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?

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.

Love in the time of Facebook.

I think it goes without saying that I don’t believe in miracles.  I think that what we have or what happens to us is one part sweat and one part who you know and one part preparation and maybe less than one part dumb luck.  You know, being in the right place at the right time or a moment of unusual bravery and/or panic that ended up being well-placed.

Do you ever have one of those days where everything goes right?  As often as everything goes horribly wrong do we even remember the good days when they happen?

I’m writing this down in hopes of having a record of my really great day so that when it happens again, I’ll be able to begin looking for a pattern.  As geeky as that sounds, I’d really like to have something to look forward to.

My mom was in town and crashed at my house for a few days.  She called it a vacation.  And, deep down, I don’t mind.  I really don’t.  I like the company and she always (and I mean always) makes herself useful.  It wasn’t always this way of course.  There were many, many times that she would come to visit and plant herself on the couch with the baby and whine to go shopping.  These days, she’s a flurry of activity.

Our morning activity was to take the littles to the chocolate factory.  Turns out, there’s a full-fledged chocolate factory less than 20 miles from my house.  A very delicious way to start the day.

Upon returning from our chocolate quest, she made lunch for herself and the littles while I went grocery shopping.  Alone.

I know.  That in itself is a win for Team Mommy.

I came home from the shopping trip to find the washing machine going and the littles busy cleaning their room before rest time.

I had decided days ago that it was high time I got myself something pretty.  I’ve been trying to get out and get social and I think (but don’t know for sure) that such activity requires more than my mom uniform of solid colored t-shirts and track shorts/pants.  It’s an investment in my self-esteem.  Or, so I say.  So we took the littles and went shopping.

Two significant things happened on this particular shopping trip.  First, the littles got nothing.  I’m good for blowing time and money on them and not on myself.  Had my mother not been there, I may have fallen into the old pattern.  And second, everything I tried on fit.  Everything.  I either have a realistic sense of my own body or the stars aligned just right.  For less than a hundred I got two shirts, a swimsuit, a dress (!) and a pair of earrings to match the dress. 

We got home from shopping and I started supper: chicken fried steak fingers, mashed potatoes and gravy and fresh sweet corn.  While I was cooking my darling mom asked if I wanted a few hours out. 

Yes.  Yes, I would.  One could maybe call this a miracle.

Made a few phone calls and made plans to meet friends out.

One friend in particular.  And this is big.

Wait for it.

I have been seeing someone.  It hasn’t been for very long (relatively) so I’m trying not to get too excited but…

I’m pretty excited.  It’s been a long, long time since I dated.  More than a decade anyway.  And dating is different in the age of Facebook and texting and itunes.  It’s also very different when it’s not under the unicorns and glitter cloud of love in your twenties with your whole life and dreams of family ahead.  I am different.  Older, for sure.  Wiser.  More than a little bit jaded.  Cautious.  A tiny bit guilty.  Somewhat selfish but in, I think, a healthy way. 

Oh, but the glitter is still there.  And the flutters and the pacing and the playlist set to “sappy” (except this time I don’t have to wait for the song to come onto the radio or for somebody to make me a mix tape).  I still had sweaty palms and, at the end of the day, I didn’t want to untangle myself from his embrace and head for home.

That much hasn’t changed.

Last night, I introduced him to several of my asshole friends (my asshole LOCAL friends) to an enthusiastic end.  And, like I knew he would, he fit right in. 

I couldn’t stop smiling.  And the feelings are, very obviously, mutual.

I don’t know how this chapter ends but, and don’t hold me to this, I think it might be a long story.

What I did for love.

“A part of the great tradition of the theatre is the code of ethics which belong to every worker in the theatre. This code is not a superstition, nor a dogma, nor a ritual which is enforced by tribunals; it is an attitude toward your vocation, your fellow workers, your audiences and yourself. It is a kind of self-discipline which does not rob you of your invaluable individualism”. (Taken from the forward to The 1945 Code of Ethics for Theatre Workers)


 

I’ve been working a show for the last month, “Guys and Dolls”.  I use the term “working” loosely of course.  It was not my show.  I didn’t light it or design it.  I was not the director, technical or otherwise.  I wasn’t even full-time nor was I one of few who skulked around the wings and around back.  I was one of many.

All I did was pull a rope.  Well, lots of ropes.  Lots of ropes at pre-determined times and places, the same thing every night without fail.  Without MY fail anyway.  Say what you want but I can pull a rope. 

It’s not even that special, pulling a rope.  There wasn’t any real magic happening; I assisted getting from one scene to the next.  But it was my assigned job and I did it the best that I could.

And not just that but I was sick.  Really pretty effing sick as it turns out.  But I got there and I did my job.  The rope pulls were heavy, almost too heavy at times.  My hands are torn up and calloused.  That first week, my muscles ached.  I came home sweaty and dirty from every show.

Didn’t matter.

Know why?  Because I love it.  I love it and when I consider what I want to be when I grow up, I can’t get past that love.  I can’t even think about going and doing anything else.

A good majority of the rest of the backstage crew (and the people ON stage for that matter) are punks.  These kids are just starting out their lives if they have even started at all.  Some haven’t.  Some are well on their way.  Some are lost.  And some still think this is a sort of club for misfits.  Which, of course, it is but not in the way they think.

I was told once “The day you wake up and want to go and do something else, go and do it.  Get out.”  Something like that sticks with a person.  It’s what I go back to when I re-assess where I want to go. 

Nearly every time I worked, I encountered a teachable moment.  I’ve been in the business for more than fifteen years so I feel qualified, no, compelled to spread out what I’ve learned.  And so many, many times I wanted to say “Get out” and “You know what, this isn’t for you.”  But I didn’t.  All I could do is nurture the love in those punks that get it.  And never had to be told.

Right before the show opened, I came across this: A 1945 Code of Ethics for Theatre Workers.  Until I saw all of this in writing, I had no idea such a thing existed.  There was not a single surprise in the “code” and I don’t remember ever having been directly taught or made to memorize the “code”. 

It’s just how it is.  I have lived it and followed it before I knew it existed.  And if that isn’t love…then what is?

If you have any interest in theatre at all or have ever worked backstage, do me, no…do yourself a favor and read the link.  It’s a small, small business.  In this country, there are roughly 66,000 of us who do this job professionally and we’re better and stronger when we all work together.

Not a request.

If you have a moment…if you believe in prayer or if you have a good thought to throw out into the universe…I could use it.

I can’t say what it’s for right now.  I mean, I could.  I’m not under any kind of threat.  Everybody is healthy.  I don’t want to be vague.  I just don’t want to jinx it.

Do you believe in the power of the jinx?  I do. 

I also believe in karma and isn’t it about time something good came our way? 

 That sounds really ungrateful now that I look at it.  We have had a stream of good things in the last few years: a good move, good friends all over the country, our health and (general) happiness.  The littles are thriving and growing and learning and charming everyone they meet.  Please don’t think that I am refusing to acknowledge all that’s right about right now.

It’s just that this thing…this one little event.  Could be…maybe…life-changing for us.

Again, it’s all about perspective.  Is it as changing as some of the other events in our lives?  No.  So maybe I shouldn’t be making such a big deal.

Alright then, don’t worry about it.  I’m sure it will all be fine no matter the outcome.  I’ll quit staring at the ceiling when I should be sleeping and I’ll quit pre-emptively making plans.

Yep.  Okay, we never had this discussion.  Never you mind.   How was your day?  Good?  Good.

 

 

(Are you there, God?  It’s me, Jenn.)

Oh so quiet.

Quiet.

For the first time in what seems like forever, it is quiet.  Relatively.  Outside is lit up every eleven seconds or so with the impending storm but the rest of the house is quiet.

Kitty is asleep at my feet, taking up far too much space on my chair’s footrest.  The dryer has stopped as has the dishwasher.  The littles are tucked into bed in their cotton summer jammies.  The house is closed up and the air is on; everything is very oddly still.  So still that my fingers on keys seem to be an intrusion.

Our last month has been filled with babies.  Two of them joined our daytime lives for a small time.  One was my sweet baby niece and the other was the doll-baby girl of an old friend.  The two babies are six weeks apart, nearly twins.  And now I know why I never got the twins I secretly wished for all these years.  Aside from the near-constant feeding and soothing and holding and diaper changing, there is the noise.  Even when they are not fussing or crying there is always noise.  Television noise because something/somebody needed to babysit Amelia while I tended to the wee babes.  Or the soft little snorts and grunts that are unique to an infant.

I will miss the noise but, oh, the quiet.  I do love the quiet.

Ella’s last day of first grade is tomorrow.  She brought home, what appears to be, the contents of her desk/cubby/locker.  I got a chance to go through her portfolio for the year and writing samples and how she has changed through the year.  I love reading her journal because I am always interested in what is meaningful to her.

“On Saterday I will vizit my grama. In canza sity.” (2-16-11)

“I wocht the Kittin haf tim show and a pupy boll yestaday. it was funy. Thar was all tiny kittys at the show.” (Day after the Super Bowl)

And a poem:

Krazy Cat

My cat aet my feet/My cat aet my seet/My cat aet my meet/My cat ate my sheet/She is a weerd cat.

I do like it that her teacher just let them write about whatever and didn’t go back to correct spelling and all the things that make writing not fun when you are six years old.  She wrote almost half of her entries about our cat or a cat on the street or the steps to get your own cat (steps to get a cat: get mony, get a box with holes in it, get a name, get a guyed (a guide), pay wit the mony, take your kitty home).  The other chunk of entries involved family and travel or people who visited us.  Some were random like talking about a birthday party three years ago but it must have been on her mind that day but isn’t that what journaling is all about?

She has come so far this year.  Some days I don’t recognize this child and other days…well there are days when I feel like I’m stuck in the same day over and over.  And days I don’t want to end.

Like tonight.  It is quiet.

And it’s not just the house and the kids and the blasted cat who keeps stretching and extending her claws and reaching out to my bare leg only to be shocked when I twitch at the little pokes. 

It’s my mind that is quiet.  Last week I didn’t sleep.  I thought it was the quarterly whatever that happens to me.  But it wasn’t.  The tears and the memories and the sights and smells of my past, our past, didn’t show up.  My head was buzzing for the future and considering options and writing thousands of words just before drifting off.  Drifting isn’t a good visual.  Crashed would be better.  Going, going, going.  Gone. 

This week has brought quiet.  It’s brought the feeling that something new is just. right. there.  And if I can be quiet.  Nobody move.  Nobody breathes.  Then maybe, maybe it will find me. 

Quietly waiting.