Battle of the Carls

Ever since I met Carl, he has lamented about how his name has been dragged around in the mud by less than appealing characters in the movies, TV, and commercials. I didn’t really believe him, but then he had his defense all lined up. “How about the movie Fargo, where Steve Buscemi plays kidnapper Carl Showalter?  Or how about Billy Bob Thornton who plays the troubled Karl Childers in Sling Blade?” And, then, there’s the crotchety old man Carl Fredericksen from the movie Up. Now that I’m aware of his name abuse, I’ve noticed that 90% of the time when there is a man’s name mentioned in a commercial, the man’s name is Carl.

But I say in response, how about Carl Lewis? You know, one of the fastest men on the planet?

Well.. this past weekend, Carl got to meet Carl. The fastest man (Carl Lewis) got to meet the fastest cycling man on Saturday (my Carl) who was the first to cross the finish line for the 100 mile fund-raising ride for the Best Buddies Challenge from Carmel to Hearst Castle. So, I think I win the argument that it’s not so bad to be named Carl after all.

Vacation Time Accrued

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During a standard 40-hour work week, one might accrue a couple of hours of vacation time. I’d typically store up these precious hours like little gems to splurge on an adventurous international trip or a much needed, and sometimes spontaneous, long weekend. It got to the point where I didn’t really think twice about asking my boss for time off. I knew when and how to ask for vacation time and, hey, I deserved it, right?

Now that I’ve switched careers, I don’t accrue vacation time anymore. And to be honest, I’m not sure who my boss is either. I don’t have annual reviews, I don’t get raises, and I don’t get promoted. And? I’m okay with that. I wouldn’t trade being a mommy for a million vacation days. I’m serious. I’ve yearned and dreamt of this moment for years. And, here I am.

But, it’s still hard to adjust my thinking that life isn’t all about me or that I deserve x, y, z. I can’t just pack my bag and run off to the airport at a moments notice. I’m in a new season. I’m actually tired of calling it that, but it’s true, even when it doesn’t provide me much assurance.

This “season” came to the forefront of my mind again last week when I received the invite for my dear friend’s wedding on the east coast. I was doing mental gymnastics trying to figure out how I could go. It wasn’t a matter of accrued vacation time, it was a matter of juggling all of my new responsibilities and a little someone who depends on me during the day. The wedding falls during a difficult time of year for Carl to take time off, so he was out, and traveling with a toddler on my own on a cross-country flight sounds like as much fun as pulling out each leg hair individually with a pair of tweezers. I ventured down the path of figuring out a trip solo, like I used to do for so many years. But when it all came down to it, I’d only be on the east coast for about 24 hours, and that sounded like crazy-pants.

So, after a good pep-talk from my Mom (as she kindly reminded me of all of the amazing trips I’ve been able to take without hesitation over the years), and after a few tears, I wrote the hard email to my friend, telling her that I could only be at her wedding in spirit. My friend was full of grace and understanding. Now, I just need to offer myself some grace, take a deep breath, exhale, embrace this new season and realize that with each season of life there are disappointments but also great joys.

I’m Not in the 4th Grade Anymore

I have a thing with tomatoes. I don’t love them. I keep telling people that I haven’t quite grown up yet. To be honest, it’s the slime factor. But I think it all goes back to growing up in Washington State where I was never exposed to a vine-ripened tomato. All the tomatoes I ever saw had white centers and were as bitter as can be. My Mom would always put one slice of tomato on our ice-burg lettuce salad, and both my brother and I would peck around that tomato until it stared back at us with it’s red, slimy seedy eyes. We’d both stab it, force it in our mouths, and chase it down with an entire glass of milk.

Last week I made a huge stride into adult-hood.

I made bruschetta from the tomatoes Carl has been growing in our garden… and I gobbled it up. I am so grown up now. The bruschetta pretty much rocked.

For those who enjoy poetry, here’s my 4th grade poem I wrote about tomatoes:

Oh what a horrible fate
to find a tomato on my plate.

My one and only wish
is for it to disappear from my dish.

Oh what a terrible waste
to have such a yucky taste.

It is such a disgusting crime
to be forced to eat the seeds and slime.

If I could only have my way
I’d make them totally go away.

Pure poetry. Now, to get over olives….

Writer’s Block

I’m not one for believing in fortunes from my fortune cookie, but occasionally there will be a nugget of wisdom or encouragement that will hit home. The above fortune has been posted on my fridge for about a month. I often wonder if I’ll have a creative idea soon or even the time to be creative. The difficult thing about creativity is that I can’t just turn it on with a push of a button. As soon as nap time starts, I can’t just say, “Okay, Marlene, you’ve got 1 hour. Now sit down and be creative.” I need time to stew and sift through my thoughts. Or, more often than not, I just need to take a shower or sit on my bed and stare out into space for a bit. Parenting a toddler is exhausting.

A good friend and my hair-dresser recently asked me this question on the same day: what have you been writing lately? The first thing that I blurted out of my mouth? Shopping lists. Oh, yes… those shopping lists on scraps of paper that I shove into my diaper bag are little gems.

It’s a funny season, this mommy thing. Yet, I hold onto my daily reminder on my fridge that perhaps tomorrow – yes, tomorrow – my creative side with shine forth with exceptional ideas.

Living Off the Land

When Carl comes home from work and asks what’s for dinner, and I tell him that we’re “living off the land,” he usually smiles and shakes his head. He may think it odd, but I like the challenge and resourcefulness of it. Wondering what to do with your leftover bags of rigatoni? Add a jar of bruschetta, dig out the italian sausage in the freezer, and you, my friend, have got Italiano Splendifico.

But now that we’ve entered summertime, we truly can “live off our land” (that is if you want a diet of lemons, cherries, peaches, zucchinis, tomatoes, and grapes). Our small yet productive backyard is bursting right now. I can now Carl a cherry farmer, as he figured out how to defeat the crows this year so we could actually enjoy and share the bounty of our bing cherries. He did some serious acrobatics to wrap our tree with netting, and wallah! … cherry heaven. Who knew they were $7 a pint? Perhaps we should set up a booth at the Farmer’s Market. Nah. It’s been a great way to get to know our neighbors and to share a bit of joy from our own backyard.

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How to Protect Your Noggin

Our little dude has had a rough month landing on his noggin with this new walking business. Once the swelling goes down on one of his bruises and scrapes, bam… another one appears. We figured there’s gotta be a way to protect that sweet noggin of his. Introducing, for the first time ever, the Super Fantastic Noggin Sweatband Protector.

Available in white only, for a limited time.

Being Known

These shoes make me smile every time I see them. A dear friend at one of my baby showers gave them to me. Knowing my love of Michael Jackson’s Thriller days, she knew I’d crack up over the shiny metallic silver shoes, envisioning them on my baby-to-be doing the moonwalk on our hardwood floors. This friend knows me well. We’ve laughed a lot together over the years, and possibly cried more together in public than any other friend I know. It seems like every time we would go out to breakfast together, one of us would run out of Kleenex as we shared the hard things of life.

When I look at these shoes I smile and I’m thankful, because I realize how good it is to be known. I also get a little teary as I’m in a season of life where so many things are new – new town, new community, and new role as a mom. I used to love the adventure of moving some place new and exploring my new surroundings and meeting new people. Yes, there were tears sometimes in the beginning, but after I got over that hurdle, I’d dive right in. Going to six different elementary schools in three different states will teach you how to be adaptable. But making friends as an adult – no, as a wife and as a mom of a new little guy – is exponentially more challenging.

Gone are the dorm-room and summer staff Young Life camp days when you have a new bestie after a few days of bonding. I think I took it for granted as a singleton when I was free to join every evening event or volunteer activity where relationships can be formed so quickly.

At this stage of my life, I feel like I am dating everyone, and it is exhausting. It amazes me how much more effort it takes to get things on the calendar, since the calendar is no longer my own. And when you only see someone once or twice a month, in the midst of babies crying and toddlers running under foot, not only does it take significant discipline to stay focused on a conversation, but it adds to the slowness of moving towards any sort of depth in a friendship.

I often sigh a deep internal sigh when people say, “When I first met you, I thought you were very reserved and quiet.” Oh, new friend, you have no idea. Friends that know me understand that I’d rather have a karaoke microphone in my hand on a Friday night than a glass of fine wine. There is silliness in me that needs to be expressed on a daily basis, or I will burst. It truly is a good thing that I have a little guy who likes to be entertained.

We all long to be known. It’s how God designed us. I just think that feeling is much more acute during this season. At times like these, it’s important for me to remember how God has provided amazing friendships in the past and IS forming new relationships in my life as I write this. Each time that I have moved, I have been given the gift of friendships. These friends are like precious stones that have added to the beautiful path on my journey. Just the other day, one of my new friends made the comment that my middle name should be “fun.” What a compliment, and what joy to know that I am in the process of being known.