Thanksgiving evening

I’m sitting in a quiet apartment. Everyone else is asleep and the cat is purring, curled up next to my hip. It’s a rare moment of peace in our busy little household and I am enjoying it.

Thanksgiving for us usually involves inviting anyone who doesn’t have anywhere else to be. This year, we didn’t feel like we could do that. We just moved here recently and we don’t know very many people yet. We also don’t have the house completely set up, which makes it more difficult. We decided to keep it small, just the three of us and my mom. She’s vegan, so we adapted most of it to fit her. The turkey, cornbread, and pumpkin pie were not vegan, but the green beans, squash, stuffing that wasn’t inside the bird, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and little wheat loaves were. We also had both vegan and non-vegan gravy. It was all excellent. We also have a ridiculous amount of food left over, but that’s what Thanksgiving is for, right? We do have plans for all of it.

I thought settling into a new place would be harder, somehow. Reno was a difficult place for me to live in many ways. I felt like it didn’t fit me. We have a lot of very dear friends we made while we lived there, but I always felt out of place, somehow, and I had begun to think that perhaps that was simply part of being an adult. I’ve been here for a couple of months now and, even though I still periodically get lost driving around, I feel more at home here than I think I ever did in Reno. I don’t have close friends here, which is sometimes very hard, but the general feeling fits me better, I guess. We live in a very multicultural place. When we go for walks, we end up talking to people about random interesting things. When I go running, I almost always get a comment or two of support from unexpected people. The CSA is year round and the person who works at the stand at the farmer’s market is always very nice and chatty. We talk to the guy who sells eggs and Katja always gets an extra piece of apple or orange from one of the fruit stands. We go climbing twice a week and everyone has been very welcoming and supportive of a three-year-old going up walls. I love my job and I like the people there. I have a gym four minutes away, so if I get there early or I’m feeling like swimming, I have somewhere to go.

I know in some ways it isn’t perfect, but I decided when we started talking about moving that, no matter where we ended up, I would work on seeing the best things first. I didn’t like Reno very much by the end of the time we lived there. I was allergic to everything, I didn’t like how dry it was, and I didn’t feel like I had a place there, like I really fit. I decided to change how I saw the world because being miserable was not improving anything. So, yes, sometimes traffic is nasty. Sometimes the fact that our apartment sucks at airflow unless we turn on the air conditioner can be frustrating. There are little things that I see on a daily basis and I acknowledge them. I am not being a Pollyanna. I have just decided that, since we’ll be here at least five years and possibly many more and I want to be happy, I will accept that some small things will be a pain but I will focus on the positive aspects.

This weekend we’re going to go visit an animal shelter to see if we can volunteer. We found a little local bookstore that we love. We have plants growing on our deck. We eat at the table on the deck quite regularly and it’s very nice to chat with people as they go by below us. We have fresh, good food every week and easy access to a grocery store for anything else we need. Our kitchen is much better than the last one. Everyone seems to be doing well at school and work. We found a local children’s theater that looks interesting. There’s a lot of live music of a wide variety of styles that shows up within half an hour or so of where we live. We have family here, a little distant but not too far, and it’s very nice to see them regularly. I’m also going to check out a running group soon, since I’ve never really run with anyone before.

I’m glad we’re here. I miss people we’ve known for years and I really hope we can keep in touch; I’m working on it. I haven’t made new friends yet, but I remind myself that it took a while to make friends in Reno, too. I have a few acquaintances who may become friends at some point, so there’s hope there. Overall, I think this is a good move for all of us.

I’m feeling very thankful today. Not to a god or higher power, but to our friends and family who have been part of our lives for years. Xander and I have been together for ten years and married for eight, and in that time we have been lucky enough to get to know some truly amazing people. We’re in a new place now and I’m happy to be here. I feel like I fit a little better into the culture here, though I may be imagining it. It feels more open, more comfortable. Perhaps it’s simply that I don’t feel like I’m fighting my way through every day. I like going to work; I like coming home. I think that may be pretty close to my definition of perfection.

I hope anyone reading this has spent the day with people you love and good food.




Fragile quiet

Ever since I started running, I’ve gotten up earlier than the rest of my family. I like running in the mornings, especially since I don’t have the time to talk myself out of it as I do when I run in the evenings. Midday just doesn’t work for me. I sweat a lot and I don’t have access to a shower most days. I will run midday if it’s the only time I can, but I’d prefer to run before the sun comes up.

Rest days are a conundrum. Do I allow myself to sleep in, setting myself up for irritation when the dog wants to go out at her normal time? Do I get up early anyway and feel a little bit like a martyr, getting up when I don’t really need to? Do I split the difference? I’ve tried all three of these, but now that I’ve started meditating in the mornings, I need that time even if it isn’t a day I exercise.

Meditation, as I’ve mentioned, is difficult for me. If our almost-three-year-old is awake, it’s almost impossible. Even if Xander is taking care of her, letting go of thoughts becomes much more difficult when I’m listening to make sure he couldn’t use my backup or listening to her push his buttons in quick succession, just as she does with me sometimes. If I wait until later in the morning to try to meditate, it doesn’t happen. Getting up before everyone else seems a small price for being able to quiet my mind, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes a day.

I don’t get sunshine to help me wake up first thing in the morning, but I drive east every morning so there’s no question about whether I get a dose of sunlight. I’m back to walking at breaks and lunch at work now, so that should help with my state of mind, too. My stress levels are slowly easing back down to something manageable. I’m working on being more present, putting my phone away when I’m with my family, and not trying to multi-task, since it doesn’t seem to work well anyway. I’m better when I’m focused on one thing. I can enjoy it more fully, too, when I can completely engage with what I’m doing.

If it helps my overall well-being and sense of self, I’m willing to adjust my sleep schedule.




Packing

We’re moving, or at least most of us are moving, in a month. We’ve gotten a fair amount of packing done but I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed, partly because there are still a few things, important things, that are not yet settled.

We have a place to live there. It’s a nice place, they have no problem with our rather large dog, and we will have access to a pool. All of those things make me very happy. It’s walking distance from a mall, which, in general, would not make a difference one way or another, but in this case it’s pretty neat; there’s a year round (!) farmer’s market and a movie theater, both of which are likely to get our business. Katja is almost old enough to enjoy going to the movies and we have always enjoyed it, so we’re looking forward to sharing that with her. I think we will be happy there.

In about two weeks we’ll know whether or not I get to move when they do. I’ll either have a job lined up by then or not. If not, the dog and the cat and I will stick around in Reno until I find work there. It isn’t a huge deal, but it will be rather irritating. We can handle it. Xander is more than capable of taking excellent care of Katja, of course. We’ll all be fine. I’ll just miss them quite a lot if that happens. It will eventually work out. It’s hard for me to not know for the next two weeks whether or not I should pack up everything, though.

I’m handling this the way I handle many stressful situations. I’m making lists. Today I started a list of the items that would need to stay with me if I don’t move when they do. It’s actually not a very long list. I don’t need much. Clothes, toiletries, some kitchen stuff, somewhere to sleep, and my favorite electronic devices. My phone is now a wireless hotspot, so the internet connection for the house can be shut down. If I decide I need to watch a silly movie, I can rent one and play it on my computer. I have e-books to read. I can simplify everything for a little while and just focus on getting a job and getting a lot of sleep.

In the meantime, I’m packing. We have 69 boxes packed so far. Many of them, unsurprisingly, are books, but at least they are all in relatively small boxes. We won’t be moving most of our furniture. Bookcases will come with is, but the dining room table won’t work in the new place, we’re looking at a different idea for the dresser in our room, and Katja’s room will be more colorful. We still have some packing work to do, but some of it, like much of the kitchen, will have to wait until we are about a week out from moving. We use the kitchen a lot and love to cook, so it’s hard to pack up very much of it right now.

I’m looking forward to starting over somewhere new. There is a certain amount of worry because we’ll be in a new place with new people and we will have to find out where we fit, but I think it will go well. I like the climate there despite the drought. We will be closer to some of our family and friends. I’m feeling stressed because, despite everything else coming through, a new job for me is still in question.

I suppose that means I should get back to boxes and lists. They make this real and give me a way to get a handle on a big change.




Being enough

I spent ten days on my own in December. Xander and Katja went to visit his family in Arizona. I didn’t have enough paid leave to go, but it seemed like a good thing for Katja to get to spend time with her grandparents and aunts and uncles on that side of the family. I wanted to get a good start on organizing the shed, too, which is rather difficult work when a two-year-old is helping. I also, completely selfishly, wanted to get some sleep, which I did. Katja has good nights and bad nights, but she has had colds and ear infections lately so there were more bad nights than good ones. The lack of sleep had taken its toll and I was somewhat short tempered and not enjoying life very much.

I caught up on sleep. Life is much better now! I also cataloged 31 boxes, gave away nine bags of books to the VA hospital, another four bags of books to the library, and gave away some things we will not use again to a local charity. All of that was very good and made me feel accomplished, satisfied, and organized.

I also learned a few things. The primary one is that I can relax some. Between the two of us, Xander and I have the house running pretty smoothly. I like making lists, but I feel bad if I don’t finish the things on the list in the time frame I set for myself. It all gets done eventually, though, and adding guilt to my life is not useful. I can run laundry during the week and have more time on weekends that is stress-free to hang out with Katja. I have a job that doesn’t require me to bring work home; I should take advantage of that. Once Katja is in bed, if Xander is home, I can go to the gym for my 20 minute workout. I don’t have to get up really early to work out because I can’t work out for very long at the moment. Sleep is much more important than I thought, too. Life got a lot better after a couple of days of actually sleeping eight unbroken hours.

I’ve been thinking about all of the changes coming up in the next year. We’ll be moving somewhere, so there’s a new beginning in some ways. With any luck it will be somewhere it rains more than it does here. Katja is growing and changing, talking a lot, singing and dancing and climbing and running, and she’ll keep getting more interesting. I’m focusing on the good things by writing one good thing about every day because this helps me remember those things instead of dwelling on things that irritate me or make me angry. Yesterday, for instance, Katja and I went for a long, leisurely walk, had lunch, and walked back to the car. We watched ducks and geese, stomped in ice, and pushed lots of buttons. We didn’t hurry at all and it was incredibly nice.

Much of my life I’ve tried to be perfect. I was angry at myself for my SAT score, which was not as good as my older brother’s score, but I didn’t know that it was actually quite high. I got smacked upside the head by a couple of friends of mine for that one. There is always someone better, someone smarter, someone stronger or faster or something. In the past year I started getting through this. I ran a half marathon. I wasn’t anywhere near first, I wasn’t last, and my main goal was to finish, which I did. While I was lying on the couch recovering from hip surgery I thought a lot about my need to be perfect and organized and on top of everything. I realized, slowly, that it wasn’t actually making my life better. Yes, it’s good to be organized, but I was getting very stressed about it if things didn’t go exactly to plan, if I got behind in the morning or forgot something in Katja’s bag.

It’s okay. I’m enough. Xander and I together are enough.

When Xander went to England for ten days and I stayed home with Katja, I was worried that I wouldn’t be very good at being a single parent. It ended up being okay. We both missed him a lot, of course, but we didn’t get too frustrated at each other and we mostly enjoyed each other. While he and Katja were in Arizona, I missed them, but I also knew that they were fine and having fun.

I’m working on building a life with less unnecessary stress. It’s great if I lay out my clothes the night before, but if it doesn’t happen, I don’t have to get out of bed to handle it. It can wait. If I have a bad day, I can stay home that night instead of pushing and going to the gym anyway. I took a nap with Katja yesterday, about an hour and a half, and because we spent most of the day out of the house and I was busy last night, the kitchen wasn’t perfect this morning. I almost twitched about it, then remembered that no one really cares. It will get done tonight and it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It was more important to go for a walk with her, get some rest, then have fun running errands than it was to stress about whether there were a few dishes that needed to be done.

This year I will try to remember something my mother says a lot about parenting. “You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be good enough.” I’m not perfect. I never will be perfect. That’s okay, though. No one expects perfection except, perhaps, me, and I can work on getting over that. There is a website/series of interviews that is helping me here, which you might want to check out.

I hope this year you are enough for yourself.




Our holiday feast!

We have created our own holiday to celebrate; ours is four days long and begins two weeks after Thanksgiving. We both enjoy cooking, so one thing that was important to us was to have a feast day where we can make delicious, beautiful food and share it with people we care about. This was our first year doing this and we had a wonderful time. I wanted to share it with all of you, too.

First, the menu. We printed it on nice paper. A lot of thought went into it and there were multiple drafts before we settled on these foods, but we were both very pleased with the outcome.

menu_cards1Xander put a lot of work into making this look nice; I love it.

The amuse-bouche was an idea that came from my mom, which she had at my aunt and uncle’s house. It was an excellent idea. The beets were roasted, then sliced, and softened goat cheese was spread between the layers. The colors came out beautifully. There was a concern that the chevre would turn pink, but we decided that we rather liked that idea. Beets are one of those foods that people either love or hate, so not everyone loved them, but they came out nicely. They were topped with creme fraiche.

amusebouche

The hors d’oeuvres were fun to make. Popovers look impressive but are quite easy to put together. These were especially good because a small cube of Gruyere cheese was put into the batter for each popover right before they went into the oven. The cheese melted into the popover, then extra grated cheese was added to the top just as they came out of the oven. The wine, a Pinot Grigiot, was good; I don’t know enough about wine to comment on it much.

horsdoeuvres

We both like soups, so this seemed like a nice addition to the meal. We have some very nice smoked Hungarian paprika which balanced the sweetness of the butternut squash. It was smooth and complex. The wine, a Gewürztraminer, was sweet to start and then dry.

entree

The trou normand was Xander’s idea. Pear and hazelnut salad with blue cheese. The blue cheese was softened by the nuts and the pears, and the sharpness of the endive was really good. It was quite beautiful; I am not sure that the picture caught it well.

trounormand

The main dish was vegetarian this year because one of our guests did not eat meat. I made the raviolis. It’s the first time I’ve made pasta. It was a pain, but once I got into the rhythm of it, I ended up really enjoying it. We have square cookie cutters, so I used those to make sure the size was consistent. The filling was mushrooms, onions, oregano, thyme, and a little bit of salt and pepper. Xander made the brown butter sage sauce. A dollop of creme fraiche and toasted pine nuts rounded it out. The wine was a burgundy, strong enough to stand up to the mushrooms and sage.

platprincipal

The fruit and cheese plate was the most beautiful of the courses, I think. Xander chose a wide assortment of cheese and we had fun choosing fruits that would both taste good and be pretty. The ice wine was sweet and cold. Many people don’t know much about ice wine, so this was the first time a few of our guests had ever tasted it.

fromageetfruits

The dessert was a rich chocolate cake. It may not look quite as impressive as some of the other courses, but the flavors were surprising – not just the chocolate, but the stout and the frosting, which was rich in its own right. A deep, dark flavor to end the main meal.

dessert

The final course did not get pictures. People picked coffee, tea, or hot chocolate (made with good chocolate and heavy cream, among other things) to drink. The biscotti was Xander’s idea and my creation: cardamom and candied ginger. Something to drink, something light and crunchy to finish off the meal, and another half an hour or so of chatting and enjoying excellent company.

We both enjoyed doing this. It will definitely happen again.




Anniversary

Seven years ago, Xander and I got married. I still think it’s the best decision I have ever made.

Over the last seven years we have been through wonderful and awful things. I don’t feel much like detailing them at the moment, but it has certainly been an interesting experience. Through it all, we have managed to face the world together, bound by love, bad puns, silly jokes, and a deep appreciation of and for each other.

I’m happy. Much of my life, I have struggled just to get to content. Anytime I stop and think about it these days, though, I’m actually happy. Life isn’t utopian, if course, but even on my worst days Xander can make me laugh. Watching him with Katja is amazing; he’s a wonderful father and she adores him.

He’s not perfect. Neither am I. I won’t claim that we are perfect together, either, but the life we share is a good one and the love we share is the best thing I have ever experienced.

Happy anniversary, Xander. Here’s to many more years of silliness, love, and putting up with each others’ foibles.




Ramble

Today has been somewhat difficult. I didn’t sleep well last night, though the dreams were certainly amusing and weird. Physical therapy this morning was hard because I mentioned that one of the exercises had become easy. They replaced it with single-leg squats. Those weren’t easy. My hip ached off and on today and I was pretty tired at work, so the day dragged. I’m probably going to go to bed early tonight.

I’m having mixed feelings on a few subjects. I want to work out every day to the extent that I can, but I also get so tired so much of the time that motivation for more than three days a week doesn’t always work. I am really looking forward to moving next summer, wherever we end up, but it’s starting to sink in exactly how much I’m going to miss people. I won’t miss the place; being allergic to everything that grows here  has not made me interested in staying much longer. It is beautiful, in its own way, but I miss the nice green that comes from a place that actually has water. I do love that lavender grows so easily, but that doesn’t offset the lack of trees. I’m also not looking forward to the experience of moving, as that is never fun. On the other hand, we have found a good home for our piano and we know it will be enjoyed, so I feel less unhappy about leaving it here. Moving a piano is seldom worth it, especially since we may be moving somewhere small.

There are big things coming, but they are things I don’t have much control over right now. We won’t know until spring where we’re going to move, most likely, and then we’ll have to get everything set up and done in the space of three or four months. I like having control, but I’m working on letting this go. Wherever we move, I’ll start job hunting and hopefully find a job I like as much as I like the work I’m doing now.

I’m going to attempt to make jambalaya again in a few weeks, brown roux and all. I made it once a few years ago for someone but we didn’t keep any for ourselves. I kind of made it up that time, so I’ll do the same again and hope it works out. Other than the roux, it’s pretty forgiving.

We have family coming in for Thanksgiving, a turkey already ordered, and plans for a feast, and I always look forward to that holiday.

Life is good right now, but I’m feeling antsy. I know we have a big move coming up and I feel helpless to plan for it yet. We are all doing well in general but I’m still not all the way back to normal; I’m slow and sometimes in pain. I want everything to go smoothly and I seem to be the golem in the gears, slowing things down.

This isn’t depression. I’ve been there and I remember the feeling of waking up every morning and not wanting to do anything. It felt like a grey wool blanket was draped over everything. This isn’t that feeling. This is almost irritation. While I don’t want to miss any of the next several months, while I will miss terribly so many friends, I also want to move on and start our new adventure. If I think of it as an adventure, moving someplace completely new to me is slightly less terrifying. We have so much that needs to get sorted out and organized; some of it needs to just go away. Depending on where we move, we might not even be keeping most of our furniture. There are a lot of questions right now and not many answers, and I have a constant awareness of the impending nature of the move. It’s like one grain of sand in my shoe. I can feel it and it’s irritating but it isn’t bad enough to stop and take off the shoe. Not that I could get rid of this irritation, but you get the idea, I hope.

I should get some sleep. That generally helps with shoving the irritation into the background rather than letting it take over my brain and color everything I’m thinking about. I hope you don’t have too many grains of sand on your end.




An hour or so

This week has been long. Three nights in a row Katja ended up staying up until a little after 9. She’s usually in bed by 7:30 or so and then I have down time. All three nights were my choice, so it wasn’t a bad thing, but I’m used to having a little time in there to catch up on housework and relax. I didn’t realize how much that down time meant until I didn’t have it for three days, however much fun those three days were.

To add to that, Katja doesn’t sleep very well right now. She’s up a few times a night. I sleep fairly lightly. While Xander will get up with no complaint, I wake up first anyway so I generally just get up. I don’t do terribly well with not enough sleep; I get crabby and easily frustrated. Add those two things together and I’ve been just the tiniest bit of a pain to be around this weekend. I got to the gym this morning, which helped a little, but I still felt very stressed.

Xander made it better. This afternoon when I tucked Katja in for her nap, he asked if I wanted to go see a movie or get out of the house for a few hours. I didn’t feel like watching a movie, but I decided to take him up on it. I went wandering through a store for a little while, then went to a coffee shop and had a pot of tea while reading a book. I picked up some good olive oil and balsamic vinegar, too. I felt good. I read five (short) chapters of a good book, drank very good tea, ate a chocolate croissant, and felt completely decadent and relaxed.

When I got home, Xander said I’d been gone for a little over an hour. Katja woke up about ten minutes before I got home.

I am still happy. I feel calm and refreshed. I took time to do things I wanted to do without thinking about anyone else. I didn’t feel selfish about it because this was freely offered.

Life is so very, very good right now, and my husband is the best person ever.




FAI: two months

Eight weeks after the surgery, I’m on one crutch, swimming and once in a while kicking, doing upper body work at the gym, doing some biking on stationary bikes, and still rather sore some days. I can’t do leg lifts easily yet because the surgery site gets painful. I am allowed to walk around with no crutch in the mornings as long as I don’t overdo it, as long as it doesn’t get sore, and as long as I’m careful. It’s very freeing to be off of crutches at least for a little while, though it does get sore.

The doctor said 2-3 months before I’m mostly back to normal. I’m expecting three months. I was also told I wouldn’t run for 6 months to a year, and at this point I’m expecting a year. The labrum was damaged and has limited blood supply, so that healing will take a while. I will swim and bike and do weight training and just not stress it as much as possible. I need to heal completely, and if that means not running for longer than I’d like, that’s life.

In the meantime, the rest of life is going well. Katja is helping me bake; she mixes and pours and  has fun. She’s talking a lot. Her favorite characters at the moment are Batman, Hawk Girl, and Tigger. I’m pretty sure she likes Tigger because she’s so much like him – so much bouncing! Xander is going to be visiting England soon to present his work and I couldn’t be more proud of him. He’s pretty amazing. I just made my first batch of English muffins, which is a small thing but I always wanted to learn. Despite the slowly healing hip and the frustration involved, life is pretty good right now.




Failing

The definition of success, for me, is very strongly rooted in not having to worry about certain things.

It includes being completely out of debt, being able to go buy something minor without having to save up for it, and being able to splurge and not worry.

We’re not there yet.

I realized recently that I’m having a hard time with my definition of success. The likelihood of being completely out of debt is not high; cars and houses get financed, and, while we are paying off the car quickly, if we ever want to buy a house again, we will be solidly in debt for years. At the moment, though, that’s not an issue. We’re renting and I’m happy with that. When we move, we will give notice and it won’t be a hassle. If we still owned the house, it would be much more complicated. I’m not sure when or if we will decide to buy another house, but it could be a long time. The next five or six years will be in one place and then we will probably be moving again. We won’t be settled for a while. I’m looking forward to the adventurous aspects of those years and I plan to take advantage of being somewhere new. We aren’t likely to buy a house in that time, though, because we don’t know how long we will be anywhere.

I’m trying to avoid being angry with myself for not being successful by my own definition at this point in my life.  I know that it isn’t a reasonable definition, but we have been scrimping and saving for years now. Every paycheck is budgeted down to the penny. It would be very nice to have money rattling around at the end of the month. Not that we’re desperate; far from it. We have enough to cover everything we need. I just sometimes want to be frivolous, and that doesn’t fit very well right now.

I think, while paying off all debts is important, I need to focus on other successes. We have enough, despite being somewhat limited financially. I keep everything organized. We are seldom rushed and we enjoy our time together. Katja is happy and healthy, funny, and developing well. She’s learning new words on a daily basis (note to self: limit the use of the word “dammit!” while playing video games!) and she is almost always a pleasure to be around. Xander has completed his Master’s degree and I completed mine a while ago, so we’re pretty well educated. We have a decently behaved dog and a very sweet cat. We have at least a year to get everything organized for wherever we’ll end up next.

We’re not financially on top of the world, but we aren’t badly off, either. Under other definitions, though, we are successful. We are happy. We are doing what we enjoy and we  are working towards our goals. Those are all important.

I have not yet figured out how to rewrite scripts in my head, but I think writing everything out helps to an extent. I need to shift my expectations to ideas which allow me to accept my/our successes now rather than being upset for goals we have not yet reached.