Ahem, venturing into the long dead world of blogging

So what started as a desire to organize my personal Google Drive files (who doesn’t love the chance to add a little file management fun into their lives!), led me down the path of a folder entitled Rough Drafts. Which is where all of my blog posts from the past 4 years (yep almost 4 whole years have gone by since I last blathered about into the world) have lived and died. Reading through some of those made me nostalgic, which made me curious, which eventually, after some googling of wordpress login sites, made me dust off my blog and hit the new post button.

For most of my life I have always felt like pretty much the same person. Yes my location, friendships, career, level of knowledge, appearance, etc have all changed, I have long felt like the difference between me and my 16 or 25 year old selves was not that huge. That despite the learning and maturing, some core part of me remained untouched, essentially the same, basically the same version of Abby. However today as a 34 year old, reading these posts from my twenties and early thirties, I feel like I am on the other side of a chasm.

During my twenties, of which I spent the majority of the decade single, I used to say I didn’t need to find a special someone immediately, I just wanted to know if that would happen. I felt that I would only truly enjoy my singleness if I knew whether or not it would one day end. Of course, I didn’t get that piece of knowledge and had to live my life one day at a time, which meant that I struggled to truly appreciate the freedom (and yes even the loneliness) that comes with singleness. Meeting, dating and eventually marrying Alex was a wonderful journey, one that shed light on both my previous reality of singleness and the new lessons of life as a part of a couple. But I can say even that big life change didn’t alter my sense that I remained essentially myself. It wasn’t until this year that I feel like my outlook has fundamentally shifted.

Well, you may have already guessed what propelled me to this side of the chasm. This life of no free time, dependency, sleep deprivation and drool. Alex and I had a baby.

At some point during those first few weeks I tried to come up with analogy to describe being a new parent. And all I could come up with was the idea of being squeezed through a very adorable and cuddly meat grinder. All your old preferences, tolerances, and limits get mangled and changed when faced with the idea that this tiny little lump needs you and your love constantly in order to grow and develop. Seeing as I am only 4 months into this, I am still not exactly sure what my new post meat grinder life will look like. Am I a fresh pork sausage, or perhaps a meatloaf surprise? Who am I as a mother? Where does that identity begin and end? What parts of my life will eventually return and what parts are forever changed?

As I said on Facebook when announcing my pregnancy, what has happened billions of times here on planet earth, still manages to feel unique and earth shattering when it happens to you. Becoming a mother feels like the first part of my life that has intrinsically changed who I am. I am not better or worse for having gone through this experience*, I am just different.

Meeting my baby, becoming a mama

*I remain very committed to the idea that, like marriage, parenthood is not a requirement for individuals to live fulfilling lives!

I moved this weekend!

So the big news about this weekend is that I moved in with Alex (yes this Alex). I have been reticent to share this news for two reasons.

The first is that coming from the background I come from, I tend to get a range of reactions to this. For some of my friends, the response tends to be “Congrats, that’s really exciting!”. From other (and no less loving sources) the response tends to be more mixed. You see, being a Christian and sharing an apartment with your boyfriend are two things that don’t always mix well in people’s mind. But for me and Alex that paradox isn’t a problem.

The second is that writing about the personal details of my relationships is not something I like to do too much of on this blog. So suffice to say while I love Alex dearly and am really excited to be taking this step with him, I also don’t feel like going into all the points along the way that lead us to this decision. That said, if you do happen to know me in real life (in any capacity really) feel free to email me directly if you would like to talk more about this. While I have been horrible about email this fall, I have every intention of making up for lost time.

Without further ado, here is a picture taken from my new living room of the brief patch of blue sky that existed in Seattle today:

Seattle had a completely legit patch of blue sky today!

Day 9 – Some things I have learned during the past year and 17 odd days

While today is technically Valentine’s Day and therefore a fitting day to write a post about someone you love, this post was actually mostly written last month when I intended to post it on Alex and I’s anniversay. Of course I never actually finished it till today…

Alex and I

Today marks a pretty amazing day for me – my one year anniversary of dating Alex. It was one year ago that I was out here in Seattle for a long weekend of visiting. Alex and I had spent much of the day wondering around doing various tourist things and were walking around the Seattle Center waiting for our IMAX movie start time (I think we ended up watching a odd movie about Boeing innovation masquerading as a movie about flight) when Alex asked me if I would be his girlfriend. To which I said yes and then promptly asked him if he would be interested in being my boyfriend.

So fast forward 12 months and I am now living in that city that I was just a visitor to and have been dating that same man for 365 382 days. Here are a few things I have learned along the way:

  1. It doesn’t get easier, but it does get better – During Jess’s visit a few weeks ago, she asked me the question that prompted this whole post – If you could go back a year and tell yourself anything about your relationship with Alex, what would it be? And the above phrase was my answer. It stems from my long-held incorrect assumption that if only the next level of relationshiphood was achieved everything would be instantly easy. For example, if only a boy liked me, than instant easy relationship would result. Then it was, if only a boy wanted to date me, than instant easy relationship would result. Turns out, there is no part of the relationship stepping stone that instantly makes any relationship easy and work-free. BUT, the second part is oh so very true. Turns out getting to know someone over the course of a year, does make things even better. Being comfortable with each other, knowing each other’s dislikes, quirks and the quickest way to incite some laughter means that dating someone for a year is intrinsically better than dating someone for a week, etc.
  2. Driving around a Seattle neighborhood looking at Christmas lights and listening to an old Bing Crosby tape of carols (that despite his general dislike for the sappiness factor, Alex picked cause he knew you liked them) can actually end up being one of your highlights of the year.
  3. Disagreeing can be almost as important as agreeing – Finding the right ways to disagree is a huge part of keeping a relationship going smoothly. I have always known that addressing conflict in interpersonal relationships is not my strong point, however I have also been putting in a lot of work over the past 10 years to get better at this vital skill. So of course I assumed that all that work would carry over into my romantic relationship – not true! Turns out learning how to communicate both the good AND the bad to one’s partner is challenging work. However the good is that I happen to be dating a man who is incredible at those necessary, but sometimes difficult work (Seriously, Alex is better at the “What I hear you saying is….” and general communication than most people I know).
  4. Spontaneous foot rubs are exactly as awesome as I always thought they might be.
  5. Finding someone who values dialogue, believes in doing what’s right, enjoys nerdy TV shows and geek board games, wears a beard well, reads books just as fast as you do, advocates for goofy humor, likes being of use to others AND thinks you are pretty darn swell, really is possible. 🙂

Meet Alex

So remember back when I went to Seattle at the end of January and didn’t take many pictures, but had a really wonderful time.  Well a big part of that was – Alex, my boyfriend. Seeing as I tend to not write very much about romantic relationships on this blog and my own tendency to still find the phrase, my boyfriend, a very odd/lovely one to use, I held off on writing anything here for a while.  But this past weekend, Alex visited Chicago for the first time and seeing as we have been dating for just over a month and a half, I figured it would be time to introduce you all.

Question from the invisible audience: So, who the heck is Alex and how did you meet?

The meeting story (from my perspective, you will have to track down Alex yourself to get his) is as follows. Abby visits good friends from college in Seattle, she very briefly meets their new housemate and thinks he is pretty cool.*  Those same good friends encourage Abby’s interest by telling her all about how awesome Alex is (speaks French, very smart, funny, responsible, moral, geeky, helps with household chores, good cook, etc).  Abby returns home from visit but can’t seem to forget about Alex, but Abby does nothing.  Eventually Abby tires of previous plan and writes Alex a letter (who during those past 6 months had moved to Minneapolis to do service for a year).  He writes back and sends Abby really yummy baked goods.  Abby writes another letter and so forth for around 6 months.  Abby and Alex discover email.  Abby goes a bit crazy with not knowing for sure what their pen pal relationship truly is.  Almost exactly a year after the first letter, Abby tells Alex that she thinks he is pretty awesome and that if they weren’t living quite so far apart, she would ask him out on a date.  Alex replies (on Christmas morning – best present ever!) and says that he also thinks Abby is pretty awesome and that he too would like to go on a date with Abby.  Abby and Alex start to chat online and skype regularly.  Abby visits Seattle and they spend 4 really wonderful days together.  Alex and Abby decide to be girlfriend and boyfriend.

So, long distance dating between Chicago and Seattle, how is that going?

Well, yes long distance is hard, but thanks to modern technology we write emails, chat online, skype and more importantly thanks to the wonders of Spring Break, we get to see each other in just over 2 weeks!

Okay, Okay, enough of that, we want to see what he looks like!

If you want more pictures, click on over to the flickr sidebar for the full set.

Alex and me, hanging out in an old L car at the Chicago History Museum.

*I have no idea why I felt the need to write this in the third person, but it just seemed to make sense that way

Girl Talk

Last night was a lovely reminder of the power of girlfriends.  My dear friend Steph, with whom I went to college, traveled to China and lived with for 2 1/2 years, came up for a visit and so after a spaghetti, garlic bread and chocolate pudding* supper at Cana we went out for drinks at a local restaurant called the Union.  While I am oh so blessed to have lots of close girlfriends in my life (two of whom live right down the alley), I sometimes forget the innate power that long conversations with close friends can have.  Problems that seem all-consuming or fears of one’s own unique struggles are almost always assuaged by those long rambly conversations in which the biggest part of what we tell each other is “You are wonderful. Everything will be okay. I care about you.”  And somehow instead of feeling like cliches, hearing those things as the undercurrent of advice and conversation, ends up making one feel so much better about life and all the good and bad things currently happening.  I honestly don’t know what I would do without my girlfriends and the many ways they support me.

 

Steph and I way back in the balmy days of 2009 at Michigan City at the annual Girl's Weekend in May.

Thoughts on change

I have always been someone who loves change, or at least the thought of it.  Moving to England, moving to Seattle, starting new jobs, instantly fitting into new social circles, decorating new apartments, exploring new cities, all of those tend to sound good to me.  Change is thrilling. Change is leaving everything I don’t like about my current life and finding something new.  Change is easy and full of adventure.  Change means getting rid of responsibilities that continually try to persuade me I am actually an adult now.  But the thing that I always tend to forget is that change also means leaving things.  Change means leaving people, housemates, friends, communities, churches, familiar neighborhood walks, routine, favorite coffee shops, and the some times familiarity of random people on the streets.

Feeling apart of the community here in Rebaland (many people’s affectionate nickname for the neighborhood around my church) was not something that happened quickly or was easy for me.  As I approach the end of graduate school and the beginning of a huge widening of options (stay at my current job, get a new job in the area, move to Seattle, go overseas for a year, move down into the city, stay at my current house, etc), it is always to easy for me to overlook the difficulties of change.  It took me over 2 years to begin to feel apart of my community, to get to the point where people I randomly pass on the street are often people I know, to feel comfortable using my leadership skills to plan goofy charade games for church meetings.

In the end change, and all its endless possibilities, will always thrill me, but as I am learning change, once it actually occurs, can also be overwhelming, difficult and painful.  This doesn’t mean I don’t want to seek out change, but I think I need to also remember to appreciate more the richness of being here, in one place, with one community and learning to adapt myself to it.

so I have become one of those bloggers

You know the type, disappears for days (sometimes weeks at a time), then always making their next post all about why they haven’t been blogging.  🙂  Well, I do have one of those massive photo posts waiting in the wings (although in this case, most of the photos are still waiting on my memory card) and I have all the usual excuses of business and class, blah, blah, blah.  But mainly I just wanted to say, how nice it is to finally be into summer weather.  I love sleeping with my windows open, summer thunderstorms (even when they occur during the 10 minute walk from the L stop to home), fresh lettuce from the CSA, free outside concerts (She & Him, tomorrow night, Millennium Park), walks to the lake, reading on the front porch hammock chair, etc.  And I figured I should just note those lovely things, before I get to the point where all I do is whine about the heat and humidity 🙂

How about you all? What are your favorite parts of early summer?

In other news, I have been experimenting with online casual dating and so far I have to say it is nice, but mainly “meh”.  I think I am still in mode where I do better when I get to know a guy as friends, pine after him for months and then inevitably have my heart (or at least my feelings) bruised.  How about you all? Have any of you tried the online dating thing? What do you do with those first dates that are okay, but lacking in any long-term possibilities?  Seeing as I don’t tend to talk about this type of thing on my blog, feel free to take this limited opportunity to share your stories/advice 🙂

And last, but not least, of my random thoughts, I am heading in to my final week of work before the summer and I couldn’t be more ready to be done.  Unfortunately this also effects my motivation for my grad class, which still has 4 more weeks left.  Hopefully I can hold my quickly disintegrating scraps of motivation together for just a little longer, because before I know it July will be here and with that comes a Boundary Waters trip and a train trip to Seattle and Vancouver!  How about you all? Any exciting summer plans/trips/ideas/etc?

cars, bread, new classes and yes it is still winter

First off thank you all so much for your kind words and thoughts in response to my last post.  I am finding that like much of life reactions to those types of events tend to go in waves, one day you are fine, the next you hate the world and want more chocolate ice cream.  Right now I am on a nice wave of fineness and good things thanks in part to a good cry, amazing times with girl friends, baking some bread and as Tim puts it being able to breath through my mouth.

Classes have started up, and for the most part have been pretty good.  I am taking two classes this semester, one is the introduction to the school library track and the other an introduction to reference services.  The references class is online, which so far is a great commute and the other is on main campus which is a not so great commute.  Speaking of which now that I have been blessed with a car (thanks Mom and Dad) I have been learning the importance of defensive driving.  Which actually in Chicago has much more to do with avoiding massive concrete abysses (some non-locals mistakenly refer to these as “potholes”) and less with avoiding contact with other cars.

Anyways back to my classes, last night during the school library class I learned of all the many many hoops one must jump through in order to obtain a teacher’s license, all the tests, classes, student teaching, etc.  But I still think I have interest in pursuing the school librarian track, because even if I end up working in public libraries, it is much easier to have the school degree than not.  Also both my professors seem engaging and incredibly knowledgeable if not always supremely organized.

In other news I have become obsessed with baking bread.  In the past few weeks I have made Honey Whole Wheat, Oatmeal and Three Flour breads all from the More with Less.  Tonight if there is time I am considering doing the Honey Whole Wheat again, but with added cinnimon and raisens.  But considering I am also making supper and attending a meeting, that may not be a sure bet.

Oh yeah, about that car thing.  I am a little amazed to rather quickly have joined the ranks of car owner.  In about a week and a half I went from talking about buying a car with my parents to owning their old car now fully titled, plated and stickered in the great state of Illinois.  Which let me tell you the cost of all the various forms of registration ended up totally about half the cost of the car, crazy bureaucrats.  Also my proud-of-myself moment of the week was when I figured out (with some help from the friendly folks at Ace hardware) how to attach a license plate to the front of my car, drilled the holes and installed the plate all by myself.

So how about all of you, any proud-of-yourself moments this week?

short story of romance and woe

As most of you may have noticed, I haven’t been doing the whole “blogging frequently” as of late.  Part of that has to do with my general laziness and reading way too many other blogs to keep up with my own thing.  But a large portion of it has to do with so many brain cells being devoted to thinking about this other thing.  Now because this is a public blog and, despite my love for you all, I don’t think I want to just blabber my more private moments all over google, I will try to keep this brief.  But basically there is a boy and I liked him and I got to know him.  We went on walks and talked a l0t and in the end I asked him if maybe he liked me too and wanted to try dating.  But he didn’t and so now I am sad.  Not broken heart, cry your eyes out for days in bed sad, more like I feel bruised and lonely around the edges.  And sometimes I feel angry that this was happening to me and frustration that I can’t seem to find someone who is as dorky as me AND interested in dating me.

But if anything the past few days have taught me that even when you don’t really feel like getting better and would rather wallow a little longer, thank you very much; hearts, egos and such tend to heal faster than one would think.  And so yes I am still sad and a little mad, but I am also thinking about other things too.  Like how beautiful and amazing the miraculous landing of the recent crash landing of that flight into the Hudson river was and how much I like my housemates.  Like how lovely it is that my parents are going to sell me their old car and how I won’t have to take public transportation for hours on end to get to class.  Like how much it sucks that is is so cold, but how lovely the sun is on the piercingly blue sky.  And how even though I know that I will have fall backs and be mad/sad/lonely many more times in the future, I have so many people supporting me that when those times come just a little bit of their sting is gone.

Lucky Platter reunion

Today Steph has been back in town for quick visit and it has been so lovely to catch up with her again.  We were able to spend a good portion of the day together, except for a meeting I had to attend.  So it felt like we were able to have a lot of those good conversations that really update you on a friend’s life, beyond just the customary “how are you?”, “fine, thanks.” kind of thing.

For supper, Jess, Becca, Steph and myself all went to Lucky Platter and I was struck by how many parts of our lives have changed since we all first moved to Evanston almost 2 1/2 years ago.  But despite the weddings, new apartments, new jobs, grad school, etc, there remains an incredible bond that connects us all to each other.  We are all such a large part of each others’ back story that it is not hard to imagine sharing this bond for the rest of our lives. As one often does in kind of reunion environment, much of our conversation involved remembering events from the past.  Some of those memories were about big fights we had with each other, or shared difficulties with boys, but we were all amazed by how many of those events that had seemed to so intense and life-changing at the time have not kept us from keeping our friendships strong.

And I am lucky enough to have that kind of bond, not just with those girls, but with many of my close friends near and far.  I am so blessed and to those of you reading this who have been those friends to me over the years, thank you!  I probably don’t tell you all enough, the way I value each one of you in my life, so just in case you were doubting it, I care about each of you so much.