Category Archives: Marriage

Coming Up For Air

In between running to church, getting my car washed, helping DD2 make a strawberry tart from a Renaissance-era recipe, fielding an impromptu visit from my mother-in-law, and advising DD1 on packing for China, I finished a take-home final from my latest doctoral class.  I wish I could say I handled it all with aplomb.  I’m afraid Adventure Guy might disagree considering I snapped at him for interrupting my writing after he’d asked me a couple of questions in a row this afternoon.  In my defense, he’d been gone most of the day running a marathon and leaving me to take care of all of the above activities.  In his defense, he just asked a couple of questions.

I enjoyed my recent stay in Houston–room service and all.  The conference I attended provided a lot of useful information, the opportunity to enjoy some time with my sister and her family, a trip to my favorite Mexican restaurant, and plenty of warmth and glimpses of newly planted spring flowers.  It gave me hope that winter would end soon in Suburbia as well.

Unfortunately, winter wind accompanied by rain greeted me when I landed at home on Thursday afternoon.  I rushed from the airport to that evening’s class, which didn’t end until almost ten that night.  We’re still making up time from our missed weekends during the snowstorm.  Time and plenty of assignments.  This semester’s compressed schedule seems even more difficult than usual–especially since I’m scheduled to start my next class this Thursday.  Typically we have a bit of a break in between courses, but that luxury is not to be had this time around thanks to Spring Break and an extended schedule for this second class–our first research class in the program.

 My schedule at work doesn’t let up between now and the second week of March.  No pun intended, but it’s like a forced march right up until the beginning of Spring Break.  I can’t tell you how much I”m looking forward both to a few slow days in the office that week as well as the last couple of days I plan to take as vacation.

I just need to figure out the best way to get through the time between now and then.

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Where Mockingbirds Used To Sing

French Quarter - New Orleans

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Our New Orleans trip provided an odd mix of old and new.  Though I’d returned to the city a few years ago, when evidence of Hurricane Katrina showed its face more readily, that trip focused on business, and I travelled alone.  This time, Adventure Guy and I visited together for the first time since before we became parents.  Unlike our initial bus trip from College Station to the A & M vs. LSU football game during college or our most recent trip when we shared a funky bed and breakfast spot with the best man from our wedding and his wife, this time we stayed in more upscale digs and treated ourselves to fancier fare.  But we couldn’t break our old habit of visiting Pat O’Brien’s piano bar, spending a memorable evening Sunday singing along to tunes like David Allan Coe’s You Never Even Called Me By My Name (which is, of course, the perfect country western song) and Don McLean’s American Pie.

We browsed the streets of the French Quarter, finding the perfect gift for our annual white elephant Christmas gift exchange.  Really, we couldn’t resist when we saw it hanging in the shop window.  We also did a bit more highbrow shopping, taking in the antiques stores and art galleries.

We ate.  A lot.  Our best meals came from our pre-Valentine’s dinner at Arnaud’s and our first night’s impromptu  meal at Mr. B’s.  If I had to choose, I’d probably return to Mr. B’s over Arnaud’s because of the more relaxed feel.  Arnaud’s provides classic New Orleans ambiance, but in a buttoned up way.  Mr. B’s food was just as good, if not better, with no jacket required. 

In between eating, drinking, and shopping, Adventure Guy did manage to successfully complete his twentieth marathon on his quest to run one in each state prior to his 50th birthday.  He’s on pace to meet that goal, and I can’t complain about the opportunities I have to tag along to cities like New York and New Orleans.  I’ve even adjusted to wandering around the expos looking at running gear and performance enhancement products–goo anyone?  This expo came complete with two adorable dachshunds checking out the scene with their owner.

Our own dachshund and his two canine friends fared just fine on their own, thanks to DD1’s ability to ferry herself and the other kids back and forth to our friends’ house for overnight adult supervision.  In between, the kids hung out at our house and at their various extracurricular activities, taking care of dog care responsibilities along the way.  There are definite advantages to having older children!

It’s also fortunate our trip proved so relaxing.  Thanks to the ongoing, unexpected snowcation during the prior two weeks, I have plenty of work to catch up on now that I’ve returned to the office.  There’s nothing like trying to squeeze three weeks of meetings into one week of time–I think I could use a Spring Break!

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A Room With A View

About a month ago, I decided to tag along to New Orleans with Adventure Guy this weekend. He’s running the Rock and Roll Marathon. I’m enjoying the food and the awesome view from our balcony at The Royal Sonesta.

The bright blue skies, the temperatures in the sixties…I couldn’t have planned a better break from our recent subzero temperatures if I’d tried.

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A Tale of Two Tables

Take a few minutes to watch Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk about why we have too few women leaders.  Ms. Sandberg serves as the COO for Facebook and focuses on three key reasons women make up 50 percent of the population but only a fraction of that number of the top executives and office holders:

  1. Women don’t “sit at the table.”  Women remain less likely to negotiate or advocate for themselves and attribute their success to outside factors rather than to their own talents. Even worse, society views powerful, successful women negatively while viewing men who demonstrate the same traits positively.
  2. Women continue to do more housework and childcare than do their partners, leaving less time to focus on their careers.
  3. Women “leave before they leave,” making both conscious and unconscious career decisions based on the possibility of future family commitments.

This talk dovetails nicely with my current book, Big Girls Don’t Cry, an analysis of the 2008 election by Rebecca Traister.  Though I’m not finished yet, the theme of the hardworking woman usurped by the young, attractive man shines through loud and clear.  When it comes to the negative connotations associated with powerful women, think of Barack Obama damning Hillary Clinton with the faint praise of being, “likable enough.”

Near the end of her talk, Sandberg states that our generation of women will not equalize leadership positions between genders.  The numbers just don’t hold out any hope, and, in fact, are currently in decline.  Instead, we pass on that challenge to our daughters. 

In thinking about the example I set for my own teenage daughters, I can’t help but think about the ways in which I do and do not fall in line with Sandberg’s characterizations.  I hold a job that falls into the upper echelon in my chosen field, and my goal involves ending my career in the superintendent’s chair.  That said, I think I too am likeable enough, and I value the connections I make with people who work for and with me.  On the flip side, I am secure in my own opinions and confident in my abilities, particularly my academic abilities–traits that, according to Sandberg, read more male than female.

Adventure Guy and I also part ways with the norm in our household and childcare arrangements.  On the cleaning front, we both vastly prefer delegating the heavy lifting to others.  When our budget hasn’t allowed for that, Adventure Guy took on an equal amount of the load, demonstrating his often vastly superior skills.  The proof?  Upon receiving one of those toy vacuums with the popping balls inside for Christmas, two-year-old DD1 exclaimed, “Now I can vacuum, just like Daddy!” He also took on equal childcare duties right from the start, providing all the morning care for DD1 once I returned to work.  He got used to dressing, feeding, and dropping off our new little girl at daycare, and I got used to resisting the urge to criticize his efforts, particularly in the baby wardrobe arena.  Our childcare arrangements evolved over time, but, even now, we balance carpooling and extracurricular support duties between the two of us.

So, two out of three stereotypes avoided.  But then there’s number three.  An honest assessment of my career decisions demonstrate some distinct “leaving before I left” behavior. After meeting Adventure guy, I chose the traditionally female-dominated teaching field over the career in law I planned growing up.  Law school would have meant delaying marriage for three years since Adventure Guy’s then job involved frequent moves.  And, as plenty of people told me, I could teach anywhere.  I also considered the relative flexibility teaching provides as compared to the demands placed on law firm associates, knowing that I planned to have children sooner rather than later.

That’s where the stereotype gets all mixed up.  I chose to continue my education after all, entering a masters program in school administration just before learning of my first pregnancy.  I didn’t pass up the opportunity to move out of the classroom and into an instructional coaching position when DD1 was around two.  I took my first job in administration with a 1-year-old Soccer Boy, 4-year-old DD2, and 6-year-old DD1 in tow.  But I also waited thirteen years to begin a doctoral program–the key to that piece of paper that unlocks the next rung of the ladder in my field–because I couldn’t figure out how to make that happen while raising small kids and wrangling 2200 high school kids on a day-to-day basis.

I will likely fail to become the master of my domain as quickly as my male counterparts.  I suppose I could spend more time worrying about that.  Instead, I plan to stay the course, all while taking every opportunity to enjoy the family I’ve built alongside my career.  Because my guess is work will be around long after I have three empty spaces at the most important table–the one my family gathers around for dinner.

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The Post With The Oblique Loverboy Reference

Currently, my husband is wandering around with his running buff adorning his head and saying things to the dog like, “You want birds?  You wanna go get some birds?  I know you do!”  He also plugged in his electric boots and packed up his assorted camo gear.

Yes, the time for Adventure Guy’s annual Kansas pheasant hunt with friends and family has arrived.  Anyone who wonders why the weather turned bitterly cold recently should quit speculating.  If Adventure Guy plans to stalk innocent birds, by definition the temperatures must remain below twenty degrees. Otherwise, it just wouldn’t be bird hunting. He assures me this all makes for great fun and bonding.  I remain unconvinced.

Nonetheless, Adventure Guy leaves tomorrow.  I’ll soldier through and hold things down on the home front until Sunday, a price I’m willing to pay for the privilege of staying warm.  I plan to thoroughly enjoy the modern conveniences of central heating and possibly pizza delivery service. Plus, the dogs who remain at home will expect lots of cuddle time. 

The only difficult part comes from realizing that I have two more work days to get through before my weekend starts.  Since I took last Friday off, this week marks the first full week I’ve worked in nearly a month.  I’d love to say that little detail proved no challenge at all, but I don’t like to lie.  Right now, I’m definitely working for the weekend!

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Where’s The Pooper Scooper?

Signboard on a fence in Sausalito, CA: dog shi...
Image via Wikipedia

At one point, I turned to my partner at work and said, “You know things are bad when cleaning up the dog shit you found in the living room first thing in the morning proves to be the best part of your day.”

Yes, from an unexpected “present” this morning, to the argument with Adventure Guy regarding who held responsibility for said accident, to a meeting where people whined about trivial things, to a bigger meeting where I was unable to sway the big boss to my side of an issue, to news that will negatively impact our district in the coming days–this day would not make my list to relive any time soon.

Perhaps I should invest in a sign like the one here.  Or maybe even two.  I wonder how they’d fit in with my living room and office decor?

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I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do

To demonstrate just how much times have changed since Adventure Guy and I tied the knot, I should note that to make sure the scene below did not involve sun shining directly into the guests’ eyes, I consulted the Texas Almanac to set our ceremony time.  Yes, kids, Dad and I got married before common access to the Internet.  I could claim we walked both ways uphill to the ceremony as well, but we actually went with the traditional limousine service instead.

I remember parts of that day twenty years ago with absolute clarity and other pieces are just a blur.  During the ceremony, our lay reader repeated The Lord’s Prayer when my vocalist had sung it previously.  This seemed like a major issue to me at the time, as evidenced on our wedding video when I’m mouthing “no” to him as he begins.  There are pluses and minuses to being a cradle Episcopalian and knowing the ceremony by heart.  But more so, I remember standing at the door of the church and seeing Adventure Guy see me in my dress for the first time.  It was worth waiting for mutual pictures until after the ceremony to have that moment.  The walk down the aisle fits into the “blur” category, though my mother chastised my father and me later for having gone much too fast. 

The ceremony itself certainly cannot be described as much too fast.  My parents got their money’s worth from the hour-and-fifteen-minute-long service.  Adventure Guy still complains about the length of the homily, likely with good justification.  We broke with the tradition of the time and greeted our guests as they left the church rather than having a formal receiving line at the reception.  Now, I can’t think of the last time I actually saw a receiving line at a wedding in any form. 

Once we took our pictures as a couple, we hit the local country club for dinner and dancing.  There was singing of The Aggie War Hymn with our college friends and our dads.  My sorority sisters serenaded me with a traditional Pi Phi song.  We tossed both my bouquet and my garter. 

And it was over almost as soon as it all began.  Though I’d planned for that evening for months, what I couldn’t have begun to have truly planned for is the life it led to.  Three cities, three houses, and three kids later, I wouldn’t change my decision on that day for anything. 

It’s been a fabulous twenty years.  I can’t wait to see what the next two decades bring!

June 30, 1990

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Civil War

The first rule of healthcare reform is that we don’t talk about healthcare reform.  At least not here in Suburbia.

Those who know me, know I’m a part of a mixed marriage.  Yes, Adventure Guy is a Republican.  Years into our union, he admitted that he thought I’d give up that whole “being a Democrat thing” once I saw the light of his superior thinking.  After all, I was the only Democrat he’d ever actually met (a fact he whole-heartedly believed, though I’ve now ferreted out fellow sympathizers among his high school acquaintances).

He clearly had no idea how deep my own family’s roots run.  As my grandmother once opined, “You know, your grandfather wouldn’t have voted for God if he’d been running on the Republican ticket.”  I’m pretty sure she’s right about that, though I try to be a bit more open-minded.

That open-mindedness coupled with Adventure Guy’s generally moderate social views and a mutual disdain for our immediate past president has allowed us to live in relative harmony for the past twenty or so years. The Clinton impeachment and the events leading up to it did make for a bit of a bumpy ride in the nineties, coupled as it was with new-parent sleep deprivation (I figure I didn’t sleep much from 1994-2000; having three children in less than six years does that).

But I’m not sleepy now.  In fact, I spent all of Sunday monitoring Twitter while I watched college basketball, waiting for the ideal time to flip over to C-SPAN–definitely a unique version of March Madness.  I watched the line of Republicans stumble over getting their objections on the record.  I watched the call for the vote and those numbers creeping up toward 216.  To his credit, Adventure Guy even came in to see the magic moment when the tally hit the mark and kept on going.

And then we watched basketball.  Until, Twitter let me know the president was about to make a statement.  I stated my intention to watch him do so.  Adventure Guy thought it best to relocate.  When I gave him the “all-clear” he came back in stating, “I figure this is something we just ought not to talk about.”

He’s right.  We shouldn’t.  He’s worried our healthcare expenses will go up.  He’s likely right in the short-term.  We are among the lucky ones.  We have healthcare, highly subsidized by his employer–so subsidized that it costs a third of what I could cover our family for under my plan, and that is with the state covering all of the costs for me personally.  We, like many other families, are also one layoff away from losing that cushion.  So, I’m willing to pay a little more to create a system that makes the prospect of going bankrupt because you had the nerve to get cancer just a bad memory–like that nightmare you know was scary but you can’t totally recall.

I don’t really comprehend why that’s not something all Americans can’t get behind.  But amidst the history-making events of this week, my own state legislature brought up a bill to allow individuals, healthcare providers, and insurers to “opt out” of the national reforms.  Claims of socialized medicine made the rounds on the status bars of friends’ Facebook accounts, and many pledged never to vote for a candidate who’d supported the healthcare reform measure–a goal that won’t be too much of a stretch to meet around here considering that none of our state’s delegation supported the measure.

I contemplated moving the one of the coasts for a few minutes.  But, since I’d bring my very own favorite naysayer with me, I figure that would be a very expensive and ineffective means to an end.  So, I’ll keep connecting online to those who share my excitement.  And, here in Suburbia, I’ll keep quiet.  But that quiet hides my strongest hope that we’ve turned the corner on this issue and that one day in the not-so-distant future, we’ll all be wondering what the fuss was about.

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Weekend Update

Adventure Guy took off for his annual bird hunt with the guys on Thursday night and returned tonight in the early evening. Just a few years ago, I would have counted the hours until his return, having wrangled three small children on my own for a long weekend.

It’s amazing how a few years change things. While, certainly, I missed Adventure Guy, the challenges of this weekend paled in comparison to those early days of parenthood. Though, I’d like to know what the statistical likelihood of the only two absolute commitments we had this weekend occurring at exactly the same time.

Yes, both DD1 and DD2 had to be at events that started at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. Fortunately, I arranged for DD2 to ride with a friend so that I could drop off DD1 and then get to the dance competition for DD2 in time to see her perform. Then, I made a mad dash to pick up DD1, managing to get there only a few minutes late. All before running back over to the competition to pick up DD2 and her friends.

At that point, I decided I’d like to stay home for the rest of the weekend. That didn’t quite happen, but I did my best. We stayed home last night, eating tacos for dinner and making cupcakes for dessert. I caught up on my backlog of DVR’d shows since last week proved to be a no-time-for-tv sort of week.

Today brought a little more excitement with church this morning, followed by lunch with the girls while Soccer Boy participated in his tween group church activity this afternoon. Finally, it was off on a round of errands in preparation for DD1’s sweet sixteen party in a couple of weeks.

And then Adventure Guy came home and took me to dinner.  And now we’re all snuggled up with the kids and the dogs watching the Golden Globes together. What more could I ask? Well, what more except for a long weekend, which everyone else in my family has. I’ll be more than a little bitter when that alarm goes off tomorrow!

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Going Dutch On The Parenting Front

The New York Times’ parenting blog, Motherload, continually raises interesting questions about the state of parenting in the 21st century.  Today’s column centers around the topic of “equal” parenting, and the concern of many wives and mothers that they shoulder a disproportionate share of the household and child-related tasks.  Motherload author, Lisa Belkin asks, “Can parenting truly be equal?”

The impetus for the column is the new book, Equally Shared Parenting:  Rewriting the Rules for a New Generation of Parenting, in which authors Marc and Amy Vashon envision a world where both parents work equal hours, spend equal time with the children, and take equal responsibility for the home. No one is the keeper of the to-do lists; neither of their careers takes precedence.

While I’ll admit upfront that I have not read this particular book (and don’t have any real intention of doing so), I’m going to go out on a limb and state, that, no, like any relationship, parenting is unlikely to be completely equal.    I’m much more concerned about whether our children are well-taken care of and each of us has the opportunity to pursue some of our own interests and accomplish our professional goals than about whether there’s a dead equal division of labor.

And, let’s be realistic.  Is there any way to run a household where no one maintains the family calendar either mentally, electronically, or on paper?  Or even worse in my opinion, where two people try to do so?

Yes, I am the official keeper of the family schedule here in Suburbia.  That’s not to say that Adventure Guy doesn’t keep his own calendar, often with family events marked on it. He also manages several of the ongoing family commitments almost entirely on his own–Boy Scouts and soccer are his domain–and shares the load of carpooling, doctors appointments, and event attendance.  But I’m the one who has the mental map of how all the various pieces fit together. 

And that’s okay.  It’s also okay that we tend to divide household chores along fairly stereotypical gender roles.  In fact, I’m probably much more okay with that division of labor than is Adventure Guy.  I’m happy to do the laundry, the grocery shopping and meal planning, and most of the cooking in exchange for his taking care of lawn and car maintenance.  And, let’s face it.  neither of us enjoys housecleaning and we’ll pay to have it done for us as long as that’s an option that’s financially possible.

With all that said, I’ll put our division of labor up against any couple I know as to its degree of fairness and basis of mutual respect.  During our marriage, each of our careers has taken precedence at times.  I moved to the middle of nowhere and postponed starting my teaching career when we first married; later Adventure Guy turned down an opportunity to move for a job so that I could gain more experience at my current employment level.  Since DD1 arrived on the scene almost sixteen years ago, Adventure Guy has been as likely as I have to be the one who stays home to care for a sick child or who takes one of the kids to a birthday party or an orthodontist appointment. And speaking of birthday parties, he’s made arrangements for them as often as I have.  Even more unusual from my informal research is his handling of portions of the Christmas shopping, including all of gift buying for his side of the family.

In the best relationships, parents work together as partners and the responsibilities ebb and flow according to each person’s abilities and circumstances.  And, focusing on achieving that balance is a much more relevant pursuit for me than is spending my time tallying the exact percentages of effort each of us is putting in to piloting the family ship.

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