Stories from middle America

(A girl on her front porch, super proud of the plants she hasn’t killed.)

After reading and loving Amanda’s post on always identifying with being single, I wanted to take a cue from her writings to share how my journey has been 200% opposite of that.

A blind date in a small dark Omaha bar with champagne on tap, we met. Eight years ago I settled very nicely into the best love I’ve ever known but somehow, in some way, it fell apart. The silent war began. We couldn’t pull through. And the thing about being single, and not-as-young-as-I-once-was single, made the life I was facing a pretty big pill to swallow. Not to mention the gaping hole in my chest.

I always thought I related to single life. But, I realize now that I’m not sure I ever did. I had a boyfriend all through high school, after that I swiftly moved into a relationship during college that led to my son (who is now thirteen, I mean, WHOA!) and then came the man from the dark bar in Omaha. (Well, technically there have been two other men of significance along the way, but I’m going to follow Rob Gordon in High Fidelity and only discuss the ones who REALLY got to me – making my list of the top three, not the top five.)

I spent too much time after the man in the dark bar being inexplicably sad, desperately holding onto the fact that my life might not include a significant other. A brother or sister for my son; a two car garage; a fenced in yard with a dog or two; added to the list of things I thought I was losing by being single. I thought one thing – expected one thing – and toted around certain truths to get through the day. But I was missing all of it. Every single ounce of it.

After hiring a great sounding board (my therapist) I realized the benefits of taking the time to see who I actually was and not the expectation of who I thought I should be. **Off topic for a second: I think everyone should have a therapist. Not because anything is wrong with you, but because we should all have someone non bias to chat with in life. One who is actually educated in the process; one who can help you through; one who can explain any kinks. MENTAL HEALTH IS SO IMPORTANT. 

Over the past few years I’ve started to wear it differently. I’m more comfortable with the idea of being single, and more at ease with the notion that this is my tale. The rest has been my history, with the future open to whatever it brings.

I have made a load of good girlfriends. I have found things I’m passionate about accomplishing (other than being a good mother, duh!). I’ve downloaded Tinder and then quickly un-downloaded it because it’s literally the WORST if you actually want to date someone of substance. I stay up late a lot, but I have not mastered the pleasure of a good whiskey drink. Maybe with time, huh?

I’ve figured out that I can have the things I felt like I was missing being single. My son and I welcomed a dog to our pack. I have a one car garage and a landlord to call when I need something fixed around the house.

I look forward to more. In 5 years, when my son is headed out of my home, I may actually be in a position to travel. Traveling alone could really be a life changing experience and I can get excited about that…

About a year ago I had the overwhelming feeling of needing space. Life had been a series of extremes for me – from ventures that didn’t quite work out as planned, to meeting my partner in life. It left me taking on emotions at such a speed that I wasn’t really processing, or for that matter, enjoying or learning from any of them.

I doubt I’m alone with this, but when I’m in a distracted headspace it’s hard for me to be creative. And since creativity is a main component of what I do for a living, something had to give to allow some unfettered room in my noggin. Unfortunately, the open little brain bubble came at the expense of this site.

But I’ve missed it.

I like having an outlet to share the ramblings of my brain. And I realized that writing a blog post is actually really good for organizing my thoughts, which motivates me in other aspects of my life.

Then there are the contributor essays.

I once read an article where some famous actress loved Ina Garten (duh, she’s a badass) and wanted to be on The Barefoot Contessa. Ina politely declined because she preferred doing the show with her friends. That’s kind of how I feel about these ladies. I like them. I like hanging out with them in real life because I think they have interesting things to share. So it’s fun to see which things they choose to write about and put out into the world.

Yadda yadda yadda – you get the point. I’m back on this train.

MyExpatTable11

This is a guest post by my college friend, Katie Rhone. Katie is a generous, kind, talented, worldly woman who was one of the first of my peers who taught me what being a feminist was all about. Please check out her post from her blog, My Expat Table, where she chronicles life living abroad in England.

myexpattable

It has been a while since I have written a post. This isn’t because nothing has been worth writing about, a lot has happened in the past couple of months and worth sharing. When you get out of the habit of doing something (kind of like when you stop exercising) and it can be really hard to get back into it. Then something happens that spurs you back into action, last night was that time for me.

After putting the kids to bed, I was lying down doing some mind numbing searches on Pinterest trying to unwind from the day. Jasa was off to France so I had the quiet house to myself. In the middle of looking at some quinoa recipes, I heard a faint cry from the other room. Then I realized it was Adrian and thought that was odd. As I turned the corner into his room, he was tucked into his Batman blanket laying on his side in a fetal position crying. This was the type of crying that I could tell was coming from his heart.

I kneeled down next to his bed and asked him what was wrong and he said “I want to see JoJo” sobbing through his tears whom is one of his grandma’s. I grabbed him quickly and pulled him into our bedroom so he didn’t wake his sister and he nestled into me like it was freezing outside and he was fighting for any ounce of warmth he could. I repeated back to him what he told me and I asked him if he wanted to call her right now. Adrian still crying said “No, I want to have a sleepover at her house in Nebraska” and then asked “When can we go and see her?”

My heart sank again as a parent and thought we were over the missing Nebraska stage. Then I realized of course he is feeling this way after an amazing month home, how could you not!! Adrian and Juliette had the opportunity to spend time doing things with friends and family they love to do- go to the swimming pool, play in the garden, run through sprinklers, go four wheeling on the farm, drive the tractor, stay up and watch movies, have gobs of ice cream, do wheel barrel races, bike races, etc. As young child, it must have been magical. It was so strong for him that out of the blue he started thinking about home and Nebraska which illicted sadness, tears and a urning to go back. I don’t blame him.

Before going home in August, I would get those feelings often. Our trip home was wonderful. We had the opportunity to see old friends, family, business partners, and others we have missed dearly. The highlight of the trip was my brother’s wedding in Atlanta. This was the finale of our trip as the next day, it was back to Manchester. As this day approached and the morning of the wedding, I was sad cause I knew it was all coming to an end. The day of the wedding was really special and so happy we got a chance to be a part of Dan and Alli’s day. I will never forget saying goodbye to my family at the airport, man was that tough.

As we boarded the plane back to Manchester something strange happened, I got renewed energy. It was a readiness to come back to our home in Alderley Edge. I felt a sense of calmness and relief walking into our house- almost like coming back home. I remember then being confused as to what I was feeling.

Is this home? Or did where we just come from home? Can home be in multiple places? I guess this is where the expression “Home is where the heart is” applies.

When you are an expatriate, the concept of “home” becomes somewhat blurred. We are Americans living in another country and culture that is different but we are still very American. Yet, we are trying to integrate into a community the best we can, although our lovely American accents are always a dead giveaway. There are things that we like and don’t like about each culture. This is why it was so hard to answer the question to our friends and family “So how is it living in England?” Often times I wanted to ask “How much time do you have?” It was very difficult to sum up to an elevator speech our thoughts and feelings about living in England because in many ways, it is becoming our home.

No matter what happens with our time here in England, this experience has made our lives richer. I hope that this will give our children a different perspective of the world that will follow them into adulthood. Until that time comes, we just have to work through these feelings together as a family and help each other on this adventure. Anytime I am yearning for a familiar Nebraska countryside, I know exactly where to go on a trail up by The Edge to get this view….

england view

I’m sitting on my couch eating kimchi. It’s delicious. Kimchi used to be way too strong for me, taste wise. Since I like it now, I worry my taste buds are dying.

Last summer, I tried to make kimchi and have yet to try it. I bought the wrong kind of spice at the Asian Market, and it turned brown instead of the vibrant red I had expected. “That looks disgusting,” my friend Miranda observed as I hand mixed it. I now wonder since I am not of Asian decent, if making kimchi in my kitchen using Mason jars makes me a special kind of culturally illiterate asshole. I throw the jar out.

It’s almost weird to be in this moment, with these things. At the height of the Recession, I started a long unemployment journey that often left me with barely enough money to pay my bills. Buying kimchi on a whim at Whole Foods was a luxury I wouldn’t go near.

Despite my sudden financial trajectory, I still lived a life of privilege. I had parents who stepped in when I called. I had friends give me cheap housing and others got me a job when my unemployment benefits ran out.

For about a year, from 7 AM to 3 PM, six days a week, I would transcribe handwritten comments into typed text. Since I couldn’t afford the parking garage, even in the dead of winter I walked over a mile to my building. When my productivity slowed or I made too many spelling errors, I would get lectured about “increasing my output” for approximately five to seven minutes by my manager while her subordinate listened in. I was allowed two 15 min breaks and one 30 min lunch during the day, and was encouraged to work all major holidays for no increase in my hourly wage (which I did, because I needed the money and not a day off without pay).

I still job searched in my field, which ironically was copywriting and marketing. I was the finalist for so many jobs in exotic sounding cities like Seattle, Boston and New York City. So many times, I would lose out in the final interview round and be forced to return to my beige, windowless cubicle. So many times, I would cry the whole day.

Years later, eating this over-priced, Whole Foods kimchi – I’m mortified by how I looked down my nose at that job. It was a job; it helped me pay my bills, on time, every month. I worked next to Lyndsey – an aspiring self-taught photographer who loved her mom. And Gunther, a talented musician who came to work, got his shit done, and went home to his beautiful wife. To be ashamed meant I thought I was above the work and these people. Now I understand – you’re never above honest work.  

Dreams and reality don’t always mash up. But you do the work to get you there. Fanaticizing about a certain lifestyle or job won’t put the skills on your resume. Appreciating the here and now, the actions you’re taking to reach your dreams – that’s when you look back, connect those dots and think, “I got through that so I could be here.” So often, I’m reminded that many people never get the resources to pull themselves up.  If you’re able to better your situation, remember to not be an asshole  – life doesn’t owe you a cushy career trajectory paved in nice salaries.

 

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