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Adulthood Stole My Cool | My Kid Stole My Cool

Adulthood Stole My Cool

Lockdown: British Edition

Posted on Mar 4, 2021 in Adulthood Stole My Cool, It's the Navy Life, My Kid Stole My Cool, Travel Traumas

Lockdown: British Edition 7

I’ve written and re-written this post many times, vacillating between total dejectedness and flickering hope. We recently passed the six-month mark of living in Oxford. Half of that time we’ve been in lockdown. While the government recently released a plan for gradually (very gradually) easing lockdown restrictions, the reality is that the magical year abroad I had envisioned for my family is largely going to be spent within the confines of our home. I’m sad. And I’m weary. And no matter how hard I try to cultivate gratitude for our healthy family and stable jobs, I just can’t shake the small, persistent ache in my gut for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, lost to the pandemic.

Lockdown – regardless of where you live – is demoralizing. Last summer when my husband and I were debating if we should proceed with the move in the midst of a pandemic, I told him, “If there’s another lockdown I don’t want to be stuck in our small British house, with three kids, in the middle of winter.” After the first lockdown, I didn’t know if I could handle another in those conditions. And here we are. Another lockdown (our third). Three kids. Small British house. Dark, dreary winter. 

Accurate representation of life in lockdown.

I’m constantly fatigued, despite rarely leaving the house. I’m lonely, living in a new place where I’ve barely had an opportunity to form anything more than superficial relationships. I’ve not so much as seen the other school parents’ faces, let alone talk to them. It’s so absurd it’s almost funny. And though I’m lonely, I’m never alone, constantly supervising virtual learning for two older children while trying to keep a toddler entertained inside a cramped house. I can’t believe I actually miss the days of lockdown with a baby! And of course, it’s winter, the cold and dark exasperating an already dispiriting situation. I know I’m not alone in feeling disheartened. We’ve all been there at some point in this past year.

The Toddler Terror

And really, who am I to complain when so many people have it so much worse? Our kids have been out of school since January, but how many children haven’t been in school in a year? Yes, I don’t have many close friends here, but I live in a lovely neighborhood whose residents make a great deal of Covid-safe effort to keep spirits lifted. And thank God I was connected with a few women before we moved, who have been a lifeline these past few months. The rare days the sun chooses to appear are absolutely glorious. We have our health! Oh, and my husband took pity on me and surprised me with a Peloton.

Peloton. Ugh, I know. I KNOW. I’ve turned into such a cliché. But the walk across our garden to a finished shed where the bike is set up is often my only chance to leave the house. Working out has been my sole source of sanity. I suppose – because there is nothing else to do – I am getting fit-ish. But here’s the thing. I don’t really care about being fit while I’m living in Europe. I would trade being Peloton Fit in a heartbeat to be European Soft – like, I eat pastries and cheese and gelato all day but still walk a lot, you know? I can be Peloton Fit in America! I can only be European Soft in Europe!

Speaking of Europe: When we got orders to Oxford, I was ecstatic. Uprooting our family to move overseas for less than a year would be difficult, but it would be worth it. A chance to live in the City of Dreaming Spires? Yes, please! High Table dinners, exploring the Bod, vespers at New College, Harry Potter tours – for the kids, of course. I couldn’t wait to do it all. (I should clarify that we are here because my husband is a visiting fellow at Oxford, but I totally planned on mooching off of his University privileges. I should also clarify that I only learned that students call the Bodleian Library, “the Bod,” from a cheesy rom-com audiobook, but doesn’t it make me sound in the know?) We have had some lovely strolls around the city, admiring the gorgeous, iconic architecture – but it would be nice to actually step inside one of those iconic buildings at some point. I had so hoped to make Oxford my home, a place I really knew, rather than just a city I lived in for a brief time. But it’s difficult to learn a place in lockdown.

Beautiful Oxford

And naturally I was thrilled for the opportunities to travel. Meeting up with friends stationed in Germany, Spain, Italy! Weekend trips to Paris! Driving around the Continent in our beat-up 2005 Honda CRV, which previous owners affectionately dubbed the WSB (Whistling Shit Box). It would be a grand adventure! While the reality of traveling around Europe with three kids crammed into the WSB would likely be less romantic than my imaginings, I couldn’t help but be excited about all the history and culture and food – oh, the food! –  we’d get to experience as a family.

Then Covid happened. So I can’t jet off to Paris on a whim. Boo-hoo. Poor me. I know that compared to a lot of people right now, our diminished year abroad is pretty insignificant. I would never, ever trivialize the real heartache and devastation that Covid has wreaked on millions of people all over the globe. But still, this feels like a loss. A small loss in the grand scheme of things, but a loss nonetheless. I’ve finally decided it’s okay to acknowledge that.

Spring is coming. We’ve had some sun and warmth the past few days which has buoyed my spirits. The kids go back to in-person school in four days (but who’s counting?). My husband and I have been vaccinated. We had some great experiences traveling around the UK last fall that I treasure, and I’m hopeful we’ll have more this spring. I know that despite my disappointment I have much to be thankful for. The lockdown has cast a shadow over our year abroad, but the year ain’t over yet. In the meantime, at least I have Peloton.  

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2020 in Books

Posted on Jan 2, 2021 in Adulthood Stole My Cool, Uncategorized

2020 in Books 8

So. Let’s talk about 2020. 2020 included: a baby-turned-toddler, my husband’s deployment, a pandemic (during the deployment), and an overseas move (during a pandemic.) I actually managed to “read” quite a lot this year, thanks to embracing audiobooks as I never had before. Audiobooks got me through the endless hours of dishes involved in a lockdown with three children. (I don’t understand how it’s possible to spend 17 hours of a day doing dishes, and yet…) However, many (most?) of these books aren’t exactly, uh, great literature. Consider this list the Real Housewives of Reading. If you need a mental escape, there are plenty of cheesy rom-coms and throwaway thrillers that are a nice distraction, but ultimately unmemorable.  Don’t write these all off, though – there are a few gems! Here’s to hoping 2021 brings better fortune than 2020, and better books. Favorite Fiction: Oona Out of Order, Leave the World Behind, Such a Fun Age Favorite Nonfiction: Just Mercy and – I’m 100% serious here – Open Book by Jessica Simpson 1) My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan (audiobook): I heard about this book soon after I learned we might be moving to Oxford for a year, so naturally I had to read it. This isn’t a genre I typically go for, but this was actually a very sweet, endearing story with more depth than I expected. And the descriptions of the City of Dreaming Spires got me so excited for my own upcoming adventure. (The adventures of a mom in her mid-thirties moving to Oxford is quite different than a Rhodes Scholar in her 20s, but still, I enjoyed this.) 2) A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum: Thought-provoking, troubling, sad. I wanted more closure. 3) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling: I love reading this series with my daughter. I haven’t read these early books since they were released, and it’s great fun rediscovering them. 4) Washington Black by Esi Edugyan: Excellent. A grand, sweeping book both historical and incredibly imaginative. 5) The Other Windsor Girl by Georgie Blalock (audiobook): What...

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2018 Book Reviews

Posted on Jan 16, 2019 in Adulthood Stole My Cool

I always love seeing everyone’s recommended reading lists at beginning of the new year, so in 2018 I decided to keep a log of all my books with brief reviews. I meant to publish this at the beginning of Jan, but alas, I’m pregnant and have been sick and solo parenting for much of the month… so here we are on Jan 16th. Better late than never? I use the term “review” lightly, as these are mostly quickly jotted down impressions – hardly fully formed thoughts on each book. But maybe you’ll find something that piques your interest! And even better, if you have any thoughts you’d like to share on any of these books, I’d love to hear them! Lastly – please share your own favorite reads of last year. I’m always looking for new books.   (1) Defiant: The POWs Who Endured Vietnam’s Most Infamous Prison, The Women Who Fought for Them, and the One Who Never Returned by Alvin Townley This was a book club selection. If you think this is an odd choice for a book club comprised of many naval aviator spouses – you’d be right! This was a powerful, emotional book that had me sobbing, but I’m so glad I read it. The POWs’ courage, leadership, and resilience are inspiring, but I also loved how Townley focuses on their remarkable, er, defiant wives. Highly recommend. (2) 1984 by George Orwell I read this because I felt like it was one of those books I should have read by now. And now I have. (3) Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders Nearly everyone in my book club hated this – but I say give it a chance! Admittedly, I struggled in the beginning. It’s a very unconventional narrative and it took me a little while to figure out what was going on. But once I did, I really enjoyed it. It’s imaginative, humorous, and very sweet and tender in some parts. I particularly liked the ending – If you’re up for a challenge, give this a try. (4) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without...

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New Year, New You… Not Happening

Posted on Jan 6, 2018 in Adulthood Stole My Cool, It's the Navy Life, My Kid Stole My Cool, The Kids Are Actually Cute, Travel Traumas

New Year, New You… Not Happening 1

Happy New Year, Friends! How is 2018 going for you so far? Getting fit? Eating healthy? Meditating daily? Good for you! I have spent the first days of 2018 stuffing my face with muffins and watching old episodes of Downton Abbey. Meanwhile there is a massive pile of boxes sitting in my family room, a not-so-subtle reminder that I still have to put away all the Christmas decorations. While most people seem to relish the New Year as an opportunity to reset and strive to be a better version of themselves, I just want it to be March already. You know, when nobody cares about that stuff anymore. I rang in the New Year with my parents and a bottle of Nyquil. (I was in California for a quick trip with the kids while Damon stayed back East.) On New Year’s Day, instead of kickstarting a healthy diet, I munched on day-old donuts and In-N-Out. (So good, by the way.) On the second day of the New Year, I endured a 15-hour travel day with my darling children. After a several hour delay in Dallas, including deplaning our first aircraft due to a mechanical problem, we landed home at 2:00am and waited an hour for luggage that – oops! – never actually made it on the plane. We got home at 3:30AM. Elisabeth talked at me for about 14.5 out of those 15 hours. On the third day of the New Year I went to Trader Joe’s with the rest of Hampton Roads in preparation of BOMB CYCLONE 2018. Then I slept because, again, I traveled 15 hours the day before with both my kids. Oh, and I probably have an upper respiratory virus. Whatever. On the fourth day of the New Year it SNOWED. Gosh, I love being a Virginia resident when it snows. People lose their damn minds. Every. Freaking. Year. For all you folks making vegetable soups from scratch and working out in your home gyms – New Year! New You! – you won’t shame me into being healthy! If I’m stuck in my house with...

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Recovery Update: Hangry

Posted on Sep 13, 2017 in Adulthood Stole My Cool, My Kid Stole My Cool

Recovery Update: Hangry 1

Hi, Friends. I’m nearly four weeks post-surgery and doing fairly well. Some minor discomfort, which is to be expected. And as I mentioned in my previous post, this recovery has been so much better than my last that I can’t complain. My bruising has diminished a lot, but I still look like a puffer fish. This swelling is stubborn, man. And my jaw will be rubber-banded shut for about two more weeks. Which means I’m still on a liquid diet. Which means… I’m officially hangry. You guys – I would trade my children for a cheeseburger right now if I could actually eat it. In some messed-up, masochistic form of torture, I can’t stop watching food videos. You know the ones that demonstrate an entire recipe in about 60 seconds? Literally, can’t stop watching them. Hey, it’s 11:43pm and I should be sleeping, but instead I’m going to watch “Oven-Baked Chicken Wings 4 Ways.” This is my life now. It’s sick, I know. But it all looks so good. The trashier, more junked-up food, the better. A giant meatball filled with spaghetti? OMG I need. Oreo-stuffed donut holes? Get in my belly. Every possible variation on stir-fry you could possibly imagine? I want them all.     At first glance a Mac-N-Cheese Bun Burger looks disgusting. But after you haven’t eaten solid food in a month, it’s pure genius. I would so eat a Mac-N-Cheese bun burger. Speaking of Mac-N-Cheese, did you know there are 14,738 ways to make it? It’s true. I know because I’ve watched/read every single variation on how to do so. Quesadillas compete with Mac-N-Cheese in terms of sheer volume of recipes. Before I would’ve just thrown some cheese on a tortilla and stuck it in the microwave. Maybe a little guac if I was feeling feisty. But quesadillas can be so much more than that! They hold endless culinary potential! I would’ve never thought to make a quesadilla with flank steak fajitas or BBQ chicken and Gouda or sautéed mushrooms and spinach. So fancy! Thankfully my eyes have been opened. I now realize what...

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Recovery Update

Posted on Aug 24, 2017 in Adulthood Stole My Cool

Recovery Update 10

Hi, Friends. I’m one week post-surgery, and the hardest part is (or should be) over! First of all, thank you to everyone who sent prayers or positive thoughts or good vibes my way. Hearing from you all has been such an encouragement. Second of all, I hadn’t planned on writing about my surgery, but as it turns out I have a lot of time on my hands these days! If you’ve been following along here, you’ll know that I’ve been slated to have jaw surgery for several months in order to close an open bite. This is the second time I’ve had this surgery; the first was when I was 19. Unfortunately, my bite gradually reopened over the past decade and a second surgery was the best option to permanently solve my problem. (And yes, we’ll be taking measures to prevent a relapse again. We’ve learned a few things in 13 years!) The first surgery was traumatic. Whereas this time I had a single jaw surgery on my upper jaw, the first time I had a triple surgery (upper jaw, lower jaw, and chin.) My surgeon-orthodontist team warned me that the two weeks following surgery would be hell. There was no getting around that. I was going to be in a lot of pain, I’d probably have nausea, I’d be bruised and swollen, and I would just generally feel shitty all the time. Okay. I mentally prepared myself for two weeks. I could get through two weeks. Actually, I would do better than that. I would face my surgery with optimism and humor!     At the time I had a sorority t-shirt that said, “Cute and Fun to Date.”* I knew I was going to look absolutely wrecked after the surgery, but I was going to wear that t-shirt out of the hospital. I had to maintain my sense of humor. The surgery may break my jaw, but it wouldn’t break my spirit! It broke my spirit. Immediately upon waking from anesthesia, I found a nurse hovering over me with suction telling me to cough up blood. What?...

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