Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Hard Stuff--Grief

“I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process. It needs not a map but a history...” 
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

My first draft of this post was very enlightened and sweeping and had great advice on living through grief.  And some--or maybe even a lot--of it will end up in the final draft but first...

Sorrow, hurt and pain suck.  Grief is hard. That's what I think.  It is never fun to go through.  Sometimes it physically hurts.  It can be paralyzing.  It has a horrible sense of uniqueness to it that makes me feel like there's no one who will understand.  There is a sense of weakness about it, a sense that I am letting it go on too long or too strong.  That no one else takes so long to get over things. That everyone is sick to death of hearing about it.  I get sick of hearing myself.

In my typical fashion, I went it alone.  Then I got lonely.  Then I got angry.  Then I actually was alone.  Almost irrevocably.

There are better ways to walk through sorrow. 
But it will never be easy.  When things don't turn out like I wanted, let alone how I expected, it hurts.  It's hard. 
And it never lasts.

Been reading a great book lately--Unattended Sorrow and it has been a huge help.  Completely counter-intuitive for me.  It suggests letting sorrow take as much space in my body and psyche as it wants.  Not to turn it away, ignore it or bottle it up.

This may be obvious to you, but it's not how I naturally operate.  It was unexpected to find that there was plenty of room for it.  There were also tears for it, nausea for a little while and, typical for me, a desire to shut all the feelings down (read Fear).  I didn't realize how much was there and that it is about more than the death of loved ones (most recently, my dad in 2009).  Because I never willingly gave grief any space all the disappointments, hard times and hurts of my life were waiting to latch onto any new grief.  All waiting for some space.

So I gave it space and here I am.  Still alive and not so sad.  Able to do the things I need to do and some of the things I like to do and even some new things.

This grief is giving me the space I didn't give it for so long and it is being kinder to me.  It's not coming out all sideways.  It's not hanging around in the wee hours waiting to make me feel miserable.  It's simply there.  Ready for me when I'm ready for it.  Most of the time.  I have to admit, that places, songs, scents can all put me back in touch with my sorrow whether I'd like to right then or not.  But now I try to give it a moment.  It turns out that a little nod, a breath and a bit of stillness is all it needs, then I get to go on about my business.

I'm not terrific at giving grief space yet.  It sneaked up on me just yesterday and I ignored it.  Old habits are hard to break. When I talked about it this morning, it was almost an afterthought to the conversation.  I almost forgot to say something--but as soon as I did I could feel my throat constrict and my nose itch.  Still, I kept the conversation going and didn't take that pause.  Why is that?  I knew I was upset, I knew I was having feelings.  Why not give myself a moment to experience them?

Because I think they will take up too much space.  That it's a bottomless pit.  This time--I won't ever stop feeling sad. Yes. But also it's my strong desire to keep control over everything.  Grief doesn't walk a predictable path and I find that unnerving and frightening.  I don't ride roller coasters because I don't like the feeling of gravity pulling me down and in a similar way, I don't like be jerked around by my emotions and I fight it.  I'm learning that it's a losing battle and the harder I fight it, the more casualties there are.

So today I'll give grief (or sorrow or disappointment or fear) its moment of grace.  So far it hasn't gone on forever and it hasn't killed me.  My life is flowing more and has lost that stuck feeling. I've even been a bit happier.

© Elizabeth Ebel-Nuwayser and K and Z Homeschool, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elizabeth Ebel-Nuwayser and K and Z Homeschool with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Monday, June 03, 2013

The Hard Stuff--Marriage

Life happens on life's terms.  I'm not always happy with this.  I prefer life on my terms, but it simply isn't set up that way.

About Marriage (or whatever you get to/want to call your long-term relationship)

It is hard work.  At least, mine is and I think it is worth the work, but it isn't always fun or easy or intuitive.  It certainly doesn't play itself out in 1-3 hours like on TV or in the movies or even in books. Resolutions don't come neatly and in Prime Time.

It's snot-nosed crying, yelling, laughing when you didn't expect to, saying stuff you don't mean and going to bed angry, or bewildered or dissatisfied.  It is sometimes saying exactly what's going on in my head--even if I don't understand it or feel I have the "right" words for it.  And sometimes it's saving what's in my head for later, or never, or just to say out loud to a close friend and see if it still makes sense or is important.  Sometimes, I say exactly what I need to say and there isn't anyone interested in listening.

Marriage is out there in a world of people who are as screwed up as I am or more screwed up.  Sometimes people have no skills and I have to be one to put on the big girl shoes and get on with the business of standing up for what I need or speaking the truth or healing.  Sometimes, maybe more often, I need someone else to be the responsible adult.  Sometimes people get all up inside your marriage and you have to figure out how to get them out. Sometimes you have to seek out people who can step in and help.

Feelings get hurt.  There are scenes made.  There are betrayals. Mistakes get made and there are consequences. There are times when there is no good answer and you have to live with doing the best you can and doing better if you ever figure out what that is.  Often, apologies are not enough.

In my experience, it takes all the confusing, hard, weepy work to get the good stuff of marriage.  And there is plenty of good.  But people are a messy business and a big responsibility and sometimes we are more up to the task than other times.  I've also found that hard times give way to good times and good times fade to challenges and around again.

Why do the work? Why put your heart on the line? There's laughter, passion, intimacy, camaraderie, security and serenity.  Looks across the room, memories, winks and smiles.  A best friend, a shared history, shared growth and a collection of private sweet little moments.

Marriage endures in the grey areas, not the extremes.  It's not about happily ever after on one side and divorce on the other. It's not about rash decisions or easy fixes or instant gratification (most of the time).  It's about walking through all the moments one at a time with no guarantees. It's about taking the happiness as it comes and the hard times as they come too. It's about living with someone, a day at a time, as long as it lasts. It is never forever.

Life. Love. It's worth it--hang in there.

© Elizabeth Ebel-Nuwayser and K and Z Homeschool, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elizabeth Ebel-Nuwayser and K and Z Homeschool with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The New Year in High School

Lots on the schedule this year.  High School is in full swing.  But before we hit our full stride we took a long weekend to get some sun in FL.  I decided a couple of years ago that I'd reached the point in my life where I need to get some summer during the winter.

Pete didn't have much time and we didn't want to waste money and time getting to Cali, so he suggested the Keys.  The airfare to FL always seems to be cheap, so the Keys it was.

The best thing we did was to follow Pete's whim that we stop on the drive from Miami to Key Largo at Everglades National Park.  As always at the Nat'l Parks, we wanted more time, but it was still a great day.

The "resort" we stayed in at Key Largo was fine, but really phoney.  They had created a beach-like area, but the actual piece of real beach they had was some sort of concrete covered in sand.  But the views were great, from the fake beach and from our room and we were able to rent stand up paddle boards on site--absolutely the best part of the trip for me.


Completely forgot that I had stared this post and thought it had been published long ago!  Now we have to rely on my sketchy memory--oh no!

OK, so maybe the next day we went to the glass bottom boat.  We had hoped to snorkle but it was very windy for the whole trip so strong swimmers only and Katie and Pete are not that strong in swimming.  But Katie needed to get out to the coral reef--she loves that stuff, so the glass bottom boat was the only option.  Again, Pete saved the day buying enough dramamine for us.  3-5 foot swells in a flat bottomed boat is a nauseating combination.  Katie and I had to go up for air a couple of times but then got used to it.

We stop for Rhinos!
The last full day we went out to Key West, which was about what I expected except for the Super Bowl wrinkle.  I check the guide books to be sure that the town didn't shut down on a Sunday but didn't realize that on Superbowl Sunday, everything closes by 1pm!  Lots of places had ticketed events to watch the game, but getting lunch was a major undertaking.

There was a cool fort and interesting beach but it was a very long walk and then lunch turned into a death march through town!  If you ever go--grab bikes or scooters the minute you get there and you'll have a much better time than we did.  Still--the pay off was a pretty fine panini shop and ice cream bigger than your head after.

And--then there was the sunset:

Greatest find by far was Harriette's which we ate at every morning for breakfast and the most amazing biscuits--and the muffins were to die for.

Now whenever we go out to breakfast we mourn Harriette's.

Last day we headed to Miami for our flight, but got there very early and hung out at the beach for a while.  It was very funny to see a school group go by.  We were dressed in light summer clothes.  The FL kids were bundled up in sweaters and hoodies and looked very put out that they were expected to be outside in the winter. 

If we ever go back, we decided that Key Biscayne was a better choice for us, for its proximity to Miami and Biscayne NP, which we didn't have time to hit. There's always next year.  The sun did us all good.


Wednesday, January 02, 2013

2012 Recap

So for anyone who wonders what the heck we do while I'm not keeping up with the blog at all, here are the highlights that I can recall, or remembered to either put on the calendar or actually in the blog.

Pete and I continued to work in the nursery at our church UUCA, while Katie and Zack took the OWL class.  The OWL class was the main reason I originally chose UUCA over the other two UU churches in the area and it did turn out to be a very good experience for them.  It is a comprehensive sex education class, starting in 2nd grade then again in 5th and 8th grade.  The 8th grade OWL covers IT ALL.  Parents are not permitted and ANY questions can be asked and will be answered honestly by the adult conductors.

At the end of the month we went to Orlando to see the Harry Potter section of Universal (along with the rest of the park) and I couldn't help spending a couple of days at Disney as well.  The kids took one of the Disney classes and really enjoyed it.  WWOHP was wonderful but we didn't love the rest of the resort much.

At Hogwarts

Started with the end of our trip to Orlando and then spent a week with mom in NC.  We had only spent a night there on the way down to FL, so wanted to spend a bit more on the way back up.  A fun time and good to relax a bit before the long drive home again.

The rest of the month was spent with our usual activities.  Katie and Pete went to the sweetheart dance again and had a fun time.

Sweet Hearts

Zack tried doing the Ancestral Knowledge program, kind of like Scouting without all the military nonsense and tons of time outside.  He liked it, but ultimately decided it was "not his thing."

Then, my big deal was the VaHomeschoolers Conference, which I headed up.  I didn't have to do much at the actual conference due to the amazing team of leaders who stepped up to do all the jobs on site.  Also, Katie and Zack qualified to be teen volunteers this year and had a great time--except that Zack became very ill overnight and spent the main day in bed at the hotel. :(

I'm heading up the 2013 conference again this March, and then I'll be retiring and look forward to actually attending the conference and catching some sessions.

Come join us this year--registration will be open in a few days!

Not sure when exactly our robin moved in, but didn't have a picture for this month.  Maybe it was March..

End of the World homeschool dance--both kids with new outfits and meeting a ton of friends, but poor Zack kept up his sick streak during all fun activities by getting very ill at the dance and he called it a night fairly early. :(

Pete and I also called off the regular search for a new house while we got Hershey Lane ready to sell.  It was a good plan, but turned out to be hard to stick to.

I was on Car Talk!  I got all in a tizzy once I was talking to them, and forgot to make my noise at the start of my story, but it was really fun and even more lucky when I found out that this is their last season. But who can compete with the goat lady, I ask you?

Taking a moment at the dance

Pete was supposed to have his sinus surgery this month but had to re-schedule at the very last minute to work out annoying insurance details.

A visit from my mom for Mothers Day.  A nice brunch and to Arena Stage to see The Music Man.  Everyone enjoyed the show, but Katie had the extra thrill of seeing the actor who played Gaston in the B'way Beauty and the Beast play Harold Hill.

Katie had a Girl Scout camp out and Kate and Zack turned 14, if you can believe it!

We also said goodbye to my trusty Subaru :'(  It was my ticket to radio fame on Car Talk, but the guys convinced me that things weren't going to get better and it was time to move on.  We test drove a few cars to be sure that I could see over the dash and Pete didn't bang his head on the roof and went for the Hyundai Elantra Touring.  Love It.

Mother's Day

A mellow beginning to summer.  A nice visit with Uncle Fuad and Sandie who came in to visit Pete's cousin Melissa.  We really don't get to see them enough!

Zack was invited to a beach trip with a friend and despite my poor travel planning, we got him to the meeting point in enough time to catch a ride.  It was a bit churchy for him, (it was his friend's church youth group) but they did have a good time at the beach.

Meanwhile, Katie and I went to see her friends perform in truly the longest version of Beauty and the Beast I've ever seen.  All the kid performers did very well though, just not great direction from whoever ran the show. A more talented director would have shown off the children's talents much more. (and maybe cut a good 45 mins off the 3 hour show!)

Katie and Zack enjoyed separate birthday parties this year.  They all had a great time, but I'm not sure I'm up for two parties in two weeks again.

We also got to see Phil V who was in DC on business.  We had breakfast together, headed to a comics store and then Katie and I peeled off to join her GS troop at the 100 Anniversary sing along on the Nat'l Mall.  Pete and Zack got to hang with Phil a bit longer before he had to re-join his colleagues. 

The last week of June was spent in NC with mom.  It was the only week of the summer we could get away and it was nice to have a good chunk of time to do things around Sunset Beach.  The kids went to the "upside down house" a new attraction at Broadway on the Beach.  It wasn't what they expected, but they still had fun and it was a nice way to spend a chilly, rainy day.  I think this was the trip we went down to Myrle Beach to see the new boardwalk.  Pretty disappointing for mom and me, who think of Coney Island when we think of a boardwalk, but Katie and Zack enjoyed the arcades--and the soft serve! (Thanks Grandma!)


Spent the 4th of July with the Marts!  A great tradition we haven't been able to participate in  for the past few years.  Very nice to see their new extended house and hang with them and the Ebbins.

We spent the night in York, PA and headed to NYC the next day for a short visit which we piggybacked on a show Pete's band was playing.  We hit a lot of our favorite spots on the lower east side but also took the kids to the Cloisters for the first time and learned from my friend Allison that we should check out the High Line in Chelsea.  We weren't able to meet up with Allison and her family this trip, but were able to meet with Ivanna for lunch on the high line and browsing at the Chelsea market.  It was a poundingly hot day in NYC, and I knew Ivanna would never have ventured out on a day like that if it hadn't been for us!  The High Line was quite breezy though and Chelsea mkt was pleasantly AIR CONDITIONED!

We also visited and cried at the 9/11 Memorial and visited Coney Island.

Back home and Katie started her three week stint working at her old preschool to help out with their camp.

Zack spent a week later in the summer at Parkour camp and loved it.  We need to find more of that for him but it has been difficult.

Mom stopped in between camp stints on her way up to LI to spend time with Phil's family.  So, just by chance, she was with us when we came to check out the house we ended up buying.  I say that we bought this house by accident, because we had suspended our search.  I suggested we look at it because I had been intrigued with the layout, but was sure that Pete wouldn't like it at all.  Turns out we all loved it and the wheels began to turn for our move in August!

On the way to the Cloisters

August was all about getting our bid in on our new place, getting the financing in order, packing to move and getting the old place ready to sell.  Mom was a huge help on her way back down from LI before heading home.  She got us packing and organized, keeping Kate and Zack busy, while I organized other areas of the house.

We got rid a of lot of stuff and still had plenty more stuff to pack.

We closed on 8/20 and as most everyone knows who knows me, I broke my ankle right before closing.  We moved the next day while Pete came to the rescue by taking a day off to help run things and Jeannie helped by getting me to the Dr to get x-rays.

The end of the month we joined Pete's folks at the Cape for some time at the beach.  Sadly one day was rainy but still very relaxing and it was a spot that Pete grew up vacationing at and he was really happy that the kids got to spend some time there.

Bye Bye Hershey Lane

I actually updated the blog with some not back to school stuff, so won't re-write here, but the summer definitely went too fast and it was time to get back to work.  Studies for the kids and unpacking and work on the old place for Pete and me.

Mom once again came in to save the day to help us unpack while I limped around and Pete recovered from his re-scheduled sinus surgery. Pete fared very well through the surgery, but has unfortunately had a problem shaking a sinus staph infection, but at least now it can be treated.  

We did get a lot done and Katie and Zack were tops in helping with EVERYTHING.  They cleaned out stuff they no longer wanted, packed up their own rooms, unpacked their new rooms.  They mowed lawns at both houses, spend hours hanging around the old place, painting and cooling their heels while I got other things done, and spent way more time at Home Depot than should ever be expected of teenagers.  They were (and are) fantastic.

September 10, Katie at long last, got her braces off!

Phil and Carrie stopped in to see our new place while they were visiting in the DC area--we didn't take any pictures, so you'll just have to take my word for it, but next time they need to make a longer visit!

K&Z also began to attend Youth Group at UUCA.  I was a bit stunned that they wanted to try it but they were looking forward to the overnight and had a great time.  There was some drama associated with the advisers, but we stayed fairly clear of it and now (in Jan) things seem to be more underway and more fun, so I hope they will stick with it.

Bye to the old measuring wall :(

We were actually home for the whole month!  Spent lots of time over at the old place fixing things up. K, Z and I painted all the closets--you really don't notice how banged up they get when all your clothes are still inside. The open house was on 10/14, I think and we got two offers right off of that.  The buyers were terrific and didn't ask us to do much, so the extra fixes after their inspection were pretty minimal.

The kids were mostly wrapped up with Halloween activities.  Pete was doing a lot more drumming at UUCA.

Pete had uber amazing tickets to see The Who, with seats right up front and the ability to see the sound check.  He was in heaven and I was glad he treated himself for something that there probably won't be a chance to do again.

The house sold! Yeah!  After all the cleaning, fixing, upkeep and back and forthing to the old place we were not especially sentimental about leaving Hershey Lane for the last time.  We took the kids out to Ping Pong Dim Sum to celebrate and got them some special gifts to thank them for all the help and lack of complaining while doing it.

We had a nice long visit in NC to celebrate mom's birthday and then Thanksgiving.  Pete flew in for Thanksgiving and to stay the weekend after and my cousin Jayne and her husband Donald also came in from their place in Asheville to spend the holiday.  It was great to catch up with them and they had not seen Katie and Zack for a very long time.

It was an eerily calm December this year except kind of a quick turn around getting back in town from Thanksgiving and heading out to Great Wolf Lodge.  A homeschool group arranges for an amazing discount and any size room costs the same as any other, so sharing a big suite is easy and even more economical.  I knew there would be a big pack of boys there, but not many girls, so Katie's BFF joined us as well.

Then pretty mellow, due to almost exclusively online shopping for the holidays.

We had people over to warm the house and the following weekend, mom arrived to help with the last of the Christmas prep and we had a lovely Christmas.

Pete's parents were able to join us on 12/28 and stayed for New Years.

And so here we are at 2013.  Whew--that was fast!

In the coming year, may you enjoy side-splitting laughs, smiles that make your cheeks hurt and surprises that make you shoot milk out your nose.

Much love