Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Bits and pieces

I feel like I've made like 10 new friends in the last year, and the more I hang out with groups of women, the more people I'm meeting all the time. As an introvert, this kind of stresses me out. I hate to admit this, but I will probably not try to learn your name until I've met you 6 times, because so many introductions are for a one-time meeting. Even after 3 meetings, I'm skeptical about whether I'm ever going to see you again.

If you make it to the 6-times threshold for when I will learn your name, it will still probably be months before I try to meet with you one on one. I just don't connect with people very quickly. I take a long time to warm up to others, and even if you are a share-bear telling me everything about your life from who your first grade teacher was to that thing your husband does that really annoys you, it doesn't mean you're going to get my trust as easily. Which is kind of bizarre, because it's not like I'm hiding anything. Nor do I really even care what you think about me. (I'm the jerk who didn't even want to learn your name.) It's just friendships and relationships are such an investment, of energy and memory space. And I have a very poor memory. If I let you in, that's one more 90s rap song whose lyrics I am going to forget.

So in my crockpot style of warming up in a relationship, I really only learn about people slowly, in bits and pieces. Which in turn makes it much harder to remember the details with the right person (when you're meeting a lot of new people), because I still don't have an overall framework for understanding who you are. So far, all I know are the buckshot-sprayed details of your quirks. And sometimes these little details can be the real essence of who we are, but if you don't have an overall understanding of who that person is, they all seem random. The parts do not always equal the sum total of a person.

I have no solution here. This is just an observation. And an apology if I have a puzzled look on my face when you start talking to me--I might still be trying to remember your name, and whether your husband leaves kitchen cabinets open or if you obsess over having a spotless bathroom.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Believing in community

So for years Josh and I have preached the value of community. When people moved into our apartments, we made a big deal of telling them that we see this as being a part of a community. We take care of the apartments as we would our own home (for better or worse), and we expect our tenants to treat the place as if they owned it as well. And that goes for all the extra stuff too--if you need to borrow some sugar or our vacuum, please ask. If Josh isn't home and I need help opening a jar of spaghetti sauce, I will knock on your door. We trust you and we want you to trust us. We are now in community together.

But while we often made that speech, it's not very often that we find ourselves on the "asking" side of that equation (or the giving side either, now that I think about it). Not because we don't have need, but because we are quick to find another way to work around the situation. Of course, when I try to think of examples, I can't. But it is not very often that we ask someone else to help do something, borrow something, or fix something. And it's kind of sad. The less you participate in these helping situations, the less likely people will ask you to help them either. It's a perpetual circle of stubborn self-sufficiency.

But today I found myself in a tricky situation. I needed to take Josh's car into the shop, which is only 3 blocks away, but I had Rye. I figured I would move the car seat from my car to Josh's, pack the stroller in Josh's car, drop the car off at the car shop, then either put Rye in the stroller and push him home while carrying the car seat, or try to get the car seat in the stroller and hold Rye's hand as we walked home. It would be tricky, but I could handle it.

But then I couldn't get the car seat out of my car. Normally I can't get it in the car tight enough, but apparently my last installation had been quite successful. I thought about Rye riding in the backseat with a normal seat belt--it's just 3 blocks, after all (and I'm sure our parents' generation would have done that so let's take a deep breath here) --but he's so tiny, and why would he ever agree to ride in his car seat again if he thinks it's OK to ride in the back seat with just a seat belt? I considered leaving him in his room with the door locked with his new favorite toy, a recycling truck (which he got for getting 14 stickers on his potty chart last week!). After all, I could get there and back in less time than a typical shower. But I'd feel pretty guilty about that too.

I stood there, outside my car, looking at that car seat and wondered what to do. And that's when I thought about how nice it would be if there was someone close by who could watch Rye, just while I ran out and dropped off the car. And then I remembered: duh, you do have a neighbor who has offered to watch Rye for exactly these kinds of situations. And she has a son Rye's age, and they get along (as much as two 2 1/2-year-olds who are learning to share can), and she lives within eyesight of our dining room. As much as it felt like an imposition, I texted her at 8:20 a.m. asking if I could bring Rye over at 9, and threw in an offer to pick us both up smoothies to boot.

And then I waited for that awkward rejection to come back. But it didn't! About 10 minutes later, she got back to me and said that would be fine and she'd love to see us. And what a relief it was to accept her offer. To save me a bunch of time and steps. To have our kids play together. To sit and catch up over pina colada smoothies. That was so much more fun than pushing a car seat in a stroller 3 blocks uphill while trying to keep a toddler from walking in the street. Alone.

I think we're too afraid to be imposing on others when what we really would be doing in many of these situations is building connections. Investing time in each other's lives. Admitting that we can't handle it all, and allowing others to help.

What a relief it can be to just ask.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

I like quiet time

Josh was gone this morning but got home earlier than I had expected, and after he and Rye ate some lunch, Josh wanted us all to go to the mall and walk around. Rye loves the mall. Probably because it feels like a big, open space and I don't make him hold my hand like I do when we're in an actual outdoor area. Plus the fountain and escalator. (Oh, the simple joys of childhood.)

But Josh gave me the out, and since I did have work to do that I would have to do Sunday morning if I didn't do it then, I opted out. I played the "work" card. And I earnestly did get my work done, but I probably could have gotten it done in 20 minutes tomorrow morning anyway, especially since my brain is so much fresher in the morning.

I just wanted some quiet time. Granted, I do get about 2 hours of Rye's nap time nearly every day, but I'm still not alone. And why do I want this freedom? To blare loud music? To watch movies with cursing? To have friends over, especially ones with loud laughs that I'm afraid are going to wake Rye up?

Nope. I just miss being alone. It's not like I want to be alone all the time or even the majority of the time, but just ever. And sometimes since parenthood, it feels like I don't get to be alone ever. Outside of those rare times of running errands, where you still have a pretty strict agenda you need to keep to. (Though those errands are still greatly treasured. Monday my car was in the shop for a check-up, and when it was time for one of us to go walk the 6 blocks to pick it up, I was practically begging for the opportunity to a) leave the house by myself and b) take a walk by myself. You know, two things I used to do all the time.)

Within the first two months of being a stay-at-home mom I was making the joke "they say marriage is the ball and chain, but really it's the baby." Only it doesn't feel OK to say those kind of jokes out loud, so you keep it inside. Especially after everyone knows how much you wanted a baby. "Seriously, she's complaining already?"

There's just a lot to be said for alone time.

So how did I use mine today? Making a hot tea that I forgot about and then had to drink when it's the temperature of public restroom hot water when you're trying to wash your hands; finishing a Neighborhoods column with a lede that made me laugh and I'm hoping I can get away with (it's in German); responding to a text (with photo) from Josh about their adventures at the mall; and folding laundry while watching a Property Brothers episode on Netflix. Nothing fancy, or deep, but delightful.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Power of Babies

So my sister-in-law Liz just had a baby Sept. 23, little Remy Rose, and I had the privilege of going to their house two days after she was born where I got to hold her for more than 2 hours.

Me holding 2-day-old Remy Rose

What a precious gift. With all that I went through this summer with the pregnancy and miscarriage, holding dear Remy did more to uplift my spirits than I could of imagined. The incredible vulnerability of a new baby, the innocence, the sense of a new beginning of her life and a new chapter for her family, and to hold all of that in my arms--it was completely restorative. I didn't even see her open her eyes in all of that 4-hour visit. She and I were in complete peace. As soon as I got home, I texted Liz a thank you and a "I'll be back next Friday as long as you'll have me." If they lived closer, I would be there every day. Today was my second visit and I was a complete baby-hog again. Unapologetically.

I think Josh was a little nervous about how I'd react being around Remy, that it would bring on a new wave of despair for the baby I lost--the one that would have been just 4 months younger than dear Remy. But it didn't. It was a complete renewal of hope. While just a month ago I was wondering how any woman who had suffered a miscarriage could "try" to get pregnant again, or even hope for a pregnancy, knowing the risk and pain they had already suffered, holding Remy reminded me of a simple fact: babies are worth it. Just as they are worth the 9 1/2 months of carrying that extra weight, the aches and illness and inability to take decongestants, the agonizing hours of labor and delivery--babies are worth it. As saddening as the loss of hope is with a miscarriage, the chance that you can still have a baby overrides the risk of another loss. Because just look at that newborn. So tiny, helpless and precious, just wanting to be held close and protected. Making you forget yourself in your providing for them.

I didn't know if or when I'd be ready to say this, but I have hope again. It's a hope without expectation of fulfillment, but hope nonetheless.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

31 Days of... October

I hate to post twice in one day, but after posting my BMW post this afternoon, my friend Jenna challenged me to join a 31 Days blogging challenge. I signed up, then read the fine print--they want you to write about the same topic for 31 days. AND come up with a cute name for it. AND create a graphic "button" to put on their webpage so everyone can read each other's blogs (except there's like a thousand of them). It was cool to look through some of their buttons and topics. I even clicked on a few to try and get inspiration.

But I don't think I can write about the same thing for 31 days. The closest thing I could think of was 31 Days of Missed Comments, as in, often I say something funny (particularly in a group) and no one hears because they're still laughing at the last thing someone else said or are just trying to say their next thought, and didn't hear/acknowledge my statement. Another missed comment subcategory is when I think of the perfect thing to say an hour too late.

But I'm not going to hold myself to that because I feel like there are some days when Josh and Rye are the only people I interact with. And I will repeat myself as many times as necessary to make sure Josh and Rye soak in what I'm saying.

So instead, I'll be writing random blogs, which I will hopefully keep short (I'm sure that got some "yeah, right" thoughts), and I will not be posting them on Facebook unless I think they are genuinely funny/interesting. It will be interesting to me to see what percentage will meet that target.

If you are interested in your own 31 Days challenge, here's the link. And let me know where to read your stuff!

Now that I drive a BMW

   So for all but about 2 years of my driving life, I’ve driven a Honda Civic. The first was a pinkish (once maroon) ‘
84 that was a hand-me-down from my mom when she moved up to a ’96 purplish Civic. I drove that boxy little ‘84 (with standard transmission, thank you very much) until I hit a deer on a rainy night on my way to Towson to camp out for Tibetan Freedom Concert tickets in 1998. Thanks to the rain and fog, I didn’t see the deer at all until I was about 10 feet away, so I didn’t break or swerve. I just plowed into it, hitting it with the front of my hood and then it flew over my car, like a reindeer. The car sounded a little funny after that, but I drove it the rest of the 15-minute ride to the TowsonTown Center where I parked, surveyed the damage, and then found a pay phone to call my parents (yeah, there were still pay phones). We agreed there was nothing that could be done that night, so I continued to spend the night out for the tickets, scoring the maximum 4 tickets for each day of the concert, then proceeded to sell all but my ticket on the street closer to the concert date and made serious bank. If I wasn’t a 5-foot-tall woman without tattoos, piercings, or street cred, I might have become a professional scalper, so great was the high of making all that money for nothing.

The deer had smashed up my hood in such a way that we could no longer open it, so it was just a matter of time until I burned up all the oil and the car would be laid to rest. I went away to college, a carless freshman, but that was no big deal. By sophomore year, my uncle, who was a mechanic, had a friend selling a well-maintained ‘86 Chevy Nova and hooked me up. I bought the car for $500. Oh, how I loved this car. It was light as a feather and would drive 5 mph without even putting your foot on the gas pedal—that’s how much get up and go it had. I got 3 speeding tickets in one year with that car. After the third ticket, Josh, then my fiancĂ©, freaked out and told me that we might not be able to get married (that year) because I’d be losing my license or have outrageous car insurance. But God smiled down on me, and the first two judges both gave me probation before judgement. I drove all the way to Salisbury to ask for mercy again with the third ticket—Salisbury, which is notorious for being hard on speeding—and my police officer didn’t show up because he had been called up in the Army Reserve post-9/11, and I got off that ticket too. I couldn’t believe it. And so the wedding was back on.

In mid-2001, my mom got a new car, a Saturn, and I was bestowed her ’96 Civic. It was roomier than the ’84, still a stick shift, and had slightly better air conditioning. My parents kept the Nova for when my brother for when he would be learning to drive. The Civic again became my workhorse, commuting me back and forth from Jarrettsville to Westminster for my first real job at the Carroll County Times, taking Josh and I on all our long road trips for beaches and backpacking, and it was really reliable. It made it to over 200,000 miles, and then I was still able to sell it on eBay for $1,200.

When we went car shopping in 2006, I was convinced I wanted to look at the Accord because I thought we needed more room. We were older and had more “stuff,” and I personally wanted the ability to buy a piece of furniture at a sidewalk sale without having to go home and get the pick-up truck. But when we went to the dealer and I checked out the 2006 Civics, I realized the new redesign really had made it a bigger car, or if not bigger, more usable in the interior. I sat in the Accord and it felt unreasonably large, and I couldn’t justify paying that much more and having all of that unnecessary extra headspace, legroom, backseat space and trunk space.

And as odd as the car’s name of “Civic” is, I dig it. To me, it’s a less-communist sounding word for meaning “of the people.” It’s a reasonably affordable, gosh-darn reliable vehicle, built for the masses. When I’m driving down the highway and I see other people in Civics, I really do feel like I already have something in common with them. It might just be that we need to turn the radio a little louder to compensate for all the road noise we have to endure, but there’s something there. And it’s not like we have a particular personality trait in common either, like you might think with some other cars, because there are so, so many of us that drive Civics. It truly is the car “of the people.”

BMWs, however, I do associate with some stereotypical personality types. They’re a little aggressive, driving-wise. A little privileged, looking. And their cars accelerate so fast that when they hit the gas to pass someone, it’s like they own the road and are taking what’s theirs. When I pass someone in my Civic, it’s like my little V4 is giving it all it’s got, huffing and puffing and making a big show of the fact that it got up the speed to overtake your slow-butt-car that is going 10 mph under the speed limit for heaven’s sake. And as for the more human personality traits of a BMW owner, well, I have to be careful about that because I have a couple of those in the family, including my husband.

Josh bought his ‘2007 BMW 328xi in 2010. He was about to change store locations and would no longer have a 1-mile commute, and the ‘94 pick-up truck seemed to be on its last legs (just as it still seems to be on its last legs now, 6 years later). He and I had gone car shopping together to the Toyota dealership and tried out the Rav-4, which I was kind of rooting for, but Josh wasn’t impressed. Later in the week he went out with his friend Chet and they went to a handful of dealerships, and then before I knew it, he bought the BMW. I hadn’t seen it, but trusted his judgement and gave him my blessing.

And that’s the last time either of us ever buys a car solo again.

Immediately, I didn’t like the Beamer. (Why do people call them that, by the way?) I had always thought of a BMW as a “luxury” car. I was wrong. Josh has since told me they are a “performance” car. Which is why the steering wheel is so tight it’s like an arm workout for me to drive it and why you can feel every bump in the road as it “hugs” the ground and curves. It also super annoys me that it locks us in while we’re driving, so that every time I try to get out of the car, I can’t. Or rather, I can’t until I pull the door handle twice. And then there’s the cup holders. Every car I have ever been in has had the cup holders in the center console. The Beamer has them sort of coming out of the dashboard to the right of each seat, so technically the driver’s cup holder is in the personal space of the passenger, and up until about a month ago, I was always the passenger, with both Josh’s drink and my drink in my face. Except that the cup holders are so small, they don’t hold either of our water bottles or the fancy coffee travel mug I got Josh for Father’s Day. So you actually have to hold your cup/bottle or let it roll on the floor. Luxury, my ass.

Just as Josh bought the car in 2010 for a job location change, about a month ago he proposed that we trade cars, because of a job change. Josh is now what they call a “flexible pharmacist,” previously known as a “floater,” which means he no longer works at just one location but is a fill-in pharmacist (still for Wal-Mart), traveling to whatever store in his district that needs him. He’s never been one for commuting, but podcasts have made that so much easier, and even somewhat enjoyable. But there was no denying that the Civic gets WAY better mileage than the Beamer, which has all-wheel drive. On long distances, my car averages 34 mph. The BMW seems to get about 25. So Josh proposed that with all his driving, often to faraway places like Hagerstown and Germantown, we trade cars.

At first this seemed crazy. We are not the type of couple that just trades cars. (I didn’t even know couples did that until my friend Marjorie told me her parents owned two cars and didn’t consider either of them to personally belong to either one of them. My parents were NOT like that.) The Civic was my car, snotty tissues and soda cans galore, and the spotless BMW was Josh’s. But I had to agree with the logic of a trade. So a month ago, I became the driver of a BMW.

At first, I was so self-conscious. I admit it, I have a negative stereotype of BMW owners, and I didn’t want other drivers, or most especially, pedestrians, to think of me in that way. I drove extra cautiously and graciously. I gave little waves to let people go (but I don’t know if they could even see me through those dark-tinted windows). When the roads were open, I completely took advantage of that V6 engine without any road noise. In the first two weeks of driving it, it was kind of a shock I didn’t get any speeding tickets.

I wasn’t thinking of myself as a BMW owner yet, and when a guy from the gym that Josh and I often chat with pointed out that I was driving the Beamer these days instead of my humble Civic, I was a little embarrassed. I know, that’s ridiculous, but it’s true. I explained the commuting situation, and then he told me about the Mercedes he bought for his wife last year. But I still didn’t feel part of the club. The Rich People’s Car Club.

And then, two weeks into our new arrangement, I really started feeling like a BMW owner. That’s when the car started giving me messages about how the oil was below the minimum and I needed to add oil so as not to damage the engine. I had driven all the way to Jarrettsville the first time I saw that message, and it would have really freaked me out, except I know Josh had just put more oil in it a few weeks ago, and the car’s computer has lied to us many times before. (Side note: BMW’s computer has some really scary warning messages. Sometimes in the winter it tells us that it has lost a stabilizing feature and could overturn at any minute.) (OK, that’s not what it really says, but I forget the exact language, and it’s something to that extent, and it has yet to happen.) I didn’t think much of it and drove home. But the next day when I started the car just to drive the 4 blocks to the gym (I know, I’m terrible), it smelled like it was burning oil, so I texted Josh immediately and told him about the message. He said it he knew it had a leaking gasket or something like that, but not to worry about it. When he got home that night, I told him I’d had that message for a few days. He added a quart of oil, and thought that would take care of it. But just 3 days later, the computer was telling us it needed another quart of oil. That’s when Josh decided we should probably take it in, because we weren’t seeing puddles of oil anywhere, so it was either lying or severely burning up oil. (The car’s oil system is such that you cannot do your own dipstick test with it, so you have to trust the computer or take it to a car shop that can run diagnostics to know if the oil level is actually that low.)

The day before Josh put the kibosh (I had to look up the spelling of that word—not what I expected) on either of us driving the Beamer until he could get it checked out for this scary oil situation, the window broke. I came out of a store and noticed the back driver’s side window was down 3 inches, and I didn’t remember lowering it like that (especially when all the other windows were up). I turned on the car and tried raising it, but it wouldn’t budge. It made a sound like it was trying, but nothing was happening. I tried pressing the down function to see if that worked, and it started going down, so I let off the button, however the window kept going down, down, down, all the way down. And then wouldn’t come back up. I turned the car off once we got home, waited a few minutes, turned it back on, and tried to raise it again. Nothing. I got out the manual, but there was absolutely nothing in there about window malfunctioning. I texted Josh and he sort of shrugged it off, assuming I was doing something wrong. When he got home, he couldn’t get it to raise either, and had to cover it with a trash bag and tape since we were going out of town for the weekend.

He tried to get an immediate appointment with his mechanic, conveniently located 2 blocks away, but the shop was booked up for two weeks. They did let him come in and the checked out the window situation right away, and were able to pull it up immediately but said it’s the inner mechanisms that are broken and they’ll have to wait until his appointment, now just half a week away, until they can fix it.

So now I really do feel like a BMW owner, considering I had always heard how likely they are to have stupid things go wrong (and how you have to pay thousands to get them fixed).

Now that I drive a BMW, I actually drive a Civic. And Josh drives a ’94 pick-up.

And our next car will be a Honda or a Toyota.