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In Between

There are two perfectly normal questions that I am regularly asked that always provoke a little twinge in my stomach. The closer my relationship with the asker, the stronger the feeling:

- "Are you going to (or why don't you) move to Wisconsin/Minnesota/Austria?"
- "How do you pronounce your son's name again?"

These are reminders of the life-long issues that Dinka and I brought on ourselves when we got married. There was never any doubt about the decision to get married and when—at a certain point, we both just knew that this is how things had to be and that we'd have to figure out a way to make everything else work. So there's no possibility for regret (lucky for us, I suppose), but there's also nothing that can be done to unburden oneself of the consequences of that decision.

It's hard to explain to people the lump in my throat and the heaviness in my heart when I consider the impossibility of our situation. There is no way to successfully straddle the geographical divide between our families. Our kids will grow up without being in close contact with one or both sets of grandparents for extended periods of time. There will be distant cousins that could have been close friends, uncles that cannot pick up the kids on a whim to take them fishing, aunts whose cooking they will never grow to love. One pair of grandparents will always be living with their grandkids—that and the memory of Veronika and Ivan's joy in spending time with them is enough to make me pause. Every Easter, Christmas, baptism and birth will always be missing something.

So what's the right thing to do? What's most fair to our families, most fair to our family? I wish I knew. For now, we choose an awkward compromise—to live without either of them (which is "fair", I suppose) and try to visit everyone equally. We don't choose sides, but then we also lose by narrowing the possibility of a close relationship with anyone.

The same is true of choosing names for our children. We exhaust the lists, searching for that one perfect name that we love and that will be accepted and pronounceable in three languages, a perfect compromise. But it doesn't exist (I think Veronika is the closest we'll ever come). So we choose a middle ground, awkward for at least some, trying to please everyone and maintain our own identity at once.

We cannot give our children the lives that we had and loved growing up, but we will give them our life, multi-cultural and bilingual and transatlantic as it is, and our example to them—that in the end, love is all that matters and that everything else can be overcome.

April 30, 2008 | Comments (2)

Weekend Warrior

Close enough

The major changes in my life have mostly come in bunches. Six months of 2002 saw my college graduation, Catholic confirmation, my first job, a new apartment and our first pregnancy. In the summer of 2004, we packed up and moved across the country for a new job, a new apartment and a new start in place where we knew almost no one. Now here we go again in 2008—we've got a new baby on the way, we moved into a new apartment and bought our first new car in February, and my brother's getting married in May (which requires a couple of trips back to the heartland, not that I mind). So with every spare evening and weekend of the last three months, that's what I've been doing: disassembling and reassembling old Ikea furniture, assembling new Ikea furniture, packing and unpacking, watching both cars break down (one temporarily, one irreparably), figuring out how to buy a new car, taking on more debt than I ever have before, all while trying to preserve a thread of the intention of Lent, celebrate Easter and Ivan's birthday, and jet off to Minnesota.

Times like these trigger some kind of survival mechanism in me. I compartmentalize everything, family included, into categories and tasks, make lists to prioritize and worry over, and then put my head down and power through. This is a good approach for getting things done and for forgetting why you're doing them. I have come up for air a few times this year—sledding with the kids, a long weekend in Minneapolis, a Mets game last weekend—but for the most part the last three months have been a long slog through an endless list of tedious tasks that left little time to spend with the family that I'm doing everything for and not a trace of creative inspiration. The nose-to-the-grindstone method is also a frighteningly effective way to pass the time. I woke up earlier this week to discover that Dinka's 38-week appointment with the midwife was that afternoon. As in, two weeks to go, time to buckle down. I thought I was already buckled.

While I'd like to say that this is all about to change, that soon my work will be done and I'll have time to answer my emails, take pictures and watch movies (these are as lofty as my goals get these days), I'm not sure that will be the case. My hope is that no matter how many items are left on my lists when the baby is born, his birth will remind me of my real priorities and let the rest wash away or at least wait patiently. No pressure, son.

April 19, 2008 | Comments (1)