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.

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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?

Catching up.

Has it really been two weeks?  I guess it has.  Life happens like that sometimes and life has certainly happened to me.  To us.  Grab a chair and a cocktail and turn on some music.  We’ll get all caught up here in a minute.

Summer is clicking by ever so slowly.  The kids have been out of school for nearly two months and the honeymoon is over. So, so over.  I can tell the Littles are growing up because they scrap and fight all day long.  You know, when they are not each other’s best friend.  Now this is familiar territory.  I remember sibling fighting and friending very clearly.  What I need to remind myself is that my sister and I are now very, very close despite all the childhood smack talking and attention grabbing and the Littles, I am sure, will have the same relationship.

Ella turned seven last Friday.  I know.  I have kept someone in my house alive for seven whole years.  It is a dubious milestone, sadly.  She is still very small for seven years old.  I had her to the pediatrician last week and she’s tenth percentile for height.  Tiny.  Poor thing.  I’ve always wished for two more inches (and who hasn’t, really) but I think she’s going to be lucky to break five feet tall at this point. 

I was going to do another letter to Ella like I did last year but A) I think it’s Amelia’s turn and 2) I wasn’t home.  Not at all that day.

The Littles went to visit Stephen’s mom for the weekend so I could work and so she could spoil and snuggle them without me around to be a giant buzz kill.  I know they have fun there but it’s going to take me at least a week to get them back in line.  (It’s a line…a crooked line.)  And my house exploded with birthday detritus.  Barbies and paint by number and puzzles and tie blankets and matching kick scooters.  Dresses.  Doll accessories.  How fun for them.

Reminds me that I need to schedule a garage sale.  Not for this stuff.  I’m not nearly that mean.  No, for all the outgrown toys of birthdays past.

Ella is auditioning for MIssoula Children’s Theatre tomorrow.  They are bringing The Jungle Book to our town.  I guess last year 200 kids auditioned and they cast 60.  Ella is convinced she’s going to get a lead.  I just hope she’s one of the 60.  She’s been talking about it for months, even to the point of inviting strangers at the grocery store (back in March when it was announced) to get tickets and come see her.  Like I said, months of this.  Makes me think of Tina Fey’s prayer for her daughter, “Dear God, lead her away from drama but not as far as finance.” 

Although if they ask her to do jazz hands, she’s all set.  Oh my.  What have I done?

Anyway the Littles went visiting for the weekend so I could work an outdoor BBQ and music festival for three days.  Three jungle humid, Africa hot days.

I am chafed in places we will not discuss.  I have a mosquito bite on the palm of my hand (among other, equally odd places) and I have a very mild sunburn.  I look like hamburger and I’m still mildly dehydrated I’m sure.  But, any day I get to work is a good day.  I can’t complain.  Beggars…choosers…that whole thing.

Remember how I asked for prayers?  Well there must be an unknown plan because I didn’t get what I wanted.  That was part of the anniversary week trauma and the (hopefully not permanent) liver damage that followed the next weekend.  You know, the holiday weekend that lasted an extra day.  That was the damage part.  Two days?  I got this.  Three?  I need detox. 

School starts one month from today and I am faced with another long school year not consistently being a productive member of society.  I am more than a little bugged by this event.  You just never know what’s going to come up but I have been home for seven years (mostly) and I am done.  I am a better mother and a better friend and better mentally when I am working.

Unless it’s working in jungle-like conditions.  And then I am not nice at all.

The ugly cry.

I can’t do it. 

I sit here with the cursor blinking and my special “blogging” itunes playlist and the house is cool and quiet.  Kitty is dozing on the arm of my chair and I’m not the least bit drunk.  Not one bit, I swear.

It usually doesn’t take much for me to tap out a thousand words or so about anything or nothing or whatever it is that’s been knocking around this great big brain of mine.  But tonight, I seem to be unable to form a coherent thought.

Doesn’t help that I have a headache.  And not just any old headache.  No, I have one of those “been crying too long” headaches.  The heaviness that follows a crying jag so extended that I was grateful the littles were playing up the street at a friends and all the windows were closed.

It was that ugly.  And ugly noises.  And choking snot and tears that made me gag just a little. 

You know the cry.  I guess I should say, you know the cry if you are a girl.  It’s the cry that happens only when your heart breaks and I’m not just talking about boys.  It’s the cry that comes when you don’t get the part in the play or when your best friend betrays you.  It’s the cry from putting down your beloved pet and yes, from breakups and the promotion you didn’t get. Or when you bury a fucking husband!  Or a child! (sorry about that…I’m trying to work on casual swearing…just not today apparently)

And if you are a guy, you’ve seen it.  At least I hope you’ve seen it.  Even if it was just once, you should experience the ugly cry.

It hit me in the chest today.  I saw the date on the calendar at breakfast and had to take a minute.

June 29.

On June 29, 2002 I married my best friend.  Nine years ago today.

Nine years.  That’s a long time in married years (and I mean that in the best possible way).  Nine.

I don’t know what I was doing last year but I didn’t blog about it.  I did the years before but not last year for some reason.  I don’t remember being particularly torn up or anything.  I do remember being all proud of myself for not making a scene.  So what the shit happened today?  Why now? 

You’d think that I’d be over it by now, I said to a friend this afternoon.

He says,” I don’t.”

You don’t what?

“I wouldn’t think you’d be over it.  I wouldn’t think you’d ever be over it.”

Thank you.  No, seriously, thank you.  That’s all I needed to hear.  Especially when, sometimes, I get the feeling that I’ve dwelled on it (to others) too long.  That my own brand of crazy is a little too much. 

I can hear it.  “Yes, yes I get it.  You’re sad.  You miss him.  You hate being single.  You hate that your kids are fatherless.  So, how about those (fill in favorite team)?”

I just wish I could figure out why this hit me so hard today.  If I knew, maybe I could head it off next time? 

Probably not.  But that’s my right I suppose.

So, no.  No thousand words on a sweet memory and no pretty pictures from happier years.  No boozy observations on life and love and the littles.

(Although I did have a conversation with Amelia about boy babies and girl babies and how the only difference is what hat the doctor puts on the baby after it comes out of the mommy’s tummy.  This is me, trying not to giggle, explaining boy parts and girl parts.  Again.)

I feel like I’ve been hit in the face with a sack of dimes.  And I think I’ve ruined a contact lens somewhere in the mess of the day.  And…there may have been an incident involving cupcakes and homemade buttercream but I’m not coping to that just yet.

Ask me tomorrow.  Tomorrow has to be better.

Right?

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.

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.