something in between.

due to my position at church i have access to people’s feelings and concerns. women approach me when they are in need, are frustrated or want me to take action. something that i did not expect is an overwhelming sentiment spanning the divide of age and position. it is loneliness. so many perceive they do not belong. they assume everyone else is happily connected without them.

part of perception is that even if it is false, if that is how the individual perceives reality, than to them, it is truth.

among these determinations is the unhelpful need to categorize. when we categorize we shut ourselves off to opportunities. and friendships.

unsurprisingly – almost everyone seems to feel as if they do not quite fit in.  converts.  young mothers. mothers of teens. child-less women. single women. divorced women. empty nesters. grandmothers. women with inactive or non-member family members.

i have felt this throughout our marriage. the first few years we were outsiders in a heavily student ward in seattle. it was amusing to see people try to figure out why we were in seattle and how to categorize us, no children, graduated from school, late 20s, not from the pacific northwest… you could almost see the steam rise as their brains did not compute.

our move to the suburbs brought confusion since everyone assumed we were in our early 20s. everyone our age had on average three children. some were even teenagers. despite those differences we made excellent friends.

and then things shifted when we had asher.

it has been an interesting past year socially.

having a first baby in your late 30s is complicated. do i belong to the young new mom group? or is my group those who are my age but are done having kids and gearing up for the tween years? or is my group those slightly older than me with teenagers?

finding a new balance has been tricky. the truth is i don’t feel like i belong to any one group because i have friends within each. maybe that is how it should be. the pre-set groups are more confining than inviting. we should be open to wherever we can serve, or love or befriend.

……..
anna begins by counting crows

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fancy pants.

why do you have to make something fancy?? christian asks.

i usually ignore him. from day one he’s said things like, we don’t need to use napkins, paper towels work fine. or why are you using serving dishes? it’s just getting one more thing dirty. or you don’t need to make a dessert.

quickly you can see how our differing belief systems regarding food and kitchen clash.

on almost a nightly basis he consumes some form of snack before dinner. the top contenders are: an entire sleeve of oreos, ritz crackers with peanut butter and honey or mini pretzels. when given meal options 100% of the time he will request lasagna, even though he knows we don’t keep ricotta on hand. when in a hunger pinch, top ramen + broccoli will do or several bowls of cold cereal. he puts kitchen gadgets, mixing bowls, pots and pans away willy nilly. when asked to retrieve an ingredient from the big freezer, after some rummaging he usually says, it’s not in there. and then i go and dig the thing out. without fail he never remembers if i wanted salted or unsalted butter. he likes to let things pile up in the sink. he calls it soaking.

sunday night, he protested from the couch – mid mario kart race while simultaneously trying to keep little whopper at bay from the controller. i wanted to make some treat deliveries to a few friends that night. i was just about ready to drop the doughnut holes into the hot oil.

you’re making something fancy, aren’t you? 

no just some doughnut holes.

wait, you have to heat oil up for that and fry them. why don’t you just make some cookies?

i brushed him off. who was i to take culinary advice from a grown man-child who would eat pizza every day for the rest of his life? besides, doughnut holes aren’t fancy. i didn’t even make a yeasted dough or roll it out. now that would have been fancy.

the holes sizzled while little whopper wanted my attention and christian growled at the cheating computer. i proceeded to stubbornly fry all of the dough even though batch after batch was burning. i powdered them, thinking all they needed was a little cosmetic help. i tasted them. burnt exterior with blotchy sugary patches with doughy centers. there would be no redemption for those little blobs.

are you going to go make your deliveries? he asked.

no. they’re ruined. i said.

occasionally i get frustrated with myself in the kitchen: when my recipe doesn’t turn out like the picture. when my baked goods don’t release from the pan. when my cookies are too flat or too crunchy. when we eat quickly while gulping water because i added too much heat. when i decide to mash two recipes together on the fly yielding poor results.

despite all the misses christian is always an eager diner. devouring what i make with gratitude. except for tonight. tonight we just stared at those sad little doughnut holes and thought about the cookies we could have been eating.

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lord business.

we had driven past their little stand once already. they’d been faithfully manning it for a few hours now. the mildly warm temperature brings out a kind of frenzy here. people in shorts and tank tops pack the trails. everyone has their garage doors open while they squeeze in some outdoor projects before the inevitable rains begin. and children attempt to be small business owners, usually while wearing swimming suits.

as we passed by the lemonade stand for the second time i felt a twinge of duty. the stand vacant of customers, the brother and sister looked like they could use some support. by the time we decided to pull over we were a few houses passed the kids. christian’s mom handed me some change and i made my way back to the little entrepreneurs.

they were so excited to see me coming and got a cup of ice cold lemonade ready.

50 cents, right? i asked as i reached forward with two shiny quarters.

it’s one dollar. the big brother quickly said. the little sister held the cup out, anxiously waiting.

oh. i said looking from them to my hand and back again.

through the driver side window of the car i told christian what they were charging for lemonade powder mix.

a dollar!? we are not paying a dollar!

rather than get in the car i froze. but they think i’m coming back. i squeaked. the kids looking on in anticipation.

did you tell them you were coming back?

no, i just walked away.

well then get in the car, let’s go. 

i got in the car feeling a kind of shame mixed with extreme embarrassment. i sunk down in my seat trying to avoid those four little eyes looking on in confusion.

why are you embarrassed? christian asked. we are teaching them a business lesson. they should have been flexible and charged what the market demanded. they should have accepted the 50 cents–it was better than getting nothing.    

and that is when i remember i was married to lord business.

when the lego movie first came out people told us we would love it because it is about christian. i didn’t understand how that was possible. until about half way through watching the movie myself. i realized the baddie was really symbolic of a grown man daddy. who had a large stash of legos. and in christian’s case the do not touch signs are the equivalent of the pristine unopened packaging.

kids’ hopes are always dashed at our home. but why aren’t they opened? they cry, expecting to find a lego heaven playroom.

i guess i am lord business. christian said at the movie’s end. but i’d never super glue legos together! 

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enough.

this last week i spent some time with a deaf sister from my congregation in her home. my attempts to communicate involved lots of arms and hands speaking a made up sign language. i understood her thank yous and i did a sloppy you’re welcome, my hand signing a w but moving in the wrong direction.

asher was with me for one of the visits. excited to be in a new place with things to explore, i held him firmly, not wanting him to knock over anything. she asked a question and i understood. shaking my head i tried to convey that i don’t have other babies. he is my only one.

on a piece of paper i wrote out – i’ve had a lot of miscarriages – and something about seeing it written so abruptly and directly jarred me a bit. she clutched her heart and expressed so much love without any words. she asked his name. below my first sentence i wrote – asher – and then she wrote – beautiful.

last weekend we took asher to the museum of flight for a boeing day. the big attraction was the newly arrived 787 which will now be on display there.

our outing filled me with excitement and some trepidation.

the last time we were there, i was pregnant. for the very first time.

it was a thursday. i’d been feeling sick for a while but all pregnancy tests were negative so we were at the doctor. i was shocked when she jovially said, you’re pregnant! the nurse grabbed christian from the waiting room. we sat there so surprised and so happy. christian kept the print out from the pregnancy test for his journal.

and then we went to the museum of flight. the next day i saw a blinking heart beat for the very first time.

this time we were there with our little whopper.

he was excited to hear and see all the planes landing. he laughed at all the people, especially kids. he yelled until we took him out of the stroller and then he wanted to be held like superman so he could push the stroller himself. he enamored the families in front and behind while we wound our way through the very long line to board the 787. on board he preferred if i crouched down so he could look out the windows. he gave one of the pilots a high-five.

all the while i kept thinking how this visit was connected to the last one.

i don’t think i will stop thinking about all that has happened in between. after a long struggle, having a baby doesn’t calm the storm. it does bridge the chasm that kept you from what you wanted – but it doesn’t quiet the desire for more, or the fear of if nots.

for me, i want asher to know, that he is enough. that isn’t to say i won’t be sad at times. or things may get hard again. or someone else’s announcement may pierce me. but if it is just us with this crazy little whopper, it is enough.IMG_7024a

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tracking.

he started the night in his crib but around 2am he was wedged between us. by 6am yesterday he was tossing and turning. my body tensed, not wanting to make any movements that would bring him all the way out of his slumber. an hour passed. he rolled closer to me. the room still dark with a sun that rises later and later. he talked so softly, stopping every few minutes to sit up, and then gently lay his head next to mine.

among my google docs is one called tracking. it contains several years worth of tracking my cycles. and doctor visits. and medications. and symptoms. and expectations. and losses.

that tracking focused mostly on days. a day is such a small thing, and yet, the counting of those days brought sorrow and heartache.

when i was pregnant my tracking switched to weeks. those early and middle weeks dragged, full of anxious emotion and never-ending illness. at times 40 weeks seemed an impossible feat. the later weeks were filled with the babyo’s busy movements and our anticipation.

once asher arrived, we tracked his months and everything that filled them. i held fast to his brief time as an infant, but it passed us by despite our wanting to keep him small with his gummy smiles. each month made way for a new skill, or sound, or tooth, or movement.

today, we start tracking his years.

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we like to watch you laughing.

after we got married we’d constantly be asked how married life was going. the question would be asked so enthusiastically that i almost felt bad with my response. married life didn’t seem that different from dating life. except we got to be together all day and all night.

as the years added up, and it continued to just be the two of us, we’d frequently have to answer a new type of question. what do you guys do with all your free time? usually followed up with, i bet you sleep in every weekend!

in the absence of children our lives were different, our time was our own, but there was an emptiness and it was heavy.

when i look back on 2013 i refer to it as “the year i was sick”. so many things passed me by as i tried to survive the heavy fog of constant illness. one evening, when i was feeling a little better, christian surprised me with a night drive to sonic. {despite numerous commercials the nearest sonic is 30 miles away}.

we drove with the windows down, winding our way through black diamond, keeping an eye on the speed. the sun was still bright and it smelled like grass through enumclaw. as we started to pull in to buckley i began feeling pretty badly. should we stop? christian asked. no, it’s okay, i’ll be fine. i said. and then with urgency, pull over now!

before he could put the car in park i had undone my seat belt and was kneeling on the concrete over the gutter along main street. cars passing by and the windows of vacant homes looking on. up the road was a dingy little motel, and there was a woman walking toward us.

is she okay? the woman had a gravelly voice.

she’s expecting. christian called back.

the woman went inside and a minute later came back with a water bottle and some napkins. is this your first? that harsh voice again. we nodded and thanked her for her kindness. she smiled, and then said, you look like you’ll be amazing parents.

back in the car we pressed on to sonic which proved to be a mistake. i got to know the sonic bathroom better than i would have liked.

almost exactly a year later we made that same drive. this time with a little whopper in the back. he was in his jammies, watching everything zoom by through the open window. when we arrived he was very excited to be free of his car seat.

sitting in the front with us he shared our tater tots and ate bites of our hamburger buns. his arms made ninja-like swipes for our milkshakes. and we laughed. and we were happy. and i felt a kind of contentedness that i hadn’t before. this is what everyone else had been doing with their free time. this is what it was like to take a family outing. sleeping in on the weekend is really overrated. i would trade all my sleeping-ins for that one night with my little whopper – hearing him squeal at all the cars pulling in next to us and watching him try to grab my sandwich.
5.21.14…………………………
kids, mgmt

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we’ve come to the end of the road.

my first introduction to the garbage man was when christian was traveling for work. christian normally handles all trashlike duties so before his trip he double checked with me. i had just quit my job and i’d be home in the mornings.

are you going to remember to put the trash out tuesday?

yes. yes! of course i’ll remember.

and i did remember. i remembered while i was sitting on the couch, still in my pajamas, not wearing a bra, watching a show on the dvr. i remembered because i heard the garbage truck.

christian is very efficient with his garbage chores. monday night, no matter how late, he gathers up all the trash from throughout the house and rolls the can out to the curb.

i hadn’t done any of this. i lept off the couch and frantically grabbed the trash from the kitchen. as the garage door opened i could see the green and yellow of the truck. i dragged the empty trash can to the curb with the very full bag in hand.

and this is how i met the garbage man. crazy haired. pajamaed. bra-less. shoe-less. not prepared.

i first heard his booming laugh, much like a garbage santa, and then a boisterous, howdy!

he told me no worries! as i quickly put the bag in the can for him. he asked if we were liking our house, and about the work i had just quit. then, with a wave and smile he was off. i doubt i was the first disheveled housewife he’d encountered in all his years.

that night when christian called, he asked about the trash. i left out most of the details from my comical encounter that morning.

between then and now i’ve passed him in other neighborhoods, waved to him as i was running, waited for him to back out of our street so i could park, and most recently, sat on the front porch with little whopper to watch the whole trash process.

he is the kind of garbage man who sees eager children down the block and turns his truck into a fantastical creature. metal pincers clanking. the hopper raising up to the sky. the load being compressed and then a honk goodbye.

he is also the kind of man who steps off his truck, takes off his gloves, and talks to you.

so when our city council terminated its contract with waste management in favor of a new company, we were not the only household saddened.

after we got the news i handed him a box of cupcakes and he added it to other plates of goodies filling his cab. the sight of all that love made me so happy.

i still have one more week you know! he said. but i didn’t want to miss you! i told him.

last week his usual time came and went and i thought we had missed garbage man eric. we waited on the porch for a while before watching from an upstairs window. i finally decided to give asher a bath. by the time we were all dressed and ready for the day i heard the rumble of his truck.

eric was behind schedule because, this being his last day on our route after 11 years, he was stopping to say goodbye to every family and every child waiting to wish him well. children handed him cool drinks, folded up notes and hand drawn pictures. and he handed every child a gift in return.

in front of our house he stepped down, took off his gloves and said, let me grab his present.

oh you don’t have to, i protested. he’s so little.

nonsense. i already have his.

and that was that. we waved him off with heavy hearts as he clapped the pincers goodbye.

this tuesday morning is not the same. we have lost something great. eric was such an example of finding joy and purpose in what you do, no matter the task.garbage man eric

………………………………….
end of the road, boyz II men

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