Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day 11

Today I feel strangely uplifted, as though I really can manage the time between now and when Mango gets home. I feel like this major separation is finally coming to an end.

...though now I'm wishing that the mouse would have found a different time to die inside the stove somewhere where I cannot reach it. I called my mom and discovered that you CAN actually lift up the top of the stove and have a look around under there. Unfortunately, though the smell is definitely coming from the top of the stove somewhere, not the bottom or inside the oven, I cannot SEE a mouse anywhere. I wouldn't say "unfortunate" except that this means I am left with the smell of dead mouse and no way to remove it.

So, I took a trip to Target for some heavy duty air freshener. Then I turned the stove up to 500 degrees in hopes of drying the nasty thing out. I *did* google search "mouse died in stove," but all anyone could really say was that the smell would go away eventually. Thanks.

And happy homecoming to Mango...don't mind that nasty smell in the kitchen. It'll go away soon.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Archiving my old quote of the week...

"When the Unseen Hand leads you in its grasp, you follow. Or turn back and live in eternal regret. Of course there is no certainty in following either. That is what makes faith. Follow or turn back. There is no middle way." ~ Merlin in Merlin by Stephen R. Lawhead

Day 10

We're into two-digit numbers finally...day 10. Now, I can feel like Mango will actually be home SOON. Day 13 isn't even a whole day, either. He'll be home halfway through day 13!!! And my thoughts are turned toward his homecoming. How can I make it special? He's pre-warned me that he'll be exhausted and may need a nap. So, I'm pre-warning Mane that we're not going to climb all over daddy when he gets home, and we're going to try to help him rest. I hope it works. I want his homecoming to be smooth and peaceful. I want home to feel comfortable, familiar, and nourishing.

I have to remember this. I know that he feels the same way when he gets home from teaching every day during the school year, but I don't take the time to think out how to make the transition smooth. I'm not talking about trying to be Martha Stewart here (poor lady...it must be tough to have your name coined as a term for the perfect homemaker). I'm not talking about being a perfect happy homemaker. I just want to learn to do small, simple things that help a little.

Now that my mind isn't in the fog of having a baby/toddler/preschooler, I have some mental space to really work on our home life. I like this assignment. I never thought I'd say that. It sounds so traditional, but I really, really do. I enjoy being the one who keeps things running around here. I like to know they can make it without me, too. That's important to me. But I've really come to appreciate my role in our family. I'm getting more settled about it after some times of struggling with why I got my Master's degree and if I'll ever get my therapy license. Mango has helped me a lot. He overflows with appreciation for the things I do, and I feel so humbled.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Elfquest

They are comic books. You should read them. But don't read the new ones published by Manga. You have to read the old ones. I've never read comic books in my life, but these are worth the time.

http://www.elfquest.com/

Day 8

Well, Mango's trip is more than half over now. Vespera left for camp this morning. She'll return one week after Mango returns. What a crazy whirlwind. My job, however, seems to be to stay at home and nurture people through their goodbyes and homecomings...myself included.


We're a very emotional group of people, my little family and I. The home atmosphere has been one of love and sympathy, longing and homesickness, generosity and care-taking this past week, as we leaned on each other, missing Mango and preparing for Vespera to go. We trouped out together to the beach & shopping & the fair, made meals, stayed up late... We talked with Mango, passed the phone around the table, even to Novio. And last night Novio came over to say goodbye to Vespera for the next two weeks. Now that they've both gone, it's time to start looking forward to some homecomings.

The whole week has gotten me thinking, though, about the way that partings and reunions affect us, about the varying levels at which people are affected by the distance and time they spend away from people whom they love and the ways we cope with that distance and time.

Both Vespera and Novio have experienced what I would describe as significant periods of abandonment in their lifetimes. Their parting last night was tinged with just the tiniest pangs of fear, as was her parting with me this morning. Last night she very seriously implored me to remember to pick her up when she returns. And I affirmed for the zillionth time that I will never forget her, nor will I ever leave her anywhere.

For my own part, I walk around feeling like half my oxygen is gone. I've been reading Elfquest, and I love the way certain things about relationships are expressed in those books. I love the terms "Lifemate" and "Lovemate," the way they call their partners "Beloved," and the way each person has a soul name that is only known by those very closest to their heart and which is only used privately. I seldom read stories of that kind of connection. The connection between Lifemates allows them also to feel each other's pain, even from a distance, or to know when the other is in trouble.

Sometimes I feel like I'm making a mountain of a molehill with all my pining after Mango. I *really* do function just fine on a daily basis, but my thoughts pull toward him like a powerful magnetic force. He sent me a song the other day that goes like this:

Everywhere I Go by Jackson Browne

Chorus:
I hear your heart beating everywhere
When we're apart I can hear you there
I hear your heart beating everywhere
Everywhere I go

People say that I must be in love
The way I forget what we're speaking of
The way I stand there smiling straight ahead
And walk away without hearing a word they said

chorus

In the middle of the football game
At the beach in the pouring rain
Standing on a hillside staring at the sun
People hurry by the unfortunate one
With the faraway eyes and the mystery smile
Moving my body in a ragamuffin style
I can't sit down when I hear it start
I hear you heart everywhere I go

People say that I must be a fool
Cause when I'm near you I cannot be cool
I don't quite make sense when I talk to you
And when you smile I forget everything I knew

chorus

Standing in the market where I buy my bread
With a hunger in my belly and a rhythm in my head
Looking all around for something good to eat
Between the butter and the beans and the mops and the meat
Coffee from the mountain, honey from the bee
Nothing tastes as good as you taste to me
Rocking in the aisle to my inside song
People staring at me think I got a walkman on

I hear your heart beating everywhere
I hear your heart
I hear your heart beating everywhere
I hear you heart
Beating everywhere I go

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Food & Homesickness - Still Day 6

Mango says he sat around talking with another teacher the other day about all the foods they cook at home with their spouses and how much they miss home. Food *does* seem to be one of those things that constantly reminds you that you aren't home, as we learned with Vespera. She could keep up a pretty good facade until we sat down at the dinner table and everything, I mean *everything* was unfamiliar. Then she looked like she wanted to cry...every night...for a long time. Meals make you homesick.

For Mango's sake, I thought I'd tell everyone that Mane and I went impulse shopping at the grocery store today and came home with spicy black bean dip (which she tried a sample of at the store and LOVED), garlic stuffed olives, Australian cheddar cheese, and watermelon. (We came home with other things, but those were the more impulsive choices.) Somebody at the co-op actually commented on Mane's sophisticated taste. Today for lunch we had rice & beans with avocados. Nothing special, but I know it speaks of home.

I know that Mango will be jealous and homesick when he reads this, but, I have to say, I think I have homesickness in reverse. I make food that I know Mango loves, and then I miss his face at the table when I eat it. Remember what I said about how my family *is* home to me? And now part of "home" is missing, and I am, indeed, homesick.

Day 6

I dreamed of kissing Mango, and I thought to myself, in my dream, "Mango isn't here. How can I feel his lips?" And just as that thought surfaced in my consciousness, I woke.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Day 5

It's morning. So, I don't really know how Day 5 is going to go yet, but I have time to write now, and I probably won't later.

Last night, after Mane went to bed, Vespera & Novio were at the table having a late dinner, and I went out to talk with them. I laid my head down on the table, and Vespera asked if I was tired. I said, "No, I just miss Mango." Novio said, "Well, just don't think about it." I gave him an exasperated look, pretended I was going to say something & then just shook my head. We all laughed. Vespera asked him how he was going to feel when she leaves for camp and is gone for two weeks and if it was going to make him feel any better to have someone tell him to just not think about it. He shook his head & conceded, "Ok, nevermind." THEN I told him that he's not entirely wrong. If I mope and dwell on it, it only gets worse. If I stay busy, read books, get other things done, then I don't feel SO bad. I told him that truth is, though, that Mango & I have been married for 10 years (and we were engaged for almost 2 before that) and there's seldom a moment that goes by when I don't think about him. Seriously. We're connected. We're partners. Every move I make in this life I make with him in mind. It's kind of crazy that I'm working on getting the house rented while he's gone because it's a decision that affects us both so much, but he trusts that I have all of us in mind while I'm making decisions on my own.

Wednesday was the perfect day for staying busy and happy. My two favorite Heathers spent the morning here with their sweet little people. Vespera came down to meet everyone and honestly enjoyed herself (the babies helped). Then Vespera, Mane & I made lunch together and headed for the beach. Nokomis was closed for high bacteria levels, but we proceeded undaunted to Lake Calhoun, where we happily spent a few hours swimming. I learned that you can't go anywhere with Vespera in a swimming suit and not get stared at. I learned from her how to ask people in Spanish what they're looking at (but I didn't actually have the nerve to ask). Ugh. We went home, did some yoga, made dinner, and headed off to the park where Vespera played soccer, Mane played on the playground, and I talked with Mango on the phone. We all collapsed at home and slept. Vespera told Mango on the phone last night that we "had a blast" on Wednesday.

Thursday was a lazy day. We waited and waited AND WAITED for people to come see the house. I had taken 6 appointments for Thursday. One canceled Wednesday night. 2 canceled about an hour before they were supposed to come on Thursday. 2 didn't show up at all. So, we bummed around the house...did a little laundry, played with itunes, did some drawing & crochet work, made food, and talked some. Novio came over again in the evening. Mane & I took off for the bike path, she on her bike and I on my rollerblades. Again, we went to bed happy & tired.

Today the plan is to shop for some new swimming suits (time to hit the clearance racks) and to meet up with my parents and some friends at the fair in my hometown.

Dear God, Blessed Creator, be with us as we go about our lives today...Mango in Baltimore and all the rest of us here. Bind our hearts together with love, with cords of unfailing strength. Give us grace with each other and grace with the people we meet. Walk beside us on the path and let our eyes be open to all the possibilities you might have for us today. This family is yours.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day 2

I took a bunch of e-mails about renting out our house today. We're moving to a 3-bedroom duplex apartment below Mango's parents. We've simply outgrown this sweet little place. Vespera & I joked about keeping a baseball bat nearby when people come over to see the place since the "man of the house" isn't home, and you never know what kind of people might come over. ...except that the only bat we have is a padded one that belongs to Mane. I was telling my mom the story of our conversation and she suggested a rolling pin or a hammer. Mane suggested that we answer the door with the hammer, but then she said that people might go running back to their car if we did that. It's funny the things you think of in a house full of girls.

I picked up Mango's cup of water from the floor by the side of the bed today. He always sleeps with a cup of water by the side of the bed. I was cleaning and packing some more and saw the cup sitting there. Sad little cup. I was reminded of a scene in one of the Zion Chronicles where one of the women brings a cup into the kitchen that one of the men was drinking from, and she presses her lips to the cup in the same place that his lips had been.

Mane and I weeded the garden this afternoon while Vespera was gone with Novio. We watered the plants and wound the grapevines around the fence. I never do stuff like this when Mango is home, preferring to sit in the hammock with him. But when he's gone, I feel so proud to get things done. I pulled a lot of weeds last summer while he was in graduate school. This summer I'd rather lavish my attention on him than the garden, since he isn't consumed with graduate work. Mane and I had a great time, though. This morning we picked out first 3 tomatoes, too!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Day 1

Today was the first of 13 excruciating days without Mango. Ok. Maybe I exaggerate. Maybe it's not quite excruciating. Not yet. Is it ok if I start calling it excruciating somewhere around day 6?

My dear, sweet Mango has gone to Baltimore to learn about Project Lead the Way.

It's not that I can't stand on my own two feet or that we're so enmeshed we cannot function without each other. It's just that I love him. I love his smile, his eyes, the way he smells, the way he laughs. I love living my life with him by my side. I love his familiarity. We're a team. The Mexican people call someone "the other half of my orange." It's hard when the other half of the orange is several states away.

I'm sure that having him gone will remind me of all the things I love about him. Does absence really make the heart grow fonder?

We just spent our 10th anniversary weekend in downtown Minneapolis. We got a room at the Hyatt for dirt cheap, and we listened to free concerts in Peavy Plaza, went to Hell's Kitchen (and other restaurants that do not have gluten-free menus), walked to Loring Park and sat by the dandelion fountain, and visited some very natural and granola crunchy places in Uptown. Oh, and we talked. We finally carried one conversation after another through to completion. I forgot what it felt like to actually get to the end, the bottom, of something. Most of the time life is just too busy for that, and we have one conversation over the course of several days. We laughed, we cried, we walked and danced and swam. It was a glorious 3 days.

I'm sitting here drinking tea because Mango drinks tea. He called home while I was making dinner. Vespera was helping, Novio was working with his computer at the counter, and Mane was chattering away. I had been wondering if it's harder to be the person left at home or the person gone on the trip...until I heard Mango's voice. He said, "Oh, it's good to hear the sounds of home." He had an awful day of flying, and home sounded so comfortable and busy and happy to him. I think it's going to be harder for him than for me. After all, I've got our family here. He just has classes and a couple of roommates and his computer for company. Good thing I finally got a cell phone, and we can talk for free.

It's time for me to take a shower and tuck myself in bed with the Elfquest comics, which I am finally reading since Vespera picked them up and started reading them a few weeks ago. They're Mango's comic books from when he was in high school, and there are pieces of them that have become a permanent part of his understanding of life and the world. I can't believe it took me this long to finally read them. I'm ashamed of myself. He's been my husband for 10 years, and these books have been sitting on our bookshelf for exactly that long. *sigh* We do still have plenty to learn about each other after all these years.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Home

When we were camping at Whitewater, I asked Novio sometime on the 3rd day if he was homesick. No reason. I just asked a random question. After he had me explain the meaning of the word "homesick," he replied, "No. Are you?"

I said, "No. My home is right here with my family. If we're together, I'm home."

I've been reflecting more on what I said then as we're packing up to move to a new apartment. We'll be advertising our place for rent and moving down the street to a 3-bedroom, downstairs from Mango's parents. We'll have more bedrooms, more living space, and a FIREPLACE. Who could resist? And yet, I walk around touching the doorframes in my house, remembering how Mane was born here and the day that Vespera finally started hanging posters on the wall.

We decided together that we would move. We sat around a rustic wooden table at the Coffee Gallery and weighed the pros and cons. The decision was unanimous.

I wasn't sad then, and I'm not sad now. I *am* hit with these waves of nostalgia, though, that knock the wind from my sails now and then. The memories will come with me, though, and the future is in who we are, not where we live. I believe that the ways we care for each other create our home. "Home" for me is the place where we feel at rest and nourished, the place where we are safe and protected, the place from which we can care for others, share hospitably, and love abundantly. I think we create the space called "home" for each other. It's an emotional space.

I *do* think that actual physical space can complement that emotional space, but I don't think it can create it. You can fill your house with all kinds of beautiful objects and still not have a home. I always used to say that I was so glad for our small house because wherever I was in the house I could always hear Mane when she was a baby. After Vespera joined us, I was glad for a small house because it kept us physically close while we nurtured the emotional closeness. Our new place will be a little bigger, but it's still all on one level with no hallways. We'll still be able to call to each other and hear people from basically everywhere in the house. We wanted to finish the attic in our house, but I'm glad we're not doing that. I don't like the idea of anyone being so far removed from the family. I'm glad we're moving, glad we've found somewhere that suits us, but mostly glad we're all together.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Good News

The powers that be say that Mango can go to the conference 2 days late AFTER our 10th anniversary celebration! :)

Monday, July 07, 2008

A Teacher's Wife - Warning: Major RANT

When Hollywood finally writes a movie about the families of teachers...well, that'll never happen, and I'm not sure what I'll do. Some time ago I saw the movie Freedom Writers, and I took note of the fact that the teacher in the movie gets tons of recognition, which she probably should, and, even now, she is a traveling public speaker, who sells her ideas about how to create a successful classroom to teachers all over America. There's only one major problem. Her personal life is a shambles. In the movie, the teacher takes on an extra job to pay for materials for her students. She works long extra hours to arrange fancy banquets and special events so her students can have some pretty amazing experiences. One day, she comes home and her husband is sitting there with his suitcases packed. They hardly know each other any more. She claims that this period of their marriage was the time when they were both going to work on their careers and pour their energy into their dreams before they had children...blah, blah, blah. I gotta tell you something, a marriage needs TIME to survive. And Hollywood is selling the idea that the best teachers give up their whole lives for their classroom. Hollywood sells us these success stories that only make me sit and cry, not because they're so touching, but because the teachers in those stories have given up *everything* to teach.

I thank God every time I see those stories that Mango is not that kind of teacher. But I bet his student's parents don't want to hear that, and neither does the school district. I gotta tell you, I am so sick and tired of everyone expecting teachers to be these martyrs who will do anything to improve the lives of their students, even if it means not coming home to their own families at night. (And then blaming teachers whenever everything isn't perfect.) Mango works as hard as he possibly can to do his job well without flaking out on his family every day. For weeks on end he stayed after school with no extra pay to build a computer lab with his advanced students. A few years later, he built a robot with another group of students, all on his own time and off the district clock. Nobody wrote a movie about him. And nobody wrote a book about me...or Mane...or Vespera...about the time we spent riding the bus so we could come sit in the classroom after school and draw on the whiteboard and watch Mango work. So, at least, we could be in the same room. People recognize us at the school because we have packed lunches many Saturdays and gone to clean Mango's office and grade papers together...because we aren't willing to sacrifice the time we have together, even if it means working side by side.

So, it particularly hurt when the "district" called this week and said that Mango need to go to a conference in two weeks...beginning on a day that we already have hotel reservations for our 10th anniversary. If he wants his old job back (yes, he got rehired at the same school) he has to go to this conference. It's our 10th anniversary. But, of course, nobody cares. Or rather, they pretend to care, and then assume, because he's a teacher, that he should do it anyway. He'll be gone for 2 weeks. We can't afford to go with him. So, there it is. Maybe we'll have our 10th anniversary next year. *sigh* He won't be gone on our actual anniversary, just some of the days we were planning to be gone together...and already had a babysitter arranged.

There you have it people. I hate the way teaching is portrayed in the movies. I hate the way American politicians assume that teachers aren't doing their jobs, and that's what's the matter with American schools. I hate the way teachers are expected to work at least 20 hours more per week than their contract, and when they threaten to only work the contract everyone whines about how it's hurting the students. I hate the way everyone pretends that teachers don't have spouses and children. I hate the pained look in Mango's eyes every time he has to make a choice about where to spend his time, knowing that there aren't really any win-win choices.

Maybe they had it right at Hogwarts. The teachers are all single and live at the school.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Parents of the Year Award

I don't know what impressed me most. Maybe it was standing in the kitchen while our friends prepared a summer picnic with their 12 & 15 year old kids and the whole family started dancing when a when the ipod shuffled to a well-known song. They danced around each other singing out their favorite lines & giving each other "looks" like they had their own inside joke going on. Or maybe it was when we sat around the table under the trees in the back yard, and the 15-yr old son kept throwing mock punches back & forth with his dad. They joked and teased easily with each other, agreed and disagreed, told stories, shared their favorite music, chatted with us, and groaned together over their most recent trip to visit family out of state. Probably it was when the same 15yr old son leaned on his dad & gave him a great big hug when we were all standing around in the dining room saying our goodbyes. Maybe it had something to do with the way both parents still call their 12yr old daughter, "Princess," and are helping her pursue her interests in performing arts. It could have been the way we all trouped over to the local bike shop together and the people who run the place knew the whole family, and was willing to help out with whatever we all might need.

I don't know exactly what it was, but these people get the Parents of the Year award in my little world. Their kids know how to have a conversation & how to listen. They know how to joke with each other, but also how to look out for each other. They are brimming with humor, creativity, warmth, compassion, and loyalty. The two kids know how to think for themselves and also how to look to their parents for advice. I'm *sure* they're on their best behavior when we're there, but, clearly, the best behavior isn't forced. Their interactions flow naturally and spontaneously.

I admire them. I want what they have. So, I watch them carefully...the few times a year when we really see them. You have people in your life like that, right? People you love dearly, but you only see them once in a blue moon? I'm paying attention, though, soaking up every second, noticing all the little things.

And what have I learned? Really, only this: They seem to really *like* their kids. They don't just love them, they like them. They like to spend time with them. They engage them in conversation, treat them like real people, as, in fact, real functioning members of the family unit. And they've done this for as long as I can remember...for the last 11 years that I've known them. They've always been proud of their kids, they tease them, engage them in family decision-making, help them pursue their own creative ideas, take them along for important things, respect their individuality.

And, they have always used a LOT of humor. Humor is so useful in diffusing situations, in gaining cooperation, in reconnecting when there's been a breech in connection. I, personally, wish I was better with humor. I've always been so serious. It's hard for me to come up with something humorous, especially when things are difficult and painful. I wonder if one can develop humor? ;)

In any case, I'm trying to focus less on how to parent "right" and more on just knowing my kids and enjoying the things I like about them. I wonder how it would help all of us to just have a strong foundation in knowing that people like us? Less focus on behavior and more focus on just who we are as people, as humans, as family.