Re-Entry

I wanted to improve my Spanish. Well to be honest I want to be fluent in Spanish and in ALL the languages. I’ve just always been fascinated that there are alternate ways to say something. And it kind of feels like breaking a secret code when you start to learn how to speak in a different language. I want to be able to teach German and Spanish, but my Spanish was fossilized somewhere in the third semester of college Spanish range. It’s scary and intimidating to say your goals out loud because then people know what your goal is and will notice whether you make it or fail. So now you know. Don’t keep tabs on how long it takes me, Ok? My biggest supporter, my husband and Daddy Of The Year, gave me the thumbs up on heading off to Madrid for ten days of Language School. The cherry on top was adding three days in Norway as a 40th birthday present to myself!

For two weeks I was off doing my own thing in Europe while Chris was packing lunches, popping waffles in the toaster, and loading kids and backpacks in the car by 7:30am to get the girls to school each day before heading to work to teach 900 college kids. And then shuttling our littles to all of their after school activities. … while I was stopping at a café for a coffee after my classes in Madrid or browsing the many levels of the El Corte Inglés department store. I saw every inch of that place, including the restaurant on the sixth floor. (The potatoes with eggs and ham were very satisfying. So was the cheesecake.)

Seriously. I was living the dream! Or the bizarro world. I felt like I was twenty years old again. No kids constantly arguing to referee, no husband to compromise on the when/where/what food will be eaten. I could make my own decisions and implement them immediately!

There were certainly moments of loneliness and anxiety though. For instance, I spent the better part of an hour figuring out which of my six keys got me into the four separate doors to my apartment building. And some keys turned right while others turned left. I thought if I left my apartment without practicing each door at least three times, I might not ever make it back INTO the apartment! So backwards I went, testing each door with its corresponding key and trying not to look foolish pushing on a pull door or vice versa.

In contrast to Madrid where I was slowly but steadily working toward my goal of improving my Spanish grammar (even while sight-seeing, shopping, reading Junie B. Jones in español, eating churros, and drinking with the locals,) when I got to Bergen, Norway, it was just sightseeing playtime! I hadn’t done a trip like that on my own since I was twenty-one. I truly felt like the old me – a little scared but excited to see new sights on my own. After being married for fifteen years and accustomed to the comfort of the secure feeling of someone living in the same house, it was nice to know that I could stay in a hotel (not to mention the six-key apartment!) and not actually need the T.V. as company to ease my mind before falling asleep.

As I sat on the hilltop park and enjoyed the view of Bergen all around me on a beautifully sunny day, I appreciated the time away from my family to take this trip and enjoy the absence of sibling rivalry. But I also wished they were on the boat ride with me into the Fjord. I ALSO knew that I needed to brace myself for re-entry into the real world when I got home. I know my kids will fight; I want to ignore just the right amount of the arguing so that it doesn’t bother me or stress me out. Which is probably why the little bar in the Bergen Harbor was one of my favorite places of my trip. I ate dinner alone (which I didn’t mind on day twelve; by day fourteen I was pretty over it) and had two beers with dinner to summon the courage to enter the bar on my own. I entered as the guitarist was singing American Pie and he continued with dozens of songs that everybody knew and mouthed the words too, including Red, Red, Wine which was Neil’s song first, so I was a happy girl. A Norwegian couple came and asked if there was room at the table and of course I said yes. We drank and chatted. I learned how to say cinnamon roll in Norwegian. Well I didn’t learn how to say it, but I joyfully listened to it’s pronunciation about five or six times. I walked a few hundred yards to my hotel with a slight hint of light in the 3:00 am sky. I definitely felt twenty again. I did the next day, too, when I stared at my breakfast and contemplated if I needed to eat or just hydrate. Hangover included, it felt good to feel twenty for a few days.

But I’m back in Georgia now! It felt so good squeezing my family when we reunited! It feels good to have my Mom Shoes back on, despite the daily struggles that I know it entails.

The back to normal part is becoming pretty clear. Chris wanted to be helpful before he left for work, so he woke up the kids at 7:30. Last I checked, it is still summer and I would’ve been really content eating my bacon and drinking my coffee in his absence with the kids still lying quietly in their beds! Instead, I walked in from my run to the Golden Pantry to children being hauled down the stairs with sleep in their eyes. Then they sit at the kitchen table and look at me like puppies expecting their bowls to be filled with puppy chow. I stood in the cross-fire of voices streaming back and forth over my head “Do you want a waffle?” “I’m hungry” … And then I tried to lovingly kick my husband out of the house so that I could eliminate just one of the four voices bouncing off the kitchen cabinets.

Next I looked at my bed-head children (with adorable “cheerleader ponytails done by their babysitter,) pointed at each one and reminded them, “You are nine years old. You are six years old. There is the kitchen. Go fix your own breakfast.” Then I walked away saying “I’ll check on you in five minutes.” During the next four minutes and fifty-nine seconds I heard a new round of cross fire – “idiot! Butt! Dumb idiot! Mean butt!”

Yes, this was the Re-Entry to my Mom Life that I was fearing. But it wasn’t as painful as the image I had in my head. I stood stock still and stared them down. “One more “butt” or “idiot” out of either of you and you go straight to your room. Understand?” They nodded. Smart mouth older sister tested me. “I-d-…” “Want to finish that word and spend the rest of the day in your room? Or do you want to eat your waffle?” I tried my best Mom Glare, still not moving a muscle in this mom-to-kid face off. She bit into her Nutella-smeared waffle. I turned on my heel and walked away with a grand feeling of victory.

But I can’t get too cocky. I’m sure the next battle will be waiting for me just around the corner. And the next time I need a break from the arguing, I can lock myself in my closet and quietly remember my sunny spot on the hill over-looking the beautiful scenery of Bergen as I slide off my Mom Shoes to ignore the cross-fire for another quick four minutes and fifty-nine seconds.

Re-Entry

I wanted to improve my Spanish. Well to be honest I want to be fluent in Spanish and in ALL the languages. I’ve just always been fascinated that there are alternate ways to say something. And it kind of feels like breaking a secret code when you start to learn how to speak in a different language. I want to be able to teach German and Spanish, but my Spanish was fossilized somewhere in the third semester of college Spanish range. It’s scary and intimidating to say your goals out loud because then people know what your goal is and will notice whether you make it or fail. So now you know. Don’t keep tabs on how long it takes me, Ok? So my hubs, the Daddy Of The Year, gave me the thumbs up on heading off to Madrid for ten days of Language School. The cherry on top was adding three days in Norway as a 40th birthday present to myself!

For two weeks I was off doing my own thing in Europe while Chris was packing lunches, popping waffles in the toaster, and loading kids and backpacks in the car by 7:30am to get the girls to school each day before heading to work to teach 900 college kids. And then shuttling our littles to all of their after school activities. … while I was stopping at a café for a coffee after my classes in Madrid or browsing the many levels of the El Corte Inglés department store. I saw every inch of that place, including the restaurant on the sixth floor. (The potatoes with eggs and ham were very satisfying. So was the cheesecake.)

Seriously. I was living the dream! Or the bizarro world. I felt like I was twenty years old again. No kids constantly arguing to referee, no husband to compromise on the when/where/what food will be eaten. I could make my own decisions and implement them immediately!

There were certainly moments of loneliness and anxiety though. For instance, I spent the better part of an hour figuring out which of my six keys got me into the four separate doors to my apartment building. And some keys turned right while others turned left. I thought if I left my apartment without practicing each door at least three times, I might not ever make it back INTO the apartment! So backwards I went, testing each door with its corresponding key and trying not to look foolish pushing on a pull door or vice versa.

In contrast to Madrid where I was slowly but steadily working toward my goal of improving my Spanish grammar (even while sight-seeing, shopping, reading Junie B. Jones in español, eating churros, and drinking with the locals,) when I got to Bergen, Norway, it was just sightseeing playtime! I hadn’t done a trip like that on my own since I was twenty-one. I truly felt like the old me – a little scared but excited to see new sights on my own. After being married for fifteen years and accustomed to the comfort of the secure feeling of someone living in the same house, it was nice to know that I could stay in a hotel (not to mention the six-key apartment!) and not actually need the T.V. as company to ease my mind before falling asleep.

As I sat on the hilltop park and enjoyed the view of Bergen all around me on a beautifully sunny day, I appreciated the time away from my family to take this trip and enjoy the absence of sibling rivalry. But I also wished they were on the boat ride with me into the Fjord. I ALSO knew that I needed to brace myself for re-entry into the real world when I got home. I know my kids will fight; I want to ignore just the right amount of the arguing so that it doesn’t bother me or stress me out. Which is probably why the little bar in the Bergen Harbor was one of my favorite places of my trip. I ate dinner alone (which I didn’t mind on day twelve; by day fourteen I was pretty over it) and had two beers with dinner to summon the courage to enter the bar on my own. I entered as the guitarist was singing American Pie and he continued with dozens of songs that everybody knew and mouthed the words too, including Red, Red, Wine which was Neil’s song first, so I was a happy girl. A Norwegian couple came and asked if there was room at the table and of course I said yes. We drank and chatted till 3:00am. I definitely felt twenty again. I did the next day, too, when I stared at my breakfast and contemplated if I needed to eat or just hydrate. Hangover included, it felt good to feel twenty for a few days.

But I’m back in Georgia now! It felt so good squeezing my family when we reunited! It feels good to have my Mom Shoes back on, despite the daily struggles that I know it entails.

The back to normal part is becoming pretty clear. Chris wanted to be helpful before he left for work, so he woke up the kids at 7:30. Last I checked, it is still summer and I would’ve been really content eating my bacon and drinking my coffee in his absence with the kids still lying quietly in their beds! Instead, I walked in from my run to the Golden Pantry to children being hauled down the stairs with sleep in their eyes. Then they sit at the kitchen table and look at me like puppies expecting their bowls to be filled with puppy chow. I stood in the cross-fire of voices streaming back and forth over my head “Do you want a waffle?” “I’m hungry” … And then I tried to lovingly kick my husband out of the house so that I could eliminate just one of the four voices bouncing off the kitchen cabinets.

Next I looked at my bed-head children (with adorable “cheerleader ponytails done by their babysitter,) pointed at each one and reminded them, “You are nine years old. You are six years old. There is the kitchen. Go fix your own breakfast.” Then I walked away saying “I’ll check on you in five minutes.” During the next four minutes and fifty-nine seconds I heard a new round of cross fire – “idiot! Butt! Dumb idiot! Mean butt!”

Yes, this was the Re-Entry to my Mom Life that I was fearing. But it wasn’t as painful as the image I had in my head. I came back at the five minute mark and stood stock still and stared them down. “One more “butt” or “idiot” out of either of you and you go straight to your room. Understand?” They nodded. Smart mouth older sister tested me. “I-d-…” “Want to finish that word and spend the rest of the day in your room? Or do you want to eat your waffle?” I tried my best Mom Glare, still not moving a muscle in this mom-to-kid face off. She bit into her Nutella-smeared waffle. I turned on my heel and walked away with a grand feeling of victory.

But I can’t get too cocky. I’m sure the next battle will be waiting for me just around the corner. And the next time I need a break from the arguing, I can lock myself in my closet and quietly remember my sunny spot on the hill over-looking the beautiful scenery of Bergen as I slide off my Mom Shoes to ignore the cross-fire for another quick four minutes and fifty-nine seconds.

Feeling Grounded

I swore I’d watch “The Greatest Showman” 700 times. At 35,000 feet flying somewhere over Canada, I’m narrowing the count down to 693 more viewings. Which I guess is an appropriate place to ponder being grounded. I give thanks to my friends and family for keeping me grounded. Honestly without them I’d be lost. Because I just spent about twelve days traveling on my own and realized that I don’t feel completely grounded without human connection. 

As much as I love talking to strangers and meeting new people, one of my favorite things about connecting with people and making memories is having shared moments in common. Usually for me these are made not by a luxurious two hour meal or during an eight hour road trip, but rather in mere seconds or a compilation of shared moments. 

After eating blueberry bagels for a week with my dad on a trip out west back in middle school, he knows without asking that I’m not going to chose to eat another one this lifetime. We also can remember all the old gray haired gentlemen complementing him on our big ol’ boat of a rental car- a Lincoln Continental. All he wanted was to try out the new (back then) Ford Focus, but since it was unavailable, we were “upgraded” to the old-timers’ mobile. It rode smoothly though and handled our off-road experience well. The off-roading was of course not fully disclosed with our rental company. Seeing a Lincoln Continental even in 2018, almost thirty years after our trip still ties us together in a memory of our Out West time together. 

On a trip to Italy from Germany my friends put in the same song on the CD player every time we hopped back in the van after a bathroom, snack, or photo break. Like Pavlov’s dog, when I hear the beginning of that song, my mind screams “onward with the road trip!” and I know it says the exact same for my friends as well. 

One of the travel moments that has made its way into my husband’s class lectures is the time I accidentally left him on a train in Germany by himself. To be honest he’s the one who left me because I was staring at the ticket automat trying to figure out if I needed to buy a short-trip ticket to the main train station when suddenly the doors of the train closed and took off with the hubs, and all our luggage on it. We were both bewildered and anxious not knowing how we would get back to each other. Would he return to me? Should I take the next train to follow him? We had no cell phones and no clue what to do. No trains came from the opposite direction, so I hopped on the next train and was relieved to see him standing in the platform at the next station. I still get the blame for “leaving him stranded” in a land where he didn’t know the language, but it still makes us laugh when we tell that story to friends and know we survived one of the many challenges of travel. 

Sometimes, though, memories are made in mere seconds. On a lazy Sunday afternoon when I was still in college and my sister still lived in Athens near me, we were enjoying an afternoon movie and popcorn day to recover from our late Saturday night the night before. Tired, dehydrated, and slap-happy, we were content staring at the tv without having to concentrate or use any brain power. Then a corny commercial came on and our heads whipped toward each other as we asked aloud if the goldfish cracker song really just said, “they smile till you bite their heads off.” We laughed off an on for over an hour and still get a chuckle if we mention that crazy ad. 

Recently I sat in the doctor’s office at urgent care with my oldest daughter. We both needed to be seen and I suddenly had a flashback of a visit the year before. At our previous visit she and I both had strep throat. She had to get swabbed first and even as awful as I felt, I patted her hand to let her know she did well. Next it was my turn to stick out my tongue and say “aah.” But instead a coughing, scratching, animal-like sound came out which cracked us both up. She still says, “remember the time you said ‘chxxxgh’ at the doctor’s office?!”

In Madrid my friend EB and I found ourselves in a local dive bar when suddenly they closed the roller gate on the outside. Luckily her Spanish is better than mine and we were informed that it meant we could stay and hang out but that no new people could come in. It was a funny feeling and if I had not had a friend with me, I’d have felt pretty insecure. I’m sure (and hope) that one day we’ll be in a bar at night again and remember shutting down the Madrid townies’ bar!

I love traveling and chatting with people, but most of all I love the grounding feeling of sharing connections with others. In Bergen, Norway, I watched the parade on May 17th, their Constitution Day next to a sweet couple from Durham, England. The wife and I so enjoyed the local woman filling is in on who was coming up next in the parade. I also loved the fact that her husband was the most relaxed parade watcher ever, giving space for all the folks to scooch up close as he took small steps to avoid the squish. But I won’t see this couple again to get to reflect together on the fun that day and admiring all of the beautiful traditional dresses (and all the men in their best suits!) 

During my two weeks away from my family I made some great memories for myself. I saw beautiful landscapes, chatted with locals and tourists, and learned some new phrases in other languages. As my desire to eat bread or cake or to drink beer or shop faded, I knew I was at the end of my time on my trip! As much fun as seeing beautiful sights is or how relaxing it is to slowly sip on a coffee at a cafe or enjoy live music at a bar with a beer in hand, going too many days without a deeply grounding human connection leaves me feeling empty. 

I’m ready to head home to my family and see what new memories get made out of the mundane daily life of mine that I love and love sharing with my friends and family. As annoying as it is in the weekly routine, I imagine even one day the hubs and I could even look back and laugh at cleaning up cat vomit on a weekly basis.