Noise.

Again I will repeat Tina Fey’s prayer, “Lead her not into acting but not so far as finance.”

Whoops.

Seems I have had some influence over my children after all.  Ella got the part in Missoula Children’s Theatre’s “The Jungle Book.”  She was a monkey.  She was one of 16 monkeys, to be exact.  The monkeys were non speaking, for the most part but they had cute little songs and dances.  I, like any reasonable stage parent, stayed out of it.

No, really, I did.  I took her to rehearsals but didn’t stay.  I didn’t quiz her on what they did for two hours every day.  I made sure she had a show t-shirt.  I went to both performances and only cried once.  I got video and elbowed my way to the front of photo call for the perfect shot.

Know what?  She loved it.  She did it all herself and she had a great time. 

In the last few weeks, we have done new things.  We went roller skating.  I made Ella pick out her own school clothes and go into a changing room and try them on.  (Until this point I would buy and she would wear but her little body is changing.  Not in a puberty sense but there are variables in clothing sizes at her age.)  And then she auditioned, got a part in and (if I may say so myself) stole about 30 seconds of the show.

What I have learned about Ella is to just let her do it.  If you talk too much she will tune you right out or your voice becomes part of the noise of her world.

And by “you” I mean “me” of course. 

Keeping with this idea, I registered her for piano lessons and a youth choir.  Mimi will be taking piano as well.  Playing piano is one of the things I wished my parents would have forced me to keep doing.  I’d be great by now!  Okay probably not because I’m terrible at things that require two hands.  Knitting.  Piano.  Single shooter games.  Other two-handed tasks that escape me at the moment.  They’ll come to me.

School starts for Ella in three weeks, for Amelia in five.  I’m starting to really regret my decision to hold Amelia for another year and do preschool again.  I say that because she grew, in more than one way, over the summer.  I feel like if she HAD to be in kindergarten she would do just fine and actually probably better than Ella did.  Not that I would subject Amelia to what Ella had to go through but I do think she would be okay.  So now I’m wondering (and I know it’s too late to change anything so it’s just noise in my head) if I did the right thing and am I doing her a disservice keeping her back. 

It’s one of those things I’ll never know.  Also, one of those decisions I didn’t like making on my own.  Would have been nice to have an after-dinner discussion or a jab in the middle of the night when I can’t shut my brain off.

And, lately, my mind is noisy. 

Funny that.  I mean, the littles have learned to be quiet.  You know, when they need to be.  My life with them is certainly easier than even this time last year.  Then why?  Why do I dream and scheme and worry and create, all after midnight?

Again, I will probably never have an answer to that.  I think I just have to chalk it up to the cycle of things.  Or…or…does this signal the beginning of a new phase?

Atelphobia

How’s that for a five-dollar word?

Atelphobia.

I found it this afternoon while I was “supervising” the children watching the Cars movie.  Let’s call it that.  What I really was doing was coming down from the oral steroid, inhaled steroid and z-pak cocktail that I took six hours before.  That’s right.  Six hours of nausea, crazy heartbeat and the feeling that my lungs have been dry cleaned.  Which made me grumpy and short with the littles.  Who had been trapped in the house with a deadly combination of rainy day and sick mommy.

So, let’s go ahead a call it supervising.  Just don’t tell anybody that they may or may not have had cheese popcorn and root beer for supper.  I’m supervising and doing what I do best when intense boredom and restlessness sets in, I stumble through the internets. 

There used to be an old joke that if you took all the porn off the internet there would be just one page left called BringBackThePorn.com but that’s no longer true.  In my travels, the internet is full of cupcakes.  I don’t know if that’s true or if the stumble algorithm is finely tuned to my unique brand of porn (that would be food porn) but my internet is full of cupcakes. 

Cupcakes and random quotes and wordy things.  Go figure.  Oh, and booze recipes for fruity drinks.  Pretty photos.  A million things to do with an exacto knife and a pile of scrapbook paper (because what are we going to do with all that scrapbook junk now that 2008 is over?).  And more still more cupcakes.  And big cakes.  And all things peanut butter and chocolate.

Peanut butter and chocolate….wait?  What were we discussing?  Peanut Butter martinis?  Okay, that’s not nice to talk about in front of the girl on antibiotics.  Not nice at all.

Oh, that’s right.  Atelphobia.

Who looked it up?  Who jumped to the head of the class and had to google it before I said what it was?  Did anybody know?  Seriously.  I want to know who is the overachiever around here.

Atelphobia is the fear of not being good enough.

See also: me.

This is kind of funny given that today is national I don’t give a shit day (fact).  On the one day when we all should give a shit less what anyone thinks, I may have just given a name to what plagues me almost daily.

That I am just not good enough.

Because, logically, if you are not good enough, what you love will be taken away and given to someone who is good enough.  You know, not directly but that’s what it feels like. 

How much has this mentality kept me from doing what I want to do?  And this isn’t lately, this has been one of those “all of my adult life” things. 

I say that I am not a competitor which is true.  I don’t have an aggressive bone in my body.  I don’t race.  I don’t have to be first I just can’t be last.  Sound familiar?  I don’t think I’ll get that job/promotion/position whatever so I’ll aim just a little lower to make it attainable. 

But I remember a time when I competed for roles and spots in elite groups and competed to be a higher seed or the only female whatever in a field of boys.  Something happened.  Something somewhere or a great number of somethings maybe?  And now I walk around wondering if I am good enough.

What is keeping from being a stagehand full-time?  The feeling of not being good enough.  That somebody will see through my reputation for good, hard work and my bravado to realize that I don’t know what I’m doing.  And I know I’m good at what I do.  And I know my limits and know what I don’t know.  But that’s the irrationality of a fear.  I could be a stagehand full-time but what if full-time still isn’t enough to make up for the scheduling headaches not to mention the single parent thing.  I like being home at bedtime.  I like being able to take my kids to church or to Grammy’s on a Sunday afternoon.  If I don’t do it, who will?

I live with two talented, beautiful and wicked smart children.  Why am I keeping them out of dance and music and soccer?  Because I know how competitive the world is and maybe, just maybe, they aren’t THAT good?  So now my fear is being projected onto them?  How is that fair?

Since when do we have to be the best at something in order to get to do it at all?

This is a roundabout question of course because how do we know if we are the best or get to be the best?  By taking that first step and just doing it.  Right? 

And is it human nature to be the best?  Or are there some of us that are content being the assistants, the one that’s happy just to be there, the volunteers instead of being paid, the one that is proud of finishing and never gets a medal?

I’m going to be lucky to sleep at all tonight and, for the first night in almost three weeks, it won’t be because of the asthmatic sounding cough.  The combination of some serious steroid jitters and deep thought will make for a long night.  Which means an even longer day tomorrow.

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.)

Let’s not call this a race.

I have a confession.

This is going to come either as a total surprise, possibly disappointing, or an affirmation of what you may have already suspected.

And, just so you know, I am not pregnant.  Maybe with a food baby but not actually pregnant.  Which is what I was told recently when I posed the question, “Can you keep a secret?”  Psh.  Have you even been around me for the last month?

I am done with babies, by the way.  I have thoroughly enjoyed both of them but they have returned to their mamas full-time.  It was nice while it lasted and I do love me some itty-bitty baby feet but I’m glad to have my days (and arms) relatively free.

Of course, that free time is all relative.  Today was the first day in…3 weeks?  that hasn’t been fully structured down to the minute.  And how do I spend it?  At the pediatrician’s office with my baby.  More than an hour later and a bottle of amoxicillin and we’re on our way.  Of course now I’m the one that feels like hammered ass but I don’t have anyone to blame but myself.  I should know better than to run myself down this way.

Speaking of running…

(Like that segway?  It just came to me.)

So here’s my confession.  For real.

I don’t pray much anymore.

And probably not for the reasons that you may think.  I’m afraid of it, you see.  I’m afraid that if I waste my prayers on something silly like “Dear God, please let me get this job” then I will have over-stayed my welcome when “Dear God, please don’t let my baby die” comes around.  Not that it’s going to.  Not at all.  That’s just an example.  Right or wrong, that’s not up for discussion at the moment. 

The point is that, on Sunday night, I prayed.  And I prayed hard. 

I started by praying for a tornado but then I remember that that’s probably not a very good idea given the condition of certain parts of the country.  I prayed for a flood.  Ditto.  Okay then…lightening.  And thunder.  And wind.  Some wind.  But maybe definitely some uncertain conditions.  And, to be specific, for…8am Monday?  Can we make that happen?  Hello?  Are you there God?  It’s me, Jenn.

My alarm rang Monday morning to…RACE DAY!

Remember back when in April sometime I was all high and mighty and patting myself on the back for registering for a 5 mile run?  Remember that?  Fast forward to Monday.  Yes, lets.

I prayed for rain.  Because I felt my training had been lacking due to schedule (excuse) and babies (two excuses) and end of school year general business (excuse), all I could do was pray.

Do you know what God said?  Do you?

“Get your ass out there and run the effing race.”

Fine.

So…I did.

I ran the race.  And I use the term “run” loosely.

You see, I got the wind I asked for.  I also got humidity and heat (82 degrees at 8am) and hills and 2000 other runners and….

Basically it was my own version of worst case scenario.  Because, like camping, I do prefer much more fair conditions.  In fact, it is a well-known fact that big girls do not like heat.  And, being a woman of a certain…stature?  No.  Girth?  Okay, that’s not nice.  Let’s just say that there are far too many of my parts that have the potential to rub together.  And not in a good way.  Heat makes that worse.

The first real insult comes at the starting line.  Which, because of my natural pace, is about a five-minute walk from where I stood when the starting gun went off.  So many people between me and the start line that I can’t even see it. 

Molly ran the race with me.  Okay, there are so many things wrong with that sentence.  Molly was there with me.  Fact.  Ran?  No.  Raced?  Again, no.  This wasn’t a race for anyone but the first 11 people to elbow themselves to the front of the line.  By the time that first guy finished his “race”, I was at the first water station 1.5 miles in.  By the time I finished?  He was home, showered and watching NASCAR.  Or whatever runner boys watch. 

I feel bad that she had to endure all those miles next to me.  I told her as much.  She did seem to be happy to be there.  I’m sure it was an easy exercise.  For her.

For me?  I got all finished (yes, I did finish…nearly an hour and a half later!) and I was trying to explain what it was like to my sister and then, later, on Facebook.  I equated the experience to natural childbirth.

I was half-way through and all I could think was “This was a really bad idea.”

I was near the end and all I could think was “I will never do this again.”

I crossed the finish line, hugged Molly and thought “Wow!  I did it!  It was really hard but I actually did it!”

A day later I thought, “Ah, that wasn’t so bad.”

And today?  “I’ll totally be faster next year.”

So, there it is.  I did it.  5 miles.  Uphill.  Both ways.  Barefoot.  With my little brother on my back.  Okay, not really. 

But that’s how it felt.

 

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.

Mastering the craft.

I’ve recently been given advice about writer’s block.  I don’t consider myself a real writer (yet) but there are times when I find myself at a  loss.  Normally I subscribe to the policy of writing until your brain loosens up and something good pours out.  It’s one of the things that makes me love Julia Cameron’s morning pages.

Have you heard about morning pages?  I return to my morning pages when life gets confusing or crushing or repetitively crazy.  Get a legal pad and a pen.  Set your alarm for roughly 20 minutes earlier than you need to get up.  Or, if you don’t have anywhere to be, just get up.  Don’t talk. Don’t throw in a load of laundry.  Don’t check your email.  Sit down before you are fully awake and put that pen to paper.  And, yes, it has to be pen to paper and not fingers on keys.  Write.  Write about anything and nothing at all for three pages.  Don’t stop.  Don’t correct.  Don’t go back and read it.  After three pages, close the legal pad or put it away.  And then go on with your day.  After a period of time (6 weeks I think?), go back and read it with a highlighter.  What are the common themes?  Common worries?  What do you wish?  Who do you love? 

Looking at it from a writer’s stance, I think of it as clearing the garbage disposal.   Or something equally cleansing.  The exercise is meant to clear your head and bring those ideas hidden by clutter to light. 

The advice I was given was this: write about why you can’t write and write about what is in your way.  Once you have identified the problem then you can go about fixing it or facing it or whatever.

But what happens when, because of the public nature of blogging, the writer cannot say what needs to be said? 

It is the eternal problem with blogging.  When you do it as a personal release and as a journal or a record of sorts, you expect just a little bit of privacy.  I do understand that the interwebz are not and never have been private.  I don’t pretend that they are.  And if you have the time to look through nearly 600 posts spanning three full years and a couple of months then more power to you.  You’ll probably find that I have written about you.  (And you were there and you were there and you were there…)

What I wouldn’t give right now for a legal pad and a pen.  I have some concerns I would rather not air.  Some hopes I don’t dare speak aloud.  A mushroom print or two to smack. 

I realize that most of my readership runs the gamut from online acquaintance to close family.  There are very, very few (if any) actual strangers who stick around for the late show.  What I can say is this:  don’t think that you know what’s going on in my life or the littles’ lives because you read it here or, God forbid, Facebook.  Not that we run very deep at all but the thousand words or so a few times a week doesn’t do us justice.

When I first started this mess, I wrote about everything with wild abandon. (I miss those days)  I used to have a disclaimer note that I wrote for me and not for you.  But things have changed.  I can feel that this has evolved and I would be a fool to stop it.  I write for the both of us and you know it.

All the good bloggers will tell you to censor yourself.  A post is a post and never goes away even when you take it away.  You own your words so make sure you meant them in the first place.  And if you have a question in your head that goes something like “Should I post this?”  Don’t. 

I can’t argue with the masters of the craft.

So I won’t.  I won’t write what I want.  And maybe just saying so will unlock everything else floating around up there.

Put the book down.

Everybody pretty much knows how much I love my nook (Barnes and Noble’s book reader).  And I do.   But the last few months have been not full of disposable income so I have been forced into a renewed love affair with my library card.

The littles and I moved into a town roughly the square mileage of The Mall of America.  I do like living in a small town.  People wave, even strangers.  The guy at the gas station saw me getting the empty grill propane tank out of the back of my van and sent someone out to help, exchange the tank and loaded it up.  All before I even produced cash.  The parks are exquisitely clean and safe.  Our church pastor always has Tootsie Roll pops in his pockets for the kids.  I like living here.

The one downside is that the library is about the size of my living room.  And two-thirds of that are children’s books.  And most of what’s left is large print.  I wanted to support my local library but it was a constant source of frustration.  I had to look elsewhere.  I found out that the Big City library (all 9 branches!) would take us for a fee.  The amount is not insignificant but we have made it worth every penny.

I have to say that having 9 library buildings at my disposal has made reading from an actual book fun again.  I put the book(s) on my list and, usually within the week, it is held on a shelf for me and I pick it up.  By my count, I have requested and reserved almost 70 books since October.  In nook terms, that’s at least $500 worth of reading.  A bargain by all standards.  And, I didn’t have to look up, find and browse at all.  Admittedly, that’s part of the fun but usually not fun at all when toting one or more littles.  They are less than patient when I don’t know if J.D. Robb is in fiction or mystery.  (Fiction.) 

Since fat camp ended, I feel like I have a ton of time freed up.  This isn’t to say that I haven’t been putting in the time.  It’s just my time and not scheduled time.  Okay, I’m probably one workout behind but so far, so good.  I’m trying to embrace the lower intensities needed to burn fat calories and that’s mentally really hard.  For one, I really need to work at not losing track of where I am in a heart rate sense.  And, two, I don’t burn as many calories total.  There for a while, I wouldn’t leave the building unless I got to 700 calories.  Now, it’s a struggle to get past 500 before they make me come and get my littles from kid care.

Wait.  This isn’t about the gym.  That’s for another day.

What I meant to say is that I seem to have some time on my hands.  And what better way to use it?  You know, until the pool opens.  I’ve been sticking my nose in books.  An endless stream it would seem.  I always have 5 or 6 lined up and waiting. 

The point of this is that I picked up “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch.  Remember this guy.  In the summer of 2008 (as I was still reeling) this Carnegie Mellon professor was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.  He was in his thirties, married with three children under 5.  (Sounds vaguely familiar, yes?)  He did a lecture that fall.  “The Last Lecture.”  What you want the world to know before you go.  What would you tell people?  How have you made an impact?  Sum up your life.

This guy was a father.  A teacher too but he wrote this lecture (which I think you can see on YouTube in its entirety) for his kids. These are all the things about their old man that he wouldn’t be around to tell them about.  Sprinkled in between charming stories about how he fulfilled nearly all of his childhood dreams and fantasies are snippets of his life with cancer.  His life and how he chose to live it and tackle it and absorb it. 

If you haven’t read it, please finish it for me.

I got to the middle (it’s a short and sweet 207 pages) and had to stop.

I had to stop because I couldn’t take it.  I couldn’t take that this guy (and his wife) did it right.  They fought and fought hard.  They fought together.  But they knew when they were licked and faced it head on.  They told him that he would have 3 to 6 healthy months.  He lasted a year or so.  I like to think it was his attitude and the determination to make every day count.

Want to guess why I can’t go on?  Why I can’t bear to finish, not right now?  Because I feel like we attacked this thing all wrong.

We attacked it with fear, adrenaline and denial.  The combination creates a fast flame that, obviously, dies quickly.  We couldn’t maintain.  He wanted to fight to the end.  He wanted the girls to know, someday, that he did everything he could.

But what happened, from my perspective, is that what he chose to do to himself through the chemo/poison cocktails he wanted them to infuse into his cells…what he chose took away most of our good days. 

At the time…it was the only thing in our arsenal.  We never asked how much time he had with or without treatment.  Not once.  And I wasn’t allowed to research it.  The one time I tried to look haunted me for several years.  I think he bought himself some time but was it good time?  That I don’t know.  The end was the same.  Obviously.

I say “he” and “him” here but I am just as much a part of this.  I think I was very much in shock the entire time.  Traumatized.  I went out and right away got two different jobs.  Part time.  But it was time away that I regret very much. 

I just don’t know.  The outcome would not have changed and that’s the only thing I know for sure.  But I feel like we could have gone about it a little better.  This is a common feeling, I hear.  When you are the caregiver and the person you care for passes.  We are the ones left to think and analyze and wonder.  We have all the time in the world.

It was a good book.  And definitely worth reading.  And maybe I’ll try again.  You know, later.  Later, later. 

Until then, I’ll go back to mysteries, young adult paranormal romances, historical fiction and minor bestsellers written by former comedians.  I can’t help myself.

Elusive.

I wish I could put my finger on it.  Maybe if I knew what it was, I could find it and label it and file it away.

It might be the change of seasons or nearing the end of the school year?  Third quarter report cards are in.  Ella is well on her way to being ready for second grade.  I can’t hardly believe how she has grown this year.  And not just physically grown but grown up and I like what I see.  I miss having a baby but I love seeing my big girl making her own way in the world. 

Amelia’s spring conference was this morning and, other than claiming the kitchen center as her own personal house and not allowing visitors, she is doing well.  She is very much a class leader and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is.  She is also impulsive (will have to keep an eye on that) but she is also four years old.  I made the decision last fall to hold her from kindergarten another year, knowing what I know about this district and their expectations.  And, she’s not ready.  Not even a little bit.  Okay maybe a little bit and maybe she would end up being just fine but it would be a struggle just like Ella and I don’t want that to happen. 

It is a bit sad for me to not send her to kindergarten.  I was very much looking forward to finding a career again and rejoining society.  When I chose to leave the opera last spring, I didn’t know how much of my identity was steeped in my employable skills.  I was really good at it.  Am.  I am really good at it.  I need to be good at it.  At something.  Anything.

No, there’s something else going on that I can’t describe. 

Maybe it’s the end of fat camp that has me down.  This week is week 11 (more about that tomorrow night and about how I’m tired of getting into fights over why women should lift weights and how eating food with fat in it won’t make you fat).  Next week is testing so I have a run to do which means that this Sunday I need to check in on my 5k time.  Seems to be the pattern: run that 5k right before the 30 minute test run.  Maybe it’s because I’ve lost more weight in the last five weeks than I have in the last 5 months?  And maybe I’m afraid of going at it alone again?  What if I have a mental block against that number on the scale that marked the last time I had a real date, 10 years ago this summer?

What if this is depression raising its ugly head again and I need to see a man about some Lexapro?  It doesn’t feel the same and yet…I kind of wonder and, because I am wondering, does that make it true?  Is it the same as what they say about what to do if you even think you are having a heart attack? (Call an ambulance.)  If I think it, does it mean it’s real?  Nobody would blame me, of course, except me.

Oh, I know…swimsuit shopping?  Bra shopping?  And how I almost can’t make myself spend $75 on a decent swimsuit for myself but my kids have two new ones for the season already?  And maybe it’s because there isn’t anything more soul-sucking than swimsuit shopping in March.  (Fat looks better tan, I always say.)  And bra shopping (haven’t had new bras since the summer Stephen was sick and I was still nursing) sends me home to look at breast reduction before/after photos and plan out how, exactly, to get insurance to pay for it since I don’t really have any REAL problems other than the fact that I’d like to stop being ice cream cone shaped.  And I’d like to buy a shirt with buttons down the front.  And a dress.  Do you know how long it’s been since I put myself into a dress?  Um, 1997?  College graduation?  (On the upside, I’m down at least a full band size and down two swimsuit sizes!)

Maybe it’s my van that just turned 160K today and still needs the a/c fixed before it gets stupid hot?  No?

Messy house?  No.  Not really anyway.  It’s not actually dirty.  It just looks like we live here.  Along with several fraternity members and possibly a monkey that escaped from the zoo.  But it’s nothing that a healthy hour couldn’t cure.

Diet fatigue?  Maybe, just maybe, I want to get a giant cookie for my birthday and not share it…

Do you think…I mean it’s possible…maybe my impending birthday is dragging me down?  I don’t think so.  Not as much as last year which was a whole-hand birthday.  No, I’ve embraced the phrases “pushing 40” and “a woman of a certain age”.  Other than, if I were to (almost tragically) get knocked up, it would be considered a geriatric pregnancy at this point.  That’s kind of mean.

If I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

Choose your own adventure.

What if I never had kids?

Don’t misinterpret this as a regret.  It is not.  Definitely not. 

I’m reading this book called “Pictures of You” by Caroline Leavitt.  It just came out and I don’t even know how I knew to reserve it at the library in time to get one of the first available copies.  There are 40 people in line after me so I figured I should read it.  I’m about 100 pages in and I almost cannot bear to go on.  It’s the story of two women who crash into each other on a deserted highway in thick fog.  They are both running from something.  One woman dies and her son sees the crash from the shoulder of the road.  The other lives but is haunted that she caused the death.  The boy refuses to accept that his mother is actually gone.

I turn the page and there is grief.  The husband, suddenly a widower.  The boy, grieving as children often do.  The survivor, overwhelmed and lonely. 

I almost can’t take it.  But, it is well written and I still don’t know where I found the book recommendation; I seldom add a book to my shelf without one.  I will finish it.  Probably in the next 24 hours if things go my way.  So then…it will be 48 hours. 

Do you remember your life before your children?  I do.  I remember being 25 years old in my very own apartment that I shared with nobody except a naughty kitten and some mystery bugs (turned out to be earwigs…gross).  I remember hanging the towel just so.  Dutifully eating leftovers.  Sacked out on the secondhand sofa with a 14 inch tv for company.  I did my laundry, hauled in a giant mesh sack, only about once every 2 weeks.  sidenote: this fueled my need to always have more underwear than I need.  You never know when you might be short on quarters and have to stretch the laundry a bit.  Phone calls to my sister and my friends were lengthy and largely uninterrupted.  I drove a purple Dodge Dakota Sport pickup.  It was a two seat, manual transmission with knobby tires.  I was living the dream.  I could go to work for 80 hours a week and nobody cared, not even that runt cat.

And then I met Stephen.  He was still married and we were on a double date.  They set me up with a chef friend of theirs who was super sweet but turns out, he was super sweet on someone else and not at all interested in me.  We used to joke, Stephen and I, that our first date was a double date with other dates.  A shade over two years after that double date, we were married.  Shortly after, Will was born and, well, you know the rest (or you can read about it here). 

What if….what if Stephen had gotten cancer before the kids were born?  Or in between Will and Ella?  What if Ella and Amelia were never able to be born?  What if we had waited?  What if we had decided to travel or finish degrees?  What if we had wanted to own a home or pay off the SUV first? 

That’s not the point. 

My point is this:  what if I came home to an empty house?  You know, that fall Sunday morning in 2007…what if all I could do was curl up on the couch and not move?  Not breathe?  Not eat?

I didn’t get that.  I have often said that I didn’t get the chance to really get it all out.  To stew and dwell.  (Yes, yes I know that writing about it over three years later IS dwelling but you know what I mean.)  I was resentful of my responsibilities.  And tired.  I remember being so very, very tired. 

If we had chosen differently…the thought is mind-boggling and, quite honestly, keeping me up tonight. 

What if I had to finish this life really, really alone?

I don’t know that I could have done it.  I don’t know that I would have made it.

Or, would I have been able to move on?  Get it all out and pick myself up and go back to work.  Get another cat.  Get rid of the sensible family vehicle and buy a truck.  Date.  Kiss.  Make it just another memory.

So instead of reliving our days together through the eyes of our little girls, I could chalk it up to a bad experience.

I don’t really know.  I didn’t get to choose; it was a series of seemingly insignificant events, much like a random double date, that added up to one big event.  And three babies.  And two funerals.  

And one quiet mama, crying alone in the dark.

In the wee small hours.

I can’t sleep.  Which means that tomorrow is going to suck.  Even the cat gave up on me.  She was sitting here, stretched out on the arm of her my chair, but she just got up and went to bed.  To hell with you woman, she says with her tail sticking up in the air. 

It’s just one of those nights when I have too many thoughts and not enough xanax I guess.  I don’t know if it’s the Christmas letdown (I struck the tree and assorted dressings from the walls and tables) or the impending new year but there is something big bothering me.  I wish I knew what it was.  I wish I could find the aha! moment.  But those don’t come in the middle of the night do they?

I thought that I just needed some extra exercise.  It’s been nearly 3 months since advanced fat camp ended.  I suppose it’s not fat camp at all anymore once I went from a ‘weight loss’ class to a ‘fitness’ class.   Maybe I just think that since I’m still on the fat end of the class.  You’d think after almost a full year that I would have lost more than, what, 8% of my body weight.  I am the poster child for “slow and steady” although I will still never win that race.  I just don’t have it in me.

Too bad that the 8% cost me nearly 15% of my yearly income.  How’s that for a reality check?  If I add up membership costs, class cost, PT cost, shoes, bras (gets spendy when you must wear two at a time!)…that a lot of bank.  Which, honestly, I can barely afford.  I should be putting the littles into ballet or karate.  I should be saving it for my van that has a bad case of the gremlins.   

Granted, I do feel better.  I may not look better but I certainly feel better.  I am stronger for sure.  And, I can run jog trot nearly a mile without having to walk at all.  That’s a huge accomplishment.  I didn’t run the 5k like I wanted to but there’s always 2011.  I’ve also made more than a few friends along the way and a person can never have too many friends.  Or be too skinny.  Or too rich.  Or so I hear.  I wouldn’t know. 

It is difficult to be hopeful and optimistic in the middle of the night.  Kids are sicker at night.  People die at night.  Ella would tell you that noises are scarier at night.  And days are short right now; nights are cold.  Spring is so very far away. 

I really don’t know what’s going to happen in the coming year.  I can’t predict.  Maybe everything will change.  Or, maybe I’ll still be awake.

And wondering where I went wrong.