Of tunnels and respite and light

2016-03-29 20.19.48Raising teenagers is hard. Combining families is hard. Raising teenagers in a combined family? Hard². Throw in some cognitive difference, some mental illness, some career challenges? You’ve got hard to the nth power.

Back when our children were younger and parenting time agreements with our former spouses were different, Cane and I had every-other-weekend mostly to ourselves. We used to joke that we didn’t understand why everyone didn’t get divorced, because it was so nice to have some grown-up time while the kids were being well-cared for by other people who loved them. It was the kind of joke you tell to help yourself feel better about things that hurt, but like all jokes, this one contained a kernel of truth.


Last Friday it was not an exaggeration to say that we really couldn’t remember the last time we’d had a few days at home with no kids. It had been so long that we’d forgotten what it was like. We’d forgotten what we were like–just the two of us, at home, doing at-home things.

Last weekend, we got to remember.


It was the first, glorious weekend of sun in the northwest, which may just be the most magical weekend of the year here. Flowering trees were in full flower, and shoots of all kinds were shooting.


I got early morning time in my studio, which has become the happiest of my happy places.


There were hours at the nursery and in the garden. We swept the deck, and cut back dead foliage, and planted onions and herbs and flowers.


We hit up an estate sale, which prompted good thought and discussion about possessions and collections and how we’re spending our lives’ energy and the fruits of our work.

2016-04-01 16.18.19

We strolled through some favorite Portland neighborhoods so I could take photos of houses, for a creative project that is becoming my new obsession. (More on this in another post.)


We remembered days when lying on a blanket in the park was the most luxurious of pleasures, so we stopped at a thrift store for a park blanket. We found a wonderful corduroy quilt and then took a short nap in the park.


I also found there this perfect, tiny cup for a small cacti that’s been waiting for a home. Cups with plants might be another new obsession.


We missed our children and talked about them a lot, but we also realized how much we’ve missed us–the us that made us jump onto the train of our life as a family.

There is still so much transition and upheaval and unknown in the terrain we’re traveling. We know that this weekend we were just coasting through the easy valley of a welcome and much-needed respite. I sometimes say that I wish I could fast-forward to the fall, when I know we’ll be in a different place with more certainty to it, but I’m trying to stay present and take as much in as I can during these last months of living with my children. Because we can’t know what’s really around the coming turns, I am trying to appreciate everything I have and cherish it right now, today.

Still, it was nice to see a flash of light at the end of my parenting tunnel, to remember an important part of why it is we’ve been working so hard to stay on the rails.

Hoping you are getting what you need in these first few weeks of spring, too. Would love to hear how things are going for you in the comments.


24 thoughts on “Of tunnels and respite and light

  1. Kate says:

    It’s my turn to say how much I love your pictures. What wonderful snippets! My favorites are the watches and the corduroy blanket. And you. And that BEAUTIFUL blue house. And that sweetie of a dog (I don’t think I’ve met him/her before). Oh hell, I love them all. They make me want to sit and have a good long visit with you and some tea. (Or beer).

    I’m so glad you got a little respite with Cane. I know there are couples who can go for ages and ages without them but Jesse and I aren’t one of them!!
    Kate recently posted…The Post Where I Kind of Lose My ShitMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Thank you! 🙂 Isn’t that house gorgeous? We’ll never live in such a one (and frankly, I wouldn’t want to have to care for it), but it’s lovely to look at. I would so love to have a good long visit with you, with any kind of libations.

  2. Beth says:

    As always, it’s lovely to hear from you and I’m glad things seem to be going better for your these days. Or at least that you seem like you’re in as good a place as possible during this difficult time.

    I do have to say those pictures make me hate you a little bit. 😉 I live in Milwaukee, WI and it’s 41 degrees right now. That’s the highest temp we’ve seen all week. Forget January, March and April are really the most challenging time in the upper Midwest. Add May into that for those of us near the Lake. Oh well.

    • Rita says:

      Oh, I am so sorry! I have several online friends who live in WI, and I honestly don’t know how you can stand it. One just posted a pic on FB of snow (again!) this morning, and said that looking out her window feels like looking into the wardrobe that is the portal to Narnia. Of course, I start to feel similarly desperate about the heat come August. I am trying to enjoy and soak up every single minute of this mild sun. Spring is the new summer around here.

  3. Kathy says:

    I am simultaneously impatiently awaiting the arrival of our first grandchild, planning my son’s 13th birthday, and being driven crazy by my 16, almost 17 year old daughter. ( And that’s just three out of the five – the other two, all grown up and flown the coop, have been relatively quite lately. Uh oh! )

    Also, still trying to find the perfect grey paint for the house and enjoying my daily walks when I listen to podcasts and books – my blessedly needed down time.

    Continued good luck on your home project!

    • Rita says:

      Thank you! I have always wondered how those with bigger families remain sane. A grandchild sounds wonderful. I know (I hope!) that is a ways off, but I really look forward to that.

  4. Marian says:

    I’m so glad you and Cane had such a good weekend, Rita 🙂 .

    It’s funny — my husband and I have often joked that if we got divorced we could each have a weekend without the kids. It’s really NOT funny, and not really something to joke about — there’s a world of hurt in divorce that isn’t at ALL compensated for by the occasional free weekend — but as you say, there is that small kernel of truth in there. Just last week my husband mentioned the fact that, aside from being in hospital to give birth to my kids’ siblings, I have NEVER — in all my nearly 20 years as a parent — slept in a place (house/hotel) without at least one child under the same roof.

    Love your photos! Our weather has been cold, cold, cold and we’re (likely) weeks away from anything but crocuses blooming. And I have to say I am SO jealous of your sunshine-y studio!!!
    Marian recently posted…—ingMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      No, it’s not funny, and you’re right about the world of hurt–but those weekends we used to get felt a bit like some sort of consolation prize. Maybe it’s what helped us get through all the crappy stuff.

      Just the other night I slept alone without anyone in the house–both kids and Cane were away. It felt really strange! I rattled around the house all evening and thought of all the times I longed for an evening to myself. I didn’t want to do any of the things I wanted to do then. It sure would be nice if life could just give us a little balance. Feels like feast or famine around here much of the time. But I think it’s like that for everyone.

    • Sarah says:

      Marian, get yourself to an AirBnB, stat! Even just within your city, even just for a night!

      I sort of know the longing for a free weekend that you describe. Most of my kid-free travel has been for work which doesn’t exactly come without its own strings attached. Every year I take my daughter to visit my parents in Arizona, and I feel so jealous of my husband’s bachelor time! What I wouldn’t give to be alone in the house for a weekend!
      Sarah recently posted…My home this season: March 2016My Profile

      • Marian says:

        🙂 If there were a prize for “homebodiest homebody” I would win it, hands down! I do completely understand (and feel) the need for alone time, but because I can get that even when others are in the house I’ve never actually felt the need to completely “get away from it all” (or at least, not for more than a few hours at a time).
        Marian recently posted…—ingMy Profile

        • Rita says:

          Oh, no–I am in the running for that prize, too! And I want to learn your trick for feeling alone when others are in the house. I haven’t mastered it yet.

  5. Katherine says:

    I love your weekend recap and am glad you all had time together.

    Lately I have been struck that we are also seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I am diapering baby four in the same cloth diapers we have used for almost eight years now. They are threadbare and barely doing their job. But every time I use them I think “just a little bit longer”. Then we are out of diapers, and- soon after- out of nap times. That feels like such a shift. No more pregnancy or postpartum hormones. No more breastfeeding joys or frustrations. Baby gear is leaving our house. We are stepping into what is coming next.
    Katherine recently posted…Brain DumpMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Oh, it is a shift. I remember when those days were ending for me. It is true that endings are always beginnings. Transitions are so bittersweet for me I can hardly stand it. I will say, though: It really was kind of awesome to end diapering. 🙂 Just last night I dreamed that my son was a baby again. It was so wonderful to hold him. Felt such a longing for that when I woke up. Parenting is such a journey.

  6. Lisa says:

    I was supposed to go to the East Coast tomorrow for a family thing I was very much looking forward to, but this morning two of my three childcare arrangements canceled due to illness, so….poop. 🙁 In other news, we are in a lull of trying to get services at a public school and hopefully transitioning one of my kids out of private school. That comes to a head at the end of this month, so I anticipate next month to be, hmm, frantic, but right now we are just waiting for all the testing and reporting to wrap up. Also, finding pink lamps are The Impossible Dream.

    Weather’s been nice, though 🙂

    Both of your kids look so grown up. Hugs to you!
    Lisa recently posted…pink Target lampsMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Poop is right. I am so sorry. One of the things I hate most about being sorta far from family (though not opposite coast far) is missing family things. Wish I could transport you there.

      Good luck with the school transition. Let me know if you’d like any insight on advocating for your child with public school. I’m not an expert, and I’m not in California, but I know a few things.

      And sending you good lamp vibes. 🙂

  7. Lisa says:

    ugh, grammar mistake–that should say “is The Impossible Dream”, not are. (Says a woman who has a fondness for overusing the em dash and can never remember if the comma goes inside the quote or outside.)
    Lisa recently posted…pink Target lampsMy Profile

  8. Erin says:

    I read this post and thought, “This was just what was needed.” Glad that you had some time to recharge and reconnect. Hugs.

  9. Shannon says:

    Rita, like all of the other commenters, I’m so glad to hear you and Cane finally had some time to re-connect. As much as my husband and I love our children, we got married because we love each other. We try to honor that love and I believe it’s how we have survived all that life has thrown at us (and I think you’d agree, we’ve been hit with our share of shit!) Staying connected with your partner is critical!
    And like you pointed out, it is SO important to stay present in the twins live’s right now. It’s so hard to not get lost with all the scenarios September might bring. Whatever happens, it will all work out. You have raised two amazing, successful kids! Enjoy every minute of these last precious days of high school. Celebrate with them, you have earned it!!

  10. Kari says:

    Raising teenagers is really hard.
    That flowering cherry tree looks like a sand cherry, which is what we have in our front yard.
    Ours won’t be flowering here for another couple of weeks and I cannot wait for that.
    We have been having so much cold and rain, I am ready for the flowering part.
    I love these recaps and your pictures.
    It fills my soul.

    • Rita says:

      So many of the trees here are already done, and you still have all that to look forward to. And, if it makes you feel any better, we have been having cold and rain here, too, this week. Raining on the pretty flowers. It’s like the world just can’t quite figure out what it wants to be around here. That’s OK, though. Feels in keeping with my life these days. 🙂 Happy to think I’m doing my part to keep your soul going.

  11. Sarah says:

    I’m so glad you got that bit of time with Cane, Rita. It sounds lovely and like just what the doctor ordered.
    Nice that you also got some alone time in your studio. Alone/creative time with a partner around is such a wonderful thing too — to feel that respect for your creativity and need for solitude. And also his support of the project as part of your outing/activities (that is, I assume the taking pictures is related to your house/map/found poem project. Glad to hear you are still working on it!)
    I know just what you mean about the first sunny spring weekend being the most glorious weekend of the year in the Pacific Northwest!
    I feel a bit behind on taking advantage of the springtime, I’ve been pretty snowed under at work. Good things, but time consuming. I’ll be traveling to a conference during the latter part of this coming week, but unfortunately it is going to be pretty nose-to-the-grindstone. Hoping to get a break later in the month.
    Sarah recently posted…My home this season: March 2016My Profile

    • Rita says:

      I hope you get a break, too. I’ve been trying to soak up as much spring as I can. I’ve decided that it’s a pretty wonderful time of year, here. I’m working on shifting my expectations for the seasons. Spring is much like summer used to be for me, in terms of temperatures and what kinds of things I can do outdoors. So, I’m trying to absorb and enjoy and appreciate these days as much as I can. Summer for me is becoming a more extreme season, like winter. I completely expect (and thus accept) that the weather may curtail my activities in winter; I think I need to get to the same place with summer.

  12. May says:

    I have to preface this comment with a note of gratitude. My grown children were not perfect growing up. Each went through a dark period before coming into their own—-okay, dark might be too harsh a descriptor—dim, they each had a dim place. But their dim stages were not nearly as devastating and dramatic as so many teens go through. I acknowledge that we were insanely blessed and have continued to be. Even so, the empty nest is incredible! Demands on time and energy are way more realistic. Time together becomes the norm, not something you have to steal. It is like one day you suddenly look at each other and think–Oh, yeah. I remember what I liked about you!
    May recently posted…TToT: EscapeMy Profile

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