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!

Remembering an infectious laugh

Yesterday, I spent my short commute home from work listening to remembrances of Tom Magliozzi, one half of the beloved Car Talk radio show. As many children of the 90s with public radio obsessed parents, that familiar banjo theme song and cackling laugh instantly transport me back to Saturday mornings spent doing chores around the house with the radio turned on loudly in the kitchen.

Despite a complete indifference to cars, other than the ability to own one that functions, listening to Car Talk shaped me in several ways:

  1. Banter-based sibling relationships: While my brothers and I are not as hilarious as Tom and Ray, we do base much of our relationship on a similar cocktail of insulting banter, self-depreciation humor and straight up affection. Nothing says “I love you” quite as well as some well-executed repartee.
  2. ‘Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?’: Tom frequently directed this advice at husbands hoping to appease their wives, so not something I identify. However its core message of life being about so much more than “being right” rings true for me. In my first few months of a marriage I hope will be measured in decades, it is good to remember that keeping score plays no role in a healthy relationship.
  3. Hugh Louis Dewey of Dewey, Cheetham & Howe: Car Talk always had the best staff credits. In fact you can read their full list here.

I should confess that I didn’t realize until recently that Tom &  Ray were not actually named the Tappett brothers. While Click & Clack were obvious pseudonyms, Tappett brothers seemed perfectly acceptable to childhood me.That said, Tom Magliozzi, while I didn’t know your last name, your voice and laugh will always return me to the Saturdays of my childhood. For that I am grateful.

Home

It’s 5am and I can’t sleep, I am lying on the futon in the guest room, because I dont’ have my bed anymore (it was sent home to Goshen before I left on the trip).  The cat is nuzzling my computer (she slept with me for most of the night, despite not being willing to give me a proper hello last night).  Last night I was welcomed home by the girls, which was great, but I have to say odd in that this is the first big trip I have returned from in that my greeters were not my own family, but friends.  I guess this is the way things go when one gets older and moves to the city.

So now I am home, although only for 2 days, we leave Friday evening for Oregon, weddings and the beach.  Although Steph informed me that the forecast for the beach is cool and rainy.  Within the past 3 days I have been in 3 countries, I saw a few hours of Milan, a night in London, 3 movies on our return flight and now everything is done.  I still have pictures to upload and maybe a few stories to share, but I am not sure if I will be doing that on this blog or back on Mennogirl.  Either way I’ll let you know.  Maybe its the early morning, or the silence of this apartment, but I have to say part of me feels like I may have never left at all.

Reaching the finish line

This morning I found myself almost crying in the shower, not because of any traumatic event, but I can just tell that I am getting close to the end of my traveling endurance.  Throw into that meeting really cool people and leaving them, seeing close friends hang out (I have really been missing my girls!), getting very little sleep for the past 3 nights running, having amazing first of my life experiences (scuba diving and go-carts all in the same day!) and you get one very emotionally tired girl. 

While I definitely wouldn’t change a bit of this summer, I have to admit it has been rather chaotic to have these three so distinct experiences all jammed together like this.  I have been noticing over the past few nights the moon is almost full again, and it I find it so weird to realize that the last full moon was back in Edinburgh, almost a month ago.  I haven’t entirely decided what kinds of things I am supposed to be learning during this trip.  Seeing 2 very different countries for the first time and seeing 2 ones again is of course incredibly educational in and of itself, but yet I find myself feeling like very much the same person. 

How exactly does travel effect a person?  I now know a few more phrases in Arabic, a few words in Spanish (mainly cuss words thanks to Roberto and David’s careful instruction).  I have seen Mt. Sinai, climbed hills in the Lake District, seen a black rhino from only 10 ft away, scuba dived in the Red sea, had hard cider in the Eagle and Child, slept under mosquito nets in Swaziland and heard animals foraging in the night, rode camels around the Pyramids and sailed the Nile.  I have met wonderful people from Holland, Los Angeles, Canada, Spain, Australia, etc.  I have spent too much money, taken almost 4 gbs of pictures, bought several halves of Africa, and taken ferries, buses, trains, cars, planes and even felluccas.  Maybe when I get home I will be able to sort through these experiences and tie them up in a nice little knot, but right now they sprawl all over the place and continue to remind me how radically blessed I am to have the chance to do these kinds of things.

Being a Woman Traveler

While browsing used book stores in Seattle last April, I came across a book entitled Maiden Voyage: Writings of Women Travelers edited by Mary Morris*. I picked it up and within a few paragraphs of its Introduction I was hooked. Morris refers to John Gardner’s statement that there are only two plots in literature, “You go on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” She goes on to expand this statement to talk about the differences of travel for men and women. For so many years, women were denied the ability to go on a journey, so instead they spent much of their lives waiting for a stranger or love.

I have always loved travel; the planning, the newness, the long flights, the strangeness of it all. I remember with particular clarity my first big trip (one that involved an airplane) was when I was probably 7 or 8. My loving Mother took both my younger squirmy brother and myself out to Nebraska to visit her sister and my cousins. That trip was very important in that it marked the beginning of my friendship to my cousin Laura, but it also marked the beginning of my love of flying.

Now don’t get me wrong I hate standing in line waiting for airport security as much as the next person, but once you get me on the plane I love it all. From the way my head gets pulled back against the headrest and my stomach knots during take-off, to the strangely yummy meals in neatly segmented trays; from the plane moving through clouds to the knowledge that in a few hours I will be somewhere totally new.  As I talked about in a recent post on Mennogirl, I find the concept of getting somewhere in such a short time to be a rather incredible concept.  It seems so odd that we as oddly shaped bits of flesh have found a way to travel the whole way around this round planet.

But one may ask, what is it about travel that makes things exciting?  When it comes down to it, travel is a luxury, planes eat up fuel reserves, trekking around ancient pyramids only aids in their deterioration, buying little souvenirs only adds to the general accumulation of too much stuff.  Despite all that travel for me is about seeking.  Travel always opens eyes, it gives me new memories, new pictures and at its best, new relationships.  It is a way for me to push forward with intention in my life.  It allows me to say, I am not going to be a woman who waits, but one who goes out and finds the life she wants to lead.

*For more on Mary Morris, read this great column in the New York Times from 1987 in which she deals more extensively with the decision/freedom of women to travel.