Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lay Lady Lay

You'd think that I, a girl with a name regularly deemed unpronounceable, a girl who comes from the D/O'D confusion, would have no problem with the whole name change business that I've chosen to have accompany my marriage.  BUT DAMN...this is hard work. 

I mean, beyond the normal stuff like forgetting your own initials when you're picking up your co-op order and signing your checks wrong and having to get a new gmail address so your resume looks legit (PS. who the hell is the other one of me that took my easy gmail address and forced me to add a weird e in the middle???), I've got this strange phenomenon going on...

Last sunday, JR and I were required to introduce ourselves in a sunday school class.  He started.  Easy for him...he's been the same name for 36 years.  Then it was my turn and I paused.  A feeling surged through me...a feeling like...well, I don't know how to describe it but it sounded like this in my head (all happening in .5 seconds):  "I don't want to just be the wife appendage saying his last name right after he just said his own last name I want to say my own last name - but if I was alone I would want to say my new last name but just not now together in this room with all these other people and right after he said it like I'm some sort of copycat I want to be different from him but I love him and love being married to him but I just don't want to not say my own last name and then I'll say Lay" and that's what I did, I said, "I'm KaRyn D____ L____".  (I can't write them out here together in an attempt to throw off search engines looking for some daily action)

Right after I said it, JR turned to me kind of hurt and said, "there's no D____ in there." BUT THERE IS!!!! There are 34 year of D_____ in there and I miss having my name.  I miss it.  OK?  I read somewhere that men and women (even those of us of a certain age) perceive getting married differently.  Men view it as "added value"- they get a wife, a crowning achievement that completes their manly ouevre.  Women almost always view it from the lens of loss.  We lose our freedom, we lose our parents, we lose our network of girls and we lose our name.  Our NAME.  The thing that has identified us to the outside world since our birth.  Is this not epic?????  I get that it is, and I still chose to do it as have MILLIONS of women.  We take on our husband's name presumably in an effort to be one.  It is important to insert here that my feelings don't seem to be some feminist manifesto-y type of thing.  The reality is that my last name from birth was a bestowal from my father's side...someone else gave me that name as part of a patriarchal system that decrees such things.  As for my new name, I can at least say that I CHOSE this one (and it's a nice name too...monosyllabic, simple, cute!)

The interesting part to me was my unwillingness to say it right after JR said it.  There was a sense that if I said it right then, I would be forever lumped with him as "just" a wife.  That's kind of a feminist issue, I suppose.  Was it because it was church? I'm intrigued to see if I will be hesitant in other situations to get rid of the D_____ in the introduction.  Has anyone else had this happen? Tell me your stories of name changing trauma.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The man, The myth, The Legend

Two posts in one day, you say?  YES YES YES because tonight I'm looking at this picture from the wedding and my heart is doing cartwheels while it sings a little made up song that goes, I MARRIED THIS MAN!!!!!lalalalalalala!!!!

I realized that so many of you who have read my blog in the past know nothing about this guy and at the risk of making him uncomfortable (because he's not really into broadcasting things, anything, ever) I think  it's time to tell you a thing or two about my heartsong inducing husband....

Though it was his tattoo that made me first pay attention, its his heart that keeps me captivated.   He is humble and willing to bend but strong enough to lift me (literally) without breaking.  He stares down the world with a breathtaking optimism that equal parts makes me want to karate chop him and helps me perceive the universe with a little more vision.  He is the opposite of me in so many ways...quiet where I am loud, private where I am public, athletic where I am bookish, careful where I am messy...and yet our differences are somehow possible. 

I fell in love with him as a Dad - I saw that he was capable and willing to sacrafice himself in the pursuit of his children's wellbeing. And he plays with his kids...he gets down on the floor and rolls around and doesn't worry about the time.  He is genuinely interested in their little and big thoughts and dreams.

 I feel safe with him and know that when we go to India, he'll be the one guiding my elbow through the streets away from trouble while I'm overwhelmed with the beauty and sadness of the universal life experience.  But he's also adventurous and spontaneous without maps or plans.  He's teaching me how to sort through my brain in ways that I didn't know I could.  And he's funny- like pee-my-pants funny.  He works so hard to make everything work - our relationship, our family, our house, our spirits.   Double shifts are like candy to this man who would rather be in school, but who took semesters off so I could finish (ha) my thesis.  I feel grateful for his love for God and that  I can trust his fidelity completely.  Ah yes.  I just feel grateful tonight.  After 34 years, my heart has found a home that will grow with me.

Everything is always awesome...IN THEORY

Let's talk about theory.  According to my graduate school professor, there is nothing so practical as a good theory.  After a wild weekend in my stepparenting adventure, I have this to say about that: ppppppppsssssssllllllllltttttttt.

The problem with theory is that it's idealistic.  It looks good on paper.  But when you start to test it, reality hits right between the eyes like a 3 year old with a tinkertoy and poor motor control.

Here are a few theories that got tested and are now in revision from this weekend:

T1. It is better to ignore messes around the house for the weekend so that you can spend more quality time with the kids.

REALITY: I AM 500 TIMES MORE LIKELY TO BE 500 TIMES LESS PATIENT WHEN MY ENVIRONMENT IS TRASHED.  I mean, seriously, it's embarrassing.  I don't know what it is about piles of childmess everywhere that sucks the kindness lifeforce out of me, but it does. And then whatever I think quality time is totally suffers.  So I've decided that a modicum of neatfreakiness (that same quality that used to drive me insane about my own mother) is a necessary evil if I am to maintain some sense of humanity during the kid weekends.

T2. I was MADE to be a stepparent.

REALITY: It is hard work sometimes to move beyond feeling like a teacher or a babysitter to the role of parent when you did not squeeze the children out of your business.  More than once this weekend when K1 was testing the control waters, I simply stopped feeling responsible for him.  I said in my head, "his dad can figure this out when he gets home."  My head then propped up its feet, raided the Lay's fridge and popped in Adventures In Babysitting while the children danced naked on the roof.  Does this mean that I don't love those kids?  NOT AT ALL.  I love them with as much heart as I can.  But maybe just maybe it will take me some time to bond entirely?  I think I expected to feel ownership the way JR feels ownership right out the gate, but the truth comes in waves and that's ok.

T3. I will be prepared for and will not take it personally when I hear the words, "You are not my mother".  I am a mature adult.

REALITY: oh, that hurts.  It just hurts.  I know that I'm not their mother, but I was kind of hoping they would miss that fact and let me in.  The truth is that they have two primary parents and their dear little heads would spin if they had more, so it's fine that I'm a secondary parent...but these may be my only children in this life and the thought that the closest I can get is FUN AUNT NINNY...well, just, sigh. I know, I know...I just got done saying how I sometimes FEEL like the fun aunt babysitter instead of a parent, so why wouldn't they feel that way about me too?  I get it.  I just wish it was all different. 

THe point it this:  I'm awesome in theory, moderately okay in reality and with time and some serious grace from God, I may be able to create a reality that blows away theory at some point.  I think what marriage and stepparenting are teaching me right now is to wash away expectation, to accept the reality that is now, to love myself in the moment and to trust that goodness is present in me and my new family.  I don't think I will stop thinking up theories that make me feel wise, but maybe I will be less attached to the successful defense of such theory in the face of contradicting evidence.  And just have fun with what we've got?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Tale from the Justin Bieber Note Book and Other Weekend Shenanigans WITH KIDS!

One of the best parts of being an instant parent are the moments when it all comes together and you realize that you are living the best're creating new family traditions and introducing your new kids to this new family culture and they like it! You teach them about hindus and they are curious. You introduce them to people from other countries and they act confused but eventually consider them friends. And all the while, they are teaching you how to be a kid again and let go of expectations and go with the flow (something kind of hard when it's all so sudden!)

This was one of the best weekends.


K1 (8 year old manchild) & K2 (7 year old girliegirl)are constantly making crafts in their room from the drawer where I chuck all the leftover art supplies. This is nice because it gives them some autonomy and it provides all kinds of fun surprises for us. K2 came out of her room the other day with a full-on dog costume made out of tissue paper(she calls herself BUNNY) and set up shop in the kitchen where I was making dinner. Then k1 joined her as the family cat and they both demanded cat/dog food. I put it in bowls on the floor because I DON'T tolerate animals at my table. K2 proceeded to wear the costume everywhere we went that night and with some urging from JR, hung her head out the back window and wagged her tongue at delighted cars beside us at stoplights.

These kids are so creative and independent and funny. They must get that from me (haha!)
BUT WAIT! THERE"S MORE! The best thing we ever bought K2 was a little dollar store Justin Beiber notebook...Church would not be nearly as fun without the constant stream of love you/hat you notes (that's "hate" but in 7 year old parlance). It won't be long before she stops spelling so phonetically and stops writing the sary ("SORRY") notes and just hands me the teen-angst-you-are-not-my-mother hat notes.

Here's how it went down - We were celebrating K2's birthday on the weekend since we wouldn't be with her on her actual birthday. I made the requested barbie mermaid cake (you know the kind with the doll IN the cake) and she and dad took a special trip to toysrexpensive and picked out her dream toy...A moxie girl with a fake fish tale that "swims" in water. Seriously, can someone explain the obsession with mermaids? Sunday, she "accidently" brought the doll in her church bag and when I wordlessly took it from her and gave it to JR to hold, the notes a-started flowing:

My response was a little manipulative, I realize. I shouldn't have brought up the cake but I was feeling slightly desperate. Like, LOOK! I"M NOT MENE! I MADE YOU A CAKE WITH A DOLLAR STORE BARBIE MERMAID ON TOP!
Then I bore my testimony and I cried while I was up there, because well, that's what I do. I think K2 thought I was crying because of her and that makes me feel sad because I wasn't! But this response makes me laugh. You probably can't see it very well, but she drew me a cat without know, one of those ugly sphinx cats. We were watching "Too Cute" as a family the night before and she got super defensive when JR and I said that the furrless cats were obscene. She knew I would laugh at this picture. That's love...
And then...with much better penmanship and technique (prity ples!), she regained her focus. In case you can't read this it says "culd I huld my marmad prity ples" and when I said no...instead of hat-ing me, she said BLO, BLO which neither JR nor I can decipher. But I'm MENE again, this time with an E at the end and some flowers to take away the sting.

I know that this time of under-spelled hat notes and pretending to be a dog in public will not last forever (man, I really hope not or we've got bigger problems) and I'm trying to enjoy every minute instead of worrying about whether I'm doing it right. I already missed the first 6/7 years of their lives and believe me, I feel it sometimes when they do something funny and I wish they had learned it from me. It's painful sometimes not to be able to take credit for the good in them but I'm not going to let worry ruin my chance of being able to influence the next round of delightful awesomeness. I'm really lucky to know them and I have a lot of catching up to do!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wham Bam Family Ma'am!

So it's time to resurrect this here blog.

I've taken a break to get married and have two kids (all at once) and I realized that I need you. I need this outlet. I need to write and tell stories and throw it up to the universe and see what sticks.

I declare today the start of a new era for'm a stepparent, a wife, an almost graduate of my masters program, a job seeker, a friend (although a kind of crappy one right now), a film consultant, an educator, a writer, a member of a co-op, a girl who dreams about owning chickens one day, and NOW I will reconnect with this new old identity on a keyboard. Watch for it.