A little box of angst

Once I felt pretty comfortable in our relationship, I started sending Christmas presents to L’s brother and sister in China. It isn’t a holiday her family celebrates, but who would complain about an occasional gift? You would think that shipping a small present would be easy, but it has caused me endless angst and stress ever single time.


The first issue is finding gifts that will fit in a small enough box. This year, I shipped a box that was about 1.5 times the size of a standard shoebox and it cost about $80 just in shipping. If I am spending $80, I want to make sure that there is something worth the cost and effort in the box. On the other hand, giving L’s family very expensive gifts highlights the economic disparity between our two families, which adds to the awkwardness.

There is also the added challenge of getting a box to a village in rural China. There are no house addresses there. The kids live with their grandmother, who is both pretty old and illiterate, so if she gets a notice of a package being delivered, I don’t know if she can manage the process of retrieving it from the village head. The way you write an address for this part of China is like this:

  • Name of Recipient
  • Village name, Bigger nearby town name
  • County Name, Biggest nearby city name
  • Province, Country
  • Postal code

No street number or address at all. Just your village name. Who gets the packages in the village and then distributes them? I have no idea.

It is unclear whether some of the Christmas packages I have sent in the past were actually delivered or maybe they were delivered with some items missing. One year, I sent Legos. On our last trip, I pulled up a picture of Legos on my computer and showed L’s sister. I asked if they have ever played with those (because I didn’t see them in her house when we were there) and she said no. Were they stolen? Did the box never arrive? It is a total mystery.

L’s siblings don’t have many toys or extras, so I try to cram as much in there as possible. An added complication this year is that L’s sister is spending her weekdays boarding at the local middle school, so I wanted to send something she could use or take with her there.


This year I sent L’s brother a nerf gun and a bunch of ammo, silly putty, modeling clay, a bunch of toy dinosaurs, pajamas, socks. I sent L’s sister pajamas, socks, gel pens, adhesive bulletin boards (for the bedroom at their new house), fancy pins for the bulletin boards, a purse, chapstick and a wallet. I also included candy and gingerbread cookies. There was not an inch to spare in that box.

They may open this box and think it is the lamest collection of junk ever. Or they might like it?

What I really want is for the kids to be thinking of L from time to time. I want them to get a little treat and have some small benefit from having an American sister. I want to be a nice auntie.

I worry and worry over the Christmas box.

I know it is silly, but it feels like I am putting my hopes and dreams for connection in it, with the full knowledge that it will never be enough. I know the message I am trying to send will never get through or if it does, it will be altered in translation. Taping closed that little box means acknowledging the limits of the work I am willing to do, the money I am willing to spend and the fact that I will never be adequate for the task of inviting L’s family in enough for her.

There is a lot of worry wrapped up in that little box.


Red State Blues

The election has done a number on us.

I can barely talk about finding out that Trump won. I was working the polls and I was trapped counting and recounting little scraps of paper as we realized it was going very badly for Clinton. I had to stay there for three hours, with this growing feeling of overwhelming dread in my stomach. I stayed up until about 2:00 a.m shaking and upset. The next morning, I woke up and started crying. I cried for about six straight hours and gave myself a massive migraine. Then I cried some more.

I liked Clinton as a candidate, but you win some and you lose some in politics. Trump, though, feels like such a betrayal. In the days after the election, I felt overwhelmingly suspicious of pretty much every white man I saw on the street. Most white women were not free from suspicion either. Who are these people who care more about their party label than truth and honesty? Who are these neighbors who want to overturn marriage equality, build a wall and register our Muslim friends and neighbors? Who are these Ohioans who voted for someone who makes this country so unsafe for my children of color? In the run up to the election, we had a blatantly racist incident where 5 adults cornered 10 year old L and made racist comments to her directly. Nothing like that involving adults has ever happened to her before.

It feels scary here, right now. I can’t even think about it without feeling like I have been punched in the gut. Before the election, I felt so good about where we live. I know my neighborhood voted about 70% for Clinton, but outside this little liberal suburban bubble it feels like I don’t even recognize my state any more.

To add insult to injury, Mr. A was planning to apply for a job in a few months that required a Democratic presidential administration. It was pretty unlikely he would have been appointed to that job, but he had another job he would have liked to apply for in a few years that would also require a Democrat in the White House. Even though the odds for both those jobs were tough, working in that general direction was The Plan. Now what? Ohio has been overrun by a crazy Republican majority who are taking this opportunity to do things like pass a ban an abortions after 6 weeks. If he likes doing political work (in addition to his regular job), is this really a place where he can do it?

So what does this mean for us as a family? I don’t know. Being planless feels like we are unmoored and drifting off course. But what is the next step now that the terrain has shifted so violently?

Since the election, I have felt so worried that our country is really heading into Dark Times. The disorganization and chaos of the Trump transition makes me worry about terrorism (It seems like an obvious time to strike, doesn’t it? With that shit show going on?), or devolution of our society in some kind of major or minor ways that we cant predict.

In the past, I have felt what I call ‘physical anxiety’. The anxiety that you know is only your body playing a trick on you. Right now, I feel anxiety that I don’t think I would label that way. This anxiety feels like a catalyst to prepare for the worst…exactly the evolutionary reason anxiety was created in the first place. Like my body is saying, “Get ready if you want to make it out of this alive.” I can’t quite convince myself the worst won’t happen. I know this makes me sound like some kind of crazy tea party prepper, but this is my reality right now.

I have been trying to do active things to feel like I am making some difference. Calling elected officials, visiting a local mosque as they try to create alliances with the larger community, joining local activist groups, finally signing up at planned parenthood as a volunteer and planning a trip to the protest at the inauguration. It doesn’t feel like any of it will make any kind of difference, but what else can be done?

I keep reminding myself, our country has been through far darker times than this. Resistance is resistance. It needs to come from many directions at the same time.

**Imagine this post is illustrated with a red letterpress map of Ohio. I have put off publishing it for several days trying to get a good picture of it, but it is too dreary here for a good picture. Eff you Ohio and your stupid cloudy winters!**

Some things never change

I was going to write a nice long catch up post while I was hanging out at the hospital waiting for a friend to finish surgery today. Sadly, I ended up spending over an hour of that time arguing with somebody on the internet.

Yup. Some things never change.

So what have I been doing all these long years? I don’t know if you remember, but I love houses. I love buying them. I love selling them. I love moving.

After selling our last house, we planned to build a house. Instead, we ended up selling our lot, renting for a while and then buying a nice modern house (hard to find in our historic neighborhood!) where I think I can live for a while. There is an ongoing negotiation as to exactly how long “a while” might be. I may manage to stay here until both girls are out of high school, but then again, maybe not! I already have that house buying/moving itch and it has only been 2.5 years.

The house is very pretty in a lot of ways, but it is also…unusual. It is built into a hillside and has FIVE levels. You enter from the top level where the kitchen is then you go down stairs to a living room. Then downstairs some more for the master bedroom and office. Then downstairs again to the girls’ bedroom level. Then you go downstairs AGAIN to the bottom level, where we have a workout room and where you can exit to the back yard. It is an unusual set-up.

From the back, you can see our three story high Deck of Doom. It is hard to tell that it is 5 levels, because they are half stories and one level is in the front of the house.


View of the back yard from the Deck Of Doom. See how tiny M and Mr. A are, because they are SO FAR AWAY!

This is a photo from the last time the house was for sale, so this is not our current furniture. But you can see how the half levels work. Up above there is the kitchen.

Don’t ask why our fireplace is black and shiny. It is on the renovation list.


Here is a photo with our furniture, which is poorly lit because it is dreary outside and also not professionally edited. I just don’t want you to think I have that ugly sofa. Furniture is not in the usual location due to the xmas tree.

Last spring, we had a plumbing problem in the wall between the girls’ bathrooms. They each had their own teeny tiny bathroom, literally about as small as a bathroom can be and still have a shower. L’s was particularly tiny. I am only 5’2 and my knees nearly touched the wall when I tried to pee in there. Since we were going to have to tear out walls and showers anyway to fix the plumbing, we decided to do a somewhat bigger renovation and turn the two tiny bathrooms into one regular-sized Jack and Jill bathroom.

I mean, look at this bathroom, it is 75% sink!

We started our bathroom renovation in mid-June. You will notice it is currently December and I am not saying it is done. While I like our contractor and his work, trying to get him to complete this bathroom has been totally unsuccessful. If my life were a sitcom, he would have a solid secondary role and a lot of job security, because he is obviously NEVER GOING TO BE FINISHED. Beginning in early October, he told me it would be done in two weeks. Then in mid-October, he told me it would be done in two weeks. Then in early November he told me it would be done in two weeks. This week he told me it would be done next week, so I am hoping that it will be done by January.

After this project is done and paid off, I have a long list of other projects including installing/replacing hardwood throughout. Updating two other bathrooms and redoing the kitchen. I could probably do all those projects in the amount of time it took to do this one stupid bathroom.



It has been almost four years to the day since I last blogged.

This last month has been ….a lot.

I have missed blogging more this month than I have at any time in the past four years. So I thought, if Gilmore Girls can do a reprise season, I can too.

The wheel of life has rolled forward. Mr. A and I are still steering our ship through these sometimes choppy Midwestern waters. Our girls are a little older. M is 13, almost 14 and headed to high school next year. L is 10 1/2 and becoming more and more of herself every day. We also added a new family member: a terrible but beloved little dog named Pickles. We are still finding our path with L’s birth family. Sometimes it is easy and sometimes it is hard. We can talk about that later, though.

I know, blogs are dead.

Let’s all hold hands and pretend it is 2006, when things were easier.