Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Days in my life that I've felt grown up

By all rights and purposes I am a grown up. I can smoke, drink, serve in the armed forces, make decisions for myself and rent a car without the underage penalty. Someone also thought that I was mature and responsible enough to be in charge of 120 8th graders for 8 hours a day. However, I usually don't feel grown up, more like a kid pretending. DH and I lived together for almost 4 years before getting married and for most of that time I felt that we were just playing house and my real home was in my childhood bedroom. There has only been a few times in my life that I've kind of felt slightly grown up. In no particular order:
1. Signing the closing papers on my first house. There is nothing more humbling than signing the papers to owe the bank more money than you've ever owed anybody. My hair was wet from an ill-timed shower and DH was late after getting lost on the way to the bank. I had to go home because I forgot to bring the checkbook and I couldn't find a parking space. 
2. The first night I spent in my first house: the day my then-fiancée (now DH) and I finally moved out of our rental was a freezing cold January day with a sprinkling of snow on the ground. Both sets of parents came to help us move and we took everyone out to Chilis for dinner. That night we announced our week old engagement and after celebrating we returned to our first grown up house. My parents snapped a picture of us standing on the front porch with our arms wrapped around each other. We look terrified and much too young to be homeowners. That night we curled up together in our brand new queen size bed (a gift from Grandma) and tried to adjust to the strange noises that an old house makes.
3. The first day of my teaching career: I was 21 years old and four months removed from the college lifestyle. I had been hired a week before the first day of school and I was woefully unprepared for my first crop of students (I taught 7th grade at a different school from my current one for one year). I stood up before my first class and launched into my first day presentation while trying to keep my voice steady and quell the butterflies in my stomach. It was absolutely terrifying to realize that I was solely responsible for these kids and their success or failure. I was a terrible teacher that first year before I finally learned everything I should of learned during 4 years of college.
4. The day we adopted our dog: I had been begging for a dog for quite awhile and on a bright June day we picked out our sweet puppy. The adoption went quick and before we knew it we were loading her up in the back of my SUV and taking her home. She puked all over the backseat less than a mile from the shelter and it was the first time I'd ever cleaned up anyone's bodily fluids without gagging. After we got home and got her settled in DH went back to town to get some sorely needed dog supplies and dinner for us while I stayed home with the new addition. Once he left she followed me from room to room and I ended up sobbing in the bedroom because I was afraid I would never love her and that I would never be alone again. She was so clingy it scared me, but within a week we were inseparable. 
5. The first time I was sick alone: My junior year of college I got pretty sick and was confined to my apartment for a week. I lived alone and my parents weren't nearby so this was my first time being truly alone and sick. Due to the nature of my illness people couldn't come over so I was really alone. When I was hungry I couldn't rely on mom to make me food, it was up to me to check my temperature, make myself food and keep myself in a steady supply of Gatorade and trashy tv. I lost 6 pounds in a week, but I learned how to take care of myself.
7. Traveling in Europe by myself: Last summer DH had to go to France for work. For the cost of a plane ticket I got to tag along and crash in his company paid hotel room. During the day he worked and I was on my own. I roamed all over the Loire Valley on the train and tried to make myself understood by the locals. My French is atrocious and I had no fallback plan, my cell phone was turned off and I was alone in a foreign country. The most marvelous part of the trip was roaming through Paris alone and eating dinner under the Eiffel Tower all by myself. I gained so much confidence in myself and my abilities to communicate and navigate. Prior to this trip I tended to rely on other people to plan my trips for me (namely my mom and DH) and to take care of me. I had never been to Europe without my mom and she lived in Germany and Italy and speaks eight languages fluently so she has no problem getting around. This trip was the best trip because I made the schedule (or lack thereof) and decided what to do and where to eat. I could sit on a bench reading my book for an hour and watching the people go by instead of rushing to activity after activity. I was able to absorb the true flavor of the country instead of just the stuff tourists see. It was a truly inspiring trip that made me more confident and inspired me to take more risks (my type A personality is totally against risk) and live less of a scheduled life.

Every time I have a new experience (writing my first thousand dollar check, buying a car, setting up a retirement account or writing my will) I feel just a little bit more grown up, it's like it sinks in just a little more that I really am a grown up. You may have noticed that my wedding didn't make the list, I really didn't feel grown up after marriage. DH and I had lived together for 4 years and the wedding was just another day in our life. He makes me feel like a kid (and he acts like one a lot) and he just completes me-it would feel unnatural not to be with him so marriage didn't really change our lives. However, when I look around at friends who are my age (or younger) that are popping out babies I shudder to think that I'm theoretically old enough to be someone's mother (other than my puppy). What experiences make you feel like a "real" adult?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Merry Christmas

I know this is a little late but time hasn't been on my side. One thing no one tells you about marriage is the difficulty in splitting holidays. During our blissful dating days DH and I split up for Christmas. I spent my 2 week break enjoying time with my family watching endless hours of tv and sharing book recommendations with my mom. DH spent 2 weeks at home running the family farm and running to endless family celebrations. It was a great system and a win win for everyone. 

However, once you're married separating for the holidays means imminent divorce and custody battles so that wasn't an option. Last year was our first year spending the holidays together (even though we weren't yet married) and we (meaning I) spent hours coming up with a equitable holiday schedule that would allow everyone equal time.

My parents live almost 7 hours away from us and his parents are about 3 hours away. By virtue of distance we see his parents way more than we see my mine. DH also has tons of mandatory small town or family functions that require us to spend a weekend in his hometown. He also misses the farming life so he tries to go home as much as possible in order to soak up a dose of cow manure and tractor driving before returning to his boring semi-rural suburbia existence. 

Both of us are lucky in that we get 2 weeks off at Christmas, me because I'm a teacher and we get tons of time off which delays the progression of our insanity and inevitable commitment to a mental institution. Usually engineers don't get a full two weeks off since employers already know how insane they are and figure no amount of time away from work will fix it, but DH manages to save his vacation days each year to get an extended break. 

The schedule that we worked out gave Thanksgiving to one family (which rotated each year). We split Christmas break into three sections. The first section includes Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and the family that didn't have us for Thanksgiving gets that one. We leave on the 26th for the next destination (whoever we saw at Thanksgiving) and then we head to our home on the 31st which allows us to spend New Years together. We got engaged on New Years so it is our special day together. By coming home then we have at least a few days before I have to go back to work which lets us get the house back in order and catch up on chores before getting back to work. 

Of course the schedule isn't perfect and this year it got all messed up. Last year was the first Christmas I spent away from my family and I was miserable. This year was my year and I was super excited! However, DH's hometown Christmas pageant fell on the 19th and heaven forbid we miss that (one of those mandatory small town things) so the schedule ended up getting shuffled around. We spent the 19th-24th at his parent's house and on the 24th we made the 9.5 hour drive from his parents to mine. We're spending the 24th-31st at my parent's house which means they get to see us more this year (talk about hurt feelings!). So much for keeping it equitable.

Essentially instead of getting to relax and spend time together over the holidays DH and I spend two weeks traipsing around the country spending a few hundred dollars in gas in order to please everyone. We live out of my SUV which, by the time we head home, is filled to the roofline with stuff we picked up along the way (our luggage, xmas gifts, stuff from sales and the collection of old junk both sets of parents insist on gifting us with every time we come). Our relaxing New Years is spent unloading the car, unpacking, settling ourselves and one exhausted dog back into the routine of home and gulping down dinner from the gas station before falling asleep in front of the tv. Last year we managed to stay up until 10:30! Big partiers we aren't! Forget going to a fun New Years party, after two weeks of living out of a suitcase I'm excited to stay home and never leave the house again. 

I'm thankful that we get to see everyone and that both sets of parents work with us without too much guilt (honestly most of the guilt I feel is self-imposed), but it does make for a stressful trip. Life would be so much easier if we all lived closer to each other. It would be a dream come true to get both sides together for a holiday (even one of the smaller ones-like Fourth of July) or to spend part of the day at each before returning to our own home at night. It would also be awesome to maybe host our own small holiday party (not sure I'm ready for the responsibility of the big show yet). If we saw our parents year round for nightly suppers or church on Sunday's it might make for less pressure during the holiday season to cram in as much time as possible with both sides. We do the best we can with the time we have, but it's not a perfect solution. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Brief History of Me

My name is Nicole and I'm in my mid-twenties. I teach 8th grade English in a school with a very odd population. I've been married less than a year to my dear Hubby (DH) who I dated for four years before finally consenting to wed him. He's a ridiculously logical and practical engineer with a side of absent minded professor. I, on the other hand, am impractical and imaginative which as you can imagine leads to some tension at times. We live in a tiny rural town in the heartland of the country with our crazy two year old rescue dog (the love of my life-I promised my husband in our wedding vows that I would love him more than the dog-it's the one vow I've been unable to keep). For all her cuteness she is truly nuts and requires anti-anxiety medicine and heavily stuffed Kongs to enable us to leave the house without her eating holes in the drywall. 

I'm an only child which means I'm extraordinarily close to my parents, but I'm also self-centered and occasionally selfish. Until I moved in with my husband I never had to share a bathroom, my food, the tv remote or a bedroom with anyone. Now, almost five years later I'm still trying to adjust to some other human in my space all the time, even a human being who I love dearly. Things are made a little more complicated by the fact that DH travels 6 months out of the year for work which means half the year I get to be a single gal with all the responsibilities of a married woman and half the year I'm a married woman having to adjust to having a spouse. It certainly makes for an interesting life.

I recently was rewarded for two years of paper writing and reading boring books by being granted a Masters in Education. Supposedly this will make me a better teacher (at least I get a higher salary for it), but I'm still unsure as to how two years of writing papers on my teaching philosophy and my hypothetical students will make me a better teacher to the 120 students who grace my classroom every day. However, I'm intending to start my doctorate in the fall which will probably turn me into SUPERTEACHER!!!!! At least it will earn me a nice chunk of change and the right to make people call me doctor (of course I will be as obnoxious as possible about it).

I wanted to be a teacher, but it always was a fall back plan to becoming a writer. I expected to write my first novel, send it off to a few literary agents and instantly score a book and movie deal. I spent my morning showers planning what I would say on the Today show and Good Morning America (despite having never seen an episode of either of the shows). I figured I would teach for a year and then I would be the next J.K. Rowling. I happily finished my first manuscript and began the fun process of querying every agent in Writer's Digest. The wonders of modern technology allowed me to receive my rejection letters in a matter of minutes rather than weeks and they kept rolling in. After four months and 62 rejections I pulled out the manuscript to look at it for the first time since the whole querying process began and I was HORRIFIED by what I saw. The writing was juvenile and the plot was tough to follow. The whole manuscript stank of desperation and amateur writing and I was embarrassed to have ever sent it to anyone. 

That fun experience killed my writing dreams for awhile (about 3 years) and real life got in the way of having time to write. I still kept a list of ideas for books and stories that popped into my head at the most inopportune times (such as when I was wrestling with insomnia or trying to merge onto a crowded highway). I read tons of books about the craft of writing and books by authors I admire. I wrote a few stories and started on a few novels, but the passion just wasn't there. I have finally found a story I'm passionate about (and my view on the publishing industry is much more realistic and rooted in reality than it was) so I'm ready to start writing again. As a part of my process I decided that blogging would be a good way for me to keep my writing muscles active and overcome my crippling fear of people reading my writing (I can't even let the DH or my best friend-aka my mom-read my writing). Letting strangers on the Internet read my innermost thoughts and allowing them into my life is something that terrifies me so I figure it will be good preparation for my eventual Today show interview. 

I've tried blogging three or four times before and I've never had good results. I usually give up after post three or four because I run out of interesting things to say. It's hard to share about the hot party or cool club when I wasn't invited (and even if I was I wouldn't have gone anyways). Somehow a years worth of blog posts about the most sanitized portions of my job (since I can't share the most fun parts publicly in the interest of student privacy) and nights spent on the couch with my dog and a good book don't make for the most exciting reading. In preparation for my own blog attempt I've read up on blogs from a wide range of authors (including a friend of mine who now makes a living blogging). I've promised to give it a true and faithful shot for 2015. 

Thanks for reading!