March 31, 2012

Strong Meat

On Monday, while participating in an art class, I began to be more aware of some of my cultural differences from women who've grown up in Texas. On the surface, everyone is friendly and kind, but I suspect there are underlying levels of being ladylike that aren't part of my repertoire. It's hard to put my finger on it, but I sensed that if I came in as my opinionated, bossy self, I'd turn people off. Heck, I've probably been doing that for years! I've met many people so far who seem to like me as I am, but my sense is that they may be exceptions to the dominant culture.

Last night Jrex and I had a fun, wide-ranging conversation. At one point I mused that I was going to have to change to live here. In many ways, where we are living is like a small town with access to a city. There's the good of a small town (friendly neighbors, easy access to shops and activities, looking out for each other) and the challenges (gossip, long memories, cliques). I've never gone out of my way to burn bridges, but there's always been an 'out'. If something goes wrong, it doesn't matter that much cause we'll be moving in a couple years. Now however, there's a sense that if I burn any bridges, or act rudely, or merely speak too often without a filter, it might live for a long, long time in people's memories. As far as we know, we may be here the rest of our lives. It's intimidating! I feel like I did in junior high school: nervous about being myself, trying to fit into groups that are very different than the culture in which I grew up, aware of cliques but not really having the right elements to break into them. My solution in high school was to go through an F--- You phase where I just stopped caring what people thought. It's been a useful tool for a long time, but I don't think it will serve me well here. Whether I care what they think or not, Brex will have to deal with consequences of my actions. It's a weird reality.

So, somehow I have to soften a little, slow down, be more considerate and try to calm my restless nature. I'm nervous though because the last time I tried to change 'who I am' to fit a dominant culture, it was like I killed my soul for a few years. Therefore, I'm praying that the Lord would lead us to the friends he has for us here. Some of the women that I've met are totally fine with me as I am and so I see those as places to continue to invest. It's more that when I go into a big group setting I can't just blaze in there. I'm praying for a church that feels like home. Once kids enter the picture, there's also an element where kids the same age help cement a friendship, so I'm praying for more of those. Praying for other families where we as a couple get along with the other couple equally well.

Totally off topic, here's little rocket man:

March 28, 2012


Dashing off a quick post while waiting for some files to upload.

Little Brex got his helmet on Monday morning (Insurance covered all but the deductible!). Pictures coming soon! It looks really cute on him. Unfortunately, he was also sick Monday so we ended up leaving the helmet off since it seemed like it made him hot on top of the fever. He's worn it since yesterday and seems to be adjusting well. In the last couple weeks he's transitioned from sleeping on his back to sleeping on his stomach. I like the helmet because it gives him more air space when he plants his face on top of his fat little fists to sleep. (Can I just confess how much I'm loving the baby pudge?! I didn't realize he'd even get cellulite. Cute cellulite, but still! The cool thing about it is that he gets padding everywhere that he'll need protection while crawling or walking. Don't know why that babyland factoid never occurred to me before now.)

Went to the collage class the other night. There were two women I already knew. Sadly, they were the only ones who really talked with me. Most of the women were taking the class with friends, so it was a bit of a closed loop. Still, it was fun to make some art. It gives me motivation to get my studio set up and get in there on Saturdays when the baby is sleeping.

Sunday night, Jrex and I went to The Mansion (no joke) for our 15th anniversary dinner. We enjoy food as a form of adventure, and haven't often found that yet in Dallas. The Mansion delivered for the most part. As long as we didn't pay attention to the prices! Mostly though, it was nice to sit on their cozy bench at a corner table, dressed up and in a beautiful place and just talk for a couple hours. We sorted through a conversational pattern we've been having in the last few months. My perception had been that since the baby was born, Jrex jumped into Korean mode and was expecting me to just agree with anything he said (which completely freaked me out that there was a whole package of new expectations that I would never be able to meet). From his perspective, I was making logic leaps that made no sense and so he was getting frustrated. THAT was a relief for me to hear. He's always been aggravated by sloppy logic. In fact most of our early marital disagreements had more to use with differing definitions of words than they did about actual issues. I blame pregnancy brain...

Otherwise, I have too much work to do and not enough hours. I have two freelance clients on top of a lot of work deadlines. Good times! At least the kid goes to sleep by 7 pm so I can get stuff done.

All that is to say, we're still alive down here in Tejas where it's March and 86 degrees!

March 21, 2012

Riding the Wave

We've moved enough times that I'm familiar with my emotional arc:
  1. Get excited about new possibilities
  2. Revel in the shiny newness of it all
  3. Rave about how WONDERFUL it all is
  4. Notice that patterns I'd hoped would change haven't changed
  5. Realize that I still don't have any close friends in the new place
  6. Feel like it's not THAT great
  7. Get depressed
  8. Wallow
  9. Find more activities, connect with people and eventually figure out my place in a new area
  10. Get restless and ready for something new
  11. Sigh
Last week was relationally rich. Friday night Jrex was busy and I had dinner with Two Mommies from daycare. Sunday we had dinner with another lung researcher, his wife and their two children. We attended the Dallas Wind Symphony with our realtor and his wife on Tuesday. Which meant Brex experienced his first official babysitter. Fortunately the Baby Whisperer from daycare also does babysitting, so he was perfectly happy to wave us out the door. As a bonus, when he heard our voices at 11 PM, he managed to roll over onto his stomach while still in his swaddling! Friday morning Bible Study was good. Ordinary life and ordinary joys.

On Sunday I went from general contentment into the slough of despond.

Jrex and I had talked on the drive to Texas about what kind of church he could imagine attending. I found one that seemed to fit the bill. However, Jrex usually has too much work to do, or hasn't wanted to go (still wrestling through his God stuff). Which means that even though it's a good church and full of wonderful people, it doesn't feel like enough for me. If we went together, I could make it work. If he's not joining me, I'd rather be in a more charismatic church. In the past ten years I've discovered I'm a kinetic learner who connects more with God if I can be in motion. So I tend to enjoy churches that have a block of music/songs with no interruptions so that I can really dive into things with the Lord. It helps if no one will care if I'm dancing and/or crying. I've visited various churches in the past month which means I don't have any relational continuity except with Jrex, Brex and the people at the daycare.

This Sunday it seemed right to go back to the first church just to connect with people. The service was fine. The sermon was ok. After the service, I ended up talking to one of the two people I'd hoped to see but then left church feeling really depressed.

The sense of being disconnected, alone, friendless and generally woebegone is a familiar trough. It doesn't help that Jrex is as overwhelmed as he's ever been in his life. He's plugging away and doing everything he can, but we don't have much time or energy to work through any of our deep issues, or even for me to lean heavily on him with my emotions. As part of this wave, I tend to expect him to function as my only close friend and he's just not enough. Every time we move, I do this to him. Poor guy. He doesn't change, but my NEED for him changes. As I build a better relational network, the weight of my emotional needs gets spread out more. Right now though, it must feel like he's dragging a lead weight around.

I've been hanging back from doing things by myself in hopes that here, now, in our long-term house, in our long-term neighborhood, with our long-awaited child we might finally start doing things together. I'm tired of being the solo married woman and being neither fish nor fowl at social gatherings. Now I'm also a mom and so even more of an odd ball when I'm out by myself. Yet Jrex is an exhausted introvert. So we have a pattern of two independent lives with random overlap. Part of the slough is discovering that despite all the big changes in our circumstances, that looks to be staying the same.

Rather than just wallow in my depression, I emailed the two women I'd wanted to chat with and asked if they wanted to meet for lunch. After meeting with them yesterday, I feel better. They are both such genuine people that it feels like I can just be myself and be loved as I am. It takes time to build common ground and if I'm not going to the church and not able to be at Bible Study all the time, I'm not sure how quickly that will happen, but it's worth the effort. I've signed up for a Mommy's Night Out at a local art store and for three months of 6 AM 'bootcamp' at the park two blocks from our house. In addition, I'm reading The Marriage Plot for an upcoming neighborhood book club next week. I'm considering joining the local chapter of AIGA to get involved in the local design community.

In a bigger picture, there's a profound difference in our family patterns playing out in all this. The K family went to church or went to other family's homes for dinner or food. Otherwise, they spent time at home. Even their home time was quieter than ours. They watched TV, ate, visited with each other and did homework. My family went to the movies every weekend, we met other families for dinners, we volunteered at various places, visited lots of churches (my Dad often spoke at different churches due to fundraising for his housing ministry), went to art museums, to the park, theater, ballet, opera, and community council meetings. It seems rare that we spent more than two evenings in a row at home. Even when we were at home, since we didn't have a television we spent most evenings playing games, reading books, and building things (and of course, every child's favorite pastime: fighting!).

I'm just realizing how I've expected that 'something' will happen for Jrex to want more action. In our 15 years of marriage, at times I've waited and hung back in the hopes that we'd do more together, then became impatient and did things by myself, then grew wistful as I did them alone. Back and forth. Thrashing around trying to figure out what shape life is supposed to have. He remains fairly consistent through all of this. He's fine if I want to go do things without him, happy to have me around if I don't, happy to have a couple people for dinner, happy to go to dinner with a few other people, fine with house guests, he's just too drained to leave the house on the weekends to spend time with strangers.

It's all normal. Normal emotions after moving. Normal conflicts for extroverts and introverts. Normal adjustments. I just thought there might be a new normal this time. Remind me of this post the next time I start talking about moving as a solution, ok?

March 12, 2012

Wonderful, ordinary life

It's challenging to blog about contentment.

I picked up Brex from daycare this afternoon. All the children and caregivers were in the backyard playing with each other. Gentle Smile held Brex and cooed, "Do you see who's here?!" Brex started giggling and shoving both fists in his mouth. The other kids crowded around me to show me the shovel, the bucket, the truck or the flower in their hands. I sat holding him and chatting with the other parents and with Miss G for a while. Then we went inside to gather up his diaper bag (I bring clean, dry cloth diapers, they fill my handy little waterproof bag) and then head home.

As soon as we opened the door, Muttola started whining in her excitement to go out. Unfortunately, our laziness about training her to be consistent on walks has now come back to bite her. She doesn't stay on one side the whole time. With Jrex, we did a funny dance. With a stroller? Well, let's just say that my left elbow is still recovering from a walk I did with her and the baby in the stroller a couple months ago. Most days I put him in a Beco Gemini carrier and bring the dog.

(Of course that's me!)

Today, however, I wanted to get in a power walk. So, sorry, Muttola. I've found a little enclave behind the neighborhood park that actually has a fairly steep hill. This sounds like a silly, minor thing, but I really missed having a hill nearby in California. There I was with hills waving hello, but only after getting in the car to drive or walking for hours (which wasn't going to happen for a dog walk). Now here I am in flat Texas with hills near my house. I try not to imagine what the residents think as I walk the stroller up and down the hill a couple times. With my luck, Brex will end up with a BFF on the street and they'll say, "Oh, it's YOUR Mom who was the crazy lady?"

As I walked, I was deeply thankful. Glad that spring is already here. Grateful to have a son to push in a stroller, really happy about the hill. On the way home, we walked through the neighborhood park. I've never seen it so swarmed with kids and adults: soccer, basketball, tennis, fishing, playing on the path around the pond, and kids' play structures crawling with children.

Then home for baby feeding and bedtime.

He's been happily eating rice cereal for the past few weeks. We've mixed in peas, beans and sweet potatoes. The potatoes gave him gas, but the other two were eaten with gusto. Then I feed him. We go up, change him into PJs, read a story, say a prayer, sing a song and then swaddle him and put him in bed.

Dinner with Jrex usually follows (he comes home in time to give Brex a kiss and then cooks while I put him to bed).

Most evenings have a similar rhythm. The only drama has been trying to sort out his schedule to work with Miss G's schedule so that she doesn't complain about him being 'spoiled'. It's the comment she makes if he has a fussy day. Every time she says it I see red. It's a useless way to approach the situation, creates an unfixable situation. The only solution to spoiled is for me to change, right? Plus, I don't think anyone who's spent time with him would call him spoiled. He's happy to be held by other people. Is he used to things being a certain way? Probably. Kids like routine. So the fact that I make faces at him when he's on the changing table and we usually spend the time laughing together? And when he's at daycare, he cries when they change him? I think it's cause they aren't doing it 'right' in his little opinion. We've seen that with Jrex doing the bedtime routine. Brex used to start crying in the middle until I walked Jrex through how I usually do it. Once Jrex did it 'right', Brex was content to have him put him to sleep.

Ah, good times. Two alpha females and one baby. I've been trying to change what I can to align with how she does things. She's not going to change and Brex can't do anything to change his circumstances, so that means it's me that needs to shift. It's mostly been solved by adjusting our schedule to better fit the one he has during the day. So far, so good on that.

Heck, if that's the main fly in the ointment right now, we're doing really well, right?

Oh, and I'm still looking for a church.

And Jrex is totally buried alive at work (manuscript to get out by Wednesday, first day in clinic tomorrow, he has to write up a justification for the six-figure microscope he needs so they can pitch it to the board, one of his lab people hasn't gotten any results yet, he needs to get the lab really running, and somehow find time to be a husband and father).

So what do I blog about if I don't need to vent? Anyone have ideas?

March 6, 2012

Why Jesus?

A long time ago I wrote out explanations for the names on this blog, the history with me and Jrex, things like that (the list is on the right). My sister suggested that I should do a post about why I'm a Christian. There is certainly a personal journey that I'd love to share once I make time to write that post, but in the meantime, this video does a great job of summing it up. It brings tears to my eyes because it reminds me of the core, the essence, the WHAT I believe. (Plus it's well done from a design perspective!)