All Together Now

If the past couple of years have taught me anything, it’s the importance of being flexible.  So even though I’d been very much looking forward to a Florida getaway with my family, I kept telling myself that there was always a possibility that the trip wouldn’t actually happen.  I told myself this even as I arranged for our house/dog sitter, packed my bags, arrived at at the airport and all the way up to the moment when our plane actually took off.  It was only once we were safely in the air that I finally drew a sigh of relief and allowed myself to believe that this much-anticipated vacation was truly beginning.

It’s not that there was anything particularly special about our trip.  We weren’t heading to an exotic destination, or checking something big off our “bucket list” or even treating ourselves to something new and different.  We were just renting a vacation home for a week and our only plan was to relax and spend time with our family.  I know it may sound boring to some people, but at this point in my life, it struck me as the perfect vacation plan and I was more than ready for it.

3859E432-F548-4257-89B5-54F1E547F1AB_1_201_aAnd things went mostly according to plan.  As we settled into our house, I soon realized that relaxation is a rare commodity when you’re vacationing with a three-year old and a one-year old.  (I’d count myself lucky if I could muster up just one-tenth of their energy and stamina.)  But that was just fine, because I also realized that although sharing a house with active little people may not be relaxing, it sure is fun and entertaining, especially if they happen to be your grandchildren.  There’s something pretty special about stumbling out of bed in the morning and being greeted with big smiles, hugs, and an enthusiastic, “Yea!  Grandma’s up!” I mean, my husband and I love each other dearly, but mostly we just grunt at each other first thing in the morning.

Sharing a house with our kids and their families for the week also gave us a chance to reconnect in ways that just don’t happen in our normal, day-to-day life.  Late night conversations around the hot tub when the little ones were safely tucked in bed, working on a jigsaw puzzle together, or even just sharing a meal as a family were gifts to be savored.  Even sitting back and watching others interact was special, because I knew those interactions were strengthening family bonds that should last long after my husband and I are gone. 

Now it’s over, and I’m slowly adjusting back to a life that is both more solitary and hectic than the one I enjoyed while on vacation.  I’m actually a bit more tired than before I went, but that’s normal because travel is wearing and so is catching up on all the chores that waited patiently for my return.  The weariness will pass but the memories of our time together aren’t going anywhere, and wouldn’t trade those for anything in the world…..

Better All The Time

I hate it when history repeats itself.  Last summer, my teeth decided to go on strike, which meant I had to get two root canals and three crowns.  Then my son’s dog decided the mouth piece I have to wear at night to prevent teeth-grinding would make an excellent chew toy.  I didn’t realize Frankie had stolen it from the night stand until I heard ominous crunching sounds from underneath my bed, and by then my poor night guard was missing a few pieces.  Sadly, that meant several more trips to the dentist in order to get a new one made and properly fitted.

All of which explains why I was really hoping that this summer would be free of any kind of dental procedures other than perhaps a quick and painless cleaning.  And yet it was not to be.  It turns out that one of those root canals didn’t quite get the job done, and I still have a small infection near the root of that tooth.  The endodontist recommended oral surgery,  which is tentatively scheduled for the end of next week.

I’ve been worried by the sensitivity in that tooth for quite some time, even though dental x-rays didn’t show anything wrong with it.  So in a way, it’s nice to know what is going on and have a plan for treatment.  One the other hand, I hate medical procedures in general and dental procedures in particular, so the thought of having to undergo another one….. and possibly even an extraction and implant if this surgery doesn’t work….is casting a bit of a shadow over what I had hoped would be a fun and carefree last few weeks of summer.

Still, I am determined not to let my dental woes ruin what is left of the season by wasting time and emotional energy dreading the upcoming surgery.  Obviously, I’m not looking forward to having someone cut open my gums and mess with the roots of my teeth, but I’ll be numb during the procedure.  (If I happen to feel anything at all, I’ll be out of that chair and fleeing that office so fast they won’t see me for the dust.)  Afterwards, I’ll have pain killers and the perfect excuse to make my husband bring me soft food and tasty drinks while I park it on the couch and watch my favorite movies.

I admit that don’t have a history of being brave about medical/dental procedures.  There was a time when even knowing I had to have a cavity filled or blood drawn made me anxious for days before.  But in the past few years, I’ve had several dental procedures, two varicose vein treatments that involved the internal use of lasers, and even out-patient eyelid surgery.  And I did it all without screaming, cursing, or causing serious bodily harm to a single medical professional.  If that isn’t personal growth, I don’t know what is.

So I guess in a rather important way, history isn’t repeating itself at all.  Yes it’s summer (again) and I’m spending far too much time in the dentist chair (again), but I’m determined not to waste the next two weeks worrying about my upcoming procedure.  Instead, I’m going to do my best to enjoy what is left of my summer, to live in the moment and to comfort myself with the knowledge that I can, and will, get through this just fine.  Which just goes to show that we’re never too old for a little self-improvement….

 

But That’s Not What I Meant

When our children were young, my husband and I often struggled to make ends meet on just one income.  As much as I wanted to stay at home with our children, I felt guilty about not working and so I tried to help out by working as a free-lance writer.  I sold a lot of articles to local newspapers and magazines, but I never made much money from any of those sales.  So I was very excited when I signed a contract with a book packager to write a short fantasy novel for an educational publisher for a one-time fee of $2,100.

DSC00181The book was going to be used in high school English classes, even though it was supposed to be written at the fifth-grade reading level.   I had both a word list and a mathematical formula that determined how often the words on the list had to be used in the book, and they wanted the finished manuscript in their offices in a little over three weeks.  It wasn’t easy, but I met the deadline, mailed in my manuscript, and eagerly waited for the first check I had earned from my writing that would actually be in the four digits.

A few weeks after I had thought I would be paid, I was still waiting for my check.  I called the book packager’s office a couple of times to enquire about exactly when I would be receiving my payment, and the answer was always “soon.”  To say I was unhappy would be an understatement.  I was very worked up about the whole situation,  brooding and  fuming,  and often complaining bitterly to my husband.  Finally, he told me to just quit worrying about it.  He was sure that I would be paid eventually, and even if I wasn’t, “It’s not as if that amount of money is actually going to make a big difference.”

I was so stung by that remark that I couldn’t even reply.  I had been so proud of myself for taking on a difficult writing assignment (I had no experience using formulas for word lists or writing fantasy novels) and managing to actually write even a short book in three weeks time while watching two young children.  And although $2,100 is not much for the sale of a book, I had honestly thought it was enough to make a difference in our current household budget.  How dare he just dismiss my hard work?  But I didn’t want to have a big fight, so I just swallowed my pride and pretended that his remark hadn’t cut quite so deeply.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized how completely I had misunderstood my husband’s words.  Even though I what I had heard was that my measly little $2,100 check didn’t mean very much, what he had meant was, “Please stop stressing about getting paid.  It’s making you very unhappy, and it’s not worth it.  That check won’t make or break us financially.  We’re going to be okay.”  I had thought he was being dismissive and unfeeling, while he thought he was being supportive and helpful.

It’s sad how easy it is to misunderstand what people say to us, even when we know someone very well.  I think the problem is that no one, even those closest to us, can ever know exactly what we are thinking and feeling, unless we take the time to tell them.  My husband had no idea how much emotional baggage I had riding on that check (which did eventually arrive), and I had no idea how much my stressing about it was bothering him.

These days I try to take the time to find out what people really mean when they say something that hurts my feelings, because so often that’s all it takes for me to realize that the other person wasn’t trying to be hurtful at all.  And now I realize that I could have avoided a very painful misunderstanding if I had simply asked my husband just exactly what he’d meant when he told me that whether or not I got paid for my book wasn’t that big of a deal…..