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.
Today I’m thankful for long hours and days off. I capped off my nearly 60 hour work week by working the closing shift in the kids department. On a Friday night. After four days of darkness–going in before the sun came up and driving home in the rainy eve with several hundred thousand fellow commuters–I got to hang out with the kiddos. I was dreading it.
And, you know, I’ve seen worse. For every annoying parent who let their child tear through the store pulling books and toys off the shelf at random, while looking to me expectantly to clean up, there were moments of real cuteness.
Let me digress: who are these parents? I realize that I am not a parent, and so far be it for me to judge, but who are these people? I mean, how entitled must you be to think that someone else follows you around to clean up your messes? That, despite what you might think, is NOT what people in customer service get paid to do. And what are you teaching your kids? That it’s okay to make a mess and leave it for someone else to deal with? What kind of lesson are you imparting–you are better than someone else? These parents should be ashamed of themselves.
There were, despite my rant, more endearing families in the kids department than ungrateful wretches. One of my favorites were a dad and his nine-ish year old daughter. I love when little girls dress like Hermione Granger. They always look a little more Punky Brewster or Blossom-ish to me, but I guess that dates me. Multicolored leggings, socks, pleated skirts, patterned tops with ruffles. Seriously. Tie a bandana around your leg or throw on a floppy hat and you’ve got Punky and Blossom.
So this little girl had the Punky/Blossom/Hermione look going on, and she and her dad were commiserating over new juvenile fiction. I’m pretty sure he’s reading all the same novels she is (well, maybe not the American Girl stuff). He got more excited about the release of book #5 in some series I’d never heard of than she did.
I love that he told her that she could pick out one non-book item, which in an era in which bookstores begin to look more and more like toy stores, is saying a lot. I loved this:
“Dad, can I get this one?! It’s new, it just came out, it’s $7.”
They left the section with two huge piles of books. I’m envious–I wish I could shop with that kind of abandon in the bookstore. If I ever have kids, which looks less likely by the day, I want to be able to do that. Not at the candy store, or at the toy store, but at the bookstore, I want to buy them as much as they want.
I walked to my car at 11:45, came home, wide awake, poured a glass of beer and then promptly fell asleep with the light on.
I am glad for this job. In these economic times, I am lucky. I listen to the radio and hear the jobs report, or interviews with economic analysts who say that this is the worst time to graduate from college in the last 50 years and I think, jeeze. I should thank my lucky stars. I’m surrounded by books, in a warm place, with generally nice people everyday. I make a living. Not a great one, but one nonetheless.
I’m grateful that on this Monday, after 7 long days, I can sit on my couch with my mutt and do nothing but drink coffee and eat a delightful slice of raisin bread, do a load of laundry and maybe, maybe go outside and see daylight.
For a while now, Mr. B and I have only owned one car. Our initial decision to downsize our automotive collection was both driven by a financial consideration, as well as a intention to do good things for the world. In Columbia, MO we lived within a couple miles of everything we needed to do on a daily basis: work, school, fun. After a couple of months of “practicing,” we traded both of our Honda Civics in for one gently used Subaru. We biked and walked a lot more, carpooled quite a bit, and put a whole hell of a lot less gas in the tank.
When we moved to Seattle, transportation was a major consideration as we hunted for apartments. Since I wasn’t sure where I’d be working yet, we decided that it was most important to be either within walking distance or on an easy public transit route for Brian. We found an apartment a few miles south of his store, and he takes the light rail to work everyday.
I found a job that is a bit further away…at 2 in the afternoon, I can drive to work in about 20 minutes and can set the cruise at 60 on the freeway and coast. The catch: I never go to work (or come home from work) at 2 in the afternoon. I leave work and spend the next 40 minutes stop-starting my way home. Why don’t I use public transit to get to work, you ask? Two selfish reasons: one, it would double my commute, at least. Possibly triple it. And two, it would require me to get out of bed at 4AM, possibly earlier and that, my friends, I’m not willing to do for love or money.
For the first few weeks this traffic situation was incredibly, harrowingly, horrifically godawful. When I stopped thinking about my dog impatiently waiting for his walk, or the dinner than I wasn’t going to have time to make, the run I wasn’t going to be able to take and the hours of kickback time I was losing, I began to listen and look a little more. Seattle is a beautiful city–even without the mountains and the water. The architecture, the skyline, the cute little neighborhoods are enough eye candy to keep me busy for months. And Seattle has the best public radio stations. Seriously, their community radio station, KEXP is touted as one of the best in the country. To an uncultured Midwestern girl, my eyes (or ears) are constantly being reawakened to some new group or genre, some that I can’t even find on Itunes yet. And, thanks to the talk radio stations, I’m far more up to date on my current affairs, my local politics and I, unlike most of America according to Facebook, can explain what the Occupy movement is all about.
I did ride the light rail home from downtown the other night. I sat for thirty minutes and watched the world go by, shifting from shiny, tall buildings to industrial and square to neighborhood bungalows. It lulled me into a state of contentment–I see why Brian really enjoys his rides home. I’m jealous, a little. Because the only thing better than getting to listen to all the good music and all the news and information would be to do it without having to operate a motor vehicle.
This will come as no surprise to anyone, but I’d like to take this opportunity to bestow an extra special thanks on two of my most supportive life companions. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I do not, in any way, exaggerate when I say that.
1. Wine. Yep. Nectar of the gods, I say. Today was on the disappointing side; I learned that I would NOT be offered a job with an organization I had fallen in love with, and felt that I was equally well-suited. How do I really know that from a job description, a website and a few short conversations, you ask? I am the queen of the stalkers, and let me tell you, I’d read up on their financials, dug around on their board, staff and founders–and, my friends, Facebook is more than a social networking tool. Anyway. I was at my current job–unboxing books about the Kardashians upon which masses of people will blow their holiday money. And somehow, that was disheartening. I’ve spent most of my “career” looking to help people, to work for the greater good, and at this point it seems that I can’t give that service away. Instead, I’m helping Americans perpetuate their irresponsible, consumerist behavior…anyway. Point is, I went grocery shopping, bought dinner items and with them, bottles (yes, multiple) of wine. I popped open the bottle and poured a glass to sip on while making dinner and dripped on my sweater. Did I reach for the Shout? No, sir. I licked that precious goodness right off my dirty sweater–why would you let that go to waste??? And after a day like today… I do not intend to drown my sorrows (if you’ll read further, you’ll see why). But few things take the ache out of weary bones, warm you up from the inside, like a sip of red wine. I treasure every evening my husband and I chat over the last glass in a bottle, every deep conversation my girlfriends and I have shared, every time my mom snickers when she opens another bottle behind my dad’s back. Good memories, and I’m not afraid to admit, it’s a nice cozy blanket on a cold day.
2. Now, just to ensure that you don’t all think I’m a depressed individual with a substance abuse problem, with whom you would hesitate to leave your children, let me tell you what I did before I began cozy-ing up with the bottle. I got home and was very tempted to curl up on the couch with the baguette of french bread from the bakery (upon which I would gnaw without even slicing), aforementioned bottle of wine and my dog, to hell with dinner. The puppy-dog eyes got the best of me. Instead of going on our normal hour long stroll, however, I decided it was time to take the training wheels off. I threw on the cold weather gear, laced up the running shoes and out we went. Thirty minutes and three+ miles later and I remembered that there is more to life than how you make your money. Fulfillment comes in all sorts of ways, and making the world better doesn’t necessarily have to happen behind a desk. And, on top of that, as Emmett and I jogged along Lake Washington, watching the moon rise above the clouds as the sun set behind the trees to the west, I remembered that there are things that fill my soul up greater than my vocation ever could. So I’m thankful for that.
And, frankly, my quads and glutes are going to be killer if I keep up this pace.
I remember when I was a kid, there were these cookies that I loved that my mom wouldn’t make. Someone called the cowpie cookies, which might be why she refused to make them. I didn’t care what they were called, they were chocolately nutty goodness.
I had a craving for something sweet and good tonight, and I wandered the Safeway aisles for probably thirty minutes debating between the $2 box of brownie mix and the $4 carton of butter pecan ice cream. Neither was really putting stars in my eyes and I was hungry and my dog was in the car and, well, as often happens when I’m shopping, I got frustrated with my own indecision and I left.
I got home and thought about those cookies. I looked up a couple of recipes. I didn’t have anywhere close to all the right ingredients. I found one that was close.
Here’s what I did.
3 TBS of butter (rough guess)
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. natural peanut butter
3 TBS-ish toasted almonds
1 1/2 c. oats
1/2 c. pumpkin seeds (raw) again, this is a rough guess, I just tossed in what I had
1/2 c. sunflower seeds (see above–no idea if that’s an accurate measurement)
Melt the butter, add the sugar type substances, add some liquid (I thought about adding the cold leftover coffee I had for a mocha like cookie), add the grainy nutty things, mix. Spoon onto cookie sheet. Put in fridge.
I have only had the yumminess at the bottom of the pan, but let me tell you. This is heaven.
Seriously. I just ate half a pound of the most amazing batch of roasted Brussels sprouts with a little salt and pepper and thyme, pecans and a splash of cider vinegar. I set off the smoke detectors twice, but oh my God. I could eat my body weight in those things. Brian is out of town on business. This is what happens.
My first year in Seattle (the first time) I was so homesick around the holidays that my mom and I started a project. Every morning we sent each other a simple list of five things we were thankful for and five things we wished for. There weren’t any other rules—you could repeat as much as you wanted, you could be thankful for anything. I remember how I looked forward to those emails every morning, and how they kept me afloat on the days that I was hanging on by a thread.
There is something about the act of writing these things down. I mean, I talked to my mom every day. I still do, most of the time. I could have just as easily recited my ten things into the receiver. But that wouldn’t have had the same effect.
If I’m to understand it correctly, our brains forge a link when we write things. When we write things, our brains take step closer to believing. I think that’s important.
By the end of the month, we both noticed that our thankful lists grew longer everyday, and our wish lists grew shorter. As they should.
I’m noticing my Facebook friends doing something similar in their status lines. Each day, there is a new post of something they are thankful for. I love it. Frankly, most of the time the Facebook status treads a fine line between shameless gloating and exhibitionist entitlement issues. I can’t tell you how many times I read statuses and shake my head. It’s amazing the things people can find to complain about, and with Facebook at our cellular fingertips; it’s a constant stream of verbal diarrhea.
I’m joining the club. I’m starting my month of thanks on the blog. I’m not limiting myself to one thing…but at least one a day. Should be a piece of cake.
Today, though, definitely Brussels sprouts top the list.
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.
We spend more and more time connecting virtually, through wires and cords, screens and “apps.” While this creates a closer global community in some ways, nothing can replace good old-fashioned face-to-face contact. Humans connect over food, drink, music that moves and art that asks questions. When’s the last time you sat down over dinner and talked about the intricacies of your cell phone plan or your computer’s hardware—or, perhaps more importantly, just how long did that conversation last? We use the arts to express something that we may not be able to voice ourselves, and art gives us the courage to try.
I grew up in a rural Missouri town, the daughter of a fine furniture maker. I was an anomaly among my classmates. My parents’ friends were art glass designers and mosaic artists, writers and blacksmiths from all corners of the world. I grew up knowing that art was as essential as food or shelter; it was what made life good.
I was lucky to be exposed to such a varied and magical world of galleries, museums, studios; all things I could touch and breathe and hide away in. Most of my friends couldn’t identify—and I felt alien. My sister and I enrolled in writing workshops, puppetry and pottery classes while our friends signed up for tee ball or Girl Scouts. Our vacations consisted of trips across the country to meet other furniture makers, to visit galleries and workspaces—not to Disneyland.
Ultimately, isn’t art all about connecting? Isn’t that why we create—to express something within ourselves, to provide a voice? We paint/write/cook/compose to communicate a thought or feeling or idea to the rest of the world. We throw the bottle into the ocean and hope to find a connection.
To say I’m passionate about the arts would be inaccurate. It is ingrained in my cellular make up, much like being of German decent or left-handed. It is not something I can separate from. I am passionate about connection. I find great satisfaction in facilitating the bridge between two entities that might not have existed otherwise. I am excited when I see a kid experience the power of creating something for the first time. I thrive on the creative charge in the air at the local film festival—so many people connecting in so many ways.
I’ve had this conversation with a number of my friends over the last few months. Our generation, Gen X-ish, those of us in our late twenties and early thirties, have been told to follow our hearts. Get those pretty little liberal arts degrees, the masters degrees, and hell, money grows on trees, why not go ahead and get a doctorate as well? Because, well, if you love it enough, you’ll find a job, and the money will follow.
Well, folks, the economy is in the toilet, we’ve all got boatloads of student loans to pay and no one has a lick of savings or retirement—so suddenly chasing the dream of being a playwright or a filmmaker or an expert in medieval literature begins to seem less and less pragmatic. So, as we are now real adults as opposed to fresh-faced college grads with big on plans and short of debts, we begin to rationalize. I don’t really need a job that I’m absolutely in love with, I just need a job that pays the bills and allows me to have fun hobbies. I don’t need to be ultimately fulfilled by the thing I do 40 hours a week, I just need to be compensated decently, so that I can go home at night and do the real things I love.
I really, really, really have been trying to jump on this bandwagon. Really hard. I mean, I’ve been mulling it over and chewing on it and talking about it for the last few months as I’ve been job hunting. And let me tell you, as Mr. B and I continue to plan to relocate to a city that is far more expensive than Columbia, MO, this idea becomes more and more ideal. Just get a job that pays the bills.
I can’t do it, people. When the rubber meets the road, I just can’t make myself get excited about metrics and databases and research and analysis. Even for an extra whole lot of money, I can’t do it. And so I’m going back to my cushy idealistic view that I want to be fulfilled everyday—or a least 51% of my days—by my work. And I also want to have the space to do the things I love. And if they can all happen at the same time, well, that would be perfect. And I’m not going to give up hope that this is all not mutually exclusive.
Sometimes I need to be reminded, both by the people that know me best, and by my own gut, that this is what drives me, what really melts my butter. As much as I sometimes wish it were the contrary, money and security just aren’t everything. If I learned anything from that family of mine, it’s that.
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.