Friday, October 23, 2009

Transparently Talkative

I have always talked too much. And too loudly. And too much about myself.


Even as a kid.


When I had my adenoids taken out as a little girl, the doctors warned Mom and Dad that I wouldn’t feel like talking for a couple of days. My parents’ dream of peace and quiet was shattered as they entered my hospital room, and I chattered on like a monkey about my surroundings, my surgery, and the ice cream flavors I expected.


Growing up, I remember Mom constantly making a hand gesture that looked like she was frantically trying to stop an explosion and her calm, patient voice repeating “Lower your voice,” over and over.


Specifically, in high school, I remember talking to one of my girlfriends in the public restroom during an on-the-road stop-over with our volleyball (girls) and soccer (boys) teams. When we came out, the entire soccer team was staring at us.


Later, we learned everyone could hear every word I said. And I, apparently, had given a little TMI.


When it comes to saying too much, I am queen.


At four years old, I marched up to the wife of my Dad’s boss and told her the mole on her face made her look ugly. Dad rushed in to tug me away. Later in the car, I heard him lament to Mom, “I knew I was in trouble as soon as she headed over there!”


I have spent a good portion of my life apologizing for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. My mouth tends to process the words, the quips, the barbs, and the absolute worst thing to say at a much faster pace than my brain seems to be able to censor them.


And, as we all know, once the words are out – they’re out for good.


This was my Achilles’ heel. If Ann-Marie was known for one thing, it was being too much of a blabbermouth. Go ahead and ask my friends and family from those days. I shared way too much information at the top of my lungs.


It wasn’t until after college when I learned about a new word.


A word that would change my life.


Transparency.


I don’t remember where I heard it first. I do remember thinking it had something to do with being skinny, such as “She was so skinny you could see right through her! Man, she was transparent!”

Later, of course, I learned what it really meant.

As people bandied the word about, I was sort of surprised. My whole life I had been told I needed to keep my life to myself. As my husband likes to say, “No one needs a degree in Ann-Marie.”

Now, apparently, telling the whole world about your sad sack life was considered a heroic, selfless act of character. Being a loudmouth was suddenly in vogue!

Again, apparently, most people like to put on a brave face about how great their lives are, or at least not harp on how bad/dreary/depressing they are, and dropping that fa├žade was this wonderful breath of fresh air. Finally being able to share the struggles, the trials, and the disappointments was a breath of fresh air, and the whole world was all a twitter about transparency.

Many well-meaning people have told me how much they appreciate my transparency. I have to be honest and say, “No, thank YOU for listening to me drone on and on.”

It is NOT hard for me to be an open book. I am the kind of open book that would follow you around the store and demand you read me, if you know what I’m saying.

One of the reasons I’m such a fan of blogging, is that it gives me an outlet to exposit my life, and people can choose if they want to “listen” or not.

Like bloggers worldwide, my eyes light up when people leave comments, and I feel the connection between my cyberpals, near and far.

So, going forth, you can continue to expect transparency at The Lefthanded Rabbit.

It’s just the sort of heroic, selfless, character-building thing you would expect of me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Back from Hiatus

Oh, blog! How I have missed you! I never realized how much I would miss writing.

Can I tell you what has really shocked me these past few months?

I had nothing to blog about.

Seriously, I’ve been so busy, and yet…nothing.

There’s the baby. Of course, there’s the baby. But, I found I didn’t want to blog about the baby. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the baby. I adore the baby. I don’t get to spend enough time with baby, etc.

But what was going on with baby…goes on with every baby. Again, don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatically happy our sweet Sam is healthy and (for the most part) happy. For a time, I became consumed, on a practical level, with pacifiers, bottles, feeding, fussiness, etc.

But I didn’t want to blog about that. It isn’t the least bit interesting. Babies are like decorative plate collections; they’re only interesting to people who currently have them.

I am unbelievably grateful to my wonderful friends, family, co-workers, and church family for supporting me, giving me advice, and standing by my side. I am indebted to Candice, my baby guru; my friend, the incomparable Carleen, for having her son a mere two months before Sam, and all my church friends for stocking the baby nursery to FULL – there’s five babies in the nursery now, and Sam’s still the only boy!

In midst of becoming parents, we managed to finish downsizing our foreclosed two story (plus basement) house into a small two bedroom apartment. We finished grieving over our bankruptcy, car loss, and Brett’s unemployed status.

We are still fighting an uphill battle financially with hospital bills and a legal argument with unemployment (they want their money back, and we (duh) don’t have it to GIVE back). Thanks to the tenacity of the money-grubbing, ruthless, temp company Brett worked for briefly, he is not receiving unemployment benefits. Instead, we are being solely supported by my small paycheck.

I don’t say this to make you feel sorry for us. I’m not throwing a pity party.

In truth, I didn’t really struggle with going back to work – not like some women struggle. Sometimes, God is crystal clear in His plan for you. It was like that for me. God shut all the doors, but one. So, I stepped through it.

For the meantime, Brett is a stay-at-home dad. And a good one, at that. The Lord gave me great peace in going back to work, and one morning, as I was struggling with leaving, a thought came to me that eased the pressure tremendously.

“God is the one providing. I am only the conduit.”

Now, before I break into a chorus of “Channels Only,” let me break that down for you. I had to realize I couldn’t “boast” in my job or being a provider, because I am not the one who is providing. God is, and He’s chosen to use me, for now, as the one through whom He will channel His provision.

Do I wish I had the choice to stay home? Sure, I wish I had the choice. But I don’t, so in a way it was easier for me. God wanted me out in the world for His own reasons. By the same token, He wanted Brett home with Sam. He is at work in both of our lives, and who am I to question it?

I am blessed beyond measure with a job I dearly love. There are times when I feel the hammer hitting home on the things we’ve lost, and then I realize there is still so much to be grateful for.

My Pollyanna spirit can’t help but be thankful for my job, a roof over our heads, food in our pantry, and family and friends who bolster our downtrodden spirits on a daily basis. Add in a healthy baby, and shower gifts that have provided so fruitfully for Sam that we’ve hardly had to buy a thing!

In a lot of ways, going back to work helped me preserve a little of the sanity I had felt slipping away. Immersing myself in the hubbub of our office, currently in an ever-changing state of moving offices and changing personnel, made me feel like I was part of the human race again.

Those first few weeks after giving birth, I felt like an alien. Everything is so foreign and unfamiliar. I had never believed it was possible to be so tired. And no one had told me that everything hurts – for a long time – after having a baby. I couldn’t sit or stand without gallons and buckets of ouchies.

I fly my pain wuss flag bravely, and if I’m ever pregnant again, it will be an act of God (it was an act of God the first time, anyway).

And not to keep beating a dead horse (lovely analogy for an animal lover, eh?) but if one more person acts shocked that we’ve decided to have one child, I’m going to hit them over the head with my ovaries.

Please. It’s what we want. Do we criticize people for having more than one? I mean, we could. Anyway, I’m getting off my soapbox now.

Getting back to being back at work – I must say that I’d forgotten how much I love what I do. My new job has me buried neck deep in creative copy – my favorite – and happily writing, editing, proofreading, and spending time developing my very own specialized Girl Scout troop.

I truly love working with the girls. It’s amazing to watch them grow and change. I love the first time they interact with a news crew or get interviewed by a reporter. Their eyes just light up and I remember the first time I realized what I was born to do. I see how that same love of sharing information, becoming a spokesperson, and learning how to be an informed and passionate gatekeeper sparks their interest in just about every way.

I don’t mean to criticize my mom, but I truly wish she had signed me up for Girl Scouts. These girls develop a tight knit community where they accept one another and bond over shared experiences apart from traditional school, neighborhood, and church groups. Girl Scouts is living proof that you can make a community out of any group of people who come together with the desire to build relationships while changing the world.

It’s not a sales pitch, but after nine years of working for the Girl Scouts, I can honestly say I agree 100% with the Girl Scout Promise –

On my honor, I will try
To serve God and my country
To help people at all times
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

I do miss Sam while I’m at work, of course. But it also makes coming home that much sweeter. It makes me appreciate his smiles, coos, and laughter even more.

My friend Angie said it best. “When some men come home after working all day, they just want some peace and quiet. Instead, their wives often thrust the children at them, because they really need a break. With you, it’s different. You come home from work and what you want most is to see your baby! So, Brett gets a break, and neither one of you feels guilty!”

Angie always makes me feel better about my life. She’s the friend who will find a silver lining, even if it’s just the duct tape holding up your cardboard house. I don’t know what I’d do without her.

I know our situation is hardly unique, what with so many men out of work here. I recently read how this generation of children is being raised by their unemployed fathers while their mothers work. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Fathers are parents, too.

Being part of an “untraditional” family is certainly challenging, and there are days I wish I had normal family circumstances.

But, when you think about it, when have I ever been normal?

Uh-huh.

So why start now?