The Life-Rut

Have you ever been in a life-rut? It’s a time when everything around you feels too big and too small all at the same time. You know you need to move forward. You want to move forward. And yet, somehow, you remain in the same spot. It’s frustrating. And maddening. It makes you want to throw your arms open to the universe and scream at the top of your lungs. Not that this would change anything at all, but the scream would be something different. And, at the point where you hit that great wall of frustration, anything different is a good thing. Even if it’s only a scream that hurtles out into the uncaring universe, never to be heard by anyone else.

I’m there. It’s time to admit this to myself. I am in a life-rut, and I don’t like it one bit. It sounds silly to say this, but I’m not sure just how I ended up here. The life-rut feels familiar to me. I’ve been here before, but I thought I was over and done with this. It seems that is not the case. It seems the life-rut has, once again, snuck up on me. I wasn’t expecting this at all, which, I suppose, is the purpose of sneaking. Well played, life-rut. Well played.

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A little over a year ago, I was in a good place. I was eating healthy. I was working out every day and loving it. I had worked through a lot of my childhood issues, putting me in a good mental place. I had lost quite a bit of weight. It had taken an effort on my part, I’m not going to lie. I’m not a person who can just cut back on eating and drop 20 pounds like it’s nothing. I’m not a person who can mentally walk away from my past, my own self-hatred, and my perceived failures. Oh, how I wish I was one of those people. I would be living the dream. But I had put in the effort, and I was finally seeing some rewards. I was (dare I type it out loud?) happy. Things weren’t perfect. I still wasn’t writing. But, overall, I felt good about myself.

I’m not in that place today. Today, as I think back, that time seems tinged in golden light. Because, today, I am stuck. There’s no other way to describe it. I’m just … stuck. It doesn’t feel dangerous or even terrible or anything. I guess that’s the thing: it doesn’t much feel like anything. And yet, I hate it. I feel smothered and suffocated by my own mind, life, and fears. I don’t feel good about myself. I don’t feel happy. I don’t feel much of anything at all. A general feeling of malaise has settled over my life, leaving me wondering most mornings whether it’s even worth it to get out of bed for the day.

Is this Depression, once again rearing its ugly head in my life? Yes. If I’m being honest and rational with myself, I would have to say this is exactly how Depression feels. I mean, I have been here before. This is a well-traveled road for me and my mind. It feels so … awful. That word doesn’t seem to come close to describing things, and yet, it is the only word for it. It feels awful, all the way down into the very pit of my soul. Maybe it feels even worse this time than the last time things got this bad. Because this time, it feels like I have lost all the progress I made before. It feels like Life and Depression have ganged up together to shove me hundreds and thousands of steps backward.

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What happened to all that progress? What happened to all that happiness and certainty and positivity? I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about it this week, and the simple answer is that my husband had a heart attack. This is a simple answer and a not-so-simple one, all rolled together. My husband had a heart attack last January (2017). I thought he was going to die. I really thought he was going to die. And yet, I couldn’t let myself dwell on that at the time. There was too much to do. There were too many other things that had to happen, so I stuffed those emotions away.

If he gets better, I thought, everything will be okay. If he gets better, everything will go back to the way it was. This is what I told myself so that I could get through having to tell my daughter that her father’s heart wasn’t working. So I could get through having to wait for days until they could do the surgery. So I could get through a day of waiting while they did the surgery. So I could get through medication interactions and my husband not being able to hold down food and puking and pain. So I could get through two ER visits and being readmitted to the cardiac wing. So I could cheer him on as he worked up to walking and bathing himself. So I could guard against infection until his surgical wounds healed.

And, somewhere along the way, I guess I forgot about my feelings. Because there was just too much to do. Because I had to be strong and just get on with things. Because that’s just what you do.

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My husband recovered. Thanks be to God, he made a full recovery, even surpassing his doctors’ expectations. A year and, almost, a month out from his surgery, he is healed and healthy and doing fantastic. Everything is back to normal.

Except, it isn’t. Nothing is normal. Nothing can be normal again, not like it was before. This doesn’t mean it’s bad. It means that what we had before is gone. It’s just … gone. And now we have to figure out a new normal. Somehow. In some way.

But I find myself grieving the loss of our “normal” life from before the heart attack. Or, maybe I am grieving the loss of the life I expected to have. I’m not sure. It is as if I have been shoved into a stranger’s life, and I find myself standing here, holding all of these feelings — the fear, the anger, the sadness, the uncertainty — clutched in my arms. And I’m not sure exactly how I ended up in this unexpected place. It’s all over. The surgery went well; the recovery was bumpy, but, overall, went well. People keep on telling me it’s all over and done. They tell me I should be happy about that. I should be happy about how lucky we were. And you know what? I am happy. I am. Really. But I still have all these other feelings, too. I don’t know what to do with them.

My husband has recovered. And my heart is full. And we were lucky. But, in many ways, I have yet to recover. My emotions are full, too. My fear is full. My anxiety is full. My sadness is full. My anger is full. And I have to figure out how to move forward. A step at a time.

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A Day of Checking Out

Sometimes, you make plans. You lay in bed at night, thinking about all the things you need to do and all the things you want to do in the coming day. And you organize and categorize and plan through how you’re going to get all of it done. Or a majority of it done. Or, maybe you know you’ll never get it all done, but you make a mini list of things you feel you can accomplish in the space of the coming day. It feels good to plan. There is something about sitting down (or lying in bed at night) and thinking through a plan, with steps you feel you can easily accomplish. It breaks something huge and uncontrollable down into little bits that feel easier to manage. It makes you feel like you have control over your life, in a way. Maybe, if you can come up with a plan and follow through on all the steps and accomplish this task, you can also grab hold of bigger things in your life, like your insecurities and fears and uncertainties. Maybe you can conquer those, as well.

Perhaps this is just me. I used to be extra-organized. I’m not that person any more. I daydream more. I can’t find things in my house. I’m always losing my keys. Or my phone. Or my glasses. I don’t pay attention to my calendar, even though I know I should. But even I enjoy the feeling of invincibility that comes with knowing I have managed to think up the perfect plan that will allow me to accomplish all the stuff everyone thinks I need to be doing. However fleeting, it is a true “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” feeling. And it is FABULOUS.

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The funny thing is that we really aren’t in control at all. Maybe we can fool ourselves into thinking we have some say in what happens to us. Or that we have the ability to make things go one way or another in our lives. We can accomplish one task or one set of tasks, but there is going to be something else down the road, just around the next corner. And, sometimes, the universe gets in the way. You might think everything is going to go one way, but the universe likes to step in and say, “Um … No. I don’t think so.”

Today was one of those days. I went to bed last night thinking about which errands I needed to run today. I needed to return some things at a local craft store. I needed to return some things at Target. I needed to purchase some things at Target. I needed to make a run to my local Sally’s for nail polish remover. I wanted to go to a certain place for lunch. I needed to do laundry. I wanted to make this blog post. I wanted to do some pictures for my nail polish blog. I had it all planned out, particularly because my daughter was scheduled to stay after school for a couple of extracurricular activities. I had all this extra time. It was a gift! A gift of “here-I-am-doing-all-the-things”. I was going to be so accomplished. It was going to be incredible, and I was going to roar my amazingness out into the ether like a boss. Rawr!!

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But the universe said no. We had low freezing temperatures last night, along with a wintery mix of snow and ice. We woke up to a day full of cold and dreary rain, all of which seemed to be freezing up on the sidewalks and less-traveled side streets. The main streets around our house seemed okay because they were treated, and because there is a lot of traffic on them throughout the day and night. My daughter’s school was closed today due to the weather. Clearly, it was not a day for going out.

And so, we checked out for the day. My husband worked from home. We cooked breakfast. We played with the dogs. Basically, other than a quick run out for lunch, we cocooned. My daughter and I spent the whole afternoon watching anime. I finally got to introduce her to one of my very favorite shows. We laughed and joked and talked about anything and everything.

Did I get any of my planned tasks done? Nope. And I’m totally okay with that. Because I ended up with extra time that was a gift I didn’t even know I needed.

Fae’s Ribbon

I’ve written in here before about my rescue dog, Fae. I’ve had her since she was nine weeks old. She is a boxer-hound mix of some sort. She is, as they say, “of unknown parentage”. No bloodlines or registration or fancy, long names for this gal! Fae is a mutt, through and through. She has a body that looks like a perfect combination of boxer and hound: long legs, thinned down waist, big torso and chest. She has, in comparison to her body, a teeny, coyote-looking head. She has an incredibly squirrelly personality. I think of her as my mutt-boxer-hound-coyote-squirrel mix dog.

I realize this description may come across as less than flattering. But know that I type these words with love. There are parts of Fae that are beautiful, even if, taken as a whole, she is a little odd in appearance. She is sweet and loving. She is the gentlest dog I have ever owned. She is a little crazy, but in a good way. In short, I love Fae. She is an interesting creature in a world of boring. She is an unknown in a world of “everything has to be the same”. She is a mystery, running around on four very long legs. She is an amazing runner, by the way. I’ve always wished I could take her coursing, just to let her loose and watch her really stretch out and run. But I’m sure it would scare her to death.

Because that’s the thing about Fae. She doesn’t like most things. She doesn’t like rain. Or the dark. Or strange noises. Or cats. Or leaves that blow. Or bugs. Or strangers. Or other dogs, except for Shiner (our Springer, who she has known since his puppyhood). Or car rides. Or walks. Or having her picture taken. Or … Well, the list could go on and on and on. Basically, Fae doesn’t like the world. It is as if she doesn’t know how to interact with it and doesn’t know what to expect from it. In short, the outside world scares her to bits.

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So, imagine my surprise a few days ago when Fae discovered the ribbon. The ribbon came off a package of granola. It is a spring green with darker polka-dots on it, and it was used over the twist tie on the granola package. You know … to give it a homey, pretty look. I opened the granola and put the ribbon on the counter.

Immediately, Fae came over to investigate. Here’s the thing about having a long-legged dog: No counter is safe or sacred. Fae is a professional counter-surfer. She is so good at it that she passed this skill along to Shiner. I know I should have put a stop to this, but the idea that Fae — my sweet, shy, timid, scared-of-it-all Fae — had wisdom she could pass on to someone else warmed my heart. Everyone needs a moment. And, I think this was hers.

Anyhow, the ribbon ended up going from the counter to the floor in short order. Fae sniffed it. She licked it. She carried it around for a very short distance. She looked at it in a way I can only describe as “admiring”. Once I finished putting away the granola, I went looking for the ribbon. I figured she was only interested in it because it smelled like granola. Fae is very food-driven. She is one of those dogs who acts like they are constantly starving.

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As I went to put the ribbon into the trash, Fae followed me. She stood on the other side of the trash can, watching as I opened the lid and prepared to drop the ribbon inside. As my hand lowered the ribbon into the trash, Fae reached out and, ever so gently, grabbed the ribbon’s free end in her mouth, just before it hit the trash. Our eyes met. Her tail began to wag.

“Fae,” I asked, “Is this your ribbon? Do you love it?”

She continued to stand there, staring at me with her beautiful, slightly mournful brown eyes. This surprised me. It really did. Because Fae doesn’t love very many tings. She doesn’t even like very many things. And so, I did the only thing I could do. I tied the ribbon onto her collar. The ribbon isn’t very big. It’s just big enough that I can tie it around her collar and make a small bow with the free ends. It doesn’t really show. You kind of have to know it’s there in order to see it.

But none of that matters. Fae knows it’s there, and it appears that, indeed, she loves it. She stood very still as I tied it. Three days later, it’s still there — a small bit of fancy on an unfancy dog. When it comes untied, I will say, “Oh, Fae. Your ribbon came untied.” And she comes to me and stands very still as I tie the bow once more. After that, she goes on her merry way, tail wagging. Perhaps I was wrong. It seems there’s a bit of fancy in my sweet girl, after all.

I Think I Hate High School, part 2

So I’m going to cut to the chase and post the spoiler alert-type thingy right up front. I pretty much still hate High School. In particular, I pretty much still hate my daughter’s High School. But … I am feeling more hopeful that we might all survive with our sanity intact. I suppose I should dial that back and say I’m feeling hopeful we will survive freshman year with our sanity intact. To apply this to all four years might be too much of a reach at this point.

When last we parted, my husband and I were scheduled to meet with one of the principals regarding her biology teacher. I didn’t go into detail about what precipitated this meeting, because my last post on this was already long. But here’s the skinny … which, hopefully, I can keep fairly brief. This is not always my strong point. You guys know this about me.

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My daughter had to participate in the school science fair. She is not normally gung-ho about things like this. If left on her own, she would have chosen not to participate, but it was a requirement for her biology class. She had trouble finding an experiment, because her teacher didn’t approve anything she brought to him. She went through several rounds of meeting with him to discuss experiments before she finally found one he would approve. He gave her no guidance on what he wanted out of her project, or of what he would approve. Each time she met with him, she was basically shooting in the dark. He’s a moody person, and a lot of this seems to depend on his mood at the particular time a student comes to see him.

To register for the fair, my daughter had to fill out a crap-ton of information on this form/database program called Scienteer. She didn’t have a choice as to whether she would use this or not. Everyone has to use this, school-wide. It’s probably county-wide, too. This program is NOT user friendly. My daughter struggled with it during Winter Break. She wasn’t able to get registered, and she told her biology teacher about this when she went back to class after break ended. This was about two weeks before the final registration was due.

Skip forward to a couple of Fridays ago, January 19. This was the last day for kids to register for the fair. Through a string of mishaps and mistakes and miscommunications, my daughter wasn’t registered. Her teacher had told her to put another teacher down as the sponsor of her project, so my daughter ended up falling through the cracks. She didn’t show up on her bio teacher’s list of kids. And the teacher she put as her sponsor didn’t recognize her as one of his students. With good reason, as she isn’t. This is what my husband was there to meet with the bio teacher about on Friday. Because we needed to figure out this program and get our daughter registered. But the bio teacher wasn’t there.

In the end, we got everything figured out, thanks to one of the teachers running the science fair. But it was a mess all the way through. We continued to have problems with the program. The science fair sponsor put herself as my daughter’s experiment sponsor. And she, literally, stayed by her computer and hung in with us ALL NIGHT LONG on Friday. We finally got my daughter’s registration finished at midnight. The biology teacher, of course, was not there for any of this.

My daughter ended up winning Honorable Mention with her project. This was awesome and exciting. She is eligible to go on to the Regional Science Fair, but we aren’t sure yet if there will be a spot for her.

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Okay … on to the meeting from last week. My husband and I show up at school. My daughter meets us at the front door. We really didn’t know what to expect from the meeting. It turned out the principal wanted our daughter in the meeting, and she wanted the biology teacher, too. I was a little thrown by this, but only because I wasn’t expecting it. Overall, it wasn’t a bad thing.

The meeting was … frustrating. Most of what has happened between my daughter and the biology teacher is “he said – she said”. For example, there were two times when the teacher was supposed to meet with my daughter, and he managed to wriggle out of responsibility for both of those. He said he never told my daughter to put a different teacher down as her science fair sponsor. He said he wouldn’t have been able to help us with the registration process, anyhow, so none of that was his fault, either. This conveniently glosses over the fact that he never tried to help her, but whatever. He blamed my daughter for the string of miscommunications that led to her having to struggle through the science fair registration at, literally, the eleventh hour. He flat-out said she never told him she had registration problems at all, which I know isn’t true. I know she told him. But how can I prove it? I can’t.

Needless to say, the biology teacher, had answers for everything. Nothing was his fault. He kept pointing out reasons why all the things that happened were my daughter’s fault. But then, when I called him on it, he said he wasn’t putting the blame on her. So … you get the idea of how it went, right? It was back and forth like that: us bringing up different points, the bio teacher denying them or putting the fault off on our daughter. And he kept wanting to tell us what a great teacher he is, how long he’s been teaching, how much he loves teaching, and so on.

I was a little hostile. I’m not proud of that, but it is what it is. His attitude made me angry. And trying to converse with someone who constantly talks in circles and only wants to tell you how fabulous they are frustrates the hell out of me. I finally cut him off and told him I was sure he was a terrific teacher for some of his students. But that I didn’t feel he was a good teacher for my daughter. Because he was too erratic, because his instructions were too unclear, and because my daughter never knew what to expect in his class. It’s too stressful for her, and it makes her migraines worse.

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In the end, once the principal dismissed the biology teacher from the meeting, she told us she had already talked to him about the main issues we raised. She had some of the email correspondence, and she was able to see some of our problems, just from that. She said they were already taking steps to make sure there were no more missed meetings. And she told us she believed that our daughter had gone to the teacher about her log-in problems with the science fair software. All of this makes me feel hopeful. We didn’t make as much progress as I would have liked, but at least we found someone who listened. And who believed our daughter. And who also saw there are problems with this teacher. The principal said we could switch our daughter to another class.

But, we only get one class switch. ONE — for the whole four years of high school. What if we end up with a teacher who is truly psycho, and we’ve used up our switch on this biology teacher who, while admittedly not a great teacher, is at least mostly sane? My daughter decided to stay in the class. She didn’t want to waste her one switch on this guy. My husband and I supported her choice. But we both told her to be more careful about documenting important conversations. In the event we have to go to the principal again, we want some kind of email chain in our favor, at the very least.

While we were there, I expressed my overall disappointment in my daughter’s school. And I complained about her other jerk teachers, too. Not that I really expect it to do much good. But it felt great to get it all out of my system. I guess that has to count for something.

 

 

Folding the Sheets

I can’t fold the sheets. I have a king size bed, and I dread having to wash our sheets. It’s not that I don’t enjoy having clean sheets. I do. I enjoy that very much. It’s because I can’t fold them. I’ve tried so many methods. I’ve tried so many tactics. I’ve failed — again and again and again.

We use cotton sheets, of course. I mean, cotton is the fabric of our lives, right? All that advertising can’t be wrong. Plus, cotton sheets feel nice and soft and comfy. But they wrinkle like gangbusters in the dryer. My mom always tells me I should iron my sheets. Because, you know, they are cotton. And they wrinkle. If I had a dime for every time she commented, in that off-hand way of hers, that she doesn’t know how I can manage to sleep on sheets that are wrinkled … Well, I would have a lot of dimes. I sleep fine on my wrinkled sheets, by the way. I think the idea that I spent time ironing them, when we are just going to get into bed and rumple them all around, would be enough to keep me awake.

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My husband can fold the sheets. Usually, once I pull them out of the dryer, I sweet talk him into “helping” me fold them. I say “helping”, but what I really mean is that I sit there and watch as he works his magic. I try to console myself with the fact that he is much taller than me. And his arms are longer. So, of course, it’s easier for him to wrestle a king-size sheet into submission. I mean, more height … more arm length … It’s logical, right? This makes me feel a little better.

But then, I remember my mom. Who is barely five feet tall. Who has the arm length of a five-foot tall person. And guess what? My mom can also fold the sheets. My mom can fold the sheets even better than my husband. When my mom folds them, the sheets look brand new. They look like we just pulled them out of the packaging for the first time. They have crisp corners and sharp folds. They are folded down to where they are about the size of a large hardback book. It’s like there are infinite folds. Or like my mom somehow managed to bend the time-space continuum in order to fit the sheets into the teeniest possible amount of space in our linen closet. I don’t understand how this works. When I lamented my inability to fold the sheets to my mom, her response was less than helpful. “You could fold them, if you cared enough. You just don’t care.”

This made me feel pretty bad. I mean, here I was, pouring out my heart about my domestic failures … hoping for some first-class mentoring or Jedi-master level mind tricks or mother-daughter bonding or something … and all I got was that I didn’t care enough. It lasted for about thirty minutes. It was not a good time for me. But then I concluded my mom was probably right, in some respects. I mean, I would love to fold the sheets. I would love to wrangle them into submission until they were folded down into infinite folds of cottony-soft goodness. I think this would give me a great deal of personal satisfaction. But I’m never going to iron them. They will always be wrinkled. And, maybe this means I don’t care. Maybe the sheets know this. Maybe they behave accordingly.

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In my defense, I do okay with the flat sheet. I can get that one folded down to a decent size. And it ends up looking pretty even and overall nice. But the fitted sheet. The fitted sheet is my nemesis. The fitted sheet is my hell. I can never fold it. In my hands, the corners never fit together. There are suddenly twice as many of them. And way too much elastic. There are always parts and bits that are inside out or hanging out around the edges.

My sweet dog Fae loves to nest. If she finds blankets or towels or anything relatively soft, she will dig in it and push it around and pile it up until it’s a big, lumpy mess of soft, lumpy messiness. And then, she will lie down in it. That’s what the fitted sheets look like when I fold them. They look like Fae has been nesting in them. Tonight, as I struggled with the fitted sheets, I turned around and caught Fae watching me. She was standing out in the hall, looking longingly at the mess I was making. She probably thought I was building the perfect nest, just for her. And she probably had loving doggie thoughts that made her feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

As I shoved my now-folded sheets into the linen closet, quickly slamming the door before anything could tumble down onto the floor, I heard Fae sigh. She had a disappointed look on her face — the kind of sad, pathetic look only a dog can manage. What could I tell her? How could I explain? It wasn’t that I wanted to deprive her of the perfect, messy nest. It’s just that I don’t have whatever gene it is that allows one to fold the sheets perfectly. Whatever gene that is skipped me entirely.

But I can manage to find the stash of dog cookies, each and every time. So I did that. And Fae was okay with it.

I Think I Hate High School

My daughter is a freshman in high school this year. And here’s the thing: I think I hate high school.

I have been trying, hard, not to come to this conclusion. As a family, we have been struggling with one thing after another with my daughter’s school ever since the beginning of the year. I’ve tried to talk myself out of feeling this way, because I don’t like it. And I don’t think it’s productive. Or healthy.

“Look on the bright side,” I whisper to myself. Or, “It’ll get better. We all need to get used to it.” Or, “It’s a new school. And she’s a teenager. It’s normal for this to be a big adjustment.” And so on. You know, all those things you whisper to yourself at 2AM, when you’re laying awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, and worrying about how everything managed to jump off the rails. Because that’s how it feels. It feels like everything I knew about my daughter as a student has completely jumped the rails and is now barreling toward the final corner that will send us all plunging into the depths of the rocky ravine below. Actually, I feel like this about pretty much my whole life right now. But that’s a post for another time.

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I dread opening up progress report emails from the school, because I never know what I am going to find. I dread having to talk to my daughter about her day, because I have this fear that yet another thing will have gone wrong. I dread having to deal with her school counselor and teachers, because some of her teachers are jerks and her counselor didn’t seem all that interested in our problems. I realize this is a blanket statement. I have actual, concrete reasons, based on personal experience, for feeling this way. I had planned to share these anecdotes in here, but I realized it would make this post a lot longer than it already is. Maybe I’ll blog about them separately. I don’t know.

I don’t know what to do with these feelings of dread. No, that’s not accurate. I do know what to do with them, but I feel like I’m not emotionally strong enough to deal with them. That sounds ridiculous. I know it does. I’m a grown-ass woman. I was a lawyer. I should thrive on conflict, right? But I don’t. I went to law school because I love the law and the logic of it and the way it works. I love the puzzle of it and the moving parts. I was good at my job as a lawyer because I’m smart and could push myself to be something I wasn’t. But a person can’t do that for forever.

I feel fragile and brittle right now. If I let myself, I would sit at my desk and cry every day. All day, every day. Losing one aunt, then another aunt, and then almost my husband, all within the span of less than a year, has done a number on me and my emotions. I know I should “get over it”. I KNOW this. And yet … I’m raw. Absolutely raw. You know that feeling of running from one fire to the next and the next and the next? You keep telling yourself that you can do this. If you put out that last fire, there will be no more fires. I mean, eventually, there won’t be any more fires, right? That’s logical. That makes sense. That’s me, only the fires never stop coming.

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I feel like, if one more thing goes wrong, or if I have to deal with just one more thing, I will fly to pieces. I’m worried about my daughter’s school situation, but I feel ineffective to do anything about it. I can keep on putting out the fires as they come up, but I can’t change her teachers. I can’t make them NOT jerks. I can’t make her counselor care. My daughter feels that some of her teachers (the ones who are jerks) don’t like her. As a result, she has become less enthusiastic about school. She has started not to care. I can’t change this, either. I can remind my daughter that the world is full of jerks. I can remind her that not everyone is going to like her. I can love her and tell her how much I like her and how special she is to me. I can stay after her to be organized, and I can try to find ways for her to be more organized. And I do all of this, every day. But the fires keep on popping up.

Last week, some things came to a head regarding my daughter’s biology teacher. He has been a particular problem this year because he is arbitrary and unpredictable. He tells the class one thing, but later turns around and says he never said it. For example, my daughter and her partner had to build a cell model. One of the requirements was that the model had to show how the cell interacted with the cells around it. As an example of this, the teacher showed the class a model from a previous year that showed half-sections of the cells on either side of the modeled cell. My daughter and her partner made their cell model, and, to show how it interacted with other cells around it, they put in half-sections of cells on either side. The teacher counted off points from their project because they had used half-sections instead of showing the whole cell on either side — even though his example did the exact same thing, and even though the rubric didn’t include a requirement that they use whole cells on either side of their model. He gives unclear instructions for projects. He only returns my daughter’s emails about half the time. He hardly ever answers my emails. He has told my daughter, on more than one occasion, to meet with him at a certain time, and then not been in his room (or even in the school) when she comes to meet with him. He then turns around and accuses my daughter of not coming at all. It has been … frustrating. To say the least. My daughter feels anxious, nervous, and extremely stressed in his class, because she never knows what he will do or say. She never knows if her work is going to be adequate, even if she follows all the instructions he has given. There have been tears on more than one occasion — mine and hers.

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This afternoon, my husband and I are going to the school to meet with an assistant principal. We are going to discuss the biology teacher. It needs to happen. At first, I thought things would become easier for my daughter in that class once she adjusted and got used to the teacher. I’ve always thought it was possible to figure out how to get along with any teacher, especially since you only see them for a short amount of time during the day or week. It’s not like elementary school, where the kiddos have the same teacher all day long. But here we are, at the end of the second quarter of school and bringing the first semester to a close, and my daughter is still having the same problems in biology she has had from Day 1. Clearly, I was wrong about things getting easier.

My husband and I talked about it, and we’ve decided to do something we’ve never done before. We are going to ask the school to transfer our daughter to another class. I don’t generally believe in doing this, but I feel like it needs to happen this time. My daughter was diagnosed with chronic migraines this month, just a couple of weeks ago. Stress is a big trigger, and the biology teacher isn’t helping her health. I don’t know if it’s possible for the school to move her to a different class. I’m not sure what they are going to say or how the meeting is going to go. I’m dreading it, but I’m glad my husband will be there, too. At least I won’t feel alone. Having him there helps me feel brave.

I hope something gives soon, whether it’s a new class or us figuring out a way to live with the crazy, erratic teacher she already has. Because I would really like to know at least one fire is put out, for good.

 

 

 

Oh, Christmas Tree

I’m one of those people. You know … the ones who put their Christmas decorations up right after Thanksgiving and, then, leave them in place until sometime in February. I know, I know. People like me tend to annoy and irritate most everyone else. I mean, not all the time. But when it comes to the whole Christmas decoration thing, we’re a pain in the hoo-hah.

I think the right after Thanksgiving thing is pretty common. Most people I know put their trees and decorations up the weekend after Thanksgiving. Growing up, my dad worked what was called a “seven and seven” schedule. This meant he spent seven days living at his work site, and then he was home for seven days. If he was home for Thanksgiving, my family always put up our decorations the weekend after the Thanksgiving holiday. So we would gorge on turkey and count our blessings on Thursday. And by Saturday, we would be out hiking over our property in search of the perfect tree. By Sunday, our tree and house would be all decked out: ornaments, lights, the works. On that first Sunday evening, once all the lights were in place, we would turn all of them on, including the tree. Our house was at the top of a hill, and we had a long, unpaved driveway down to the road in and out of the area where we lived. We would all hike down the driveway just so we could see all of the lights from a distance. Good memories.

My family kept the tree up a little longer than most of my friends’ families. Although it could vary depending on my dad’s work schedule, my parents generally left the tree up for about a week after Christmas. We always had a live tree, which, of course, limited how long we could leave it up. By New Year’s Eve, or New Year’s Day at the latest, my dad generally had us undecorating and putting everything away. I can’t remember ever ringing in the new year with our decorations in place.

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This year, we were late in putting up our tree. We were busy, and putting up the tree is a lot of work. There are things to be hauled from the garage. There are boxes to be searched. There are lights to be untangled and tested. There is furniture to be moved. Still, we got the tree up and running by the end of the first week in December. We had a beautiful tree this year, if I do say so myself. It was all decked out in colored lights, which gave it a beautifully pastel glow at night. For the past several ¬†years, we’ve used all white lights. We have a fake tree that came pre-lit. I like the white lights, too. But the tree is old and the lights don’t work any longer. In a way, this is great. Because those colored lights were fabulous this year. Really fabulous.

By all rights, we should have taken our tree down weeks ago. Most people I know — especially folks who had real trees — have them down and packed away the day after Christmas. We used a real tree for a few years, and, even then, I couldn’t bring myself to take it down that quickly. Although we had to let it go by the end of the first week in January. Real trees just get too dry and dangerous. And messy.

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Having a fake tree does away with all of that. It doesn’t do away with the mess — at least, not completely. Our tree is old and sheds. A lot. But it’s not likely to dry out and catch on fire. This is a big plus, because it means I can keep the tree up as long as I want. Last year, I think we took our tree down sometime in March. And it didn’t get put away in the garage until April. This is overly long, even for me. But last year was a weird and horrible year. I was too worried about my husband’s heart attack, surgery, and recovery to care much about the tree.

As I sit and type this, my tree is still assembled and decorated. It sits proudly in front of a window on the second floor. I still turn it on every night so I can sit and watch the lights. I still look forward to coming home in the evening and seeing it lit up through the front window of my house. I know Christmas is over. I know I’m “supposed” to take down all the decorations and put everything away and get on with the business of “normal life”. I know it’s unconventional and, maybe, even a little bit weird to still have the tree up and lit. I get it. I really do.

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But here’s the thing: I don’t care.

I hate January. I hate this month with a mighty passion and the strength of ten dozen burning suns. It is a sad month for me, one that has always made me feel bittersweet, anxious, and unsettled. Now, one year after my husband’s heart surgery, I have even more terrible memories associated with January. All month, my Facebook memories have been from our time in the hospital or from just before my husband’s heart attack happened. January is gray and chilly and … well, to be honest, it’s more than a little bit boring. It’s also extremely long. Thirty one days … and I feel the true weight of each and every one of them.

The Christmas tree makes me happy. It gives me a little bit of brightness in a world that is locked into the midst of winter. It gives me a little pick-me-up on gray and dreary days that make me think Spring will never come. It helps me get over the bad memories. It’s not like the tree is going to erase those things. But seeing the cheerful lights and the beautiful ornaments helps to smooth out the edges just a little. It’s cheerful.

And so, it shall stay. At least until February. And I will happily remain one of those people. But I did bring in some of my outside lights. I might be one of those people … But I’m not a savage.

 

I Had Me a Day

When I was a kid, my Dad would sometimes say to me, “Little Girl … I’ve had me a day.” This was usually said at the end of the day, when it was nearly time for supper. And the statement was typically accompanied by a groan that sounded world-weary and disgusted, all at the same time. That’s a lot for a groan to communicate. I know. My dad was a master of non-verbal cues.

As a kid, I knew what this meant. It meant my Dad was, effectively, closed for business. He was in a bad mood and didn’t want to be bothered. I would be wise to give him a wide berth for the rest of the evening. But here’s the thing: I was just a kid. I knew what it meant in relation to me and my little slice of life on the planet. But I didn’t know what it meant.

Well, I’m here to tell you, my friends, this has changed. I know what it means. Like, really, really, really MEANS. I even know how to do the groan-thing that my dad was so good at. Because, yesterday … Yesterday, I had me a day.

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It started out innocently enough, as these things often do. I had a busy day planned. I wanted to get several things done, and I needed to do them by certain times during the day. It was one of those days when I needed things to run like clock-work. Or, as close to clock-work as I could get. The night before, I sat down and thought through the coming day. I made a mental list of the things I needed to get done. I wanted to make tortilla soup in my crock pot, but I needed to go to the grocery store for a few ingredients. Because it was a crock pot recipe, I needed to get everything in to cook by a certain time. I needed to mail two packages for my parents — a task on which I am overdue by about a week. We were finally having a day when the temperatures were above freezing and the ground wasn’t muddy, so I wanted to do some yard work. I wanted to grab something to eat in there somewhere, and I was looking forward to the arrival of an eagerly-awaited nail polish collection, which, according to the USPS tracking information, was supposed to arrive in my mail box before 8 PM. This was important because temperatures were supposed to drop well below freezing, and nail polish doesn’t do well if it freezes.

It all sounds like a great plan, right? I mean, what could possibly go wrong? Well, I’ll tell you. Everything. Everything could go wrong.

I woke up 30 minutes late, which doesn’t sound like a lot. But, in this instance, it proved to be disastrous. One of my dogs didn’t eat when my husband fed them on his way out the door that morning, and I had to take the time to coax her into it. I decided to go to the post office to mail the packages first, even though I was starving. The line wasn’t long, but, even so, one person cut in front of me. And then, I couldn’t mail both packages. And then, I couldn’t mail the one package via the method I wanted to, so it cost more.

After that, I went to grab some food at a favorite place. I used to have a punch card to get loyalty points. I eat here often enough that they actually would add up for me. As of the start of the year, you can only score loyalty points through their app, which means I can no longer pay cash for my meals. I mean, I can. But I won’t get free things with my loyalty points any longer. So … that realization sucked.

Then, I couldn’t find what I wanted in the grocery store. And my husband kept texting me with things he wanted. And my daughter texted to say she had a migraine and that her finger, which she injured on Sunday evening, was throbbing and (still) swollen. I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for my daughter, because, at this point, I was afraid she had broken her finger. I then dashed through the rest of my grocery shopping, ran home, put the refrigerated items away, and raced to her school to pick her up from the nurse’s office. Then we were back home, where I frantically chopped and mixed and all that stuff. I managed to get the food into the crock pot only an hour late. Aaaaand, just in time to run to my daughter’s doctor’s appointment. The doctor’s appointment led to x-rays, which required an hour’s wait. And a stop-off at the drug store for a finger splint. I managed to get home just in time to let my cleaning ladies into the house. I’m so thankful for my cleaning ladies, you guys. This isn’t part of my story, by the way. It’s just something I want to toss out there. While the ladies were making my house beautiful, I decided to use the rest of the daylight to get my yard work done. This was a no-go. I could only do about half of it because the ground was still too frozen.

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After the cleaning ladies were done and dinner was done, I was also DONE. I had a splitting headache, and I was in the worst mood. But it was dark outside, and I had managed to accomplish nearly everything I had planned to do. It turned out my daughter’s finger was not broken, which is excellent news. And my day was over, right?

Yeah. WRONG! As she was taking her shower, my daughter realized she had completely run out of certain “feminine products”. Any gal knows there are certain things one MUST HAVE, and “feminine products” rank right up there at the top of the list. This was around 9:30 PM. My husband was already in for the night, so I had to run back out in the cold to go to the drugstore for the required items. Luckily, the drugstore was open until 10, so I had just enough time to grab my stuff and trundle down the road. It’s not far from my house. On the way out, I checked my mailbox. It turned out my nail polish never arrived. But I consoled myself with the thought that I would get to see my lit Christmas tree as I returned home. It was my one bright spot.

As luck would have it, my husband decided to clean the kitchen for me. And, in doing so, he turned out all the lights. Including the Christmas tree. So I didn’t even have that. But I did have me a day.

An Anniversary

Yesterday (January 13) was an anniversary for my family. Not a wedding anniversary. Or a birthday. Or anything fun or celebratory like that. Yesterday was the 1-year anniversary of the night my husband almost died. One year ago yesterday, my husband went to the Emergency Room thinking he had bronchitis. Instead, we discovered he had had a heart attack. And that he had lost function in part of his heart. From the ER, he was admitted to the cardiac unit. And a run-away journey began for all of us.

The scary thing about traveling down a path you’ve never traveled before is just that: You’ve never been there before. You don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what’s around the corner. It’s scary as hell. It really is. And I feel like January 13, 2017 started me and my family down a twisting, uncertain, and, of course, unexpected path. There were a lot of tears. There was a lot of fear. There was a lot of me trying to be calm and strong and hold it together for my daughter and my husband. There was a lot of me failing at that, and failing HARD.

So far, January 2018 has felt weird. I’ve been anxious and unsettled. Whenever I visit FaceBook and see a memory pop up from last year at this time, I look at it and automatically think, “That was five days before the heart attack.” Or “That was two weeks before the heart attack.” And so on. It feels … weird. I don’t know how else to explain it. It feels weird to look at those pictures of my family, smiling and laughing, and to think about how innocent and naive we were then. It’s weird to look back at those pictures and think about how we had no idea what was about to come or how life was about to change.

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As we were going through everything last year, I remember thinking to myself that we just had to hang on until we got through the first few days. And then, just hang on until we got through the surgery. And then, just hang on until we got through the milestones after the surgery. I thought that, if we could get through one hurdle and then the next and the next … if we could continue moving forward … we would eventually get out of the forest, so to speak. If my husband recovered and came home and got stronger and continued to improve, then we would overcome this ordeal. We would have traveled the path set out before us and come out at the end of it, and our normal life would be waiting for us there.

Looking back, I realize I was terribly naive about it all, even in the midst of my fear and panic. Because “normal”, as it existed before the heart attack and surgery, is gone. It’s just gone. There’s no other way of saying it. I wish I could have it back, but I can’t. I’m not the same person I was before my husband’s heart attack. The truth is, no matter how much I told my daughter everything was going to be okay, I thought my husband was going to die. I thought I was going to have to figure out how to live without him. I thought I was going to have to raise our child on my own. It was me, standing at the edge and staring into the abyss. And the abyss stared back at me. This experience shook me to the very core of my being, and it still hasn’t let go.

Now, in the aftermath, I feel everything has changed. Friendships are irrevocably altered. My online presence is irrevocably altered. My relationship with my husband is irrevocably altered. My relationship with my daughter is irrevocably altered. It’s just … not the same. Nothing is the same. My “normal” is gone, and I don’t know how to get it back, and I don’t know what my new “normal” is supposed to be.

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My husband recovered. I will forever be thankful for this. He is strong, and he is doing well. He’s been back at work for several months now. He is more or less back to his old self, other than a few diet changes and a few medication changes we’ve had to make. We weathered the storm, and I should take a deep breath and relax a little bit. Except, I can’t seem to do that. I worry about my husband all the time. Every cough, every instance of him not feeling well, every everything scares the crap out of me. I feel panicked and afraid. I’m probably driving the poor guy crazy.

Today, as we were sitting down at lunch, my husband said something silly. It made me laugh, and he looked at our daughter and said, “See? I make Mom laugh. That’s why she needs me around.” And I lost it. I started crying right there at the table, and I couldn’t stop. I know my husband and daughter probably thought I was crazy. But I couldn’t help it. In that moment, the reality of it all slapped me right across the face. And I knew there was a part of me, still standing on the edge and staring out into the abyss. And the abyss is still staring back.

Ringing in the New

I hate New Year’s. There. I said it. I don’t understand why people get excited and happy about it. Even when everything was perfect in my life, I hated New Year’s. Even when I was a kid, I hated it. I would stay up with my Dad, if he was home and not working, to watch the ball drop on TV. If he was away from home working, I would stay up on my own to watch it. Even then, it felt like much ado about nothing. I guess that’s the thing. The idea of a brand new year has never filled me with hope or excitement or happiness. No matter how happy I am to see the previous year head out the door for good, New Year’s leaves me feeling … empty. A big, fat pit of nothing. Well, if “nothing” can be big and fat.

I try not to share this opinion around much. Or at all. The people who know me already think I’m strange. Why give them even more reason to believe this? Because it seems like everyone out there loves New Year’s. It seems like everyone is excited and happy about a new year. It seems like everyone finds the ability to shake off the crap from the previous year, take a deep breath, and make a fresh start. Everyone except me.

It doesn’t help that January is my least favorite month. I pretty much hate January, too. It’s long. And dull. And full of gray skies and rain. Or snow or sleet, depending on where you live. It’s cold — not that I mind cold. That’s the one thing I actually like about January. But it’s also dark, with short days that seem to pass me by before I even realize it’s happening.

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But here’s the thing: January is going to come and go, whether I like it or not. The new year is going to come, too. And it’s going to do whatever the hell it wants with my life, whether I like it or not. For the record, I mostly don’t like it. I haven’t liked it for the past three years. But the universe … and the new years … don’t seem to be listening. Or, perhaps, they just don’t care. I don’t know. January is going to close in on me. I know this. It already has. It will push on me and weigh me down until I feel uncomfortable and upset and like I can’t breathe. After several years of therapy, I know this is depression talking. I know this is depression, stalking me and making room for itself in my life once again.

So, what do I do? Do I just sit down and throw up my hands and say, “Whatever”? Believe it or not, doing nothing feels like an incredibly attractive option right now. But I can’t trust that. Because that’s depression, too.

Or do I give January the finger and fight to take back control of my life and my feelings and my thoughts? It feels too hard and like too much. It feels like this will take a huge amount of effort, and it feels like it’s just not worth it. It feels like I’m not worth it.

But I am. I am worth it. I have to remind myself of this — every day. I’ve been avoiding this blog since November and my rather spectacular NaNo failure. I tried to put a positive spin on it. I tried to remind myself there were a lot of other things going on in my life at that time, so it made sense that I would fail. Instead, I hear that little voice whispering into the still silence of my soul: You are a failure. Your creativity is dead. Your ability is dead. You will never succeed. You will never be anything. You will never matter. It’s so easy to listen to that voice. I mean, in the moment, everything that voice says makes absolute, perfect sense. Because the voice is me and it’s only telling me what I already know … what I already feel, right down to the very core of my being.

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I love this blog. I love sitting down and rambling away with my thoughts and feelings. I swore to myself that this blog would not die. And yet, here I am, heading into 2018 and feeling like my beloved blog and my creative spirit are both on life support. Like they are both gasping their last breath while I stand by, feeling helpless and wondering what I can do to stop it. I hate the way I feel. I hate the indecisive, pathetic, whiny person I have become. I wish I was as strong as people think I am. But the truth is that I’m not. The last 3 years have proven this to me. And so, I’m sitting here at 11 PM, typing out words that will soon head out into the ether. I am thinking too many thoughts. I am wishing for too many things. I am feeling too many fears.

But I’ve also decided what I will do. I will write. I will stop hiding from things that are unhappy and unpleasant in my life. I will stop keeping my feelings to myself. I have a blog, for pity’s sake! Why haven’t I talked about any of this up until now? Why have I chosen, instead, to leave my blog dormant for months at a time, waiting until I had something nice or pretty or funny to say? The fact is that I haven’t felt very nice or pretty or funny for a long time. And that’s okay. I mean, it’s not okay … but you get the idea. It’s not something I need to hide.

Because a new year is here. It’s time for me to shake off the crap from the previous year, take a deep breath … And make a fresh start.