Onward and upward!
We’ve loved every minute of our time here at wordpress.com but in honor of the new year (2015 already?! SERIOUSLY?!) we’ve upgraded to an official site!
If you’re already following us your subscription should be transferred automatically and if not please head over to our new site and subscribe there. Don’t grow up without us! We’ve made a few changes but mostly we’ve stayed the same, ringing in this new era of our lives with a whole lot of exactly what came before.
The first half of our twenties is over, who knows how our Twenty Something Condition will change in the coming years… See you on the flip side!
Ah, adulthood. Aren’t our 20s just chock-full of coming-of-age experiences? After all, that’s what this blog is about. Well, this December I reached another milestone of adulthood: I hosted Christmas for the first time. My in-laws were making their first (and hopefully not last) big visit to the Middle East, and I knew it was up to me to make sure they didn’t regret leaving their other kids and all the grandbabies at home during the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
Well, as it happened, we were all camping in the desert on Christmas Day, so it certainly wasn’t a traditional family holiday. However, I thought the presence of sheep, donkeys, and camels gave things a nice Nativity-esque touch. Since we were traveling (and seeing a bunch of amazing stuff btw—Jordan for the win!) throughout the week of actual Christmas, we had to make up for it when we returned home. I had picked out a turkey weeks before, and had grand dreams of wowing my mother-in-law with my domestic skills, skills she’d never really seen since they haven’t been able to visit our home at all in the last 2.5 years of our marriage.
Overall, it went great. They brought gifts, and although we didn’t have much for them (we paid for the vacation, though) my mother-in-law was, I think, truly touched by the hand-embroidered, somewhat cheesy, “Grandma” sweatshirt I’d made her (again, have to prove my domestic skills, even if my mom helped me with most of it). We had a small tree, and pine-scented candles, and Christmas music playing, and hot apple cider. I let my in-laws take care of cooking the turkey and a lot of the other parts of the meal, both because it would be delicious that way and it would allow them to feel purposeful by helping us. But I contributed the green bean casserole and an apple pie that had them in dessert-heaven.
Early on in their stay, though, I felt like I was on the defensive. No sooner had they arrived than they noticed the drain in their shower didn’t work quite right, and the fan in that bathroom was broken. I had only put out three bath towels for the two of them, and my mother-in-law desperately needed a fourth for her hair, “since these are so small.” I know none of it was meant with criticism, but I so wanted them to be impressed with us, our house, and the life we lead here. It made me uneasy and easily annoyed. When it came to cooking, it seemed for a while like everything we had was “different.” They never said it was bad, but that word “different” came up so many times it started to sound like a slur to me. My mother-in-law made rolls, but wasn’t satisfied with how they came out (actually they were great). Obviously it was something “different” about my yeast, my flour, or my oil. She dumped too much white pepper into a casserole, and then blamed it on how the spice “just must be stronger over here.” The miracle whip tasted “different,” despite the fact it was ordered from Amazon, and the cream of mushroom soup had a “different texture,” even though it was Safeway brand, with “Made in the USA” written right on the can.
I think, though, that most of this annoyance was created in my own mind. They never openly complained about anything, and if that’s the worst things got in such a long visit, we did pretty well, right?
It still didn’t feel completely like Christmas. Perhaps the 85 degree weather had something to do with that, or the lack of pitter-pattering feet. But I think we did remarkably well, hosting them for almost 3 weeks and finding that balance between pampered relaxation and boredom.
I hosted my first Christmas. But I’ll tell you, next year I’m looking forward to going home and being the guest once again!
A few months ago my friend went crazy. Now when I say crazy I don’t mean like fun- excited- let’s party- crazy, I mean like mental- hospital crazy. Yeah. Scary. She had been depressed for a few months, maybe closer to a year, so she decided to finally see a doctor and get some anti-depressants. Things seemed to improve, but then, after maybe a month, all of a sudden her depression was back and maybe worse then ever. She started texting me really scary things, like about killing herself. This had never happened to me in real life before. IN high school they always talk about what to do if this happens but it had never happened to me before. You think things like, what am I suppose to do? Is she serious or not? Should I contact her parents? Will that help or make things worse? I tried to talk to her and reason with her but it was pretty awful. I contacted her sister just to make sure she was aware of what was going on, but otherwise there was not too much I could do. I just hoped she was having some sort of depressive episode and in a day or two she would be better, but in a day or two things were worse. She started not making much sense anymore… telling me crazy things about her family that were stretching the limits of credibility, and was being impossible to reason with. It turns out her family was as worried as I was, and that night they checked her into a medical hospital. They said she as becoming incoherent. A few days later I visited her in the hospital, and she was worse than I could have anticipated. It was like she couldn’t focus her thoughts on something, just drifted in and out out of focus. She had basically lost it but still had the sense about her to know that she had lost it, a thought that obviously completely terrified her. Honestly, it terrified me too. I mean, how can you just… lose it? What if you don’t get better? Well, to not hold you in suspense, I am very happy to say that she did get better. In total she spent just under two weeks in the hospital, and is now back living at home. She said she is feeling a lot better, and is back to making sense again. But in the meantime she lost her place in her course (she had just begun law school) and will have to wait a whole year to begin again. Now she has a whole year she needs to find something do with.. and something to tell people when they ask her what happened. It was a crazy experience, seeing how someone’s life- how someone’s mind- can just fall apart. The doctors think that the antidepressants she was prescribed somehow aggravated rather than helped her condition, but still… that is something that could happen to anyone. I mean, if your mind just starts to rebel what can you do? This short brush with insanity was like a brief exposure to the scariness that some people have to live with everyday— it terrified me and I only experienced it second hand.
I’ve posted in the past about how things happen to be going very well in my life right now. Great husband, great job, done with my education, getting to see the world, not having to worry about money, etc. In pretty much every way, I look around at my life and I know I am blessed beyond belief.
When I think about it more deeply, I also realize that my entire life has been pretty charmed. Raised in an upper-middle class, intact family, most things came easily to me, and I didn’t have any traumatizing experiences like a close relative or friend dying. In college, my parents paid my tuition, I made awesome friends like the Naughty Princesses, and I met the love of my life. What else can a girl ask for?
But the inner pessimist in me tends to get a bit uneasy when I look too closely at how lucky I have been. After all, the laws of probability would say that this kind of good fortune can’t last forever. Eventually, the other shoe is going to drop. My luck will run out. And there are times I am absolutely terrified of what that will look like.
There are just so many terrible things that can happen to a person in this world, and I’ve seen many of them at work in the lives of those around me. Loved ones killed in car accidents, miscarriages, losing a spouse or a child to cancer, becoming permanently disabled…All these things have happened to people I love, but not to me. I feel guilt and fear just writing those words. Who am I to be living a life of relative bliss, when so many others have suffered and are suffering?
If I got in a car and drove north for a couple of days, I would find myself in the midst of a war-zone, where people are being murdered for their faith, or for no reason at all. Young girls and women are being bought and sold as sex slaves. But here I am, safe, healthy, loved, and very much in a bubble.
When I allow myself to think about all this, I am very grateful. But I am also fearful, because I can imagine so many scenarios in which my “luck” runs out: my wayward brother commits suicide, one of my parents suffers a heart attack, my husband or I are diagnosed with a terrible disease. And the longer I live, the closer, it seems, I am to one of these scary possibilities becoming reality.
But, what can I do about this? Most of the things I fear the most are beyond my control. I don’t want to let paranoia rob me of what really has been one of the happiest seasons of my life. I have to trust that when trials come, I’ll be able to face them with strength. And I hope I can also be a good friend to those I know and love who are already dealing with the kind of pain and loss I can’t truly understand.
A few months ago the father of my close friends died.
Our parents raised us together, me and a pair of twins, a boy and a girl (I’ll call them Rachel and Charles) and I’m so grateful for them. We lived on opposite sides of town so we didn’t go to school together until 4th grade when the neighborhood boundaries switched and I walked into my new classroom to see Charles waving me over to come sit next to him. We’ve all been there for each other ever since, cheering each other on at sporting events and graduations, traveling together and sending letters across states, friends that are bound by more than just a few shared experiences. They’re part of my family, the fabric of who I am, and though I haven’t seen them more than a few times each year lately, I’ve never doubted how important we are to each other.
So when in August I heard that their father was in the hospital and they were coming back to Utah to see him, I was glad I’d get to spend time my friends. No one thought he’d be dead a few days later. Charles came back in time, spending his last day with him in the hospital joking and taking about where his father hid his weed. Rachel got to the hospital an hour too late, flying in from Alaska was just too far and no one thought their lively, 57 year old father was really at the end.
I sent them a text when I heard, saying I loved them and that I’d tell our friends, not wanting to be in the way when I knew they were about to be bombarded with family and friends and shock. Calling our other friends was hard, I was the only one in town and they all wanted to know what they could do – I told them there wasn’t even anything I could do. We’ve all been so lucky, none of us have lost anything close to a parent.
The next few days went slowly. I worked a lot and didn’t reach out to my friends, crying alone at lunch thinking about what they must be going through. People ask so much of you when you’re the family, I just couldn’t be another person that they had to deal with. I knew they knew I’d do anything for them, but my gift was letting them know that they didn’t have to do anything for me. He died Sunday morning and I stopped by on Wednesday to drop off a few photos of their father that my family had found, they were glad to see me, and insisted I stay to help them organize the photos for the funeral. I stopped by every day after that to help glue and print and fill the boxes of things that would represent their father at the funeral, making jokes and enjoying my friends liked I’d hoped to a week earlier.
My friends are tough, so strong that I only saw them cry about their father at the funeral when they were speaking together on stage. The rest of the time they smiled and laughed about their dad’s messy office and asked family friends about their lives. I smuggled them food at the funeral and blocked when they needed a break, doing my best to keep the mood light – that is what they needed from me, distraction.
But in the months since I feel like it’s getting harder and harder to keep distracted. The funeral and subsequent weeks felt like they were about other people – extended family, friends, insurance providers – every time I was out with them we ran into another person who wanted to talk to them about it or someone who hadn’t yet heard. I had to stand there as they comforted person after person, nodding and smiling so whoever it was would let them leave. But now it feels so much more personal, not only because I’m doing my best to be there for my friends, but also because I’m starting to admit my loss as well. I’m only feeling a small part of what they are, but I miss their father and without him here things are different.
Their birthday was last week and before Rachel left town for a ski race she told me to take care of her brother, that he’d never ask me himself to make his birthday special. I was planning to already but I took him bowling and out for a drink, trying REALLY hard to ‘act normally’ as I did my best to keep him entertained and distracted. But it felt harder than usual to keep smiling, and I felt a bit like I let him down as I dropped him off at his mother’s house barely after 9pm.
I know the three of them aren’t alone, they all have each other, and so many others, but they have such a large responsibility to each other now. And I know time heals, but lately I’m afraid that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. As the distractions fall away they’re going to be left with the truth. Their father isn’t around. And I don’t know if I can help.
It’s time for the holidays! What’s on your Christmas list this year? For us, not much, really. Just, you know, fulfilling careers, new cars, family approval, and more than 24 hours in the day. Hopefully we Naughty Princesses have been nice enough to receive a bit of what we’ve wished for.
Christmas! Eek! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but this year I’ll be spending it abroad for the first time ever. First Christmas since birth not seeing my parents on Christmas morning to open gifts. First Christmas without a Starbucks red cup. Sigh. You get the picture.
But though it’s sad to be missing out on the festivities at home, I’m also really excited about hosting my first Christmas ever. My in-laws land here in the Sandbox in less than a week now, and we’ll be spending the next three weeks with them. Thus, I think my biggest Christmas wish this year is that this time would all go well and we’d manage to balance travel and new experiences with quality time and festive holiday traditions.
On actual Christmas we’ll all be camping in the desert in Jordan, which definitely WON’T be like Christmas jammies and stockings and all that. But I’m hoping it will be a memorable Christmas in a different way. After all, wasn’t the first Christmas spent by a young couple out in the desert, just a few hundred kilometers from where we’ll be?
My in-laws are bringing gifts, but honestly, there’s nothing I really need. The true gift is the fact that they are coming at all. That my sometimes hard-to-please mother-in-law is putting herself on a grueling, expensive flight to come to MY home for the holidays. It truly means a lot. But in 2.5 years of marriage, I’ve never hosted my husband’s parents, and they’ve never had the chance to see us in our “natural habitat.” That’s what makes this so exciting. I just hope I live up to their expectations (and my own) and can somehow create a Christmas to remember for all of us.
We need a new car. One that has airbags and 2 working headlights. We don’t have a TV right now. Our laptop is old and needs to be replaced. Our apartment is a crappy basement across from a giant noisy construction zone. But when I say all of those things I just feel like I’m complaining and sounding selfish. I feel guilty because, shouldn’t I just be able to count my blessings?
And then there are the more intangible things that I wish for as well. A new job. One that doesn’t make me crazy and maybe actually pays me a decent wage. More self-esteem and encouragement for my husband. Most of all I would love to get back the feeling and belief that I can do anything I want in life. I feel less and less like I have that choice every day. All the reports and studies I see are saying that companies won’t pay young people a wage that keeps up with inflation, and that we are being flooded with cheap jobs, but not decent ones. Oh for the idealistic views of my college days.
Now I feel like I’m being a huge Christmas downer. I actually love Christmas and I will still enjoy it regardless of my circumstances.
Christmas! Snow and lights and reunions and food! It’s hard not to adore this time of year, and now that I’m not living with my parents I’m really looking forward to spending as much time with them as I can over the holidays. I knew I’d miss living with them, but it’s definitely been just as hard as I expected. They’ve been my best friends for the last 2+ years, it is strange to suddenly have to treat them like parents again instead of roommates. But this is good for me, I know, and I know the real thing I’m stressed about is finding the right job.
Finding a career is at the very tip top of my Christmas list this year, and while I could also use ski pants, a nice winter hat, and brown boots, the only thing that I feel like I need a magic wish to get is a good job. I’m still so lost on what direction to go with my life and lately it feels like I’ve been looking to others to find out that career for me, hoping someone would just plop the answer in my lap. But when I think about it, I know that looking outside myself for approval or guidance is just getting me further from whatever it is I must know I want.
Today I’m supposed to apply to work with my friend (and housemate) as a billing specialist, a job that I’d learn a lot at but I’m not sure is really the direction I want to be going. I find myself dragging my feet as I fill out the application and I honestly don’t know if I should push myself and make it happen or if I should take a step back because I’m heading in the wrong direction. At Thanksgiving my uncle told me that I had to create my own job because applying for existing jobs is a thing of the past. My family friend thinks I should go back to school and get a masters in engineering and my parents are just as confused as I am, sending me mixed signals that I know I need to ignore but somehow always hit me right when I’m vulnerable.
All I want for Christmas is some clarity, and I think the only one who can give me this gift is me.
Honestly, I haven’t had the chance to think of Christmas much at all yet. This fall has been a challenging one for me. Between teaching a college class for the first time, having friends in crisis, and getting knocked out by sickness twice I have been barely able to keep abreast of deadlines, let alone do any work on my PhD dissertation. Christmas has been the last thing on my mind. However, I taught my last class for the term on Wednesday and then finished grading their last assignment on Friday, which means—finally—my schedule is looking a bit freer. Finally I can start thinking about Christmas… and, oh yeah, my PhD dissertation that really needs to move a bit over the vacation. So, yes, I would put that on my Christmas list: getting some research done. Honestly, this is not as glum as it may seem, as during this hectic term I have been kind of missing my doing my own research.
I do, however, really need to get started doing some Christmas shopping. This year (for the first time ever) I am not going home for Christmas. I am going back home in the spring for a conference anyway, so I decided it just didn’t make sense to go back for Christmas this year. Honestly, I am okay with this. I will miss being home for sure, but the idea of spending my first Christmas in Europe is also a bit exciting. The real problem is that if I am not going home for Christmas, I will need to ship my presents. As in, if I want them to arrive by Christmas I need to send them soon—next week at the latest. And what presents do I have? One present so far in total. Someone needs to get shopping.
So yes—my Christmas list isn’t too long this year. All I want is to find time to relax, buy presents, work on my dissertation, hang out with friends, and possibly write a blog post or two. Oh, and a little snow would be nice too!
–The Little Merskank
This week my husband is out of town for work, so I’m all alone in the house. This has happened before, but I always dread not having him here. Sleeping alone, coming home to an empty house, and worse—not knowing where he is or if he is okay. However, despite the negatives that come with being separated from your spouse, I’ve also come to appreciate a little time to myself.
Since I started my new job, things have been, in a word: busy. Lesson planning and grading in my free time, sneaking naps when I can, trying to keep up with the garden and meal-planning and laundry and everything else…it can be exhausting. My husband’s been busy at work as well, and last month we both traveled, and now we’re gearing up for my in-laws’ visit over the holidays. Busy. Busy. Busy.
It’s a good kind of busy, but I could really use some space to breathe. And this week has given me just that. Without my hubby here, I can take a nap after work without a care. I can catch up on lesson-planning without any distractions, and hopefully even get ahead. I can watch girly movies and light candles just because, and soak in some quiet, private time.
My relaxation time was even extended this week after a sudden sandstorm ended school early yesterday and cancelled it for today—so I got a free day off and was able to sleep in, exercise, and enjoy my morning coffee without students clamoring for my attention. It felt great.
All that being said, I still have several more days without my hubby, and I know I’ll miss him more and more each day and be eager for him to get home. But I’m trying my best to make the most of this time and do a few things I just never get a chance to do anymore, like play my violin, try a new recipe, and read for pleasure.
In fact, the “bad weather” that cancelled school today is nowhere to be seen, so I think I’ll head outside and enjoy some iced tea in the sun—all by myself.