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Daily Grind

I sat down wanting to write about so many different things but the moment I put fingers to keyboard everything flew right out of my head. I’m tired, but things are good. Mike’s two classes are going really well. He gets to watch his Anatomy professor cut dead people up into little pieces and I’m only a little bit jealous. Not that I want to see people being cut into little pieces. I don’t mean to the give the wrong (and super creepy) impression. But I have always wanted to dissect a human cadaver, so yeah, I’m a little bit jealous.

Thank you very much to Dori and Kim for donating to support research for Epilepsy! You girls rock my world. If I can convince eight more of you to donate five bucks each, I’ll have reached my very reasonable goal of $100. Come on guys! You can do it! End Epilepsy! Donate $5 HERE.

airsoft

I found this picture the other day while I was sorting through old photos on my computer. I haven’t played airsoft in AGES. It has literally (not figuratively, literally) been months. You like my gun? You know you do. It’s a – um, I have no idea what kind of gun it is. It’s an airsoft gun and it’s rad. My brothers are playing WWII reenactment airsoft this weekend. Ty pointed out that it’s just about the geekiest thing we could ever do because it involves playing dress up. Mike and I aren’t playing because we don’t have 1940’s outfits yet, but we’re putting them together. We’re going to be partisans and I’m going to dress up like this woman:

skirt gun

I can’t imagine the courage it must take to pick up a weapon and fight for your country. God bless our troops. That said, there is something pretty remarkable about a woman in the 1940’s who’d take a gun off a dead man and fight in the resistance. That is some serious nettle. I have no idea if I could ever be that woman, but I can spend an afternoon pretending to be her.

Kids dress up like super heroes, grown-ups dress up like war heroes. Er. Geeky grown-ups dress up like war heroes.

Mike and I are trying out the various fitness clubs in our neighborhood. We’re getting guest passes at all the gyms and hopping from one to the next every week. Last week was Spectrum, this week is LA Fitness, next week is 24-Hr Fitness. We’re trying to decide which one to join, but so far, I’m just thrilled to be getting back into a consistent work-out routine. We haven’t had a good, solid routine down since 2008, so this is a little overdue. Our workout consists of twenty minutes on the treadmill, 10 minutes of abs and calves, followed by thirty minutes of weights. We’re on a three-day split; Sunday legs, Monday arms, Tuesday back, Wednesday legs, Thursday arms, Friday back, Saturday rest. It’s kicking my ass. I can barely walk  up the stairs. I can barely lift my arms over my head. It hurts to sit down, it hurts to stand up, it hurts to breathe. But it hurts so good. I love the feeling of sore, hard-worked muscles. It makes me love my body and how strong it is. Mike is a relentless coach, upping my weight when the exercise is too easy, coaxing me through an extra five reps at the end of a set. I love working the machines together, changing each other’s weights, counting each other’s reps, spotting one another. It’s the only real time we spend together during the week so it feels sacred. I’m a little nervous I’m going to get giant man-muscles, but Mike promises that no one will ever mistake me for a dude. He better be right or else I’ll have the man-muscles to make him sorry he was wrong.

Work is good – it’s busy and getting busier. I feel like I’m spinning a dozen plates but for now they’re all spinning happily away. I just have to keep them going nice and steady. I’m hoping to spend a little time this weekend writing more about Bolivia. It seems so far away now. I am eager to get all my memories down before they evaporate. There are also half-a-dozen projects I’d like to do around this place, and of course, a husband I’d like to spend some time with. And there are chores, too. And lots of pictures I’ve been taking and meaning to post here, but haven’t gotten round to yet. I just want an easy weekend filled with nesty things. I’ll do a project or two, write a little, do a few chores, maybe read a little. What are you doing this weekend? How’s your week? I’ve been talking all about myself. Now tell me, what is new with you?

I had a dream last night

The other night I dreamt that Mike and I were hiking the JMT, something he did with his brother in real life last summer, and that we’re planning to do together summer after next.  In the dream we are crossing a narrow, wobbly bridge, the kind of bridge that seems to be suspended from heaven, that looks like it will evaporate if you stare at it too hard.  The bridge hangs over a ravine, so high up there’s nothing below us but sky.  We’ve made it all the way from one end to the next and now have the arduous task of climbing from the foot of the bridge to the lip of a cliff.

A soft wind blows and the bridge sways.  Clouds lick at our ankles, whisper a warning: Don’t look down!  The end of the bridge is at least three feet from the lip of the cliff; we’ll have to lean forward as we reach up, over our heads, grab hold of the ledge and pull our bodies up and through a small crack in the granite.   The land ahead of us is green, flowering, pristine, exquisite.  We are bathed in dappled pools of sunlight, but the threat of danger cannot be shaken, the risk of losing grip, a slight misstep, a fall to our death.

I close my eyes.  I know I can do this with his help.  I know that as long as he’s there I will be safe.  He tells me where to place my hands in the rocks, how far to lean, which way to stretch.  I listen carefully, let his words guide me.  In a moment my feet leave the bridge and I am suspended, clinging spider-like to the side of the mountain, eyes squeezed shut, Mike’s voice in my ear.  My body feels weightless, the breeze plays with my hair, the sun shines warm on my face.  And then I am there, standing in a field of wild flowers, and Mike is laughing.  We did it.

I woke up thinking, “That is what marriage is like.”

I keep trying to put my finger on that impulse, the half-conscious realization, “that is what marriage is like.”  But I’m not sure what I meant.  In An Open Life, Joseph Campbell says, “Marriage is an ordeal.  It means yielding time and again.  That’s why it’s a sacrament.  You give up your personal simplicity to participate in a relationship, and when you are giving, you are not giving to the other person, you are giving to the relationship.  And if you realize that you are in the relationship just as the other person is, then it becomes life-building; a life fostering and enriching experience, not an impoverishment, because you are giving to somebody else.  This is the challenge of a marriage.  What a beautiful thing is a life together; is growing personalities.  Each helping the other to flower, rather than just moving into the standard archetype.  It’s a wonderful moment when people can make the decision to be quite astonishing and unexpected, rather than to become cookie-mold products.  Failure to recognize that is the main reason for the high divorce rate that we experience today.”

Mike and I will soon celebrate our four-year wedding anniversary.  We haven’t been married very long, in the grand scheme of things, but we have learned a lot in our four years of marriage.  One of the things I’ve learned is how little people in general value marriage.  How quick they are to judge, turn their noses up, crack jokes about tuna casserole and joint bank accounts.  I’ve learned not to tell anyone when Mike and I have an argument because people are too quick to jump to conclusions, suggest other fish in the sea.  I’ve learned to ignore the rolling of eyes when I say I’ll check with Mike before making plans, or when I decline a second round of drinks because my husband is waiting at home.  I’ve learned to ignore the looks of pity, turn my back to the whispers of lost independence, pretend not to notice the comments about how fun I “used to be”.

Being married isn’t about falling in love and having a fancy wedding and then going about life as usual.  Marriage changes everything.  It’s not about me anymore; it’s not about what I want or what’s best for me or what makes me happy.  I’m married now.  It’s about us; it’s about what we want, what’s best for us as a family, what makes us happy.  I promised to love him and honor him though richer, though poorer, through sickness, through health, until my death parts us.  They’ll tell you that about kids – that once you have kids you have to put them before yourself, you have to think about their needs before you think of your own.  That’s true for marriage too.  No, I won’t have that second drink because the man I promised to devote my life to is waiting at home and honestly?  There isn’t anywhere on Earth I’d rather be than curled up in his arms.  I don’t care if you think I used to be more fun because when shit hits the fan and the world starts spinning out of control, he’s the one who’s going to take my hand and help me through it.  He’s the one who promised to love me and honor me and cherish me.  He’s the one.

Marriage is an ordeal.  It’s a union to be valued, treasured, respected and cared for.  It can be difficult and frightening, there is always the risk of failure, a slight misstep, a fall to our death.  But we’re bathed in dappled pools of sunlight, the wind in our hair and a laugh on our lips.  Marriage may not be right for everyone, but it’s perfect for me.

wedding

Four little mice

The other night on my way home from work I bought four little white mice for Meph’s dinner.  It would have made sense to feed the snake as soon as I got home, but I was tired and my work clothes were driving me crazy, so I dropped the box of live mice on our bed while I changed, washed the subway off my hands and got a drink of water.

Several hours later, after I’d finished writing my weekly report and after we’d eaten dinner, washed the dishes, walked the dogs, cleaned the litter box and were brushing our teeth for bed, I remembered about the mice.

I rushed to the bedroom.  The box was right where I’d left it, only now instead of being a rectangular cardboard box, it was a rectangular cardboard box with a large hole chewed out of one corner.  I gasped.

Mike poked his head into the bedroom.  “What’s wrong?”
I whirled around. “Oh god.  I’m so sorry.  I did something really stupid.  I’m so, so, so sorry.”
Concern flashed in Mike’s eyes.  “What happened?”
I shook my head, buried my face in my hands and began a continuous stream of apologies.

That was when Mike saw a mouse scurrying across his pillow.

Luckily, store-bought mice are not as clever and wily as city mice.  The mouse on the pillow was easily scooped up and dropped into Meph’s waiting jaws. We found mice two and three crouching between boxes of camping equipment under the bed and mouse four was in the closet amongst our shoes.  After each little mouse had been collected and eaten, Mike looked at me sternly and asked if I’d learned a lesson.  I nodded enthusiastically.  It’s one thing to have a mouse problem because you live in the city; it’s another thing entirely to have purchased the mice yourself.

Sat on a fence but it didn’t work

I’ve been under a lot of pressure lately.  And not even pressure from an outside source, just pressure from within.  I’ve been kind of a freaked-out blob lately.  It’s not pretty.

Except that’s not entirely true.  “Freaked-out blob” implies that I’ve spent the last two weeks eating ice cream in the same pair of dirty sweat pants day after day.  While that is certainly how I’ve been wanting to spend my time, instead I’ve actually been relatively productive.  I started running again.  High-five!  My plan is to fit into my pants again by Memorial Day.*  I also worked a lot this week.  A lot.  More than I’ve worked in a while.  And?  I went out with friends, saw a movie and had drinks afterward.  Right there is more activity than I have participated in since the end of January.  I should be exhausted, and I am, but I didn’t end there, you guys.  I also had two snow days in the last week, took tons of photos, kept my apartment clean, washed three loads of laundry, balanced my checkbook, updated my monthly budget sheet and ran errands.

And while that’s great and everything, did I really accomplish anything?  You know what I didn’t do?  My taxes.  Also?  I’m just barely keeping in step with assignments from work, getting them done in the nick of time, that is unacceptable I should be weeks ahead on all of my assignments.  Also?  I haven’t trimmed my toenails in two weeks, I haven’t checked my Facebook page since February and I went four days without shaving my legs.  FAIL.

Is this normal?  I mean, I assume that everyone feels the way that I feel, that I’m not the only person who expects to get it all done perfectly all of the time.

It’s a lot of pressure.

So that’s where I’ve been.  I’ve been trying, managing, ticking things off one at a time and breathing deeply, namaste.  In case you didn’t notice, one of things on my to-do list that didn’t get done was –

Hi! I’m posting! And did you like the photos?  It’s Friday!  I posted!  And I have news!

There is a project in the works, a project that came about thanks to writing that’s happened on this site, a career-type job-ish, and it’s really exciting and totally terrifying.  I’ll tell you all about it next week, when it launches, god willing.  Until then, here’s to a weekend that will hopefully have at least one morning where I can sleep in past six.

*Between the end of November, when our CSA ended, and the end of January, I gained enough weight that even my bras stopped fitting. What. The. Expletive.

Blog Lite

P2220072

*she dreams in a ray of sunshine*

Valentine has taken over my writing spot for the week.  She’s keeping it warm for me.  My J-O-B has a lot of stuff going on and no one is more sorry than I am over the fact that posting this week will be very light.  Last night I was so tired that I fell asleep across the laundry pile I was supposed to be folding.  It was only eight o’clock.  The next three days will be equally long and exhausting, so forgive me if you don’t hear anything from me until Friday.

One day, maybe, in a land where dreams come true, I can spend all of my time curled in my blue chair, the morning sun warm on my back, while I write and write and write.  But until blogging pays the bills, it’s off through the rain and cold I go.

xo

The Second Time

<i>Beneath the sunset and over the sea<i/>
Beneath the sunset and over the sea

The second time couples counseling saved my marriage was in the summer of 2008, exactly three years after the most romantic marriage proposal in the history of all marriage proposals, and less than three weeks after the fight that was the biggest fight in the history of all fights.

The recent six-part story I wrote about babies was supposed to be a post about how important counseling can be when a couple stops communicating, but it ended up being a post about babies because that’s just how I roll.  I could sit down to write a story about ketchup going on sale this week and before I know it I’ll be writing a story about babies.  My biological clock has taken over.

Since I never made the point I wanted to make in that post, I’m going to make it now: Couples counseling saved our relationship and then it saved our marriage.  Now I think counseling is a magical elixir for relationships.  (You can read about the first time it saved us here.)

Instead of re-telling you about how not talking about babies nearly ruined my marriage, I’ll just say that Mike and I have learned the hard way.  Twice.  Ignoring our feelings + avoiding communication = disaster. You could try to argue that couples counseling didn’t work the first time, your evidence being that we had to go back a second time, but you’d be incorrect.  The second time we only needed a refresher course.  We lost our way for a minute but we got back on track in a matter of weeks because we had the strong base we’d built in our first round of therapy.  That being said, I have to admit that Mike and I were lucky in that both times we started counseling, we started before we got to the point where we hated each other.  A lot of couples wait too long and by the time they’re in counseling their relationship has been badly damaged, sometimes heartbreakingly, irreversibly so.

A marriage is another person sharing your home.  There’s you, there’s your spouse and there’s your marriage.  Each marriage has its own needs, it’s own peculiarities and it’s own character.  Marriages need to be nurtured, nourished and cared for.  If a marriage is neglected it will not thrive.

I realize I’ve been proselytizing about couples counseling, but far more important than counseling is simply taking care of your couple, however works best for you and your partner.  Counseling was the magical elixir that taught Mike and I how to take care of our relationship.  What is it for you?  What has been the thing that has saved you and your partner, whenever you’ve needed saving?

Still growing

theacorn

treasured little things

In the last moments of our final couples session before we moved to the City, our therapist gave us a tiny silver acorn.  When we’d started couples counseling we’d been dating for close to two years but didn’t know where the relationship was going.  She gave us the acorn to remind us that we had been like the tiny seed, but we’d worked hard and now were a young green sapling.  She told us that we had the tools, the knowledge and the love that we needed to nurture our relationship so that it could grow into a strong old oak.  I keep that silver acorn, with the boutonniere Mike wore on our wedding day, in a vintage ashtray that belonged to my great Aunt Sue.  Symbols of things worthwhile; treasured memories.

***

After Mike and I had been dating for a year, we started having disagreements that would go on for days at a time.  I wouldn’t call them fights because we never threw any punches or anything, but something would come up and one of us would get upset and then the other one would get upset and then things would be really awkward for a while.  After a week or so we’d meet up for coffee and try to talk about it and things would be ok for a few weeks but then something would come up and we would get all weird again.  After several months of being fine one minute and awkward the next, I started worrying that if we didn’t learn how to communicate effectively our relationship would fall apart.

I knew that I loved Michael and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.  I knew this because we had the same values and the same goals, we made each other laugh, we had common interests, we respected one another.  But I couldn’t spend another week in awkward silence, so I suggested we try counseling.

“I would really like to go to couples counseling with you.”
“Why?”
“I think we need to learn how to communicate better.”
“We don’t need counseling.”

And that was that.  For six months.  Six months of dancing around topics we couldn’t talk about because if we did we’d end up in tears or screaming or breaking up.

Then, one beautiful spring morning, Mike looked at me over coffee and said the three little words I’d been longing to hear: “Let’s start counseling.”

We had our first appointment the following Thursday.  Within a few weeks, Thursday’s had become our favorite day of the week.  They were our day.  A day we devoted to spending quality time together and getting to know one another.  Every Thursday I’d leave work early and drive to Sherman Oaks where Michael would be waiting for me with my favorite Starbucks latte. We’d walk arm-in-arm to our therapist’s office and no matter how the session ended, regardless of if we were weeping or glowing, we’d go to In N’ Out for dinner and talk about what came up during the session.  And every Thursday, even if we’d started dinner in tears, by the time we kissed goodbye we were holding hands again.

Talking honestly about one’s feelings can be very difficult, but it’s a significant and important step towards learning how to communicate.  We soon discovered that the thing we were refusing to talk about, the thing that had become the fat ugly beast hovering in the room, the thing causing all those weeks of awkward silences was Marriage.  Mike had asked me to move in with him every month for the last six months and each time I’d said, “I won’t move in with you unless we’re engaged.”  I wanted to marry him but I didn’t want to give the milk away for free.  Mike fully intended to marry me, but he needed to know that we could live together without killing one another.  His hesitance to propose wasn’t a reflection of his feelings for me and my refusal to move in wasn’t a reflection of my feelings for him.  We both wanted to live together and we both wanted to get married, we’d just been too scared to talk about it.

A few months after our first counseling session Michael asked me to move in with him and I said yes.  Two months later we were sitting at the top of the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier and his hands were shaking as he held out a tiny blue velvet box.  The stars were flung over our heads, the night air was cool and filled with the scent of the sea and somewhere someone was playing a guitar.  It was the most romantic proposal in the history of all marriage proposals.  I blame it on couples counseling.

Bury a cold nose in the crook of his shoulder

I am kind of a snob when it comes to my marriage, I just want to admit that right now. I am convinced that my marriage is the best marriage in the world. I’m pretty sure that the way I feel about my marriage is similar to the way I’ll one day feel about my children and the way I currently feel about my dogs. The only reason you don’t hate me is because no matter what I think, I know as well as you do that my marriage is not perfect. No one’s marriage is ever perfect.

Mike and I have worked really hard to be happy. We’ve spent four out of the six years we’ve been together in couples counseling. In college I made the mistake of dating someone I didn’t really like for an entire year because I thought that at some point I was going to have to grow up and pick someone to marry and it might as well be him. I misunderstood “working to keep a relationship happy” for “working to force two people who do not belong together to act like they’re happy”. I know better now. Mike and I went into couples counseling because we saw in each other people with similar values and similar goals; we had a lot in common and we were crazy about each other but we’d stopped communicating without fighting and we didn’t want to be that couple that fights all the time.

See how proud I am of my marriage? All of that up there? Those run-on sentences? That was bragging.

In the last four days I have worked forty hours. Mike, who is still looking for EMT work, has taken sole responsibility for the dogs, the cats, my meals, the laundry, the groceries and everything else it takes to run a household. When I leave for work in the morning my belly is full and there’s a packed lunch in my backpack. When I come home at night there’s hot tea and a bowlful of soup ready and waiting, all of the chores have been done and I am free to spend the rest of my evening doing whatever I want. I curl up with my tea and I write and I write and even though I worked for ten hours I can write for three or four more before collapsing in bed.

All week I have gushed and sighed and squeezed Mike’s hands and kissed his nose and thanked him for taking such magnificent care of me. But it wasn’t until right before dinner tonight, the fourth day of the week, the fourth day of Michael rubbing my feet and pouring more coffee and closing the window so I don’t catch a chill, when he suddenly stood up from painting and wrapped his arms around my waist, that I realized we hadn’t hugged all week. Not once.

See? Even we screw up. We work so hard all week to show each other we care; he cooks, I eat, he cleans, I compliment, but we don’t even hug until Thursday. And all that other stuff is incredible, I get that, I am not complaining, I am absolutely thrilled. But there’s something about a good bear hug, an everything is going to be wonderful hug, a you’re my best friend in the world hug, that just makes a girl feel heavenly.

Hug each other as soon as you see each other after work Our skin has a memory of “good touch” (loved), “bad touch” (abused) and “no touch” (neglected). Couples who say hello with a hug keep their skin bathed in the “good touch,” which can inoculate your spirit against anonymity in the world. –Mark Goulston, PhD How To Be A Happy Couple

We just made a pact to hug every day after work. I need the hugs and he deserves them.

Balancing Act

It’s Friday night. Mike is in his art studio [read: the corner of our living room between his bookcase of school books and my bookcase of plays, where he keeps his easel and paints set up over a tarp on the floor so he doesn’t have to worry about spilling paint. It is my favorite corner in our apartment] and I have, so far, spent my entire evening wandering aimlessly, nervously, unable to sit and write even though it is the only thing I have wanted to do all day. See, I had a schedule today. I started out my week with a precise schedule that I had written to help me manage my time. There are only a few things in life I really care to spend my time on, but there are lots of things I am obligated to spend time on. I need a schedule to help me trudge through the have-to things so I can spend more time on the want-to things.

I’m going to have to go way back to the beginning here, because you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

Shortly after Christmas whirled past, (really? Has it really been weeks since Christmas? Because I still have a stack of un-mailed, un-written Christmas cards) I decided I was absolutely done feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day. I finally learned how to be punctual, and oh my goodness, it feels good. Now I wanted to learn how to manage my time. So I created a schedule that includes an hour a day for yoga, an hour a day for writing, time to prepare meals and walk the dogs, time to primp, time to read, time to work, to every season, turn, turn, turn. (Name that song and I’ll give you a high-five.)  By writing out, hour by hour, all the things I want and am obligated to do in a day, I proved to myself that there really are enough hours in the day to do it all. My goals were not too steep. I decided to start living this schedule the first Monday after the New Year.

That was this past Monday. Not a single day have I managed to follow my new schedule. Monday came pretty close, except that I over-worked and by the time I came home I was so exhausted I couldn’t do anything that required moving my butt off the couch. Every day after that I over-slept in the mornings, over-worked all day, and came home too tired to move. I fell asleep in front of the television every night this week, slept terribly, and couldn’t get up in the mornings. Then when I finally found a few hours to write tonight, I spent most of them wandering aimlessly around my apartment unable to focus.

How do you do it? How do you balance work, chores, exercise, romance, and play? Because I can’t figure it out.