So there was this woman, and she was pretty comfortable. After a decade of moving every few years, she’d been settled in a nice small town for nearly five years. Healthy kids, good marriage. She was mostly “at home” with the kids, but had carved out a little sideline writing for a few blogs and her local newspaper. Life was crazy, sure: She had four young children. But she felt like she’d finally nailed the rest-work balance. Three kids were in school now. She had her village firmly in place: school, church, friends, and her parents, who lived 15 minutes away.
And she was about to lose it all, because the following year, her husband was going on sabbatical. Sabbatical: from the Greek word “sabatikos,” meaning “of the Sabbath” – the day of rest. For her husband, sabbatical was a year of rest from his job as a college professor. For her, it felt like the opposite of rest.
The orchid in question is the first I’ve ever owned. It was bestowed upon me this past July as a hostess gift from a visiting friend. This friend — unlike me — does not have to drive an hour in order to reach the nearest Trader Joe’s, so she arrived at our house thoughtfully bearing an array of exotic Trader Joe’s products: dried mango, chocolate-covered cherries, seasoning salt. Also: the orchid.
“It’s beautiful. Thank you,” I said as she handed me a tiny pot containing the single curved stalk upon which three delicate blossoms trembled. “I’m going to kill this.”
When On the Willows invited contributors to write about a favorite holiday tradition, I signed up immediately.
Then I stared at the wall for several weeks.
Our family is still a little new to this holiday tradition thing.
Neither my husband nor I brought a stockpile of holiday traditions to our marriage. I’m an only child who grew up many hours away from my extended family; my parents produced festive holidays, but it seems to me that at least one sibling is necessary to create a family culture in which holiday traditions are remembered and carried on. And my husband is the son of first-generation Chinese immigrants; they combined Western Christmas traditions with Chinese cooking, which would be wonderful if either of us could cook like my mother-in-law.
It was only four years ago, when our third child was born and we moved to Vermont, that we declared ourselves officially “Home For The Holidays.” Henceforth, we would celebrate Christmas in our home rather than alternating between grandparents; extended family was welcome to come to us.
Four years isn’t a long time to develop traditions, especially with three young children and a fourth baby in the mix; we’re mostly just trying to stay afloat through the holidays.
I would love to hear about your process in realizing you need to “step back” and care for yourself. What happened to cause that? What has changed in the way you go about doing things?
Those lines are from an email I received from a college student we know.
I laughed when I read her email. I’d just been up half the night before having a panic attack. I’d laid in bed, mind racing, breathing hard, every muscle firing. Finally, so as not to disturb my sleeping husband, I went downstairs and walked around, forcing myself to breathe deeply.
In the juggling act of life, most of us try to keep multiple balls in the air in order to maintain our mental and physical health. The balls in play typically involve some combination of work, relationships, exercise, relaxation, and spiritual life.
Adding children is akin to lobbing a cannon ball into the mix.
At least, it was for me. After having children, work and relationships were bumped aside, exercise and relaxation fell to the ground and rolled away, and spiritual life…how do you maintain a fulfilling spiritual life with young children? Is it possible to have daily “quiet time” when no time is quiet?
On the Willows has been on hiatus for a few months, but now it’s back! And I have a new post up over there, about the strategy of “hanging in there” when you find yourself in one of life’s pits. Click here to read.
This is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. In solidarity with the 0.5-10% of the female population who struggle with some form of eating disorder (according to the Academy for Eating Disorders), I’ve written about my own post-college experience with anorexia. This was not an easy piece to write, as it required me to dredge up some rough memories, but I hope you’ll check it out over at On the Willows. Click here to read.
Every year, I feel conflicted about Christmas cards. They’re impersonal; many on our Christmas card list hear from us once a year, and at best we send them a form letter. Christmas cards can seem braggy; we showcase our best photo and write a rosy update — no mention of the potty accidents or the fights or the dusty corners. Christmas cards have absolutely nothing to do with the real Christmas, and they’re a lot of work and expense at a time of year that’s already stressful and expensive.
INTRODUCTION: In the first part of this piece, which appeared yesterday, I related how I’d been bombarded by the viral video commercial for GoldieBlox — construction kits that are being marketed specifically to girls in order “to get girls building” — while considering Christmas gifts for my own four daughters. After an initial rush of enthusiasm from consumers, GoldieBlox experienced some backlash for peddling pastel toys while simultaneously claiming that they wanted to “disrupt the pink aisle.” All of which raised interesting questions that get at the heart of our culture’s confusion about what it means to be a female: Are traditionally “girly” toys and games (dolls, tea sets, princess play) inferior to traditionally masculine toys and games? In order to encourage girls to engage in more “masculine” play, do we need to make separate-but-equal toys (i.e. traditional boy toys in pastel hues)? And if we answer “yes” to the two previous questions, aren’t we being demeaning to girls? So where does that leave us?
I’ll attempt to tackle some of these issues based on my own experience.
In our house, we try to fight against Christmas becoming all about gifts. Our children get presents, but since we buy sparingly I spend a lot of time considering what to purchase, because I want it to be meaningful. We have four girls, so while considering toys this year I couldn’t avoid the GoldieBlox phenomenon.
For those who missed it, GoldieBlox is a toy company whose stated mission is “to get girls building.” Concerned that men vastly outnumber women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs, GoldieBlox designs storybook and construction sets for girls. Their “Princess Machine” commercial, in which three girls design a Rube Goldberg machine throughout their house, went viral this fall — and, no doubt, sold lots of GoldieBlox sets.
My own finger hovered over the “Add to Cart” button on the GoldieBlox website. Then I stopped, because something I couldn’t quite name was bothering me.