What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I had lunch with a friend a couple of weeks ago who asked what I’ve been doing with my time since I haven’t been working.

A fat lot of nothing. 

Riiiiiiight. (You didn’t really believe that did you? Not even for a second.)

What I’ve been doing with my summer vacation. Which basically started with Memorial Day weekend…

Went to ATL for the 2013 new baby tour. It was a road-trip that started at 9:00 PM on a Friday with decaffeinated me behind the wheel. It was touch and go until Suit and Tie came on the radio–and then it was a three hour dance party in the driver’s seat from Gaffney, SC to Suwanee, GA. We rolled in at 2:30 AM. Hey. Whatever works. (Also, WHY ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE ON THE ROAD, TOO?) But those babies are super sweet. And their parents are managing well–all things considered.

Worked on putting documents together and obtaining a passport for my Ukrainian born child to deal with citizenship stuff and learned that bureaucracy is bureaucracy regardless of the nation’s government. When Boy #1 says “This is like being in Ukraine” as you run all over the county in which you live to obtain the right forms and this one government agency only works 8:00-3:00 and you show up at 4:30 and realize you’ll have to make the trek back downtown the next day, you realize that (a) perhaps you picked the wrong line of work (I mean with hours like 8-3, come on) and (b) this mess really is crazy

Took a random, spontaneous trip to the beach with my best friend and her family while the hubs drove my new car home from Ohio and in and around Raleigh until I got home two days later. He hasn’t sat behind that steering wheel much since.

Hubs and I took the East Bloc Boys (our collective reference to the teenage boys living under our roof) to DC to deal with the Ukrainian’s citizenship and–when we realized that wasn’t going to happen without a US passport–proceeded to spend a few days playing in DC instead. Museums, metro stops, and food trucks, oh my!

Attended the graduation of my Hungarian born child (Boy #2 who moved in in April) and sent him off to his first day at a new job

Received the report card for Boy #1 and was more than a little frustrated with the results

Learned that Boy #1 was going to be fired–primarily due to complications with some faulty brain wiring that is beyond his control but increasingly becoming a hindrance–and started planning for the possibility of meds and more testing to see if there’s something more or better that we can do. Also became a little afraid of his options for the future. Meanwhile, he didn’t seem to be too concerned about anything in his world. And then frustration set in.

Interviewed for a job. Was offered the job. Didn’t know at that point where exactly the job would be. But I’ll have a job.

Left the kids at home while hubs and I went to the beach for a few days. Alone. With no agenda. Glorious.

Opened our home for weekly game nights with the youth. Their means of world domination via board game was pretty entertaining. Also, the secret is out about the awesomeness of my cookie dough dip.

I got more creative in the kitchen, making up recipes as I went–often inspired by road-trip snacks and/or food truck experiences. And those culinary experiments generally were successful.

Temporarily found some really good body confidence–long enough to sport a bikini on the beach. For the first time. Ever.

Helped a friend pack up his office to move to a new job after 13 years.

Celebrated a friend’s 30th birthday and another friend’s family adopting a child they’ve tried to bring home for far too long

Opened my home and my dinner table to countless people (we finally had to break out the leaves for the dining room table and USE ALL THE CHAIRS)

Had lunch and/or coffee with people–for more than 15 minutes. Those conversations often stretched over two hours.

Brought a third teenager home to live with us–this time a girl.

Realized once again that my life is a circus and I’m the ringmaster. Until the inmates run the asylum. And then I just leave.

Had beautiful conversations with family and friends

Was truly honored to be invited into some of the most important moments and conversations in others’ lives

Got a job assignment that was totally unexpected but has made me incredibly excited the more I sit with it.

Got thoroughly pissed off with the state government and was ready to junk punch some politicians–or a wall. Supported Moral Monday from afar–lest my anger push me to do something stupid before this job thing really came through.

Started scheming ways to take over the world–in a good way.

Realized that this whole youth ministry thing I started on the summer before college has come full circle. I learned along the way that there are many ways to do youth ministry–and often outside of church. I also made the statement at one point that once I became a youth minister, I’d have a psychologist in my back pocket as a resource. Then I became that psychologist.

Pulled together a stack of books classified as thematic professional reading that I’m slowly making my way through

Seriously considered getting the “Mom’s Taxi” for my car because it’s true. Especially the week of youth camp when I’m the only licensed driver in the house and have two teens to care for.

Tried to let it sink in that I have finished school and have a PhD. Definitely became increasingly thankful for the training, experiences, and opportunities I have had along the way.

Stalked one of my favorite people from a parking lot into a bookstore to make sure it really was her–and then had an hour and a half long conversation standing around another store in the same shopping area.

Became a stand-in on-call fake doula for a baby who was born about two weeks later (and the daddy was home for the whole thing…which meant I could celebrate with the announcement text). 

Consulted on emerging adult male/female relationships

Provided unofficial parenting consultation

Fell madly in love with US Marshall Raylan Givens as I became addicted to the show Justified.

Worked out in the sweatbox that is my garage–sometimes twice a day. Just because I could.

Met neighbors I hadn’t met before because I started walking the dog more after a redistribution of household responsibilities

Seriously considered a new blog about DIY furniture and house projects–to be called pigtails and power tools. This after having to supply my dad with a drill or two after the battery in his cordless died as he was trying to put together a new bed. (Note: one of those drills was the same electric drill he handed down to me years ago when I moved out; also, that old faithful Black and Decker has helped us finish projects the battery packs on the cordless just couldn’t. Moral of the story: well, I think you know.)

Filled up a social calendar like never before

Received beautiful and powerful words of affirmation and hugs from people who’ve watched me grow as a person and professional over the past X number of years

Went back to yoga (kinda) and ate more fresh veggies. (Olives dipped in hummus, y’all)

Loved bigger because hubs does.

Realized that children stuck in rough family situations are my kryptonite

Struggled against having so many people in the house and this basically became my mantra about half the time. 

Saw some movies. In the theater. Even when I kinda didn’t want to. (Side note: Pacific Rim = Godzilla + Iron Man(steroids) + Independence Day speech + Armageddon)

Worked on my licensure application and found that I still had some brain matter that could ooze out of my ears. It’s just about finished though. The application, that is.

Survived monsoon season in NC this year–WITHOUT an Ark of my own

Drank the Candy Crush Kool-Aid (Note to Kool-Aid: new flavor idea!)

Finally was invited to new employee orientation and can for really real get this job thing going.

Ran outside. On some big hills. Early in the morning. And usually thought I was swimming instead. #NChumidsummers

Doled out resources in the form of book titles, notes from books I’d read, links to really great articles, and just putting some thoughts on paper

Read a few really good novels.

Squeezed some babies

Baked. A lot. And apparently even my cookies are therapeutic.

Survived #singleparentweek2013 while Al and Ryan were at camp.

Celebrated some more birthdays. Ran with my girls. Enjoyed some group therapy on a screened in porch. Celebrated new jobs with my people.

Scheduled at least half a dozen meetings/appointments to take me through my last full week of no paid work. What vacation?

And then I went to that orientation, got my shiny new ID badge, signed a bunch of forms and forked over a voided check. This job thing is official. I start Thursday.

 

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The District

We took a little family vacation to DC this summer—mainly because Al and I think it’s a cool town and because Ryan loves history and he’s kinda interested in government. Dad came with the three of us as we did a quick trip through the District.

Monday we hit up the Newseum, which people highly recommended. I thought it was pretty cool at first glance, but I NEVER thought I’d get sucked in as much or as long as I did. A few of the temporary exhibits included the Berlin Wall (and they had a few slabs on display in addition to news coverage), photos of famous athletes, and an FBI exhibit (which made me feel better about not getting a tour there). The FBI exhibit included various forms of news media and artifacts from the Unibomber, Waco, Oklahoma City, and the DC Sniper. I rounded the corner at the sniper exhibit where they had a mock-up of the trunk of the car (used for the trial) and it. was. chilling. There was also a display of Pulitzer Prize winning photographs, and it was like walking through a gallery of recent history. And I was amazed at how much I recognized.

The Newseum also has a 9/11 exhibit that is pretty impressive with floor to ceiling displays of the headlines on 9/12—from around the world. There were other artifacts about that fateful day—and I had to wonder if people around me thought something was really wrong with the fact that here I was standing in the exhibit explaining what happened to my almost 16-year old son.

We really got sucked in to one exhibit which is basically newspapers and other news artifacts over time…and I usually think about how much occurred in history WELL before my time (seriously, I should have come of age in the 1940s or 1960s). But as I pulled drawer after drawer of significant headlines from 1979 to the present, I really HAVE been around for a lot of history.

We finally listened to our stomachs and got lunch in their food court (tasty, by the way). And then we headed over to the Spy Museum. I was hoping for a stop at the National Archives, but time didn’t permit…

And I have to say. I really like the Spy Museum. It starts out kinda cheesy, but it really is a cool place. And I highly recommend it.

Tuesday was the Holocaust Museum—something I’ve wanted to do since it opened my junior year in high school. And it didn’t disappoint. Going through the boxcar and coming out to see the suitcases on the ground next to it was the most haunting part to me.

And all along, one of us is taking the time to explain all of this to Ryan—who’d never learned about any of it. Which is surprising considering how much Ukraine took it in the neck from the Nazis. He was most captivated by the mock-up of the gas chamber and crematorium—and that was the part that stood out the most to him there. I am pleased to report that I wasn’t completely drained at the end like I thought I would be, either. It probably helped that I was hungry and Maslow kicked in…

And so we finally headed out for lunch at the Museum of the American Indian (part of the Smithsonian) at 4:00. We had plans for the Monuments by Moonlight tour that evening as well—and I HIGHLY recommend that one. Al and I did it several years ago and it was worth the repeat.

We walked over to Union Station from the Museum of the American Indian—by way of the Capital—which is always impressive to me. Even if what they say about laws and sausages is true.

The Moonlight tour takes you all over the District—the part of the DC that is the Mall and monuments. The driver tells you lots of fun facts while taking you around and there are several stops of about 30 minutes each. We went to the FDR Memorial—which is A. MAZING. and one of my personal favorites. We stopped at Lincoln/Vietnam/Korean War Memorials—and Ryan loved Lincoln. It was also cool to locate a name on the Wall with my Dad, who is a Vietnam vet. And give thanks that his name isn’t carved in stone. And the last stop was Iwo Jima after a quick drive by Arlington. Finally, it was back to Union Station and a late dinner at Capitol City Brewery.

Wednesday was the Museum of American History (hellooo Ruby Slippers, Kermit the Frog and a GEORGEOUS group of Stradivarii instruments, and military history display) and the Air and Space Museum. Both were crawling with people and I wasn’t particularly interested in Air and Space…but I knew the boys were, so I went along with it.

After a late night fire alarm pull at the hotel, we finally got back to some much needed sleep and headed home on Thursday.

It was super fun, but I needed a vacation to recover from my vacation!

ALSO. If you’re in DC and need dessert, check out Red Velvet Cupcakery on 7th and Kramerbooks and Afterwords in Dupont Circle. Someone outside Miami actually knows how to make a key lime pie.

Fried

I was informed this week that I haven’t been a positive person for the past several months. Why it took that long for this conversation to take place–and why someone is keeping score–is unknown.

I’ll admit that there’s a grain of truth to this person’s observations. The instances cited by the individual are pretty petty and immature…but there is a seed of truth. I can–and do–admit that.

If others have noticed my less than positive demeanor, they either haven’t said anything, or they understand the place out of which I currently operate and don’t bother.

For those of you who know me well, you know–and understand as much as you can–that my life is a circus. It is stressful. And I am tired…nay…exhausted. And fried. In a State Fair fried candy bar/Twinkie/Coke/butter sort of way. Consequently, I don’t have the energy to keep my filter in tact. I have a lower toleration threshold, and consequently a greater propensity for frustration.

Quite frankly, folks, it’s all I can do to get out of bed most days.

But I do. I keep showing up. I keep trying to laugh and smile and do my job–as a wife, mother, daughter, friend, student, adviser, cook and bottle washer. I try to be encouraging and see past the end of my nose.

For those of you who have recently experienced otherwise (and I hope that is a LOW number), please accept my apology. I am trying. More than that, I’m looking forward to a winter break with not a lot of work and HUGE amounts of rest and time with family.