Lindsay Sledge

a blog about life with Micah, Denver, Everett, and Savannah

Author: lindsaysledge

Dating and Duets

My friends and I were so cool in school that we formed an extremely exclusive club, the NBK. Invite only, you had to meet certain criteria to become a member. Ok, there was really only one criteria: we had never been kissed.

It wasn’t for lack of effort. I had my first crush in kindergarten, another in third grade, and so on and so forth over the course of my education. I even wrote a note to a boy in middle school: “Do you like me? Circle yes or no.” He had no hesitation when he circled no.

I was friendly and smart, but I wasn’t obviously cute like the popular girls. The popular crowd was perfectly petite, styled in short skirts, and successful at applying the Britney Spears’ iconic blue eye shadow look. I tried the eye shadow myself, but it made my big blue eyes look like a character from A Bugs Life, not MTV.

If I’m being honest, I was also a bit of a nerd. Nerds were not cool in the early 00s. Clad in bifocals and sporting a perm that did not suit my features, boys looked right past me. It didn’t help that my head was always buried behind a book, causing my classmates to nickname me “Reading Rainbow.” (In retrospect, this nickname was definitely a win.)

I’m the oldest of four girls, and we grew up during the peak of the Disney princess era. My fairy tale favorite was Cinderella, and I was obsessed with Brandy’s version. I vividly remember watching the debut on TV, bowl of popcorn in hand, room full of sisters at my side. Brandy was pretty and petite, her voice like an angel, and I wanted nothing more than to dance across the screen and into the arms of Prince Charming. 

As I watched the movie, I sadly realized that I didn’t relate to her. She was delicate and soft spoken, I was strong and loud. She was graceful and well-mannered, I was so rough around the edges that my Dad enrolled me in an etiquette class. 

I more clearly connected with two other characters on screen: the stepsisters. They had quirks, so did I. They were awkward with the fellas, so was I. Plus, the stepsisters sing the most hilarious duet, called “Stepsister’s Lament,” in which they artfully articulate the woes of attracting the opposite sex.

Here’s a snippet: 

Oh why would a fellow want a girl like her
So obviously unusual?
Why can’t a fellow ever once prefer
A usual girl like me?…

Her neck is no wider than a swan’s
She’s only as dainty as a daisy
She’s only as graceful as a bird
So why is the fellow going crazy?

Oh why would a fellow want a girl like her
A girl who’s merely lovely?
Why can’t a fellow ever once prefer
A girl who’s merely me?

Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the most ridiculous shout out to the majority of us usual, solid, and flawed ladies. My awkward teenage self was relieved to hear that I was not alone. We simply cannot all be Cinderella.

***

I’m proud to say that I was eventually kicked out of the NBK club, though many years later. I met my match during junior year of college, in the student ministry at my church. At the time, he was sporting the beard of a lumber jack and dressed to impress absolutely no one. He called his stylistic approach “planned improvement.” His theory was that if he looked disheveled for long enough, then when he tidied up, the ladies would come running. Little did he know, I had given up on looking for Prince Charming, so his appearance did nothing to dissuade me. In fact, it only aded to my curiosity. What type of 20 year old city dweller maintains a beard from old westerns and allows his peers to hide Cheetos in it? Apparently the type of man I would marry.

Since we were still in school, we waited three years before finally saying, “I do.” This allotted me ample time to dream up a fairy tale wedding. All I needed was a fairy godmother to wave her wand and work some magic on the big day.

I never did meet my fairy godmother, but I did meet a skilled beautician at a salon who expertly styled my hair and makeup. Once I put on the side-ruched, A-line, ivory wedding gown, my transformation was complete. I felt every bit as beautiful and graceful as Brandy. When my Dad saw me for the first time, he teared up, likely relieved that the etiquette class had paid off. I could almost hear Whitney Houston whispering in my ear, “Impossible things are happening every day.” Perhaps, just this once, I could be Cinderella.

Our wedding was on a hot July evening in 2011. As bride-to-be, I hardly registered the heat, delighted that my dreams were finally coming true. I vaguely remember the bridal party carrying around cloths to dab at the sweat drops marring their makeup. I recall passing around water bottles, thankful that the event coordinator had a never-ending supply. What I remember most is that the ceremony was warm. Really warm. When it came time for my husband to place the ring on my finger, it got stuck at the knuckle, my fingers slightly swollen after group pictures in the sun. We actually made a joke about it to our guests, and the congregation laughed out loud. 

There was not as much laughter at the end of the ceremony. Precisely as my pastor was saying the words, “It is my pleasure to pronounce…” I heard a loud thud from behind and a bridesmaid yell out some choice words. Another one of my bridesmaids had collapsed from the heat, seconds before my husband and I were to kiss for the first time as husband and wife. 

My entire fairy tale day came to an abrupt halt. Once again I was reminded that I am not Cinderella, and my life is not nearly as magical as a movie.

***

If a dream is a wish your heart makes, then my dreams have come true, perhaps not overnight, but over many years of marriage. Sitting on a picnic blanket in the middle of a nearby vineyard, my husband and I recently celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary. We have three children now, and a life full of love and laughter and loudness. As I listened to the band serenading us and breathed in the warm July air, I felt at peace. It was partially due to the absence of our children, who were with a sitter, sound asleep in the home we’ve made for ourselves. It was also the calm and quiet of a night alone with the one my heart still desires. 

There were no expectations for this evening. It was slow-paced and simple. We were alone in our patch of grass, no one close enough to interrupt our conversation or demand our attention. Our anniversary was the complete opposite of our wedding exactly ten years ago, with one exception: our vows. 

My husband pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket, and he recited new vows that he prays will carry us through the next decade. These vows reach deeper than those we read at our wedding, because we now have a fuller understanding of better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health. Ours is not the flimsy, love at first sight, fairy tale sort of love from my dreams or our early days of dating. It is a steadfast love that remains resilient and unified during sleepless nights. It is a patient love that prepares us for tag-teaming toddlers and trading off when tempers flare. It is a forgiving love that leads us to offer apologies and affection, enabling us to grow together when a lesser love might lead us apart.

The stepsisters’ duet may have provided me with a hearty laugh as a teenager, but it is the duet between Cinderella and the prince that speaks to my heart now, as a seasoned wife and mother. The young lovers ask the questions to which I now know the answers:

Do I want you because you’re wonderful,
Or are you wonderful, because I want you?
Are you the sweet invention of a lover’s dream
Or are you really as beautiful as you seem?

The answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes. Perhaps I am a bit like Cinderella after all.

***

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Lyrical”. 

I Miss Those Days Today

I was standing at the kitchen counter, cleaning the dishes after dinner, when I heard Presley yelp. I turned, saw his body splayed out on the laminate floor, and knew that something was seriously wrong with his back leg. Presley is an Australian Cattle Dog, athletic by nature, and when he couldn’t get up, I felt my heart sink. It was that feeling you get when you know that something horrible is happening and there is nothing that you can do to stop it. Add three little kids running around, contributing to the chaos, and I did what all parents do, I kept moving.

My husband picked Presley up and rushed him to the ER, because all injuries, even canine injuries, happen after hours. I flew through the kids’ bedtime routine: brushed teeth, read books, and tucked everyone into bed. I checked that my sister was settled in, watching the baby monitors to ensure that all was well at home. Then I hurried to join my husband at the pet hospital. 

It was a long wait, three to four hours, but I didn’t mind the waiting. My husband and I are so rarely alone that it felt like a reprieve, a very sad but unifying reprieve. The nurses took Presley back so that the doctor could evaluate him, and they left us in a private room, waiting for news that would eventually break our hearts.

As we stood there, I started pulling up pictures of Presley on my phone. In most of the recent photos, Presley is in the background, my children playing around him. There he is in the backyard, sunbathing while my daughter practices walking in her first pair of shoes. There he is in the kitchen, eating table scraps off of the floor while my boys have a dance party in the foreground.

I scroll back a tad further, before my kids took over my phone and my life, and I see the sweetest tricolored puppy, smiling and running, the center of my world. I have almost as many pictures of Presley as I do of my children. What surprised me the most was how many of the photos also include my husband and me, a trio of best friends, so happy and carefree. We looked young, really young. There were no bags under our eyes, because we were sleeping through the night. We were thin from all of the time spent exercising, and we looked absolutely in love.

How did I so easily forget what life looked like before kids? Why did I take so many pictures of us with our dog? Were we really this joyful and content? I think that we were. I remember that we were. How glad I am for these photos, memories of a time not that long ago but that seems like forever in the past.

There we were, huddled together after a long hike in the park, cuddled up on the couch watching a movie, living life together in our small apartment, an adorable dog right by our side. My home was clean and decluttered, quite the contrast from my current home which is constantly messy and covered in toys. I was dressed in real clothes, no spit up on my shirt, no Play-Doh stains on my sweatpants. My husband seemed relaxed, not stressed from balancing work and family life, and he had quite a bit more hair on his head.

As I scrolled through picture after picture, my heart started yearning to go back, for one more stroll together in the park, one more night snuggled up on that couch, with my new husband, my healthy dog, and my spotless floors. There was a calm in these photos, and for a moment I could feel myself there again, young and unencumbered, with endless time on my hands. It was back when I was truly head over heels for my husband and to the moon in love with my precious puppy.

Oh how I miss those days today.

Presley has been with us for nearly ten years now. We adopted him right after our first anniversary, when we wanted to share our home with someone else but weren’t yet ready for kids. We chose him from a local rescue website where he was smiling at us, goofy-grinned and slightly manic, covered in brown freckles and begging to be loved. Presley was our first baby, before we had human babies, and he has been with us through all of the big milestones of the last decade.

I’ve had three babies and bought two houses since he arrived. I’ve changed jobs numerous times and said goodbye to grandparents. Time has continued to move around me, but I’ve been so focussed on keeping my tiny humans alive that I missed seeing that my dog was getting older, that he was sick.

The vet says that bone cancer caused his leg to break. He will not heal, though we’ve given it time, more time than perhaps we should have. We’ve scheduled a date to say goodbye, and we are heartbroken. Presley appeared healthy a month ago, and now he is ready to leave. I am not ready to let him go.

I feel like I am saying goodbye to one of my best friends, one of the last parts of my childhood. It was the time before kids, when I could still be a kid. I am saying goodbye to the couple in the pictures, the girl with the boy attached to her side, the kids with all the time in the world and the happiest companion along for the ride.

My children want to throw Presley a party, so that is what we will do this weekend. We will bake a cake, which my five-year-old plans to ice on his own, hang streamers, and sing songs of thankfulness over our beloved dog. The boys want to build a stairway to Heaven for him, to watch him walk into Jesus’ arms. It takes all of my effort to calmly explain that he will leave us from the vet’s office, not at the end of the party. I am not sure what happens to dogs when they die, but I say a prayer for Presley, because I know that God hears prayers. Then I snuggle him close and whisper that he is the best dog in the world.

As I’m writing these words, I know that my puppy will have passed by the time that they are read. Tears stream quickly down my face and land on my hands, there are too many to wipe away. I hope that somehow these words will bring healing to my sorrowful heart, to my young and grieving family. There is a special place in families for dogs, dogs like Presley, dogs who become incredibly loved and who share an abundant love in return.

I look at the pictures of Presley once again: sitting next to me in the car on the first day we brought him home, licking my husband’s face in the middle of a snowstorm, playing with my children under the swing set that their father built. How thankful I am for these memories, grateful that the moments are captured on camera, snapshots of sunny days with my sweet Presley.

Oh how I miss those days today.

When am I going back to work?

When am I going back to work?

I am asked this question, or a similar version, often. Do I miss work? Do I think about going back to work? What exactly do I do all day?

Seriously?

I have to believe that people do not understand the implications of these questions, or else they wouldn’t ask. Allow me to clarify.

I DO work, inside the home. I am a full time nanny, housekeeper, chef, budget analyst, and chauffeur. I doctor wounds, teach life skills, and counsel emotions. The current headline on my resume, SAHM, may not impress many, but it matters more than any job I’ve ever done.

I DO miss working in an office. I miss the commute when I sang the Hamilton Soundtrack at the top of my lungs. I miss my coworkers, our random jokes, lunch dates, and fantasy football banter. I miss completing a task and receiving recognition for a job well done.

Of COURSE I think about working outside the home. I spent years moving up in the music industry, finally making it to manager. It seems so silly sometimes that I stepped back to stay at home with my son. After all, isn’t the American dream to work hard, climb the corporate latter, and gain success in the form of title and salary?

This is what people are implying when they ask me when I’m going back to work. The implication is that what I am doing is not real work, not true success.

It’s taken a year to settle into life as a SAHM, and here is what I know now. Success is sometimes simple. It’s happily reading the same book to my son ten times a day because it’s his favorite. It’s persuading him to sip milk from a straw after he’s refused countless times before. Success is teaching a child to nap and watching him fall asleep on his own each day. Some days success looks like surviving, and the best I can do is keep everyone alive. Other days success is a clean home, cooked meal, and walk to the park. It’s ok that I don’t have a gig on the side, that I don’t work part-time or full-time outside the home. What defines success is not the lines on my resume, it’s the smiles and laughter, hugs and snugs that I receive from my son each day.

Please stop asking me when I’m going back to work. I am at work.

“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” Dr. John Trainer

With love,

Lindsay

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