I’ve seen you do both

I heard the alarm. Felt the bed move as you sat up and swung your feet over the edge. You were sitting there in the dark, eyes foggy, head cloudy. Probably wondering why 3 a.m. even exists, anyway.

I listened as you dressed in the dark. Felt you lean over to my side of the bed while you whispered to me to have a good day and felt a kiss on my face. I watched you leave the room and begin to descend the stairs in your uniform. Heard the hum from your car as it started.

It may have seemed like I just went back to bed at this time every day, but in truth, I never could until I was assured that you were completely gone. I always laid there and listened to the engine of your car fade. I always waited. I had to hear it. And I couldn’t wait to hear it again nine hours later.

You returned later that day smelling of oil and grease and sweat. Cover off of your head, finally free from your blouse. Boots still on your feet. Smiling.

Somehow, I feel like I remember you always smiling. 

I’m sure it wasn’t always that way while you were in the service. I actually know now that it wasn’t. And that a lot of those times that you were smiling you were actually heavy-hearted and carrying so much on the inside.

I remember your fledgling days when you first separated from the service. Flung back out into a world that didn’t exactly understand, full of people with different priorities than you, who felt the weight of responsibility differently than you. Appreciated all that they had a bit less than you.

I remember what it was like to watch cable news with someone who took its content seriously and even personally as events unraveled and transpired in the middle east. Your frustration at a nation who was slowly forgetting herself and that what makes her great is what makes her distinct. And her choice to always genuinely strive to be the best. Something that you have done time and time again.

You probably never told anybody how in the pit of your stomach you worried just a bit if you could do this. If you could find a nitch in the world again that felt right. If you’d find friends who could understand you, that you could understand in return.

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It’s been almost eight years since we drove home. Since we said goodbye to the golden state. And you jumped in with both feet. If you were scared, I never really noticed at the time.

People always seem to think that women are the only ones who are an ocean of complexities, secrets and hopes unseen. How wrong they are.

I see you.

And as the years pass, I see you in ways that I have never seen you before. Even the you from eight years ago. The me of now appreciates and understands and sees just a bit more of the you from then. How I sometimes mourn the fact that I could have been smarter, more intuitive, better equipped to help you, to appreciate you at the time.

Now that you’re the father of my children, I see it all so much more. I have seen you be man and Marine.

I’ve seen you be strong. I’ve seen you be brave. I’ve been comforted by you when you were the one about to deploy into God knows what for who knows how long. How you reassured me. How you assured me that it would one day be in our rear view mirror and we’d be passed it and be all the better for it. I remember that I didn’t want to admit that I believed you, because admitting it meant I had to accept that you were going to go away.

I’ve seen you be vulnerable. When you’d tell me stories about those who didn’t make it back, when you’d wonder if things could have turned out different if you had done something different. The things that you saw and heard and how at times they wrenched your insides, and how they steeled your resolve at others. How the smoke and the destruction and the crawling through the mud and the calloused, tired feet and the obstacles made you remember time and time again that you made the right choice.

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I’ve seen you be gritty. I’ve smelled grease in your hair and the sweat on your neck. When you worked long days, mastering a skill set that you now don’t get to use but at the time was a matter of life and death, efficiency and necessity. You spent your days working with foul-mouthed Marines and, let’s be honest, you yourself were foul-mouthed, too. But you all understood one another. There was affection and brotherhood amongst you grisly, brazen men. 

I’ve seen you be gentle. With our baby girl. With our son when you showed him how to plant green beans in the backyard. With our daughter when you run a comb gently through her cascade of golden knots, and braid it before bed time.

I’ve seen you lead. I’ve seen that fire in you. The kind that looks calamity and danger in the face and says, “not today. Not on my watch.” I’ve seen what made you a Marine, even in the ho-hum of everyday life. I have seen the type of person that would leave everything behind for a passion and cause that he believes in, like those men in the history books who decided that they would give up their lives if that mean securing safe passage for the mantle of freedom to the next generation. I have seen that men like that are still alive today.

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I’ve seen you submit yourself to education and instruction and the leadership of others. Showing that true men know when to lead, but also most assuredly know when to follow. Because sometimes, following, and learning and seeking wisdom make you better. I have seen you give credit where credit is due.

I’ve seen you in a uniform. Dress blues or cami’s. For a Marine Ball or a dining out banquet. Spending time and using the discipline it takes to ready yourself, full of admiration, respect and care for the uniform and for what it means.

I’ve seen you in casual clothes. Where one would only know that you were a Marine if they had a trained, astute eye for such things.

I’ve seen you laugh. This is probably my favorite. How someone who has walked through so much, seen so much, done so much can still love so much. Can still live life in such a way that he still smiles and takes joy in all he sees whenever he can. At his child who just learned how to wiggle his bottom. At his daughter and her affinity for standing with her hands on her hips, barking orders. At your wife, who puts butter in the cabinet by mistake because she is clueless.

You’ve never given that up. You have never given up on us. And I hope that you never do.

As the years pass, and we move further and further away from your dates of service, my understanding of it changes. When we were in the thick of it, it felt so different. It was something that slipped on like a glove. It was what it was. It was our way of life. Because we were around people of the same mind. There wasn’t the need to make a fuss.

Now that it isn’t our daily way of life anymore, and the uniforms are tucked into the back of the closet, the plaques sitting on the shelf in the study, the way that things go when they are sometimes quietly forgotten about I just feel the urge to tell you every day that I remember. Remnants of a season that has passed. Though the dust of time may settle, though you have gone back to quietly living your life without much fuss and have even made a new life for yourself, I remember what you did. I feel the urge to revisit it. 

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To tell you that you really were right. That time is now in our rearview mirror.

And we really are all the better for it.

Motherhood is lonely – but it doesn’t have to be joyless.

If I could describe the perfect day to early 20’s Ashley, it would look something like this:

Sleep in. Wake up, eat bowl of crappy cereal. Immediately call friends when fog lifts from eyes. Spend the day with them running around the mall. Grab something to eat with them. See a movie with them. Stay out ridiculously late doing Lord knows what at Dunkin Donuts. Go home. Repeat on Sunday.

If I could describe the perfect day for myself to you now, it would look something like this:

Wake up to a blissfully quiet house. Make a pot of coffee while I clean up the kitchen from the night before. Take a cup of fresh coffee with me to the porch. Sit in a rocking chair. Drink cup of coffee. In one sitting. While it’s still hot. Without uttering a word. To anybody. Go back inside. Shower. Get dressed. Probably clean some more. Take a drive into town. Have lunch by myself. Poke around shops by myself. Head home and watch a movie by myself. All without uttering a word. To anybody or anything. 

I now appreciate the value and simplicity of…silence. Of space. Of doing things on my own. How easy it was before…well, you know how that sentence will end. My idea of relaxation looks a might different from what the Ashley of ten years ago would have chosen to occupy her free time with.

Time on my own, or time to do as I choose, is more like a fine wine now. It’s to be enjoyed slowly, not gulped. Savored. Appreciated. To get a good bottle, you have to spend more, so maybe you don’t have it as often. You don’t really drink it to get drunk (at least, this is what wine snobs say you should do, but what do they know) you drink it to taste every sip, to appreciate every drop.

Time to myself ten years ago was more like a wine cooler. Still very good, still gets you tipsy. More plentiful and easy to get. But you don’t savor a wine cooler, you don’t go slowly. You drink it down and then it’s on to the next.

I like doing things on my own. I don’t consider myself lonely when I’m home by myself writing on my blog, reading a book or soaking in a bubble bath. I remember telling to my husband that I am definitely the type of person to go on a weekend trip on my own and his puzzlement at my admission. He thought I would be lonely. Phffft. I’d check into a Motel 6 with a bag of greasy fast food so long as the door locked and the room had cable. I’ve pretty much done just that at least once since becoming a mother. 

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There are instances where I actually do feel incredibly lonely. They just aren’t instances where I would expect to.

In the trenches of the toddler years.

I could never have foreseen how lonely I would feel during the toddler years. That I would feel lonely when there were little people literally laying on top of me or clinging to my pant leg. Or while I’m trying to use the bathroom while little hands knock on the door. I feel so lonely when it’s my child melting down in the grocery store or being loud at a restaurant.  How lonely it is to feel like you’re the only one out there doing dishes after 11 p.m. or washing sheets at 2 a.m. because you woke up to a chorus of children coming down with that stomach virus thing that has been going around.

How lonely I feel when I’m surrounded by so much noise and chaos and so many bodies.

How exactly does that work?

This could be sleep deprivation talking. I currently have a four-week old in the house and there is hardly anything relaxing about having a newborn when you already have two children underfoot. There is no more “sleeping when the baby sleeps,” whatever that looked like before anyway. There is rocking and walking and nursing and breast pumping and cradling and rocking some more and then repeating all of it 23 million times.

All while I watch the messes pile up around me, all while my older children want attention and a playmate and I can’t, nor really even desire to if I’m being fully honest, satisfy all of their needs.

Is it weird that I feel a little bit like Batman? I’m the mom that they need right now, just maybe not the mom that they deserve? There is something incredibly discouraging about feeling like “the only one.” 

It’s hard scrolling through my Facebook news feed and seeing what people are up to – world travel, college, Saturday night trivia, wine tastings- and not feeling the slightest pangs of jealousy. I feel like they’re out there, amongst the land of the living, while I’m off to the side, still wearing the same pajama pants I went to bed in at lunch time.

I feel like a one woman island. 

One thing that I have learned about motherhood is that so much rides on our perspective. How easily we can become trapped by how we perceive things are. How easily we can forget to find the joy in the mundane because we’re caught up in either how we think it should be, or because we’re so discouraged by how difficult it actually is. We don’t feel like life, the day-to-day stuff, should be this hard. But it is. We don’t feel like it should take so much of ourselves to get through. But it does.

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The only things I feel like even remotely combats this attitude are these three pieces of knowledge: my children are not the enemy. I love them. And I am not the only one.

These years are going to be hard. Does anything about raising small people and teaching them not to wipe their noses on the sofa, color their arms with marker and how to wipe their own bottoms sound easy?  

We should probably cast aside our romantic notions of raising small children as quickly as possible. When things don’t go “right,” when there is chaos brewing, I have to remind myself that my children are not the enemy. They may do things that drive me nuts, and sometimes they do fight me tooth and nail, but ultimately, they are not my opponent.

They’re my children.

And when we’re about to lose our marbles, when it seems like things are purposely being stacked against us by some unseen, malevolent force, we have to remind ourselves that it’s the nature of having tiny, loud, occasionally ridiculous people living with us. Making it feel more like what is simply the mechanism for raising a family, rather than a personal affront when my child piles a wad of toilet paper the size of a football in the toilet or when my infant poops immediately after I have changed her for the second time rather than a personal affront takes the edge off.

Remembering that these years are chalked full of some of the greatest chances for connection with my children is profoundly important. Remembering that these years are sanctifying, that I will emerge more disciplined, more focused, more fulfilled and better off is paramount. I’ll also probably emerge with way more gray hairs, wrinkles and circles under my eyes. But you get it. 

I love them.

Whispering to them, and to myself, that I love them every opportunity I get works wonders. It’s less a conversational statement and more of a reminder to myself. I love them. I do love this. This is what I do. It’s choosing to pursue love in all of these mounds of ridiculousness that gets me through the day sometimes. Love IS a pursuit. Love IS an action. Love IS, at times, a stripping away of oneself until there is nothing left…but love. We just have to see it for its possibilities.

And I’m not the only one.

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Jerry and his bird call from the gift shop.

Where my tired, frazzled feet have tread has surely been walked upon by other mothers. Some with heavier loads and greater hurts than I. I’m not the first mother bathing children at 3:30 in the morning. I’m not the first mother to have an infant who cluster feeds until midnight. I am not the only one, despite whatever going on around me in close proximity suggests. There are others who understand, and if I’m being honest, others who have had it much harder than I.

It gives me a leg up to realize that I’m not the only mother scared of failing. Or whose kitchen floor hasn’t been mopped in a month. Or who hasn’t had a haircut in over six months. Want proof that you’re not alone? Google and read the vast ocean of mom blogs out there, written by women who are trying, who sometimes mess up and who seek the grace to try again the next day. You’ll see you’re not the only one. It doesn’t undermine your experiences or your feelings, if anything, it should validate them. They’re valid and they’re understandable. But they don’t have to control you, they don’t have to rob you of your joy.

Do you feel at all better? I know that after writing all of that, I most certainly do. See, I told you it was all mostly perspective. 

 

If all else fails, there is also, wine. Wine is good. And bacon. And a nap.

 

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So I know it’s technically what should be Day 4. But I have a newborn,

and I haven’t showered yet today. I am going to be participating in NaBloPoMo as much as possible. 

I hope you’ll stick around and check it out. You can click to follow my blog

in the toolbar to the right. 

Thanks!

9

I know that posts about relationships sometimes bug people. I get it. So, if you’re one of those folks that can’t stand to read about couples/relationships/marriage, you might want to change the channel for the next few minutes.

It’s time for some sappy stuff. It’s my wedding anniversary this week. Rob and I got hitched about this time, nine years ago. It’s been a whirlwind for us – doesn’t everybody say that?

I could lecture you all on what it “really means” to be in a relationship. About what you really “need to do” to make a relationship work. That’s what people tend to do in these situations. Not that they’re entirely wrong for doing so. 

I feel like if you’ve been fighting the good fight for almost a decade (or more), then maybe, just maybe you might have something worthwhile to share after all of that.

The only thing that’s worth while about this whole thing for me has been my husband and these two kids of ours. I don’t live to dispense advice. I live to love them. And sometimes, I like to talk about how much I love them.

This is a simple “thank you” post to my husband. This is what has worked for us and maybe what hasn’t worked for us. This is how he has loved me. This is how I have tried to love him. This is how we are slowly synchronizing and becoming one as the years pass us by. This is how we both have grown individually and how our passions and individual pursuits work to make us better together. This is how we fight over the refrigerator door being left open, juice left on the counter and shoes being left in the middle of the floor.

This is how we roll.

Thank you for messaging me on AOL for the very first time. Recalling that moment makes me realize that even though I think I do, I really don’t know any better. How close I was to “ignoring” you (for whatever reason) shows me just how close to stupid I am on a daily basis.

Thank you for being better than any suitor I could have ever dreamt up on my own. Seriously, tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed guys are overrated. Hazel eyes are in.

Thank you for asking me to marry you when tons of people probably thought that we were ridiculous and too young and foolish, but you didn’t care anyway.

Thank you for not really caring what other people think. That when you know something is right for you, or for us, in your heart, you don’t need to vainly defend yourself to the peanut gallery, but you self-assuredly walk the walk.

Thank you for proposing to me twice.

Thank you for that 24 hour period. You know the one. The one where it made me realize what I wanted, and that if I wanted it, I needed to say so or be willing to move on and wait for the right things because I was tired of having ephemeral things. 

Thank you for being God’s loving, perfect response to those ephemeral things. For being the best forever-thing I could have ever found on Earth.

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Thank you for going with me to traffic court when we lived on base, and for speaking up for me to that scary Master Sergeant guy who was going to take my license for 30 days. You were the only husband that I saw there with their wife that day.

Thank you for always being my advocate, even when I’m really not worthy of your support.

Thank you for not killing me for leaving the juice out on the counter all. of. the time. And for not making me feel totally useless when I also leave some spilled, too.

Thank you for being so easy to love. The only thing difficult about loving you is knowing that I’m not loving you in the way that you deserve and should be loved. You deserve better, every day.

Thank you for maxing out your credit cards on me before your deployment, and for assuring me that everything was going to be alright and to just be quiet and eat my sushi.

Thank you for being the kind of father for my children that I could only have ever hoped to have. For loving them, for nurturing them, for playing Lego’s with them, for making faces with them, for teaching them how to play rock-paper-scissors. For all of that, the stuff they’ll always have.

Thank you for making me watch all three Karate Kid movies.

Thank you for being a man. Not a macho man. Not a verbose man. Just a man.

Thank you for providing for us and running the rat race when I know that it means you occasionally spend crappy days behind a desk or on the phone with people you might not want to be on the phone with. This before you come home, peel off your suit and still cut the grass. You’re so immensely talented, you could do just about anything you decided to do. But you do this for us. 100_2641 Thank you for hardly ever complaining about it.

Thank you for making me do things. For telling me to keep going. For being the first person to tell me when I’m good at something.

Thank you for saying “thank you” for every. single. lousy dinner I make for you.

Thank you for teaching me that when things don’t go my way I’ll still be alright. That I will live to fight another day. That it isn’t worth getting hung up on. That it’s okay to not have every throw pillow at Pier 1.

Thank you for being the kind of person that makes me want to be a better person. Even though I know it might never be enough.

Thank you for never giving me a hard time about the house being messy. For the floors being messy, the dishes being in the sink, the laundry coming out of our ears. Thank you. That deserves a double thank you.

Thank you for sometimes letting yourself be the butt of the joke when we are out socializing with people. Sometimes, that takes more class and effort than being the one cracking them.

Thank you for not telling people the truth when they ask me how I “put up with you,” that it’s actually me that needs the most putting up with. You’re entirely too gracious.

Thank you for not divorcing me instantly when I threw that raw chicken at your head one time.

Thank you for letting me get a goat one day. <— now it’s public and you have to let me do it!

Thank you for giving me two already amazing children.

I mean, really....

I mean, really….

 

...Look at them GO!

…Look at them GO!

Thank you for giving me what will be our third amazing child, come this fall.

Thank you for never making me feel like I’m in this entirely on my own. You’re always there with me and for me. Every step of the way.

Thank you for loving The Princess Bride as much as I do.

Thank you for letting me ramble on to you about paint colors for the last six weeks. Even when I know that you don’t always get it.

Thank you for being the first to go without if it means that the kids and I can go with. For always being the first willing to go without. For taking one for the team without being asked. 

Thank you for telling me when I’m wrong.

Thank you for being the kind of husband that does dishes, vacuums floors, wipes down toilets and helps out.

Thank you for being the kind of husband who doesn’t call it babysitting when he spends extra time with his children, but instead is excited about it.

Thank you for being the funniest person that I have ever known. Except for that one time you made me cry.

Thank you for giving me a place that I know that I can dwell safely. For always making me feel safe and secure in your hands.

Rarrr...

Rarrr…

Thank you for being a place that I can dwell safely.

Thank you for loving and accepting me even though I’m shaped differently after having our children. For never making me think that your love was contingent on how I look on the outside, but always about how I look on the inside.

Thank you for dancing with me in the kitchen. And the dining room. And the living room. And the yard.

Thank you for being the wall of protection around my children and I. Knowing that we have someone who’s only interests are our best interests is a treasure in this world not afforded to many.

Thank you for not throwing me out of your parent’s house when you saw me take a bite of that cake straight off of the platter with my fork.

Thank you for watching me drink three extra Dr. Peppers to prove my point to you that it IS more economical to buy a larger size. And for laughing at me when I said my stomach was upset on the car ride home.

Thank you for teaching me about Jesus love. For loving me even when you might not want to, for loving me when I’m being ridiculous. For shining the light of grace into the darkest areas of my heart and still accepting me as I am.

Thank you for loving me. Just, thank you.  

There you have it. I love you, Robert William. Except for when you eat my potato chips. But mostly, all of the time.

So, “bye, bye, bye and there ya go, Charlie!”   Here is to, hopefully what will be many, many more! Sorry!! 🙂