Sunday, February 28, 2010

Quiet Evening

It's been a quiet, restful evening. We went to my parents' house this afternoon for my sister's birthday party. Ergo, we ate well, celebrated, and didn't have any dinner dishes!

When we got home, I put Eleanor to bed right away. Keith wasn't feeling very well, so by the time I was finished singing lullabies to Eleanor, Keith was also tucked into bed. I (with the pets' company) have been on my own since about 8 o'clock.

I have to admit, I've enjoyed it. Usually, I have a conflict on Sunday evening. On the one hand, I want to spend time with Keith and enjoy the waning hours of the weekend. On the other hand, I'm always tempted to try and run around in circles, getting done all of my list items that I hadn't gotten to earlier—or at least as many as possible.

But tonight, no such dilemma! I've been washing clothes, folding laundry, balancing the checkbook, and blogging of course! All while enjoying a nice glass of red wine and watching a few Season One episodes of "Bones."

I hope Keith wakes up tomorrow, feeling better. And I will be happy to take it easy tomorrow night, relaxing on the couch together. Especially since I got so much done tonight!

Friday, February 26, 2010

How Surreal

In the James Cameron interview on "Fresh Air," when talking about dreams he also said that surrealists directly translated their dreams onto canvas. That was their goal.

This makes me want to go back and give surrealism another try. I've never been a big fan, really. I'm not one of those people that argues surrealists paint such wacky images because they can't paint realistically. It's just that, generally, that style of painting has never appealed to me.

Who sees clocks melting in the sun in their dreams? For me, the reason dreams are so strange is because of the elements only I know are out of place. That whole, "Okay, so it started out in our house. But actually, it wasn't anything like our real house. It was bigger and the furniture was all different and we lived in California. But in the dream I just knew it was our house." But if I tried to paint that (putting aside the issue that I have no talent for painting whatsoever), it would just look like a big house in California. Out of my personal context, the weirdness just wouldn't be there.

On the other hand, I do really like Magritte's work, and he is also considered a surrealist. To me, his work does a better job of emphasizing the surrealist aspect of dreams. The fact that, in a dream, everything seems perfectly logical. It's only after one wakes up and tries to describe the dream that one realizes how odd it is to have an eye in the middle of one's crepe.

Image credit: Wikipedia

The Possibilities of Dreams

I heard a very interesting interview with James Cameron on NPR's "Fresh Air" the other week. He was talking about how many of his best ideas for Avatar came to him in dreams. He then mentioned in passing that many children can fly in their dreams, but adults typically can't.

What does this say about the infinite possibilities of childhood, and the restraints we, or circumstances, place on us as adults? To a child that believes in Santa Claus, Harry Potter, and the monster under the bed, it's an easy thing to dream of flying off to Neverneverland or on her own personal adventures. Anything could happen at any point in time.

It makes me wonder what I dream about these days, if I even know. Do I dream about work? Sometimes I know I do. Do I dream about cleaning? Or walking the dog? Surely I dream up unusual situations too, right? I might not fly, but maybe I am side-by-side with Matt Damon, destroying our enemies with nothing other than hardened ninja fists and razor-sharp minds. If I kept a dream journal, would I find it elucidating or depressing?

The comparison also makes me think about why we get nostalgic, particularly as Keith and I are coming up on our 10-year college reunion. I loved being a college student, and almost everything about being on a college campus. I loved taking classes, learning new things, eating from the cafeteria and not having to cook or wash dishes. I loved meeting new people and, really, the newness of everything—knowing that new experiences were always just around the corner.

But I am very content with my life now, too. I have a wonderful husband, daughter, and extended family. I feel incredibly blessed and fulfilled. So why do I get so nostalgic, thinking about the good old days?

I've decided that, for me personally, sometimes it's hard to admit that the possibilities of our lives are dwindling as we get older. When I was 22 and a senior in college, I could do ANYTHING, and I could do it by age 30. When was I going to get married and have kids? Where would I settle down? What kind of adventures would I have? Just like in dreams, the possibilities were endless. One day, I would imagine myself as a world traveler with no permanent home, just a duffel bag on my back. The next, I would sit in class and imagine my dream house, right down to the kitchen cabinet hardware and workout room paint color. I could see diametrically opposed possibilities as equally appealing, because they each appealed to a different side of me.

But now I have a house, and a career, and a family. I don't get to wonder about whether I'll travel or marry or have kids, because it's all been done. I feel like my daydreams now revolve around paying off students loans or the home equity line of credit. Sometimes I feel like my dreams are smaller, because many of the big questions in my life already have answers.

So I don't think I feel nostalgic for the actual college years. I miss the possibility inherent in the years after college. Much of which has been replaced by actual fact.

How do I recapture that sense of possibility? Maybe I'm too short-sighted. Maybe I need to be thinking more about Maslow's Hierarchy of needs, and instead of looking at concrete, external milestones (marriage, children, house, career), I need to focus on the internal milestones. There's still PLENTY of potential for personal growth. Maybe I should be fantasizing about finally writing (and getting published!) a novel. Being happy with myself on a regular basis. More traveling, to further reaches of the Earth. Learning a new language, or picking up a new hobby.

Maybe I will learn to fly in my dreams.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Yes, Seriously Mommy!

Eleanor is nearly 19 months old now, and talking up a storm. It's been fascinating to observe as she learns more and more words, and adds them to her working vocabulary.

The earliest words were very elementary: "Mama" and "Dada" and "eat" or "baba" (baby). Then she started to get into animal sounds. Even now, she still says "woof" when talking about the dog, or "meow" and points to the cabinet where we keep the cat treats, indicating she wants to call the kitten. She also does pretty decent elephant and monkey imitations, even though we don't have any of those wandering about the house.

And of course, there's the whole category of sounds that I'm pretty sure are words, in Eleanor-land, but I can't always interpret them. Sometimes it's because it's a word I haven't taught her; one of the earliest was "touch" because her regular caregiver always talked about "touch gentle" with the animals. Since I had never used that particular phrase, it took me a few days of her pointing to the pets and saying "utch!" before I made the connection. It probably took me a week before I realized that "gogo" was actually "cocoa," as my sister Erin calls it. Keith and I call it "hot chocolate." Currently I haven't yet figured out what "nah-ni" or "ase" is, so if you have any guesses feel free to pass them along.

I am fascinated by the fact that, before learning new words, she sometimes goes back and refines the words she already knows. "Baba" disappeared a long time ago, to be replaced by "baby." Just this week, she has started using "Mommy" and "Daddy" instead of "Mama" and "Dada." She knows at least 4 ways to say "no" (no, nope, head shake, and uh-uh), and uses them much more often than those other words—: yeah, yes, yuppa (her own invention), yup, and the affirmative head shake.

So she is using a lot of the words that I would expect a 1-1/2 year old to say, wherever she learned them. But other ones come out of the blue. Her hand got stuck the other day when I was dressing her and she looked at me and said, "Thumb!" When did she learn "thumb"? I suppose that my being sick lately is the cause of her learning "tissue," with pretty good pronunciation. But definitely the biggest surprise came the other night when we were in the kitchen before dinner.

Keith was telling me that his longest night run (sometimes he goes out after Eleanor is in bed, so heading out the door a bit after 7pm) is going to be 14 miles.

I shook my head. "Seriously?"

Suddenly, a little voice piped up. "See-oh-seely?"

Keith and I stared at Eleanor.

"Did you just say 'seriously'?" I asked.

"Yuppa," Eleanor confirmed.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Welcome to my Boudoir

Before Eleanor was born, we had a guest bedroom and a study. After the guest bedroom became the nursery, the study became the study/guest bedroom with a double bed squished next to the bookshelves and desk. It's not spacious, but it gets the job done.

Back when we had a guest bedroom, it was the perfect dressing room or boudoir. We could lay out workout clothes for the following morning, or start on Wednesday, packing for a weekend trip. We could stash clean laundry in there until we got around to putting it away, or sort the piles of dirty laundry. It was a much more useful space than I would have expected a guest bedroom to be.

Of course, now it's much smaller. We still have an extra room, because the study/spare bedroom is rarely used. But for whatever reason it just doesn't fill the same purpose as well. I guess the study used to collect all of the spare bits of paper and the guest bedroom used to collect clothes and bags. Now that it all ends up in the same place, chaos has ensued. Particularly during the winter, we just close off the heater vent and keep that door shut. It's too painful to look at.

Every once in a while, we'll get the time and energy to sort through everything, and put things back in their proper places. I breathe a sigh of relief and contentment at the clean, uncluttered space. And as soon as I turn around, the stuff starts accumulating again.

Other people have this problem, right? I used to think a 3-bedroom house would be the perfect size for a family of 4. But now I'm not so sure. If we don't even have the study/spare bedroom, where will the clothes and bits of paper go?

So long, dining room table!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Chilly, Heart-warming Valentine's Day

Keith and I have never been big on celebrating Valentine's Day. I'd like to think it's because we make an effort to tell each other all the time how much we mean to each other .... but it could also possibly be because we're lazy and/or cheap. Either way, Valentine's Day has long since fallen off the radar.

Except, of course, now that we're busy working parents, it's a lot harder to spend time together. So this year, it felt like a good excuse to hang out for a few hours. I've been even worse than usual, in 2010, about scheduling our weekends full of "to-do list" items and leaving no downtime.

We got a babysitter for a few hours on Saturday afternoon. I thought of a few different potential activities and ran them by Keith. They ranged from very physical (hiking) to very non-physical (going to a movie) and in-between (ice-skating or going to a museum). I wasn't sure what Keith would want to do, since he ran 18 miles that morning, but even so it didn't really surprise me when he jumped at a chance to go hiking in the snow.

First, of course, we swung by Penn Station for some delicious, hot, greasy subs. Thereby fortified, we headed out into the great white wilderness. (Otherwise known as a local park.)

I'm trying to remember the last time I saw the ground. It's been pretty snowy here for quite some time. There was a ton of snow .... and it finally all melted for a day or so, and then it snowed again. For the past few weeks, it's just been fresh snow on top of old snow. It was snowing on Saturday, when we were hiking, and it's snowing right now. We're getting to the point where it's hard to shovel because there's nowhere to throw the snow. Ah, Cleveland winters!

I wasn't really sure how I would do with a snowy winter hike. I had suggested it because I thought Keith would enjoy it, but as I've mentioned previously, I'm always cold and longing to be warmer. But maybe it would be better on a hike because I'm expecting to be cold? Unlike sitting on the couch in the living room, when I would hope to be a little more comfortable.

And I did do better than I expected with embracing the cold. It was in the upper 20s/lower 30s, which is as balmy as one can get on a snow hike. We were pretty well bundled up. Every once in a while, a chilly gust of wind would cut through me, but for the most part, especially once we started hiking, I was fine.

One thing we had failed to take into account for a snow hike is how hard it was to find—and stick to—the trail. We had never been to the North Chagrin Reservation in the Cleveland Metroparks before, so we hadn't seen any of the trails before. Once we arrived at the park we only had an hour to hike, and wasted the first 15 minutes or so wandering around, trying to figure out if we were on the trail or not. At one point, we were walking on the frozen edges of the Chagrin River, without realizing it. As soon as Keith noticed the running water nearby, we headed back up and away from potential ice disaster.

It was a lovely, peaceful, relaxing afternoon. Sometimes we talked, but mostly we just hiked and enjoyed looking at the winter beauty of nature. I kept thinking how much Eleanor would enjoy it; however, I probably also would have fallen off the trail and rolled into the river if I were trying to carry her and hike at the same time. So maybe next year, when she can walk better in the snow, we'll go back as a family.

I'm glad we made the effort to do something for Valentine's Day. I'm sorry it was such an effort, on my part, to stop trying to get things done and just enjoy hanging out. I hope we do it again soon.

Monday, February 15, 2010


For Christmas, my wonderful in-laws gave me a gift certificate for a nearby spa. Just a few weeks ago, I finally put it to good use for a hot stone massage.

I've always wanted a hot stone massage. It just looks so ... warm. And warm is something that I haven't been since August or so.

My massage was scheduled for Saturday afternoon. I prepared for it by bundling up. I wanted to try and maintain that warmth as long as I could. I actually wore thermal underwear under jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt and a hooded sweatshirt and a winter coat, complete with scarf, gloves, and hat. I wanted to be warm for one afternoon, at least.

Walking in, it was just the atmosphere one would expect. Soft lighting, gentle music, and a soothing ambiance surrounded me. After 10 minutes of disrobing, I slipped under the soft, fleecy sheets on the massage table and eagerly awaited the masseuse .....

An hour later, the massage was over. I still haven't decided what I thought. I guess maybe I wanted to spend an hour in a sauna? Because I wasn't as WARM as I thought I'd be, from head to toe. Towards the end, when my back was exposed, I was actually getting a bit chilly. And you know that picture you always see (like above), where there's the rocks down a person's spine? She never did that! I wanted that.

In retrospect, it was nice and relaxing. But I guess I was expecting/hoping that the relaxation would carry over into my life for a bit. For the next week, or a few days, or the rest of the afternoon at least. Instead, I got home and Keith immediately handed over Eleanor. E and I went grocery shopping so that Keith could get the cleaning done. Back to normal life.

On the plus side, I still have $11 left on my gift certificate. So maybe I can get a mini-manicure when I'm on Spring Break in March. Even if the relaxation doesn't last very long, the nail polish is usually quite high quality!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Modern Marriage

I was listening to NPR in the car the other day, and heard a show about the Modern Marriage. It focused on the fact that, traditionally, women increased their financial stability by marrying men who were breadwinners and higher educated than themselves (because the women weren't very education to begin with). Men, on the other hand, worsened their finances by marrying and taking on that extra burden of providing for a wife and family.

However, this show was discussing that "men are increasingly likely to marry women who make more than they do, according to a new study on the changing economics of marriage." The one guest suggested that the whole idea of marriage has changed more in the past 30 years than it had in the previous 3,000. And, of course, it made me think about my own marriage.

I feel so immensely privileged to have what I consider a true partnership. Our expectations for each other are not based on traditional roles or self-serving interests (Keith, bring home the bacon!), but what is best for us, what each one desires, and—now—what is best for Eleanor.

Sometimes it frustrates me when we fall into traditional gender roles, like that he is the primary provider, and I am the primary caregiver. When we first started living together, Keith was very underpaid. During college and a few years after, I was the "breadwinner" of sorts, though not by much. Then he started getting promotions and raises and better jobs, and now he makes significantly more than I do. So when we decided to have kids, there was no real discussion of who would be working full-time, and who would be (mostly) home with the baby.

A part of me wondered: Haven't we moved past that?!? But someone has to make the money. The big difference is that, were the situation to be reversed, I don't think that Keith would have a problem staying home / working part-time to take care of Eleanor while I worked full-time. Or at least, he would have the same kind of struggles with being a "house spouse" as I do, in terms of reduced productivity and a complete lack of visible results. On the show they were talking about how hard it is for many men whose wives earn more, because the men define themselves by their jobs and their ability to provide. Once that's gone, they feel useless.

I found myself wondering whether the men were older, because I don't see that in Keith or myself at all. When we were engaged, I forced him to come to coffee shops with me and discuss "life issues" like parenting and finances and careers. We both discovered, to our surprise, that neither one of us would consider ourselves career oriented. We both just wanted to have a relatively comfortable work environment, and make enough money to enjoy our lives without work interfering. The priority is us, our family, and our friends.

Of course, writing a post called "Modern Marriage" inevitably brings up the question of whether one can actually define what defines a "modern" marriage. I am very happily married to the love of my life and my best friend. True, we've only been married 5 years, but we've been together for just over 13 years (since we were 18), and our relationship has withstood many trials. To me, our relationship works because we're partners, we talk about everything (whether we want to or not, including mea culpas), we laugh together, and we accept each other's strengths and weaknesses.

I'm grateful to all of the women (and men) who made this type of relationship possible, instead of just accepting the status quo. I'm grateful to my parents, who gave me a wonderful example of what a good, nurturing marriage looks like. I'm grateful to Keith, for being who he is and being foolish enough to think he's the lucky one in the relationship. I hope that, one day, Eleanor will be grateful to me for showing her that a Modern Marriage is whatever you want it to be, as long as you're happy and nurtured and loved.

Happy upcoming Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Under the Weather

I know I've been sick a lot lately when Eleanor runs to the tissue box, takes out one tissue and holds it near her face. She then puts her lips together and makes a raspberry that sounds a lot like me, blowing my nose.

At least neither Eleanor nor Keith have caught my cold yet (fingers crossed). I hope everyone else is doing well and staying warm!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Nobody Home

I think it's particularly true on campuses that there's a lot of no man's land: random seating areas or desks for any student or faculty member that might be looking for a place to get some work done.

In particular, there's one desk that I often pass at work. Instead of being a clearly unclaimed, open-for-business study carel, it looks like it could be someone's desk. It is a good-sized desk, with drawers. Pamphlets about tutoring and internships are littered across the desk's surface. And on one corner of the desk is a phone.

This is the part that makes me wonder. It's a VOIP phone with a red light on the handset that lights up when there's unheard voicemail in this particular extension's mailbox. And, for the past several weeks, that red light has been lit every time I walk by.

I can't help but think about the unheard voicemail. Who was calling? What did he want? Does she expect an answer in a timely manner? Is there one message, or several? Is some lazy professor giving out this extension as a way to get out of contact with students?

Why is the idea of unheard voicemail so troubling to me? I think it's something akin to the idea of a tree falling in a forest. If you completed your task (the phone call), but no one is there to hear it, isn't it like you haven't accomplished anything?