Wednesday, December 31, 2008

This Too Shall Pass

This past year has been, hands down, the hardest of my life. It’s not because I was adjusting to being the parent of two young children – in fact, that part has been surprisingly enjoyable.

It was my marriage. It was missing my old friends. It was accepting hard truths. It was going without money, without things. It was living in the middle of nowhere, in a trailer none the less. It was feeling like I should be doing more, for my children, for my husband, for myself even. But the days became a blur, one day seamlessly weaving into the next and all the while my goals remained unmet, something large was missing, I kept feeling as though I should have been doing more. What “more” was I could never say, but I knew I wasn’t doing enough.

It’s been hard to deal with but I learned that the only thing I could do was to trudge forward and make the most out of every moment that I could. Those moments when Faith was incredibly sweet and tender, crawling into bed to curl up next to me with her long strawberry-blonde hair tickling my nose. Those moments when the kids somehow miraculously played happily together. The moments when Jeff and I managed to get grandparents to babysit so we could get a dinner out. When James said “mama”. When we went on car rides as a family, the children falling asleep, their faces mirroring each other. Those joyful moments of stepping on the scale. James, clutching tightly to me, with his precious smile and urgent need to have me near. Faith, singing, theatrically – reminding me of just what I thought a child of mine would be long before I ever had children.

I remember a framed section of cloth near the door of my grandmother’s house. It had the words “This too shall pass” cross-stitched onto it. I used to think that it was an ominous reading into the future, something to remind us that everything will be gone and forgotten one day, in an apocalyptic way. Instead, as my grandmother told me with arched eyebrow, it meant that our troubles will all pass one day, just as suddenly as they came.

That comes to me often now. This too shall pass.

And on the horizon, better times, more happy moments, joy found in unexpected places. I’m so ready for it that my breath catches in my throat to think of it.

Happy New Year, world.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


The Sunday before Christmas Jeff and I went to Atlanta to continue our new-ish tradition of a couple of days spent kid-free in the city. We got a room that looked out onto Centennial Park, which was all done up in lights and Christmas music drifted out from the ice-skating rink that was set up in the middle of the park. It was beautiful at night, entertaining during the day. I could have spent most of the weekend staring out the window, looking at families and couples celebrating the holidays outdoors in the freezing (literally) cold.

We ate lots of good food, had fantastic seats for the hockey game, were able to sleep at night without a baby kicking our heads, but I was very happy to come home to the children and our own little Christmas tree with a handful of presents underneath.


We had three separate Christmas celebrations, all different. We are now swimming in a sea of barbies, ponies, and tiny trucks. My mother went overboard, like she always does, and gave Jeff and I an Xbox and now I am obsessed with the Indiana Jones lego man game. I have kept Jeff up late the past couple of nights playing it, until he tells me that he HAS to go to sleep now.

As usual, I’m glad and sad that Christmas is over. The magic is gone now, the anticipation of everyone opening up the gifts I’ve gotten them is over, and I’m ready to throw out the tree to be burned so I don’t have to vacuum up needles anymore. The sweet and melancholy music is not relevant anymore.


Back when Jeff and I were just dating, before marriage and children, we had conversations of what kind of Christmases we wanted to have with our own children someday. We talked about the best parts of our Christmas celebrations as kids, what we wanted to repeat, what we wanted to start new. Yes, we wanted to go crazy with gifts for our children. Yes, we wanted to make the season a big deal. Yes, we wanted kids of our own someday who were thrilled with every moment, enchanted by the lights and the sounds, who stared wide-eyed at the bright boxes under the tree.
So it was more than fulfilling this past week to watch them have all the things we wanted for them. And very satisfying indeed when Faith opened up all her gifts, looked amazed at all she had and looked up at me, blue eyes round and serious , and said “Thank you Mommy”.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Everything is going along just swimmingly. The offer on the house was accepted, another financial move fell easily into place and then my father, out of nowhere, tells me that he has some work needed to be done on an up and coming project of his and do I want to do it from home to make extra money? Well, yes I do, Dad and thank you for asking!

I've always had a fairly strict policy on working with family – that it should NEVER be done. My father owns his own company and at any given time there have been at least three or more family members working there.


It's many things. The fear of other people thinking I had gotten a job not because of my intelligence but because of who I was related to. The fear of not seeing my father as my dad anymore, but my boss instead. Or my sister. Or uncles. Etc.

I wouldn't ever want to question anything myself either. I would want to know that I had received a raise because I deserved it, not because my parents knew I was having hard times financially. I would want to be promoted when I earned it and never question if “Daddy” was just helping out again. So over the years I have stood firm and always knowingly smiled at my poor sister's woes of working with my father and now I have succumbed. Because I am poor and I need the money and I have no shame.

Tonight, though, when I did my meager share of work sitting at my antique desk with my Christmas tree softly lighting the room, I felt that small soaring feeling again. I was doing work, real work that I'm going to get paid for. And it felt good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How We Got Here, Where We're Going

Once upon a time Jeff and I lived in a comfortable little house in Dallas, Georgia which is about thirty or so miles west of Atlanta. We fixed it up, worked hard, loved our serene and cozy home. It had a huge, flowing river birch in the front yard and dogwoods dominating the backyard. It had a little window over the kitchen sink that looked onto our miniature magnolia tree. The sunlight filtered through the windows like poetry, lighting our happy little home with warmth and sunshine.

Jeff took a year off of work to go to school. I took a year off to raise our baby girl. Money was tight. We accumulated debt. We couldn't afford the house anymore. We put it up for sale and it had a contract on it less than two weeks later.

Since then we stayed with my mom for a long while, carving out a little corner in her massive home, then eventually migrated north and eventually settled in my in-laws' trailer. I have often had moments where I suddenly stop and my temporary blindness is stripped away. I abruptly see everything clearly and want to ask myself “How did I get here? Since when do I live in a trailer?” and then things continue to unfold in a familiar way and this is just where I sleep, eat, take care of the kiddos – it's where I live, unfortunately.

I try to think of my grandmother, who raised three children in a tiny two-bedroom blockhouse. Or my husband's grandmother who raised seven children in home that may not even be classified as a “house”. We have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, clothes on our backs. That's all that matters, right?

The plan was to build our dream house on this land. The house we want, the house we've wanted for years, costs too much for us to build. We don't want to settle for something less because once we build it here, well, it's here forever. So we're stuck. We don't WANT to live in a trailer, but we can't afford our dream home.

The solution? Something in between. We signed a contract to buy a house today.

I feel a little breathless.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Tonight we went and bought a tree (I was tempted to chop one down from the land just because I could, but, oh well, am lazy) and we dug out our old Christmas boxes and decorated. It felt more than a little ridiculous, dragging a tree into an already cramped trailer, squeezing it in amongst our over-sized furniture in a tiny space, but as I brought out familiar old ornaments one by one . . . well, it made me a little teary-eyed. The large beaded blue star, and the gold star made of mesh (I always had a thing for stars), then the ornament that Jeff's mom gave us when Faith was just a little red-headed baby – a little strawberry blond angel girl that looks remarkably like Faith, and after that the personalized ornaments: Jeff and Jenny, two bears kissing, a tree that lists Jeff, Jenny and Faith, 2006. Last year – all four of us as a penguin sled-riding crew – for some reason all of these little things touched a sentimental and heartwarming spot making me feel like I was part of something much better than just myself, that I was making traditions.

Of course my babes are just too little. James was interested in immediately pulling down any ornament we had just hung, Faith only concerned with what I was placing so carefully among the limbs, wanting to dismantle what I had done only to do it over herself. I had to remind myself many times, they are just babies still, they won't remember this, the year we lived in the trailer, the Wednesday that we decorated the tree.


We went to Dahlonega tonight, the old gold-mining city of Georgia. We are all settled on top of ancient mines actually, there are some on this very property long since fallen in and forgotten. Dahlonega is a special little city though, full of character, new and familiar at the same time. The trees surrounding the old square are hung with lights, swags laid deep in the tree branches lighting up the historic buildings, catching our imaginations and lighting up our faces as if we were children ourselves.


I love that about Christmas. The fact that something so simple as white lights can seem suddenly so magical and fascinating, how decorating a tree can be something that we can look forward to all year. How I can be mesmerized by sitting in the rocking chair in the dark, staring at the lighted tree, listening to music and feeling just like I did at 26, 22, 16, 9. I want to set that same stage for my children – look around, feel how fantastic this is, family and lights and Christmas, full of wonder and love. I know it sounds a little silly, but I felt it when I was a kid. I don't want mine to be cynical and doubtful of the world. I want them to see the lights and feel the clean and cold air and have that feeling that anything is possible.

Monday, December 1, 2008


I woke up this morning and immediately looked out the window behind our bed, viewing the outside world upside down. The sky was that dark egg color that always makes me think that it looks like snow weather and right at that moment when the thought was working it's way through my still sleepy mind I saw that there was actually snow falling. I flipped myself over to see our yard right side up, a lightly dusted world, still and quiet and cold.

Jeff and I are both having a hard time accepting that it is already December. We've been busy with birthdays and getting with our families for Thanksgiving and errands and groceries and raising children and being alive that we didn't really get to stop and smell the roses (the fallen leaves? What is the proper analogy here?) in November. The down times were spent sick, runny-nosed and sore-throated. Last month was mostly happy moments, peppered with bad news and small plagues. Now it is the time to immerse ourselves in trying to find perfect gifts for everyone, personal yet inexpensive, decorate like eager children, drink egg nog and eat cookies and complain about waistbands getting tighter all while trying to remember the true meaning of the season.

It's already exhausting me.

So, lately. Faith and James both have an aversion to sleeping all night in their own beds. I have grown so accustomed to James waking up every night, because the child still doesn't sleep all night without waking up, that I somehow sleepwalk into his room every night and just bring him back to bed with me. He sleeps fabulous tucked into my side. Faith is now waking up every night and shuffling her way back to our room also, climbing up the trunk at the foot of the bed and making her way to my other side falling back asleep with her head on my shoulder. Now is where I am supposed to say complaints and frustrations, but honestly? It's sweet. Not always comfortable, that's for sure, but I wake up every morning with a smile on my face, no exaggeration. I do feel a sort of failure on my part as a parent, I know that I should be encouraging them to sleep in their own beds but I suppose that I am rather lazy.

It's also that I somehow feel that there isn't so much time to keep up with our little indulgences. December is supposed to be that last month of free time and living it up (ha!) as a stay-at-home mom before I am to dig in my heels and be aggressive in looking for a job. Although who is to say that when that time comes that there will be any jobs up here in the middle of nowhere, it very well could be like it was before. Once again I am at this impasse, not knowing what to hope for, what to dread, so instead I shall just enjoy this carefree month for what it is.