Everything Else, Writing

At home in the world

Downtown Champaign. Image credit: Vallejo Center for Learning Spanish, Champaign, IL

I didn’t love Champaign at first. Really, I didn’t even want to come here. 20 years ago when it was time for me to decide where to go to college, I didn’t fill out my application to UIUC—I hid it under my pile of first-choices, hoping my parents wouldn’t see. But they found it and I ended up applying, turning in my application a day before the due date, kicking and screaming all the way. I would never go to a state school. I was much too much of a snob for that.

But then my first choice wait-listed me. My second rejected me. And the third came back with a tuition fee that was double what we were expecting. So by default, I accepted my acceptance to U of I and at the end of that hot, lazy, 1997 summer, I reluctantly drove down to East Central Illinois (not Southern Illinois, like I’d originally thought) (oh my goodness I am a child of the suburbs).

The main Quad at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Image credit: StudyUSA.com

I don’t remember much about my Freshman year other than that it was a total blast. Sophomore year I met my two best friends, both of whom I’m still close with. Junior and Senior years were spent deciding not to go to med school, adding a major, and graduating with no idea what I was going to do next. After doing a summer internship in downtown Chicago my Junior year, I was terrified to live in the city by myself, so I took a job my professor put me up for in the marketing department of a Champaign publishing company.

I was young and inexperienced and the people there took me under their wing, helping me find my first apartment downtown and teaching me the ins and outs of the office world.  I worked there for three years, during which I met and married my husband. He’s from an even smaller town than Champaign. And that’s why I’m staying.

Not because he told me he would never move to the city. Not because he told me Champaign was the biggest town he was comfortable living in. Not because he’s forcing my hand in any way. But because I want to. Champaign, compared to the city and the suburbs, is simple. Life here is easy in a way I never felt it was up north. Across the street from me is a cornfield. I pass cows every day on my way to work. These novelties were things I only experienced in my childhood when we would drive up to Lake Geneva for a vacation. While I occasionally feel that keeping-up-with-the-Joneses jealousy here in Chambana, I mostly live in the niche I’ve carved out for myself, experimenting with my personal style in dressing and home decorating, driving my SUV around the farm machinery that takes over the roads every spring and fall, and watching as more and more farmland is given up for homes and businesses, watching as the “suburbs” of Champaign move ever closer to the city, watching as even this little town in the middle of nowhere succumbs to the name of progress.

I am now the proud owner of this mug. Photo credit: @shopartmart; Art Mart, Champaign IL

I’ve dreamed of living other places: Chicago, Seattle, Oregon, Florida (or really anyplace that doesn’t have winter). But as the days fly by and my calendar points to May, summer weather and all that brings, I’m thankful for the changing of the seasons. The familiarity of the trees outside my window. The ebb and flow of the planting and the harvest that I now have a front-row seat to. There is a peacefulness to living here that I have not experienced anywhere else. And though I dream of other places, other cities, and other, busier, more glamorous ways of life, this will always be home.

This was written as part of Tsh’s celebration of her new book, At Home in the World, which comes out today. You can read more about it here: http://theartofsimple.net/athome/

Everything Else

Craving familiarity

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With fall just around the corner, and the kids going back to school this week, and me going back to school next week, and all the changes that this new season brings, I’m finding myself more and more wanting to do things that are familiar to me. I’m rereading Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series instead of starting something new. I’m rewatching Gilmore Girls from the beginning instead of finding a fresh series on Netflix. I’m reverting back to old patterns, because so much of what I’m experiencing now, and what I will experience this semester, is new.

I have one more year left of grad school, this year actually, and if all goes well I will graduate in May. Between now and then, I have to do 150 hours of clinical time, complete a research project, and write my thesis. And after that, there is the Great Unknown. Will I be able to find a job in my field? Will I like teaching as much as I think I will? Will I be happy after I turn my life around yet again?

Then there’s CJ. His classroom assignments went out last week and he’s not in class with any of his close friends. That is, any of the friends whose moms I’ve gotten to know. I was in shock when I first looked at his list—how could they do this to him? He’s such a good kid, he listens and he follows the rules (most of the time), and it feels like because of that he’s just getting thrown in anywhere. But then I showed the list to CJ, and he’s excited about it. There’s a girl in his class he’s asked to have a play date with, and he’ll get to see her every day. He’s happy about his teacher, who’s new to his school, because he thinks she’ll be glad to be there and in turn make his day-to-day a fun experience. If only I could see things through his eyes.

Sam is your typical four-year-old, he doesn’t want to go back to school but once he’s there, I know he’ll love it. He’s already talking about seeing his friends and having them over to our house. He’ll be going to preschool five days a week, partially to accommodate my work/clinical schedule and partially to get him ready for kindergarten, which will be full-day next year. He’s ready for this change, definitely more than I am.

It’s raining today, as it is on all of my quiet, thoughtful days, and I think I’ll take the gloomy weather as a sign to embrace the familiar. I can do all these new things, all these hard things, if I have a backbone of comfort to rely on. For me, for this season, that means familiar stories, well-worn routines, and pumpkin spice everything. I’m looking forward to this season, with all of its changes, along with everything else that will stay blissfully, thankfully, the same.


Monday Musings


I have nothing real to write about today. I have a lot of shoulds and “to post” ideas for this blog, but none of them have come to fruition yet. And also, I can’t figure out how to get my phone to download its pictures to my computer. I’m sure there’s a not difficult solution but frankly it’s too much for me to handle on this dreary Monday morning. Why are Monday mornings so hard? I DON’T EVEN HAVE A JOB TO GET UP AND GO TO. I don’t get it. I’m living the life, right? Staying home with the kids, in my pajamas til noon…and yet. And yet.

This weekend I met my long-time Internet friend, Eunice, in person. Pretty freaking unbelievable. She lives in Colorado and made the trip to the Great Middle West because she is amazing, gorgeous, and infinitely patient. It was incredible to be sitting at the dinner table with her, swapping stories about our kids and our daily lives. She reminded me that I do have friends, and good ones, even if their houses are a plane ride away.

I finished my summer school courses on Friday and boy does it feel good to be done. If I never see another pearly gray eardrum I’ll be happy. I took an assessment course, and while I learned a lot, I want to TEACH, not assess and diagnose. If I’m truly being honest, the class was a challenge for me.

My 7-year-old is going through the same thing right now. He had soccer camp last week, and was so frustrated that he didn’t instinctively know how to play the new games that were introduced, or how to do an L-kick. I have to admit, when it comes to sports, I always hoped I would discover I had a secret talent—that I’d be able to hit the bull’s-eye on the first try or kick the ball with such force there was no chance of the goalie saving it. But I never did. The only sport I ever excelled at was swimming, and my swimming career ended, predictably, in high school.

Anyway, I told CJ he was brave and strong and that basically if he didn’t know something, he had to suck it up and ask. Which is what I struggled with this semester. Communication in online classes can sometimes be tricky. Also, do you know how many things can actually go wrong with the human body? That 40% of adult office visits are for dizziness of an unknown cause? Or how many types of Juvenile Arthritis there are? I think it’s something like 12. Ridiculous. Bottom line, I learned a lot—most memorably that the clinical life isn’t for me.

My birthday is this week, and with my birthday comes the End of Summer. I’ve always felt the End of Summer starts on Fourth of July, but for me, it drives its point home on July 31st. To wake up the next morning and not only have to wait another 364 days until my next birthday, but also have it be August, the month school starts, was the complete pits when I was a kid. Now though, I’m more than ready to get back into the school year routine. Not to mention pumpkin spice coffee, cooler weather, and brown leaves on the sidewalk, crunching under my feet.

What’s been going on with you this week?


Going down


It’s amazing, when I stop to think about it, the amount of negative self-talk I give myself every day. You overslept again. You’re ugly. Why haven’t you lost your pregnancy weight? Your clothes don’t fit. How can you expect anyone to love you when you look like this?

It goes on and on. Reading it here in black and white is difficult though, and I don’t want to write any more.

I count myself lucky that I found a husband who wanted to marry me, and continues to want to be with me even though I’m nothing like that girl he met 11 years ago. I look at my two beautiful children and pray they will not turn out like me: full of self-doubt, and with the lowest self-esteem this side of junior high.

They’re boys, so they have that going for them.

It starts when I oversleep, which is every day these days. You shouldn’t take a daily schedule away from a depressed person. I know that now. Not having to be up, dressed, and at work has been wonderful, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t trade my lazy mornings enjoying foamy coffee at our kitchen table for yet another 8 o’clock meeting for the life of me. But my idle, unstructured mornings roll into long, unproductive days. Days where I nap when the baby naps, leaving my 5yo to fend for himself with the iPad. Days where I wake up at 4:30 in the afternoon and chastise myself for not doing last night’s dishes, and even as I’m doing so I know I won’t get to them tonight either.

It seems like all my friends are spending their thirties refining themselves. Becoming who they are. But I feel like I’m behind. I feel like I’m still trying to define myself, to figure out who I want to be when I grow up. I thought I wanted to be a writer, but then I got a job in marketing. I didn’t like that, so I tried nursing. I thought I wanted to teach, but I didn’t like working so much. I thought I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom, but it’s hard and I breathe a deep sigh of relief every time I get in the car and drive to work, glad for at least a few days a week to be missing the evening dinner prep, the bedtime routines, and all the crying and whining that go along with them.

All this is to say I’ve lost sight of my goal, whatever that is. Without a defined schedule and regular showers, I’m lost. I thought as a stay-at-home-mom, I had to figure out what to do myself. I thought I had to create a routine, follow it, and be responsible for my own actions and choices.

But, J starts school this week.

I couldn’t get it together for myself this summer, but I know I’ll get it together for him. I will get up early. I’ll take a shower. I’ll wake him up and make him breakfast. I’ll drive him to school every day, because that’s what my mother did for me. And then S and I will hang out. Maybe we’ll run errands, maybe we’ll go for a jog. Maybe we’ll take both of our naps and just chill at home. I’m going to let the rhythm of J’s school day define my days. Because even though I couldn’t do this on my own, even though I couldn’t give our little family the structure we sorely needed this summer, I know I can do it for J this fall.