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Archive for the ‘Life and Times’ Category

Fifteen

My daughter turned 15 yesterday. She’s had a boyfriend for several weeks; went to the Snowball dance with him at school last weekend; has Valentine’s Day plans with him.

Her dad gave her tickets to see Hamilton in Chicago as her Christmas and birthday gifts combined. So she was in Chicago with him yesterday. She promised to take lots of pictures and send them to me. She sent one, and then I didn’t hear from her all weekend until I had to text her dad to make sure everything was ok. She finally wrote and said she just kept getting distracted. She was only home for an hour and a half before it was time for her and her brothers to leave and stay at their dad’s house for the next three weeks. She would not hug me to say hello or goodbye. She was pissed at me because I wouldn’t stop the cycle of laundry I was in the middle of so that she could run her own load through. I explained to her that I’d been doing laundry all day and had washed and folded all of her and her brothers’ stuff so that they’d have plenty to take to their dad’s for the next three weeks. Didn’t matter. She was still pissed that she couldn’t immediately wash the clothes she’d taken with her for the weekend. She humphed out the door tonight without a goodbye or a backward glance.

These next three weeks are the longest my kids and I have ever been apart. I’m sure it matters less to them than to me. But in fifteen years as a mother, the longest I’ve been away from my kids is two weeks when I visited Italy, and despite having a great time there, I broke down several times from missing them and not having a strong enough sense of myself to properly exist day-to-day without having them around to take care of. I’m not going to have the distraction of a beautiful foreign country to engage me over the next three weeks. Just work and canceling my student status at Pitt–again.

Yesterday was hard. Fifteen years as someone’s mother seems like it should mean something. I did fifteen years worth of work on her, but the celebration was with her dad. He takes her to musicals that she and I love. He takes her to salons to get her hair done. He takes her for manicures and clothes shopping. I only have one daughter. And somehow, he gets to do all these fun firsts with her.  I just don’t understand what all the work and effort is for. Other people get the payoff. Other people get the credit and the one person I had hoped all my effort would matter to doesn’t give a shit whether I’m present or not.

It’s not her fault that it all feels hard for me. It’s not her fault that the death of the child before her placed so much importance and longing and redemption on her whole existence. It’s not her fault that she always felt more special, more necessary, more anticipated as a result of the pain and the lack that preceded her. It’s not her fault and it’s not fair to her that I needed her. That I needed her tiny new life to fill in the enormous throbbing void left in my soul.

None of it is fair.

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This past fall I read The 5 Love Languages: The Military Edition. I typically don’t buy into relationship books like that because I’m a bit of a cynic and sometimes a snob. I work in a bookstore and often stock the shelves with the various editions of The 5 Love Languages franchise, and I’m always equally as intrigued by their claims to restore and save marriages as I am skeptical of those claims considering how broadly and generally those claims sweep. “Reading this one book will change your whole life,” and “Contained within these pages is the secret to relationship longevity.” These are the kind of statements that make me smirk, roll my eyes, and stuff the book back on the shelf.

I take issue with the idea that one book, one person’s words, contains all the truth I need to get through life and relationships successfully. I think it’s an arrogant assertion to suggest that in all the time of human history, this one man holds the secret to relationship success and happiness.

The fact that these are shelved in the Christian Living section didn’t make it any easier for me to spend the cash on it. (Not because I have a general distaste for Christian books; but rather because of my very specific history with Christianity.) Of course, I’m someone who believes in accepting truth wherever I might find it, even if it did manage to blunder its way through a religious patriarch.

But I’d been intrigued by this particular edition, the military edition, for so long–every time I’d shelve in that section, I’d pick it up and flip through and read a few lines–that I started reading it on my break one day. Without even realizing what I was doing, I started underlining parts that resonated with me and writing notes in the margins. Couldn’t very well put it back on the shelf after that, so it came home with me.

I have plenty of criticisms of the book–The 5 Love Languages in general, not just the military edition. There’s too much god-ness for me. It’s stiflingly heteronormative and traditional in approach to gender roles, and doesn’t use or seem to know language that encompasses a variety of long-term, committed relationships, not just Christian marriages between a man and a woman. That being said, if you’re willing to mentally edit the overly-religious parts and to interchange pronouns to suit your circumstances, it’s truly an insightful and useful little book.

There’s plenty of truth and sound advice and experiential wisdom in there. I learned that my love language is not what I thought it was; or maybe it’s more accurate to say, I learned that my love language is more than I thought it was. I’ve always known, even before the phrase “love language” existed, that I feel loved and secure and confident in a relationship–no matter what kind it is–through acts, demonstrations, cooperation in tasks/chores, teamwork. Doing. Being on the receiving end of Doing is what has always felt like love to me. The 5 Love Languages calls it Acts of Service.

As it turns out, while that’s still true, what’s more true is that even when someone is doing and is a person of action in the relationship, I can still feel a lack. A distance, an insecurity in whether or not they truly love me. I realized through reading this book that a possible reason I could feel that lack or insecurity is because my love needs were in fact not being fully met. Yes, acts of service are absolutely vital for me to be a partner in sustaining a healthy, loving relationship; but also, I need words. Words of Affirmation according to The 5 Love Languages. My Words of Affirmation score was even higher than my Acts of Service score. I found this fascinating because I’m a firm, lifelong believer in walking the walk. Anybody can say the right words, but those words need to be backed up by action. That’s always been my philosophy, and still is. But it’s also my philosophy that solid actions need to be supported and enhanced by the right words.

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Self-Portrait

A few weeks ago, I felt smugly confident I’d get through this winter without the usual self-loathing and morbid dreariness that tends to accompany February. Several factors were in my favor:

I began Weight Watchers just after New Years and have lost seven pounds without much effort, which, as anyone trying to lose weight knows, if you can feel immediate success, the encouragement of that far outweighs the constraints you place on yourself to continue losing.

We had a lovely house guest—Karen—for a week crossing January and February which has to be my favorite part of the winter.

I recently bought several adorable succulent house plants to bring in more naturey greeness which I expected to be a further balm or preventative to my winter blues.

I’ve been taking Vitamin D for general health and wellness and because I know it can help with seasonal depression because you’re not getting that Vitamin D from sunshine. (For the most part, I have noticed a significant improvement in my overall moods since beginning to take it daily.) And I thought the snow was on my side.

I was mostly ok with the relentless snow because it was at least pretty and disguised the muted ochers, grays, and dingy greens of Pittsburgh’s winter landscape. The snow brought a clean, bright contrast to the skeleton trees, and really, for me the view outside my front window and all the photos I saw of the buried city and surrounding towns, filled me with wonder and awe at the spectacle and ferocity of nature. It was breath-taking and wonderful and vicious all at once.

I thought to myself and said to several people that, even though the clean-up of the snow was annoying and a week stuck indoors with my kids drove us all a little batty, I wanted to think of it as positively as possible. My spin on it was that at least February looked pretty and the snow wasn’t likely to melt until March and by that time, Spring would have all but sprung and I’d be well out of danger for my yearly bludgeoning by seasonal disaffectedness…whateverthefuck it is that makes me despise drawing breath while I wait for the sunshine to crack the clouds and find me again.

But I was too smug or too confident or too a few weeks ago because today and for the past several days all I can do is sigh and mope and drag my hang-dog self around the house prodding me to switch the laundry so we can all have underwear tomorrow.

Today I have eaten 12 or 13 Tagalongs, 5 Trefoils, and at least 9 or so Thin Mints (cookies, not boxes—if that were the case I believe I’d be going to have my stomach pumped.) But seriously, who eats that many cookies in a day? Good grief. I felt like if I could just reach that one more cookie, I’d have a reason to let my heart go on beating. Pathetic. It’s unbearably pathetic. And this is the eat-me-up cycle: Inexplicable moroseness, disinterest in all things (excepting perhaps chocolate and Girl Scout cookies), bounded well with a mortar of intolerable self-loathing.

I know this sounds like whining, but it’s not in my head. I mean, the tone of voice isn’t whining. These are simply matters of fact.

I’m dreading going to sleep because I haven’t actually slept well in three weeks thanks to strange and disturbing dreams and perpetual pain in my neck/back/leg—depression with an insomnia chaser; I’m dreading waking up tomorrow feeling the same as I do today; I’m dreading an exam, a paper, and another exam all due next week; I’m sure there’s plenty more I could dread. I know there is. I’m overcome by dread.

Thing is, I know it’s unreasonable. I know there’s no real cause. I know in a few weeks I’ll start to feel my way out of the fog and gloom and will mostly continue on through life…but right now, I feel terminal even though the ickyness feels interminable. Whether or not that makes sense, I know what I mean.

I just want winter to get a move on.

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I must must must must must see this movie.

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David’s Dream

On February 10th, 2010, David had a dream:

This was during the week of the Snopocalypse. Thought it might be the last vestiges of life that the survivors would discover of mankind pre-February 5th, 2010. Since we’ve basically come out unscathed, I figured I’d share the few chuckles this inspired.

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Finally, third time around, new baking powder (thanks to Tom‘s suggestion), and a little tweaking of the recipe and these are the most delicious Banana Pancakes you’ve ever seen.

Also, when I ground my coffee beans this morning, I threw in some whole cloves and allspice and a little cinnamon, and WOW. I know it’s noon and I’m still in jammies and just now finishing my breakfast, but it’s so worth it to be slow-moving when this is what I get to enjoy.

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I swear this is not an indicator of my actual creative/artistic abilities. Promise. It is however a red flag for my loved ones that my crazy is about to take me over…

Positively speaking I’m resourceful and tenacious.

I’ll just go ahead and let the photos speak their piece and see if you can’t figure out what happened here.

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It’s like Where’s Waldo, except with a MacBook. Betcha can’t find it.

Give up? Ok, ok, it’s the tall red-head. Nice, huh?

According to Casey, these were just released today and he’d already ordered mine so it arrived this morning. Most Excellent. Now my laptop won’t feel so out of place among its ancestors.

Go, buy yourself a new BookBook. It’s rad.

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So, I’m wondering if I should post some pictures of people I’ve drawn to give you all a little confidence in sending me your photos…thoughts? I mean, sure, you run the risk of receiving balloon-head pictographs in the style of every 4-year-old you’ve ever known, but what’s life without a little risk, am I right?

Ok, I’ll photograph a few of my things, stick ’em up here as kind of a good-faith sharing of what I can do while I await your good-faith sharing of your photographs. Deal? Yes. Ok good.

Meanwhile, it’s 1:15 in the afternoon and I’m still in jammies. I didn’t feel great when I woke up. Hadn’t slept well, and my neck and eyeballs ached. Obviously I want to shower, but we’re still waiting for the plumber guy to come back today and replace the weak thermo-coupling so that our water can heat up sufficiently. Yesterday the death-trap situation was remedied quickly but at nearly twice the originally quoted price. But they didn’t have the correct part to fix the thermo-couple (coupling? coupler? WTF is the right word there?). So, we have lukewarm water (because if the pilot is up too high—which is to say, hot enough to take a decent shower—it trips a sensor and shuts down), but we’re not currently going to die in our sleep of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is, as you may suspect, an awesome state of affairs.

I’m trying hard to train myself to write everyday. Whether writing on here, or playing around with one of my story ideas, or whatever, my brain needs the daily exercise because when I don’t, every synapse in there rebels and I’m left thinking about………….

See. That right there. That happens when I’m not daily challenging my brain to organize thoughts, connect them, say them better, make them funny or meaningful to something larger. I go blank. I couldn’t think of anything funny or even ordinary or ANYTHING AT ALL to describe this globulous mental atrophy. (And, I know. Globulous is entirely the wrong word, but that’s the sound of word that I want right there and if I was daily working out my brain, I’d be agile enough to find the word that sounds like that that means what I want it to mean. But I’m leaving the wrong word there because it sounds gross and gross is what I’m going for.)

This reminds me of Benjamin Franklin. He complains of exactly this suffering in part one of his autobiography, which I’m reading for my American Lit. class. I have wanted to read it anyway, so I’m happy to do it now. So far, this is the best writing I’ve encountered in all the colonial and pre-colonial American literature we’ve read. Old Franklin is a funny, ironic, and intelligent guy. And he’s bent on improving himself in every activity he pursues. So it’s cool to be reading him now; it’s like inspiration for me to continue on in diligence the things I’m trying to improve: writing, art, life, et al. Go read Ben Franklin; he’ll make you want to be a better citizen.

I’m at a loss as to wrapping this up today…it’s that mental atrophy taking over. This will get better. I will get better. Send me pictures so I can draw you.

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Hrm. Ok.

One week and a final in algebra then I’m done with math. I’m so tired of it, I can’t even manage to be clever or quippy. I just need it to end. I might be able to secure a B. It’ll screw the GPA, but I’ll live if it means no more computation classes. Ugh.

Final fiction class this Tuesday. And as sad as it makes me to say, I can’t be done with that soon enough either. I didn’t learn a lot about fiction writing on the whole. I learned a few things about myself as a writer, so I imagine that’s helpful. Also, I’ve managed to complete two short stories. That’s a lot for me because I always find myself losing momentum about  two-thirds of the way through and never completing anything. It’s discouraging.

My stories have yet to be workshopped in class and I was looking forward to getting some feedback other than the teacher’s. I hope we’ll get to it this week, but our teacher isn’t great at time management, so we’ll see.

I’m going to have to wait a whole term to take Intermediate Fiction. The class is closed for next term so I’m taking some literature instead. And a sociology class on sex. Too bad there’s not a lab component. 🙂 (Relax, Casey.)

Life on the whole has been somewhat messy these last months, but recently there’s noticeable improvement, so I’ll just chalk it up to growing pains. In the big life picture, it will only be a blip anyway.

Casey’s consulting business is doing better than either of us expected, I think. He’s impressing the shit out of just about everyone. The kids are still mostly cute, when they’re not being annoying. I have a new iFlip video camera so I plan on learning how to post videos of funny kid stuff here.

I dragged a heavy desk upstairs from the dining room all by myself today and now I feel like an Amazon Woman.

We’re trying to buy our car (we originally leased it and the lease was up a few months ago) but we’re being parried at every turn. Fucking car companies.

Nothing especially earth shattering to report. Earth is still turning, we’re all still breathing in and out every day.

Evelina plans on being the first person on Mars. She has diagrams and blueprint mock-ups of the vessel required to take her there. Her own design. She wants us to send them to NASA so that they can begin work on them now with the hopes that it will be perfected and space-worthy by the time she’s done becoming an astronaut. I have no doubt whatsoever in her imminent success.

Christmas is fast approaching and I’m far from the spirit of it. It’s unusual for me. I’ve never been a scrooge and every year I chide Casey on his lack of participation and holiday cheer. But this year, I’m just not feeling it. Perhaps once we’ve bought our tree and decorated I’ll be more into it.

I have some ideas for some upcoming posts; I just hope I have the time to stick with it. And the energy. We’ll see.

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