, does this article represent my church? No, I don’t think it does. I don’t believe there is any expectation of my grief being relegated to the bathroom (or, as pointed out by my friend Katherine, the stairs behind the sanctuary). I believe our community has a pretty profound respect for grief and authenticity.

And yet,

I still find it really hard to share the whole, complete Anne. It’s exponentially easier for me to blather on about it from behind my laptop. Like most other things pertaining to me, it makes zero sense. For now, I suppose it’s good enough to know I’m welcome to be authentic. Now I just need to learn how to make it happen. And oh, my heart, how I’d like to sit down and hash all this out with Pastor Stephanie.

——————————————————————————————————————–

*Reader’s Digest condensed version: we had a close family member in trouble with the law, it was completely unexpected, there was seven or eight years of prison time involved, and it was altogether unpleasant and heartbreaking in any number of ways, and it should be a whole post unto itself, but what the hell; I guess for today it’ll just be a vaguely explanatory footnote

**We LOVE Minnesota, and after nearly 19 years here, I can tell you we wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. But breaking into the local culture was challenging. You can read more in this timeless article.

Music Therapy with a Side of Happiness Infusion

I don’t really have the words to describe the response to my previous post. The interwebs and social media worlds definitely straddle the fence between good and evil in my mind. There are valuable connections to be made from behind my laptop monitor, but of course, it can also be a festering cesspool of hateful garbage at times. But, your outpouring of love, support and commiseration was lovely. It is good to be reminded that there is, indeed, a lot of beauty in this hard world.

Four days after posting, I hopped a plane to Missouri, where my family laid to rest my Grandpa Elzy, effectively wrapping up a generation, as he was the last grandparent Chris and I had. For a slew of reasons, I made the journey without my immediate family. I’m just going to say the relationship between my grandfather and me was complex, and far from ideal. And, he lived a long, full life, so saying goodbye was largely unemotional. It did, however, leave me scatterbrained enough to miss the therapy appointment I had scheduled for the day after my return. Can I use my so-called depressive episode as an excuse for my inability to read a calendar? I hope so.

However, I can tell you there were no calendar mishaps when it was time for me to board a plane to Mexico a week later. Today I am finishing out an entire week of days by the pool, hours upon hours of reading, meals I didn’t have to prepare or clean up after, and four nights of amazing shows, all featuring bad ass women performers. Again, I lack the words to describe it, but can confidently tell you I’m blissed out with gratitude to have had this time.

I’m going to tell you about this music festival now, not in an effort to brag or make you jealous (although it likely will make you jealous), but it was amazing on a number of fronts and needs to be talked about.

For the past two years, Chris and I have attended Avett Brothers At The Beach at the same resort. Both years were phenomenal. All the luxuries of being at an all inclusive resort AND evenings filled with live music by some of our favorite artists. A few months ago the Avett Brothers announced they would not be doing a third year of the festival, and Chris and I had an epic big sad. BUT, a few months later Brandi Carlile announced she would be putting on Girls Just Wanna Weekend, and we did not so much as blink twice before signing up.

Therapy comes in many forms. This week it’s been massive amounts of vitamin D and girl power. In the form of music (Brandi, Indigo Girls, Maren Morris, Lucius, Mavis Staples, Shawn Colvin, KT Tunstall, Ruby Amanfu, and The Secret Sisters), but also in the form of being around so many people who were just so damn happy. The constituency of this event was overwhelmingly female (though Brandi made it crystal clear from the get-go that all would be welcomed, and I don’t think the handful of men here had anything less than a stellar time). In addition to being overwhelmingly female, the crowd was also overwhelmingly lesbian. Chris ended up having to miss the event for a work trip (work is bullshit, y’all), so I ended up here with my friend Angie. It was either fully apparent that we’re just friends, or folks thought we were some sort of self-loathing suppressed version of lesbians who don’t really touch one another. That’s a lame attempt at humor, but what I’m getting at is that we were in the minority as straight women. Which shouldn’t really even be worth noting, but that simply isn’t the world we live in.

Obviously, as a straight white person, being a minority anywhere is pretty damn usual for me. And this event reiterated how much I take that fact for granted. Not that being a minority was a bad thing in this case, in fact it was pretty damn fanatic, because it felt like being in the midst of a large group of people collectively letting out a sigh of exhalation. Of course, it could have just been the sun, or the utter lack of responsibility, but I’m inclined to believe there was more to it than that. I would guess that nearly all of these women have spent at least some share of their life having to be less than truthful about who they are and who they love- a phenomenon I’ve been fortunate to not experience, because I really can’t imagine how that would feel or how I would deal with it.

But there was simply none of that here. The only other people I knew here were Lauren, diaconal minister at my beloved church, and her wife Michelle. Michelle posted on Facebook about how this was effectively the first time they’ve been on vacation together without everyone assuming they were friends or sisters, and how amazing that was. While I have a fairly vivid imagination, I can’t fathom what it would be like if everyone assumed Chris was my brother anytime we went somewhere. I’m fairly certain I’d have a nervous breakdown at best, or completely lose my shit at worst.

So, this occasion, one of the few being a minority wasn’t actually like being a minority at all. At one point, while sitting by the pool, Angie looked over at me and said, “There is so much happiness here that I could just cry.” I couldn’t argue with it.

all photos courtesy of the girls just wanna Facebook page

Except these. These would be Angie and me enjoying dinner with The Indigo Girls. Well, maybe not really with them, but GAH.

My So-Called Segway

If I have a doppelgänger, it’s Claire Danes. Not the bipolar Princeton alum who studied Arabic language and became a CIA agent Homeland version, but rather the angsty teen with questionable fashion sense from My So-Called Life.

While, like Carrie Mathison, I can accurately be described as mental; there is simply no way I could pull off the pantsuits and stilettos like she does. Plus, she’s blond, whereas Angela Chase had lovely auburn locks, much like yours truly. Of course, Angela also typically had pretty perfect makeup, and, as I recall, some sort of on again off again thing with Jared Leto’s character; so I suppose our similarities end with the hair.

At any rate, comparing myself to My So-Called Life‘s Angela Chase seems as reasonable a segue into My So-Called Depressive Episode as any.

By the way, I just learned, as in I looked it up in another tab of my browser, that segue is spelled ‘segue’ and not segway, because segway is but the trademarked name of Paul Blart’s mall cop vehicle. Who knew? What I’m saying here, is that five minutes ago I thought segue was spelled segway. I’ve always prided myself on above average spelling, so this may intensify my so-called depressive episode.

Image result for paul blart segway
This is not a segue.

I digress. As usual. Pay no mind to my persistent inability to focus.

After a fall season where my affect, productivity, and ability to give a shit were even lower than usual (which is really damn low) and a recent knock-down, drag-out fight with my spouse of 20 years (praise Jesus there’s not an easy button for divorce because I was admittedly not thinking too terribly rationally), I had a long overdue appointment with a therapist last Tuesday. Is it normal to burst into tears when someone you’ve never met before says to you, “So, what’s been going on?”. Surely it is, no?? At the end of my bawl fest and after some quality conversation, she talked about how I’m in a ‘depressive episode.’ And I was like, duh, why else would I be sitting here paying $140 to cry on your couch?

My So-Called Depressive episode (I don’t know why the hell I’m calling it that, I guess it seems more sexy than simply ‘depressive episode,’ or perhaps I wanted to be able to break up all this super fun depression talk with some banter about segues and segways) is not likely news to anyone who knows me or even those I’ve never met who’ve simply read this blog over the past few months. Likewise, it wasn’t news to me. And obviously I haven’t worked real heard at hiding it, what with my ever-present scowl and piss poor attitude about everything from packing for a family vacation to Thanksgiving holiday. And those who live with me will readily tell you how difficult I’ve been to live with.

Since I’ve never been normal, I can’t say what a normal person’s response to hearing they’re in the midst of a depressive episode would be. I can tell you, though, that my reaction was mostly one of release. Despite the stigma around mental illness, I guess the former scientist in me was relieved to be able to point to a reason why I frequently found myself rendered catatonic by the conflicting demands of my family: We must keep the kitchen counters and island clean./Don’t move my {homework/camera/notecards/whatever} off the island. And overwhelmed by my inability to get my kid to turn in all his homework. And disproportionately frustrated with my children pitching fits about going to church. And utterly hopeless about the prospect of us surviving the Trumptocracy. And super exasperated with myself for not simply being able to get my shit together.

Prior to last week, my response to all these feelings had been super healthy: Screw it. I can’t make anybody happy. I’m gonna take a nap. And eat a bunch of shitty food. And drink too much wine. Because treating depression with depressants makes as much sense as anything else in my life.

Of course, all this simply made me feel even shittier. I was in what you might call a vicious cycle.

Today I sit here, a week after my initial therapy appointment. I’ve also been to see my doctor (I’ll insert a huge shout out to family practice physicians here, because a good one is worth his or her weight in gold) and tweaked my dosage of sertraline (zoloft), which I’ve been on for close to a decade, I think (remember I’m terrible with time and dates). Simply taking the long overdue step of getting some help and putting a name to what’s been going on in my psyche has been hugely helpful in putting a cog in the wheel of my vicious cycle. Helpful enough, in fact, that I’ve been exercising, and eating better, and drinking way less.

I cannot lie, though, I deal with some twisted form of denial or perhaps unworthiness of the ‘depressed’ descriptor; like I’m somehow taking away something from folks who are really depressed. I mean, I’ve never had thoughts of hurting myself or anyone else. I’ve always managed to keep my kids fed and in clean clothes. So why the hell was I not able to manage this on my own, pull myself up by my bootstraps? It’s a stupid and illogical line of thinking, BUT THIS IS WHAT I DEAL WITH, friends.

I am, for now, able to somewhat get over myself and be grateful that last week was WAY better than the one before, and this one seems to be even better yet. I know such a trend can’t carry on indefinitely, but I fully intend to enjoy the upswing for as long as I’m on it.

See how alike we are? I may be depressed, but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna give up my ability to laugh at me.

Also, my beloved set up a new blog using my wordpress account, and now all my posts say they’re written by Kelly Holt. I guess in this case, that’d be me.

Your Fall Might Have Been a Shitshow If…

Your Holiday ‘Letter’ is Only Four Sentences Long.

I fully admit arrogance when I tell you I’ve sent end of year letters for most years of the past decade, and they’re typically well received, perhaps even looked forward to. Not by everyone, but those in similar stages of life (having been married for a decade or three, deep in the throes of the highs and lows of parenthood, and one or both adults fully steeped in momentum phase of a career) tend to appreciate them. I work hard to strike a balance of boastfulness (Thing one excelled in debate this year! Thing two continues to enjoy soccer and ski racing! Husband continues to be employed! We took lots of great trips!) and self-deprecation of our family (My kids stink! They are so sassy! I am a lazy unemployed mom! The only reason we’re able to take great trips is because my husband travels for work WAYYY too much and amasses frequent flier miles!). They’re a pretty solid reflection of this blog, I guess. Not for everyone. A little too honest. Loved by a small, devoted following, yet maligned by many (particularly those I live with).

Last year there was no letter or even a card. Most likely because we broke a many years long tradition of having our photos taken, usually in a park surrounded by beautiful Minnesota fall foliage; and I wasn’t compelled to sit down and obsess over the perfect template to express our perfect lives and perfectly address and stamp them and send them on their way to our fellow perfect friends and families. And sending a letter without a card seemed a little too unconventional, even for yours truly.

This year, we again missed the boat on having our photos taken. It’s a fact that stirs up a fair amount of guilt in me, because the guy that always took our pictures is old school. He’s probably at least 65 years old and still has a studio, which he had to relocate a few years back so his rent would be lower. The lion’s share of his income results from selling prints, and they’re really damn expensive. I’m talking out of my ass here, per usual, because I don’t really know the ins and outs of modern photographers, but he seems like a dying breed; and we’re doing our part to ensure his extinction. Thus my guilt.

Going two years without sending anything was out of the question even for me, the christened Christmas hater who wants a fake tree, so I sat down to put together a card. I spent about a fourth of the time I historically would choosing photos (even when we had a professional portrait, I always included some of my favorite snap shots from the year) and putting together a card. Partly because I seem to take fewer photos with each passing year (dumb), and partly because my give a shit meter was just barely off zero.

BUT, by golly, I put a card together. And, I sat down to put together a letter. Even just a brief one that could be printed on the back.

But.

If you’re on my mailing list, your card will be in today’s mail. The letter will not, because I simply couldn’t get it done. I lacked the attention span and energy to try and portray 2018 as anything less than a shitshow. And, I feel guilty about it, because the year did give me a lot to be thankful for. My family is here. We are healthy. We traveled extensively. We have everything we need and a whole lot more.

But.

The heavy things felt extra heavy this year. Whether that’s an indicator of the state of the world or my state of mind isn’t something we need to discuss. Because, let’s face it, the answer is pretty obvious.

And yet.

While this post has a pretty damn downtrodden feel to it, I give thanks for being in a place in life where I don’t have to paint everything in rosy shades. And people who meet me where I am, day after whiny day. Friends and family who are ok with ‘good enough.’ Because when I look back at my card, I realize I had photos that would’ve been better if I’d spent a little more time looking. And when I plugged in ‘holt’ to the place where one is to put their family name, I apparently should have had the caps lock on, because it’s lower case in the midst of a line that’s all upper case. It looks super damn silly.

But ya know what? I don’t care. It’s good enough. And so am I and so are you. Here’s to being here. And all the good and bad times that 2019 will inevitably bring. Huge thanks to those who ride the roller coaster with me. I’m grateful.

Yes, WordPress, Shitshow is indeed a compound word in my world.

Context is Everything

Or Why I Suck at Marriage, Part who the hell even knows anymore

This past weekend a LOW GRADE ALERT email appeared in my inbox.  And Chris’ too.  I happened to be sitting in front of my computer when it arrived, and within approximately 1/100th of a nanosecond of seeing the email notification, my phone rang.

“What are we gonna do about this?,” Chris asked me with 100% concern and 0% judgement in his voice.  

My brain is becoming somewhat calcified in my advanced age, and I’m not as good with numbers as I once was, so both those percentages are +/- 100%.  He also enlightened me with many suggestions about how to tackle the problem and what we should do.  

Did we have every desire to fix the situation? Oui, we did.  And perhaps he was getting his we’s and oui‘s mixed up because he was calling from France.  

Let’s back up a bit, shall we?

Late Thursday afternoon I received an email from a teacher saying our child had failed to turn in a very big assignment.  I immediately texted J with my ever present loving maternal nuance and asked ‘What the in the hell is going on with the essay?’.  There may or may not have been more colorful language included.

This would be but a small sample of our correspondence.  And yes, as a matter of fact I DID need the hulu login info right at that very moment.

After a long evening of of supper, probably 30 texts between J and me regarding the status of the essay, why it was late, what was going to happen if he didn’t get it turned in by the end of the evening; him leaving the house sans permission, to go to dunkin’ donuts with his friends while I was out fulfilling my destiny (driving other kid to soccer practice, which is why this all took place via text instead of face to face); he ultimately sent a screenshot showing me it’d been submitted.


Was it my finest evening of parenthood?  Hells to the NO. But nobody died and the essay got turned in.  I would deem this as success on any night, but chose to count it as doubly so since my husband was in France, sleeping soundly after an evening eating onion soup and other fine food (apparently they don’t call it French onion soup there– go figure) and drinking French wine and enjoying dinner with smart people while I was slogging through the parenting trenches alone.  

And prior to France he’d been in North Carolina.  At the time of his call, he’d been gone something like nine out of the previous 12 days.  He was woefully lacking in context.  In hindsight, I can appreciate his concern, but in the moment, my only response to his ‘What are we going to do about this’ inquiry was one of silent, seething rage.  

I do not entirely hate all his work travel.  It has afforded us a comfortable lifestyle in a school district with scads of really entitled white people and top notch schools, lots of frequent flyer miles which have allowed our family to travel internationally on a regular basis, and a beautiful home in a neighborhood full of awesome people. And I don’t always hate having the bed to myself.  

But, despite the fact that Chris being gone quite a bit has been our reality for five-ish years, we have yet to master the ability to maintain healthy communication and co-parenting when we have oceans and multiple time zones between us.  

So…. today’s reason I suck at marriage is because knowing which details to keep him apprised of and which ones to simply deal with on my own is a conundrum I can’t seem to figure out.  I’m not saying this with malice, because his plate is overflowing with shit to deal with, but he absorbs about 60% of what I tell him.  I guess that means I should tell him everything and hope that the important stuff is within that 60% absorption rate.  But if I were to tell him everything, he’d be far less effective at bringing home the bacon (yeah, PETA, I went there); and since it’s been established that I’m bringing home exactly zero bagels (fine PETA, you win); I try to put out fires on my own when I can.

Here are some other contextual pieces that were lacking when I responded to his concerned call from France with rage:

In addition to the essay, I’d also been to Tuesday night’s choir concert and gotten the girl home from the post-show DQ run, and taxied to soccer practice on Wednesday, and taxied to soccer practice on Thursday, and gotten the boy to the Sadie’s dance on Friday and received and dealt with texts later in the evening, while at a concert with friends, about whether or not he could spend the night at his pal’s house, and covered husband’s coaching duties for our son’s basketball team (which included emailing the team and finding a substitute to cover the substitute <that’d be me, if you’re keeping track> since I’d need to taxi the other kid to ski and soccer practices at the same time I was supposed to be substitute coaching).

He also didn’t realize the work I’d done to find a substitute for the substitute basketball coach (which also included some texts when I was simply trying to enjoy The Weepies concert) ended up being in vain, because the soccer player on skis was home sick, and had spent the night sleeping in his spot (next to me), hacking up her lungs. It was a week.

How much of this should he have been in the know about? I dunno. Because I suck at marriage.

At any rate, 2018 work travel is in the books. Woots.

Ohhhh Christmas Tree

It’s time for the Christmas tree saga.  Again. I feel like we just did this 360 days ago.  This blog is literally nothing more than me reporting the same shit year after year.

Having taken place 12 days ago, Thanksgiving falls into the ancient history category because my perceptions of time and space are somewhat skewed from those of normal human beings.  Advent is 25% over, I think? Spring break is, like, tomorrow, so is there really even any point in putting up a tree at this late date?

Of course there is.  In reality, a tree in our house would be up until at least New Year’s Day, which gives us something like 27 days to enjoy a sappy, water guzzling, needle dropping dead plant in our living room.  So LET’S DO THIS.

Except last weekend came and went, and we still don’t have a tree.  We had good intentions, we really did.

On Saturday, while thing #2 was at soccer practice, Chris and I enjoyed a lovely lunch together.  Upon my inquiry as to what his plan was for getting a tree this year, he informed me he might be open to getting a fake tree.

Last year’s post detailed my beloved’s belief that fake trees are for Christmas haters.  A belief he’s espoused for all 20 years of our marriage.  So if I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet I wouldn’t be any more surprised than I was when he expressed an openness to forgoing the real tree this year.

As the conversation progressed, though, we agreed it’d be kind of stupid to buy a fake tree at full price when we could probably get one for half the price in three weeks.  Still, we sauntered into Michael’s (craft stores are my seventh circle of hell, for what it’s worth) and looked at fake trees. I had the hubs right where I wanted him. It was like one of those ‘we’ll just go to the car lot and look’  moments when you come home with a new car.  With just a little cajoling, I’d have had one of those bad boys set up in my living room by day’s end.  

I COULDN’T DO IT, Y’ALL.

The ‘why not wait til it’s on clearance’ refrain was echoing through my mind.  And in a highly uncharacteristic moment of maternal tenderness, I felt like we needed to talk to the kids before making such a choice.  This was damn near as surprising as Chris’ openness to a fake tree, friends.  Since when do I give a rat’s arse what my kids think?

Predictably, Elise was 100% against a fake tree.  Which I can’t blame her for, because she’s been told for all of her 14 years that fake trees are for CHRISTMAS HATERS.  And yet, after church on Sunday, when we drove right past the neighborhood *Catholic church’s tree lot and Chris asked if we should stop and get a tree, she thought the idea was absurd.  “Now??,” she asked, and responded to her own question with a resounding no. Which I echoed because Sunday afternoons are for NAPPING. Not schlepping dead trees into living rooms. Duh.

*Is now the time to tell you I’ve frequently tap danced on the sanctity of my own soul by buying a tree from an anti-choice, anti-marriage equality organization for the sake of convenience??  Well, I have. Because the lot is only a few blocks from my house. And because, really, what says **Emmanuel God with Us more than closed communion?!!

**Is now the time to tell you I’m not really anti-Catholic?  I’m not, I promise.  I actually have some fairly strong leanings toward ‘you do you on Sunday mornings so long as you don’t step on my toes.’  But I also typically would not throw money at an organization whose theologies and political leanings have so little resemblance to my own.  Aaaand, this entire tangent is fairly awful and I hereby apologize to my many Catholic friends. Kind of. Also, Keep on Keepin On, Papa Francisco– call me if you ever wanna hang out because I think you’re dope and your Jesus seems to have a lot in common with my Jesus.  

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.  On Sunday afternoon, when we didn’t yet have a tree in the house, I decided to schedule a delivery service.  We did this last year, and while it wasn’t exactly the Christmas magic they advertised on their website (delivery was three hours late, which meant an elf was delivering a tree to my house at 10pm, said elf was highly flustered about being late and completely terrified of the dog, and the whole affair was a gawky exercise in awkwardness); it at least got a damn tree in the house.  

Alas, when I hadn’t heard a peep from the tree delivering elves more than 24 hours after paypal-ing them $135 (I know, I know), I started worrying all the elves and all the trees had fallen into a crevasse reaching to the center of the earth, probably as a result of those earthquakes in Alaska.  Or that I’d been scammed.  Regardless, I decided I’d better ask for a refund.  Apparently the elves had NOT fallen into a crevasse, but my request for a delivery had.  Upon asking for my money back, I rapidly received a call from a very repentant young man who agreed to return my money.  He also offered to deliver a tree this evening, at a reduced rate. Which was all good and well, except that the traveling peddler is currently on a flight to France. Which really shouldn’t be a deal breaker, but I am officially retired from trying to string lights on a tree by myself.  Or with a grumpy teenager. Still, I could’ve let the elves deliver the tree and just let it sit naked for a week. But, by then, Christmas will be even CLOSER to over, so why even bother?! Do you see what it’s like to live in my mind, folks? Or, God forbid, in a house with me?

I’m fairly certain I’ve never in my adult life had a tree, real or otherwise in my house by December 4th.  And yet, I feel I’m desperately behind.  Which I blame on a freakishly early Thanksgiving and all you normal people who put up your trees the weekend after turkey day and share it on Instagram.  So suck it, calendar and social media.  I’M OK, DAMMIT.  

OK?  Or maybe #3.  Because this is the third week in a row I’ve managed to post.  It’s a Chanukah miracle, my friends.  I’M OK, DAMMIT.

Why I’m Bad at Marriage, Part 2

Happy Anniversary to Me!

Yes, it takes two to tango, but my better half is golfing with clients in North Carolina; and we’ve essentially already celebrated with our recent trip to Croatia.  

I’m ambivalent about the fact that I’m sitting down and writing about marriage again.  On one hand, what can I possibly say that’s new?  On the other hand, it is a significant part of my identity, so it’d make sense that the topic comes up over and over.  And over and over and over. And, on the third hand (don’t do the math), my original plan for this blog, which was to concentrate on the ups and downs of parenting teens, has become entirely too complex.  I have plenty of stories to tell on that front, but am walking a constant tightrope where I’m trying to balance wanting to be honest with you about the struggles with their right to privacy.

I once wrote a post entitled Why I’m Not Good at Marriage, Part 1.  I added the part 1 to the title, because I really did intend for it to be a series.  But, of course, part 2 has yet to be posted. I know y’all have been incessantly hitting the refresh buttons on your browsers in anticipation.  I made a conscious decision to keep you waiting, on the edge of your seats no doubt, in an attempt to create a buzz.

Do those last two sentences smell like poop?  They should, because they’re bullshit. I make very few ‘conscious’ decisions; and I know my five readers have actual lives, with slightly more on their plate than waiting for my next installment of witticisms about my innate inability to be a good spouse.  

At any rate, here’s part 2.

I’m not good at marriage because I haven’t had a real job outside the home for 14 years.  That statement is a bit of an oversimplification. More aptly stated: I’m not good at marriage because I did a piss poor job of choosing a career path for myself when I was 18 (which I sometimes beat myself up over, but then I give myself some grace, because FOR THE LOVE OF GOD I WAS ONLY 18).  I didn’t much enjoy what I did for a living. As a result, when I had a chance to walk away from my job after the birth of our second child, I Usain Bolted my ass outta there and never looked back.

I never really planned on not working and  was a little embarrassed to be unemployed, so I frequently sugar coated the situation by claiming I’d go back to work once the kids started school.  Apparently I meant I’d go back to work once they started college, because now they’re in 8th and 10th grades and I’ve made exactly zero moves toward going back to clinical lab science.  

Unfortunately, though, one of the few things I’m less suited for than working in a lab is running a household.  The house is never picked up, the laundry is rarely folded, beds are made only on days when I wash the sheets (which doesn’t happen as often as it should), and kids are jerks.  Again, maybe an oversimplification. But, kids are kinda jerks. Or, I suppose I should say I find my kids to be jerks.  Which, let’s face it, is because I made them that way, because I’ve been with them way more than anyone else has because I quit my job.  See what a vicious effing circle this is???

How does any of this affect my marriage, you didn’t ask?  Well, when I hung my lab coat on the hook for the final time, I left a fair amount of my resolve there with it.  It wasn’t intentional or anticipated, or brought on by anyone other than myself; but I took on a feeling of ‘less than’ when I quit earning a paycheck.  And instead of dealing with it or talking about it, I kept my mouth shut. I more often than not ceded financial decisions to my bread winning husband, which really wasn’t fair to me OR him.  And for years I felt like I couldn’t say no to anything or anyone. Like my lack of a paycheck left me with an interminable obligation to do anything and everything society asked of me.

There are perhaps folks who can do marriage well when they’re feeling less than, overly obligated, and slightly resentful, but I ain’t one of them. The kicker here, though, is I’d likely have felt all the same shit these past 14 years even if I had been a wage earning member of the human race.  Only I’d have been feeling it for different reasons.  I’d have felt like a ‘less than’ mom if I’d worked full time.  I’d still have felt obligated to always say yes, because that’s what all the nice, good women do.  And I’d still have been resentful- of the time my job took away from my kids.  Having a uterus is, apparently, one hell of a catch-22.

Chris and I have been fortunate. Fortunate we were both too stubborn to give up on us. Fortunate to have given ourselves the time to try and figure married life out.  Fortunate to have had financial security for most of our time together. Fortunate to have had support from people outside of our immediate family. All this good fortune has provided us a safety net without which we wouldn’t be sitting together today.  

Of course, when I say ‘together,’ I’m speaking figuratively.  Because he’s in North Carolina. And I’m just finishing up driving to soccer practice to home to debate practice to soccer practice to home to debate and then finally home again.  So even if we were spending this milestone in the same state, we wouldn’t have seen much of each other. Perhaps that’s the reason we’ve made it this far!

Twenty years of marriage has its advantages.  Like me being comfortable enough to post this pic of us waving two fingers, complete with my fat chin and smudged eye makeup.  WINNING.  Happy 20th anniversary to my person!