A home office, a baby, a life

window

Who knew a room could launch you into adulthood?

I spend a strange amount of time not feeling “old enough.” Not old enough to have a house, a car, credit cards, a checkbook. Not being old enough to have a husband and a baby on the way; not old enough to argue with cable companies and insurance representatives, to be grocery shopping independently and gathering tax documents.

Though I don’t obsess about it, I often feel like I’m glancing over my shoulder — waiting for someone else to swoop in and take care of things. Fix the insurance snafus; adjust the thermostat. Be the adult in the room.

It’s scary to realize you’re the adult present. The one throwing the party, taking the phone calls, signing up for health care. It’s all you.

We have a home office. One with built-in cabinetry, outlets for computers, actual computers, a mug with pens and Sharpies. And pencils? I guess you need those sometimes.

It was the first thing we noticed in the real estate listing discovered around this time last year: a beautiful space with counters and drawers and ridiculous organizational possibilities. Coming from a relatively small apartment, all I could think about was cramming our stuff in those nooks and crannies. There were so many of them! Something out of a dream. As soon as we stepped inside and looked left, taking in this gorgeous room, we were sold. I mean, the rest of the house is great . . . but that office.

It’s been almost a year since we first toured the place that would become our family home. I had “that sense” as soon as we walked in, you know? That feeling of peace, tranquility, overwhelming rightness. We’d already visited half a dozen houses with my dad, a Realtor, and found positive qualities in each . . . but this one? This was it. It had everything. Never a doubt in our minds.

I freaked out a few times, of course — mostly about money. Houses require lots of it. We got into a bidding war right before the bank formally accepted our offer on the foreclosure, so there was a time when I thought we might have lost it. That thought brought on a potent mix of overwhelming disappointment . . . and relief. I was panicky thinking of another move so quickly after our wedding and my initial transition from my parents’ house. Putting our life back into boxes — ones I felt I’d just unpacked — was overwhelming.

But it was worth it, of course. We got the house; we moved all of our worldly possessions; we’ve made this place ours. We’re home now. I won’t pretend like there aren’t still piles of stuff in the basement waiting to be organized, placed and hung . . . but no one goes down there anyway, right? Spence has learned to ignore them. For now.

With a snowstorm blowing through the Washington area on Monday night, I was able to take a laptop home and work from our office on Tuesday — for the first time ever. And it was magical. “Working from home” is a mystical concept I’ve heard others experience, but I’ve never been able to attempt such a feat.

Given I’m six months pregnant and unsteady on my feet on a good day, my boss kindly suggested I hook up with our IT expert and figure out a way to make it happen. I was ridiculously grateful. By 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, I was hunkered down in said home office with two laptops fired up, listening to Coldplay and sipping a contraband Coke while typing away.

Outside, my husband — off for an actual snow day — set to work clearing our driveway of the 8 inches of fluffy stuff that came down overnight. Our neighbor drove his tractor up and down his property, making hasty U-turns at the street. Around lunchtime, a plow finally pushed its way through our neighborhood. Salt coated the street. The sun broke through the windows.

And I felt happy.

Like really, really happy. Suddenly, inexplicably, buoyantly happy. I’m emotional in a normal (non-pregnancy) state, but something about this scene — cozy but productive at home, our home — just felt . . . really good. Adult-like. Answering work emails, researching articles, laying out pages, being part of a team . . . well, I felt like a grown-up. Never mind that I’ve been in the working world — and at my job — for nearly eight years. This? This was it.

Do you ever have a “This is my life” moment? Tiny, sparkly shards of realization that you are, in fact, this or here or something in between?

For me, they’re usually sparks of recognition that I’m married, starting a family, turning 30 this summer . . . that somehow — by the grace of God, perhaps — we have a home to call our own and people we love who love us back. And more than anything, Spence and I have each other.

There are times I wake up and feel like I’m 10 or 12 or 25 again. Sometimes I expect to open my eyes and be back in my childhood canopy bed, Dad downstairs popping Eggo Waffles into the toaster while my sister and I scramble to get ready for school. Sometimes these scenes feel so familiar, so real, that I forget. Forget I’m here. Forget it’s now.

Feeling a baby kick and tumble in my belly produces some of these existential wanderings, sure, but I’ve always been a philosophical mess. Questioning everything, adding weight to every moment. I was a weird kid. Once, at Disney World, I remember crying because my mom gave me a piece of gum — and I threw away its paper wrapper. Someday, I thought, I’ll remember her handing me this wrapper — something she held. Someday, I’ll want it back.

See? Weird.

I’m not worried about becoming a mother. I don’t worry about being bad at it — though I’m sure I’ll screw up and ask forgiveness and wish I’d done things differently. I’m not a perfect person, and I won’t be a perfect parent. But I already love our son with a fierce fire I didn’t think was possible, and I know I’ll do my best. I’ll do more than that.

Sometimes I think about what it means to bring a child into this world. Like everyone, I think of the scary things — illness, violence, heartbreak — and worry about how I’ll make myself a human shield, absorbing his blows and soothing his cries. Knowing I won’t be able to fix everything — or, someday, anything — is already a gnawing ache.

But I can’t go there. I know I can’t. So I focus on how we want to raise him — how we want to encourage him, laugh with him, inspire him. I keep thinking of my own happy childhood, wanting Spence and I to give him everything we had: love, support, attention.

I keep picturing him in this home office in a Pack ‘n Play, baby-babbling while I tap out emails and field phone calls — how different our life will look four, six and twelve months from now. So foreign from how it looked when we first cleared snow from our shoes and walked through the front door last March.

But also right, too. Very right. Good.


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Happily 29

Meg

Almost-29, shorter-hair selfie

So, my 28th year was a pretty wild one.

July and August were spent with nonstop planning and prep for two weddings.

In September, I stood at my sister’s side as she tied the knot.

I moved out of my parents’ house for the first time in October, and made all those last-minute preparations for our own nuptials — then married my sweetheart on an absolutely gorgeous, unforgettable day in November. I officially became a Johnson.

December found us celebrating our first married Christmas, and the long winter months from January to March were eventually broken by fun trips to Canada in April and California in May.

Speaking of . . . we bought our house two months ago! Then moved in June, welcoming Spencer’s parents for a week as we transplanted everything we own and tried to maintain our sanity. We’re still recovering.

Now it’s July again . . . and today is my 29th birthday! It’s crazy to think I’m entering the final year of my twenties, that infamous decade filled with indecision, heartbreak, healing, growth and near-constant change . . . an era that transformed me from a young woman to a full-fledged, allegedly adult adult. One complete with a marriage license and mortgage.

Astounding, actually.

Especially since the house purchase, you know, I’m feeling settled. In a good way. Just four weeks ago, we were staring down a huge financial undertaking, preparing to change residences and generally all over the place. I was emotional and freaked out and crazy-feeling, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get myself together.

And then I kind of did.

It’s funny how that happens, isn’t it? We may not even notice the shift. Everything starts to come together, bit by bit, and the rooms that were stacked high with boxes are emptying. All the nervousness and worry I’d been carting around for months has started to dissipate . . . maybe reassemble on shelves, where I can see it but find it less daunting. The fear I’ve worn like a backpack has begun to lighten.

As I enter the final year of a life-changing decade, I don’t find myself gripped by any of the sadness I thought I might. It’ll be weird to cross the threshold to 30 next year, no doubt — and I’m sure the next decade will bring more shake-ups. And a growing family, I hope.

But I’m not there quite yet.

And right here? It’s definitely where I want to be.


We’re never gonna stop this train

Road

Back when I was commuting to College Park for school, the only thing getting me through long, terrible, traffic-riddled drives was the soothing sound of John Mayer.

Though his antics in recent years may have colored him in the public’s eye, perhaps, John will always be my main man. I can’t remember my young adult years without thinking of “Clarity,” “Bigger Than My Body,” “Something’s Missing,” “No Such Thing.” As John grew and released more sophisticated, blues-inspired tunes, so did I. My early years at Borders were marked by the release of “Continuum,” the 2006 album that served as a definitive change in his sound, and it became the soundtrack to my college days.

Sometimes I have these moments — crystal, perfect — that fill up the soul. Soothe me. Comfort me. Remind me that, no matter how disjointed and afraid I may feel some days, I’m on the right path . . . and everything is going to be just fine.

I often have John to thank.

Some of my best thinking gets done in the car. Despite all the chaos in the D.C. area, I usually find cruising around to be pretty relaxing. I don’t mind being alone — especially with music or books along for the ride. When the weather is nice? Windows down, hand in the wind. Just going.

Last night I’d just finished an audiobook and was digging around for something to listen to when I rediscovered “Where The Light Is,” John’s two-disc live album from 2008. “Stop This Train” began to play. The simple guitar intro took me immediately back to the spring of my senior year of college — the time when I realized, in a few short months, I’d be done with school forever and officially “an adult.”

I didn’t have a job lined up. Didn’t have a post-graduation plan. Was still living at home and already pondering ways to end another relationship, which pained and scared me — because at the time, he was my absolute best friend. Though far from being my great love, it’s always hard saying goodbye.

I remember driving on the Beltway on a warm spring day, the sun filtering through my cracked windows with “Continuum” on repeat. Graduation was probably weeks away, based on the knot in my stomach, and I was taking the exit that would lead me back home. Happiness and freedom should have been sitting right in my passenger seat, soothing me, but I’m nothing if not a worrier. I just remember feeling scared.



Stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t
But honestly, won’t someone stop this train?

The words — the words. They hit me like a brick wall.

Oh once in a while, when it’s good
It’ll feel like it should
And they’re all still around
And you’re still safe and sound
And you won’t miss a thing
Until you cry . . . when you’re driving away
In the dark

How did John slip inside the darkest corner of my heart and pluck out every scared thing I was feeling? I can’t listen to that song without thinking of that day . . . which is exactly what happened last night.

And then I realized: I got through it.

My fears about getting a job, leaving home, making new friends, finding someone to love who would love me just as much . . . entering “adulthood.” All of that. It hasn’t been easy and it’s certainly not over, but I did many of the things I was once so afraid to do. They came to pass, and I’m still standing.

Moved.
Married.
Working.
Indebted. But that’s okay, too.

I drove slowly to the new house, the one stacked sky-high with boxes. Breathed in the muggy air. Watched the fireflies twinkling in the trees.

It’s the most unshackled I’ve felt in months.


In which I act like an adult and buy lots of greeting cards

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I spent almost an hour in Hallmark last night.

This isn’t unusual per say, but what was odd? The ridiculous amount of cards I left with.

I’m going to be perfectly honest with you: I’m still getting used to this whole adulthood thing. Up until last fall, when I moved from home and got hitched just weeks later, I was pretty accustomed to my mom — thoughtful, kind, sweet and good-hearted Mom — taking care of things like birthday greetings.

And graduations.
And anniversaries.
And holidays.

Mom has a card for every occasion. In her craft room — a space filled with all manner of bits and bobbles — is a drawer stuffed with paper and stationery. Way back when (er, six months ago), if I forgot a friend’s birthday or had an unexpected party to attend or needed to get a condolences note sent in short order? Well, I just pilfered something from Mom’s stash. (With permission, of course.)

And the stash? Well, it wasn’t just greeting cards, of course. There were gift bags and ribbon and wrapping paper for every discernible occasion, and I was spoiled — spoiled, I tell you! — by having all of this at my fingertips.

Things have changed, of course. Since Christmas arrived just a month or so after we got married, I suddenly found myself without any of the gift-y baubles I needed for our presents. There was no Mom there with an already-purchased birthday card for me to sign; I had no gift bag in which to stuff a friend’s present.

It was on me. All on me.

Over the past few months, I’ve gotten better about building up my stash so I’m not running out to Target at 9 p.m. the night before I need to get a card in the mail. That’s the other piece of this puzzle, I suppose: I’m a card-sender. I love mail. Getting, receiving, writing, addressing, stamping . . . all of it.

I may be the most dedicated under-age-30 (or age 60?) customer at our post office, a hotbed of disorganization and disgruntled employees, but it’s okay.

A few weeks back, I hit the dollar store to stock up on all the essentials for gift-giving occasions. For less than $10, I had bags and curling ribbon and four rolls of wrapping paper, most unisex. It pains me to spend $4 on something that will be torn through, ripped or discarded, so . . . I’m not doing it. I’m trying to get creative with my packaging so it shows thought but doesn’t bankrupt me.

We don’t want to be bankrupt. Especially so close to closing (May 16!) on our new house.

After I got home from Hallmark yesterday, I pulled Spencer in to look through my stack of cards for occasions through June. There are anniversaries, birthdays, ladies we’ll honor for Mother’s Day. While I can still use my beloved address labels until the move (sigh), we signed and addressed and stamped as many of those babies as possible. I stuck Post-It notes on them indicating when they should be sent in weeks to come, then tucked them into our organizer by the door.

Then I patted myself on the back for being super-organized and adult-y.

Then I wanted a big ol’ glass of wine.

Adult-y, indeed.