Too much chocolate milk

I will always remember my very first English class as an official college student.

(It wasn’t my first college class ever. That was an 8 a.m. Monday course on the history of music. You think it’s hard to stay awake in an 8 a.m. class? Try having the professor play classical music first thing in the morning and see how you handle it.)

But I digress.

I think it was that first Monday afternoon. British Literature with Dr. Williams. As a devoted English major, I’d been waiting for this moment all day. Would I recognize any titles on the syllabus? Would it be a 200-pages-a-night nightmare? Had I made the right choice?

I don’t remember much about the class itself. It was a typical first day: introductions, discuss syllabus and grading, give first reading assignment.

But I do remember what happened after class was dismissed.

I gathered my papers and inwardly praised myself for recognizing so many of the titles on the course outline. I lingered as the other students left the room and hurried about their lives. I wanted to meet my professor and introduce myself, because all the “start college right” articles said you should let your professors know when you are excited about their classes.

I remember taking a deep breath and walking up to the desk where Dr. Williams was filling his briefcase. I cleared my throat and said:

Hi. I’m [the Missus] and this is my first year. I’m really excited about British lit, but I don’t think it will be too hard. I’ve already read a lot of what’s on the syllabus, and I don’t think I’ll have much trouble with it.

At the time, I barely registered the odd look that crossed his face as he shook my hand. Looking back on it, I’m sure “your class won’t be too difficult” was not something he really wanted to hear on the first day, especially from a freshman.

I shook his hand and left the room, confident that I’d impressed him with my studiousness.

I went on to take Dr. Williams for two additional classes, although not of my own free will. He was a terrible teacher, and I was greatly disappointed to spend three required courses listening to my classmates take turns reading aloud from the text everyone should have read the night before.

I wanted to analyze novels and pull them apart. He wanted class to be over as soon as possible. And I could tell he never forgot my arrogance on that very first day. There was always a hint of smugness when he would ask me (what he thought was) a particularly difficult question, and he always seemed slightly disappointed when I would answer. Maybe I imagined it for three years, but I never thought he liked me very much.

I suppose I deserved it, though. I was a pretty arrogant first-year.

A speaker I heard last week said, “Confidence is like chocolate milk: A little bit sweetens your whole day, but too much will give you a stomach ache.”

That day, I force-fed my professor too much chocolate milk, and he never forgot it. Probably not the best first impression I’ve ever made.

Happy Monday,

The Missus

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It’s really not about you.

As the official start of “wedding season” approaches, I thought this would be an appropriate time to share a few thoughts I’ve been carrying around since the Mister and I tied the knot almost four years ago.

(Four years?? Wait a minute, that can’t be right…)

I saw this article on Facebook today and thought it hit the nail on the head. I wish we had registered for fun things we would actually use. I wish my dress had had a Scarlett O’Hara-esque skirt. I wish we had done photos together BEFORE the wedding, tradition or not, so that the Mister and I could have spent the majority of our day together instead of him spending it in a bathroom while I walked from place to place.

Those things are important, and I would suggest them to anyone I know who’s getting married, but there is one more important thing that still nags me to this day.

I don’t know who was there.

Wait… what? What do you mean? How could you not know who was there?

I mean, I was so wrapped up in May 19th being MY day – a day where the Mister and I could do whatever we wanted and ONLY what we wanted and ONLY with the people we thought mattered the most.

We were selfish. (And by “we” I mainly mean myself.) Looking back I can see that now, and it is definitely my biggest regret.

We have all kinds of pictures with our family and our wedding party, but we don’t have any photos with our guests. Those people who weren’t chosen to stand up with us, but who made the trip to see us anyway – sometimes from 12+ hours away.

Three groups still haunt me today.

An old high school friend and her sister that I hadn’t seen in more than six years came. I didn’t expect them to care that much, but they came all the way from Knoxville to see me get married. They pulled me aside and congratulated me and probably wanted a picture, but I greeted them quickly and moved on. I haven’t seen them since and don’t expect to ever see them again. I could have gotten a picture.

A group of the Mister’s friends from the university judging team where there too. They stood in a huddle in the lobby for most of the reception, waiting to catch us for a photo. I was so busy hurrying back and forth, checking off the list of must-do things, that I didn’t even realize that’s what they wanted. We have pictures of the whole group at other weddings, but not at ours. I had other things to do.

Third, and worst, I feel, were an aunt and uncle who traveled from out-of-state to be there. I saw them waiting in the hall as we left for photos and, to be honest, I didn’t recognize them at first. We don’t see that branch of the family much, so I didn’t know who they were until I had passed by. I waved when they did, but I didn’t stop. I figured they would wait until we returned. After all, it was all about us.

I didn’t know they had started their 12+ hour drive in the middle of the night, arrived just in time for the ceremony and were leaving as soon as I passed them to head home. They weren’t there when we came back from taking photos. I haven’t seen them since. All I can think about when that moment passes through my mind is that they made a mind-numbing 12-hour drive through the mountains, and I didn’t even stop to acknowledge them. I don’t know that that horrible feeling will ever go away.

So I say all of that to say this to all the brides and grooms and hopefuls out there: your wedding day is not really about you.

Let me say that again.

Your wedding day is not really about you.

Sure, it’s the day you start a new life joined to your husband or wife, and it’s a huge commitment. You should put effort into making the festivities reflect who you are and who your spouse is and who you will be together. But really, when it comes down to it, you will be just as married at the end of the day as you would have been if you’d gone to the county courthouse in your pajamas.

What it’s really about is the people who love you and who have made an effort to be there and witness such a happy occasion in your life. It’s about those people who have had your wedding invitation on the refrigerator for months; those people who spent weeks making handmade gifts that you’ll probably never use, but that you appreciate anyway; it’s about the people who fill all those delicate matchstick chairs and sit in the uncomfortable sunshine to see your smiling face and hear your “I do’s.”

Because without them, you would be standing in an empty room (probably not even decorated, since I’m sure they helped with that too).

So don’t get wrapped up in the check list. Stop to take pictures with the people who are there. Make them part of the memory and let them share in your joy. They want pictures to remember the day you got married just as much as you do. Don’t take that away from them.

Thank them, not just for coming but for being a presence in your lives. Even if you don’t know all the guests from your spouse’s side of the hall – take pictures with them too. They might not be important to you, but you are important to them or else they wouldn’t be there.

If you look through your guestbook years down the road and didn’t even know most of those people were there, you did something wrong.

But if the cake cutting was a little off schedule, and maybe you didn’t throw the garter or blow the bubbles, but you have an album full of photos with the people who loved you most on the happiest day of your life, that is something you won’t ever regret.

The Mess of Motherhood

I have always had an aversion to mess. My messes, I can ignore. Other people’s messes, I feel my skin start to crawl and my hands start to twitch and my brain starts screaming “clean it! wipe it up! keep it from spreading!” This is something I know to be true about myself and I keep it under control most of the time, but the times it comes out worst are the times I’m interacting with small children. You know… those little creatures that live almost solely to create messes and don’t care where or how bad they are?

Yeah. Those things.

A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law was volunteered at the last minute to teach the one- and two-year-old Wednesday night class at church and I got pulled in by association. The class went well and we didn’t have any tears from anybody, and in the last ten minutes we put all seven of the toddlers into the floor to play with the puzzles, etc. This is when the problem began.

I suddenly found myself following the children around, trying to pick up their pieces as quickly as they could scatter them around the room. I realized that, while my mother-in-law watched the group as a whole and waited for the bell to ring, I was desperately trying to contain the mess without keeping the kids from playing… an impossible balance to achieve.

It dawned on me right there in the floor that this will be my biggest problem as a mother. I feel like I will be able to handle boo-boos, tantrums and nasty poopy diapers, but it’s the food on their faces, the blocks in the floor, the odds and ends scattered throughout the house that will drive me insane. I am going to have to learn to let the kids play and make what messes they will (within reason, of course), and then get it cleaned up after they go to bed.

Because I know, logically, that no matter how quickly I wipe the sauce off their highchairs they will always manage to smear more onto their faces before I can stop them. It’s a never-ending battle that can only be won by waiting for dinner to be over and then putting the child – probably clothes and all – into the tub and cleaning up the kitchen table after bedtime. I know this. But my brain has a very, VERY hard time accepting it.

Because that child – *twitch* – has gravy – *twitch* – in his hair – *twitch twitch twitch*…….

Confessions of a Future Vet School Wife

So last Thursday was a pretty typical day, until the phone call came.

“Honey? Guess what?”

“What?”

“I just got a phone call from someone on behalf of Erica Wasserman. I got in to Ross vet prep.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, really. We’re going to vet school!”

“Holy crap.”

*Hang up phone. Burst into tears.*

Yeah… not exactly the celebratory happy dance I was expecting to do. I want the Mister to go to vet school. I had finally gotten used to the idea of moving to the Caribbean (or so I thought). But the practical part of me was still preparing for plan B in case he didn’t get in. I’d been scanning potential job options and apartment styles, and thinking about puppies and babies – all the things I wanted out of the next phase of our lives. I guess I never stopped to think about how, if he did get in (and deep down I knew he would), I’d have to give all that up. At least for a while.

I cried for the high-profile job I always pictured myself having and I cried for the three-year gap in the impressive resume I’ve tried so hard to build. I cried for the amount of debt we’ll be in and the distance between us and home. I cried for the babies we’ll have to push back that much longer. And every “excited” phone call I made to parents and relatives made me cry that much more. I was determined not to let the Mister know that I wasn’t jumping up and down on the inside, but I did finally break down in front of him. I felt horrible for ruining his special, long-awaited acceptance day, but I couldn’t help it anymore.

I was giving up my life.

But I slept on it Thursday night and by the time I woke Friday morning I had come to a sort of subconscious clarity.

I’m moving to a place of indescribable beauty; a place tourists visit and wish they could stay, and I’ll get to watch their cruise ships leave as I call the island home. I’m going to have all kinds of cool stories and pictures to share with friends and family and to someday tell my children. I won’t have an awful gap in my resume because I’ll be able, hopefully, to work with the VIP spouses’ and children’s group to plan their social events and recreational activities. Hey, that’s PR too, isn’t it?

And maybe that big corner office isn’t as glamorous as I’ve always thought it would be. When we get back, I want to have babies, and that office often comes with long, unpredictable hours, phones ringing in the middle of the night, and un-family friendly schedules and responsibilities. Is that really what I want? And is it even about what I want, at that point?

More importantly, the Mister is going to get to go to vet school – the only thing he’s dreamed of doing since he was young. I should be grateful to the admissions committee for seeing his potential and giving him the opportunity to chase that dream when state-side schools wouldn’t give him a second glance. He is going to be a fantastic vet.

But most importantly, I also realized that I’m not giving up my life. It’s not my life anymore; it’s OUR life, and I promised to follow him for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, through sickness and in health. I promised to laugh with him and cry with him and be the soft place for him to land. I “gave up” my life almost a year ago, and the “our life” we’ve been living since has been wonderful. What’s to say the “our life” of the future won’t be just as good?

Sure we’ve got challenges ahead of all shapes and sizes, but we’ll figure out how to beat them one at a time. And who knows, maybe we’ll just learn something along the way. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?

Advice about traveling, living as an ex-pat and handling veterinary school is all appreciated.