Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The End of an Era

So, without being overly (or at least unnecessarily) dramatic, it seems to me that it’s time to state the obvious.

It’s time to retire this blog. 

I haven’t written here in almost a year, and it’s been a lot longer than that since I've been writing here regularly. I've tried a few times to get the ball rolling again, but it’s just not happening. It’s time to call a spade a spade (and also to put down some of my nagging sense of shame about not keeping up with this project.) Like any creative piece, you never really feel “finished,” but sometimes you know when you’re done. I think Crossing the Prairie is done.

The years I chronicled here were amazing, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and beautiful. My journey into motherhood is archived here, the good, the bad, and a bit of the ugly. The sense of connection I felt when this blog was in full swing was warm and real, and I am so grateful for those of you who joined me here, who held me up, who believed in me. Being a young mother of many little ones can be isolating and lonely – this blog was a place for me to reach out into the wider world, and I thank those of you who reached back.

Cooking with the babies, Germany 2007
When I was writing here regularly, life was about diaper changes, home-ownership, dinner adventures, preschool, and tiny hand prints.  I wrote about what was happening in my kitchen, my garden, my playroom. I tried out recipes and chronicled both the hilarious and the mundane of modern housewifery, and some of the more interesting – and sometimes challenging - parts of living abroad, military family life, and adoption.

My grandfather, Carrol.
I wrote mostly for my family, so they could see the little ones growing up from far away, and I wrote for myself, in an effort to keep track of who I was in the whirlwind that was my life during that time. I wrote a lot for my grandfather, who got himself an email address and learned how to navigate the Internet in his 80s, largely to keep up with what I was doing here. He passed away unexpectedly in August, and it has felt like the end of an era in more ways than one.

Life is different now. We sold our house in the Great Frozen North, and now we live in a rented house in Alabama – we’ll be moving again in six months, but we don’t know where to yet. The hand prints around here aren't so tiny anymore. When we moved here, I was overjoyed that I didn't have to find a preschool, and then deflated to discover that it’s now time to learn how to parent a preteen. Let me tell you, that’s been … humbling. My kids spend most of their waking hours away from home now, at school, sports, and dance. We still manage to meet at the dinner table most nights, but I can see that making that happen is going to get harder in the very near future. I’m doing more work as a freelance editor (book to be published in 2014 – woot!!), and thinking more about my professional future, which is kind of cool.

I also helped my mom spin down the Ethiopian Women’s Empowerment Fund when her health declined and she was no longer able to run the program. In its place, I launched a new nonprofit, called Women Equipped, which focuses on small business creation for women in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I hope you’ll come check us out at our website and on Facebook – our first Women’s Group should be starting up this month, and I've got high hopes for this new direction.  It’s been no small task to get this project up and running, and I still have miles to go before I sleep, but it’s good work. I’m grateful for the opportunity to do it.

Y’all, I love this blog. I so wanted it to be a thing that could just go on forever - I’m getting all misty-eyed typing this. This was my thing – my space, my voice – for a long time.  But I’m finding myself cornered by this truth: You can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want.

I want to be an editor. I want to be a writer. I want to run Women Equipped the way it deserves to be run. I want to be present for my children, put dinner on the table, spend time with the people who are dear to me, and still be able to find time most days to fill my own tank, just a little. I don’t think, at least for now, that I can be a blogger, too.

Maybe in the future, there will be another platform for me – I’ll share it here if that reality comes to fruition. I’d like to write more about the things that are heavier on my heart – the complicated art of parenting, social justice, adoption ethics, gender politics, the ways the military and society intersect (or don’t), and other Big Stuff. Crossing the Prairie isn't the right place for that voice, and the person I was when I wrote here is not the person I find myself becoming now. Life is funny, isn't it? You feel the same day to day, but when you look back a few years, you hardly recognize yourself. 

These are the most amazing young people. 
The kids are older now, too, and as they develop lives more independent of mine, I don't feel like I have the right to continue to tell their stories like I used to, when they all seemed like (sometimes quite literal) extensions of myself. They have their own voices now, and I'm not as confident in my ability to judge which stories are fit for the public and which ones are more personal. What's more, in the New Age of the Internet, I realize that my kids will soon have an "online presence" (exactly when did that become a thing??), and I don't think I should be the dominant voice there. (Privacy and safety concerns are another thing entirely, and also worth considering.) My guess is that my mere existence on this planet will be enough embarrassment for their teenage lives.

That whole thing about bigger kids - how "it doesn't get easier, it just becomes a different kind of hard," (if you told me this anywhere between 2005 and 2010, you may remember me sticking my fingers in my ears and saying, "I'M NOT LISTENING!!!") - well, it seems like it's true. I no longer live and die by the double stroller or have to stir my dinner with a thirty pound thrashing toddler on my hip. But the real, deep, emotional hard work of parenting - of sharing this brief time with people who will be adults before I catch my breath - it's just beginning. 

Also, they are hilarious.
Dear friends, I thank you for sharing this time and space with me, for listening to me, for watching my children grow, celebrating joyful times and grieving with me in the hard times. As long as it's practical and safe, I'll be leaving the blog archives and the recipe index up (I use that thing more than the general public does, I think). It's been a good run, y'all.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.

--Theodore Roosevelt, 1910

1 comment:

Jessica Gordon Ryan said...

I teared up Jenn - not sure why, whether it was your words or the photos or both... TIme can't be frozen, can it. Lives change incredibly... I never imagined my life to be the way it is now... but it is a blessing. I hope you blog again. You have a beautiful voice... a beautiful style!