Monday, February 27, 2012

The Truth

This was a post I wrote back in July and never finished. Today I am finishing it.

Today was a big day for me. I made the decision a little while ago to change pediatricians, and in Slovakia that requires going to the doctor you're leaving and asking them for your baby's records, thus telling them that you're leaving them for a different doctor. I had been trying to play down the magnitude of this exchange for a couple weeks, telling myself it's not that big of a deal, it probably happens all the time, it's normal, Lily's just one of hundreds of patients to her etc. but the truth is it was really eating at me. Tomáš told me to think of it as a joke, just to try and laugh about it, and that helped a little but last night I rolled around in bed for a good long time, not being able to fall asleep. My worries were threefold; first and foremost, it's just unpleasant having to reject someone. Secondly, I'd have to speak Slovak, which is not a big deal, I'm perfectly capable of this, albeit imperfectly, but it might be in front of a room full of waiting patients and moms. But most importantly was my third dilemma, which was should I sugar-coat or should I tell the truth? The truth was that I'd never felt good with this doctor from the beginning. She was a heavy smoker for one thing, which really bothered me, especially when Lily was a newborn. She's older and I felt like her practices were outdated, and I'd heard negative things from a number of people. (You might ask why we chose her in the first place. It was because in Slovakia you have to declare a doctor for your baby before leaving the hospital and I didn't know this, so we just chose the closest one to our flat). Anyway, my intent is not to slander her at all. She was fine to us. But I wanted to talk about my inner struggle. I had a nice little speech prepared in my head, which played repeatedly whether I liked it or not as I thought about the upcoming confrontation. I thought about telling her it was because I wanted to go to a younger doctor whom Lily could go to for a long time, instead of waiting to switch when she retired. And it's not that it was untrue, exactly, but that certainly wasn't the catalyst for my leaving. I must have looked like a bad movie last night, as my inner struggle played out in tosses and turns, scrunched pillows and upward-staring eyes. Something inside of me last night wanted desperately to tell the truth. Just the truth. To just lay it out there and let it be. Uncomfortable and unpleasant. Not in a hurtful way at all, but because it was something I needed to do for myself. To prove that I could. This may sound strange to some, but as I was thinking it through for the hundredth time last night, this sentence went through my head, ''I don't think I've ever not sugar-coated the truth in my entire life.'' 

If there's one thing marriage has done for me, it's sharpened the blurred line between truth and untruth. I come from a long line of sugar-coaters, bless their hearts, and I say that with no ill will because I know their intentions, our intentions, were good. No one ever wanted to hurt anyone's feelings, least of all me, so everything ever said in my family was said very softly, very carefully. I remember one friend laughing at my younger brother for the way he said goodbye to our mom after a day trip. ''You're so polite,'' she mused, ''I'd be like, (slightly raised, sharp voice) 'Mom! Goodbye!''' (Car door slamming). So, don't get me wrong, I'm very thankful for my upbringing. I think it made me introspective, not just of myself, but of others too, if it's possible to be introspective of others. I would use these words to describe our family: perceptive, sensitive, considerate. Now back to that sharpening of the line...I married into a family which can only be described as polar-opposite to mine. I, again, mean no ill will when I say they sugar-coat nothing. I'll admit it's taken me some time to get used to this, but I have come to have a great deal of respect for it. In fact, I would say that one of Tomáš' most admirable qualities is his utter intolerance for untruth. I suppose it was interactions with him and his family that first caused me to really start looking at my temper problem. One time a friend asked me what I thought of some dress or something and I just remember thinking, ''I cannot physically say the words, 'I don't like it.' What is wrong with me?''
  Tomáš and my fights usually go something like this; ''Why are you wearing that?'' ''Because I like it.'' "It's horrible. It looks horrible on you. You shouldn't wear that color.'' ''Boo hoo hoo, sob sob sob.'' ''Well, it's the truth. Can I not tell you the truth?'' And the fight ends there, because who can argue with that question? (I plan to write a whole separate post about what people say and what I hear. Stay tuned...) Same goes for when he tells me that my soup is tasteless or my meat inedible. What I had to finally realize was that these are not personal attacks. And, oh, this was a hard lesson to learn. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, there were times I felt like a kid taken from a rubber room and thrown into a cock fight. Hehe, ok, ok, so that's really overdramatizing it. But I did have to learn how to take some criticism without letting it crush me. Or, I don't know if I would even call it criticism. Negative truth. Is that the same thing? And I suppose that is the first step. Receiving the truth. And of course there is an art of tact. I believe that criticism or negative truth should be delivered carefully and lovingly. But it should be delivered. Fully, without sugar.
I didn't sugar-coat that day in the doctor's office. And let me tell you, it couldn't have been more awkward. Uncomfortable and unpleasant. So there might be hope for me after all.

And to make that medicine go down a little easier, here's a little, well, you know:
Coolest present ever from auntie Rachael came in the mail

Magnetic wooden fruit you cut up with a knife

After the blizzard

Rockin' rendition of the original hit song, Hot Dog : )

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Valentine's Day, groan...

When Tomáš realized the following day was Valentine's day, I think he said something like, ''Crap! Does that mean I have to buy flowers and chocolate?'' Well, at least the guy's honest. I'll give him that. And I kind of can't blame him. I'm not a Valentine's day hater, but it's not my favorite holiday. Maybe because I'm just not that big on flowers and boxes of chocolates (disclaimers: I have an insatiable sweet tooth and I do like chocolate and, let's be honest, will eat absolutely anything, provided I get desperate enough, but I feel a little guilty eating fancy schmancy chocolates when cheap cookies would do the trick. And as for flowers, flowers are beautiful and maybe I'm betraying my gender a little by saying so, but they're just not my favorite gift. As far as flowers go, I prefer fresh-cut lilacs or peonies from somebody's garden by far to any kind of store-bought bouquet. That's not to say I haven't enjoyed any and all bouquets I've ever received). As far as gifts go, I prefer something really thoughtful. Even if (and maybe especially so) it's the smallest thing. I know that really thoughtful is no small order, and it doesn't come easily to most people. I grew up believing that it did, because the whole of my family are the best, most thoughtful gift-givers out there and I knew nothing else, and it wasn't until I got older and started comparing notes that I learned that not everyone knows how to give good gifts. (Three such examples all from the same friend who received: a Ken doll as a 16-year-old boy, an oversized M&M coffee mug and a book entitled ''The Bloody Nez Perce Trail.'') But I digress.. Before I got married, I considered myself a very thoughtful gift-giver. Maybe that's because I had time and availability on my side. Or maybe I just had very gracious recipients. Either way, all of that seems to have gone out the window. I don't think I've hit a homerun since I moved to Slovakia. But one reason I do like Valentine's day is trying to do something for T that doesn't involve the usual Valentine's day suspects. This year that turned out to be vanilla pudding parfaits with blood oranges and real whipped cream.  (Which, by the way, I made with one of those immersion blenders. Oh. My. Gosh. It was magic. It was liquid, liquid, liquid and then POOF! It was whipped cream!) 
A couple months ago, our pastor's wife started something called Raňajky pre Mamičky, Breakfast for Mommies. About once a month or so a small group of us get together, have coffee and breakfast and talk about diapers and breastfeeding. Hehe, just kidding. Ok, so there's some of that too. But Linda usually tries to start a discussion or teach something meaningful, which I try to follow as best I can in between saving Bug from pulling down the espresso maker on herself, stealing other mommies' mobile phones or stealing other babies' binkies. Directly from their lips. Below was our Valentine's get-together. And now I have so much more to catch you up on, I'll call this a (very delayed) post. Hope all your V Days were rosy.   

Lily's valentine to daddy

Lily and Matuš 
The next day we woke up to this