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Friday

In August, I kept telling myself to make it through until school started, and things would be simpler.

When school started, and logistics got harder, I told myself to just make it through the two big September work projects, and things would get easier.

When the first week of October brought big challenges at work, I told myself to make it through one big project.

Before that project ended, there were three new projects.

And so this week, I told myself to make it to Friday. To put my head down and push hard, because this weekend I’m going away with a friend. Without kids. With big projects looming, but time carved out for no work. The beach. A massage. A nice dinner.

When the kids were little, and there were no breaks after the milestones, I longed for the project-based rhythms of work. When those projects came back, both freelance and staff, I longed for a time with downtime between projects.

I’m going to have to stop waiting for breaks, and start making them myself.

And I will. Starting about four hours ago.

get me outta here!

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The Day I Quit Parenting

Day off school? Cool! I’ll rearrange my week so we can hang out together. Have crepes and play video games and read and play soccer and go to a movie. At the theater! With snacks and everything!

So, how about you help get the day started…by fighting non-stop with your brother. Not just about important things. Scream at him for breathing too loud. Punch him while you think I’m not looking just because you want to see what happens. Tell him how bad he is at the video game I’m going to take from you in three….two….one, just for being nasty.

And you, little follower. Give it right back to him. There’s nothing I’d like better on a day where I’ve planned to focus on you and make life awesome. Pick on him. Stick your tongue out. Make sure to trip him each time he walks by. When he reacts, pinch him. Tell him he’s a princess and tell him that you’re going to break his toys if he goes to the bathroom.

That’s it. Now wrestle! Not the fun kind, where everyone is laughing and panting and exhausted. Wrestle as though gouging out his eyes were your job. Yes. That’s the way.

Too cool to hear you, mom.

***

That’s the way the first two hours of our day went. Then, screaming and crying when I said it was time to walk to the theater. Then, grabbing each other in the lobby while I was trying to show tickets.

Listening? No. Heeding requests for modified behavior? Nope. Crazy, jerk-ish, rude behavior all morning.

I thought by evening it would be better. I made their favorite dinner, I paid close attention to their stories, I laughed at their jokes. When kids act like jerks, according to the hippie attachment parenting books I’m now totally throwing out, means children need more attention. Need connection. I have it all I had.

When they asked for a joint bath, I reminded them that they can’t take baths together anymore. It doesn’t work. Tub’s not big enough, nobody seems capable of keeping their hands to themselves. Take baths alone, I urged, and cuddle up together for stories later.

They swore they’d be kind. They coached each other, in front of me, on what to say to convince me.

So they started a bath together. And three minutes is this one snapped at that one, and the other grabbed painful parts in retaliation for the sharp tone. I talked gently and reminded them of the rules. I was patient, I was kind. And they kept pushing and grabbing and shrieking. And one, then the other was told to get out. Ignored me, fought with each other.

I’d had it. I yelled that everyone had to get out of the tub. I told them this isn’t the way this family is supposed to work. I said that I demand that when I’m asking for attention about a safety and kindness issue, like hitting, that they heed me. Both reacted rudely to my own rude behavior.

And then I quit. I went to the living room and started a project. I decided I wasn’t going to make meals anymore. I wasn’t doing laundry or helping with homework. I won’t remind anyone about library day or music day or any other day. Forget to brush your teeth or wear a jacket or do a book report? I don’t care. Not my job.

I’ll buy groceries, pay the rent, and ignore them. Forever. Because all I have to do is survive 15 more years. They’re not hearing what I say, they don’t care whether my points are valid or not. This is Lord of the Flies, and I’m Piggy.

The little one stomped down the stairs and started an art project. He was supposed to be sorting laundry, and I seethed but ignored him. Not my job anymore.

The big one stomped up the stairs and started an art project. He was supposed to be doing homework, and I ground my teeth. That kept me quiet, though, which is fine since they don’t plan on hearing me ever again, anyway.

And first one, then the other handed me an apology note. The little guy sounded out all the words himself.

 

 The big guy went winter-themed with his contrition. And multicultural, it seems from the punctuation.


And I decided that I could maybe try being their mom again. As much as I enjoyed my 20 minutes of full abdication, reinstatement as matriarch does have perks. I get all the handmade art I want. I get to read stories. And despite feeling, when they’re fighting, as though I have no influence, role, or value, I’m pretty sure that they at least get enough fiber, protein, and long explanations in answer to their questions when I’m on the job.

I wish the dynamics were different. It’s intensely hard on me that they’ve been fighting for four years, almost without pause. But life has been getting better. They read each other books last week. And played a duet, unprompted. I hope tomorrow is like last week.

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TMI

The most challenging part of regular blogging is all the things I can’t say in this space. I write to be honest, to share, to ask questions. 

But I don’t write to shame or embarrass other people. So I’m sometimes stuck fighting the urge to write everything I’ve experienced and how I feel about it. 

In consideration of the public forum, of readers both known and unknown, of future lights in which these words will appear, of parties relictant to have their lives discussed in my blog…there’s a lot I can’t say. 

Four bits from today I simply can’t tell you. One silence is a legality, two are rooted in decorum to protect asshats who wronged me, and one silence is because I don’t want to reread in five years and feel like a jerk. 

So here is a photo of twinkly lights. Consolation prize. 

    Twinkle lights, like right now, in my living room. On the bookcase. 
Maybe tomorrow will have content for public consumption. 

Or more lights. 

    That’s lights and books and microscope. That’s pretty good, y’all. Pretty good day. 

It's complicated

So how’s your divorce going?

Slowly. My divorce is going slowly, thanks for asking.

Everything is fine. We’re still being friendly and still sharing time with the kids. I’m not a big fan of shared parenting, but it’s much better than having one parent erased from the kids’ lives, and it’s infinitely better than what we were forcing to make work long after it didn’t work.

We’re nice enough that we both go to all the soccer games. We’re annoyed enough by each other that conversations go best via text. It’s not a “between a rock and a hard place” kind of situation. It’s a “rock and everything that’s not the rock seems pretty soft” kind of situation.

rock sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago, from my first of two visits

rock sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago, from my first of two visits

The legal stuff has barely begun, but we’re hoping it will be easy. We haven’t disagreed on any details yet, and we’ve covered a lot of territory. It never occurred to me, when we decided to end years of misery with a responsible divorce, where both of us strive toward being respectful and kind, that we’d have to put in writing who gets to decide when the kids learn to drive (both have to agree) or who has to agree to moving to a different pediatrician, dentist, or school (again, we want both of us to agree). This isn’t hard. It’s a lot of thinking ahead, though. Thinking about being linked for decades. Gah.

I’m not enjoying the added burden of finding and paying professionals to help us make sure our kids are fairly treated until they’re adults, since we both agree they should be fairly treated.

But I’m trying to be smart about this. Some day he might remarry. Some day I might remarry (hahahahaha that’s a good one). And we have to make sure that what makes sense now is written and witnessed and legal and binding. Because it would really suck to go forward on goodwill, and have someone derail that spirit of cooperation with legal shenanigans.

I don’t enjoy the limitations of single parenting, but my happiness at being done with a very challenging time in my life trumps inconvenience.

gutter, rainwater, pollen, leaves. un-still life.

gutter, rainwater, pollen, leaves. un-still life.

I read exactly one article on divorce before deciding I’m not reading any more. In a highly recommended listicle, divorced women said retail therapy is exactly the wrong choice during a separation.

And so, for a while, every purchase I made seemed like a statement on my mental health, on my divorce, and on my potential for happiness. New shampoo was a cry for help. A new coffee mug was clearly demonstration of intense loneliness. And a new mattress was a therapy cornucopia: in attempting to erase the marital bed I was hiding from reality.

What ridiculous nonsense like that ignores, is that people moving through a change in marital status are just carrying on with life the way a regular person would. If you’re engaged and buying a new bed, that’s symbolic. But my buying a new mattress wasn’t a statement on my mental health. That purchase coincided with an uptick in work that meant I finally had enough money to fix a chronic back issue that had me waking, in pain, on a 15-year-old mattress.

I’m not sure why it was so easy to jump to a place where I associated my choices with my change in marital status. Since high school, I’ve refused to use the word Mrs. because I think it’s ridiculous to categorize women into only two groups: married and unmarried. So why do it to myself?

I thought I’d be upset about my divorce. I thought I’d second-guess myself, feel uncomfortable, or feel ashamed of my choices. But I don’t feel differently. I’m not embarrassed to kiss my kids goodbye after the soccer game because they’re spending the rest of the weekend with their dad. I’m not shamed that the teacher asks gingerly if she can have a conference with me and the boys’ dad together. I think it’s a good question. I tell her we’re happy to have just one conference. And I would feel just as comfortable telling her that we needed to be apart if that were true.

To my Catholic grandmothers, divorce was a big deal. As the adult child of an 1970s divorce (none of which seemed to exist on the same nasty-to-amicable spectrum we’ve set up for ourselves this generation…they were all relatively uncivil and acrimonious, right?), I thought divorce was a big deal.

But it hasn’t turned out that way.

Maybe because I’m not done yet. Maybe because I’m at the center of it, and I enjoy being the center of an issue. Maybe because divorce doesn’t seem intense when it’s such a relief. Or maybe because trying our best to be kind, to talk nicely about each other, to support the kids with whatever they need in the transition to a two-household family, we’ve actually taken some of the biggest hurts out of divorce.

I don’t know. But I do know that, other than the logistics, my divorce is going quite well. Thanks for asking.

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Blog vs. Surf

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I didn’t start using photos in this blog until 2012, according to my photo gallery. I checked because I was going to steal an old photo instead of uploading a new one.

Walking back through them, the dirty worms photo made me smile. They’re about as awesome as this blog’s photos get.

He sure was proud of those worms.

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And of the things his truck could do.

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And of the sand he brought home in his shoes but remembered to dump before he came inside.

I don’t have a point, really, except that this blog has some nice memories tucked inside. Some moments that I remember more clearly, cherish more deeply, because I shared them.

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from KTVU footage of our apartment caught in a massive wildfire

When you cross SAD and PTSD

I had a rough couple of Octobers as a young adult. Big earthquake one year. Huge fire two years later. Terrifying car crash a few months after that, which wasn’t October, but which also didn’t make fire recovery much fun. In Boston, also October a year later, I struggled with a major injury; another big injury the following October.

And as I was acclimating to those psychic bruises, I walked through Harvard Square to rehearsal one October night. The sky was absolutely black, street lights painfully bright, and life flowing all around me. I didn’t notice that I was having to try much harder to get through my days since the time change. But I did notice that it was starting to rain. Barely.

I stopped at a red light and looked down a side street. And the tiny rain drops looked, in the street light and against the black sky, like snow.

And I lost my everloving mind.

I paced like a wild animal, knowing I had to get out. I had to leave, escape, claw, leap, fly. Fly! Yes, that’s it. I ran back up the street to a pay phone (yes, it was when there were pay phones but not cell phones). I pulled out my credit card, and checked the back for an airline phone number. I called and asked for the first flight back home.

I laughed at the price. I had to find a way to make it, and not lose my mind. Because I couldn’t afford a panic trip home.

Instead, I talked myself down, went to rehearsal, and the next day looked in the yellow pages for a therapist. (This was in the time of pay phones and email. I’m pretty sure there was a search engine of some sort. I just don’t remember if this was still yellow pages time, or if we were able to ascertain the location of a therapist by just typing in “Boston therapist seasonal affective disorder.”) Now that I think about it, I called my insurance company. From a land line. They gave me three names.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is pretty easy to remedy, he said. Generally, it takes lots of outdoor exercise in the daylight, and 15 minutes a day in front of a light box. For me, he said, based on my reported symptoms, it had to be 2 hours a day of full spectrum light. Read a book in front of the light box, he said. Every morning. Eat your breakfast, write letters, do whatever you need to do, but get within six inches of a medical device every day for two hours. If it feels like you’re euphoric, back off by 10 minutes. And if you feel unable to work, get out of bed, or eat, come back.

It was a long winter. So was the next one.

When I came home to a place with more sunshine, milder winters, and longer days in winter, I had fewer problems. But winterns are still tough.

And without fail, some time in October I start to a panic a bit. Is there any chance to get closer to the sun, quickly, for at least four months? Will this winter be bad? Will I be able to make logical decisions or am I beyond all hope until March? Or beyond? Am I just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, anyway? Is there any point to the light box or exercise? Or healthy food? Or getting out of bed?

It's a long walk off a rotten pier.

It’s a long walk off a rotten pier.

November, to me, is both intensely tough and intensely joyful. Thanksgiving is coming, and I love seeing family. Fall is lovely, and soup plus corduroy plus cocoa make anything wonderful. But the dark and the cold leave cracks into which sadness creeps. Even in cords, drinking soup and stirring cocoa. I ser the sad coming. I know it’s here. I know I have to fight.

I have my lightbox out, and will use it tomorrow. I’m trying to get more sleep. I have all my bright scarves out, so I remember to wear one on particularly emotional mornings. I have healthy foods planned so I don’t sink into a self-medicating pattern of whole loaves of bread for dinner this winter. I will move around, outside in daylight, every morning.

I hope that everyone who notes that the change of the season, and particularly the end of daylight savings time, makes days a bit harder, a bit slower, a bit more claustrophobic will make time for outside activity, bright colors, good food, and a lightbox if necessary.

They make a big difference.

So does making it through October. Thank you, Universe, for making it through October.

The Blessing of Expired Coupons

The first week of this month is my favorite. Hope, possibility, and the permission to recycle a fistful of expired coupons.

I don’t use coupons. The circulars that come in the mail go straight into recycling. Envelopes of alleged deals do, too. Most of the things I buy don’t offer coupons. But every once in a while, I wind up with a few coupons or micro gift certificates for things I actually use, and will likely buy before they expire.

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So I start a pile. Near where the mail goes and papers to be signed go. And I see the stack every day, winking at me with the possibility of a few dollars off.

But I can’t seem to remember them when I shop. And though that local restaurant is good when we go once or twice a year, our infrequent outings don’t ever seem to coincide with a month where I have the appropriate coupon.

I functionally ignored the coupon pile, even as life’s odometer rolled over to November.

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Today I realized that ten coupons are now an impossibility. Their “you should use this” glare died October 31. “Hurry and use that coupon. Or that one. Or one of them. Take your pick, but go to a place and buy a thing and save several monies.  Come on. You should do this. Or do something with your life for heaven’s sake!”

Sorry. Can’t. Coupon expired. Phew. One fewer thing to forget. I am no longer burdened with the “remember coupons” line item on my to-do list. Clearly I wasn’t paying enough attention to them. So why pay any attention at all?

I threw them away. And for good measure, I threw away the rest of the coupons, too. Expiring December 31? That’s cool. But you’re already wood pulp for something new. I don’t care. And I shall say that loud and proud.

Eff off, coupons.

As I tossed the now dead scraps of paper, I saw the four screws on the kitchen counter that have been waiting for weeks. Or months. I don’t remember. I’ve been trying to recall what they’re for, and I just don’t know. But I thought if I kept them out and visible, I’d remember eventually. Or need them for something.

And I should have just put them in the toolbox. But I wanted so much to find their role and allow them to fulfill their screwy destiny that I left them out in a vIsabel heap of junk-drawer-gone-obligatory

Today I tossed the screws. In the trash. Not in the toolbox, not out on the curb where the whole city seems to dispose of its unwanted but useful things.

I pitched them gleefully.

Good riddance, obligation. Goodbye reminder that my memory is crap. Goodbye unreasonable expectations.

Coins, burned out light bulb, watch that needs a new battery, but no coupons.

Coins, burned out light bulb, watch that needs a new battery, but no coupons.

And now I’m wandering through the house with a bag, drunk with power. Sock without a mate? Whether it’s been waiting a week or a year, it’s gone. I’m tired of waiting. Tired of telling myself I’m not doing enough. Tired of hoping all the messy ends of life will get neatly tied together.

Goodbye, book I know I won’t read. You’re going to the library.

Goodbye tea I don’t like. I’m not saving you for guests. Friends deserve better.

Goodbye, game I don’t like playing with the kids. I play other games, and I don’t care about you at all. You’re a pain and now you’re headed to Goodwill.

Goodbye wedding china. You’re “supposed” to go to eBay, but you’re going to the other half of my failed marriage. He can sell you or use you or give you away. I don’t need the should of your box shaming me from the closet.

Goodbye, tax receipts. I don’t…just kidding. I’m want to, but I’m not stupid. Freedom is symbolic, and currently only at the coupon, gift certificate, and third-rate novel level for now.

But that’s a pretty good place to be. Shedding what I don’t need. Streamlining. And knocking dumb things off my list.

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Finally Fall

The story is the same every year: Hot in September. Hot in October. Eighty degrees on Halloween. 

Then mid-sixties the first week of November. A battle between me and my mother as to who turns on the heat first. She claims to make it until November 11 some years. 

I rarel make it past Election Day. 

Happy boot weather, Bay Area! Bring out your cords! Bring out your cords!

dude! they took my blanket! please let me cuddle in right here.

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Harbinger of Terminal Disease

I don’t want to worry anyone, but I spontaneously started singing a Phil Collins song today.

And that probably means I’m dying.

Look, I don’t think there’s anything inherently toxic about Phil Collins. Anyone raised in the 80s has a few lyrics shelved in their prefrontal cortex that are bound to dislodge at odd times.

And I don’t have any problem with spontaneous singing. I sing when I’m happy, bored, angry…I don’t need a plan to sing. I just do it.

But washing dishes in the dark (kids in bed, too lazy to turn on a light, because ew, why would I want to see all that yuck if my only job is to scrape and shove in the dishwasher?) means an almost meditative zen state of flow.

And having Phil Collins arise at just that moment probably means I have a cold coming on. Or spinal meningitis. Or the flu. Or a brain tumor.

Just saying. Brain tumors aren’t funny. And neither is having Phil Collins stuck in my head.

And then falling out of my mouth.

(“Against All Odds”; thanks for asking. And I mean that sarcastically. Because I had eight bars of verse looping for a long time, until I considered blogging this catastrophe. I realized I had to push further into the song to ascertain the title. And now the chorus is looping. Incessantly. Against my will. Probably a tumor.)

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How I Ruin Everything

I go back and forth thinking I’m doing an okay job balancing work and family, and then sure that I’m not. And this week’s proof of my failure to thrive was in the mail, proclaiming to everyone in the school community that I’m not within 50 yards of making it work.

Do I mean “rush down the stairs last week while brushing my teeth to help with a dispute gone wild, abandon my toothbrush in the kitchen, and brush my teeth with the kids’ brushes at midnight, for a week, because I’m too tired to fetch my own” failure to thrive? Sure, but also “ask my kids to find my keys or phone every morning because I seriously can’t keep track of anything” failure to thrive? Yep. And “let my kid curse like a sailor because I can’t seem to find consistency, in anything”? Uh-huh. That, too.

A bit of background: my dear little boys are finally in the same school. We are two months into a two-year phase, the only one of their lives, where they’ll be at the same school. And it’s heavenly. One drop off. One set of events. One community thoroughly disappointed in my level of commitment.*

*I’m assuming that disappointment. I might be projecting, just a wee bit, since I’m completely disgusted with my level of commitment. But I’m pretty sure the other parents, teachers, and staff have noticed, too. I see the way they look at me…smiling and waving. Making small talk. They clearly hate me.

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When my oldest started kindergarten five years ago, I cried the first day. I was in the classroom twice a week. I knew all the kids’ names by the end of the week, and they wrote me thank you notes when the year ended. The second child, who started kindergarten this year, got none of that. I drop him, greet the teacher, and all but run out of the schoolyard within 2 seconds of the bell ringing.

It helps that the second guy is very independent. (Probably because he hates me, too, though that’s another post.) It also helps that I’m rushing off to a job I enjoy, where I feel I’m doing valued work, and where I am cobbling together a flex schedule that lets me be with the boys every non-school hour. Or, at least, every non-school hour of my days. On their dad’s days, I work longer hours.

And that’s where some of the ruining comes in. I don’t mean the part about me ruining the kids because I have shared custody. That’s just to easy a target. I mean the part about me ruining everything else while I try to work full-time, be with my kids full-time, make shared custody as painless as possible, keep the house from appearing on an episode of Hoarders, and sleep at least 5 hours a night.

So what’s the big deal? What did I screw up this time? The news from the school comes home Thursdays. Thursdays are a dad day, and after school the sitter whom I gladly accepted as a hand-me-down from my brother and sister-in-law picks them up, feeds them, and takes them to soccer. Their dad brings them to my house at bedtime. So I see them for just a few minutes before bed. And the morning, though long, is pure chaos. I try to remember the Thursday folder of news from school, which the kids empty and put on my place at the dining table to read and sign. And I thought I was doing a good job of reading everything and keeping up with the announcements.

But I missed the school directory form. The completed directory arrived this week, replete with phone numbers and email addresses, physical addresses, and nicknames. My kids are each listed as only a name. No contact information for new friends to text for a playdate. No multiple ways to email us if one of the kids rescues an old lady from an oncoming bus, no information on how to call us if one of the kids punches another kid in the nose.

Yes, all of those are likely.

It was the last in a string of “I didn’t know that” or “did they tell us about that in advance?” instances last month, and I completely deflated. I felt invisible, in the way that most working parents tell me they do, excluded from events that happen at noon, at the mercy of cobbled together carpools and caretakers and school holidays and early-release days.

So when the directory showed that I’d missed the boat yet again, I chastised myself for letting things fall through the cracks. I chided myself for not committing the way I used to.

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But I’m just as committed. It’s just that I used to commit to a different balance of children and work and writing and art and health and house. Now that the balance has shifted, I feel off my game, insecure, unstable. I’ve completely ditched health and writing, and am close to criminal in the neglect of the house.

The “I don’t know how to do this” feeling of newborn, of tantrums, of preschool questions, of eight-year-old attitude problems should be gone by now. But instead of living my life around being an intensely good parent, I’m shifting my priorities as they need a little bit less.

The learning curve is a different kind of steep. It’s the learning curve of going from undergraduate work to grad school. You know how to do all the things, but the level of intensity is higher.

The other night we had 30 minutes in which to get some tasks done. I asked one kid to practice piano and the other to get Monopoly ready while I quickly loaded the dishwasher. And then their dad came over to take one of them on a date (we trade each week taking one kid on a date so they get solo time and so it’s not always one parent with two kids) and the little guy cried that he didn’t get a chance to play with me because I “take too long doing cleaning things and don’t play with us or do anything fun.”

That is probably true for most parents. We have a lot of tactical, practical, boring, time-consuming work to do. But committing to multiple clients as the only adult in the household means I really don’t get much time with either child. I’m home before school and after school every day specifically to be with them. But it feels as though there aren’t enough hours in the day.

I don’t have a good chance of getting more hours out of the week, so maybe I should cut back on work or on expectations. Or maybe I’m still learning, and that I’ll figure out how to do everything I want, everything I need to do, and all the superfluous extras, including being accurately represented in the school directory. Some day.

Maybe.

Or maybe this is just the way it is. Hanging on by a thread, doing my best, disappointed by the results but still ahead of the game, when I’m really honest.

Is that just about how you feel about your life? Or am I the only one?

 

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The not-at-all sarcastic, question-not-upspeak gratitude edition 

Good thing the ants who refuse to leave the kitchen or my son’s room are not rats? So much less invasive. 

  
How refreshing that harvest festivals make me feel as though I should  add the homesteading thing to my totally short list of things to do? It’s nice to celebrate Fall by comparing oneself to others. 

Thankfully, all the candy my kids wanted to trade me for the better stuff in my private stash is inedible and not tempting? So refreshing to have no options when cravings hit. 

  
At least the rain means I won’t be emailing while walking home from drop-off tomorrow? Much safer. 

And that’s super exciting, since early release all week means I turn right back around and not email all the way back, a few seconds later? Productivity can wait for safety. 

Good thing my boss has kids at the same school so it’s not a big deal to get nothing done for a week but play Yahtzee with kids who should be in school? Smart to be forced to cultivate life-work balance. 

At least my boss doesn’t read this blog? I think. 

Thank goodness NaBloPoWriMo has such a simple name that it does take me, like, eleventy times before I type it correctly? Good way to develop my phone typing skills.  

At least I’ve blogged a whole three times since last year’s NaBloPoWriMo? Doesn’t feel awkward at all to be back. 

So grateful NaBloPoWriMo comes in such a laid back, quiet month? Like July and January were too much because of that pesky extra day? And in the peak of winter-darkness-panic onset. 

Glad I solved the major litter box insurrection by putting the cat food dishes under the dining room table (as deterrent to dining room inappropriateness) a week before jacking up my knee? Makes me grateful for health. 

Happy that the telltale signs of an impending cold mean I’m drinking more water? So healthy. 

Good to see you. I’ve missed you. Hope I have 30 things to say this month. 

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Seven years

WordPress just sent me a delightful canned anniversary notice. Congratulations! I’ve been blogging for seven years!

Dang.

That’s a lot of writing. 1,097 posts.

I started this blog to heal wounds. I had low writer-esteem. I was desperately lonely raising a baby in a strange land. And I had so much to say, but only a few poor souls to talk to.

And they needed a break from the details.

I wrote, and a few people read. And a small percentage said they liked what they read.

At that I was heartened. I felt connected and I felt heard. In fact, once or twice, someone told me that my writing really helped them.

Good gravy, isn’t that all anyone on this planet wants?

I talked to the Internet’s kindest people about homesickness and how hard it was to choose a miraculous and ridiculously confusing creature over the PhD I could have handled much more easily. I talked about deaths that rocked me over and over, friends who abandoned me, the relationship I completely failed at, and wonderful days of joy and light.

I wrote about books I loved and problems I couldn’t solve.

And I have so much more to write. I have a list in my phone that is, currently, nine posts desperate to be written. Those of you who’ve been to this little corner of the Internet before know most of my posts are 2,000 words or so, and that 18,000 words ready, in my head, must create quite a bit of intracranial pressure.

But as I struggled a few months ago with four part-time jobs, two bickering children, one divorce, and a blinding case of I Must Do Better on All These Fronts Even If I Never Sleep because I’m Nothing If I Don’t Excel, a wise friend told me that my to-do list is too long. That there’s enough time. That the stuff with real deadlines should come first, and then I should feed my soul. Do things to feel good, and put off the unreasonable 40+ “to do this week” things I genuinely rewrote on my list every week.

Because there’s enough time. The posts will still want to be written in a few weeks. And the words will come.

Later. Because as much as I love this community, and as much as I need to be on this space, I’ve been here for seven years. And there’s enough time to write a great post later.

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Big Plans

This weekend will be the first time the boys spend two days with their dad at his new apartment.

Oh, nothing. Just totally obsessed with clouds lately.

Oh, nothing. Just totally obsessed with clouds lately.

Though I’ve been slowly preparing them each day (today we talked about picking out a new, special toothbrush that will be at Daddy’s always so they never have to worry about forgetting something as important as dental hygiene), my own reality of two days alone snuck up on me, and I forgot to write out all my lists of how I’ll fill my time while the boys are away. For the first time. Two whole days. Not at a conference, not working 7am-7pm at a cafe so they can have time with their dad in my house. Alone, in my own space, full of hope and potential and projects. And guilt.

Here are my tentative plans.

Hours 1-3
Cry, eat popcorn, and watch an old John Hughes movie. I’m guessing Pretty in Pink but don’t be surprised if I report back that it was Some Kind of Wonderful.

Hours 4-12
Sleep the sleep of a mom who hasn’t slept a full night in her own house in 9 years without waking to the sound of a child crying, vomiting, seeking affection, or sleeptalking.

Hour 13
Wake in a panic that the kids aren’t home. Cry while making tea, then go for a run.

Hours 14-19
Cry. Or read a book without interruption. Or both. Resist urge to text boys’ dad, repeating mantra “He will text if something is wrong. Everything is fine.”

Hour 20
Make feeble attempt to declutter. Find something delicious that doesn’t need to be cooked. Eat it. Shake head ruefully while walking back and forth between the rooms of the house, daunted by all the cleaning and decluttering that really should happen. Debate crying again, but calculate the ratio of tears to popcorn and reconsider.

Hour 21
Do one million pushups and sit-ups to make up for ten years of forgetting. Or have more popcorn, maybe, while building a better Netflix queue.

Hours 22-27
Bounce between reading, pacing, and playing mind games to keep myself from texting.

Hours 28-36
Sleep, full of guilt that I’m enjoying uninterrupted sleep.

Hour 37
Wake, convinced there will be a reassuring text. Feel disappointed, then angry, then sad that there isn’t. Cry while making tea, then go for a run.

Hours 38-44
Plan to cook the week’s meals but forget while binge watching Orange is the New Black. Or Parks and Rec. Or Dr. Who. Definitely not season one of Glee. Again.

Hour 45-47
Freak out that I’ve wasted the weekend on trivial things, resolve to put together dozens of pinterest-inspired kids’ crafts projects to welcome the boys with full attention and adoration. Get caught up surfing and reading about Pluto and patient parenting and domestic hate-crime mass murders. Bounce predictably between buoyant and depressed.

Hour 48
Open the door to tired, happy, filthy, hungry children who don’t particularly want to hear my stories about the fall of civilization and former planets, and who wonder why the place looks exactly the same as it did when they left.

Hours 49-50
Feed, bathe, read to, and adore the children.

Hour 51
Make plans to use my time wisely in two weeks when they go again. Then cry that they’re fine, I’m a wreck, and there aren’t enough hours left to watch The Breakfast Club.

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Reset

No matter how busy the days have been over the past few weeks (I’m going to pass on the hyperbole and cliches, but it’s been pretty freaking busy), I’m able to catch my breath. To smile. To look around and really see. 

The pace of changes in our family have accelerated, but the rhythm has slowed. Because I’m building intention into our rituals, our conversations, and our home. 

I’ve boxed up all the wedding china. And I’ve replaced it with a classic family tradition: a mess or a miracle, depending on your perspective. 

A few weeks after my grandma died, my mom invited me to look around and claim my memories. I went right to the kitchen. 

If nobody has claimed them, I want two of these. 

  
She asked if I was kidding. They’re chipped and cracked, she noted. Sure. But they’re the plates we used every week for Sunday dinner after my mom moved us back to California in 1979. Every week. Grandma and Grandpa and mom and kids and aunts and uncles and cousins. 

I wasn’t kidding. I wanted two. 

She gave me four. 

The day I got them home I dig through the boxes in the garage. I didn’t know what they looked like, but knew they were there…in a dusty white file box labeled “grandma china.” Paternal grandma. Died in the early 90s. China came to me years later. And I never used it. 

I took four and put them with maternal grandma’s plates. 

   
  
Paternal grandma was one delightful half of my wholly delightful sciencey grandparents,  whom I visited several times a year in Tucson. Scrabble and tennis and gin rummy and butter rum LifeSavers. And though I miss both her and grandpa every day, I have no memory of the plates. But who cares…they’re a piece of the people I adored. They remind me of lemon meringue pie and monsoon rains and Kodak carousels of global travels and a blue checked tablecloth.

My mom figured out what I was doing, and saved me a few of these. 

 
Maternal grandma’s. I stopped caring about the stories and just basked in nostalgia and the glory of building from good memories. Starting over with just me and my boys and the legacy of love and kindness that is their birthright.  

My kitchen is dripping with metaphor. Seriously, it’s like a bad freshman essay in there. And I love every cornball connotation. 

A few days ago mom put four plates in my car. It was a frantic day of fraught decisions and parenting fails and traffic and yuck. I thanked her and heartlessly forgot them. 

And today after work I remembered mustard for my boys’ favorite veggie burger recipe (lentils, rice, cashews, and a big pinch of organic shut-up-if-you-hate-veggie-burgers). And pulling the groceries out of the car I remembered mom’s plates. 

I didn’t really look. I washed them. And I served burgers on them. 

And after the kids went to bed I payed attention. 

  

   

My mom got these as wedding presents. Her marriage ended when I was five. She didn’t want the plates. 

My grandma did. 

So now I serve my family homemade food on plates my grandma valued  even as my mom wanted to shed the memories they represented. 

Grandma gave them a second chance, and new memories. 

And now I’m doing the same. 

Starting my way, with my family, and making my choices based on love, nostalgia, and a willingness to shed formal for cobbled together and beautiful. 

   

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Type this post

I feel more than slightly ridiculous dictating this blog post on a walk between two client meetings. But I feel kind of awesome that I can do it. It’s not every day I have ten minutes for a post. It’s not every day I get a glorious walk in perfect weather from one part of San Francisco to another.

It’s not every month that I have so many clients that I schedule back-to-back meetings and walk briskly between them with purpose and determination. I’m incredibly lucky. And because I recognize how lucky I am, ridiculous seems okay right now, and dictate I shall.

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I feel like an entitled jackass for having groceries delivered tonight. It’s my third time this year having groceries delivered, and I will admit with almost no shame that I love it. I don’t have anyone but me clean the house, until this month I didn’t have regular childcare, we don’t go out to eat very often, and we almost never have food delivered. Certainly I never used to pay to have groceries brought to my door. But the little guy and I skipped our weekly grocery date so that we could see his big brother in the school production of the Midas Touch. As much as I would like to resist the multitasking of dictating a blog post, and of having groceries delivered, it’s pretty awesome and I can use my time like this. To see my amazing son in a play instead of going to the grocery store. To get some work done and some exercise and a blog post all the same time.

I like this new purposeful walk and the spare $5 to have groceries delivered. I like it very much.

I have found myself in the thrilling, unnerving, awkward position of a very exciting, almost entirely joyful, complete reorganization of my life. I have no idea how I feel about it, for my tendency is to predict during good time what might go wrong and when, but I’m doing my best to be present and notice and make the best choices I can.

In the course of about two months, I have gone from a stay at home parent who freelanced about 20 hours a week, to a part-time parent and 50-hour-a-week contractor. For years, I had pushed work to the back burner, cramming my consultancy apologetically into the few hours when my kids were asleep and at school (afternoon preschool and elementary school meant daytime work hours were two hours a day, three days a week; and I usually preferred a run and a shower to work, so I had a dysfunctional relationship with my computer late nights and early mornings). And then suddenly, just as preschool is ending and I’ll have the kids together in one school, with a more balanced daytime rhythm, more brain space, and more sleep, I am getting more work than I can handle. I’m turning down clients, which kills me but is necessary. I’m now hiring someone to pick up my boys from their schools two days a week.

And that feels even better than delivering groceries and dictating blog posts.

Because having a babysitter do the four hours of driving that it takes to collect my precious monkeys twice a week, I’m balancing my priorities better. I love my kids and I want to be with them. But I am really good at my chosen profession, and I genuinely appreciate both the paycheck and the accolades that come from doing a good job. I like having colleagues who call me repeatedly when they have challenging work for me, I like free unhealthy snacks at my tech and agency clients’ offices, and I really like leaving a list of what dinner should be, and having someone else chop and spice and cook and serve. And clean up. Good heavens, the one time my nine-hours-a-week sitter did the dishes, I cried.

Cried. Because someone washed a few dishes for me. So that I could get an extra 10 minutes of sleep.

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I will likely kiss the grocery delivery person on the face when they show up at 7pm with all the stuff I didn’t have time for but that my family needs to be healthy.

And I will likely hit “post” on this ridiculous babbling, because it’s what I have to offer right now. Change is in the air…things are different. Life looks different and feels different, and I’m more than a little excited.

That’s all. Had to tell you that before I go into this next meeting.