Facing my sibling envy

Two weeks ago (ish) one of my younger sisters sent us the message that she and her husband were expecting their first child. I completely hate admitting it, but my first reaction wasn’t joy. My heart sank a little. I was jealous.

I’m one of 6 children. My brother and I are from my dad’s first marriage (and our mom’s only), and my four younger sisters are from his second. There’s 11 years between myself and my next youngest sister — the one who’s married and expecting. I’ve never been particularly close with any of my sisters, one of the issues of our age differences — but with this sister, we never really had a good relationship. It’s better now, but we’re not close. Only 2 years between me and my older brother, who has 3 children. It didn’t really bug me when my brother got married or had kids. My eldest niece is 11 — I was a college junior in China when she was born. It was one of those things that, you know, I was on the path to as well. I mean, I was 21 and getting ready to start my adult life, surely that would include settling down and having my own kids, right?

At 32… None of that has happened. I don’t have a career, per say. I don’t have kids. I don’t even have a relationship (and haven’t in years). And here is my little sister, married before she graduated college (in 3 years, no less), and now with a baby on the way. She has the life I thought I would have, the life I thought I wanted.

Do I want a family? Yeah. But is my life lacking because I’m childless and single? Far from it. When I actually stop and look at it. I have a pretty amazing life. I went from college to Chicago, made friends and traveled a lot — had so many adventures with Mucca. And now I’m on a totally new journey through grad school and looking at phD programs. There’s also the issue that I have endometriosis. I’m considering a pretty drastic route for my treatment, and there will be no getting pregnant in my future. That part of my life might not be awesome, but it’s just a fact of my life. But when I’m being honest with myself, I’ve never been excited about infants (or the idea of being responsible for one 24/7) — adoption was always an option.

Sibling envy is a really easy trap to fall into, and it’s quick to turn into sibling resentment. I hear it sometimes when I talk about school and such, and my brother is quick to point out all the things he has and salary he makes without having gone to college. It’s not that he wants me to feel bad, but he wants to reassure himself that his life also has value. In all these comparisons, it’s easy to feel like one person’s route is merely just an attempt to be better than the rest. I’m not going to grad school because I think I’m better or smarter than my siblings. I’m doing it because it’s right for my life and I love it. My little sister isn’t married or having kids before me out of any spite or notion or consideration to me, really, because it’s what’s right for her life.

I love my siblings, and I am very happy for all of them and their journeys. I hope they are for me as well. We may be blood, but we are 6 very different and individualized people. Our paths are bound to be unique. Things will happen at different times or not at all. We’ll end up in various places. So while I might still feel a bit of a pang for the life I once thought I’d have, I can’t let that blind me to the joy that my actual life has. Or from being happy for my sister during a momentous time of her life.

Finals and funerals

The last week was very long and challenging.

Firstly, it was Finals week. The culmination of the last 3 months of studying. I felt mostly confident about each exam. However, Saturday, April 25th — a handful of days before my exams were supposed to begin — my grandfather passed away.

I had my niece with me on Friday night, we had just gotten dinner with my mom when she got a call that they were taking Grandpa to the hospital. All we knew at that time was that he had passed out after his dialysis. Mom went to the ER to see what was going on, and I took my niece back to my place.

The next morning, I checked in with my mom to see what was going on. She had let me know last night that they were keeping him over night. It was half past eleven when she finally got ahold of me. “Dad is not doing well. They are just trying to make him comfortable now.” I gathered my niece and we went over to the hospital to be with my family.

Grandpa had a major heart attack during dialysis. They didn’t really know, just thought he had a bad day and sent him home. Grandpa didn’t really want to go to the hospital anyway. Even had they gotten him to the hospital earlier, it’s unlikely the outcome would have changed.

Once I knew when the funeral was scheduled, I got ahold of the appropriate professors and rearranged my finals. It didn’t even really hit me, or sink in, until the night before the funeral, after I had finished 3 of my 4 finals. While I’ve felt sadness around this, I’ve mostly just felt this overwhelming exhaustion. I got to a certain point in my studies that I just had to not care about my exams any more and just accept whatever happens with them because I just had no more energy, emotional or mental, to expend on them any more.

I had my last final the morning after the funeral. It was the one I was most worried about. It’s the only class I wasn’t getting an A in, and I had no clue how I was going to do overall. I’m still really curious how everything’s going to turn out in that class. Final grades aren’t posted yet. I’m just hoping I was coherent on the exam. I know I filled the blue book entirely, but yeah…

I made it through the week. And I’m thankful I’ve got this week off to just decompress. It’s just still hard to believe all of this happened — that all of it happened last week.

What is Your Dream?

“I believe that everyone has a story. Everyone has dreams. They’re just waiting for the opportunity to take that adventure and go for it.” – TJ Smith

My buddy TJ, with the help of Canon, put together this film to help encourage and inspire others to tell a better story, to bring it. And through this challenge, he decided to gift his friends with one of their dreams they hadn’t been able to accomplish for whatever reason. And it really resonated with me.

When I put together my new life list, you may have noticed a little comment on one of them — the one about the national parks — about visiting the ones my grandfather had visited.*

Grandpa meant a lot to me, and after his funeral this year, I found myself lamenting that I hadn’t taken the time to record any of his stories. There were so many stories. So many stories. I don’t recall one single visit at Grandma and Grandpa’s where we didn’t hear one story — it may have been one we heard before, but still.

And as a child, those stories also came with a slide show. I loved setting up the screen and projector to click through reel after reel of slides. My favorites were from their trips to Alaska and the National Parks. And Grandpa and I could talk about the parks for days. We’d look through National Geographic together, and watch VHS documentaries over and over again.

We’d talk about how he wanted to take us to Yosemite and Yellowstone, to start out the parks. Or a family trip and cruise to Alaska with my dad, aunt, and all of us grandkids (though there were only 3 of us when he was considering this). I’d be daydreaming about Devil’s Tower and Redwoods and orca sightings…

It’s probably not surprising that one of my dreams is to visit the same National Parks and monuments that grandpa did. It’s part of a sort of bucket list project to incorporate more of his life and adventures into my own journey. It’s part tribute, part expedition. If I can’t remember his stories, then at least parts of them can be the basis for some new ones for me.

really don’t want this to be a dream that gets away or only lives in the ether. I need this one to come true — if only for the simple reason that I miss my grandpa so much. So my dad’s helping me come up with a list of the parks and monuments he visited, and well, I’ve got to get working on saving up for this grand adventure.

So what are your dreams that you haven’t been able to get started on, but just can let go?

*Also on that list is “do a barrel roll in a pup plane” — which is another great story from my grandpa, only I hope when I do it, the top doesn’t come off the plane!

a letter to my bubby

I don’t remember who taught me how to ride a bike, but you inspired me to do so without fear. You attempted to teach me various sports, and stuck with me, though I was never any good at them. You let me tag along with you and your friends on various adventures, and not even tease me that much. We’d rough house, but never (intentionally) get too rough. And we’d fight, but always forgive each other. I bit your arm. You head-butted my nose. Twice.

You never seemed to care that I was practically your shadow. Wherever you were, I wanted to be. Whatever you did, I wanted to do. Model cars, video games, riding bike by the creek, scouts, custom cars with too loud stereos… I played the same instruments as you did in band — with the exception of the tuba, because yeah, that’s too much for me. And I joined the boys track team as manager my freshman year so I could come to all your meets during your senior year. Given our lives together, it shouldn’t seem surprising that my first word was your name.

You always watch over me, and I always feel safe knowing you are around. We don’t always see eye-to-eye, but we understand each other. We may not be as close as we once were — time and distance can have that affect. But we love each other.

I’m so happy to call you my big brother. Happy birthday, bubby. Thank you for giving me three beautiful, amazing nieces for me to love on and spoil.

A toast, to the crazy kid I’m happy I got to share my childhood with!

timmy02a

timmy01a

Tim’s first word was “kitty”… He was quite fond of our grandfather’s cat. Even stuck the cat’s face in his mouth — a toddler’s kiss. (However, the cat pictured was the cat we got in 1989, when I was in kindergarden. Named “Kitty” though. Of course.)

a eulogy for my grandfather

My grandfather, Glen Edwin S., passed away on Thursday, January 9th, 2014. He hadn’t been well for some time, and Grandma said that the day before he really hadn’t been doing well at all.

I remember going home for my brother, Tim’s birthday almost two years ago. It was March, and I was told Grandpa wasn’t doing well and might not make it to Easter. I wanted one last good memory with him. However, Easter came and went and Grandpa was still with us. And other than his usual grumpiness, he seemed to be doing fine.

Grandpa was always sweet with me, though. For 11 years, I was the only granddaughter — and that held some sway with the old man. That’s not to say he loved my brother or my cousin any less, nor my half sisters when they came along. But there was something special that Grandpa and I shared. Grandpa and I were almost always partners in Skip-Bo, and we almost always won.

Tim, Matt, and I spent a lot of time together at our grandparents while growing up. We spent a lot of time at the house, but Grandpa would also take us on adventures to various cemeteries looking for various relatives. Or sometimes we’d trek down to the family farm together, generally also to look at the cemetery. But Grandpa also taught us how to use and respect tools during afternoons at the workbench in the garage. I can’t remember what the boys made, but Grandpa helped me build a small corral for the wooden horses I painted. He also taught each of us how to use the lathe — but I was too young to really use it without supervision, and plus, there were far more interesting things inside the house.

No matter how many times I had been there and seen everything, there was always something to discover at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Grandpa would always tell me about every object whenever I asked, where it came from and when, and there would always be a story or two to accompany it. My grandfather was full of stories. I could sit there all day and listen to him tell of his own adventures, or share stories about our family. And though genealogy was a passion of his, Grandpa’s true nature was that of a storyteller. It’s one thing I think I’ll miss most.

There were a lot from the war, where Grandpa was a Navy SeaBee. I remember him telling us about a pig that followed them from camp to camp — or maybe that was the one about the monkey. I remember him telling about his time on Okinawa, arriving first so they could build the runways for the rest of the troops. Grandpa loved telling us about his days as a pilot — though, as he was quick to remind us, even at the end, he was always still a pilot, he just couldn’t pass his physical any more. There was the time he flew his friend’s modified pup plane, where he did a barrel roll and the top came off. Or the time he and Grandma went up and he had to have her keep an eye on the ground so they could land.

Grandpa was a gruff and sometimes stubborn man. He was a Quaker, who though he had an extraordinary life, lived simply. You didn’t buy anything if you couldn’t pay for it in cash, and you didn’t fuss over things that didn’t need to be fussed about. He might have been stern with us, but Grandpa loved us kids, even if he never said so directly. Family brought joy to his life — and he brought joy to us, in his own, sometimes grumpy, way.

We say that he has gone to a better place — but Grandpa will never truly be gone. He is always with each of us who loved him. It is not for us to think of him as if he was lost from our lives, but rather that we continue forth with him as our companion, celebrating and honoring his life. So I’ll think of him with every crossword puzzle. Remember how he taught me to savor my cookies. Be comforted in the memory of his smile… He’ll be in the small things and the quiet moments, forever by my side. I will miss my Grandpa, and will always be grateful for the time and warm memories I have of him.

Today is the memorial service for my grandfather, where this eulogy was read.

honoring and celebrating amidst the stress

A little over a week ago, my grandfather passed away. He was 95 (and half). I haven’t said much about it online because I wasn’t quite sure what to say — what words would be enough.*

It feels like so much has happened this month already. One stress to another, just compiling all on top of each other. And while I wouldn’t say the passing of my grandfather is necessarily stressful, in comparison to the others, but the flood of emotions is definitely taxing. It’s all just unfortunate timing.

So now, amidst unpacking and setting up my new apartment, I’m now scouring through my closet trying to find an appropriate dress for the funeral. Yes, I have a handful of black dress, and yes, even some of them are nice. But I do not want to wear black for mourning. I want to find something that celebrates his life — which is a lot to put on one dress. If I had a yellow one, I’d wear it. It was his favorite color, though really just one we could see properly.

Oh, what a start to the year. There’s just a lot of conflicting emotions. Just under two years ago, we weren’t sure how long he’d be with us. But he surprised us all. Living on with only one kidney at 20% functionality. My visits home to see him were generally always good. You could tell age was catching up with him, definitely. But around me, he always seemed somewhat fine, given all the circumstances. I had gotten used to the idea that grandpa was just too stubborn to go. In fact, at Christmas he declared he decided he would live to be 100. I didn’t really doubt or question it — though life wasn’t perfect for him, at the rate he was going I assumed he might.

And so it’s been hard to come to terms with the fact that he actually isn’t here any more. I mean, he will always be with me in some manner of speaking for the rest of my life… But still. Grandpa has passed. And though I hate the term “moving on” in regards to such circumstances… I will indeed as one must, continue to live, and do so hoping that I honor him.

He’s the first grandparent that I’ve lost, and one that I was quite close to. I’ve had the misfortune of already losing a parent, my late stepmom — mother to my half sisters. It’s hard losing people who have such influence over your life. I wish I could have spent more time with him. Though, yes, I am grateful for all the memories we share. My choice to move to Chicago put distance between myself and my family. But I can’t regret it, and I cannot play games of “what if.”

I love my grandfather, and miss him terribly — more than I’ll allow myself to admit. He was a good man; stubborn and sometimes grumpy, but we loved him all the same. He helped shape much of who I am today. And I will always carry him with me.

Glen Edwin S.

*I have, however, written a eulogy — sort of as a process of healing, but mostly in honor — which I will be posting here on the day of the funeral. It will also be read at the memorial service.

Holidays are for family, however you define it.

Thanksgiving! Turkey! Family! Pie! Eating until the tryptophan sets in then loafing on the couch watching reruns or football, and just enjoying each other company. Seeing how much whipped cream you can put on your pie before grandma gives you that look of “you’re ruining the pie.”

Somehow, I managed to completely forget last year’s Thanksgiving. I remember the year before that’s because it was just me and the cats. I made a cornish game hen instead of a turkey, but didn’t skimp on the rest. Also, having a whole pie to yourself is awesome. However, last year I went home. Mom and I had a simple Thanksgiving together. We made squash soup, roasted root veggies, and a small turkey breast. Oh, and I made my first pumpkin pie.

This year, well, I’m still in Chicago. I went home a couple weeks ago for the twin’s baby shower and making two trips in one month is hard, especially with Christmas and the twin’s birth coming up in December. (Or, at least, that’s when we’re assuming the twins might come. Due date is actually in January, but the doctor only gave her a few more weeks.) Regardless, I’m still here.

Later tonight I’ll head over to spend the evening with some of my Mucca family, but other than that it’s going to be a quiet day.

At first I was sort of upset. I spend so much time alone anyway right now because of the whole unemployment thing, spending a holiday alone wasn’t appealing. Also, I love cooking Thanksgiving-style meals, but wasn’t sure I wanted to go through the effort just for myself. I’ve got a tiny kitchen and that thing’s a pain when you try to do anything too elaborate.

But I’ve got my Muccas tonight, and we’ll have a great time and I’ll still get my turkey. (And hopefully pie!)

Holidays as an adult are definitely different. Not necessarily in big ways, but at least for me, they definitely signify the importance of family — blood related or not. In my family, I’m the one who moved away. When I was little, it was my aunt and uncle — my mom’s siblings — who were the ones who moved away, both to California, though different towns. I rarely saw them as a kid, at least not until my aunt moved back to Indiana… but still, my uncle and his family stayed there and he’s still someone I’m not close to. Chicago isn’t terribly far away, as most of my family is in Indiana, but it can feel like I’m across the country. I have no easy means of getting home. So I miss a lot of the small things. And with two more nieces on the way, it’s really hitting hard.

For me, holidays are homecomings. They’re about family, the people important to you. Each of us find our own ways of celebrating these relationships. For some it’s Friendsgiving, for others it’s traveling to numerous houses so they can make sure they spend a little time either everyone. I still haven’t found my tradition yet. But I’m very grateful for the opportunities I have to go home and be with my family. And I’m also very thankful for my friends, the people who’ve become a family to me. I’m blessed to have them all in my life.

in the family: junk food habits

I think everyone has their guilty pleasure, junk food habits. I’ve got to say, though, I don’t consider mine a guilty pleasure–there’s no guilt there. It’s in our family.

Ladies and gentlemen of the internets, I am in love with chips and dip. Specifically ruffle chips with french onion dip. We sort of joke about the fact that you can’t really be an S, unless you eat chips and dip, and you eat that stuff with conviction. Or in my dad’s case, a spoon.*

It’s become this weird comfort food for me. And it really wasn’t something that I actually sought out on my own until recently. Normally it’s just one of those staples at grandma’s house and that was that. But for the past two or so years, I get these little cravings and nothing will satisfy me until I get some chips and dip. Lately it’s all I could think about for two months and so I caved in my last grocery trip.

I finished an entire bag of chips and a container of dip in two days. Actually, as is normally the case with me and my family, we finish the dip before the chips. It doesn’t just taste good, but it gives me that little sense of home that I sometimes miss. And I’ve found myself more and more stocking my kitchen like my grandparents’. I mean, who else taught me to have a chocolate drawer in my fridge?

But even though this food brings me happiness, I’m going to be careful… because no one wants to admit they devoured half a tub of french onion dip in one sitting… Well, unless you’re in an eating contest with my dad.

So what sort of junk food turned comfort food does your family love? What are those foods that may not be good for you, but just scream “this is home, this is family” every time you eat them?

*No joke. How else are you supposed to deal with the tiny crumbs and that last bit of dip?

Being part of the joke (20SB Blog Swap: Childhood Summer Vacation)

Hi!  My name is Jacque, and I’m the blogger over at The Dapper Lass. I mostly write about books, tea, and my life in general. Erini and I are partners in 20sb’s 2012 Blog Swap. You can find Erini’s post over on my blog.

The idea is to write about our favorite childhood summer vacation. To be honest, I feel like it’s been so long ago that I will never be able to remember all the details of any of my summer vacations. I’m only 22, but that childhood amnesia has already set in.

Every year, my dad’s side of the family usually gets together for a week long family vacation. Because of schedule conflicts, we haven’t been able to make it the past four years, but we went a lot when I was little. Nowadays, we all meet up in the Outer Banks in North Carolina. The amount of lighthouses I’ve toured at this point has become completely ridiculous. I’ve had three or four different surfing instructors (I’m still pretty hopeless at it).

The traditional vacationing spot when I was little, though, was whatever Jellystone Park we picked that year. Does Jellystone Park sound familiar? It should. That’s Yogi Bear’s park. There are even pictures of us posing with wooden cutouts of Yogi, Boo-boo, and Cindy Bear. Boo-boo was my favorite. He even came to our camp one year.

The places aren’t really what stick out in my head. Every year, we always have a bit of a Christmas in July (or June, which is when we’ve taken to meeting up) where we all get assigned someone for whom to get gifts. We call it Pollyanna. I don’t know if this is a thing that other families do; I’ve always just assumed it’s a thing in just my family. We do it because there’s so many of us. My dad is one of ten. So when you add in spouses and children, the gifts start getting kind of crazy. It’s much easier to do the Pollyanna thing. When we get old enough, we don’t just get normal gifts… We start getting gag gifts as well. And I think gag gifts are the best part. For example, I remember when I was ten, and one of my uncles had my grandmother. He got her a box of condoms with a card that said “Oops… Too late!”

That was my favorite summer vacation as a kid. Not because of that joke (I didn’t really get it at the time; I just laughed along because everyone else seemed to find it so funny, and other people laughing usually makes me laugh). It was because that was the year I received a gag gift. Another one of my uncles gave me a Harry Potter action figure with a note that said “your first boyfriend” because I had the biggest crush on Daniel Radcliffe at the time. The jokes have certainly gotten more adult (and almost always about the amount of real boyfriends I’ve had over the years), but being a part of the joke for the first time made that year really special.

What about you? Does your family have any crazy traditions like this?

Definitely make sure to check out all the other blog swappers (I’ll update late with the forum/blog link of the post list). And of course, many thanks to Jacque for being such a great swap partner! (Remember, you can find my post about one childhood summer memory on her blog!)

rewards and fulfillment: a little wisdom from Indiana

I ended up in Indiana this weekend. It wasn’t exactly a family emergency, but a time-sensitive family gathering that needed to happen sooner than later. Planning these sorts of trips is never easy, but I’m glad for the time I got with my family.

However, this post isn’t really about the subject matter of that time sensitive trip or why I needed to be in Indiana.

While I was home, my mom shared with me a little bit about her recent trip to go help those hit by tornados that devastated parts of Indiana recently. She was telling me about how what happened was terrible, but how the work was really rewarding. It got her thinking–this woman who’s well into her career and is even a grandmother now–about switching to a more fulfilling career. (This coming from the woman who still jokes that I switched my major in college too much–I switched it twice, despite the number she has in her head.)

Naturally, this got me thinking. Now, I generally do enjoy my new job quite a bit. But is it rewarding or fulfilling in even the tiniest meaningful way? No. Is this something I want to be doing for the next 10 years? Probably not, at least probably not with this company. I am in no means going to leave this place yet… But there are definite stresses here that I wish I didn’t have to deal with. And like I said, it’s not really rewarding in a way that seems to matter.

It all brings up that frustratingly annoying question of “what are you going to do with your life?” I don’t mind academic administration, but it probably wouldn’t have been my first thought of a huge career path for me. Not how I’d define myself. And the conversation did sort of reinforce my stepmom’s point that your 20s (and let’s be honest, it goes into your 30s, sometimes longer) are for figuring things out. She said, in your 20s you’re supposed to bounce from thing to thing, figuring out what works for you and learning from mistakes. That in your 30s things will setting down. Only, as I get nearer to 30, the only thing I’ve figured out is that I still haven’t figured it out and I’m kind of okay with that… maybe.

While my current job might not be rewarding or fulfilling in a way one might expect, it does allow me to still do the things I do find rewarding and fulfilling. This job is just a way for me to pay the bills and have some spending cash. I know a good handful of people who have this type of job–just to pay the bills–in fact, a lot of my musician friends probably fall into this category. It doesn’t zap all my creative energy and is flexible enough to let me run around with band nerds or take a writing class… But is it really enough? Do I want one of my passions to turn into a career, adding unneeded stress to something I love? And really, what am I doing with my life?

They’re all good questions, and I don’t have the answers. All I can say is that overall, I’m enjoying my life. Bottom line, I call that a win. I don’t feel stuck or trapped–I’ve got the freedom to change my path, even if I don’t do so until I’m my mom’s age.