Thursday, May 29, 2014

Graduation, Summer Shenanigans, and Step-Momisms

So several things have happened in our lives in the last week or so (huge happenings in our tiny world), and I guess it's time I cataloged them, and explored (via blog post) the age-old analrapist question of:  "How did that make you FEEL?"

"How ARE you??"

And also, just as a courtesy:


ITEM ONE:  Padawan is here to stay with us for the summer.  =)

This is truly fantastic news.

We generally get more time with all the boys once summer gets here, but this summer is going to be a little different.

The oldest is officially finished with high school this summer, and is preparing to start college in the fall.  And he drives, and works (two or three jobs, depending), and has a girlfriend, and generally has a life, and lives about an hour and a half away. 

So.  Scheduling.

The struggle is real.


And then there is Padawan.

A couple months ago, his mom contacted us saying that she didn't know what she was going to do about childcare for him while she was at work this summer.

Our solution was elegant in its simplicity:  Send him here.


So we agreed that we would keep him for the summer, and his mom would just let us know when she wanted him.

Our arrangement has only just started to play out in real time, and I am personally thrilled to have him here, as is everyone else.  =)

Though. . . Took is having a BIT of an issue adjusting to no longer being the only child in the house.

Which brings us to:


 Now, before I make my child sound like a COMPLETE asshole (but seriously, sometimes. . .you guys.  He can be a COMPLETE asshole.), I will say by way of apology that he is a child that likes his schedule.

Like, he REALLY likes his schedule.

For example:  Every morning when he gets up, we walk downstairs with an armful of assorted "babies" (Sheepie, Kitty Cat, Tigey, Sheep-Turtle), snuggle up on the couch, and he drinks his milk and wakes up and watches his stories.  (Usually Caillou, The Berenstain Bears, or Daniel Tiger.)  And on weekends when Padawan is here, he knows that they will have to SHARE the t.v. once his brother wakes up.

So I'm sure you can imagine his. . . we'll call it "emotional pain and suffering". . . when he woke up this morning to find that his brother had gotten up BEFORE HIM, was ALREADY SEATED SNUGLY ON THE COUCH, and had ALREADY SELECTED HIS OWN PROGRAMMING (which was NOT one of the programs on his Approved Viewing List).

It got ugly.


Actually, I think it would be more apt to say that it got ugly INSTANTLY.

Took was not even on the first floor of our home before he started with the indignant cries of "NOOOOOOOO!!!!  You not sit there!!!!  No you NOT!!!!!"

I did what I could to ease the tensions, but I'm afraid it was pointless.  

Took woke up to find that his brother had beat him to the couch.

Insult was added to injury when it became apparent that he was going to have to SIT THROUGH an episode of Spongebob before it was his turn to pick the show.

And by the time we got to breakfast, and he realized that we were having blueberry muffins (---he loves blueberry muffins.  . . .he just wasn't in the mood for them this morning.---) . . . well, he just SNAPPED.

Fists started flying, there were cryptic shouts of "NO, I NOT!!!  BEARS!!!  MY BASE!!@!!  MYYYYY SHEEPIE!!!  NOYOUNOT!!!!!!", I heard several solid-sounding slaps land, and I came running from the kitchen with just horrific expectations.

. . . only to find Padawan cowering on one end of the couch, hiding behind cushions to keep Took's flailing hands from connecting, while Took screamed in outrage about all the ways that he had been wronged that morning.  (FYI:  This was about 10 minutes after waking.)


Great way to start the summer.  =/

But on a serious note?  I am COMPLETELY not sweating it.

I know my kid.  He likes his schedule, and he likes to know what to expect.  He'll adjust, and the three of us will carve out a NEW schedule, together.  And how they get along during this transitional period is just something the boys are going to have to work out on their own.

In the meantime, I'm really just here to provide snacks, take the little one on potty breaks, and referee:

No slaps on the face, no sucker-punches, no drawing on ANYONE. The cats are off-limits, and Silly Putty is only allowed outside.

Keep it clean, guys.  We want a nice, clean fight.


And finally, we come to

ITEM THREE:  The high school graduation of Michael's first-born.


He graduated from high school last week, and it was an amazing night.


This is a very odd thing to write about, because I feel like we are all still processing our feelings about it.

Of course, we knew this was coming.  We got our invitation in the mail a few weeks ago.  We ooh'd and ahh'd at the graduation photo that accompanied the invitation.  We knew what college he had decided on, and had even gotten to tour it with him a few months back.

But we ALSO know that this same milestone looms in the future (hopefully) for the other two boys.

KNOWING that something is going to happen is still no preparation at ALL for actually EXPERIENCING it happen. . .

So the day of his graduation arrived.  Mister was at work, but getting off early to come home and change and hopefully set out with a head start on the traffic.

I spent the morning preparing.

Outfit for me and the baby?  Check.

Self-tanner applied and toenails painted?  Check.

Backpack for the baby packed, with diapers, wipes, toys, change of clothes, and clip-on bow tie?  CHECK.

By the time Mister made it home, we were ready to go, and a couple of hours later we found ourselves standing outside a beautiful church in Montgomery, with my Mom actively snuggling my bow-tied little boy, and waiting to meet Spawn's mom to get our tickets.

Me and my lady killer.

We said hello, got our tickets, and made it to a seat in the balcony without incident, where Took proceeded to prance around like the ORIGINAL Big Stuff, and I giggled and fidgeted and busied myself with being JUSTSOEXCITED while Mister sat on the end of the pew and tried very hard to just not lose his marbles before the ceremony even started.

Before we knew it, Pomp and Circumstance was playing, and a tide of blue robes was making its way to the front of the church. 

We picked out our man right away, and avidly watched his every movement, with quite a surreal sense of This is really happening.

And since we WERE watching him intently, we knew the exact moment when he looked up, and saw his dad on the very front row of the balcony, standing up and applauding his son.

And this huge, goofy, pure-gladness grin spread over his whole face. . . and from that moment on I don't think any of us stopped smiling.  Also from that moment on. . . I think my husband was okay again.  =)

Then it took forever, and it was all over too fast, and someone sang, and someone danced, and someone talked, and instruments were played, and suddenly they were lining up to receive their diplomas.  (That weren't really their diplomas.  Those were elsewhere.  They lined up to receive their lovely blue satin-covered cardboard.  Shenanigans.)

And Took was sitting in my mom's lap when Spawn's girlfriend, aka "Friend", walked up to receive her cardboard.  He saw her pretty face projected on the big screens, and had just one word:
"NICE."  =)

A few minutes later it was Michael's Spawn's turn, and we all just held our breath and beamed.

Afterwards, amid a swarming sea of people, we found him.


And it was fascinating to watch my husband take this now-grown man, clasp him in a fierce, full, bear hug. . . and almost come apart at the seams.

And the rest of the night was nothing but joy.  =)

We went out to eat with the new graduate, and even got to meet his Friend's parents.  Which means that yes, Took once again got to see Friend, and instantly went in for a hand-hold.

He is shameless.  =)

Too soon, we had finished dinner, and it was time to head back home.  More hugs, more photos, more moments when I stole glances at Mister, to see how he was holding up.  (I'm happy to report that he was fine.  Overjoyed, and glowing, and fine.)

So we took him back to his car.  And leaving him was. . . tough.

We weren't just leaving him for the night. . . and we all knew it.

And we just kept looking at him. . .  

This intelligent, kind, goofy, handsome, funny, AMAZING young man.  . . . If there was ever a kid with a bright future, if there was ever a graduate that could go anywhere, and do anything he wanted. . . it was THIS ONE.

And knowing that, and keeping it in the front of his mind, is probably the only way Mister was able to make himself put the car in gear, and drive away.


It was a long ride home from Montgomery, and I couldn't help but do a lot of thinking.

I was just SO PROUD!!!  

And I couldn't help but draw comparisons, and connect lines.

One day, hopefully, I would get to watch two OTHER young men graduate from high school.  Would I hold it together as well as I did that night?

Probably not.

Because THESE two little ones. . . well, I've seen them grow up. I'm gonna be there for all of it.  With Spawn, I only came in at the tail end.  I never had to put him in time-out, he was too old for that. I never had to discipline him, he had already been taught how to behave, and what was expected of him.  And I didn't get to see him NEARLY enough. . .

Still. . . seeing him in his cap and gown was more difficult than I ever imagined it would be. . .  I looked into that handsome, familiar face, and I could still see that little boy in there.  The long-haired kid I met when he was 12, who was already funny and goofy and kind and fabulous.  I close my eyes and see the braces again, way back before his head had grown to fit his teeth, and remember all the milestones that happened between you're-shorter-than-I-am to holy-crap-I'm-looking-UP-at-you-now??

And I cried a little, but mostly it was just. . . just happiness.

And I decided that THIS.  THIS was one of the perks of being a step-mother.

I got to go to his graduation, and experience the joy without (most of) the hard, heart-wrenching sadness.

. . . 

At different times over the years, people have asked me:  "Isn't it hard??  Marrying a man with two children?"

The answer is still: "No."

It can be hectic, but it is NOT "hard."

I was lucky enough to find the man of my dreams, and luckier still to find that he had these two boys that just owned my heart from pretty much the very beginning.

And a few people have even been brazen enough to ask if it has been difficult dealing with the two different mothers of these children.

Again (not that it was any of their business), the answer is still: "No."

I'm a grown-up.  I've had grown-up experiences.  Many times, many, MANY times, life has not worked out the way I planned.

And the same holds true for everyone.

But what I've found, through time and patience, is this:

You can make just about anything work, if you just ACT LIKE AN ADULT.

Those two boys' mothers?  They have never been anything but kind to me. Why would I have a problem with them?  We act like adults.

You know how you get a phone call from a 7 year-old on Mother's Day, when he is with his mom, and still doesn't know how to work a phone?

You don't be rude to his mother.  You don't snark about her behind her back.

You act like adults.  And you get along.  

You recognize that you won't agree on everything, and you don't HAVE TO, and you just act like an adult.

And when you DO?  

Good things happen.  =)

You get to keep one boy all summer long.

You get to go to the other's graduation, and share in the joy, and hug his mom, and MEAN IT.  Just from one mother to another.

I'm not my husband's first wife, and I didn't get to give him his first child.  And if I wanted to focus on that, and fixate on it, I could probably really make myself pretty miserable.

So instead, I focus on this:  

Yeah.  All that's true.  I'm not his first wife.

I'm the woman that got here in the third inning.

I'm the one that was lucky enough to get to know these two boys, and not get hung-up on the fact that I didn't get to be there from Day One, and I realize and appreciate that my family is a masterpiece of cobbled-together perfection.

I'm the woman that gave him his third son. . . 

And I count my blessings every day, because I'm the woman that gets to love all three.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Baby Steps and Body Armor =)

Monday morning.

And, after a full weekend of watching, feeding, bathing, and playing with two COMPLETELY rambunctious boys, and trying to keep them QUIET (!!!!) from the time they woke up until roughly noon-ish every day (so their father could sleep, because he was on night-shift) . . . I am completely exhausted, and REALLY ready to start my weekend.

(My husband works a rotating shift, and seems to handle it really well.  I, however, do not do such a great job.  . . . I don't sleep well when he's on nights, my schedule and Took's gets turned on its ear, and we only really get to see Mister for a couple of hours each day.  It sucks.)

So I'm sitting here, sipping my coffee out of a Phineas and Ferb cup that I KNOW I did not purchase, and looking at the interwebz while Took munches on his breakfast and sings along with Daniel Tiger.

. . . seriously--- who brought these Phineas and Ferb cups over here??  They're really nice, a good size, sturdy base. . . and fit in quite nicely with our collection of Star Wars, Mickey Mouse, and Avengers cups.  But they're not ours.  Sooooo. . . if you're reading this, and YOU'RE the person that left these two cups here, just let me know and I'll get them back to you.  I LOVE a good plastic cup. . . but I don't want to take someone else's.  =)

So anyway, I'm just sitting here, decompressing from the hectic weekend, and fiddling with some ideas that I might want to write about.

. . . and there IS one thing on my mind that I MIGHT want to write about. . . but I've spent most of the morning second-guessing myself about it.

. . . I was speaking with a friend (who lives in another state) once, and he revealed to me that he fairly regularly read my blog.

I was, to put it mildly, AMAZED.


He is a very fun, but very professional gentleman, seems to have his life very "together", and I was just frankly amazed that he ever took the time to read the things I'd written about.  (But this, essentially, is the same gut reaction I have WHENEVER someone reveals that they read my blog.  It's not that often. . . but it is always just staggering for me.  Such amaze.  Wow.)

Anyway, while this gentleman and I were speaking, he told me that he enjoyed my blog, and that I write like "no one is ever going to read it."

. . . and I thought about that for a while.

He was right.

I mean, I can look up my blogger account (after trying a combination of 18 different email addresses, and six different passwords. . . my memory sucks), and see how many views each post has gotten.  But mentally, there's a big disconnect there.  For some reason, there's a huge difference between seeing that your post has had, say, 17 views. . . and actually SPEAKING with someone that has read what you've written, and comments on it.

It's actually kind of wonderful and flattering and really, REALLY unsettling.

But I enjoy writing.  I do it because I'm attempting to express myself, keep a log of experiences for my children, and hopefully relate to others.  I don't pretend to be fantastic at it.  But I try.  All I really know to write about are my own experiences, and doing so usually allows me to look at my life from about 8 steps back, which happens to be quite helpful, I've found.

So I sit here, turning it over in my head . . . what am I going to write about this morning??

And this morning I decided that I would write about a facet of myself that I am currently battling, and I hope that it is well-received.


For the first 3 or 4 years of our marriage, my husband and I did not fight.

And I am completely serious.

We didn't argue, didn't fuss, didn't fight with each other at all.

It was an extended honeymoon period, and it was wonderful.  And very deceptive.  It raised our expectations for our relationship to a ridiculous level, and put in our heads a completely unreachable ideal of perfection.

Because no matter WHO you are, if you spend a great deal of time with someone else, EVENTUALLY you are going to go through a period where you don't get along, or have issues to work out.

And, though the honeymoon period was GREAT while it lasted, we DID eventually come to that place where things were no longer peach-ice-cream-with-sprinkles.

(We became, without placing blame on anyone's shoulders, the turd in our own punch bowl.)

We still loved each other very much, but it was like one day we woke up and just had all these ISSUES with each other.  (Which I, personally, think comes from the simple act of living with another imperfect human.  And by "imperfect", I am referring, of course, to my husband.)



We BOTH had a lot of baggage.  And a lot of it was stuff that we had shoved in our respective nasty-trunks when it happened, and never opened it up or examined the incidents again.

Speaking for myself, I thought this was a GRAND way to deal with things.  

"Ohhh, that's a particularly NASTY memory. . . so IN THE TRUNK YOU GO!!"  

And then I'd go play Sims or something, and try to never think on it again.  Which always worked.

. . . until I tried to go to sleep at night.

THEN, every embarrassing thing I've ever done, every painful, awkward moment I've ever experienced, would come back in horrific detail, to dance behind my closed lids and haunt my head, until I eventually fell into a restless sleep.

. . . sounds INCREDIBLY healthy, eh?  =)

So this was how we progressed for quite some time, shoving the nasties in our trunks, and going about our lives.

It worked pretty well for a while, until suddenly --- IT DID NOT.

And then my husband and I spent months upon months in an emotional cold-war.  . . .which, consequently, makes THIS song pop into my head:

La la laaaaaaaa. . . I digress!!!!

So we advanced and retreated, and nipped at each other's heels for months on end.  He was too THIS, and MUCH too THAT, and I felt like *I* was pretty much completely unacceptable in every way.

What I'm saying is:  We fought.

Like cats and dogs, covered in peanut butter.

And it got us nowhere.  Changed nothing.  And only really resulted in fostering untold amounts of resentment between us.

And I'll just go on and say that I had NO idea what to do about it. We weren't communicating.  We weren't getting ANYWHERE with each other.  And I was really, REALLY scared.  That we were going to LOSE ourselves.  To this pettiness, and these hard feelings we (unintentionally) nurtured, and the fact that we seemed to be waking up every morning and focusing on the shadows, instead of basking in the sun.

It was a tough time for both of us.

Then came February, and we were going on a cruise.  On Valentine's Day!!!  JUST the two of us!!!  . . . and I sincerely almost stayed home.

Why should I go on this trip?  I thought to myself.  He doesn't even LIKE me.  Why would I leave the little boy that I LOVE, that loves ME, at home just so I can spend a week with someone that can't stand me??

I was conflicted, I was very scared, and I was completely unsure what the best course of action was.

So the only thing I knew to do was to keep reminding myself of this: You love this man.  He is wonderful, but he is not perfect, and neither are you.  This IS a rough patch.  Everyone has them.  Trust. Have a little faith.  Close your eyes, and hope for the best.

. . . and if you HAVE to push him off the ship. . . at least you'll have a cool story to tell the kids.  (Also:  DOLPHINS!!)  =p

So we went on the trip.

And it was awful.

. . . there were periods of great enjoyment. . . interspersed with periods where I wandered the ship by myself, trying not to cry, and not doing a very good job of it.

Then, a couple days into the trip, the ship docked in Freeport, and everything came to a head.  We walked around, buying souvenirs for the kids, then sat down on a picnic bench to discuss whether or not we needed to try a trial separation.

It was one of the worst times in my life.

. . . thankfully, we still loved each other.  Even if we weren't doing a great job of SHOWING it at the moment.  And neither of us really WANTED to separate.  So we had THAT going for us, which was nice.  =)

So we hugged, we said we loved each other, and we vowed to set up an appointment with a marriage counselor as soon as we hit solid ground.

And I'm not embarrassed to admit this.  . . . more to the point, I don't even really UNDERSTAND people that would be.

Like everybody else, I'm figuring it out as I go.  And I'm so very FAAAAAAR from perfect.  So maybe, just MAYBE, if I can share this, and it helps someone else to maybe feel like they're not so alone, like everyone really has basically the same problems. . . then maybe some good can come from it?

After all, that honeymoon period lasted a WHILE.  So much so that some people started to referring to us as "the lovebirds", and some others made remarks about how perfect our relationship was.

And I'm not trying to diminish it --- we are GREAT for other.  Like we were MADE for each other, honestly.

I am the "Live and let live" to his "You're doing it wrong."

And he is the responsible voice saying "Rein it back in" when I get too out of control.

But again. . . nobody's perfect, and thank God neither of us was too proud to say ". . . a little help here?"

So we went to the marriage counselor.

It only FELT like complete failure, but it was actually morphing into what I can only describe as some very restorative moments.

So yay us.  =)

. . . but it was WHILE we were in the process of working things out in our relationship. . . that we each realized that we were both going to have to do some fairly intensive work on OURSELVES.

And it is at this point that I will stop speaking for my husband.

If he ever decides that he wants to share the ongoing work he is doing on himself, to try and make himself a better person, that is his prerogative.  But I can really only speak for myself, and I refuse to bring to the surface anything that might be difficult or painful for him, just in the name of a writing exercise.

So here's what I discovered about ME:


Or, in layman's terms:  I have social anxiety.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but I don't think I've ever really delved into what it MEANS.

And what it means, for me, is simply that I am a rather nervous sort.

I'm private, and I'm introverted.  I've always been this way.

But I am also. . . well, anxious.  I have a hard time around people. Truth is, most of the time, I honestly don't KNOW how to interact.  I get around people I don't know that well, and I just. . . freeze.  My mind goes completely blank.  I can think of NOTHING to say.  I start sweating.  I'm afraid they're judging me.  It becomes painful.  I don't know what to do.  And so I've gotten into the habit of just reacting in a manner of self-preservation, which is:  When you don't know what to do --- RETREAT!!!!!!

And this is no way to live.

I've been thinking on it a LOT lately.  I'm not sure exactly when it started to get so bad. . . but I guess that doesn't matter.  Not as much as FIXING IT matters.

And yes, part of it is the fear that someone is going to hurt me.  People CAN'T hurt you if you never let them get close enough, right?

But down that path. . . lies madness.  Surely.

But it's really the fear of being hurt, COUPLED with the fear that *I* am going to inadvertently hurt someone else.

I ALREADY have a difficult time sleeping. . . I don't want any more horrific situations added to the Nightmare Reel that plays in my head every night.

And so, it looks like at some point I decided that I would solve this prickly little problem by just keeping everyone at arm's length.


And it seemed like a fine arrangement for me. . . for a while.

I had friends, I had people I loved. . . and, in my head, the thinking was:  We were friends.  You know I love you.  If we haven't had a falling out. . . then I still do.  End of story.

And I didn't really PUSH everyone away (at least. . . I don't THINK I did), but I did proceed to pretty much completely shut out the entire world.

Sure, I still talked to my parents. . . and I feel at ease with my husband and kids. . . but that was pretty much IT.  Cousins that I've known my whole life. . . I didn't know how to talk to.  My extended family and friends, people that loved me and would never intentionally hurt me. . . I was uncomfortable around.  Social functions of any sort?  A completely exhausting disaster, every time.

And for the longest time, I couldn't even stand to make eye contact with anyone.

Seriously.  =/

It was just too personal.  Too intimate.  I felt like once someone looked in my eyes, they could instantly SEE all the insecurities and flaws and shortcomings, laid bare and in living color.

It was just, on every single level imaginable, too, TOO MUCH.

And so I retreated inside myself, and I stayed there.

And I invested a LOT of time, when I DID have to perform socially, focusing every amount of energy I had on appearing "normal."

Eye contact was, and still is, the big thing.

I meet someone, even if it's someone I've known for YEARS, and while we are talking I am usually completely exhausting myself with trying to expertly keep on my lovely little mask of normalcy.

"Normal people make eye contact.  Normal people don't find that hard to do.  MAKE EYE CONTACT!!!  . . . one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi. . . surely that's enough?  Certainly normal people look away from time to time. . .  Oh, sweet Lord, this HURTS. . .  Okay, you can break away for a minute now.  Deep breath. . . and, look back.  Eye contact.  MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT. . .  Okay!  It's been a lovely party everyone!  Drive safe!"
And then I need a nap.

And, even though it seems completely absurd to even contemplate. . . I lived like this for a looooooong time.  I still do.

Honestly, I tried not to examine it too much, and just kind of hoped that EVERYONE went through their days like this.  Until at some point, I realized. . . Hey.  Wait.

. . . perhaps expending so much effort on trying to act "normally". . . ISN'T NORMAL???!?


My husband and I have talked about it.  And, in part, he seems to be of the opinion that it has to do with a lack of confidence.

And he is, at least partially, correct.

But not 100% correct.

. . . a while back, I had this dream.  Even when I don't sleep well, I've always had exceptionally vivid dreams.  And I remember a LOT of them.  (To my own detriment, at times.  I sincerely cannot COUNT the times I have had a dream that Mister was cheating on me, then woke up and found myself furious with him all day.  I know-- it makes no sense.  . . . but he DIDN'T EVEN APOLOGIZE!!!)

Anyway, in the dream, I was at a wedding reception.  Tons of people everywhere, no one that I really knew, basically a typical nightmare-experience for someone like me.

And I was walking around in a two-piece bathing suit, while everyone else was wearing suits and ties.

(This did not appear in any way remarkable until after I woke up.)

So I'm at this reception, and I'm in my bathing suit, and I'm ME. . . so I quickly make up some excuse to go outside and smoke and get AWAY from everyone.  So I excuse myself, find the exit to this lovely little moonlit courtyard, and light a cigarette.

And when I look down, lying on the ground is this huge, black, Me-sized turtle shell.

And without thinking twice, and by switching my cigarette from hand to hand in the process, I strap the shell on my back.  Then I walk back and rejoin the party.

And then I woke up.

Pretty weird, right?

Nope.  Not at all.

Because I knew precisely what this dream meant.

First, my confidence is just fine.  I mean, I was walking around in a bikini at a wedding reception, for God's sake.  But I only have acceptable confidence levels in certain areas.  For example:  Do you have any idea how hilarious I am?  Because I am seriously funny.  (It's not bragging if it's true.)

Also?  I think I'm pretty sweet.  Not in a "sweet" slang kind of way. . .  I mean, I actually think I'm a kind, fair person.  And I like that about myself.

I'm not particularly confident when it comes to my appearance, but I've never really thought it to be an issue.  Of all the things to worry about. . . that just never seemed like one of them.

Secondly, this was one of those "real" dreams.  I wasn't casting magic spells, and I wasn't levitating (as so often happens in my dreams).  No, I was just behaving as I normally would, in a perfectly ridiculous situation.

And what did I do?

I beat a hasty retreat, I smoked a cigarette, and I put on a turtle shell.

Only, in the dream it was a turtle shell.  In real life, it is any kind of wall I can construct around myself to make sure that others keep their distance.

It is metaphorical body armor, and I've been faithfully putting it on every morning for as many years as I can remember.

And. . . if I COULD walk around in full body armor every day?  . . . Yeah.  I probably WOULD.

Even sitting here right now and pondering this. . . I have to admit that it seems VERY practical.  

And perfectly reasonable.

. . . and also?  A pretty cowardly way to live a life.

I haven't made it this far, and survived what I've survived, only to hunker down in a hole and catch up on my reading until the Zombie Apocalypse gets started.

But it took me a while to realize this.

And, had it not been for my son, I might NOT have.

But realize it I did, after the boys and I sat down to watch Frozen one night, and I had a shocking moment of clarity where I was just like: 

"Holy crap.  . . . I'm Elsa."

Stay back.

And I immediately conjured in my head an image of my precious son, fully grown and sitting in a shrink's office one day.  And answering the question "How is your relationship with your mother?" with:  "Fine.  I mean, I know she always loved me. . . but she was just very distant."

So last week, I went and saw a counselor/therapist person.

. . . and I am harboring NO illusions that this is going to be FUN.

But I know who I WANT to be, and who I DON'T.  And it looks like, to get to what I WANT. . . I'm gonna have to do some work.  (A sledgehammer would probably be RATHER helpful in this instance, but I'm practicing my patience.  And taking baby steps.)

Seriously. . . WHERE is Dr. Leo Marvin when you NEED HIM??!!??


This is something I'm doing.

And in case you don't know, just take my word for it:  it's scary as hell.  You build up these walls, in an effort to keep yourself SAFE. . . and then one day you realize that they're keeping the ones you love OUT.

And you know what?

Yeah.  You're just gonna have to go ahead and tear down that whole damned thing.


So here goes.

The roller coaster is poised at the top, and I'm about to come rushing down.

Pretty scary.

But also a great excuse to yell:  "WHEEEEEEEEEEE!!!"

Fingers crossed, and cups raised.

To a complete lack of body armor, and better versions of ourselves.



Thursday, May 1, 2014

Not So Neat, Or: There And Back Again

So I'm sitting here this morning, sipping my coffee while Took plays in the den in his brand new cardboard box, and I was wanting to write something.

. . .because, as I have mentioned in a previous post, we have been without a home computer for the last couple of weeks, and, as we all know, there is NOTHING that will make you want to write MORE than not being able to.

(. . .and really, since the dawn of the age of computers-in-every-home. . . I've gotten lazy.  There.  I said it.  Writing with a pen and paper just takes too LONG.  And my pen-hand is not NEARLY as quick as my typing-hands.  SO much more efficient.)

So while I was trying to decipher exactly WHAT it was that I wanted to write today, the first thought that popped in my mind was:  vacation.

A couple of months ago (February, to be exact), the Mister and I left our young offspring with my mother (with not just a little bit of angst and teeth-gnashing from yours truly), and set off to Jacksonville, Florida to catch our ship for a fantastic, fun-filled WEEZER CRUISE!!!!

And the trip was fantastic!!!  . . . and it was ALSO, VERY MUCH, not.

The experience was pleasant, peppered by moments of not-pleasant-at-all, and I'm discovering this morning that writing about it is probably going to be pretty intense, if I keep it honest.

And I'm just not up for that this morning.  Not yet.

And so I decided that I would just stick to a safer, easier subject (for the moment), which is:  my (perceived) neat-freak tendencies.

. . . Now, to anyone that has known me all my life, but to whom I have not spoken, or spent any great amount of time with in recent years. . . I'm sure you will probably find that last line positively laughable.

And I wouldn't blame you.

Not one bit.

. . . . .

When I was about fifteen, a very close family member came to stay with us.  We were of the same age, and very close friends.  So one day when my mom came to me and asked how I would feel about her coming to stay with us, and how I would feel about subsequently sharing my room, my closet, my dresser, my bathroom, my STUFF. . . my immediate response was:  "I'll clean out some space for her right now."  And I set about the task of making room for another female teenager, and her belongings.

And she became the closest thing to a sister that I've ever had, and, from my point of view at least, we got along famously.  =)

But for HER. . . it was probably just a teensy bit more challenging.

Because, as much as I loved her (bless her heart), she was DECIDEDLY a neat-freak.

And I. . .

Well, I was decidedly NOT.

. . .This is not to say that I was a grubby little piglet-girl, wallowing in the muck of my own messiness. . . but I will readily admit that I was FAR from tidy.

We were complete opposites in many ways.

And yet we made it work.  And (I HOPE, because I can only speak to my own experience), we were both better people for learning how to live peacefully together.

(In all honesty, I'm quite sure I drove her absolutely CRAZY sometimes. . . but blood is thicker than water, and all that.)
Example:  We were about the same size at this time.  We didn't really have similar taste in clothes, though.

And I really cannot tell you HOW many hours I spent pondering how she could ALWAYS look SO "put-together". . . and I somehow always ended up looking like I had either just finished, or was just getting ready to, paint a house.

(In retrospect, it probably all came down to my fondness for sweatpants.  I am passionate about a few things in life, and COMFY CLOTHES just so happens to be one of the big ones.)

But, putting all that aside, I WAS a teenage girl, and, on occasion, I found myself with a peculiar stirring to "look nice."

. . .and there was a closet, in my room, half-full of QUITE "nice-looking" clothes.

Only problem was that they weren't mine.

And, I would like to point out, that I was NOT callous enough to just take something of hers out of the closet to wear.  What if she wanted to wear it later, and I had dribbled chocolate sauce down the front?  (I did have, and still DO have, a tendency to find myself in situations such as these.)

So I wouldn't take her clean clothes out of the closet.

I had standards.  I had a personal code.

. . . I had a dirty clothes hamper that was filled with her "gently used" clothing that would work PERFECTLY for my particular problem.

(Besides, she always folded her clothes before putting them in the hamper and, as a result, her "dirty" clothing often looked much nicer than the clean, wrinkled clothes that I had shoved in my side of the dresser in the slapdash manner that was my personal calling card at the time.)

. . . What I am trying to convey here, is that I have NEVER been a neat-freak.

I would really like to cite several more examples with which to back up this statement, but then I fear I run the risk of painting myself as a creature something like the Junk Lady in Labyrinth.

(And I was REALLY not that bad.  . . . not quite.  I mean, I always washed my hair, at the very least.)

So you're just going to have to take my word for it:  I've never been a neat-freak.  And, if I'm being honest, I was probably always a lot closer to the "slob" end of the spectrum.

I was scattered, I was carefree, and I really just didn't care if my things were neat or not.  I had more important things to worry about.

. . . like what happened to that tie-dyed hoodie??

Seriously.  I LOVED that hoodie.  And it just disappeared one day.  . . . it is POSSIBLE that I might've misplaced it. . .

But I find that HIGHLY unlikely.

I suspect that my mom threw it out.  

Oh and don't act all surprised, mom.  We both know you did this.  Like that ADORABLE little two-piece, ruffled bathing suit I used to have. . . that WAS rather skimpy. . . that mysteriously disappeared right after that youth trip to the beach.  ???

I'm not judging you.

(But neither am I a complete fool.)



I've lost my train of thought.

Oh yeah.  Not a neat-freak.

So anyway, I think by now that I have firmly established my earlier tendencies when it came to cleaning.

. . . and they would positively AMAZE my husband today, if he could've seen me THEN.

I guess I should back up and say that the reason I've been thinking about all this is because of an encounter between me and Mister a couple nights ago. . .

The baby was asleep in his room, and we were getting ready for bed.

And Mister watched me, in silence, as I made my rounds around our home.

. . . fold and put away the afghans, straighten the cushions on the couch, make sure there aren't any dirty dishes in the sink, make sure all toys are put away, tidy up the bathroom, make sure all the bottles and knick-knacks on the counter are facing the right direction, and. . .

Why are you staring at me??

He looked at me, smiling with a smile that clearly said:  You are insane.  You should be medicated.  . . .and possibly hosed down.

"Have you ALWAYS been like this?" my husband asked.

And I thought about it for about half a second, before responding with a strong, loud, "NO!!"

My husband looked at me.

"Soooo. . . what happened?!?"

And, though none of it is pleasant, or anything I feel any sense of pride about, I am going to be honest, own up to my flaws and my faults, and tell you exactly what happened.

There was a time in my life, mostly during the college years, but extending after that as well, when I was completely out of control.

I was essentially living the stereotypical rock star lifestyle, minus the aid of groupies, fame, rock star-sized paychecks, or any discernible or impressive musical talent.  

(. . . I COULD play the flute fairly decently. . . THANK YOU OAK GROVE HIGH SCHOOL MARCHING BAND!! . . . but I never received a call-back from Jethro Tull, and so my flautist skills never really took me anywhere, and CERTAINLY never materialized into any sort of monetary compensation.)

What I'm saying is:  I was a wreck.

I . . . I lost myself somewhere along the way.  And, due to my self-imposed flaming wreck of a life, I lacked the self esteem to think that I deserved any better.  Or that I could, in fact, BE any better.

To put it simply, they were dark times.

Dark in my home, dark in my heart, darkest still inside my own head.

And I wallowed in that darkness, lost, unsure about where to go or what to do or even HOW to find the nearest exit, for far too long.

And, to give credit where MOUNTAINS of credit is due, it is entirely possible that I would still be wandering there today, vacant and lost, had I not had a wonderful group of family and loved ones that helped bring me back to myself.  (With, it bears mentioning, me kicking and screaming at least half the way.)

But I DID have these loved ones, that loved me DESPITE myself, and I will never be able to repay them for hunkering down, settling in for the long haul, and (to steal a quote from Supernatural) gripping me tight and raising me from perdition.

But it was DURING this time, when my life, my head, my heart, was in such a swirling tide of chaos. . . that the world around me was, too.  (And by "world around me", I mean my home.)

I'm not holding any punches when I say that it was filthy.

After all, I had so much going on in my head, felt like such a complete-shit-of-a-person, and spent most of my days wallowing in a thick, sludge-mixture of guilt and shame. . . how could I REALLY be expected to do something as mundane as. . . mop?

And I don't really write poetry any more, but one that I wrote from that period in my life was:
Whisk me off to nowhere

I don't wanna see the sun.
Break my skin
I'll let you in
If you let me
come undone.

. . . . . 

So ANYway. . . like I said:  a wreck.

"As above, so below.  As within, so without." and all that jazz.

And the MORE out of control *I* became, the more messy and towering and awful my home became.  (And my car.  My car was always a wreck, too.)  And it eventually just all became. . . OVER-FREAKING-WHELMING.

Needless to say, it was not a sustainable way to go about forging a life, and I was pretty freaking miserable.

And the road from There to Here has not been an easy one.

It has been full of pitfalls, steps forward and steps back, and still a smattering of a few dark days here and there.

But I made it.

I survived, and the experience helped shape me into who I am today.  . . .and THAT person, unlike the one I used to be. . . is someone that I'm actually pretty damn proud of.


I've seen the edge of the abyss, and I've made it safely back.  And yes, it is terrifying to know that this same abyss is still out there. . .

But it is infinitely comforting to know that *I* did it.  I MADE IT back.  And, though it has been hard, and dirty, and exhausting, I've now fashioned for myself a life that I finally feel like I can call MY OWN.  One I feel that I BELONG in.

And it is a life that I am unbelievably proud of.

Sooooo. . . all that being said. . . the question still hangs:

What happened?

And what happened is this:

I got my shit together.

I got my life together.

And once I DID, once the mental clutter in my head had been cleaned out, it was time to clean out the physical clutter in my life, as well.

And so I did just that.

And, though it came as QUITE a surprise to me, as I'm sure you might imagine. . . I looked into the mirror one day, and staring back at me was one of the tidiest little persons on the planet.  =)

Now. . . I'm STILL not what I would consider a "neat-freak."

But I AM, now, a "tidy" freak.  =)

I refuse to go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink.

My floors might not be spotless, but I think you'll find that all the toys are put away.

My cabinets are not without Kool-Aid stains, but the bed is always made.

It's actually almost a phobia now. . . but in a good way.

If I'm feeling down, or out-of-sorts, I just look around me.

Things are in their place.

Everything is (relatively) clean.

There is a small modicum of order.

And then I calm down a little.

Because if the house is clean, if everything is more or less "tidy", then that means that nothing is spinning out of control at the moment.

And that is comforting.



So why did I just share all this crap??

It was all true, yes, but not at ALL complimentary. . . so why am I telling this painful, oh-so-very personal story??

Because I believe it's important.

. . . There was a woman I knew once, who, RIGHT after meeting each other, asked me "what kind of work" I'd had done.

. . . she was referring to cosmetic surgery, lip-plumping injections, things like that.

And my response to her was, and to this day would remain:

"I don't think you understand the kind of life I'm living."

I have NO desire in me to try and portray myself in anything but an honest, sincere, and genuine way.

Anything else is a waste of time in a life that is far too fleeting to begin with.

And what if my son reads this one day?

Then I hope it would come as no surprise to him.  Because I intend to be honest with him, too, about the mistakes I've made in my life.

They were all lessons, and I really DO believe that learning from these mistakes is the primary way that we grow our souls.

And I hope I never stop trying to find the lesson in the heartbreak, or the opportunity for growth in the disaster.

Because it is ALWAYS there.

. . .

AND I'm writing and sharing this for one more reason, and that is to illustrate a point:

People change.

It is not easy, and it is not fun.  But it IS possible.

Like everyone, I have been wronged in my life.  Some of those wrongs keep me up at night. . . but not nearly so often as the wrongs that *I* have perpetrated keep me up.

But I don't hold hard feelings against those that wronged me. 

That was then.

Maybe they're a different person now.

Maybe the way they treated me keeps THEM up at night.

Who knows?

All I know is that people CAN change.

I did.

And that means that anyone can.

. . . and, to me, that's a pretty freaking positive thought.


So BE KIND, people.


Everyone out there really IS fighting their own battle, waging their own wars, and advancing and retreating as the days go by.

Be kind.

It's not just good for them.

It's good for you, too.