Monthly Archives: December 2013

It’s In My Job Description

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I'm trying, with limited success, to work three jobs. I got the one that pays the bills for 40 to 50 hours a week. I've got the one I took on when the Big Guy and I decided to become parents. And I've got the one that I'm still auditioning for – The one I get up at – still early, Buddy, don't you want to go back to bed? – 4AM to scribble in my notebook and doodle in my sketchbook for.

I slept in today. It was 5 AM when I finally dragged myself out of bed and into the shower, but I figured I had enough time before the rest of the house was awake – Stop that, kid – to get through a story revision – No you cant have the remote when everyone still asleep.
Thing2 usually does his own figuring on Saturday mornings, however. Like most seven-year-olds he has a sixth sense that tells his body clock when it's a school morning and went to get up early. Today the body clock was working perfectly, and as I sat down with my notebook and a short story I'm updating, somebody padded out in his jammies and socks.

Now, I'm sitting on the recliner with my story in my notebook and no daylight or molecules between me and my seven-year-old. i'm still editing and writing. I don't know if these are the kind of working conditions that Louisa May Alcott had to suffer through when she was an aspiring writer, but I figure scribbling away with a giggly seven-year-old – Cut it out! wrapped around my writing elbow is in my next job's description.

I can get used to that. The pay isn't so great, but the benefits are hard to beat.

 

Priorities

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 One of my less attractive qualities is an obsessive-compulsive need to schedule every half an hour of my day.  However, as more of my waking hours have been surrendered to supporting a new release at work, extra dentist appointments for the kids, and an impending influx of guests for Christmas, I’ve begun arranging my day by the quarter hour.

 Last night, as I stood at the kitchen island, my rear end facing the red hot wood stove and my iPad calendar open, seven-year-old Thing2 came to rest his chin on one of my arms as I rearranged my work day for today. I got my writing at 4 AM, email at 6, kids to the bus at seven, fitness at 7:30, dinner preparation at 8:30 so we can eat at right at 5:30 or whenever I actually sign off work. 

“What are you doing?” He asked.

“Just prioritizing my day,” I said.

“What are prior-ties?”

I thought for a second and then answered, “They’re just important things on my to-do list.”

Then I scrolled to Saturday. Writing got a nice chunk of the morning while the family was still in bed.  I had a block for work, but moved it to the end of the day.  There were blocks for running and breakfast at Bob’s, cleaning and  grocery shopping.  I was moving my blocks of to-do’s from one hour of Saturday to another when Thing2 held my scrolling arm tight and said, “You don’t have any time scheduled to cuddle with me.”

“You’re right,” I said. “Where should we put it.”

“Let’s do it right before we go to Bob’s for breakfast,” he said.

I added a one hour block after writing and running and right before Bob’s to sit on the couch and snuggle.  Thing2 gave me a big hug and said, “I think we got the prior-ties in order, Mom.”

Silly Little Love Thong

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It was when I was standing in the toothpaste and tampon aisle that I realized that the powers that be will try to sell us on anything.

Why else would the feminine hygiene market be trying to market us on a mini pads for a thong? I don’t know about the rest of my gender, the last thing I’m thinking of during that time of the month, is how I can find a way to wear the most uncomfortable undergarment possible.

I looked down at my own body and admitted there were a lot of days during the month I wouldn’t even consider wearing a thong, and most of those all of those days end with a ‘Y’. And as I snorted in disgust, I almost whispered those dirty words that everyone has uttered at some point in his or her adult life. “I hate my body.”  

But I didn’t. I stopped myself.  And, as I retreated to the safety of the toothpaste side of that aisle, I knew what they really trying to sell me.

I haven’t said those words more than once in the last six months. I haven’t abandoned them because I’ve lost so much weight that I love the way my body looks. The reality is, that even when I get to my goal weight, I’ll have so much loose skin from childbearing, breast-feeding, and carrying too much weight for too many years that wearing a thong even in private might give my husband reasonable grounds for divorce if his eyes weren’t so bad . 

I eschewed the phrase during my first 7 mile run. For some people 7 miles isn’t very far, but for me it was a milestone. I was huffing and puffing the whole way, and when I realized the last part of my race would be uphill, I felt the words rising.  I hate my body.

My feet became dead weights, and I slowed. It was as if my were body rebelling against the arrows I had just slung.

“What have I done?” It was asking me. “What have I done except carry you the last 40-odd years while giving you two healthy children – all without complaint? You have neglected me. You have gorged and let me grow weak, and I have served you anyway”

I came to a complete stop and looked down.   It was right. If my body doesn’t perform to my expectations it’s because I haven’t treated it with respect.

That’s been changing over the last few months with better nutrition and exercise. But the change is not only physical. When I selected goal weight, it was not based on a jean size, it was based on a healthy BMI for my age. And I’ve come to realize that if I don’t love my body –  at every size – how can I expect it to love me enough to carry me into old age and do the things that a body is supposed to do?

So maybe if they make a thong that’s comfortable for me and my body, I’d go for it. But what was for sale on that shelf in the toothpaste and tampon aisle, I’m no longer willing to buy.

Safe Spaces

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Last week after work the Big Guy came home from work and soberly announced that the son of a neighbor had taken his own life.  It took me a moment to start breathing again, and, out loud, I wondered what the rest of the town was wondering that day. “What was he thinking?” 

Privately, I had a pretty good idea of what he’d been thinking.  Only earlier that day had I been wrestling with those urges as I hugged my mother goodbye and had the irrational thought that I would never be happy again once she was gone. A vision of achieving perfect permanent peace flashed through my mind as I smiled at her and my father as they left. It was so strong and so clear that if I had not been having these urges and images since I was 10, I might not have chased it away.

My guess was that this kid, who, for as long as I had known of him, had exhibited self-destructive behavior, had been living with those urges for a long time.

My morning vision and the afternoon news brought me back to a high school assembly on suicide. After a movie and lecture, the hosts separated us into groups. I remember them asking us if any of us had ever contemplated taking our own lives. I was the only one in my group raised my hand. 

One of the adults took me aside and asked me how often I thought about it. I answered, “I don’t know, every day. Doesn’t everybody?”  The counselor  shook his head no and gave me a pamphlet for nearby church. 

Back then I don’t think I had even heard the word bipolar disorder. Manic Depression was just the title of the Jimi Hendrix song.  I did know that just getting out of the house – even out of bed – was often an enormous task when depression hit. When mania was pushing me to outer limits, I was the life of the party.  People thought (and still do) I was a drama queen.  I was told to snap out of “it” but wondered why I couldn’t.  I did know I couldn’t tell anyone about the places and pictures in my head.  I could barely explain them to myself, and trying to describe them to other kids – or any of our teachers – would have added just one more oddity to my already odd personality.    

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that I might not just have the blues.

I was lucky.  When my own bipolar disorder was diagnosed, my family was overwhelmingly supportive, and our home, at least, was a safe place to talk about mental illness.  The rest of the world is not so safe, and not everyone is so lucky.

I don’t know if this boy had a safe place to talk about the suicidal tendencies he had been exhibiting for as long as I had known of him. I do know that we still live in a world that makes opening up about mental illness – or even its symptomatic emotions – is like baring your throat to the wolves.  There is still stigma where there needs to be safe spaces.

Our very small town of 300+ people has talked of it regularly since it happened.  I hope we all continue talking about it. Mostly I hope we start talking about giving other kids like him a safe place to talk about their visions before they become reality.

Impractically Perfect

IMG 3937Winter isn’t officially here yet, but the wood stove is going every night just about. I love our wood stove. It’s an Amish made wood cook stove that heats not only our whole house but all of our hot water during the winter. I love it for its practicality, but I also love the romance of it.

Something about managing the hotspots on the large cast-iron cooktop and knowing where in the oven cookies will bake and not burn makes me feel like a real homesteader. 

Our house is homestead in a lot of ways. Everything about it’s design was practical, initially. We designed it to be off grid, so that the multiple winter power outages would no longer affect us. We built it to be earth sheltered so that we would not be subject to the whims of the utility companies. We designed it to be a home where we could live if as we age,.

The wood stove was also a practical decision, initially. It was a source of cheap heat. It would do all the things that the woodstove has historically done throughout our nation’s history. It heats our water and our space and cooks our food.

But the pleasure I derive from standing in front of our red-hot practicality as the smell of fresh apple crisp in the oven and black bean stew on the cooktop tickle my nose hairs is anything but practical. And that’s not a bad thing at all.