On Friday, an old friend from Washington state called me because he now lives in North Carolina. When my phone rang, I was parking my minivan to hold my place in the carline in order to expedite the process of picking up both children when one is released fifteen minutes earlier than the other on Fridays. I was parking my minivan in a long line of minivans, and tucking my four month old into a baby carrier so I could effectively use both hands to navigate my pre-school kid, her lunchbox, and all her art, back to the minivan before the elementary school carline started up.
Archive for the ‘Somber’ Category
There is, yet again, so much to write about.
But somehow, a human who only weighs about nine and a half pounds is trumping all things that seem important. Right now.
Forgive me if posts get a little out of order here.
A week ago, a whole bunch of kids were shot at school.
Though I was home all day, I didn’t hear about it until after three o’clock. Carter and I had just picked up Eliott and it came on the radio. It was the top-of-the-hour news brief on what is normally a pretty tame radio station, and I wasn’t paying much attention. Eliott immediately tuned in to “children” and “shot” and started asking questions.
It is raining today. And a little chilly. And for the first day of October, I find myself saying, “Thank you North Carolina, and it is about time.”
I’m usually the touter of all things summer time, and have been claiming for many years that summer is my favorite season. I like the summer wardrobe better than winter. I’d rather be hot than cold. I like the long days. I like sunshine. Dare I admit this? I like being tan.
Unless you live under a bridge, I need not re-share the news.
I just keep wondering when God is going to renege on his flood promise.
I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again. For all the people who consciously dread bringing children into “this world” because times are worse than ever, my opinion is the very opposite. I’m not actually sure that times are worse than ever. I feel like there was a time far before the land of electronic instantaneous communication (with video) but certainly sometime after the invention of the wheel when it was just as dangerous to live in this world as it is today. Okay, maybe the fear was of something smaller and not as crazy in the head as a gun wielding psycho out West (something more like a germ or a hungry animal) but dangerous none the less.
So I’m not really sure how to begin this post. I’m finding myself typing and erasing, and typing, and erasing, and sitting here staring into a very bright afternoon, and wishing my mother would call me back, and suddenly feeling very, very thirsty.
Brace yourself for a whole bunch of emotional drivel, intertwined with an inordinate amount of social networking references.
On Saturday morning, I found out my 7th grade English teacher had been prompted by–the now Undertoad infamous–Miss Gotzian, to check out this blog. And he did. And then he followed me on Twitter. So I followed him back. One of his tweets prompted me to his Goodreads page, and out of sheer curiosity for just how many books they guy really has read, I requested his friendship there, as well.
Fast forward to Monday night, when I posted my plan to start waking up earlier, as an effort in discipline and focused self-control (over sleep, of all the embarrassing addictions).
At about 3am, I awoke with a nausea so powerful, that though it did not get me out of bed to throw up, it did cause me to dream of throwing up for the next four hours. May I also submit without evidence that this nausea was accompanied by an immediate fever.
And to top it off, Carter was up at 6:30 yesterday morning, doing that thing kids do when they are awake but mom is not. Hovering. At my side of the bed. Just breathing and looking at me.
Apparently Satan, or one of his minions, follows my blog. (Somebody mark that down in my WordPress Milestone stats!)
By the time I realized I was in the throws of a full blown stomach virus, John was already blissfully ignoring all phone calls in court. I texted him to simply say: “I’m having dry heaves diarrhea, and a full-body migraine. I think I can make it until nap-time. I’ll keep you posted.”
The rest of the day is a blur. I went from sleeping on the couch to sleeping in my bed, and I remember telling Eliott to help Carter wipe and not to open the door if anyone rings the doorbell. More than once, I woke up to her singing the “Clean Up” song, which means she was taking her role as substitute Mom more seriously than I would have expected. Carter just kept waking me up to tell me she was hungry. I know she was not hungry, but I think in her two-year old brain, this was the only thing that might get me out of bed. I’m fairly certain, if it came to it, they could have lived off dry Rice Chex and peanut butter (the two things in the pantry they recognize and can reach).
Needless to say, I didn’t get on the computer at all.
So today, as I weaned myself back into the real world with the BRAT diet, and attempted to re-hydrate, you can imagine my surprise to find a message from the aforementioned 7th grade English teacher, in my Goodreads inbox.
It was written on Monday night, apologizing for the bizarre connection, thanking me for the shout out’s to Ender’s Game and Les Mis, and informing me that Miss G had passed away, suddenly, late last week.
So here I sit, all medicine-heady, and already empty, just stunned.
I immediately went to her Facebook page, which, of course has turned in to an Internet memorial site. Scrolling through the notes and memories, I find myself crying when I see a name I recognize, crying more when the sentiment is exactly something I could have said myself.
The woman was loved.
I actually saw Miss G last summer, the weekend of my sister’s wedding in Spokane. Of all the people I could have seen from my hometown, the one and only person I blocked out any time for was her. She drove out to my hotel and spent the better part of an afternoon talking and laughing and catching up. We hugged a teary goodbye and said we need to do this more often. (“Next time–and every time–I’m back in Spokane, I promise.”)
I sort of hate, now, that the blog post which has turned in to my personal memorial, must also share space with a diarrhea story, but I’m not going back to edit. And not because, “This is what Miss G would have wanted,” (honestly, I don’t think she would have cared) but because I have no reason to remember this moment any differently than the way it happened.
I think I can say with complete honesty that Miss G is the first person of real significance in my life, to die. Does that make me sheltered, or lucky, or what? The geographical distance between us for the last decade has been such that I’m not going to walk around in some sort of a cloud of mourning for the next several days or weeks, as I’m sure many are, in her absence. But I am in a bit of a fog, nonetheless.
People always talk about leaving a legacy. I think it’s pretty clear, that she is one woman who did just that. I only hope that one day, after I’m gone, someone has similar memories of my awesomeness, as I, and so many others, have of hers.
At the end of every day in 5th grade, we stood up, put our chairs up, and with backpacks on, recited this poem together, aloud, as a class. I couldn’t actually find it, even when I searched the all powerful Oz (Google) using entire phrases, so what I’ve written is only what I can remember. There are a few gaps. Come on, it’s been 25 years. But somehow, it feels appropriate.
Appropriate that I can remember in such detail, so many things about 5th grade. Appropriate, that my mom and I were just discussing that Miss Gotzian could not possibly have been in her 50s, she looked way too good to be 50. Appropriate that so much of what I’ve said and done in front of this woman has been so inappropriate, and yet she managed to handle me and my 5th grade idiot self, with grace and a really loud laugh.
And appropriate, that almost a year ago exactly, I reconnected with her through my April Fool’s Day Confession, on this blog, and we’ve been in the most close contact of our relationship since that day.
Jill Gotzian, you are loved.
The light that shines for you
The heart that beats for all,
You bring no need to great
You have no hurt to small.
Step now into the Light,
That in this holy place
Shines through the soul’s dark night
And feels prayer’s warm embrace.
Friend, you are not alone,
Look to the light of prayer
Love’s truth come shining plain,
That God is always there.
In Memory. Jill Gotzian, January 24, 1959 – March 1, 2012.
The price of gas is once again on the rise, the gym is full of New-Year’s-Resolution-targeted-weight-losers, every health insurance premium rose (and benefits declined) in America eight days ago, and somebody else just got diagnosed with cancer, just now.
And what are we freaking out about this morning? Red leggings and a Highlight’s calendar. Stickers, to be more specific.
No. Not my four-year old. Me.
Last Thursday was the first meeting of the MOMS group I sporadically attend for the year. Much like last year, the focus for the lesson that day was about reaching into our inner passions and setting goals for what we can be doing with our lives right now, using our gifts, blessing others, blah, blah, blah. So at the very end, the speaker posed this question (to a room full of mothers): “If you didn’t have children (or a husband, ha ha) to take care of right now, what would you be doing with your time?”
It was supposed to be an exercise in self-reflection, so I was honest when I wrote on my 3X5 card: “I’m 30. If I didn’t have a husband in my life right now, let’s face it, I’d probably be out looking for one. And if I didn’t have kids to take care of right now, I’d be trying to get pregnant.”
Okay, so this wasn’t the popular passion of the room that day. But when I stripped away everything else, and really thought about what I’ve always wanted in my life, I can tell you that the answer has never been something about a career, or a level of wealth, or a position of success. When I was about 15, I’m pretty sure I still enjoyed playing house. Most of my daydreams (and many of my night dreams) from high school included sitting around a big table eating a meal with a family that was all mine. A big one. Lots of noise. Lots of good food. And a pervading feeling of contentment.
While most women I know are making goals to lose weight and de-clutter their lives, I’m using my gym membership to get free babysitting and wondering how in the world we’re ever going to be able to afford the furniture we could really use in this house. (Clutter is currently the least of our worries.) I realize that by comparing myself to most women my age, it often appears that I’m trying to paint myself in a corner of superiority. I don’t necessarily do this to make others feel worse about their situations, but in my super secret inner vault of insecurity, it is the easiest way to remind myself to stop waiting for the next best thing.
I’m not exactly sure what any of this has to do with stop-with-the-stickers-already and no-you-can’t-wear-red-and-pink-together-not-today-not-ever. But I’m feeling an overwhelming urge to stop making passion-based plans for my future, stop complaining about how certain pairs of pants make my butt look too small, and stop freaking out about when we’re finally going to arrive at some magical place and moment of contentment.
Did anyone else jump on The Happiness Project bandwagon last year? *Guilty. My word of the year?
In hindsight, it might have been a little lofty, but somehow I still understand exactly what I was thinking when I chose it. I haven’t actually decided on a word for 2012, or even whether to chose one at all.
Instead, this year I’m starting off by summoning my 15 year old self and yelling at her: “We have arrived!”
I used to create elaborate lists of resolutions, typical mundane things like exercise my heart, mind, and body in new and exciting ways, on a more consistent basis or be kinder to my family, friends, strangers, humanity in general (I’ve maybe accomplished a quarter of that one and it is an ongoing struggle), and, according to my high school and college journals, this one seemed to be a particular favorite: make time every day to read my Bible and pray. (*God, does it bother you that we Christians have to write you into our daily and yearly to-do lists to remember to talk to you?) (more…)
I need to say for the record that there are several things I do not miss about teaching public school. Namely: parent complaints/meetings; student sense of apathy; 30% failure rates due in large part to laziness, then the direction to “give them an option for passing” long past due dates; classes with 30+ students; poor regulation of heating and cooling, resulting in never being able to dress for the season; lack of windows. There are also several things I do not miss about teaching private school: parent complaints/meetings; student sense of entitlement; 20% A-B borderline students, then the direction to “give them an option for the A” long past due dates; classes with only one student who would rather carry on 90-minute personal conversations with me, than do work; working the “car line” from the parking lot from February to April, the coldest rainiest months of the year (which was, essentially, calling the names of mostly high school students to alert them to the fact that their parents were waiting, a fact they very well could have ascertained themselves by simply watching out the windows of the gym).
That said, there are probably more things I actually do miss about teaching, both public and private school, and it helps me once in a while to remind myself that the bad days and the good moments did not usually feel equal, even though they probably were. I miss getting to dress up in adult clothes and cute shoes without the risk of being stepped on or touched with grimy hands (though, not so much when I was pregnant, because most kids thought this was a free pass to belly rub their way into my good graces). I miss writing on white boards. I’m a freak. But I really like multi-colored white board markers and notes which require their use, in full. I do actually miss those moments when students decided to like me, and then told me so. It was usually late in coming, but often worth the months of sarcasm, me vs. you verbal fights, and write-ups. I’m quite sure now that I’m gone, there’s not a single student left who still hates me. I miss journaling for the first 10 minutes of every class, with my students. (I was an excellent role model.) But most of all, I miss the reading time. I miss reading Ender’s Game (and other books) aloud to my classes. I miss Fridays, which were made up of silent reading, three times a day, 45 minutes at a time. On average, including the texts I was teaching, I could read close to seven books a semester. Fourteen a year. All because of my personally implemented mandatory Friday silent reading.
It took me almost three months to finish the last book I read, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I also realize that as Oprah’s bookclub pick from 2008, I was a little behind the trend curve to even pick it up. I found it a little more than ironic, therefore, while trudging through the ever slow second half, that I never caught the fact that it is a modern parallel to Hamlet. I’ve read Hamlet on my own at least four times. I taught Hamlet. How the death of the father by poison, then the revelation, by way of a ghost, to the father’s son, that the uncle did it, escaped me, I can only blame on my months out of the classroom. In fact, I don’t think you can Google The Story of Edgar Sawtelle without seeing “Hamlet” somewhere in the byline, yet, seriously, I read the entire book not knowing every character would basically be dead by the end. Had I known of the intentional parallel, I might have finished the book a little sooner. And. I might have liked it a little more.
As it was, the story was okay, but it didn’t blow my mind, as it did Oprah’s and so many of her million viewers. I’m now picking up two books simultaneously – one for bookclub: Shadow Tag (Louise Erdich) and one that has been on my to-read list for more than a year: The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak). If you’ve read either feel free to pass along some nuggets of opinion, and don’t worry about spoiling the endings. I’ve always been a reader who skims the last chapter of a book to make sure the ending is worth the entire read. Surprise ending are so overrated for busy people with long to-read lists. For this very reason, I have a very select handful of good friends I can count on to recommend good books, and outside of that list, I generally (politely) ignore you-should-read… suggestions.
I can assure anyone, however, that I can always be counted on for suggested worthwhile reads, even if your taste resides at the Nicholas Sparks and John Grisham level. Don’t be offended, Sparks/Grisham lovers. I’m not mocking nor looking down on you. It’s just that, if I can get just as much (or more) out of the movie version, I will more than likely forgo the reading of the book. I can, however, suggest something for even you.
Despite the fact that Labor Day was two weekends ago and all the public pools are closed, ladies in North Carolina are still wearing white and the weather is still set to summer. Today in the car Eliott asked, “Mommy, when does school get over?” I’m thinking, kid, today was your third day, what’s wrong with you? In reality, she was trying to get a mental grasp on the meaning of seasons.
From different half-hearted Mommy answers to any number of her one billion questions, she seems to understand that school starts in the Fall, that Fall means the leaves fall from the trees, and that she should be able to wear certain clothes that she’s been waiting to wear. What she doesn’t understand is how the trees still haven’t gotten the message to drop their leaves, nor why it is still “too hot for tights today.”
I’ve given up on the long answer to things, as I’ve discovered my children will pretty much decide to understand anything they’ve made up their mind to be interested in, and, well, they take a lot more at face value than most give them credit for. As a result, Eliott has now added “global warming” to her vocabulary list and has resigned herself to waiting until Mommy says it’s okay to wear tights to school.
Yesterday, when her teacher informed me that she had “forgotten to put on panties” under her dress, I had to bite my tongue from admitting that this probably wasn’t an accident. For the entire drive home, Eliott kept asking, “But why do I have to wear underwear? It’s hot outside. I want to be liberating. I like no underwear. It feels good. Why do we have to wear underwear, Mommy?” At a loss, I finally just told her, “Because Eve ate the apple, and you know what, underwear is the least of your worries.”
I too seem to be a little out of sorts with the delay in seasonal change, despite the change in our schedules. I can’t seem to get a grasp on my things to do list nor how to make the best use of my pre-school mornings. Though I complained about our summer schedule (or lack there of), summer has lasted so long that my body refuses to get into the mode of Fall.
I was recently recruited by a former colleague to assist in a Bible curriculum development project for Christian Schools International. Basically, we’re updating the textbook and teacher manual for a new edition and must be finished by December 15th. (Correction: she is updating the text; I am acting as a sounding board, idea machine, and big picture editor.) The task is by no means daunting, and I certainly have more than enough time to devote ten hours of my week to actual paid work, but somehow, every time I sit down at my computer to do what I normally do very well, I find myself immediately plagued by a mental list of hundreds of other things I need to do. I keep adding to my ever growing list of books to read, and requesting them at the library. As emails pour in announcing my holds are ready for pick up, I’m wondering when I’m going to have time to sit down and pleasure read.
I need to find a dentist and make appointments for the entire family.
I need to find myself a new doctor, and have my annual physical.
I need to go get my license renewed which expired on my birthday, a month ago.
I pulled about 4 years worth of children’s clothes from Eliott’s closet which need to be organized, priced, and tagged for a consignment sale next week.
I’m going to two weddings in the next month, one of which I have actual wedding party duties to attend to. I was chosen to host a house party for the same weekend as that wedding and am wondering exactly where I can fit Johnsonville Italian Sausage into the schedule.
So here I sit, rereading my Suburban Mom List of Negligibly Important Things To Do, and because it is only 3:30 and dinner is already planned, I think I’m actually just going to go take a nap. Why? Because it is close to 90 degrees outside, and my body can’t help but believe it is still summer time.
As a general –but by no means written– rule, I try to avoid overly journalistic blog posts. As of recently, several people have commented along the lines of, “You blog. Awesome. Is it kind of like writing an online journal? I just think I’d feel weird letting the entire world read my diary, you know?” Of course I’m thinking, “Actually, no, that has always been my secret dream. To die, and have all of my old journals published and devoured by the mass market.” But maybe that’s just me. I don’t really blog in the same way that I journal or no one would read my blog. Meanwhile, I’m simultaneously aware that even my worst journal entry has a pretty high chance of being more entertaining than the average human’s best entry. Again, just me?
The truth is, most of my journals are actually pretty boring. I’m a lot more introspective than I let on (both in this blog and in my daily face-to-face conversations), and when I journal, I tend to be really wordy and emotional. (This surprises no one, I’m sure.) So forgive me, if this post isn’t written with my usual wit and whimsy. I actually worked out at the gym today (and sweated a little) and now I’ve just settled down with a plate of baked brie and something akin to a walker’s high in my veins.
I’m feeling a little introspective.
My neighbor and I sit at little outdoor bistro table in the “breezeway” between our houses almost every afternoon, watching not only our own children, but the children of at least three other families while they
terrorize play with each other in the cul-de-sac . On many occasions, one of us (usually me) has just woken up from a nap. I’ve never really told her this, but I really love this afternoon ritual which has developed slowly over the past 5 or 6 months.
Often we spend the time complaining about our 1st world problems, which have recently included “The problems with crappy dental insurance,” “You paid how much to have a baby last year?” and “I didn’t get the 20% discount on my brie last night but it would probably cost $1.60 in gas to take it back and correct it, so whatever.”
I’ve been struggling with disappointment, discontentment, and lack of personal and social satisfaction lately, and I’ve been embarrassed to admit it.
Falling asleep last night I was stricken with The Undertoad (which turned out to simply be a final surge of PMS) and what was left of the rational side of my brain was scolding the other 90% with, “Will you just get over yourself already?”
There are entire groups of people who must go all the way to a 3rd world country to have their life-perspective turned upside down in order to be changed. Without signing up for a mission trip, I’ve decided what I need today is to count my blessings.
So I’m going to go do that right now.