Monday, April 20, 2015

I Don’t Remember Getting in Line for THIS Ride….

If someone rang my doorbell with one of those huge cardboard checks for a million dollars (accompanied, of course, with an actual, cashable check for a million dollars – am I the only one who wonders whether that’s ever a scam? Like, once the picture is taken of the winner with the really smiley, big-toothed guy holding the huge check, does the big-toothed guy ever drive off and “forget” to hand over the real thing? I’ll bet this happens, every once in a while. It’s the big nasty secret of the sweepstakes industry…)

Wait. Where was I?

Right – if someone rang my doorbell and gave me a huge cardboard check (accompanied by a regular-sized, legitimate check) for a million dollars, and the one stipulation was that I would have to go back in time and relive junior high, I would laugh and laugh and then slam the door in his face. No, thank you. No million dollars for me. You could not pay me enough to do that again. And I don’t even mean, like, the entire two or three years. I don’t think I’d take a million to relive just a week. It was that bad

Now, the (albeit small, but it is actually there) rational, non-ranty part of me knows that compared to many others, my junior high experience was positively blissful. I wasn’t abused, wasn’t bullied too intensely, had a stable home, no money worries, no drug addictions, no excessive acne, and had even gotten over the New Kids on the Block by that point in life. (My hair, however…without exaggeration, I can say that I had to be in the running for worst hair of the school. The pictures still make me shudder.) 

But here’s the thing – even my relatively well-adjusted, non-“ABC-Afterschool-Special” (remember those??) junior high life was still, to me, a very traumatic, hideous time that no amount of money could make me want to relive

Got it? Good.

But, as usual, God is hilarious. And thus, middle school has come right back around to bite me in the derriere, without so much as a regular-sized check for five lousy bucks…..through my children. Yes, we have now battled through the bleary newborn years, the circular arguments of toddlerhood, the inane repetition of preschool, the blossoming independence (and the accursed PROJECTS – don’t get me started…) of elementary, to land here, my friends. I now have three children in middle school. AND THEY ARE ALL GIRLS. 

Let that sink in a moment. Oh yes. I’m glad I can help you feel better about your life. Yes, please do have a glass of wine for me. Or a bottle. Whatever.

Now, as a hormonal adolescent, I was convinced (like most hormonal adolescents) that my parents had not only forgotten everything that happened to them before the age of 30, but may indeed have never actually been younger than 30. And in that horrendous phase of my life, I made a solemn vow to myself that when I had children, I would remember what this had all been like, and how utterly awful junior high truly was. I would be so compassionate to my sweet offspring, offering gentle, understanding guidance that would never cross the line to condescending, unwanted advice. I’d be the perfect mix of cool, hanging-out, still-trendy mom and staying-out-of-the-way, call-me-when-you-need-more-ice-cream mom. I knew how it would all work. I had all the answers.

You guys, I was 14, and a genius. Obviously.

I would insert an apology here to my parents, but there’s really no need. Karma, as they say, is not the sweetest of women. My mother is probably laughing herself to sleep every night.

The thing is…I DO remember. I remember the horrible mood swings, and being asked what’s wrong, and not even knowing how to put into words the big knot of emotions in my stomach.
I remember feeling like everyone was watching me, all of the time, ready to laugh at my every misstep. 

I remember being so jealous of the girls who were more “developed” than me and were already wearing makeup and somehow had figured out how to keep their hair perfectly coiffed (which, at the time, included really high bangs, curled into a near donut shape, half up and half down, sprayed with half a can of Aquanet), and feeling like a complete female failure next to them. (And yes, other women’s hair can still make me feel this way…)

I remember both liking boys and being terrified of talking to them. 

I remember the burning in my cheeks when a boy told me I’d make a good mother one day because of my “wide hips” (SERIOUSLY? What 14-year-old boy has the cojones to make that kind of remark??) 

I remember how some girlfriends could be, almost simultaneously, the lifeboat I clung to in the shark-infested waters, and also the sharks themselves, biting the raft and taking me down. And then there were those precious few who I could count on through it all – the ones whose sentences I could finish, whose homes we rotated to for sleepovers every weekend – the ones I was heartbroken to move away from, the summer after my eighth grade year.

And so I’m trying, SO VERY HARD, to think back to that 14-year-old self, who perhaps did have a little bit of wisdom, and to remember. I try to take a breath, when our three beautiful girls go flying by me, each carried along in her own car on the hormone roller coaster, and I try to remember that it truly is a ride over which they have very little control. 

Those crazy emotional highs and lows are both thrilling and terrifying. The lack of control is both frustrating and comforting. Like so much of life (even grown-up, somewhat stable life), it’s more about the ride itself than the destination -- the ride, and the fellow riders. I need to remember this

And on those days when remembering is overtaken by sheer, banging-my-head-against-a-wall frustration…there is always wine.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Plot Thickens

I recently discovered that I have been unknowingly sucked into an evil, nefarious plot. I know this seems absurd, or melodramatic, or all of the above, but I assure you that it’s true. The exact goal of this plot is unknown – and probably unknowable – but its methods are quite clear. These methods are heartless and thoughtless, mind-numbingly pointless and soul-stiflingly meaningless.

What is this horrifying plot, you ask? I refer to….brace yourself….


If, at this point, you think I am being overly dramatic, you are obviously not the person responsible for laundry in your household. Or, perhaps you do not have a million children. Whatever. Please feel free to stop reading and continue eating your bonbons in peace.

People. The battle against laundry has been lost, long ago. It is no longer a task to be accomplished, no longer a chore to be done. It has mutated into its own life force. (I have a theory that such a mutation was made possible by the amazingly powerful stench that now emanates from the dirty clothes of my pre-teen children – GIRLS, no less! – but I haven’t had a chance to prove this, scientifically speaking.)

This life force is most assuredly not a benevolent one. Oh no, my friends. It is malevolent. It lives to destroy us, through any means necessary. (Though since it lacks limbs, those means will probably involve slowly burying us alive, or possibly gassing us to death with the aforementioned stench…)

It is never-ending, endless, soul-sucking repetition. And it is warping my brain. I used to be a (mostly) reasonable, intelligent person. Now, I stand in my laundry room muttering curses at little lacy shirts that have the gall to demand hand-washing. REALLY, lacy shirts?! You’re going to be all high-maintenance and sassy?? My warped brain spins as I try to recall who bought my children these oh-so-darling outfits, so that I can be sure to repay their incredible thoughtfulness next Christmas with something similarly easy to care for, like a box of puppies. Or I saturate the legs of jeans with stain remover as I wonder how it is humanly possible for a child out of elementary school to get marker on clothing during an art project. Seriously? Who is this kid, Jackson Pollack?! I’d better be going to a gallery opening ten years from now…

I’m telling you. It’s turning me into a crazy person. And it’s not my fault. Laundry could be a plausible legal defense, and probably a successful one if there were enough mothers on a jury. The last thing I remember is starting my seventh load of laundry that day…everything after that is a blur…

There are brief moments of clarity, of lovely lucid thought, as I fold the eleventh pair of little pink panties. There are jolts of joy, utterly irrational, when a lonesome polka-dotted sock is miraculously reunited with its mate. Yes, it is highly probable that these moments are their own signs of insanity, their own little cries for help. I’ll grant you that. And yet…

It’s been said that humans have an innate need to assign meaning to their activities, even to those activities that seem inherently meaningless. Some see this as foolishness, this desire to find significance in the insignificant. But what if that desire was born not from emptiness, but from that thing within us that connects us to the divine completeness? What if we search for meaning because it’s actually there, hidden in plain sight?

Because, really…endless loads of laundry aren’t endless. There will come a day when there will be far fewer dirty clothes to wash, far fewer clean warm clothes to pull from the dryer and fold. The million children will not be children anymore, and – God willing – they will have their own place to do their own laundry (which, to be clear, will not be MY laundry room).

So perhaps the meaning has something to do with love, and service, and the prayers that can be said over little stained pants and socks that will never find a mate, for the growing legs and arms and feet that will wear them out of our warm safe house and into a sometimes cold and scary world. Or maybe it has to do with how God must feel when He scrubs the same dirty sins off me that I came to Him with yesterday, and the day before, and a million days before that, and how He keeps cleaning and forgiving even when it would seem hopeless to anyone else.

Or maybe all of the above, and more that my laundry-warped brain hasn’t come up with yet.

So, keep up the good fight, my fellow laundry-doers. And don’t let that pile of dirty clothes fool you – it has nefarious plans to smother you in your sleep. I’m onto you, stinky socks!

Monday, February 23, 2015

A new thing. (Also, I suck at titles....)

Starting things is hard.

Or, at least, for me it is. If you are an incredible starter-of-things – if it’s like, your super power -- maybe you can’t relate. But for me, I excel at procrastination.

I used to think it was because I was lazy. I must be too lazy to start something new, too lazy to make an effort, to make my always-moving brain just STOP and focus on one thing at a time, for the love!

But the truth is, I’m not lazy. In fact, I have an over-developed sense of guilt when it comes to “Doing Nothing”.  I rarely sit down when I’m home. There is always another dish to wash, another load of laundry to start or to fold, another kid’s homework to check, another meal to be prepared. I know that the minute I sit I will be compelled to get back up, so sitting is pretty much a wasted effort. Sitting feels uncomfortable, and not just because of my 15-year-old sofa with no lumbar support. It’s uncomfortable because it goes against my internal instincts of DOING ALL THE STUFF, ALL THE TIME, from morning to night.

So why is starting things hard? I think it’s because starting something new means I could fail at it.

Everything I’m doing now, the stuff that’s not new, the routine stuff – I know I can do it. I may not do it well every day, I may not do it with a smile, I may do it with considerable impatience and eye-rolling, or not to the best of my ability, but I know I am capable of it. Preparing tacos for dinner – easily done. Updating project plans and leading meetings – check. Folding dozens of small sets of underwear – no problem. Finding matches for all the socks……hmm….moving on….

But something new? Maybe I won’t be able to do that. Maybe I will crash and burn. And it’s one thing to butcher a new recipe for dinner or to wonder why I thought that lipstick color looked good on me at the store – those are fairly private failures. But creating something and throwing it out there for the world (or, let’s be honest, my husband and maybe three friends) to read, dissect, comment on, or – maybe worse – for everyone to ignore? That’s public. And a little terrifying.

So, yes. Starting new things, like a blog, is hard. And being real and vulnerable about the hard things is also hard. THAT, I think, is universal. Everyone understands that – that letting people see the soft pulpy innards of you – the “real you” – is uncomfortable and scary. Having a handy mask nearby to don in public, using humor as a defense mechanism to joke about the real feeling stuff, burying ideas and feelings that might not be acceptable to others – we can get really good at that. Again, this is another area in which I excel. I could teach a class on it, I think. Except that would be another new thing…argh!! Never mind!

Here’s the deal. I want to write. I miss it. I miss having a creative outlet, being able to express that part of me that is more than just all the things I do every day. And again – that’s universal. We all have a soul, and a creative part of ourselves, that is longing to get out and BE SEEN. We can deny it and ignore it, but at a cost. Perhaps the cost is a sense of loss, or a smoldering resentment, or a restless discontent. Sometimes we can ignore this part of ourselves for so long we forget it even exists.

So, here I am. And here you are, if you have managed to hang in here this long! I have taken my first small step in my new thing. If you’re feeling brave, desperate, and maybe a little willing to look foolish as well, I’d love to hear about YOUR first step in your new thing.

More steps coming soon…