In the dark of the night

My mind is running on a hamster wheel. I keep circling around but get no closer to any destination. This, my friends, is worry.

Worry demands so much energy, steals so much peace and burns like a wildfire. My sleep is fitful.  I wear the burden of worry like a coat made of cement.

Tonight, in the dark, I am fretting about my ceiling. (See the previous post for the gritty details.)  I have some estimates for drying out the ceiling above me and the bathroom floor and if I told you, you would not even believe how much money these companies want. I’ve called my insurance company as a result but they can’t tell me much of anything until Tuesday (at the very, very earliest), when the insurance adjuster is working again.

So, I worry.
I worry about money.
I worry about insurance coverage.
I worry about mold.
I worry about money again.
Then for good measure, I torture myself by searching the Internet for clues. Will the insurance company pay?
I look up DIY solutions and wonder why I don’t know how to install drywall.
I price those giant fans and wonder if I could rip up the plywood sub-flooring by myself.
I worry about all these things.

I shrug that cement coat onto my shoulders and try to get comfortable lugging it around.

Then, the wildfire jumps the road.  While I’m at it, I start to worry about other things, too. Random things. I branch out into hating my hair and considering whether I’ve ruined any of my children and wondering why I can’t be an all-around better person who never complains or needs to sleep, a person who runs miles for exercise and writes poetry and knows how to preserve peaches in Mason jars.

Then I remember a few things.

1) Writing about something always helps. Almost always.
2) Things usually work out.
3) God loves me. My husband loves me. My kids loves me.
4) Everything seems worse at night.
5) There’s no point in worrying about things in advance.

I’m going to sleep. Tomorrow has to be a better day.



It’s Monday morning.  The sun is shining.  Two men are here preparing to cut out part of my office ceiling so I’ve relocated my computer to the kitchen.  The insurance adjuster is coming on Thursday.  I guess we’ll survive.

Friends are not friends forever despite what Michael W. Smith says

While driving to soccer practice, my 10-year old daughter chatters non-stop.  One day she mentioned that she and a teammate want to have a playdate.  I suggested the waterpark or the beach and then she said, “It’s weird.  Whenever I go someplace like that I always meet someone and make a friend.  And then I never see them again.”

I said, “Yes, they are just friends for a day, huh?”

I hate the idea of a friend for a day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love the occasional conversation you have with a stranger you meet in random circumstances:  in the airport or the beach or while walking your dog down the street on a balmy Southern California morning.  I like a temporary intersection with an acquaintance or the getting-to-know you exchange of information and ideas with a potential friend, even if nothing really comes of it.

But what I hate is the abandonment of old friends, dear friends, those friends who have toured the inside of your heart and seen you cry.  I hate it and I don’t understand it.

Maybe I am that kind of person, the kind of person who walks away and forgets her friends, the kind of woman who drifts away on the currents of busyness, the loser who plain-out abandons her friends.  But I don’t want to be like that.  I don’t think I am like that.  I spend a lot of time wondering if I am.  Is it me?

Admittedly, I am an introvert, one of those weirdos who would choose reading over partying.  I am never the life of the party, like some people I know.  I don’t gather people to me like a magnet.  I like solitude and peace and quiet.

But when I find a friend, when I connect with someone on a deeper level, when I find someone who laughs at my jokes  and makes me laugh, who “gets” me, I treasure that person.  Over the years, I’ve had some of the most amazing friends.  We have walked parallel paths as we became wives and mothers.  We’ve shared our lives, our sorrows, our gripes, our dreams, our fears.  We have history together.

But at some point, silence has crept in.  Distance both geographical and emotional has turned from space into a wall, an impenetrable wall without a gate.  I’m alone.  I don’t know why.

I don’t have forty-seven other friends tucked away in a banquet room.  I have loved these few friends with devotion and faithfulness.  I have saved every letter these friends have ever sent yet I feel like my actual friendship has been shredded and tossed out in the recycling bin.  (I know.  Real letters with handwriting and postage stamps and everything!  So old-fashioned.)

Sure, this could just be life, that time in the life-cycle of an American female human being when she only sees her children and her husband and her job and her to-do-list, but I have a hole where those friends used to be.

I can’t stop probing the hollow space.


p.s.  I already know that some friends are “for a season” and some are “for a reason” and all that trite stuff.  I just feel a sense of abandonment and it’s probably me, not you.  I don’t need advice or comfort.  I just wanted to stay what I’ve been thinking because it helps me think better and sort through things.  (I almost didn’t post this but I can’t seem to post anything else until this post stops blocking the traffic in my head.)

Time (slipping, slipping, slipping)

And now, moving on.

Except that I don’t have time to tell you all about eating at Red Mill in Seattle yesterday, nor about the zoo.  I don’t have time to mention the weather (thundershowers?) or lament the state of the laundry (piled up, STOP WEARING SO MANY CLOTHES EVERYONE!).

That’s because I have to cook dinner and deliver the 11-year old to football practice and then when I get back, I will make my bed and then recline upon it (because I cannot lay or lie because I can never remember which it is possible for me to do).  I have a few books I’m reading right now.

I am so far behind that I can’t even see the person who is ahead of me.  (You know, if you were running a marathon and you looked ahead and saw . . . no one?  That’s me.)  School is coming but before that, I have to make phone calls and invite people to the pool party that I have yet to plan.  Which will take place on August 29, probably–I have to check the date and that requires an email and maybe a phone call.

Tomorrow two of my kids have haircuts scheduled.

The upstairs toilet is disgusting.  Just in case you wondered.

And even though I loaded the dishwasher, the sink is full of dishes that were lurking in other parts of the house.

I can’t wait until the kids go to school because I am delusional and have convinced myself that I will have more time.

While writing this, I have shushed my six year old three times.

I’d tell you more, but I don’t have time.

Dramatic happenings

My phone rang at 9:00 a.m. this morning and I answered in a semi-conscious haze. My friend, Linda, said, “Oh, were you sleeping?” At least I think that’s what she said. It’s always embarrassing to answer that question because sleeping past 6:00 a.m. is a sign of a deficient personality or a character flaw. However, I am excused because my daughter was up half the night throwing up. Nevermind the fact that I loathe mornings and never willingly wake up before 9:00 a.m. (though I do unwillingly wake up by 8:00 a.m. every morning).

My daughter complained last night that her forehead and stomach hurt. I love how specific she is–she never says, “My head hurts,” but only, “My forehead hurts.” She threw up in the sink last night before bed and I optimistically hoped the worst was over. It was not.

However, a stomach virus in a five year old is so much easier than a stomach virus in a baby or toddler. Throughout the early dawn hours, she’d call out, “Mom, I threw up in the bowl!” and I’d shout back, “Good job, honey!” and go back to sleep. Am I a terrible parent? An inhuman monster? Perhaps. I did get up with her throughout the night. The worst happened while I was away though, last night at 10:20 p.m. when she woke up and threw up on her pillow and bed. My husband had to deal with chocolate pudding vomit in her hair–he left the bed mess for me to handle after I rushed home.

I wish I could relay to you some of the drama occurring in my life, but I cannot. Suffice it to say that there have been a lot of tears (not mine) and shaking of heads. I can tell you that Saturday morning I had to be at a Science Fair at 8:00 a.m. with my son, that my husband resigned from his job (he starts another on July 1), that two of my kids have vomited, and that another boy appeared at my doorstep (bringing up the neighbor total number of boys to 14).

I have put away the mayonnaise jar four times today, even though I personally don’t eat mayonnaise.

Staying alive

My jet-setting to New York and California has left me befuddled. I can’t quite catch my breath, nor mop my kitchen floor. My tax paperwork sits on the counter while it should be at the post office.

The children have no sympathy for my angst. They want me to help them with their schoolwork and to create a delicious dinner plan every night. I find wet towels on their bedrooms floors. They cannot understand my crabby impatience. I hardly understand it myself, even though I know myself so well. A lack of solitude has sucked me dry.

Friday will be my grandma’s funeral. Saturday my 10-year old son participates in a Science Fair. Sundays are always busy and then another week begins. Do you see how I am already preoccupied with next week? That’s because this week is already jammed full with work and school-at-home and the regular stuff that crowds into a family.

And soon, April will arrive, all bright and shiny, and then, my twins will turn 15. They are already counting down the days.

How is that possible?

The Problem

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest movie

This morning while pondering my bloodshot right eye (infection? sign of the apocalypse? old age?), I realized what my problem is. My problem is that I have unrealistic expectations. Like, totally. (Suddenly, I am a Valley Girl, but that is not my Problem.)

Here is what I think a woman of my social class and slightly above-average intellect ought to be able to show for her time each day:

1) Sparkling clean house, including floors acceptable for picnicking upon and even licking should an errant drop of barbecue sauce splash near one’s toes;

2) All laundry washed, dried, folded, put away, ironed and mended every day.

3) Healthy dinner, complete with colorful vegetables and whole grains created by me and consumed by every member of my family, every day.

4) Children, fresh-faced and sweet-smelling, curled around the living room, enraptured by their novels. While three are reading one ought to be fingering Chopin on the piano. The cats should be purring at our feet.

5) Weed-free yard, flowerbeds abloom with perennials, lawn plush with emerald green grass and no dandelions.

6) Clutter-free surfaces, including the staircase landing, the kitchen counter (be gone, junk mail!), the end-table (where I keep the laundry baskets) and the dressers (hello, clothes, why aren’t you in the drawer?). Closets reflecting the well-ordered discipline of a woman who knows exactly where everything is, a woman who doesn’t keep clothes her kids outgrew and shoes she hates.
Now, in addition to these minimum standards (which I never, ever meet), I think a woman like me ought to also be able to:

1) Break into the world of magazine publishing;

2) Read a novel a week;

3) Write a novel within a year;

4) Organize an event without breaking a sweat or whining;

5) Teach all of the children to play the piano;

6) Create hand-crafted items with my grandmother’s sewing machine;

7) Lose the last twenty pounds in five months;

8) Organize all the drawers, cupboards, files, shelves and storage-room.

Here is reality. Here is what I manage:

1) Daily exercise, one hour.

2) Dinner of some sort, tonight quite possibly Hebrew National fat-free hotdogs for the kids (they’ll complain) and a bag of vegetables for me.

3) Wash, fold, put away three or four loads of laundry. (If by “put away” you mean stacking items on my dresser because my daughter’s drawers are full of clothes she has outgrown or doesn’t wear and so the clean clothes have no place to go. Alas.)

4) Fret about church event. (Vacation Bible School, coming July 9, SAVE ME!) Worry about volunteers. Consider deadline for t-shirt order. Wonder why sizes most preschoolers will wear. Think about going to Home Depot to scout out supplies and price PVC piping.
5) Drink 2 liters of Diet Coke.

6) Take kids to swimming pool for one hour.

7) Get hair cut. (First time since October.)

8) Read newspaper. Read Anne Tyler’s Earthly Possessions.

9) Beat up self for being unable to accomplish much of anything and lament inexcusable laziness.

10) Drag kids through two lessons of pre-algebra and a bunch of literature lessons.

* * *

My expectations for myself have always been unreasonable. I pass out slack as if were free to other people, but to myself, I offer no mercy, only judgment. I want to be normal, to live in a house free of crazed rules and impossible standards . . . but on the other hand, I want to achieve extraordinary things and I’m not just talking about getting the kids to eat vegetables. I want to be perfect, I want to be acclaimed, I want to have something to show for my life besides a stack of journals filled with the embarrassing record of a life lived with excessive angst.  But I don’t want to give up anything . . . what can I give up, anyway?  Cooking?  Cleaning?  Fretting?
Pardon me while I tuck my angst back under the bed where it belongs.
Do you have any unrealistic expectations for yourself? Or am I alone in my craziness?

[Don’t forget to vote for me . . . details in the post below this one.]

Dusty emptiness

If I were a house, I’d be waiting for tenants to move in.

If I were a lot, I’d be vacant.

If I were an Easter bunny, I’d be hollow.

If I were a milk carton, I’d be empty in the fridge.

If I were a marker, I’d be dried out.

Lucky for us both, I’m none of the above.  And despite the echoes in my head, I managed to post a little something over at the Larger Families blog.  We were supposed to do a photoblog of our Mother’s Day and somehow I missed those directions.  I had nothing.  You’ll see.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to get over this stupid cold.  And I keep falling asleep while reading The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene . . . which I love . . . I just can’t stay awake.

Give me some earplugs!

I’m turning into my grandmother with her intolerance for noise.  Macular degeneration stole her sight, so she sits in one chair, mostly, listening to the silence when she isn’t listening to the Bible on tape.  I hardly ever take my kids over there because I know she can barely tolerate the noise.  She’s 101.  What’s my excuse?

I am a quiet type of person, one who wouldn’t turn on the radio or television if I were alone all day (which I never am).  I have no need for conversation or for expending a certain allotment of words per day.  I have had to develop my ability to make small-talk because chatting doesn’t come naturally to me.

And yet, I’m living with a bunch of people who just can’t stop talking to me.  My daughter is the worst of the bunch.  If I sit down, she appears like a pesky genie, begging me to get a snack from the “covered” (aka the “cupboard”) and asking me if I “bemember” when she was three and cut her hand on a barnacle.  She uninterested in snuggling or playing with Play-doh or lying down to rest, even if she tells me how tired she is.  No, she just wants to talk, talk, talk.

If I happen to be alone, thinking actual thoughts while washing the dishes, my sons will traipse through the kitchen on their never-ending quest to drink all the milk without my knowledge and they will ask me crazy questions, questions that spring from the murky space in their brains where they are piecing together the mysteries of life and plotting to get their hands on some Chinese egg rolls soon.  Just because I’m standing still, working, does not mean that I’m not occupied in my head, pondering something or another.  To them, I look like a fount of knowledge, the person who can answer any question which might flit through their heads.

I can’t have two coherent thoughts in a row which positively frustrates me and honestly makes me feel a little crazy as if I’m being tortured by the systematic drip-drip-drip of words. 

I want to spend my days stringing words together like so many fancy beads, but I can’t.  I can’t because I’m living in a madhouse with chatty kids.  And I’m complaining about it which definitely disqualifies me for the Mother of the Year. 

My daughter will turn five on September 2.  She misses the local kindergarten cut-off date by a day.  I never thought I’d do this, but I am likely to send her to preschool because she has turned into Miss Extrovert who asks every visitor who appears at our door, “Can I come to your house?”  She wants to go, do, talk, visit, play, and then go some more.  She’s wearing me out which makes me feel guilty and old.  Also, uninteresting and uncreative. 

Silence is all I want which is ironic because I spent so much of my twenties crying because all I wanted then was a baby.  I just can’t be pleased.  Now I just want to be alone.

*  *  *

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On being pathetic

This morning I was awake at 5 a.m. because I was worried about waking up at 6:15 a.m.  I managed to get the 14-year olds up and out the door right on time.  I delivered them and their 13-year old friend to the appropriate classrooms for the dreaded state-mandated testing and then I was home again by 7:30 a.m.

You’d think that with the extra hours of consciousness today I would have something to show for my day besides a kitchen full of dirty dishes.  At one point I noticed how annoyed I was with myself, how I silently berated myself for not doing anything today, for not producing anything.  My day was a haphazard maze of moments tangled together . . . I have the same allotment of time as everyone else, so why do I fall into bed at night without having much to show for my day? 

My brain was dull today, glossed over so nothing could stick to it.  Not a single thought would line up at the door.  I hate that.  The noises of children playing thudded in my head and made me wonder why I thought being a mother would be such a barrel of fun.  I guess I thought I’d sweep them into a pile and put them away when I was tired of playing with them.

And so it goes.  Tomorrow will be another early day.  My only goal for tomorrow is to write that long overdue letter to my imprisoned friend and to buy laundry detergent.  I fix my hopes on these small goals, which is pathetic, if you ask me.


What would Jack Bauer do?

If an intruder entered under cover of darkness, what would Jack Bauer do?

I am nothing, if not attentive to details.  And so, I grew suspicious.  Yesterday, I took steps to confront the intruder.

This morning?  I heard rustling.

I caught the intruder.

Now, the question is:  what would Jack Bauer do? 

He would most likely kill the intruder with a swift blow to the head.

I am considering the merits of suffocation versus drowning. 

My husband refuses to be a party to this murder.

I wondered if it would be cruel and unusual to discard the intruder in a Trader Joe’s grocery bag.  Let it die slowly in the trash can.

What would Jack Bauer do?

He would have thought through the logistical problem of trapping the intruder in a glue trap.  Then again, a prisoner struggling against a gluey base might be just the way to extort information out of an intruder.  If this sort of intruder could talk, which of course, he cannot.  He can only scurry and flick his whiskers and . . . leave a trail of tiny poop on my kitchen counter.  That poop is the reason he’s imprisoned in glue under my sink.

But, what would Jack Bauer do?

How does one kill a furry little gray mouse? 

I cannot even smash a bug. 

What would you do?  (He’s not dead here, this mouse.  No.  He’s merely resting.) 


Update:  I wish I had never posted this sad tale of the mouse.  I wish the dumb mouse had never crawled into my house.  I wish I weren’t a grown-up so someone else would have disposed of the mouse.  When I read the comments, I realized that I could no longer ignore the stuck mouse under the sink.  So, with racing heart and shaking hands, I used a dustpan to sweep it into a paper Trader Joe’s bag.  The mouse looked mostly dead . . . he’d not only gotten stuck, but he’d eaten some poison first.  I couldn’t bear to look closely at the poor little creature.  So, he’s in the trash.  I cannot stop shuddering.

We shall never speak of the matter again.