Archive | August, 2014

Do you really know me?

24 Aug

Earlier this year, a friend of mine committed suicide. During the aftermath, as his friends and family struggled to understand why, the biggest factor seemed to be his career. He was denied tenure at two different universities, and as he struggled to redefine his life, he dropped all his masks and ended his life. He removed any hope of ever doing anything else in his life. He was loved, and respected, yet he could not move past his [temporary] failures.

This meant something to me, because I have always felt adrift in terms of “career”. When I was a growing up I never had an answer for “What do you want to be when you grow up?” … And now I’m a grown up, and I still don’t know. I like being a mother (though it’s easy to feel like a failure in that), I like to read, and I like to keep house. Eventually I’d like to homeschool my children. But my mother worries that I am not challenged enough with what I do. That I’m bored. Even though I don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done on my to-do list. Sure, I’d love to be a powerful woman running some awesome company, but I have no idea how I would get there or if I’d even want it when I got it.

I knew my friend as a professor and my lab instructor at GSU. He asked me once, after I had graduated undergrad, was between jobs, pregnant, and had quit graduate school, what I was doing with my life besides watching the paint dry as our mutual friend painted my house. I don’t think I came up with an adequate answer. Besides the fact that I’m never good at delivery for interview questions (and that felt like one), most of the time I honestly don’t know what I’m doing with my life.

In retrospect, that seemed like a teaching moment. If only I had known what he would do in a few years, I could have said that having a job, or even a direction, isn’t the most important thing in life. That I would figure it out no matter how many bumps in the road there would be. Or that even if I didn’t figure it out, I would enjoy the ride. Or that being loved and loving someone else is the most important thing in the world. If you have that, you will survive all of life’s disappointments.

And then there are public figures like Robin Williams, pretty much beloved by all, who had the family, the money, and the career we all hope for, and somehow the dark recesses of his brain still won. We are all doomed to die, most of us fear that moment, of what will become of us, and some of us even seek it out, much to the chagrin of those left behind. Is it everlasting bliss of nothingness? No questions, doubts, or unhappiness? Or do we carry on somehow, unable to reach back to this world and share what we have learned on the other side? If given another chance, would Robin Williams say, “Wait, my career isn’t everything. My Parkinson’s diagnosis won’t change everything. Let’s keep going another day.”? Would my friend have reached out to more people for help if he really, deep down, knew that his career wasn’t what defined him? Is this a male dominance thing that we promote in American society? And women have become ensnared too where we have to have it all — the spouse, the career, the children, the perfect house, body, vacation life, etc.? Has the interconnectedness of social media ruined our chances of living a peaceful life? Or is it easier to connect with other people similar to us so we know we’re not alone, bullied by the image of perfection?

There are those — not me — who live their lives by the fullness of their convictions, whether it is following Jesus, or their career, or whatever eternal, internal fixture that drives them forward. Sometimes I feel like I’m on the outside watching all of these people (in life, on social media, in the news) be so sure, and I’m just waiting for that sureness to happen to me. I am 30 years old, I have created another life, and yet I’m almost convinced that I will never be 100% convinced of anything. Am I a hippie flower child or a ruthless Ayn Rand fan? A bit of both and a mixture of a whole lot more?

I know that there are different parts of me that I keep hidden from everyone. I’m not sure there is anyone out there who sees the whole picture. But it doesn’t mean I’m lost. I just think the world isn’t ready for me yet.

 

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Longboat Key

12 Aug

It has been a welcome whirlwind of vacations this past month. And now back to reality. But a different kind of reality. Walter started preschool for the first time this week, and he loved, loved, loved it! And mama loves having this time for herself too! Last week,  however, we got to enjoy the beach all week long. A whole, glorious week of eating, napping, and playing in the sun.

Walter didn’t always enjoy car rides. When he was an itty bitty thing, he would scream like he was being tortured every second he was in the car. It made it hard to leave the house. Switch to 2014 Walter, and he doesn’t make an 8 1/2 hour drive worse than an 8 1/2 hour drive already is.

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We’ll keep his seat turned around as long as he’ll let us.

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One day that will be an iPad.

We’re extremely lucky that’s Dave’s parents have a [super nice] beach house and that they want us to use it. I invited my parents to join us; my mom drove down the same day we did, and my dad flew in the next day. Having my mom there really helped it feel like a vacation since she would get up with Walter in the mornings and change his diaper and other awesome things like that.

IMG_20140803_115231929Walt and his Nini

Jan and Frank gave us several restaurant recommendations, and we tried as many as we could. The first night we went to the Dry Dock Grill. It had a beautiful view and the best fish tacos and black beans I’ve ever had. If you have a boat, you can pull right up to the restaurant to park.

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The beach started out unbearably hot, and I was afraid we had gone too far south to have any fun. The sand was scorching, the sun melting, and the ocean felt like a steamy bath. We only stayed out there a couple minutes before I wanted to go back in. But the next day it was cooler, and the day after that cloudy, and we could really enjoy ourselves.

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Beach babes.

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He knows how to relax like a champion.

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And play in the sand.

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David started digging to Australia, and Walt liked that.

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He loved being buried after we filled the hole back in so we didn’t kill any beach walkers or sea turtles.

The second night we went to Owen’s Fish Camp in Sarasota, where the bourbon pecan pie was gone in seconds (oh yeah, the fish was good too). And dad found a new best friend. The atmosphere was very fun.

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There is nothing like a vacation where you are also puzzling. Jan got this one for me for Christmas several years ago, and it ended up being really fun to put together. I have a new favorite brand now. I admit, I am a puzzle snob, because if the quality isn’t good, it’s not very fun putting pieces together if you’re not sure they actually go together. So I usually go Ravensburger or Suns Out (which can be spotty). But Pomegranate Puzzles have very fun pictures, and my mom even spilled a bottle of water over most of the pieces, and they didn’t fall apart. Now that’s sturdy.

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My parents had dinner one night with my dad’s business friend who lives in Sarasota, and he and his wife kindly set it up for us to visit the Ritz Carlton on Lido Key on their membership. For many years, due to a family friend who worked for the Ritz, we were able, when I was growing up, to spend several Florida vacations at various Ritz locations (and once in Barcelona too). Not only is it extremely nice there, but it made me nostalgic for my teenage summers spent with my friend Kate on the beach. It reminded me just how nice I had it and continue to have it!

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It was a salt water pool, which tastes weird if you’re used to chlorine.

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Walt feels at home wherever he is.

We’ve had Walter in pools before, but it was at the Ritz that Walt, Dave, and I had our first real fun time in a pool. I had just ordered Walt some water wings, and it was fun to get Walt used to swimming by himself. Walt didn’t really like being let go in the ocean, but he had a blast floating around the pool, and we even dunked him a few times. He took to the water like a fish. We swam a lot after that since the beach house also has a pool!

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Kicking and all!

We had a great time, and I was sad to have to come back home. We did manage to avoid an extra hour’s worth of traffic on 75 by taking a detour on what looked like the road in the movie Jurassic Park.

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Our smart phones knew where to take us but Garmin wasn’t sure we were even on roads.

After Bartow, Nashville, my birthday, and Longboat Key, it’s been an eventful month!