March

I’m living with a daily sense of being slightly overwhelmed by my schedule, my life and my laundry pile.  Oh, and the moldy edges in the shower stall.  I wonder sometimes just exactly when I’m supposed to fit in doing the meaningful things like, oh, painting my toenails flaming red and writing a book.  Or an article.  I’d settle for an article!  And I need to caulk the tub. 

I did put up a feeble wire fence around my little square garden.  I hope that fence will say to the boys roaming through my backyard, “HEY, DO NOT STOMP ON ME!”  I transplanted some perennials from a neglected flowerbed in the front yard.  The other day, our temperatures reached almost 70 degrees, which was a delight and reminded me that one day, my nose will not be a cold knob on my face and I will stop wearing slippers day and night.  Dirt gathered under my fingernails as I dreamed of flowers and buzzing bumblebees.  It was a fine afternoon, indeed.

Followed by a rainy morning and another sunny afternoon, though admittedly cooler.  The crocuses bloom, the kids stay outdoors all afternoon and spring rushes toward us.  Funny how time doesn’t care that I already have my hands full.  Onward, onward, march, march, march.

 

 

The most ridiculous navel-gazing post ever.

I’m rather nostalgic for the days when only twelve people came to read my daily postings.  Now, sometimes–like today–I feel self-conscious, worried about what people will think of me.  (Especially since some real life people read this now.)  I feel vulnerable when I pull back the curtains and let people have a glimpse inside my house.  If I describe my kitchen full of dinner dishes and abandoned glasses, everyone will know that I’m a slob.  A lazy slob.  If I exclaim that I am so tired, just so weary from my responsibilities here at home, everyone will roll their eyes and wonder just what is so difficult about maintaining a household in alignment with my very low standards of housewifery.

If I tell you about the pile of eighteen books near my desk, everyone will realize that I have pack-rat tendencies (and a lack of adequate bookshelves).  If I talk about my non-existent relationship with my sister who no longer speaks to me, you’ll assume that I am a rotten person, especially since I talk about the estrangement.  (How disloyal of me to speak the truth!)  If I offer details about life with teenage boys (stinky shoes, stinky armpits, repetitive noises, broken beds), you might think that I have no idea what I’m doing as a parent.  (You’d be right.)  If I mention my 4-year old daughter’s impressive ability to write letters . . . on her face, her pajama pants, the wooden arm of the child-sized rocker, her little table in the kitchen, as well as on paper . . . you might think I’m bragging.  Or that I have no control since she won’t stop marking every flat (and not flat) surface with neat little rows of letters.

It’s funny because I’m not really concerned with fitting a certain stereotype.  I don’t care if people think I’m not a picture-perfect pastor’s wife or a holy enough Christian.  It makes no difference to me that the Almas and Eleanors (anonymous commenters of prior days) of the world think I’m judgmental.  I do worry about appearing to be a messy housekeeper with an abnormal level of clutter.  If I knew you were coming by, I’d work myself into a lather putting things away and dusting and washing the kitchen floor on my hands and knees.  But on a daily basis, I don’t want to devote time to bringing my household up to higher standards because that effort is ultimately such a losing battle.  The kids undo what I do almost as quickly as I do it.  (I know.  A better mother than I would make the kids do it.  I told you I have no idea what I’m doing here.)  I just don’t want to work like a slave cleaning and tidying.    

What I want to do is read.  I want to think.  I want to plant flowers–will the ground ever warm up?  I want to be uninterrupted.  I want to enjoy just a day or two of an empty nest.  I wish I could exchange a couple of days of the normal chaos for a couple of future days of quiet.  Alas, time is linear . . . no loop-do-loos, no skipping ahead, no backtracking.  Just today.  And then tomorrow, another today.

I need to shake this self-consciousness.  You can help by pretending that either 1) you are just like me, thus feel no judgment, only empathy or 2) you aren’t reading this blog and won’t look at me cross-eyed when you see me in public.  Also, if you’re going to stop by, give me a few hours’ notice so I can find someplace to stash all these books.

 

 

Naps, Dollars and Boys

I took a nap today.  You know what that means, don’t you? 

Don’t you?

That means that after the nap, I was groggy and headachey.  Recent news stories suggest that naps might benefit your heart, but I have always found naps unappealing, except during those rare months of pregnancy when naps were essential.  When I wake from a nap, I never feel refreshed, but rather as if I’ve spent a half hour submerged in a murky pond, deprived of oxygen.  I come up with algae in my hair and sand in my eyes.  

Anyway, I took a nap today while listening to kids stomping up and down the stairs–playing tag?  hide-and-seek?  dodge ball?  My daughter came in periodically to insist that we go shopping.  From under the comforter where I’d hid my face, I promised a trip to the store after the kids went home.  And, sure enough, at 6 p.m., we went to the Dollar Store where she wandered up and down the aisles admiring all the tacky ceramics and cheap stuffed animals.  She spent her five bucks and a few of my bucks as well.  (I mean, sure, we needed that clear plastic bag full of 250 hair bands, even though she won’t wear any sort of hair accessories, ever.  And the stickers?  Oh yeah, we must have stickers.  And a felt basket decorated as a bunny.)

(I needed the nap because I am still fighting off this cold.  Today was the day of the headache and occasional cough.) 

My crocuses have begun to sprout, but I fear they will not survive the trampling of boy feet in the back yard.  Alas.  But, I am not in the business of growing crocuses, but of growing boys.  Still, I think I’ll put a little fence around my little garden patch because I’d like to grow flowers, as well as boys.

 

This is your life.

I’m having a hard time grabbing onto my life.  It circles the baggage carousel and I can spot it coming, but I can’t get a good grip and haul it off the circling stainless steel.  My fingertips brush against the handle, but it’s just too heavy and I can’t lift it before it slips past.

When I was young, I thought my life would take an entirely different direction.  As a young girl, I wanted to be a veterinarian.  I was inspired by James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small” series of books.  My dad and stepmom thought a stint working at a goat farm would be further inspiration, but the proprietor of the farm dimmed my youthful passion.  She was a gray-haired hippie who thought nothing of leaving me in a pen of baby goats with a sharp implement and directions to trim their hooves.  She sheared the goats in her kitchen, wearing only her big white granny-underpants and a t-shirt.  Plus, I had to ride my twelve-speed bike through hilly undeveloped land to reach her farm.  The ride alone took over an hour, as I recall. 

My parents didn’t ever let me take the easy way.  I had to bum a ride when I worked as a hospital volunteer.  No one would pick me up or deliver me to this altruistic job.  When I wanted clothes, I had to buy them myself.  I remember riding my bicycle to school on a day when the roads were coated with ice.  (I fell.)  I grew up in the most isolated family you can imagine.  When we returned home from school to an empty house, my brother and sister and I retreated to our separate rooms for the rest of the afternoon.  It’s no wonder that I filled my spare time with volunteer jobs and activities. 

I was searching for someplace where I mattered.  I wanted to help and I wanted my presence to make a difference.

That’s why I decided I’d be a doctor.  I had the grades and the brain-power to accomplish that goal, but I lacked the familial support and the sensible direction from school officials.  No one advised me where I ought to attend college.  No one encouraged me to pursue any particular academic path.  My dad, at that point, was still trying to figure out what he wanted to be when he grew up.  I felt like I was very much on my own.  I’ve always felt that way.

I went to Bible college because I thought God would love me more if I gave up something.  So I gave up my dream of being a doctor and plunged into the isolated world of an Assemblies of God Christian college.  I found the classes to be full of subjectivity–I couldn’t earn perfect grades anymore because the linear style of academics had turned into a whirl of opening prayers and rambling lectures and material that didn’t seem to have a beginning or an end.  The longer I attended, the less I saw the world as it really was.  My view of the world blinked open only occasionally.  Mostly, it shrank to the size of our campus, where I was isolated without a car.  The longer I was there, the less I felt like I could ever leave.  I loved it.  I hated it.  I loved it more.

I trusted less in myself–I trusted in myself not at all, really–and more in the institution and the denomination and God as I understood Him to be. 

And so I graduated with a degree worth nothing and an engagement ring on my finger.

The only smart choice I’ve made was to marry my husband.  He’s a remarkable man, a fine companion for this journey on earth.  But still, my life doesn’t resemble anything I pictured.

For one thing, I never imagined a world in which my father did not exist.  Yet, he died when I was 24.  I never considered that planning my family would be a challenge.  And yet, motherhood didn’t unfold as I expected.  Infertility, adoption of twins, two unexpected pregnancies . . . nothing as I planned. 

I’m not the mother I expected to be.  That mother was perky and cute and patient under all circumstances.  That mother had children who listened quietly and obeyed promptly.  That mother taught her children to play the piano and read long stories before bed to children who smelled of Ivory soap and homemade sugar cookies.  That mother had a circle of friends who stopped by with fragrant pumpkin bread and telephoned for no reason at all and got together to make crafts and drink coffee.  That mother drank coffee.

I don’t even drink coffee.  I’m nothing that I thought I would be.

Which is disappointing in so many ways.  I thought my life would be like a poem, words sewed together with precision and care.  Instead, it’s like a Scrabble board, words awkwardly shoved together just because I found a “U” to go with the “Q.”  And I have too many vowels and no “R” and my next move depends on the other player. 

So, my life circles around, a haphazard jumble of letters, two metaphors mixed up in an airport full of Scrabble players, I guess.  I’m not what I thought I would be and I’m not yet sure I’ll be what I think.  I’m poised at the starting line at that hopeful place before beginning when failure is not yet possible.  (You can’t fail if you don’t start.)

That’s the view from the kitchen table on a Friday night as I watch my life circle back around, just waiting for me to grab it this time around.   

Easily irritated or justified annoyance? You decide.

Last night, while I rode my exercise bike and concentrated on the tiny print of Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady (which is taking forever to read) I may have been a little snippy when I asked my husband to, “TURN DOWN THE VOLUME!” of the television.  He pointed out that I am easily irritated, which, hey, so sue me.  Perhaps it’s true.  I just want whoever is nearest the remote control to be responsible enough to monitor the volume, turning it down during the commercials and up during vital dialogue.  Is that too much to ask? 

Here’s the thing.  If everyone I live with would just do things my way (ie. The Right Way), I would not be so annoyed. 

For instance, here is the kind of thing I encounter.

Last night, 9:30ish.  I’m reclining in the old green chair, afghan covering my lap, channel surfing, eating fat-free popcorn.  I hear a crash.  I do not even wince.

Moments later, a 13-year old emerges with the remnants of a Mary Engelbreit mug and a half-baked story about its accidental smashing.  Whatever.  I scarcely look up, but tell the boy to get a broom and clean up the mess.  After all, if a busted artery were gushing, he’d be covered in blood already, right?

This morning, while passing through their room on the way to the laundry room, I notice the broom on their floor which irritates me.  Why can’t these children put things away?  Have I done this to them?  Have I taught them to disregard my need for order?  Did I neglect to teach them The Right Way?  I also note that someone has ripped open a microwave popcorn bag, licked it clean and discarded it in bits in a pile on the floor.  This, not surprisingly, irritates me and I make a mental note to rebuke the offender and make him clean up that mess.

A bit later, I’m in the kitchen putting away cooking spray on the top shelf and as I push it in, the bread crumbs container commits suicide, flinging itself onto the kitchen floor where it crumbs burst forth in a vast expanse.

The mug-crusher notices this and retrieves the broom.  I say in a dead voice, “Great, now get the dustpan.”  He disappears into his room, never to return.  I start yelling for the dishpan and the other 13-year old wanders out, claiming he can’t find it.  I say, irrationally, “I don’t care if you can’t find it!  BRING IT TO ME NOW!” 

We never did find the dustpan.  This irritates me greatly and causes me to mutter under my breath, stuff about putting things away and, well, things I ought not to say.  BUT HOW IRRITATING IS IT THAT MY DUSTPAN IS GONE? 

I fashioned a piece of cardboard into a makeshift dustpan and cleaned up the mess, but not before one of my boys stepped in the pile of crumbs while peering into the kitchen and probably drinking the last drop of milk and leaving an empty container on the shelf.

My husband thinks I could fill a whole blog up with all the things that irritate me, which is probably true.  (For instance, at a movie last week, a guy was talking into a lit up, walkie-talkie style cell phone during the movie.  If I hadn’t been concerned about him having a concealed weapon, I might have hollered, “HEY, BUDDY!  PUT AWAY YOUR PHONE, YOU THOUGHTLESS IDIOT!”  What is wrong with people?) 

I must note that my sensitivity to irritation is greatly enhanced one week out of every month and frankly, I find that irritating. 

Gloomy Sunday Afternoon

It’s only 4:40 p.m., but night has crept in.  The gloomy skies are calm at the moment, but we’re told to expect raging winds and drenching rain.  Welcome to November.

(Down the street, some guy’s Christmas lights already shine in the night.)

My telephone just rang, but it wasn’t a political call.  My husband called from the church where he’s been since 7:30 a.m.  He’s preparing for a 6:00 p.m. meeting. 

I had no idea he’d be at the church all day–maybe he told me and the information slipped through my brain and fell onto the floor where someone kicked it under the table.  Who knows?  When he called an hour ago to let me know he’d just stay at church until his meeting ended, my fading hope of escape from my pleasant prison home evaporated.  (My daughter just chatted with him on the phone and told him it’s almost her bedtime.  The early darkness confuses her.)

I’m still telling myself with the petulance of a small child that maybe I can still go to a movie.  Or to buy some drain unclogging chemicals to treat our plugged-up shower.  Anything to get me out of this house before the door is nailed shut.

I look ahead to this week and feel suffocated and trapped–like an claustrophobic contemplating a long sit in a closet or a wild dance in a mosh pit.  My husband’s going out of town for three days, including Saturday (aka as Set Mel Free Day) and if you add in Judo on Monday and Wednesday, that leaves Tuesday night free. 

Look for me Tuesday out in public wandering the streets.

Oh, on a positive note:  only a half-day of school on Thursday and no school on Friday, so theoretically, I could take the children someplace on a pseudo-field trip and I would if I were Mother of the Year. 

But I’m not.  (I am, however, the reigning Lazy Mother of the Year, though.  My lucky, lucky kids!)  

[And just so you know:  yesterday, I spent three hours in the morning running errands . . . then I took my 8-year old to a birthday party.  After checking out the party-situation (a pool with two lifeguards and only party-goers in attendance), I went shopping for two hours.  See?  I’m just a big whiner.  It’s never enough, the time-off I have!  I want more!]

Preparing To Be Shot

I am going to talk about the topics I touched on last night . . . but not tonight.

Earlier tonight, I went shopping for jeans, a blue shirt and boots–with a heel!–to wear with the jeans.  This shopping excursion went against everything I stand for.  For one, I started at Nordstroms where I actually accepted the salesgirl’s offer of help.  I told her what I needed and she helped me pick out six pairs of jeans to try on.  (Normally, I shop the clearance rack at Marshall’s.)

I’m just glad that the jeans that looked the best weren’t the ones that cost $158!  I settled on a baby blue cable-knit sweater after trying on a dozen shirts in various shades of blue.  I purchased clothing at full-price.  (Ack!)

Then, I went to Macy’s where I ignored my instincts to pick comfortable shoes, flat shoes, shoes with rubber soles . . . and bought a pair of boots, kind of like these.  I bought them specifically to go with the long jeans.  (At least they were twenty bucks off.)

Why?  Good question.  On Saturday, I have a photo shoot (with a “blue color palette.”)  That’s why I was desperate to get my hair cut and highlighted . . . I will be posing for pictures.  This freaks me out, especially in light of this post by Quinn Cummings who recently endured a photo shoot.  I have actively avoided cameras for the past fifteen years, but I am willingly driving to Seattle and wearing heels on boots to have my picture taken.

Clearly, I’ve lost my mind.

Also, I’ve lost 48.4 pounds as of today. 

Pushing the Pause Button

I’m standing in a little square pause in my day, waiting.  Oh, the chicken is sizzling and I hear little footsteps upstairs.  But the light is waning.  The glow from the light-bulbs seems brighter as the day fades away.

I pause.  I’m waiting. 

I’m waiting for kids to come home and kids to go home.  I’m waiting for my husband to return, change into shorts and turn on the news.  I’m waiting for the big hand on the clock to move ahead two giant spaces indicating it’s time for Judo.  I’m waiting to change into my exercise clothes and to run myself into a lather.  I’m waiting for Judo to end, for kids’ bedtime to arrive and for darkness to settle over our house.

And under the surface of all that waiting, I’m waiting for the weekend to arrive, waiting for the month to end, waiting for the New Year, waiting for kids to grow, waiting for everything to change while hoping things stay the same.

The buzzer rings.  Dinner’s done.  Kids wander into the kitchen.  Time to move from this pause and step forward.

Notes from an Overachiever

I’m feeling pretty good about myself (and not just because I reached a new low weight).  No, I’m feeling fine because I have accomplished these things today:

1)  Prepared homemade spaghetti sauce which bubbles in the Crockpot as we speak.

2)  Supervised the boys’ schooling without once threatening to send them to public school.  (Okay, only once.  But still.)

3)  Changed the sheets on my bed.  Flannel is my friend.

4)  Washed, dried and folded four loads of laundry.

5)  Cleaned up the kitchen.  Again.

6)  Allowed three small children to paint with tempera paint and even labeled their finished projects in pencil for archival purposes. 

7)  Had a telephone conference with my supervising public school teacher.

8)  Coordinated schedules with my husband and subsequently made an appointment for a haircut, and different appointment with my colorist who makes housecalls for another time.

I needed these appointments quite desperately, which explains why I agreed to an 8:15 a.m. appointment on Saturday for my haircut and a 7:30 p.m. appointment for the highlights on a Tuesday night. 

(The reason I needed these appointments is really quite remarkable and also sort of freaks me out.  And I can’t talk about it anymore, so don’t ask. 

I am dying to talk about it, though, and at the same time, mortified that I will have to go through with this thing that is happening.  On one hand, I want to call someone to hold my hand, but on the other hand, I’m telling myself to just Grow Up.  I’m a grown-up, right?  I can handle this.) 

Anyway, I was feeling pretty fine about my day until I started talking about That Thing I Can’t Talk About.  And now, I’m a little anxious.  You’ll have to excuse me while I go fret.

(Don’t forget to go visit Brandie and say hello.)