2011, I’m sad to see you go (or, Epilogue part 2)

I found this meme in the winter of 2008 and have done the same meme ever since.  I usually don’t do these but it is my favorite because it’s not completely dumb.  I don’t have to list what’s in my pockets or what I had for supper last Sunday.  I will say that this is the first year that I honestly almost can’t remember anything before July.  It’s been that kind of year in which a select few events completely overshadowed the rest of the year. 

2011, For the Win!

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

I ran a 5 mile race in May.  And I use the term “run” very loosely, of course. 

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Did I make a resolution?  I don’t think I did.  And, if I did, it had something to do with #1.  Which I did.  Loosely.

3.  Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes.  My baby niece Jordyn Rose was born in February.  And then I got to spend 7 weeks with her while my sister finished the school year.  Oh my aching ovaries…

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No.  Thank God.  It’s been several years since I’ve had to dig up all the same old feelings regarding mortality and whatnot but I just have this feeling that my luck is about to run out in that department.

5.  What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

This is a tough one.  2011 was a year full of blessings.  I got just about everything I’ve ever wanted, all in one year.  And, having just moved for the 4th time in seven years, I know I don’t need another THING.  So let’s just say that I’d like to go on a real family vacation.  Colorado…Disney…Michigan U.P.  Somewhere.  Together.

6.  What countries did you visit?

Um, no.  None.

7.  What date in 2011 will remain etched in your memory and why?

July 23.  (See #8 for why)

8.  What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I returned two separate phone calls.  One of them was to a boy.  The other was to my current boss/CEO.  Both have turned into very successful relationships.  This is significant because I have some sort of phone phobia.  I don’t answer my phone unless I know who it is AND have something to say and I almost never return calls.  I know.  I’m working on it.

9.  What was your biggest failure?

Fat Camp.  Okay, it wasn’t a failure and I haven’t gained back a single ounce.  Well, I did but then I lost it again.  But I have moments of great stress that now make me want to find a treadmill and/or a set of free weights.  Not that I act on it.  But I know how it feels to sweat it out.

10.  Did you suffer illness or injury?

Not really.  I got pneumonia last winter/spring.  Twice.  But I’ve been mostly healthy and injury free.

11.  What was the best thing you bought?

I’ve got nothing for this one.  I haven’t really bought anything of importance this year.  A new wardrobe for work?  A sweet cut and color? 

12.  Whose behavior merited celebration?

Again, I’m going to go with the littles.  This fall and winter have brought so many changes to us all.  I’m working full-time.  I’m with a wonderful man who makes me laugh every day and who loves the girls like they were his own.  We moved.  The littles will start at a new school in three days.  And yet, they are still as flexible and understanding and curious as before.  Challenging, yes.  But in a great way.

13.  Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Hmmm…I can’t think of anyone. 

14.  Where did most of your money go?

First half of the year:  Fat Camp, et al.  Second half of the year:  Childcare 

15.  What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Adult conversation, daily.

16.  What song will remind you of 2011?

“Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts

17.  Compared to this time last year are you:

happier or sadder?  Much happier

fatter or thinner?  About the same.  Sadly.  And, oddly enough, happily.

richer or poorer?  Richer?  There’s more money coming in (got a job) but more money going out as well (gas, childcare, meals)

18.  What do you wish you’d done more of?

I wish we would have gone camping this fall when the weather was so great.

19.  What do you wish you’d done less of?

Waiting.

20.  How will you be spending Christmas?

In 2012?  I’m going to go with “snowed in”.  It appeals to my hermit nature.  Barring the storm of the decade, I really want to surprise the girls with a trip to Disney at Christmas.

21.  What would cheer you up today?

Pie. 

22.  Did you fall in love in 2011?

Yes.  Yes I did.  Madly and deeply.

23.  How many one night stands?

Zero.

24.  What was your favorite tv program?

“Castle” without a doubt.  Wouldn’t miss it for anything.  I also started watching “Weeds” and “Psych”.

25.  Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I’ve said this before but no.  I don’t feel that hating anyone is a good use of my emotional energy. 

26. What was the best book you read?

The “In Death” series by J. D. Robb.  Gets me every time.  I know it’s total fluff but I can’t help myself.

27.  What was your greatest musical discovery?

The live music scene in my very own town.  I also discovered that I was born with a great ear.

28.  What did you want and get?

I get to be the reason that somebody wants to come home every day.  It’s all I’ve ever wanted.  And I got it.

29.  What was your favorite film of this year?

“The Muppets”.  I know that was the last movie I saw so maybe that was my favorite?  I also had a moment going to see the last Harry Potter movie by myself.  It was a decade of committment that came to an end.

30.  What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?

I turned 36.  I don’t think I did anything at all.  Did I?

31.  What one think would have made your year immeasurably more pleasurable?

This is a hard one because it really was the best year I’ve had in a long, long time.  So I’m going to go with “not a damn thing.”

32.  How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

The transition between track pants and corporate America.  It’s been a difficult transition to be sure.

33.  What kept you sane?

Daily conversation and affection from and with an adult.  It changed me forever.

34.  Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Fancy?  Again with the fancy.  Nathan Fillion, hands down. 

35.  What political issue stirred you the most?

The “Occupy” movement.

36.  Whom did you miss?

I still miss my Iowa friends.  They really are the family I chose.  And, even though I am head over heels, I still miss Stephen.  But it’s different now in a way I can’t explain because I haven’t figured it out fully yet.  I miss him but it’s not like it used to be.  I also miss my littles when I’m at work.  Some days.  Not all days but some days.

37.  Who was the best new person you met?

This guy:

38.  Tell us a valuable life lesson learned in 2011?

Be brave.  Return that phone call.  Just keep running and finish what you started. 

39.  Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

God blessed the broken road/That led me straight to you/But now I’m just rolling home into my lover’s arms/This much I know is true/That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you.

So there you go, 2011.  All things considered, it was a pretty good year.  You know, as years go.  I have high hopes for 2012 and I’m planning the start of all kinds of new things.  A new blog is in the works.  We are starting new things around our house.  I’m, learning to be a proper doggie mama again.  Maybe there will be a gym membership or…something else fun?  Who knows?  I certainly couldn’t predict a year ago the fun and craziness this year would bring. 

I am hopeful.  I guess that’s a good way to end this.

With hope.

Thank you one and all.

Epilogue, part 1

This beautiful blog and I have come to a cross-roads.

When I started writing in the days right before and after Stephen’s death, it was a way to reach out and, at times, to inform.  It started as a running commentary, a rebuttal to the statement “I don’t know how you do it.  I couldn’t.”  (The answer to that, of course, is “You just do.  You don’t have a choice.  I don’t have a choice.”)  Back then, it wasn’t even in blog form.

The blog started as an Ambien and xanax-laced commentary on what to do with all the extra funeral cake and why I shouldn’t cruise ebay at 3am in that state.  I was spilling my guts and my heart and my fears to nobody in particular.  And yet, I was desperate for somebody to know and to hear. 

Over the years, it replaced all the times I could have drunk dialed (but didn’t) and all the random crap that may have gotten shipped my way.  I wish I could go back and count how many words were written only through the muscle memory of my fingers because I couldn’t see the screen through the tears. 

How many times did an episode of Grey’s Anatomy strike a chord?  How many blog posts were interrupted because I had to nurse a little back to sleep?  How many nutty bars were eaten?  Bottles of vanilla vodka emptied?

This is the beginning of the end.

At least for this chapter in our lives.

I started writing here as a form of therapy.  I craved the support that comes with spilling one’s guts to the interwebz at large but it was more about organizing my thoughts and my hopes and as a place to record my memories. 

Sometimes I wrote just for the littles.  I forget that they really were just babies when all of this happened to us.  I look at a common, everyday three-year-old and think about how very little Ella was.  And Amelia really was a wee babe.  It’s little wonder we all survived without a visit from the health department, CPS or the police. 

Anyway, this isn’t about that anymore.  This is the beginning of the end.

In the course of the rest of the year, ending on New Year’s Eve, I’m going to wrap up this blog and walk away.  I’ll probably start a new one at some point (maybe New Year’s Day) but there is a part of me that thinks “Notes to Self” found its own end. 

And I’m okay with it.  Because nothing is the same as it was four years ago.  The littles have changed and grown.  I have changed and, well, I keep on changing.  I don’t know that I’ve grown but I do have a different perspective and a whole new set of priorities for my life. 

So, if anyone is left reading this after all these years and all this time, is there anything you want me to address?  Re-address?  Are there any thoughts left undone?  A story I started but never finished?  What should I do with four years of memories, 700+ posts and a thousand comments?

Probably wouldn’t be this way.

Last Friday marked four years since I watched the man I married slip away.  Leave me.  I watched the lights go out.

I decided to bury his ashes instead of keeping them.  At the time, it felt creepy any other way.  I designed a stone.  Chose the rock so that it would sparkle when the eastern sun peeks over the cornfields and river bluffs.  I took our children out to see their names carved into it and to trace the triangle design that used to be the tattoo on his back. 

I see my own name there, too.  I am constantly surprised.  I shouldn’t be.  I put it there.  I am surprised that this was my life.  I signed that paper to deny life support.  I knew what was coming.  And yet…I am still surprised.

I am not the widow who sits at the stone or uses it as a place for meditation.  I chose the location poorly if that was to be the case.  I have only these words on this little blog.  Sometimes I think he’s looking over my shoulder as I write.  Sometimes I think he has his hands on my head; he is wishing he could hold me.

Or, maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

I’ve taken the first few baby steps toward getting on with my life.  Nobody told me I had to.  Nobody said it was time.  Nobody has ever thought I was dwelling in the past or that I should get over it. 

But from somewhere inside, I got a nudge.  A voice that said, “It’s okay.  It’s time.”

And I fell in love.  Again.  And it is a good thing.

But still…

There is something disconcerting about crying in the dark because you are still somewhat haunted by the memory of one love…and being held and comforted by another.

Later that very same day, I was working.  It seems I am out of my fat pants more often than not these days but I was working on putting a once-larger than life country artist on stage.  And while the voice is enormous, her personality was less than impressive.  Disappointing, for sure.  But, say what you want, the girl can sing.  And the middle of the set contained one of my favorite country songs: Probably wouldn’t be this way.  It is one of those songs that we can all sing to.  And we have. 

But the words…how is it possible for this woman to sing these words as well as she does?  I listened to her sing them and felt almost betrayed.
I probably wouldn’t be this way
I probably wouldn’t hurt so bad
I never pictured every minute without you in it
Oh You left so fast
Sometimes I see you standing there
Sometimes I feel an angel’s touch
Sometimes I feel that I’m so lucky to have had the chance to love this much

 

 

I guess that’s why I’m surprised.  I never pictured my life without him in it. 

And yet…here I am.  Here we are.  The girls and I.  We have been without him for four years.  Seems like yesterday that I put his wedding band on my index finger.  I have never taken it off. 

Not even when my fingers lace into a new hand.  Not even when we plan for our future together.  And I think over and over again about how every day seemed like the hardest day ever.  And then the next one was worse. 

Until it wasn’t.

And here we are.  Four years later.  And I’m still surprised.  I see the picture of his stone with my name on it.  And I’m still surprised that that name is mine.

And now I hear my name said in love again.  And I feel arms, real arms, wrapped around me. 

And it still surprises me. 

I never, ever pictured my life like this.

But, then again, whose life resembles the one they pictured?

Be nice to me, I’m a trainee.

So.  Pretend you’re me.  Thank God you’re not but just pretend for a minute.  It won’t hurt, I promise.

So pretend that it’s your first day at your dream job.  Okay, not your dream job exactly (Because that job involves minions.  And donuts.) but the job that you prayed for and studied for and bothered anyone with any kind of connection to it for months on end.  (Sorry about that, by the way)  It’s your first day and you hope the other kids will like you and that somebody will sit by you at lunch.

You choose your first day outfit carefully.  But not too carefully.  Don’t want to look like you tried too hard.  You commute through stupid and completely ridiculous traffic and still get there 25 minutes early and have no idea where to park or where to report.

You tour the office of 15 other staff members in a labyrinth of doors and cubicles and tight hallways in a National Historic Register building.  You remember all of four names.  And not a single job title.  You get the big office with the big desk and the computer with the big screen, all set up and ready to go.  You meet with your team who has been doing your job since April and who doesn’t want to do it for one minute longer.

It is 9:30am and all you want is a cup of coffee and the Today Show and fat pants. 

And by “you”, of course, I mean “me”.

I think it will all be fine.  I know it will be fine.  Once I get past the new names and new location and the crazy busy schedule…it will be fine.  I got this. 

I heard that repeated for the last two weeks…”you got this.”  And I do.  I will.

And I understand that the job has been empty for far too long and the people who divided that job and have been doing it are D-O-N-E…done.  Production isn’t for everybody.  I get that.  That part I can do in my sleep.

But there are elements at play here that will take some time.  Some of the elements are hard to describe other than basic administrative tasks that involve (in my opinion) far too many emails and calendar entries and databases.

My question is this:  how can I possibly to be expected to remember all they crammed into my big, old brain today?  And how long can I play the “I’m new here” card?  Because I need to keep that card in my back pocket.

I feel like my brain has exploded everywhere.  The littles are doing as well as expected but they want my undivided attention the second I’m in the driveway.  And all I wanted today was a fistful of Motrin and a nap.  I got neither.  But, I am nursing a head cold so…there’s that.

It’s fine.  It’s going to be fine.  But today it’s not fine.  It’s scary.  And my stomach hurts.  And I hope I have a better handle on everything tomorrow.  I have to remember that I asked, specifically, for this.  And I got what I asked for.

For the record, I didn’t have to eat lunch alone and the kids are all nice and I looked pretty good.  It’s a start.

These are the days.

I have spent the better part of the past four years talking and writing about the cycle of things.  The cycles of the littles’ lives.  The cycles of depression and of grief.  The seasons and the years.  The cycles of a theatre production.  And how the cycles of good events and bad events never seem to get around to the good.  For me.

The last two months have been less of a cycle and more of a very wild ride.  Dare I say, the wildest of my life?  Okay.  I will.  I’m sure it’s been this manic before (spring of 1998 and fall of 2001, I’m talking to you) but it certainly has been a good, long while.

Let’s recap, shall we?

In July, I met a wonderful man working a show that I almost begged out of because (lamest excuse ever) big girls don’t like heat and it was forecasted to be 110 in the shade.  Which turned out to be true.  And I was chafed in places that we don’t discuss on this blog.  I met him during the show but didn’t really fall in love until later.  Because (and this is also a lame excuse) I don’t date in the business.  Anymore.  Or, rather, until now.  Again.  He makes me happy in a way I cannot even put into words.  And it gets better every day.

So.  There’s that.

And then…then…

I found and hired a nanny.  This may not seem as significant as, oh, a new love but it relieved plenty of sleepless nights and worry about begging somebody to take my people so I could, oh, go and work a show or two.  Or six.  Whatever.  I was to the point where I was pretty much as busy as I wanted to be picking up jobs here and there all over town.  She wanted to quit her job so I offered her a retainer fee for x number of hours a month and it works out great.

And then…then…

Back in June, I had asked for prayers or whatever sent out to the universe about something life changing.  And then in July I was devastated to find out that what I had asked for wasn’t to be.

Which turned out not to be true at all.

Two weeks ago, late on a Monday afternoon, I got a call from the CEO of our local symphony.  I had sent in my resume months ago and had heard through the grapevine that the position I wanted wasn’t going to be filled.  Ever.  So the CEO calls and wants to know if I am still interested because he considers me a person of interest.  The only time I want to be a person of interest, I tell you. 

Brings me in for an interview.  Which I ace.  I knew I aced it when I walked out.

I had a soft offer 20 hours later and 3 days later an official offer.

Which I took.  And confirmed today, officially.

You are looking at the words written by the new Operations Manager at the Symphony. 

I know.

Seven and a half years later, I am becoming a contributing member of society, complete with a 40 minute morning commute. 

I know.

I have a nanny.

I know.

I will need to go shopping because I’m pretty sure that the dress code doesn’t include track pants and/or Keen sandals.

Hey, three out of four isn’t bad.

My new dress code probably requires dry cleaning and two-inch heels.  And I’ll need more than two pairs of earrings.  And…maybe more makeup than what currently may or may not fill a teacup.

All kidding aside, it really has been an amazing couple of months.  I know my blog and, quite possibly, my friends have been neglected.  It’s kind of all I can do to pull my head out of the clouds to even function as a mother. 

The littles have noticed a difference.  They go between an eerie kind of calm (yes, like the kind before a storm) and being very needy.  They know this is going to change our lives.  I’ve said as much.  They are getting used to somebody being home after school other than mom.  We’ve talked about how I won’t miss the important stuff but how I probably won’t be able to make it to the Halloween parties at school. 

I’m just ecstatic to be around adults all day.  And, yes, I mean work AND the boy.

Part of me thinks I should have been playing the lottery all this time.  And I would have had I known how this summer would turn out. 

I am pleased.  And pleasantly surprised.  And trying not to jump up and down and shout it to everyone I see.  Because I know that, as good as I have it right now, somebody somewhere is equally down. 

That was me four autumns ago.  And this is me now.  Clawed and scraped back up.  But up. 

And that’s what counts.

180 days.

Ella will start the second grade on Thursday.  I know I say this about every new school year but…second grade is a big deal. 

She had open house tonight and got meet her teacher, put away supplies and inspect the room.  She found her locker.  Counted desks and compared her new classmates to those of the last two school years.  (Ella plus two other kids have been in class together all three years.)  She has a desk this year instead of sharing a table with at least one other student.  She has been issued textbooks (science and reading and handwriting).  She will have weekly homework and daily reading. 

Second grade is a big deal.

I vividly remember second grade.  I remember bits and pieces of kindergarten and first but I could blink and be back in second grade.  I remember crying.  A lot of crying.  My dad had taken a job with the railroad and was gone more often than he was home.  My mom had just started working outside the home.  It was 1982 and the economy sucked.  It was the beginning of hand-me-down clothes and free lunch and babysitters.  It was also the year that I got taken out of the classroom for reading and sent to the fourth grade room to study with them.  Well played, 1982.  Each of those events marked me for what remained of my grade school years.

I have high hopes for the next 180 school days.  I have every intention of assuring 20 minutes of reading per day and making sure that the piano is practiced before going out to play after school.  I’d like to say that I’ll be home more often that not but it’s not looking like that’s the case.  The trade-off, I hope, is a happy (happier) mama and a little breathing room in the budget.  Maybe not as many hand-me-downs and/or free lunches.  Maybe. 

You’ve noticed the change in attitude, right?  I am unable to describe it right now.  I don’t even have the word.  Okay maybe I do.

Maybe the word is Hope.

Hope, of course comes from Joy and is followed by Faith.  Or, maybe that was just a circa 1982 basement macrame wall hanging. 

I have high hopes.  For the second grade.  For Mrs. H and her seven years of experience and her calm demeanor. 

I have high hopes for our family.  I have reason to believe that the worst, the absolute worst, is behind us.  I can see hope sparkle in the distance where, before, it was inky darkness.  And maybe the sparkle was always there and just needed to be shined up a little. 

180 school days. 

Here’s hoping.

A letter to my baby girl on her 5th birthday.

Dear Amelia,

In the morning you will wake up and be five years old.  I can hardly believe that you, my baby, are five! 

Having already gone through this with your sister, I know that being five is very magical.  You have words and thoughts about the world that amuse and astonish me every day.  You see the beauty and kindness in everyone and everything.  You are gentle and kind and loving and think the best of every person, child or adult, that you encounter.

This morning, you got into bed with me.  Sleep was still in your eyes.  You wrapped your arms around my neck; your legs around my hips and your eyelashes went right back to their place on the very tops of your cheeks.  You were not ready to be awake.  I watched you.  Did you know that?  I counted the tiny freckles on your nose.  I watched your chest rise up and down and I felt your dimpled hands in my hair and on my cheek. 

I prayed to God that the moment would never end.

My baby, born in a quick rainstorm.  Born in silence.  You didn’t cry when you were born.  Have I ever told you that?  You were wide-eyed and silent.  Breathing.  Perfect.  Content.  Wanting nothing more than to be in arms, safe.  Loved.

I worried over you.  Cried over you.  Noted to all that would listen how much you looked like your brother.  Wondered about you.  Coddled you.  Nursed you until my body couldn’t take one more minute.  Slept near you because your sweet breath was what got me through the long nights for far too long.

Even now, five years later, I wish you could stay a baby forever.  You will always be my baby, of course.  That was decided for us and you fill the role.

I find it ironic that my baby has so many babies of her own.  That, at five years old, she has decided that she will care for babies (“I’m going to be a baby doctor when I grow up or just a people doctor so I can take care off all the peoples in the families!”) and that she loves all babies, alive or plastic, equally.

I want to capture the moments of focus and seriousness when one of your babies needs you.  Or when Ella is hurt.  Or when I am sad.  I wish I could bottle the goodness in your heart and spray a little on me every day like perfume because I know it would bless the world with love and kindness.  I wish I was capable of loving who you love, without reserve or complaint or notice. 

There is one more wish in my heart tonight, the night I remember best; the night you were working to be born.  I wish you could stay my baby forever.

I know it is a wish that won’t come true.  It can’t.  All little children grow up, even when their parents wish for something different.  I wish you could stay my baby forever.

Remember this: you were born in silence, in perfection and in the rain.  You are part of a magic moment, if only in *my* heart.  And I love you. 

I love who you are.  And I love that you are who you are despite, and because of, who I am.  And everything we have done.  And everything that has happened to us.  And everything we will be.  You are my baby whether you are five or twenty-five.  You bring joy and love to everyone you meet.  Especially to me.

Happy 5th birthday, sweetheart.

Love,

Mama