Category Archives: Partners In Crime
I love when my husband leaves me love notes.
In the refrigerator.
That use the word ubiquitous.
And refer to ass-slapping.
I kinda expected to be sad today. I’d planned for it. I mean, we’re 2,000 miles from home, all alone, just the two of us, with no plans and no place to go for the holidays.
And then I thought about it, and thought, holy hell, that’s awesome!
Thanks to the miracle that is technology, we were able to talk to all of our family via video chat–except my parents, though my dad did say today “Gwen, why aren’t we in the new world?” as we talked to him on their old-fashioned landline. You know, one of those phones that you can’t take with you in your purse or car? Yeah, they still have one.
We talked to all the other parents and siblings, and even had a nice doggie rendezvous between Em and my sister’s dog Lucy. We joked about the fact that we needed a day-planner for all of our Skype dates. And about the fact that even though we weren’t in the same city with these family members, we were still scheduled all day long.
And while it isn’t the same as drinking wine together in the same room, toasting the season with my sister and her husband is about as close as you can get, and it was great. I talked with my aunts and uncles and grandma for the first time since we’ve been in Seattle (I know, bad granddaughter). My parents called to play us silent night on the guitar and dulcimer. We got to see our nephews and niece all crazy and over-sugared.
But the best thing about the last 48 hours? Lunch.
After we did the morning cinnamon roll gorging and coffee with “cheer” drinking, after we video chatted with the fam, we decided (well I suggested, and since I was up at the crack of dawn making the cinnamon rolls, Brian gritted his teeth and went along with the suggestion) to go for a walk on the beach. Beach as in the Puget Sound beach, not the Lake Washington beach, which requires us to get in the car and drive a wee bit. So, there we are, walking into the stiff wind, watching the ferries cross the sound, gazing upon the Seattle skyline from the west, listening to the harbor seals. The dog is chasing the seagulls, the sun is ducking behind some mean looking rainclouds and I point out this awesome burger joint on the beach. And then I point out the open sign. And all the faces in the windows.
We looked at one another, and it was decided. What better way to spend Christmas afternoon than eating dive-y greasy burgers on the beach? And sure enough, we walked in and the whole place was aglow with Christmas lights and décor, the holiday music ringing. The Asian couple behind the counter was chipper and cheery, and the burgers were juicy and the onion rings to die for.
And I looked around at the other customers and saw happy people—quite the opposite of what I expected. I thought we’d find sad old men with no families, or young people who couldn’t afford to make the trip home. Not so. They were couples and sisters and a mother and her grown son. They were obviously all engaging in what I’d call alterna-holiday, celebrating slightly outside the norm. And they were so happy and relaxed. We joked, exchanged greetings, and took pictures of one another. We watched the ferry boats in front of the heater and drank fountain sodas. And ate the best burger I’ve had in a long time, so good we decided not to make the beef tenderloin I’d been planning for Christmas dinner—still stuffed full of onion rings.
I reflected earlier about how to start a holiday tradition. It starts with great memories, I guess. Every year we spend in Seattle at Christmas on our own, we will be back to that dive-y little burger joint and it will represent something cheesy and ironic and perfectly weirdly Beahan-ly holiday.
So, it’s holiday time. I know this because I work in retail. Telltale signs: everyone around me is stressed out and cranky, they keep talking about numbers and sales and customer service. And all the music is playing. Everyone on Facebook keeps talking about their holiday shopping.
It doesn’t really feel like Christmas to me. Probably because other than working in retail, I am not doing any of the things that I am accustomed to doing around this time of year. I’m not finishing projects or studying for finals. I’m not negotiating the family holiday celebration timetable. I am not putting up a tree or making a list of what I need to cook for various gatherings. I’m not even really buying anything–between the hubs and the fam, we’ve all agreed to go simple this year. And while all of that sounds disappointing and vaguely grinch-y, it actually feels very…relaxed.
One of the things Mr. B and I have talked over and over about is how fun it’s going to be to start our own traditions for the holidays. For the first time in ten years, his busy season is NOT the last ten weeks of the year. For the first time since we’ve known each other, I am not in school for the holidays. And for the first time in either of our lives, ever, we are not going to be snuggling in to the big Beahan/Ratermann family holiday extravaganza this year. It’s like a blank slate…
It’s a lot of pressure.
I mean, how do you start a tradition? Does that happen consciously? Do you sit down with pen and paper and negotiate and bargain your way through a list of traditions you’d like to adopt? We don’t have kids, so it’s not like we’re discussing what’s best for munchkins. Just us.
What’s best for us.
Last weekend we spent our Sunday eating world famous doughnuts and walking around Capitol Hill. We oohed and ahhed over the view and then agreed to go home, make dinner and snuggle up on the couch.
I am not one to stick to plans, and I caught wind of an event that couldn’t be missed. At dusk, just when Mr. B had settled into his book and was contemplating a glass of wine, I tossed him his coat and said, “We’re going…”
The holiday boat parade was coming to Lake Washington.
Every year for the month of December these boats tour the various waters around the Puget Sound area. They are all lit up with twinkly lights and one big boat carries a bunch of carolers. They sing their songs and it’s very festive and charming and just a little bit eerie.
We walked up the hill and over to Lake Washington in the early evening darkness along with throngs of other residents in South Seattle. The family just ahead of us was decked out in super warm gear and headlamps, just in case the streetlights weren’t enough to light their way. The mother behind us was practicing Spanish with her toddler and I’m pretty sure that kid has better Spanish speaking skills that I do. Brian and I giggled about these Seattleites and their Seattle-ishness.
And then we came over the hill and the path along the lake was lit for miles with luminaries. I mean, for at least two miles, maybe three. Imagine what that looked like against the inky blackness of the lake and the twinkles of the lit up homes across the water on Mercer Island. Just ahead there was a bonfire going and kids and families were roasting marshmallows. Some one had set up a table with thermoses of hot cocoa.
And then came the boats. I mean, these things are ridiculously cheesy, complete with their over the top announcer and carols blaring so loudly you could hardly hear yourself think. The kiddos screeched at the sight and my dog huddled behind my legs. Fathers behind me passed flasks back and forth and mothers unapologetically drank wine from plastic cups.
I stood there like a freaking sap and wept. Because everything was so imperfectly, crazily, laughably holiday.
I’ll be honest. I’m pretty sure the Christmas boats did not hold the same magic for the hubs. When I lived here before I accidentally stumbled upon the parade finale on Christmas Eve. I was alone, my roommates had gone home to their respective families and I had one more night before I got on a plane for home. Something about the absurdity of the kayaks and the dinghy’s and the sailboats all decked out for the holidays, complete with this eerie music over the loudspeakers—it was what I needed that year to remind me that the holidays were the holidays everywhere, not just in my parents living room. So it holds a bit of sentimental significance for me. But all the crowds, the screeching kids, the jostling rude parents–not so much Brian’s thing.
Doesn’t matter. I stood there like a small child, agape and teary, sappy and thankful, full of grace and wonder. And he’ll do it with me again and again, because I’ll probably never get tired of it and he loves me. And next year he’ll be the guy with a flask who doesn’t watch the boats but instead watches his wife’s wonderment.
Just exactly the way I will sit with a six pack of beer and watch my husbands face as he adoringly watches Emmett Otters Jug band Christmas.
Please don’t judge the quality of these photos…it’s hard to take pics in the dark, ok? Just so you have some concept of what I’m talking about…
The paradoxical thing about family is this: you don’t get to choose them, they just appear, and while you love them, you don’t always like them. In-laws can be even more complex familial relations, right? I mean, theoretically, you chose your partner because they have some qualities/values/characteristics that you deem important, therefore the family in which they were raised ought to be somewhat the same, right?
I’m pretty lucky. I’ve had my differences with my parents and my sister, but all in all, we are a small family and we generally get along pretty well. I adore my brother-in-law. My family adores my husband—so much so that my mom makes his favorite dishes on MY birthday. Generally speaking, we all agree with or at least respect each others values, and appreciate our respective quirks.
I got married, and I wasn’t sure about my in-laws. And by that I mean, I knew nothing about them. Brian and I met, moved in together and got married in the span of nine months. I didn’t have time to really get to know his family—and there are quite a few of them. The first year had a steep learning curve, for sure. I always want to do my best at everything, and trying to be the best daughter-in-law I could be on top of the best wife, daughter, student and employee was taxing. And confusing, mainly because I wasn’t too sure what I was being graded on. Brian was the last of his siblings to marry, and I knew the bar was set pretty high, but I had no idea where it was or what it looked like. It was probably the most difficult thing about our first year of marriage.
In August, we were 90% certain we were going to be moving to Seattle. Brian was interviewing for the job he was eventually offered at Utrecht, and I was interviewing for jobs as well. We decided to give up our cozy little bungalow in Columbia and move in with Brian’s dad and step-mother in preparation for this possible move across the country. And I was nervous about this. For many reasons, not the least of which was that we were suddenly going to add two adults, a dog and a cat to their nice, comfortable household, and I don’t like to impose.
I can honestly say, without a shadow of a doubt, it was the best decision we’ve ever made as a couple. Aside from the fact that it helped us make the move westward, we had SO. MUCH. FUN.
And I learned, very, very quickly, how lucky I was to have these wonderfully supportive people in my life. After the first week, all my anxiety about our living situation melted away, and from then on we just had a good time. We cooked together, we drank wine, we shopped, we watched movies, we talked about books…and I learned more about Gary and Carol than I knew before. Not just what great parents they are, but intricacies of their personalities. I learned how much Gary loves things in jars (olives, asparagus, pickles, salsa), and how passionate he is for the hobbies he’s chosen (photography, art, music, film). I mean, the man saw Midnight in Paris five, yes FIVE, times, each time taking a different family member to the theatre, just for the pleasure of sharing this film that he loved with someone else he loved too. I never knew how active in politics Carol was, and how carefully she watches each of her children and grandchildren to observe just what they like, what their style is, what little things they might enjoy (like the vintage-retro cordial glasses she found at a garage sale for me—they are perfectly my style, that late fifties early sixties era and I love them).
I would never have had the chance to get to know them the way I do now, to understand what makes them tick, to appreciate the way they love their family if we hadn’t spent two months under their roof. And when it was starting to look like the job and the move to Seattle might not happen, when everyone else was saying give up, they stayed the course and quietly supported us, and our adventure.
I am so, so lucky to have married into this family. I am so lucky to have had those eight weeks to get to know them before moving 1500 miles away. Thanks Gary and Carol—you’ve raised an amazing, kind, passionate, creative, hardworking son. I’m grateful for that and for the relationship I’ve been lucky enough to develop with you both. Aside from being great parents, you are great friends and I’m so thankful to have you in my life.
It took nearly four months of negotiations, this move. We sold all our belongings. We moved out of our house. We researched. And researched. And researched. We interviewed. And interviewed… We saved money. We did all the appropriate doctor/veterinarian/car maintenance appointments. I even got one last haircut with my favorite hairdresser. We saw (most) of our family one last time. And a week later, we were driving through the I-90 tunnel and into downtown, late on drizzly Sunday evening.
Sigh of relief.
I’ve lived here before, which is sort of confusing. When people find out we’ve just landed in Seattle, they welcome me and ask how we like it so far. And so I explain that, well, I moved here five years ago, and I liked it a lot. But I moved back to Missouri to go to graduate school for a few years, and while I was there I met a boy, married him, watched my dad get sick, watched him get well, got a dog, had these great friends and families, finished said grad program, looked for a job, didn’t find one, couldn’t quite decide what to do, applied for jobs all over the country, boy followed suit, got one and here we are.
Usually at this point they are backing away slowly and thinking to themselves “a simple it’s good would have sufficed.”
The short answer: I love it here. And it’s different to share it with that other half, that person that gets you at a cellular level. For the last three weeks I keep asking Brian “On a scale of one to ten, ten being highest, how much do you like it now?” Yesterday he responded “On a scale of one to ten, ten being most likely, how likely are you to STOP ASKING ME TO RATE SEATTLE ON A SCALE OF ONE TO TEN?”
I said 4.5.
It’s like when you tell someone about a great new place to eat. And you ask them if they liked it, nervously, because, well, you gave it this glowing endorsement and you loved it too and you just want to share the love of that amazing bread or soup or whatever.
Incidentally, Brian started out at a 4.5. That was before he’d started his job and before we had an apartment. Now he’s steadily responds with an 8. I’d say we’re doing all right.
I can’t actually speak for my husband, but here are the things that we love about this place:
- You are always, without question, within spitting distance of an espresso.
- There are no beer snobs. Or, more accurately, everyone is a beer snob, so we fit right in.
- Grocery Outlet. A way, way, way more awesome Aldi.
- You are never more than a ten-minute walk from some body of water.
- Those PNW-ers. They’re a clever bunch. They really like these things:
- Bumper stickers. Every day I see them, plastered all over Subaru’s and Prius’s all across the city: “26.2” or “Coexist (in the funny type) or “Dog is my copilot” or “a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” Yeah, yeah.
- Punny advertising:
- You holler, we’ll haul ‘er. (moving company)
- We feel your pane. (window company)
- And my favorite, “Do you have change for a paradigm?” T-shirt, seen at beach.
My dog is still scared of the waves and he barked incessantly at a piece of driftwood the other day. My quads are feeling the hills, and my feet are constantly cold. Oh, and traffic sucks real bad. Those are my only complaints.
I’m not sure what we thought would happen when we got here. And I know it was a heartbreaker to leave all the things we felt so secure in. But we got here, and were greeted by open-armed friends, employers who couldn’t be happier to have us, a great network, and lots and lots of sunny days. So, to the happiest sad people who sent us off to the great Northwest, from Beahan 2.0: we’re doing great.
Twice in the last couple of days I’ve tried to explain my game plan to people. Admittedly, it is roundabout. Most of the time when I undertake career movement I tend to implement the scattershot method as opposed to the trained marksman’s shoot to kill approach. That’s not a great analogy, I agree. Suffice it to say, I tend to throw lots of ideas and plans into the universe, and usually one of them sticks. Fortunately or unfortunately, I married a man who tends to do the same thing, though with a little more caution.
So, my game plan is basically this: I want to write and teach people to write. And, frankly, I want to teach the folks that might not have the opportunity otherwise. I am not totally clear how this is going to happen, but the more I throw that out into the ether, the more I find that opportunities are creeping my way. Creeping is the key word. I’d prefer opportunities to be rushing at me at light speed at this point, but I’ll settle for creeping.
So, when this unsuspecting neighbor/acquaintence-type person asked me what my game plan was, I rattled off the MFA programs I’m applying to, the job I applied for at the local restaurant, the various community teaching jobs I’m working on, and the possibility of doing some TA work at a local college. For good measure I mentioned that my husband was interested in going back to school as well, to study art. He looked at me like I was speaking gibberish.
“So you might move?”
“Well, maybe.” And I was off again, spouting more possible contingencies to the plans. He nodded as if to say, “oh, of course, it’s all clear to me now,” but it obviously wasn’t. He made a comment about how “you Beahans always have something cooked up.” I’m pretty sure that wasn’t meant to be a compliment.
After a couple of these, I was feeling pretty disheartened, actually. I mean, finances are tight, and there is a part of me that just wants to go get a job selling cars or answering phones or something so that I can freakin’ afford to buy flowers for my flower beds and buy a new pair of running shoes and oh, maybe take a little weekend trip somewhere, as opposed to being concerned about how to pay to doctor bill or buy the groceries. So, I find myself precariously balanced on the precipice of something new…and trying desperately to hold on just a little longer. And that one rather confused look, that complete befuddlement–it made me feel about two inches tall.
And then I woke up this morning and realized that if I sold cars for a living, or answered telephones I’d be more miserable than ever. And that I have something really awesome to offer the world, and frankly, just because the path isn’t a straight line doesn’t mean it’s a bad path.
I’ve always battled this feeling that maybe people think I’m flighty. Someone I loved once called me that, and I’ve never quite gotten over it. I constantly worry that my roundabout path, all those irons roasting away in that fire, that somehow my impulse to try ALL OF IT will somehow be interpreted as irresponsibility or flightiness. But I can’t change who I am, nor can I change the way I operate. And I don’t want to. And so I fight the flightiness.
I am willing to bear the “irresponsible” label for bailing on my parking tickets, or forgetting to renew my drivers license. But I will fight every day not to be labeled irresponsible because I pursue what I love, especially knowing that my intention is to make the world a better place for somebody. And that I’ll try all kinds of ways to get there, because, dammit, I’m nothing if not resourceful.
Not all who wander are lost…and sometimes the straight line path, well, it’s just boring.
Okay, this is getting ridiculous. I know, I know. I haven’t been listening. But I got the message, loud and clear this time.
This morning I work up with a summer cold. What the hell is that about? That’s somebody’s idea of a really cruel joke. It’s a bajillion degrees outside, and yet you wake up feeling like you’ve smoked a pack of Lucky Strikes, slightly sweaty and feverish, with a headache that won’t quit. Sounds like a bad hangover, right? Except it doesn’t get better after you drink coffee and eat something greasy. You feel like you’re melting from the inside out AND the outside in. Awesome.
So, I’ve been fighting aforementioned cold for a few days, figuring it’s allergies (I guess it still could be, but another cruel joke, world). I am lying in bed, listening to my heart drum in my ears like it does when my head is all stuffed up. And yet, I can still hear Emmett doing that thing that he does when he’s been awake for a while and waiting–he sighs. A lot. So I get out of bed, get dressed, strap the leash on the mutt and begrudgingly (and with a sneer toward my still sleeping husband) leave the house.
We may have walked twenty minutes. Maybe. We were nearing an intersection on our regular route, and he did what he always does; he sat down. Right in front of me. I don’t know where the hell I was, but evidently my mind was far, far away, because I just kept going, right over the top of him.
I was pissed at myself before I even hit the ground. I groaned in mid-air, knowing what was coming. I hit just on the top of my kneecap, sending shudders from my hip to my ankle. It felt like someone had taken a sledgehammer and hit my knee, trying to drive the kneecap to my shin. And there was blood all over my running shoe. Reason number 47 why I could never be a nurse: I cry when I see blood. Anyones, but my own in particular.
Emmett whined and fluttered around, nosing my neck and arms, his ears back. For a minute–well, probably five minutes–I really, really wanted to be angry at him. I wanted to yell at him and glare and make him feel bad for tripping me. But we’ve been working so hard on heel, both walking and running, and he’s been soooo good lately. And he was doing exactly what he was supposed to do, sitting at the intersection and waiting for my signal. Little did he know that my signal was going to come in the form of a belly flop on asphalt.
I left my house this morning feeling crappy, unhappy to be awake and really unhappy to be starting what seems like the never-ending workday. I was thinking about what I forgot to do yesterday, what I needed to do today, mentally checking my calendar…I was paying absolutely no attention to where I was, much less where my dog was.
I’ve been reading this book called Zen and the Art of Running by Larry Shapiro. Shapiro talks about the “right effort” or the concept of taking the negative, stripping it of it’s emotional connotations, and making it positive. He also talks about the Zen concept of mindfulness, or being aware of the distinct feelings, one by one, that we feel and what emotions are thereby attached. By addressing these things, we unclutter our minds.
That’s what I need. I need to unclutter my mind. To learn to be present in each moment, instead of that which happened yesterday or what might happen later today or next week.
I’ve always figured running was cheaper than therapy–I started running at a time in my life when I probably could have strongly benefited from some head shrinking, but thank goodness I ran instead. Walking my dog for an hour every single morning has begun to be a similar form of therapy. It is the time that I calmly, purposefully get my day in order. I bond with my dog, I listen to the cool silence at 6:30 in the morning. I feel tranquil and…ordered…when I start the day.
This morning I started with a grudge. I was desperate to walk and be done, to get my day started so that maybe, maybe, the end would come sooner and I could recline on my couch quietly for an hour or so before I started again.
When I start my walks–or runs–with that attitude, bad things happen. Emmett picks up on this weirdo energy and starts doing weirdo stuff. I fall. I step in dog crap. Or, worse, Emmett craps and my poop bag has a hole in it.
All these things could happen on a day when I’m calm and confident, too.
But they don’t.
So yeah. I get your message. Unclutter. Slow. DOWN. Take some time to not only not DO work, but not THINK about all the work that you’re not doing.
Be where you are right now.
One more place you can hear about the adventures of the Beahan menagerie.
Check it out: http://farmersmarketpavilion.org/blog/