When something breaks, we have various options for handling the situation.
For the purposes of this post, I’m narrowing the field to three because
A. This is my blog and B. I’m bossy and C. One of those two statements is true. (Hint: A.)
When we realize something’s broken (let’s say an air mattress or a manuscript or a blog)
- We can fix it.
- We can seek a new one.
- We can live without it.
This compels me to mention a fourth option – to surrender our power and wait to see what happens – however, this choice is my least favorite because
A. I prefer duct tape. B. I’m proactive. C. One of those two statements is true. (Hint: A.)
In case you hadn’t noticed (I mean, we’re all busy these days) my blog wasn’t functioning.
Also, my manuscript – especially those pesky opening chapters – was less than perfect.
And finally, two of our family’s three air-mattresses (yes three shut up) had slow leaks.
So. I explored my options and divvied them up.
Instead of fixing our old air mattress or seeking a new one, I decided to live without it while camping. I prefer being low-maintenance (isn’t that the point) and let’s face it:
If I’m not going to shower or change my clothes, I can slide into a sleeping bag and greet the ground in its natural state.
My manuscript was/is a monumentally bigger issue (except perhaps at 2:00 am on Sunday when I discovered a rock under my spine). But instead of starting a new project or living without writing, I decided to fix my old one.
It seems that in the working and re-working of my YA novel, I have strayed too far from my original voice and intent; so I’m going back to basics because at the very least it is me. My vision, words and goals.
And if it fails, I’ll have no one to blame but myself.
As for the blog, I tried living without it; but if you scroll down through previous posts, you’ll see that aside from these past two weeks, I’ve kept up my blistering once-a-week pace throughout my blog’s temper tantrum.
This space also didn’t want to be fixed. No, it wanted to be upgraded to a newer version of WordPress).
So I got a new blog. (I know it looks the same but shut up it’s totally new and improved.)
In the interim – when my subscribers weren’t getting post notifications and I couldn’t reply to my comments and the summer filled up with sunshine and sandwiches and smiling kids – I briefly surrendered to the brokenness.
In fact, I embraced it. I gave myself permission to not read other blogs or write new posts of my own; I barely glanced at twitter and Facebook before slathering on another layer of sunblock to head out the door.
And I’m not gonna lie. It was lovely.
But another truth is that I also missed you all. (Maybe even more than I missed that air mattress at 2:00 am on Sunday morning.)
I missed the part of me that faces reality.
So today, call me back.
(Don’t worry. I know that collective cheer’s merely an echo from the closing ceremony of the Olympics.)
Still, I’m back and prepared to hold your hand if you too need to address something that’s broken in your life.
If you want to fix it? I’ll share my duct tape. If you want to buy a new one? I’ll cross my fingers through your search.
If you decide to live without it? I’ll quote Thoreau for you. Again.
(Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. It never gets old.)
My optimism may be hanging by a thread. My determination to succeed is limping beside me. I might have to wrap myself in duct tape before this fight is over.
But I won’t give up.
Not on my new-ish blog. Or my fixable book.
As for the air mattress? It’s in the trash. Because, after all, I’m no Princess with a pea.
I am Julie C. Gardner.
And I’m back.
Today call me chaotic…which indeed I am, having just hosted my mother and father-in-law, two sisters-in-law, two nephews, two nieces and one dog-in-law for a wonderful week in honor of Bill’s mother’s birthday.
Together with my family of four and our two dogs, this made for a grand total of thirteen people and three dogs under one roof over a period of seven days.
Chaotic. Plus also awesome.
And I’m lucky beyond words to have married into such a wonderful family.
Still, the last of our guests are leaving today and I feel the need to keep the chaos going. Which is why I’m thrilled to be visiting Jamie Walker at Chosen Chaos today as a part of her If I Could Turn Back Time series where I have a “talk” to my 18-year-old self.
You won’t be sorry. She’s one of those people who feels like a lifelong friend after only a few email exchanges. She’s that cool.
She’s a wife, mother of four, a blogger and a runner with excellent taste in music and beverages.
In other words, I love her. And you will, too.
So go there. Now.
And embrace the chaos. I dare you.
I will forever love the doctor who said this to me on the day of your birth:
“She’s a titch, but she’s perfect.”
All four pounds, fourteen ounces of you.
My last miracle.
My baby girl.
Who looks like this:
So can you forgive me for still seeing you like this?
And allow me to say (without exaggeration) that each day since your birth you’ve made me
Not just with my lips and eyes, but with my heart.
Therefore my wish for you today (and every other day for the rest of your life)
Because my love (my Kaker Baker Candlestick Maker), you make me complete.
As long as I have you, no one can steal my sunshine.
And if I could, my girl, I’d give you every ray of mine.
This song played hourly the summer Karly was born and I haven’t stopped loving it since…
Yep. I’m sharing a bit about my experiences with discipline which is probably my biggest challenge as a mother.
I’ve often felt like waving a white flag of surrender when it comes to disciplining my children, my weakness taking the form of that old monster: Consistency.
Still, that hasn’t stopped me from trying.
Over my fifteen years of parenting, I’ve read books, magazine articles, even enrolled in classes.
And sometimes I still believe I’m a failure.
But that’s what is so great about Natalie’s Mommy Moments, a feature she runs every Monday. It’s a safe space to share and commiserate about the times where you DON’T feel like you’ve knocked this whole parent gig out of the park.
Which for me is most days, if I’m being honest.
So please stop by to read my story and share your own in the comments.
If you’re like me, you won’t leave her place without a smile…
It didn’t matter that there were no seatbelts; we knew our van was plush.
Every last inch of the interior was covered in slick paneling with artificial wood details or scratchy pile carpet in a shade somewhere between rust and dried blood.
Dad chose the décor himself after he’d converted the back third of the van into an oversized bench with room for luggage underneath and my sister and me above.
There were two official captains’ seats up front – covered in brown vinyl that stuck to damp skin – and the remaining cabin could accommodate the population of an entire slumber party, our hands still sticky from syrup, our smiles smelling like pancakes.
The dashboard featured an eight-track tape deck blasting tunes from the Beach Boys’ Endless Summer. Thrilled to be actual “California Girls,” my sister and I sang along in spontaneous harmony, our voices drowning out the steady growl of the engine as the van jostled us toward our destinations.
(Sedona, Arizona where I got my first Nancy Drew book and my sister got tonsillitis; Pecos, Texas where the Ramada Inn was miles from any ocean but still reeked of low tide; Auburn, California where we spent every Thanksgiving with my aunt, all of us filled with turkey and talking and happiness.)
“How many more songs’ til we’re there?” we’d ask.
“Five,” my mom would guess.
She was never wrong.
So we passed the time playing games on the nubby carpet that left imprints on the backs of our legs. We waved out the back window at the passengers of other cars under periwinkle skies dotted by whipped-cream clouds.
We were a model of efficiency, a single family in an orange house on wheels that could transport us anywhere we wanted while we dreamed.
What I remember most, though, is the rain.
On night drives, I’d hear the patter of heavy drops but couldn’t see them; still I knew the outside world was soaked and I was dry.
The steady squeak of rubber as the wipers cleared the windshield lulled me as much as the rocking tires that absorbed the road’s rhythmic bumps and curves.
Staring at the paneled ceiling, I felt absolute contentment and safety. Silence punctuated my parents’ whispers as my sister slept next to me, her face pressed full against the carpet.
We weren’t in a house divided by painted walls and separate wishes. We were together, all of us in one mobile home.
And that’s all that really mattered in the end.
…because today I am visiting one of my favorite places in the universe (yes, universe): Four Plus an Angel.
You know Jessica’s blog, right? If you’ve read her words, then you have also laughed, cried and let your heart swell beyond imagining. The raw truths she shares about being a mother (four in her arms, one in her heart) literally take my breath away.
But also Jessica’s got a fantastic sense of humor that’s been sharpened by the realities of being a mom, a blogger, a writer and friend. So when she said she wanted guest posters to share funny stories from their past summers, I jumped at the chance.
(Okay. I didn’t jump. But I did email her back immediately to say, “I’m in!”)
And then I wrote something I’ve been dying to share at my own blog but never could bring myself to publish here. Read it and you’ll see why. Probably. Or maybe these things happen at your house all the time.
Either way, I got my son’s permission to tell this story.
(Okay, you may feel sorry for Jack.)
It seems impossible.
It is true.
I already said the very best words I have for you and I still mean every single one of them. So today, instead, let me share this:
a moment with my son in the summer of 2000 when this song played over and over and over…
“Mama…why it’s a good idea to break a promise to your mother?”
“Then why he say it?”
it’s just a song, baby.
“Mama…where I am going?”
now that’s a better question, but I don’t know the answer.
“Why you not let me go?”
Because I can’t yet. I won’t ever, really.
No. Not completely. I’ll never let you go.
Until whatever’s longer than forever.
Today call me silly…oh boy, am I ever! But you knew that already. And silly applies to me on not just this day but all of them.
Still, today I’m visiting the hilarious (original and fabulous) Amanda at Fond of the Silliness and I couldn’t be more giddy about it.
The first time I stumbled upon her About Page, I knew I’d found a partner in crime on this crazy earth. Observe:
As soon as I read these words, I knew I was in love.
And if you’d be so kind as to visit me there? You too will want a piece of the very best blog.
Whatever you do, don’t take her off your RSS feed. Because she’s a gem. Who tells it like it is.
So please read and comment on my post over at her place:
Then stalk her like you know you want to.
Come on. You know you want to.
So we’re heading to Palm Desert this weekend.
Ah, the sunshine! The swimming pools! The shopping!
Except that we’re not so much staying at a luxury resort as sojourning to the retirement community where my parents and grandparents currently dwell.
This means of course that instead of crowing, “Hooray, I’m on vacation!” I’m more likely to shout, “Holy crap, I’ve been run over by an octogenarian in a golf car!”
My father once explained to me the rationale behind the local residents saying ‘car’ not ‘cart’ however I couldn’t concentrate because I was too busy calculating the total number of shades of blue he’d managed to assemble in a single outfit.
(It was three.)
But enough math. Because by now everyone knows I absolutely hate it. And also that I absolutely adore my family. However, this trip to the desert affords yet another opportunity to smile at and laugh with the different generations at work among us.
(There are four. One more than the number of ‘blues’ on Dad.)
Which is completely off topic because we are not, in fact, convening over Father’s Day Weekend to honor the papas.
(There will be five: Dad, Grandpa, Bill, my brother-in-law Randy, and my Uncle Kurt.)
No, we are all of us gathering together with our families in celebration of my grandparents’ 70th wedding anniversary.
That’s right. 70th. And since my spelling is better than my math, I’ll write it again like this:
Shall we pause to consider that for a moment?
(It’s okay…I’ll wait…)
And then begin again, but with a shift in tone that’s more appropriately awed.
Because I can’t pretend to know how it feels to have awakened beside the same person for seven decades; to have rejoiced and mourned, hoped and lost, laughed and cried, lowe-ed and high-ed with a partner I’d met at such a young age.
Grandma was 18 when she said, “I do.” Grandpa was 23.
As their grandchild, I have been privy to stories about their first thirty years of marriage and have witnessed for myself the life they have continued building together since my birth. In many ways and for countless reasons, they serve as my role-models.
Not because of their perfection but because of their endurance.
Over time, across miles and through a millennium, for almost three quarters of a century, in the face of countless wins and losses in the games they love to play, each has the other.
I remember them long ago singing a Beatles’ song with lyrics reaching far into the future:
“Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?”
And their answer now is Yes. They did. And they do.
Last spring I wrote about my first seventeen years with Bill; and I believe I have my grandparents, my parents and Bill’s parents to thank for each of these lessons learned.
When we choose to surrender to love, to make ourselves vulnerable, to truly need another person, we agree to the inevitable sacrifice and beauty that attends this lifelong decision.
I often marvel that any couple remains married at all, so complicated and flawed are we as human beings. So I am grateful each day for my grandparents’ example, established long before I was born, that survives as inspiration for me still.
And for Bill.
For Jack and Karly.
Yes, for all of us who know that love abides.
(I mean seriously. Does our family look good in blue, or what?)
So recently, Bill and I attempted a date night. Except when you’re in your forties and married over fifteen years it’s less like Date Night and more like Thursday.
At 5:30 PM.
But it’s not as if we’re senior citizens. I mean, we completely skipped the Early Bird Specials and focused on the words Happy and Hour. Just like college.
Except with even more happiness. Because we’re married now. For over fifteen years.
So we enjoyed some wine and split several greasy, starch-laden appetizers for less than the price of two cocktails in Las Vegas. See?
I was stuffed. Plus maybe a little drunk.
Still, this was Date Night. Or Thursday. And Bill suggested a nightcap.
I said, “Can you call it a nightcap if the sun hasn’t set?”
He didn’t think I was funny.
So I ditched ‘humorous’ for ‘helpful’ and said, “How about the Tipsy Goat?”
“We’re too old,” he said. “That place draws a young crowd.”
“At 7:20 on a Thursday?”
He thought I had a point.
So we slid into the parking lot of the T.G. (that’s what you call it when you suck at being cool) and Bill said, “Bring your ID.”
My heart swelled with the compliment.
Then he added, “Not that you look under 21. But they have a bouncer who cards everyone.”
Thus Date Night became even more Thursday-ish. And once inside, the situation didn’t improve.
“DANG!” said Bill.
“This drink sounds delicious. But it’s called a Margatini.”
“That’s not very manly.”
“Ah. But the word ‘dang’ is? And ‘delicious’?”
He didn’t think I was funny.
So I flagged down the waitress.
“My very masculine husband would like a Margatini. But could you call it something less feminine? Like the Manly-tini?”
Somehow that didn’t sound right, either. But this fact was irrelevant because soon the music started and it was too loud to hear anything.
“I like this song!” I may have shouted.
Bill may have answered, “You’re right! These sweet potato fries are delicious! I mean yummy! I mean -”
“DANG!” I may have interrupted. “You’re manly!”
And perhaps our ears throbbed. And maybe lines formed outside the ladies room. And most likely a couple of my ex-high school students sneaked past me to smoke cigarettes on the patio.
At some point, I probably said something like, “This Cabernet’s going to my head.”
And he probably said something like, “Let’s go home and have sex.”
But instead we probably fell asleep watching re-runs of House Hunters International on HGTV.
Because all the cool kids want a taste of the real estate market in Dubai. On a Thursday.
I love romance.
Especially the romantic kind.
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