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.

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.

Knocking around.

I have a little problem and it’s called “I have too many things in my head to form a single blog post”.  So this is going to be random. 

1.  I started watching my niece during the day since my sister’s maternity leave is up.  I volunteered for the position back in October when she found out that her current daycare couldn’t take the baby (because of ratios) until the fall.  My sister was all in a panic over it and I volunteered since I am just here sitting on my dead ass all day.  Okay, that’s not true.  Entirely.  But mostly.  My house became busy with a wee 8-week-old babe and my trusty assistant, Amelia.  That little girl is in heaven, for sure.  All she has ever wanted was a baby sister (or brother) to mother.  And my niece just watches her all day, even when Amelia is doing something else. 

What have I learned from this experience?  I am done having children.  I mean, I am a woman of a certain age.  Geriatric in OB land.  But I have been saying for years that one of the tragedies in all of this is that I never intended for Amelia to be my last.  I didn’t get to savor her baby days.  I wanted to see at least one more of our babies use the gear and clothes and wee diapers we had collected for the other children.  It wasn’t to be.  And now it’s too late.  I suppose with the right kind of support (read: a wedding), I could be persuaded but there’s no way I’d go it alone.  And I’ve stopped wanting it.  I love having bigger kids.  I love leaving the house sans diaper/bottle/sling/bucket carseat/change of clothes for all involved. 

Also, she is bottle-fed.  Which is fine.  Totally.  But my children were breastfed and I now know that it was in large part because I was way too lazy to deal with bottles.  The mixing, the washing of the bottles, the dribble and spitup.  No thanks.  I know now that I was pretty lucky in the world of breastfeeding.  No supply issues, no latch issues.  I liked it.  I was home and didn’t have to go back to work so there was no reason to introduce a bottle with any frequency.  It’s just a different way to care for a child.  This baby starts to fuss out of hunger and is full on screaming at me within 30 seconds.  Kind of like a fire drill.  Five times a day.  Like I said, I’m okay being done with babies.

2.  Through the beauty and magic of Facebook, an old friend from college contacted me the other night.  He is a filmmaker and screenwriter on a smallish scale.  He’s had this idea for a documentary floating around in his head and asked me to consult on it a little bit.  The idea is this: Do you remember the last words said to a loved one before they die?  How do you feel about those words? 

We went back and forth.  I don’t know if I helped him at all because I feel like I did get a chance to say goodbye in a roundabout sort of way.  My last words to him (that he heard) were “I love you.”  So I was one of the lucky ones but what about people who just got into a fight and said angry words?  Or what about the mundane reminders and the ordinary days? I finally told him that all of us, no matter the reaction to those words (regret, anger, peace, fear…), we all thought we would have more time.  And we didn’t.  There was no way to say it all.  Those words were not for the dying.  They were for us; they were for those that survived and those that were forced to go on. 

I don’t know if anything will come of it (although knowing him, it will come around) but it is certainly interesting enough.  Hopefully there will be more to report.

3.  I am quite antsy about the prospect of spending yet another year at home.  I have been home for nearly seven years and I have had it.  Done.  I am done.  But my baby isn’t ready for school and I said I would stay home until everyone was in school.  The plan, six months ago, was to do four semesters of grad school and get my teaching certificate and get my own classroom of theatre/speech/ creative writing punks.  The schedule and school year mirrors that of my children and everyone is happy.

But now I can’t start school this summer.  Paying for school is one thing; I thought I could swing it.  But paying for childcare for the summer would break me in half and then even just one kid in full-time daycare in the fall is not a feasible option.  Once again, it comes down to finances.  And I hate that.  And I don’t want to wait.

I have other options.  I can apply for my stagehand union card and go work shows as often as they need me.  It will be feast or famine with odd hours and unreliable income with no benefits.  That is one route.  The other is to get a job and put myself back into the working world.  But then we’re back to daycare but, hopefully, that would be figured into the budget with the take home pay.  I don’t even know what I would do at this point except keep my feelers out for one of the many local arts organizations to have a position open up.  The right one could take months at best.

Like I told someone tonight (in the context of getting a job) I’m not looking for Mr. Right…I’m just looking for Mr. Rightnow.  I don’t need perfect.  I need to get back to feeling like a productive citizen first and then possibly reconsider.  On the other hand, when you know you just know.  And maybe I’ll know.  Maybe this is the time and I just need a place.

All I know is that these walls are closing in on me.  You know, not in a scary way.  I’ll deal if I do have to wait a year and then continue with the original plan.  I won’t like it.  But I know I can do it.

4.  I miss Fat Camp.  (For the record, that feeling took less than a week.)

5.  I’m still considering making this blog into some sort of publishable work.  A book or…something.  I started with post #1 and I have worked through February 2009, reading every one.  Reading every comment. 

I know I wrote it all and I’m glad that I did.  There was so much in there that would never have been thought about again had I not written it out.  There are whole days and memories that would be lost by now.  There’s something to be said for just getting it all out there, even if it is quick and dirty. 

Is it a wonder that I have a coherent thought in my head?   This is just the tip of what is knocking around in there.

A minor blizzard.

“I don’t even want to be home when there’s a blizzard,” she says to me last night, wind howling.  “I’d rather be at work.”

I paused for a minute and thought about what she just said.  I flashed to my own thoughts on being tucked safely home.  The gusts of sharp and icy snow were noisy on the window, that is true.  But then I think of my babies, clean and tucked in together, curled around the same stuffed monkey like pack animals.  Clothes dryer rattling away, dishwasher swishing, Christmas tree twinkling (it looks like it was decorated by dwarves with a small degree of mental illness) (the cat hasn’t helped that situation) and Lea Michele belting “O Holy Night” from my kitchen speakers add to my contentment.

I don’t understand.  I can’t relate.

There is nothing I love more than knowing that we shouldn’t leave even if we wanted to or, rather, if someone else wanted us to be somewhere.  I love the feeling of a warm home and a full belly and hot tea and soft music on a bitter and angry night.

It makes me take a moment to give thanks for everything we DO have instead of focusing, as I often do, about what we do NOT have or CANNOT possibly afford. 

Today, I am in an airport (thank you Free Wi-Fi) waiting for a plane to take me to Tampa.  It could not have come at a better time.  A little sunshine, quite a bit of work, an extra paycheck so I can take care of a few Christmas wants as well as our needs…these are all good things and helps settle the mind a bit.  I kissed my babies goodbye this morning after an extended group hug and promises that I will see them in a few days.  They didn’t fuss or bat an eye; they know I am good to my word.

Maybe it was the minor blizzard that reset our spirits and reconnected us.  Maybe  it made us ready, made me ready, to do the work and come home with open arms and ready to continue.

This Christmas seems different somehow.  I’m still working on pinpointing the change.  Is it me?  Is it someone else?  The girls?  Are we more settled?  Has enough time passed to make it all less empty?

Job fail.

It must be the season of discontent.

Case in point:  I have wanted a new design for this blog for a while now.  And now I have one.  It is fairly generic but I wanted to be able to change the header with a new note and accompanying photo as I feel the need.  Okay, it’s a little too generic but I think it will work for now.  Yes?

I went home sick from work today.  I woke up feeling crappy but, since they have a “must call in 2 hours before your shift” policy, I couldn’t very well call in sick.  Despite the 100.8 fever.  And the shakes.  And the sore throat.  And stiff neck.  The morning, as you can imagine, went from bad to worse.  I was originally told that I wouldn’t have a replacement available until 1pm.  That’s when I fell apart at the seams.  Unable to function.  I finished breakfast dishes, set out snack and announced/demanded/begged that I needed to leave.  Right now.  Can’t. Possibly. Live. Past. Noon.  And I left.  I mean, I gave my notice 3 days ago anyway so who cares what anyone thinks.

Did I mention that?  I quit.  Because I did.  Tuesday morning I sat down and explained that the schedule wasn’t working for me or my kids.  My house?  Is a mess.  My body?  Is a mess.  My children? Are a mess.  Something needed to change and the job was it.  I can’t do it.  It’s mostly the early mornings but it’s also the 9 hours a day, every day in daycare that really wasn’t working for the girls.  Okay, mostly Amelia who is done for the week by about 9am on Wednesday.  Ella is fine and is actually doing quite well.  But Amelia is a mess.

I wonder, rhetorically, if I will ever be content in a job.  I wonder if I will ever be NOT annoyed by co-workers or traffic or parking or uniform requirements.  I wonder if I will always mourn the loss of my freedom  and my time with my kids.  Or, if this is something that will come along with the girls getting older?  Like if they are in school all day…will it feel okay to hold a job?

Everybody does this.  Working, I mean.  That’s what we do as a part of society.  We are expected to work and contribute and make our own way.  So why is it so difficult to wrap my brain around having a real job?  Is it because I have had only contract work for the last half decade?  Is it guilt that I am somehow not a good mom when I work (because I decidedly am not)?  Does everybody look out the window on a beautiful summer day and wish they could walk away from it all?  Conversely, is there any kind of weather conducive to productivity and job contentment?

All I know is that I have great plans for the rest of the summer.  Plans that don’t include a 5am alarm (and a 5:09, a 5:18 and a 5:27).  My plans are also not really plans but that’s okay too.  We’ll take it one day at a time.  And I definitely have come to appreciate being home, even if I have to share it with messy children.

At least they are MY children.

Edgy

It’s quiet.

Really, really quiet.

And not the quiet where you are looking for something or someone to make noise.  It’s the quiet that comes when you are really alone.

My littles are with their grandma (Stephen’s mom) for the weekend.  We met at a random interstate Wendy’s and exchanged children, luggage and car seats just like a weekend parent.  I drove home, more than just a little bit flighty.

I’ve been on edge lately.  That’s a large part about why I haven’t been writing much.  There isn’t much to say other than my general annoyance, exhaustion and mental defeat. 

I know why I’m on edge too.  I’m afraid to admit it because I know I’m right.

I have not been to the gym in more than a week. 

There.

I said it.

I have been out running.  Outside.  I know.  This is me we are talking about. 

I had a friend here for the weekend (and we will never speak of that trip again) who was an adult occupying the house so I could get out and run a little.  I haven’t done that yet and with all those 5k races looming, I thought I should get out into some weather and rough-ish terrain.  I don’t even know how far I went.  I could have done a 5 k.  I was out for an hour exactly.  I ran for 23 minutes of that hour and walked at a pace fast enough to keep up my heartrate for the rest of the time. 

I don’t know.  I thought I did well considering it was dark.

But it was just that one time.  I had to go back to being the only adult.  And I don’t do humidity, even at night.  It’s like a rainforest here: pouring and then hot and humid and then pouring and then hot and humid.  Repeat.  Ad nauseam.  I swear, if the AC goes out on my van, I might be homicidal.

I have not been to the gym.

Wow.

It is taking its toll on me, this job.  I can do the work; I think I have proven that.  The teachers are all great.  The assistants are mostly great (even though they are all college girls and it’s kind of funny to listen to them talk about what they *think* is really important).  The directors?  Continue to look at me as if I have three heads. 

I am systematically getting rid of all the HFCS from the school.  I am now doing all the local grocery shopping.  I have convinced them that my biscuits are better, cheaper and almost as fast as the tube biscuits.  I have cut their grocery bill by a third since I started.  I waste nothing.  I shop carefully.  And, because of that, I get a little leeway in what I buy.  I got a cart full of whole grain bread and fresh broccoli today.  Whole eggs instead of “egg product”.  Actual apple juice instead of fruit punch. 

Slowly.  I’m getting the menu fixed very slowly.  One of the problems is that the directors don’t seem to care.  They are, understandably, trying to run a business.  I?  Am trying to feed 100 kids something tasty and not full of garbage. 

Sidenote:  I have dubbed the directors “The Sisters.”  Because they are.  And also because they haven’t exactly earned my respect.  It’s very strange to have a job that I care so very little about.  I mean, if I got fired for being mouthy (and, mark my words, it will happen at some point) I would not care one little bit.  Not one.  This is so not a career.  Some days I like it.  Most days?  Not so much.

Between the alarm going off way to early for my taste, my coffee pot shitting the bed (it’s 6 years old and probably doesn’t owe me a thing), the constant noise at the daycare, my exhausted children, my aching feet and sweaty ass….I’m just not so sure that this is a good fit.

I am mourning the loss of my summer and the freedom that goes with it.  I can’t tell if the girls are happy or not.  (They just seem to go along with what needs to be done, as is their way.  They don’t know any different because I have never asked their opinion.  We get along much better that way.)  I miss feeling like cooking for my family.  My kids eat like crap once we get home and I’m lucky if I eat at all. 

We’ve eaten our fair share of cereal dinners already.

But, for the weekend, it will be quiet.  Calm.  I will clean my house and organize my closets. 

(Oooo….I got rid of all my fat girl pants today.  Very proud moment.)

I will, hopefully, squeeze in a PT session with Molly.  I will sit by the pool and tan myself into a penny loafer because I always feel thinner with a little color.  I will brunch with my mom and dad and I won’t have to cut anyone’s meat.  I will read and sleep late. 

I might need another day or two.  Or six.

Did I fail? Or just graduate?

So, yesterday I had some PT with Molly.  After my third set of an all upper body extravaganza (pushups, medicine ball tossing and incline bench press) I mentioned that I hoped that I didn’t have to rescue my children from a burning building.  Because there’s no way in a thousand years that I could pick up more than a hairbrush.  She said that I would be able to if I had to.  I’m not so sure.

I really do enjoy PT.  I get to be mouthy and Molly doesn’t take it personally.  I get to work hard even if I don’t look good doing it.  And I get to be just a little bit catty.  It’s really the best of all worlds.

I have to say that Fat Camp isn’t doing it for me with this new schedule.  Mentally, it’s difficult to work a 9+ hour day, go home and sit on my ass for two hours and then pile everyone in the van only to get home too late to get the littles to a proper bedtime.  Also, at 17 weeks into the program, I feel like I have a good handle on how to push myself and how to get the cardio done.

I am dropping out of Fat Camp.  With 5 weeks to go (I will go this week to finish the month), I am going to try doing June on my own.  The plan is to go at least 3 afternoons a week, directly after work.  Part of the issue is the “sitting on my ass” part.  Nobody wants to move again after that, least of all me.  And my attitude in class is insufferable because of it. 

Does this make me a Fat Camp: Fail?  Or…does this make me a graduate?

I honestly think, at least as far as the exercise is concerned, that I have a handle on things.  I have the tools. 

It’s not keeping me out of the oreos when presented with a sleeve.  And, I lack enough protein on any given day.  But some changes are permanent.  The HFCS is one.  Knowing which produce should be organic is another.  My new favorite snack is a brown rice cake with natural peanut butter. 

The most important thing, despite what the scale may or may not say at the moment, is that I feel good.  And I want to keep feeling good.  And that means sprinting.  And brown rice.  And lots of eggs.  Many hours with the “workout” playlist on my ipod.  And some 5k training.  Okay, lots of 5k training. 

As for the job, it’s quite possibly a keeper.  At least as long as Amelia is not in kindergarten since the ONLY benefit is cheap daycare.  My mom had a point in that I could be working a job with a higher wage but then I’d have to pay full price for daycare.  So, there’s that.  And…Mimi is so very pleased that I am in the building.  Even Ella is good with the early mornings.

Funny how a week can change things.

I know this sounds hokey but sometimes, when I’m trying to figure out portions or timing or something (making food for 80 kiddos at once is remarkably complicated), I feel like Stephen is over my shoulder.  Pointing out something that I missed or telling me to add another few pounds of this or that. 

Sounds weird.  I don’t normally feel a “presence”.  Haven’t felt him much and have only felt what I thought was Will once.  But since I’ve started this job, it’s like he’s around all the time.

Hard to describe.  And maybe it’s just me.  Wishing that I could pick his caterer brain.  Or share some of my challenges and triumphs.

Like I said, a week made all the difference.

I’m not done with the Fat Camp writings.  I need a new name for it though.  I might end up back in class in July if June doesn’t go well but I am hoping not.  I’d like to spend that money on more PT since that is far more motivating at the moment. 

Remind me of this.  When I am lamenting feeling like crap.  Ask me what I’ve been eating and if I’ve been to the gym.  Because, if I am not feeling well, I can guarantee that I have not been practicing what I have learned.

Barrel ahead.

So, I get this job, right?  And it is equal parts rewarding and soul crushing.

But mostly soul crushing.  By a slight margin.

I am physically wiped.  I’m trying to maintain my fat camp schedule.  At least the “class” part of fat camp.  On Tuesdays (today) I usually go and do strength on my own.

But today, I made my own homemade spaghetti sauce for 80 small children.  Spaghetti, meat sauce, green beans, fruit and garlic bread.  If I was 2, it would be a total feast.  They loved it.  The teachers loved it because it smelled so good all morning.  The directors loved it because homemade sauce for 80 cost them about 4 bucks plus time.  I could get all puffed up for a little bit because everyone commented on it.

I am wrecked. 

Yesterday, I hauled my dirty and sorry and sore ass to fat camp where we had a 30 minute strength trial.  How many full body squats can you do in 2 minutes?  I did 41.  How many situps/crunches?  About 40.  How many pushups?  Again, 40 (and the first 11 were “real” pushups).  Lunges?  40.  And those things that we used to call “burpees” in junior high…I think now they’re called a “squat thrust”.  And with a name like that, it stands to reason that I’m a little out of practice.

It’s funny because it’s true.

A little less than 40 for that one but just slightly more than 30.  So, still not terrible.   Especially considering my foray into pilates on Saturday.  And I’m still not so sure I like pilates.  Maybe once I can do a full sit up, I will feel different about the class. 

As the day went on today, I felt worse and worse.  My ass.  My hamstrings.  My abs.

But, mostly, my mental state sucks.

I like the cooking.  I like being where my children learn and play.  I’m in the wing with the toddlers and they crack me up.  It’s not doing much to cure my baby fever hangover but they are fun to be around.

But…these kids?  Eat all the time.  Four times a day.  I’m usually working on the next feeding before one is totally complete.  Every room has its own bus tub bucket and their food, plates, condiments, beverage and utensils all fit into it.  I work really hard to make sure that each room’s food is hot (or cold) and fresh because my own children are here.  And, because the last cook didn’t.  I need to look better by comparison, you see.

And maybe I’m over thinking this whole thing.

 It’s a job, yo.  Everybody has a job.  That’s what we do.  We contribute to society.  I get it.

But dishes for 80 kids times 4 meals is a ton of dishes.  I applaud them for not going to all throwaway and I’m happy to contribute my effort to the environment but that is a ton of freaking dishes.  And the wiping, the laundry, the hand washing, the counter sanitizing, the ordering, the planning for tomorrow…Soul.  Crushing.

*sigh*

I leave there and I don’t have anything else left to give.  My kids had corn dogs and potato chips for dinner.  And teddy grahams and popcorn for snack while I read.  We just finished “Ramona the Brave”, the one where she makes her own shoe out of elementary school paper towels and I, after I read the book in the second grade, I never looked at school paper towels the same.  And I remembered that her mother wouldn’t buy her a coloring book so she made her own line drawings and stapled them together to make her own coloring book.

I fed my children.  I bathed them (they mostly bathe themselves but still).  I read to them.  I put them in bed.

And I can’t even turn on the tv to watch Glee! because I’m so very, very tired and overstimulated. 

Actually, it’s because the remote is across the room and I fear that I will fall over when I get up to get it so I just won’t.  I’ll let the dvr get it and I’ll watch it tomorrow.  Or Friday. 

I know I’m not eating right.  In all honesty, I’m not eating enough.  Probably.  I know I’m not sleeping enough.  I’m not meeting my goals at the gym or on the scale.  Especially not on the scale.  I am dehydrated.  And a new kind of stress that bothers me to no end.  That feeling of “did I do the right thing?” is slowly eating me.

I already miss my old life.  The one that could go and have lunch with the kindergarteners.  Or take off and drive to Iowa.  The one that went to Costco and Target and Kohls at quiet times of the week.  I miss the part where I cooked for my family.  And worked on my own body and mind. 

I left the gym yesterday with two exhausted and whiny girls.  We were all in tears leaving the parking lot.  They, because they each had an issue that I couldn’t resolve while driving.  Me, because I couldn’t listen to one more word out of their mouths.  The only thing they needed was sleep.  And then I felt incredibly guilty for dragging them to the gym when I knew it was too much for one day.  Especially when my body is not responding to my effort.

And I can’t solve this problem either.  Because I’m too tired to think about a solution.

Right or wrong, I just barrel ahead.

Because that seems to be all I know how to do.

A working stiff.

So, I got a job.

It’s just a job.  It’s not a career.  That’s what I tell myself when the alarm goes off at 5:40am.  That’s right.  As in, before 6.  As in, clocked in at 6:30. 

What in the name of all that’s holy was I thinking?

I opened my fat mouth sometime last week when the director of Amelia’s daycare/preschool said that they were having trouble with their cook.  Somebody’s givashitter was broken and the result was cold and yucky food.  And, apparently, the personality of a wet mop.

Well, if you get rid of her, let me know.  I’m a great cook. 

Fast forward to Tuesday.  I am hired.

Oh, man.

I go from being a drain on society (Funny.  But only partially untrue.) to working full-time, 9 hours a day 5 days a week.  But…I get to work where my kids play.  The pay isn’t great but isn’t terrible.

It kind of puts things into perspective.

I am a single mom.  Just like millions others.

I work more than full time at a job that pays less than 10 bucks an hour.  It also does NOT offer health insurance or life insurance.  The only benefit is that my kids get a very reduced daycare rate.  (Both of them for about $125/week for the summer and then about $65/week for just Amelia in the fall.)

I get home from work…I started on Thursday…and I crash. I am wrecked.  I am dehydrated.  My back hurts from loading and unloading 2 household sized dishwashers all day.  The bottom rack hits me at my ankles. 

The girls are wrecked as well.  Actually, Amelia is okay.  She gets a nap.  But Ella melted down no less than a dozen times between school and supper yesterday, causing me to miss fat camp.  (More on that later.)

I am the second person to clock in for the day.  I leave just in time to get Ella from the bus.  When school is out next week, I’ll be there about 45 minutes later. 

I am the cook.  The only cook.  I cook for about 80 kids (will be 105 once school is out), 2 snacks, breakfast and lunch. 

One of the reasons that Amelia goes to this particular center (previously only 2 days per week) is because a vast majority of their food is made from recipes.  There is very little prepackaged anything and what is prepackaged is due to child request or time restraints.  The kitchen always smelled really good at drop off and Amelia was very happy to eat whatever was put in front of her.

I’m on a mission.  A mission of the Food Revolution kind.   I get a little bit of say on menu items.  Or, I will once the current groceries run out.  I have already planted the anti-HFCS bug in the directors’ ears and I have pointed out to them some of the yummy things I can make from scratch: gravy, biscuits, spaghetti sauce, muffins…not to mention I can make the hell out of the comfort foods.  And make them better.

Today it was muffins for breakfast, cheerio treats for snack (like rice krispie treats but with cheerios), grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch and vanilla yogurt for afternoon snack. 

How many things on that list have HFCS?  3.  Tomato soup, the marshmallows in the treat and the yogurt.

I have some work to do, for sure.  But I can make it my own.

If, and this is a big if, this works out.  I’m severely cranky that I had to miss Fat Camp last night but it couldn’t be helped.  I couldn’t take my big girl out in that condition, mostly because of the fallout later.  Combine my barking dogs (read: mama needs new shoes) with cranky kids and my muscles potentially atrophying right in front of my eyes…I’m not sure it’s worth 9 bucks an hour.

I figure that, this summer, I will clear 1k/month.  That’s my take home.

We are fortunate in that we have other resources other than my employment.  But can you see why people are so miserable?  I fit the profile of so many other single parent families.

Mom works more than full time.  Kids need childcare.  Mom is tired and aching from working all day but the house still needs tending.  Dishes, laundry, reading, baths.  (Instead of going to the gym after work, I mowed the lawn.)  There is not time in my day to take care of mom’s physical needs.  Not enough sleep.  Not enough real food.  Certainly no time to take off for a sick kid.  Not enough money or time for the gym.

This?  May actually be why poor people are fat.  I feel fatter after 2 days but I know that’s not true especially given that this is the first time I have sat down in days.  I haven’t had a real meal since Wednesday.  But I also haven’t been good about taking my vitamins.  And I am too tired for anything other than some tv and computer time.

Does it take a measure of affluence to be healthy?  Because I don’t feel healthy.  Not a the moment.  In fact, I don’t like how I feel at all.

I took the job, and thought that I would really enjoy it, because I thought I could make a difference in the lives and the health of these kids.  I had all kinds of ideas about what I was going to make and how I was going to do it and I’d get the directors to realize that with a few small changes (or even as simple as changing brands) could make an impact.

And then reality sets in.

And I miss my house.  And my naps (oh, sweet baby, how I miss my naps).  And my days filled with puttering around the house and errands and the ability to drop everything and take my mom to lunch or be able to watch my nephew for a few hours. 

So I don’t know how long this is going to last.  Summer, maybe?  Maybe in the fall, I can re-assess.  Or, maybe something will come up.  Maybe.

But the littles are pleased with the new arrangement.  They get to see me whenever they want and Amelia brags to all her friends that her “mommy is the best cooker ever and you had better eat all your food.”

This is hard, being a working stiff.  If this were my sole source of income, we’d be on food stamps and that’s no lie.  How is it possible to work so hard, for so little?  Shouldn’t your income reflect the effort?

An interesting experiment, for sure.