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When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

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Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Making room

"My mom wants pictures of us," D says, phone in hand, as he strolls into the living room where I'm curled up on the couch next to a dwindling ball of rusty orange wool. He's just finished telling his parents our latest news: their grandchild is going to be a boy.

I cock an eyebrow at him and break the rhythm of the knitting needles in my fingers. The baby sweater I'm working on is growing by inches, like the belly I've been getting used to having in the last few weeks. The latter's fairly compact and rides low and in front, round enough for our cat to rest her chin on it when she cuddles up on my knees but not so big yet that she can't get comfortable. For me, though, all the stretching my body's doing to accommodate this baby's second-trimester growth spurt actually hurts. I drop my palm to the curve under my navel to massage a sore spot and receive a tiny kick in return.

"From the neck up, right?" I say, offering what I hope D will take to be a half-smile, though I'm really trying to hide my irritation at his mother's request.

"You know she wants to see what you look like," he says gently.

"Mm," I say, but without commitment.

I don't mind my new shape, which is something, given how self-conscious I've always been about my body since high school. It's taken a decade and a half to make peace with my non-pregnant figure -- right at the median ideal weight for my five feet and four inches but short in the neck and torso, slightly thick in the waist, and uneven in the hips thanks to moderate scoliosis. But this recent shift in appearances is different. I'm happy to look like a mother-to-be -- at least, while all the rounding is localized to my midsection. Arms, face, and butt appear to be keeping their proportions for now.

A belly shot for her though? The hair on my neck bristles.

Because of personality differences, I've never wanted to be close with my mother-in-law, as much as she wishes we were -- she's never had a daughter and has always desperately wanted one. So much, she confided in me a few months ago, that she ended up having more children than she'd expected to want just because of that hope, which never came to be after four boys.

I wish I could say I felt somewhat guilty, listening to her admission. But her repeated attempts to foster a closeness I don't desire have felt, over six years, anywhere from pushy to downright suffocating. Most recently, even before we told her I was pregnant, she made a trip to Seattle to look at real estate. "I've got to convince D's dad to move us out here when he retires in a year or two," she said. "I want to be no more than twenty minutes away from you guys, so we can see each other all the time."

Fortunately, D's dad, who'd rather keep the house they have in their small Midwestern town and travel the world nine months out of the year, isn't sold on the idea yet.

Of course, since she learned she was going to be a grandparent, D's mother has been calling and e-mailing more than ever -- going on about the baby clothes she's already made in bright patterns (i.e., garish ones, knowing her taste), offering us the 20-year-old car seat she's saved since her last son was born (hello, new safety standards?), giving advice on managing nausea and fatigue (how about just not calling while I'm taking a nap, which could happen at any time of day?). And it takes everything in my power not to tell her to leave me alone. To let me share this time of planning and preparing because I want to, not because she's forced her involvement upon me.

"I know you'd like her to back off, but I think she just wants to feel included," a friend commented not long before we learned the baby's gender. I'd reached the bounds of my patience that day -- D's mother had told me that she'd knitted a pretty newborn hat for the granddaughter she was hoping we'd provide.

"Having to include her is exactly what's putting me off," I said. Never mind her renewed girl-hunger, the root of her overeager attempts to get closer to me.

"I'd find a way to let her think she's part of the action," my friend suggested, "but within limits you can be okay with. Give her a project whose outcome you don't care so much about or tell her exactly what you'd like to have. Otherwise, she'll just keep doing what she's doing."

I know it's good advice -- D's mother has never been one to give up, so giving her concrete requests on what to make or purchase to focus her runaway nesting instincts will help occupy her in less irritating ways. But letting her ogle my pregnant belly? Completely out of the question.

*

This post was inspired by a prompt from Mama Kat's weekly Writer's Workshop. Check out more stories and essays by clicking the button below!

Mama’s Losin’ It

8 comments:

Danelle said...

I never did pregnant belly shots for anyone. Especially my mother-in-law! Good luck!

Nitewriter said...

Had similar issues with my late MIL. Fortunately she lived 8 hours away! But she did show up immediately after both boys were born -- had to be the first of the grands to see the baby. Can we say PUSHY!

C. Troubadour said...

Danelle -- thanks for visiting. I appreciate the good wishes! We need all we can get.

Nitewriter -- I see you've reinvented your bloggy self! Hope you're well :). And yes, MIL is several flights from us (probably 8 hours from airport check-in to baggage claim with layovers), but she's only a phone call away these days. I just don't answer anymore and keep everything to e-mail so I can watch what I say before I let something out I'll regret ...

BigLittleWolf said...

I smiled reading this. I actually loved my in-laws, and wished they were closer. My own mother... a different story. And a long history that explains it.

But what is it about her that bugs you? If you know, is it anything you can do something about - or she could?

As for in-laws moving closer and you don't want them to, my fingers are crossed for you. No one needs that pressure when things aren't smooth as silk. On the other hand, once your son is here, you will want breaks, and family can provide them if they're anywhere in the vicinity.

Nitewriter said...

CT - I'm famous for avoiding the phone. Gotta LOVE caller ID! "oh you called? I'm so sorry. I forgot to check the voice mail when I got home." After a while, I had a reputation for being absent-minded about voice mail. I rarely checked that little red blinky light on the cordless phone.

And as for cell phone? MIL only had DH's number. Never gave her my cell number.

C. Troubadour said...

BLW -- I figured some people might be amused :). There is a long history that explains what personality differences keep me from being able to like my mother-in-law, but the primary things that repeatedly get in the way are (1) socially awkward comments that I don't have any way to respond to politely and (2) her inability to read social cues that most people seem to recognize. Communication, then, becomes a frequent struggle -- I can't bring myself to be as blunt as is necessary to get her to recognize my boundaries for herself instead of having to distract her from getting too close to them. I'm still trying to figure out what I can do that won't also offend D. (She is his mother, after all.) I appreciate your finger-crossing ...

Nitewriter -- I use the time zone difference between our cities as a convenient reason not to call. "Oh, when I checked my phone messages, it was already too late in the evening to call you back, so I thought I'd e-mail instead."

Kristen @ Motherese said...

Ahh, mothers-in-law. They are a tricky lot, are they not? Family dynamics are always slippery, but, in my experience, there's something extra twisty when it comes to mothers and their sons - which, of course, applies to both of us. (But I know neither of us will be a MIL from Hell!)

My mother-in-law is a force of nature. She is a powerful, difficult women. But in my marriage, she and I get along fine, whereas she and her son (i.e. my husband) barely communicate. And things have only gotten more difficult between them since we had kids.

I too will keep my fingers crossed for you, hoping that you manage to keep her at bay and that she finds a way of making you want to let her in (if that makes any sense).

C. Troubadour said...

Thanks, Kristen. It's all about navigating that tricky minefield of what to say and how to say it in order to place boundaries where I'm comfortable rather than having to make boundaries out of silence and physical walls. I know if I don't figure out a way, I'll turn into a hermit whenever D's mother is around, and I'm not inclined to become one!

I am glad you get along with your mother-in-law. I have empathy for your husband -- strained relations in one's immediate family are just as painful if not more so.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Making room

"My mom wants pictures of us," D says, phone in hand, as he strolls into the living room where I'm curled up on the couch next to a dwindling ball of rusty orange wool. He's just finished telling his parents our latest news: their grandchild is going to be a boy.

I cock an eyebrow at him and break the rhythm of the knitting needles in my fingers. The baby sweater I'm working on is growing by inches, like the belly I've been getting used to having in the last few weeks. The latter's fairly compact and rides low and in front, round enough for our cat to rest her chin on it when she cuddles up on my knees but not so big yet that she can't get comfortable. For me, though, all the stretching my body's doing to accommodate this baby's second-trimester growth spurt actually hurts. I drop my palm to the curve under my navel to massage a sore spot and receive a tiny kick in return.

"From the neck up, right?" I say, offering what I hope D will take to be a half-smile, though I'm really trying to hide my irritation at his mother's request.

"You know she wants to see what you look like," he says gently.

"Mm," I say, but without commitment.

I don't mind my new shape, which is something, given how self-conscious I've always been about my body since high school. It's taken a decade and a half to make peace with my non-pregnant figure -- right at the median ideal weight for my five feet and four inches but short in the neck and torso, slightly thick in the waist, and uneven in the hips thanks to moderate scoliosis. But this recent shift in appearances is different. I'm happy to look like a mother-to-be -- at least, while all the rounding is localized to my midsection. Arms, face, and butt appear to be keeping their proportions for now.

A belly shot for her though? The hair on my neck bristles.

Because of personality differences, I've never wanted to be close with my mother-in-law, as much as she wishes we were -- she's never had a daughter and has always desperately wanted one. So much, she confided in me a few months ago, that she ended up having more children than she'd expected to want just because of that hope, which never came to be after four boys.

I wish I could say I felt somewhat guilty, listening to her admission. But her repeated attempts to foster a closeness I don't desire have felt, over six years, anywhere from pushy to downright suffocating. Most recently, even before we told her I was pregnant, she made a trip to Seattle to look at real estate. "I've got to convince D's dad to move us out here when he retires in a year or two," she said. "I want to be no more than twenty minutes away from you guys, so we can see each other all the time."

Fortunately, D's dad, who'd rather keep the house they have in their small Midwestern town and travel the world nine months out of the year, isn't sold on the idea yet.

Of course, since she learned she was going to be a grandparent, D's mother has been calling and e-mailing more than ever -- going on about the baby clothes she's already made in bright patterns (i.e., garish ones, knowing her taste), offering us the 20-year-old car seat she's saved since her last son was born (hello, new safety standards?), giving advice on managing nausea and fatigue (how about just not calling while I'm taking a nap, which could happen at any time of day?). And it takes everything in my power not to tell her to leave me alone. To let me share this time of planning and preparing because I want to, not because she's forced her involvement upon me.

"I know you'd like her to back off, but I think she just wants to feel included," a friend commented not long before we learned the baby's gender. I'd reached the bounds of my patience that day -- D's mother had told me that she'd knitted a pretty newborn hat for the granddaughter she was hoping we'd provide.

"Having to include her is exactly what's putting me off," I said. Never mind her renewed girl-hunger, the root of her overeager attempts to get closer to me.

"I'd find a way to let her think she's part of the action," my friend suggested, "but within limits you can be okay with. Give her a project whose outcome you don't care so much about or tell her exactly what you'd like to have. Otherwise, she'll just keep doing what she's doing."

I know it's good advice -- D's mother has never been one to give up, so giving her concrete requests on what to make or purchase to focus her runaway nesting instincts will help occupy her in less irritating ways. But letting her ogle my pregnant belly? Completely out of the question.

*

This post was inspired by a prompt from Mama Kat's weekly Writer's Workshop. Check out more stories and essays by clicking the button below!

Mama’s Losin’ It

8 comments:

Danelle said...

I never did pregnant belly shots for anyone. Especially my mother-in-law! Good luck!

Nitewriter said...

Had similar issues with my late MIL. Fortunately she lived 8 hours away! But she did show up immediately after both boys were born -- had to be the first of the grands to see the baby. Can we say PUSHY!

C. Troubadour said...

Danelle -- thanks for visiting. I appreciate the good wishes! We need all we can get.

Nitewriter -- I see you've reinvented your bloggy self! Hope you're well :). And yes, MIL is several flights from us (probably 8 hours from airport check-in to baggage claim with layovers), but she's only a phone call away these days. I just don't answer anymore and keep everything to e-mail so I can watch what I say before I let something out I'll regret ...

BigLittleWolf said...

I smiled reading this. I actually loved my in-laws, and wished they were closer. My own mother... a different story. And a long history that explains it.

But what is it about her that bugs you? If you know, is it anything you can do something about - or she could?

As for in-laws moving closer and you don't want them to, my fingers are crossed for you. No one needs that pressure when things aren't smooth as silk. On the other hand, once your son is here, you will want breaks, and family can provide them if they're anywhere in the vicinity.

Nitewriter said...

CT - I'm famous for avoiding the phone. Gotta LOVE caller ID! "oh you called? I'm so sorry. I forgot to check the voice mail when I got home." After a while, I had a reputation for being absent-minded about voice mail. I rarely checked that little red blinky light on the cordless phone.

And as for cell phone? MIL only had DH's number. Never gave her my cell number.

C. Troubadour said...

BLW -- I figured some people might be amused :). There is a long history that explains what personality differences keep me from being able to like my mother-in-law, but the primary things that repeatedly get in the way are (1) socially awkward comments that I don't have any way to respond to politely and (2) her inability to read social cues that most people seem to recognize. Communication, then, becomes a frequent struggle -- I can't bring myself to be as blunt as is necessary to get her to recognize my boundaries for herself instead of having to distract her from getting too close to them. I'm still trying to figure out what I can do that won't also offend D. (She is his mother, after all.) I appreciate your finger-crossing ...

Nitewriter -- I use the time zone difference between our cities as a convenient reason not to call. "Oh, when I checked my phone messages, it was already too late in the evening to call you back, so I thought I'd e-mail instead."

Kristen @ Motherese said...

Ahh, mothers-in-law. They are a tricky lot, are they not? Family dynamics are always slippery, but, in my experience, there's something extra twisty when it comes to mothers and their sons - which, of course, applies to both of us. (But I know neither of us will be a MIL from Hell!)

My mother-in-law is a force of nature. She is a powerful, difficult women. But in my marriage, she and I get along fine, whereas she and her son (i.e. my husband) barely communicate. And things have only gotten more difficult between them since we had kids.

I too will keep my fingers crossed for you, hoping that you manage to keep her at bay and that she finds a way of making you want to let her in (if that makes any sense).

C. Troubadour said...

Thanks, Kristen. It's all about navigating that tricky minefield of what to say and how to say it in order to place boundaries where I'm comfortable rather than having to make boundaries out of silence and physical walls. I know if I don't figure out a way, I'll turn into a hermit whenever D's mother is around, and I'm not inclined to become one!

I am glad you get along with your mother-in-law. I have empathy for your husband -- strained relations in one's immediate family are just as painful if not more so.