Not a Stay-At-Home Mom

Working 7:30 AM to 5:00 PM five days a week (with every other Friday off) is a bummer.  I mean, I like my actual work.  I like my actual co-workers.  But I don’t love being tethered to an office for so many waking hours. Nobody does, though.  (Do they?)

Who can be surprised when I spent 10+ years working at home?  I am used to having the weird flexibility to wear pajama pants while I work as The Real Housewives of Dallas plays in the background.  I could literally roll out of bed and four minutes later be online, working.

(Now? I Roll out of bed at 5:30 AM–the sun is not up, but I am!–and then  drive down a crowded California freeway for thirty minutes.  From awake to work takes two solid hours.  Yesterday, I returned home twelve hours after I left. (Please.  Feel sorry for me.)

I just want to be home.

I am old enough, though, to not underestimate the value of health insurance for the whole family, not to mention the sweet thrill of the direct-deposit paycheck every two weeks. So, my soul withers away in a fluorescently lit office while my family asks me, “What’s for dinner?” 

(Indeed.  What is for dinner?  Dinner is a magic trick I pull out of my  Crock-Pot four or five nights a week. Dinner is a conundrum. Dinner is the bane of my existence. Dinner is for losers.  I hate dinner.)

What’s really bumming me out is the dismal thought that this is It.  This is the culmination of my working life and after this, I will just retire (if I’m lucky) and then drop dead. I feel like there is no space for dreaming and imagining a future beyond this job because I am old. 

I mean, no one starts a new career or earns a new degree or writes a first novel when one is 60 years old.  (Does one?)  (I’m not 60 but why quibble over time? Who has time for time-quibbling when one is whining and being generally disagreeable?)

Anyway. So, that’s how it’s going. I want to have a languorous stretch of time in which to think, to stitch, to write, to read, to dream, to . . . avoid cooking dinner.  I know how fast time goes by and I’m mad that I didn’t embrace all those moments from yesterday and last month and three years ago and the decade before that.

And I’m mad that I don’t have time today to do anything that really matters to me (though I did write this blog post and on my gosh, how good does it feel to just spill some words onto the computer screen?).

Slow down, speed up, wait.  I just want to look around for a minute. Can we just stop the clock?

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Not a Stay-At-Home Mom

The Sky is Falling

I never believed the world was ending in when the calendar rolled from 1999 to 2000.  I joked about it at the time, saying my family could survive on the goldfish crackers scattered in my car and the murky water standing in the plastic sandbox in our back yard. I made no other preparations.

I had no fear. The world would go on . . . how could it not? I had little kids in my house and the world does not stop when there are snacks to prepare and bubbles in the bathwater and Nintendo video games to play. 

I was thirty-five years old.

Almost twenty years later, I look around, shocked that everyone is carrying on as if the world isn’t ending. I am fifty-three years old. Time is fleeting.  (That’s putting it mildly.)  Even though summer just ended a minute ago, this Friday I will put up Christmas decorations. 

Then it will be summer again. My daughter will turn 17-years old. My husband will turn 60.  I’ll be 85 before you know it and why is everything just whizzing by so fast? 

I mean, okay. Deep breath.

Right now, my daughter is 16.  None of my adult kids have actually moved out of the house. I can still run up and down the stairs. I’m gainfully employed. My husband is beloved by all (and actually only 57). I am reading Harry Potter at long last. Our Thanksgiving turkey is in the fridge and I will have both Thursday and Friday off.

I saw the sunset tonight. Let’s just all calm down.

(But honestly. Doesn’t it bother anyone but me that our lives are finite? That one day we’ll be gone with nothing to show for our lives but a closet full of clothes that our next-of-kin will box up and donate to a thrift store?)

The sky is falling.

Or maybe that was just an acorn hitting my head.



The Sky is Falling

Lost and found

One of my personality flaws is believing I can do “just one more thing” before I leave my house. If I decide on a Friday night to buy a movie ticket for a 10:45 AM showing of “A Star is Born” the next morning, I will also believe I can wake up and:

  1. Hike my usual hour-long trail;
  2. Fold a load of laundry, move wet clothes into the dryer and throw dirty clothes into the washer;
  3. Wash the dishes I should have washed the night before;
  4. Vacuum;
  5. And so on and so forth.

That is why last Saturday morning at 10:32 AM, I was hurrying down the stairs to grab my key so I could speed to the movie theater.

I reached into the outside pocket of my purse where I always keep my car key. I NEVER lose my keys because I always put them in the same place: the outside pocket of my purse.

You see where this is going.

NO KEY.

I was already sweaty from my walk and the morning chores I really didn’t have time to do and I grew more and more sweaty as I emptied my purse then ran upstairs to see if I left the key on my dresser and then out to the garage to see if I left the key on the car (I know–that makes no sense). Then I emptied my purse twice more, checked the pocket of the pants I wore to work the day before.

I could not find my key.

I told myself that lost things are almost always within inches of where you believe they are.  I either made that up or I read it somewhere (and it was a scientific study).  (Oh, here it is: Lost objects are within 18 inches of their original location.)

I asked my son if he would drive me to the theater–figuring I would work out the lost key issue later–and also called my husband (who was working) to see if I left my key in his car. (This also makes no sense.)  Just as my son came down the stairs to drive me, I lifted up my purse and found my key under it.

It was under my purse the whole time.

Lost and found.

(I sat down in my reserved movie seat two full previews before the opening of the movie even though I left my house at 10:45.)

*

In other news, I transferred from one job to another at the police department. I am now working in Records–which is about as exciting as you imagine it is. The whole situation was unexpected and maybe not exactly what I would have chosen for myself, but I am choosing to see the bright side. For one thing, I like monotonous, continuous work.  I do. It’s the sequential part of me that likes order and putting things in order. I’ll start a task at my desk, look up and two hours have passed.

I no longer have to wear an ugly uniform or work holidays. I have my very own cubicle and I can see the sky while I work if I look up from my scanning long enough. The ladies in my department are kind and I find it entertaining to work in cubicles with an all-women staff (there are less then ten of us). I’ll hear someone walk to someone’s cubicle and start talking loud enough for me to eavesdrop and then the voices drop to a murmur and that makes me laugh.

By the way, I just finished reading a terrible book which I won’t link to because what if the author came by (ha ha) and found a mean thing about her book but honestly! I was stuck reading it in my Kindle forever because I was weirdly committed to finishing it. And the ending was worse than the beginning.

My husband told me I don’t have enough time left in my life to read bad books and . . . well, that’s true but isn’t it also depressing beyond belief?  Death is coming.

Death is coming for me and I just know I will be rushing around as I slide from this life to the Great Beyond absolutely convinced I can do just one more thing before I go.

That’s why I’ll be late for my own funeral.

Lost and found

Life is weird

Yesterday something happened that was distressing and yet came with an unexpected silver lining. (Sorry, but I can’t talk/write about it here. But still. I wanted to mark the moment with this dumb vague comment.)

Today I spent my day off frenetically cleaning my house. When I moved the giant dog food bag in the pantry I found a nearly full container of Trader Joe’s peanut butter cups on the floor. This is inexplicable.

So hooray.

Carry on.

Life is weird

Just keep swimming

When I was a teenager, I went whitewater rafting with my youth group. I remember the  frigid rushing water and the exhilaration of paddling and careening through rapids.

I have that sensation these days. I’m hanging on for dear life half the time, letting the swirling currents rush me along because what else can you do?

The twelve-hour shifts feel like sensory deprivation and sensory overload at the same time. You sit and wait in silence for the phones to ring. Then the phones ring and you bob along on the current of someone’s small or large drama.  What is the address of your emergency? What phone number are you calling from?  Tell me exactly what happened.

And then after three days, you’re spit back into your real life, sorting through piles of laundry and Rubbermaid containers of congealed casseroles and unopened mail. And the three days you aren’t at work are gone in a flash and it’s time to get back into uniform and drive to work again. But at least there are groceries in the fridge and clean towels folded in thirds.

Three months are gone and you’re still looking for a branch to grab so you’re not swept into the next decade before you get a good look around.

Just keep swimming.  Or paddling.  Or whatever it takes to keep afloat.

(In other news, my youngest child starts her sophomore year of high school on August 15. She’s taking her driver’s permit test on Thursday. She’s ready to get on with her life . . . and she’s never believe me if I told her how fast it will all go by. What’s the hurry, baby girl?)

Just keep swimming

I will not be capsized

I just scrolled through my Notes in my iPhone to remind myself what I meant to write about, other than the obvious.  (I am saving one topic for later when I have more time.)

The Obvious:  My New Job.  I work twelve hours shifts from 11 AM to 11 PM on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Every other Wednesday, we work a “half-day” from 3 PM to 11 PM.  I have baby-stepped my way from shadowing another dispatcher to actually answering telephone calls–non-emergency ones–and typing up emergency calls while my trainer speaks to the caller.  I think I might be actually answering emergency calls tomorrow.

It’s all terribly exciting and occasionally dull and often–more often than you’d imagine–shake-your-head funny and gut-wrenchingly sad. I’m almost two months into this thing and I can’t even describe how much there is to learn. Police and firefighters communicate almost entirely in code, it seems, and it’s like learning a language you didn’t know you couldn’t speak.

I’ve just had four days off and I spent the first day at church and then puttering around my house, cleaning and doing laundry.  (I can’t really remember.)  The second day I spent with a friend who is in town (from her home in Thailand) and then with my mother at a car dealership, lending her moral support while she bought a new car.  (Her former car died in a smoky incident involving a broken timing belt and overheated engine.)

Tuesday–yesterday–I ran errands, including picking up a pair of trifocals which I absolutely hate so far, and tried to finish up laundry and household chores which I will then completely neglect until next Sunday.

Today I drove my daughter and three friends to the fair, then got stuck in horrible fair traffic coming home to match socks and fold sheets and cook dinner. I spent at least three hours in the car which is kind of a bummer.

*

Not Obvious:

We have a mama mourning dove in a nest outside our front door. She’s tending to her second little family and this afternoon, one of her fuzzy babies fell from the nest–three times–and died.  (My sons tucked that little baby back into the nest twice but it kept falling out.)  We are all heartbroken because we have grown fond of this dove family.

*

Last week, I encountered an old woman on the trail I hike every morning. She asked me how to go around the lake and I told her and then ended up walking her back around to where she started.  She told me she was 84 and usually walks a different path. She was spry and lively and smart and told me she lives alone and loves it.

I wondered for a moment how you deal with the idea that in fifteen years–maybe less, but not more, most likely–you’ll be dead.

I didn’t ask her that.  Can you imagine?  I’m not a complete savage.

But I did think about it after our chat as we walked the dusty path. And I thought that maybe the secret to happiness–get ready for this mind-blowing revelation–is to simply live in the moment you have . . . no matter your age.  Just today. Just right now. Just here.

I’ve been feeling ancient lately, myself, because the dispatchers at my new job basically retire when they turn 50. There are one or two long-time dispatchers who have been there for decades who are (barely) older than me and on the brink of retirement.

And then there’s me.  Brand new and 53.  For the first time in my life, I’m keeping my age mum at work because I don’t want them to judge me and wonder why in the world I’m starting a career at my advanced age.  (This is, I’m sure, all just in my head.)

But meeting that 84-year old woman hiking the trail reminded me that I’m not old yet and that the important thing is to keeping moving.

(And I will not be capsized.  I wrote that in my Notes awhile back as a declaration and a reminder from me to me.)

I will not be capsized

Letter to myself

Dear Future Self,

Yesterday you started your new job. It’s actually more of a new career, if you want to be accurate. It’s unbelievable that you got yourself hired for this job!

The employees in the building I met today asked me similar questions:

1) Were you a dispatcher before?

2) Why did you want to be a dispatcher?

3) Do you have any law enforcement experience?

You told them you saw a news story about dispatchers and knew it was the job for you. That sounds so crazy but that story inspired me. You told them you were “fresh” which seemed like a better way to describe your inexperience.

You woke up this morning at 4:30 and were in your car by 5:25.

You worked another 10 hour day. You are exhausted.

You’re working four ten hour shifts this week.

Lola the Dog misses you so much that she refuses to eat. She lays by the door and cries.

I’m really really tired. Goodnight.

Letter to myself