Tuesday, August 30, 2016

To have to bury a child

My thoughts today are with one of my best high school friends, who will bury her youngest child, a 12-year-old son, this morning.

There were 6 of us in this particular nerd herd.  We had pretty much all our classes together for four years, although a couple of us took Spanish instead of French.  In a graduating class of only 69 girls, it wasn't strange to be with the same group of people constantly.

If memory serves, three of us went to the same college in town, two went to the state university, and another went out of state.  Two live out of state and have for years.  The remaining four still live in the same city, although in different areas of town.  All but one have married.  Four have children.

Yesterday, I went to the visitation to pay my respects, to attempt to offer in presence the words that I cannot sufficiently express verbally.  We hugged so, so tightly, in an embrace that makes me hope that my friend knows just how much I ache for her.  I like to think her hug of me suggests how much she appreciated having someone from her younger life be there.

One of the things we discussed, in the brief way you do at wakes, is whether we ever would have dreamed we would 1. be middle-aged mothers with kids and 2. be in a position where one of us would be dealt the greatest of parenting blows.

As teenage girls in our uniforms, traipsing through the halls, we never, ever would have dreamed it.  It doesn't feel real now, and I am not even in the midst of great suffering.
It is difficult for me to try to understand the pain she is experiencing.

I have found myself thinking the thought, "No one should have to bury their child, " and while I do think that, I also know that many, many parents, both now and in ages past, have had to suffer that fate.  For all I know, I may one day suffer that fate.

As much as modern American life has removed us from the commonality of child loss, with surgeries and antibiotics and accessible health care, I have been thinking about the people I know who have watched their children die.

Mr. B, whose three-year-old son died from cancer.
EV, whose 4-month-old son died from a virus.
M and T, who endured the loss of two children--both sons--one to stillbirth and another at 9 hours of age as a result of Trisomy 18.
And now SB.

And these are the deaths of children, but even if a person watches an adult child die, that adult child was their child.  The child they birthed and adored and watched grow.  My aunt has lost two children in the past few years---one to suicide and another to cancer.  She is old and tired and has experienced much in her life, but I do not think she will ever get over these losses.

It is a loss that you somehow move on from and yet never move on from, or at least this is how I perceive it.

I am not a prayerful person.  I do not go to God to ask for pain to be removed or a miracle to be performed.  I do not give God all the credit and say "God is good" when things go the way I like,   nor do I say "God sucks" when things do not go my way.  I do not understand God or the ways of life in its great big wideness.

What I do understand and believe in is that powerful interconnectedness of people, which may be the hand of God that we all expect to be bigger and greater and more awe-inspiring.

Maybe God is in the tighness of a hug, when one friend from long ago is holding another friend from long ago and wishing there was something she could do to reduce her friend's sadness, give her comfort, offer her peace, in the face of her worst nightmare.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I feel like so many conversations are about rape

I feel like I think so much more about raising G and M than I do N.

I don't know if it is because she is a girl or because with having two boys, I feel like I'm having to do everything double.  Or maybe it is because I am a girl, so I think I know, based on how I was parented, what works and doesn't work.  Raising boys is all new and weird territory, especially now that they are getting older.

It occurred to me that I feel like I am giving a very, very long, life-long, lecture on rape and domestic abuse, even though I have never actually talked about rape and domestic abuse specifically to my sons.

Most of our rape conversations concern the cats.

G is a pest.  He loves to pester anything breathing, but especially the cats.  I really don't think he is trying to be mean, but I think he is bored or curious as to what kind of response he can get out of them.  He isn't cruel in that he doesn't hit them, but he is cruel in the sense that when they mew or walk away or kick at him with their back legs or nip at him, he generally doesn't quit until I screech at him to LEAVE THE F*CKING CATS ALONE!!!

I stress to him that the cats are telling him, in the only ways they know how, to STOP.
I ask him would he like for someone to continue doing something after he has told them STOP.
I tell him that when he gets to be an adult, if he bothers someone after they have repeatedly told him to STOP, he could go to jail.

I'm not sure what else to do other than to continue having these discussions and waiting for someone, somewhere, to knock his freaking head off his shoulders when he won't stop whatever it is that they have asked him to stop doing.

The other night, I felt like we had a discussion of domestic abuse, even though we didn't actually discuss it.

After listening to G be completely disrespectful and mean (while I was trying to bath him and get him to bed), I lost my sh*t and went off on him.  This certainly wasn't a good example of "remain calm and be the model your child should emulate," but I had simply had it with him and his mouth.

I said, "Do you know what I would do if Daddy ever talked to me the way you are talking to me?  I would divorce him.  I have to raise you, but there will come a time when I do not have to be a part of your life.  And if you treat me like this, I will divorce myself from you."

That might be pretty heavy stuff for an 8-year-old, but I think he got the message, and this, I feel, is one of our conversations about domestic abuse and about treating people, especially women, with respect.  I know he sees his daddy behave appropriately, but I hope that seeing mom not tolerating disrespect will be important as well.  

Friday, August 19, 2016

How should I fill in that "employment" box?

It used to be easier to complete the employment box on official forms.

Way back in the day I wrote "editor."  Then I wrote "teacher."  For 12 years I wrote "stay-at-home mom."

But now, in M's second year of full-time school, I find myself resorting to "stay-at-home mom" because it is too complicated to put what I really am.  SAHM is short and sweet, albeit incorrect.  I am a mom, but I really don't stay at home much, and I don't stay at home with anyone.

There isn't enough space on the forms for "substitute teacher and cottage school instructor and freelance writer."

D suggested I write "It's complicated," but that just sounds sketchy.

I subbed twice this week at the boys' elementary school.  Inevitably, when I sub, a student asks me, "How long have you been a teacher?"

This is another complicated question to answer.

Do I say, "I've been a teacher for 16 years," because I got my teaching certificate in 2000 and have kept it up-to-date?
Do I say, "I taught public school for about 4 years?"
Do I say, "I have taught in a cottage school for 4 years?"
Do I say, "I have been a sub since April?"
Do I say, "Off and on for a grand total of around 8 years?"
Do I try to explain it all, which would be 1. far more info than anyone cares to know and 2. a mouthful requiring copious amounts of water to wet my whistle upon completing.

How in the world did I teach full-time?  How did I have the energy and the enthusiasm and the fortitude?

This thought ran through my head yesterday after subbing in first grade.  It wore me completely out, and I didn't have to do anything during planning except sit and think about how tired first graders make a person.

From school, the boys and I went to music class, which means I was pulling in our driveway at 6:30.  D had put in 2 frozen pizzas for our nutritious dinner.  Then homework, then bathing the boys, then bedtime routine, then haranguing N to take a shower and "For crying out loud, GET YOUR HOMEWORK DONE!" after field hockey practice.

I really wanted to finish my book before nodding off, but with 2 pages left to go I just.couldn'

Is it just a matter of being inexperienced in this grind that makes me so tired?
Is it having children and being older?

At the beginning of this school year, when I have friends who post that they are starting their "nth" year of teaching, I thought to myself, "I would be starting my 16th year if I hadn't stayed home."

It gives me a sorta sad feeling to say this, but I'm not really sad at all, so I feel confused.

I do not regret one second staying at home with my children.  If I had to do it all over again, I would make the exact same choice and for exactly as long. Even though I am far more relaxed as a parent than I was 12 years ago, I still think I am the best possible person to raise my children.  I trust no one else and didn't have a mom or a mother-in-law who could have or would have provided child care.

As much as I strive to instill independence in my children, I am also, in my own way, terribly clingy to them.  I don't know that they know I am, but I know I am.

I don't like that sorta sad feeling, like I've missed out on something, although I did miss out professionally.  I missed out on 12 years of income and networking and professional development and retirement savings.  I know in my heart I didn't miss out on what was, and is, most important to me and what I could live with.

I fully recognize that not everyone has the choice, although I suspect a lot of people do have a choice and simply have different priorities and goals and sensitivities and needs than me.  Each of us has to do what we have to do and be able to deal with it appropriately.

I guess for me, I've had to go about this very gradually.  At some point, it is very probable that I will return to teaching full-time, but my path to it is in fits and starts.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Great "Return to School" Purge

Fortunately, the start of every school year coincides with a seasonal kids consignment sale I participate in.  The first days of school for the kids mean I get to go through all their crap and decide what gets sold.

It is very disheartening to me when I begin this process.  I haven't even gone through their toys and games, and I have loaded 99 items into the consignment inventory.  That is 99 pieces of clothing, shoes, and books.

After entering these 99 items, I went back to the boys' room and pulled out probably 10 more books and a set of sheets that is pretty babyish given that the baby will soon be 7 years old.

The kid-stuff purging results in a general all-around purging in my house.  I start tossing everything and really looking with as objective-as-I-can-get-them eyes.

I ask myself these questions:

Are these items of any legitimate use to me?
How long has it been since we've used these items?
If these items have been sitting in a pile for 6-8 months, what is the likelihood that I will actually use them for anything other than pile-sitting?
Do I really like these items at all?  

What astounds me is that I don't really like to shop and, yet, we still have all this stuff.

It is usually at this point that I think about what a terrible pioneer I would be for many reasons, but most of all because I couldn't get everything I own into one wagon.  

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Half my life (and why I won't do a Love Your Spouse challenge)

This summer marks a milestone:  I've been in a relationship with D for half my life--21 years.

I very clearly remember, sometime after we married, a conversation we had about the point at which we would be together half my life.  That seemed like a long time away, longer than what it has actually been to arrive at half my life with him.

This fall we will mark 19 years of marriage.  We keep thinking we'll go on a trip for our 20th in 2017, assuming we can ever firmly decide on a place.  So far we've considered Paris, Bavaria, Hawaii, Montreal and Key West.  But I keep finding places I'd like to add Acadia National Park in Maine to the list.

Overall, I think we are well-suited to one another.  I hear of other couples who have shouting match arguments, and I don't understand it.  I could have shouting match arguments if I was married to a different person, but yelling just isn't D's thing.  He shuts down, and you can't fight with someone who is no longer standing there in front of you.

My parents never did shouting match arguments either. They had "quiet disagreements," and I think this sums up what D and I have.

With this being said, D and I certainly get on each other's last nerve.  There are times I think to myself, "Why in God's name did I marry him?"  There are times when I imagine taking a frying pan to his head.  But some of that frustration at times coalesces with frustrations with the kids, so I'm often not sure how much is actually him or the kids or the combination of both.  He doesn't write a blog or particularly talk about when he is frustrated with me, but I know he has to get that way at least occasionally.  And he isn't the type to huff and puff and rattle crap around as I do when I'm frustrated.

I've seen a Love Your Spouse challenge on Facebook and haven't been tagged by anyone, which is good, because I wouldn't do it.  For starters, D doesn't like to have his photo plastered on Facebook.

But I also don't want to do it because I think it sends a false message, and isn't that what social media is mostly about anyway?  The majority of people post stuff that they want everyone to think is their life, even if what they post is only 5% of it.

People post a pic of themselves at the gym on the elliptical but not of their kitchen counter with 3 packages of donuts (and yes, I'm referring to my kitchen counter right now).

People post pics of themselves dressed up, coordinated with their kids, but not slumming in their paint clothes on a Saturday afternoon with their hair not washed since Thursday.

People post pics of the dinner that turned out beautifully but not the 8 million dinners that ended up burnt in the oven or that tasted craptastic.

And if I post pics of me and D together all smiley, it doesn't convey the 99% of our marriage that is figuring out who picks up what kid from where.  It doesn't convey me shopping for his underwear at Target.  It doesn't convey morning breath and gross nail-picking habits (mine) and beard hair all over the bathroom (his) and watching each other's bodies grow looser and grayer over 20 years.

It ain't pretty, that's for sure.

What we say on social media is probably .2% of the story.  If someone posts that they are moving with their children, it might mean that they are in the midst of or just come out of a nasty, nasty divorce.  There is a lot to, as Paul Harvey would say, "the rest of the story" that we aren't privy to.  We don't want to be privy to it, but we forget it is there at all on social media.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The end of summer.......

I am not dying for school to begin.

I'm ready, but I'm not desperate (although we still have 5 days, so there is still time.)  I have noticed a slight uptick in my beer drinking and cussing.

I have also noticed that every August I have to have a cavity filled, which simply HAS to be correlated with teeth-clenching during the summer months.

I'm ready to have a routine back in the place.  I'm ready for my sons to be able to speak regularly to other little boys who like to talk about penises, butts and video games so that I do not have to listen to talk about penises, butts and video games.  I'm ready for snack time to not be an all-day event.  

But I am not ready for the busyness, the homework, the waiting on the bus, the driving to and from middle school, the projects.

I am not ready to step back on the hamster-wheel of exhaustion.

The summer was surprisingly pleasant.  

My intention to not culture my children this summer worked splendidly.   

We did a week of Girl Scout camp, 2 weeks in Michigan, 3 weeks of nonstop television and video games due to illness and ear infections.  The other weeks were playdates and swimming and other things I don't remember.  My kids spent many, many days in their pajamas  

The boys each read 19 books, and N will have read 3 books over the summer (which isn't great, but she read so I won't complain).  G worked a little bit on his cursive.  

I have been doing some AP test-prep with him, as well.

(I stewed a tiny little bit over whether to do this and decided that since N's teacher had prepped her class, and I don't know what G's teacher will do, and G being G might need a little anxiety-reduction, I would buy a book and let him have a go.  Whether this has any impact at all on his score.....I've no clue, but if it means he will be more relaxed because he knows what to expect....that is good.)

My readiness for school that is not also tinged with wild desperation is strange.

This evening, going up for teacher meet-and-greet, I felt oddly unenthusiastic.  I didn't have my usual jaunty step into school to meet teachers.  Instead, it felt like I was stepping onto the gauntlet.

It has left me all befuddled.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Living like a millionaire is easier if you hate to shop

I do not like to shop.

My mother, who also doesn't like to shop, and I are hilarious on the occasions when we do go shopping.  We walk in, arms folded, and scan the joint.  If it doesn't jump out and beg us to buy it, we leave empty-handed.  If it does jump out and beg us to buy it, it has to be on clearance or on sale to be granted the privilege of riding home in the car.

Some people enjoy the browsing.  Even if they have no intention of buying it, they will look at it.  They may very well look at everything.  I do not subscribe to this activity as being enjoyable.  If I have zero desire for it, I do not want to see it.

There are occasions when being a person who enjoys shopping would be great, like when I'm buying a gift for someone.  I am so darned practical it isn't funny.

A friend invited me to a Favorite Things party, in which you bring 3 of something you love to share with others.  I brought 3 bottles of hipster beer and 3 small hand sanitizers.  (I think there was something else, but I can't remember....maybe small packs of Kleenex?)

This is not to say that there aren't occasions when money seems to fly from my hands, but it is immediately followed by an austere saving period, when I don't want to buy anything.  It is like overloading on rich chocolate and then feeling sick and not wanting anything sweet to eat for a very long time.

After writing my last post about millionaire living, I was reminded how I have dropped the ball on a financial goal that D and I have had for a long time.  We've been in our house 15 years, and have refinanced our mortgage a couple times (to take advantage of when those interest rates were dropping like monsoon rain).  The last time we refinanced (at the end of 2011), we took a 15-year-mortgage and said our goal was to have our house paid off before N goes to college.

As the person in the house who handles the finances, I sorta got distracted by my desire to upgrade things in the house.  We got new flooring in the basement after Shanks shat all over the place, and my OCD could not handle the brown stains on the light beige berber carpet.  Then, due to cat urine smell in the furniture, I had the couch and chair reupholstered.  Then we bought coordinating end tables for the living room (which we had never purchased).  Then the bathroom remodel.  Lots of spending, spending.

We've always paid something on the principal of our mortgage, but I hadn't been hitting it as hard in the past two years or so.  It is hard, even for me, to save up a bunch and then drop it on the principal.  You know you are doing something smart with it, but you have nothing tangible to show for it.  It is a huge delayed gratification investment.  You think, "YES, I've shaved 1 month off my mortgage which I won't see until 2054."

So, I've got a new idea I'm going to try out to both pay on the principal and not feel like I'm taking huge chunks out of saving.  I've decided that every time I go to Kroger, I will take $20 out in cash.  Once I have $100 (at the end of every month), I will go put it on the principal.  In one year, I will have paid $1040 on the principal.

I'm hoping that this will work, and seeing the declining balance will induce me to maybe pull out $40 at a time, which won't feel as painful as taking $2080 out of an account and putting it on the principal balance.

Reality check:  On Saturday, I was running supply shopping and whatnot, and I listened to This American Life on Greek refugees.  It makes me feel ashamed to even be writing posts like this when I have so much and I dither over where to put our abundance.  I try to remind myself that this is my reality, even if, in comparison, it seems shallow.