January 2020 State of the (Mangine) Union

Well, it's 2020 and it's dumb how quickly that arrived. Since we never sent out a Christmas card/letter, I thought I'd give a quick update on the State of the Mangine Union.

Here's the weird thing about looking back on a period of time.  One day you're a child.  And childhood feels like it will take FOREVER.  And you go to school.  And you do all the school work.  And when you're in your teens, it feels like it's gonna be a million years until you are an adult.  And, in a way, that makes sense, because what will be is far greater than what has already been.  And then you graduate from high school, and then college is this simultaneously never-ending and over-in-the-blink-of-an-eye experience.  And then, at least for me who married young, adulthood began.

So far in my life, it's been an almost-equal mix of childhood and adulthood. I have been with Nick for almost exactly half my life. We will celebrate our 20th anniversary later this year.  And I have been a parent for the past 16.5 years (almost exactly).  So, if I knew how to make charts, I think it would be pretty damn interesting to whip up a couple charts and to realize how much of my life has been taken up by which chunks of memorable events. Unfortunately, I am Gen X-- I grew up with an analog life and then transitioned to digital, so chart-making is not second nature to me as it is to my children.  So you will just have to imagine.

Being in my 40s continues to be wonderful. Mostly. I truly believe that 40s is time time in life when you test all the bullshit you thought you knew and realize you actually know about zero things for sure. This brings with it a new kind of freedom to not know, to not have the answers, to not have to prove anything to anyone other than yourself, and possibly those whom you hold dear.  I love that.  Nick entered his 40's eight days ago. I am excited for him and for us to explore that together.

Nia is 16 and a junior in high school and we are looking into colleges and trying to slog through high school classes, a job, friendships, and volunteering.  Nia is interested in studying apparel or textiles or something like that. I know that most parents think their kids are perfect. I don't think that about any one of my kids (or anyone at all), but Nia is pretty great.  She's compassionate and helpful young woman.  She's creative and she's kind.  Most of the time. She has a driver's license which is a big help with all the family driving, although I will freely admit, the process of learning how to drive has been my LEAST favorite phase of parenting.  It's terrifying.  Even so, she's a good driver now I am proud of her.  She's also a total spazz, fights with her brothers, and can't keep her room clean. 

Nico is 15.  He just finished doing driver's ed and he will be getting his permit this month.  Nico played football for the first time this year and was a corner back.  Maybe? I don't know actually.  He was something where he sometimes ran with the ball.  His team had a tough start to their season, but they really pulled it together by the end of the season and it was fun to see how much they grew in their teamwork.  Nico is anxious to get his first job and is going to start looking this week.  He loves money and wants to be involved in the earning of it.  He also loves video games and soup.  He's still an 80-year-old man stuck in a 15-year-old's body, but some days we get a little glimmer of the teenager he is (read: extremely moody and ill-tempered).  Nico got to take a special trip to New Orleans with his grandparents this summer and he fell in love with the city.  He is now convinced his future includes going to culinary school in New Orleans.

Josiah is 12 and he's a homebody. He is still active in scouts.  He likes to go on camping trips in the freezing cold and sometimes rainy weather.  These things don't make sense to me.  But he likes it, so whatever.  The good thing is that there's always more gear to buy, so that makes birthday and Christmas presents pretty easy. Josiah is a funny (and loud) kid.  He likes his quiet time, but he's definitely an introvert who operates almost exclusively as an extrovert.  (I think we are similar in this way).  Jos is smart and school comes pretty easy to him, but I think that's mostly because he's responsible to get his stuff done without a ton of nagging.  Josiah has a very strategic mind (like Nick) which means that he and Nick spend hours playing super nerdy table top games. As Josiah gets older he is also getting more compassionate.  I love to see how he has developed empathy and really tries to consider the feelings and experiences of others.  He also tends to have a short fuse with some people (mainly his little brother), and can still have the fiery temper he was famous for as a child.

Schneider (Sam) is 9.  He is in third grade and he is basically the mayor of our neighborhood. He's always asking to "ding dong" the neighbor kids and see if they can play.  He has grown a TON this past year and is more or less a linebacker.  He is a strong and active kid-- in fact he came home bragging about how he beat his teacher in arm-wrestling.  I didn't doubt it for a second because he can also usually beat me, Nia, and Josiah.  Nick and Nico can still beat him, but I think those days are numbered. Sam has an IEP for reading and writing.  It's always been difficult for him, but he has made tremendous strides this year and I am so thankful for the support we get from the school system. Sam loves basketball and is starting a new season this week at the YMCA.  He's also really interested in the way things work and is constantly taking things apart.  We've need to reign that in a bit as he is likely to take apart something without permission and then being not-so-sure how to put it back together. Sam is hilarious, extremely impulsive, and quite moody.  We are hoping and praying that 2020 is the year his last name will finally change to Mangine once and for all.  (Don't ask).

Nick is still working in IT in Durham and he really likes his job.  He loves being able to work in technology but also to interact with people.  He loves playing geeky tabletop games with a group of guys each week and also has found a hobby in creating and designing new strategy games.  He's a lifelong learner-- always listening to podcasts and reading, he's a way better parent than I am, and he's just generally an all-around good guy.  I am so fortunate to have him as my partner. 

I am working part-time at the YMCA.  After a year of working full-time, I decided to drop back down to part-time.  There were a lot of factors leading to that decision, and it's been a good change for our family.  Having a family with 4 kids, even when they are all in school, produces a lot of work.  There are a lot of appointments, and meetings, and practices, and sick days, and meals, and just a great deal of general emotional energy.  It's tough getting all of this done with both parents working full time. It's especially tough trying to start a career after 16.5 years of being a stay-at-home mom when the needs of the kids are still so time-consuming.  So I am keeping part-time work for now, and putting a pin in full-time for a little bit.  If anyone has a way to make about a million dollars with little to no effort, hit your girl up.  It would be really helpful. I am also trying to figure out what my ideal second-act will be in life.  And I have some big changes coming up this year. Stay tuned.

Our family is hoping to move in the early summer this year.  We just want to move across town, or possibly one town over.  Our main motivation is being able to provide a more diverse racial and socio-economic scene for our boys for high school.  We are hopeful this will be a win and are looking forward to buying a home again.

If I learned one thing in 2019, it's that life is hard for everyone. I don't know anyone who has a truly easy life.  I think sometimes we tend to think that we should just be grateful for all we have and suck up difficult times because many people have it worse.  And there are parts of that sentiment that are absolutely true.  We should practice gratefulness.  Sometimes we need to suck it up.  And it is helpful (at times) to know that we are in such incredible circumstances of privilege and advantage.  But it's also good and helpful to grieve the pain we have.  To feel it.  To live in it.  To let it hurt and just suck.  And to accept it and let it change us and shape us into the people we need to be. And so that is my hope for 2020.  That my family will be able to be grateful.  That we will be able to suck it up when necessary.  That we will recognize and leverage our privileges and advantages.  And that we will be able to face our disappointments and challenges in helpful, transformational ways.


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