Thursday, December 24, 2009

Countdown to Santa Claus

My little angel is manic right now and I am having trouble stringing words together, I’m so distracted. And sleep deprived. Normally, she sleeps late and allows me to do the same, which nicely balances out the weird staying up too late thing I’ve been doing recently, but not since she realized how close to Christmas we are. This morning, just like yesterday, she climbed into my bed to pester me into wakefulness, but I admit I love to cuddle with my baby, always in the back of my mind that soon enough she won’t want to anymore.

Being the pagan that I am, Christmas for us is entirely about the tree, lights, getting together with friends, and lots of fun food. Yesterday we made gingerbread - for making a gingerbread house tomorrow, and also for gingerbread men. We also made dipped chocolates. I loved making dipped chocolates as a child. This year I wanted to make them with M, and she seriously considered what three flavors we would make the centers. She chose raspberry, orange, and peppermint, and we colored them accordingly. She was really pretty good at rolling the fondant into little balls, but of course, lost interest in doing it long before all the balls had been made. That’s the fun of being the Mom. Going to the trouble of planning, arranging, setting up, and creating these projects, so that our kids can engage in something like candy making for a few minutes before wandering off to get into trouble in another part of the house while your hands are covered with chocolate.





The wine bottle got opened early. Outside our window, the snow kept falling all day, the kitchen was warm, the scent of gingerbread and chocolate creating a heady perfume, and Windam Hill was playing on the stereo (what M calls ballet music). She danced around the room in her pink tutu and undershirt for a long time, and then it occurred to her to go outside and play in the snow, in the dark, in her tutu. (She thought to put on a jacket, but didn’t feel she needed pants. Or boots, at first.) By the time was able to trundle her off to bed, we had a kitchen table covered with chocolate candy and cooling gingerbread pieces.



Today we are going over to our friends’ house for more cookie making, then back home to prepare for Santa. M can’t wait to hang her stocking. Tomorrow morning, she has a huge pile of presents to open, but I’m pretty sure I successfully dissuaded her dad from sending her the Zsu Zsu hamsters he thought (not being a real parent) would be a great idea. I have my fingers crossed. Merry Solstice/Christmas/Festivus, everyone!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Brother, Can you spare a tree?

Being unemployed is an interesting experience. The last time I was unemployed for an uncomfortable length of time, it was summer and I had a big landscaping project that took a lot of time and effort. I put in a retaining wall by myself, along with a lot of other things. My mind was occupied, my muscles were tired, and I had something tangible taking shape in front of me. Compared to now, living in a rented townhouse, in the wintertime; I realized again last night how much I miss my garden. I feel so useless right now, and I’m not suited to spending a lot of time watching tv. Sometimes I have moments of real terror and panic as I worry about the future. Despite this, I am trying to keep my concerns to myself at the same time being realistic with my child about some extravagant things we can’t afford.

The holidays are never a good time for me, and although I really love certain aspects of Christmas, overall I dread this season. The last couple of Christmases at my parents’ house, I tried in vain to avoid the Christmas Present Extravaganza that they unleashed on my daughter. My mother never listens to me, but I still tried to make her understand that I didn’t want to instill a materialistic concept of “getting” that heaps of presents would create in her mind. I also knew that as a single parent, I wasn’t going to be able to keep this going and didn’t want to set up unrealistic expectations. My daughter has lots of toys and other things, and her birthday is only 3 months after Christmas. The practice of buying random things just to have an impressive pile of wrapped packages makes me crazy. I wanted to try to make it about fun experiences instead of Stuff, but my mother did what she wanted and Christmas morning the last couple years was unbelievable. Along with the few nice, fun gifts that would have been completely fine, they kept piling on the crap so that she was clearly overwhelmed by the end of the morning, surrounded by piles of stuff that she didn’t even register.

This year, it is just the two of us in our little place, and she won’t be getting piles of stuff, and I tried to prepare her expectations without ruining her anticipation of Christmas. This year she is five, and believes in Santa, and Mommy is unemployed. I’ve tried to keep the conversation generalized, not so much about our own situation, and so we just say that this year, with the economy being so bad, that lots of people are having a more low-key Christmas. I reassured her that Santa will bring her something, and that we will have a Christmas tree.

Most years, no matter how poor I was, I found a way to have a tree, so I am certainly not going to short my daughter when I didn’t deprive myself, and so we set off yesterday to bring one home. I did tell her though, that we might have to go to more than one place because I didn’t want to spend too much money. She is so sweet and perceptive, and I don’t want her feelings to get hurt. I still remember how my little brother would howl if we left a store without buying anything.

I checked online to see where the lots were, although I had seen some cut trees at the grocery store and knew that if it came down to it, we could get one there. Those trees had been leaning there still wrapped up for quite a while though, and I knew what shape they were in. I hoped it wouldn’t come to that. Plus, the crappy grocery store trees weren’t cheap.

We drove around where I had read that they had a pretty good lot, and it took a while to find it. When we pulled up, we were the only ones there. It was windy and cold outside, and there was a lone woman struggling to tie down a wreath that had blown over. I rolled down my window and asked her what the price range on her trees was. I told her I wanted a little tree, about 4 feet tall. (Even if money were no object, we don’t have a lot of room.) When she came over to the car to talk to me, M piped up from the back seat. “Hi!” she said to the woman, who smiled and said hi back. The woman tells me what a 4 ft tree would cost, and she says she thinks they have a tree in our budget. M announces to her very seriously “We are running low on money.”

I felt a little embarrassed, and I also could tell that the woman probably felt worse than I did. I just laughed a little bit and said to M, that yeah, we were, but it sounded like we’d be able to get a nice tree here. We got out of the car and I couldn’t help but think about how it seemed that we were in an old movie, where I have my kid pretend to be destitute to con the tree seller to give us a good price on a tree. I thought about what we looked like, me with my little blonde haired girl, talking about how we don’t want to spend too much. I’d put what I thought was enough cash in my pocket and we followed her to the trailer to pay. When we went inside the trailer, mostly to get out of the cold, the guys who also worked there were huddled together, and they jumped up a little embarrassed, making room for us. They were young and had genuine smiles, and they looked like they’d been woken up too early on a cold windy day. When the woman told me what the total was with tax, I was short the 28 cents, which I told her as I handed over the bills, intending to walk back to the car for the change. Quickly she said she’d take care of it, and gave M a handful of little candycanes.

The young men cut the end off and wrapped the tree in my tarp, and took my rope and tied the tree to the top of my Rav for me, as I put M in the back seat. They were all very nice to us and wished us a Merry Christmas as we pulled away.

We decorated the tree, with M putting ornaments wherever it suited her, and she was pleased with my ornaments, which have been packed away these past years. She thinks we have a very pretty tree, and danced around happy last night in front of the twinkling lights.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ah ha moment while watching Arrested Development

When you’ve read this, you will be thinking to yourself, “why?” So, please understand that there were extenuating circumstances and let’s just leave it at that, for now. Okay?

I used to have in my mind Stephen Colbert or Rainn Wilson, or a mutant child of the two of them, but now I have had an epiphany and realize that it is Buster from Arrested Development. This is who my child’s father really is most like. When I heard the actress say the line “people find you odd and alienating,” it made me gasp in recognition. I studied the sweater over the button-down shirt. I looked at the dorky glasses, the high forhead, the receding hairline that makes the non-existent hairstyle look that much worse, and especially the awkward smile and speech patterns. And I knew. My daughter’s father is who they modeled Buster on. They must have followed him around the Cape for a while, studying how he likes to sit alone at a bar and drink PBR and pretend he’s slumming. While he watches boat racing on the TV. Because so many blue collar regular guys closely follow the America’s Cup.

Yes, my poor, poor child is the biological descendent of a person who took for granted his parent’s money and their provision of a good education, squandered it over five years and two schools, finally and barely getting his degree in History, only to spend the next sixteen years in a series of sporadic, menial, dead-end entry level jobs, moving across the country and back, living in crappy cheap apartments, making few friends and fewer impressions, but managing, through some ironic twist of fate, to stop off in Colorado long enough several years ago to impregnate me.

Whenever I consider how his family must feel about him, I think, sardonically, “They must be so proud.” He is now living with them, doing god knows what, and I can only be grateful for the 2023 miles that keep him from being more of a colossal pain in the ass to me than he already is. A master of nothing except being supremely passive aggressive, he recently told me he wants to – over the course of the next few years – acquire the “skills that I can support myself with.”

Did I mention that he’s almost forty?

*sigh*

Lately, his shenanigans have been getting me down. There is no personality disorder I find more tedious and aggravating to deal with than passive aggressiveness. It is no accident that my mother is a master of this game, as well. To have two of them in my life, simultaneously, both of whom have a stake in my daughter’s life… well, it’s no wonder I drink. Please be gentle with me. I know where I went wrong.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Staying Entertained

My daughter never stops talking. Or singing. In this moment, she informed me, she is Angiella, the movie star. (I’d have said Drama Queen, but she wouldn’t appreciate that.)


We’ve had a (long) interesting week. We haven’t gotten outside nearly as much as I wanted, due to stubborn refusal on her part. I hate to make everything into a fight, so I’ve read and watched movies. I saw Angels & Demons, which I liked. (Tom Hanks had better hair in this one) I explored the free offerings of my tv service. I finished several books. Yesterday, bored out of my skull, we went to Belmar to see a movie in a theater. This isn’t something we do very often, since most of the dreck that passes for children’s movies hardly warrants shelling out $15, and a lot of the kids’ movies have elements that she finds scary.

It was cold yesterday, so I debated whether to head out, but cabin fever won. Belmar is fairly new and one of those modern efforts that I approve of in concept: a walkable outdoor shopping area mixed with housing and other multi-use facilities, so that if you lived in one of the apartments or lofts , you could conceivably do so without needing to drive. Yesterday they had the iceskating rink at capacity, and we watched that as long as we could, but it was really bloody cold for idle spectating. I have yet to happen to be over there when it’s been nice out, as I usually don’t think of heading to “the mall” – even a reimagined one – on a beautiful day. But every time I’ve been there since we moved back, I’ve thought that I really wanted to come back when the weather was nicer and explore.

When we got to the theater, M changed her mind to icecream for her treat, rather than popcorn. The bored, slow-moving young women behind the counter seemed to think our request for service was barely tolerable, but the very fat black one offered to scoop the icecream. Unfortunately, her intentions were not matched by skill or savvy. She struggled to fill a scoop with what I could see was properly softened ice cream. The problem was that she thought she should get it all in one pass, so she mashed a blob of the pink peppermint glop for a few minutes before she managed to get an enormous ball of it into the small paper cup, creating an over-flowing, messy and unwieldy arrangement that she proudly thrust at us across the counter. I find it painful to watch someone go through something like this, especially as I've worked in food service and so many things are going through my mind, like the pathetic lack of training any of these jobs offer.  As the movie was due to begin, I didn’t want to take up a lot of time trying to get a more appropriate serving, which I suspected would be difficult and quite possibly futile. So I grabbed a big handful of paper napkins, wrapped the mess in some of them and kept the rest for cleanup, and we headed for the hallway to find our theater.

We found good seats, and I was glad to see that we’d gotten in early enough that the lights were still on, and yet missed the advertising portion of the pre-movie blitz, and only had to endure the (incredibly loud) previews. I got M settled with her dripping disaster, and we watched Fantastic Mr. Fox. Not being familiar with the book, I was a little surprised by the style of the film – stop-motion animation – and was rather distracted by it. I also didn’t really like the story very much. I found it interesting that George Clooney – whom normally I would watch/listen to with great enjoyment – seemed to be doing a parody of himself. Meryl Streep seemed to be wasted in her role. So I spent the movie trying to contain the icecream mess and comforting M during the few “scary parts.”

Afterward we both really wanted to walk around Belmar, and I seriously thought about how nice it would be to sit in the sun at one of the little restaurant outdoor patios, but it was just too cold, and we wimped out and headed back to the car.   Of course, today was much warmer, so we walked in the greenbelt.    Tomorrow is a school day. Yay!


Saturday, November 21, 2009

I'm going to need naps...

I'm not a Martha Stewart-style mom.  I don't plan ahead lots of educational, creative, and labor intensive activities for my child.  I don't spend hours scouring catalogs and websites for handcrafted wooden retro toys or elaborate million-pieced kits we can assemble together.  I never bought one single Baby Einstein CD.

I read to my daughter.  I take her walking and hiking with me.  I take her on vacations with me.  We cook together.  I buy the good crayons, a variety of papers to work with, and her watercolor paints are the real deal.  Basically, I include her in the stuff I like to do.  When it comes to play - real Fischer-Price kind of play - I provide her the stuff and the space and then she's kind of on her own.
It bores me silly to sit on the floor and be "directed" by a young kid, told what to say, and what I'm supposed to do with the toys.  She has been in daycare and preschool and now kindergarten, all her life, surrounded and supported by the best, most enthusiastic and warm, caring, involved caregivers I could find.  Because I not only know what I'm not great at, I also know that I don't have to personally provide everything she needs, even if it is my responsibility to coordinate it.

Our school district is taking this coming week off.  We are going to be together 24/7 until the 30th.  I am already tired just thinking about it.  I really, really hope the weather is mild, because I am going to need to get out of the house a lot.  There are a few places I would like to explore.  I don't like crowds and I am adverse to being bombarded with Christmas music and over the top decorations, so shopping will be minimal, and there's nothing we really need.
I would love to haunt the museums and galleries, but with the whole district off, I'm sure these will be crowded. 

It will be great to shut off the alarm for a week.  Neither of us is good in the morning, and I won't miss peeling the mattress off her back.  But the Daily Show is also taking the week off, and I can't help but feel rather abandoned.  My needs are simple and few; is it so wrong to expect a little backup?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes

We have a saying in Colorado: If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes.  While it doesn't change THAT rapidly, it does change pretty fast.  Which is actually something I really like about this area; there are definite seasons, there is drama and beauty in the natural environment, and it isn't boring. 
I had been watching the forecast, so I knew this storm was coming, and so yesterday - Saturday - M and I geared up and went for a walk in the greenbelt.  It was getting colder and at only about 1 pm it was already getting dark with the cloudcover.  While we were out it started to snow, but I got these pictures first:


One of several bridges that cross the creek that names our greenbelt.  Some of the prairie dogs were scurrying about, no doubt stocking their pantries before getting snowed in.


This morning, it looks like this outside:


By later in the week, it is supposed to be back in the mid 50s, clear and sunny again.  I love Colorado!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Patterns

Our brains have a certain affinity for patterns; some more than others. My brain really likes symmetry and right angles, balance, and proportion. Unfortunately, somehow that led to a tolerance for behaviors that were unacceptable, only because they fit a pattern. I have suffered for that adaptability to pattern.

In my still-new kitchen, I keep reaching for a drawer that isn’t there – I am so conditioned to expect the silverware drawer to be opposite the wall that my brain just goes there. For almost twenty years, the drawers were in the same place, and now – after four years of not cooking and not spending much time in a kitchen at all – I keep turning around and reaching for something that only exists in memory. It is kind of frustrating. Because these simple daily tasks are done in such an automatic way; we don’t really think about making coffee or needing a spoon, and so it isn’t thought out – it just fires on its own. And I’m misfiring all over the place.

I’ve been looking for a job. That challenges the patterns all over again. What led me to this job or that in the past? Didn’t it have a lot to do with what was going on in the world or the community at the time? I remember job hunting before and after 9/11. The “Tech Bubble” had just burst, and then the business community was in the midst of such turmoil. I took a job that represented a 50% pay cut, but was relieved to get it. Now, I am trying to explain that “career decision” in interviews. I am used to being put to use where ever and how ever I am needed. I see what needs to be done and I do it. I am great in an emergency – I have a guaranteed seat in a lifeboat. I kick into high gear and I get a job done. I have fabulous first aid skills and I don’t cry or freak out until it is all over.

It is only after the smoke has cleared that I can begin to consider whether this was a situation that I wanted to be in. I have been on this planet almost a half century and I find that I have spent an inordinate amount of that time cleaning up after other people’s messes. I have a pattern of coming on to a new job while they are in the throws of some major upheaval, or takeover, or crisis. They need someone who can think on their feet, be “self motivated”, and endure trial by fire.

I don’t think I ever signed up to be that girl. It just happened. And frankly, I’m getting quite tired of it. It means that I never get any mentoring or training. I don’t get to contemplate my direction. I haven’t had the luxury of finding where my true aptitude lies. Other than triage.

I am feeling like I want to stop being so malleable and maybe be more open to what suits me instead of what I can do for them. Because I know first hand that a lot of people really like being taken care of. And it is high time I knew what that felt like, too.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Office Space

My fantastic bloggy friend, Bev, shamed me into encouraged us showing off where we do our blogging.  I am actually getting ready for my first job interviews since I started jobhunting, but Bev is persuasive, and this is al lot more fun than practicing interview questions!
I posted pictures of my old cubicle before I left California, here.  But this is my own desk at home.


I love this desk, and have sacrificed part of my tiny livingroom in order to keep it.  I type better on a full-sized keyboard, and I am more comfortable, ergonomically, sitting at a desk than - say, on a laptop. 
This pencil holder is from at least the early 80s.  I think the sentiment it expresses still works.


I would hate to lose it, even though I've seen far nicer pen holders in office supply stores and have considered replacing it. 

So there ya go.  Perhaps I'll have a new office-y space soon!  I have two interviews this week, so at least the fish are nibbling!  That in itself makes me feel better than just sending resumes off into the ether and feeling isolated and alone.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

And what a week it was...!

Wow; what a week! M had such a good time, and I really enjoyed watching her have so much fun. I’m a little worn out, though. My capacity for crowds and strangers was kind of stretched.
Wednesday we woke up to a major snowstorm, and the early school cancelation call (at 5:30 am) made me so tired for the rest of that day. I realize they need to get the word out, but that early? Really? But that meant I didn’t have to peel the mattress off of M’s back that morning, even if going back to sleep myself didn’t happen. Instead, once she woke up and digested the news that she was staying home, she was eager to do her best imitation of an REI or LLBean product tester! We got her kitted out in her snow pants, new boots, turtleneck, fleece, and mittens, and then she was outside merrily playing in the falling snow. The snow continued into Thursday, and so M got 2 snow days. She was out playing in it as much as she could, despite the temps in the 20s.


Colorado means the weather can – and does – change dramatically and without warning, and by Friday the sun was back out and the snow began to melt from the roads and sidewalks. She had a party at school, which I got to attend, and it began with the kids having a parade through the school to show off their costumes, followed by a party in their classroom. A lot of effort went into it, and it was nice to see.


That evening we went to a party at my friend A’s house, and had a good time. Although their daughter was not there, another little girl showed up, and so I got to stay longer than I had thought. That was fun – I enjoyed talking to the smart, funny women that tend to collect at A’s home. I wish I still lived close by, but am glad I’m still on their invitation list.


Saturday was Halloween, so we answered the door to some trick or treaters before going out ourselves. This is one of those “sucks to be a single parent” moments – trying to be supremely organized so that we were both in our costumes and ready by sunset, answer the door and participate in the neighborhood fun, and still be able to go out trick or treating.

Oh, and then drive over to K’s house so that we could then drive to another party, where M and her son got to go out and trick or treat some more. M was in heaven. I was in someone’s home faced with a roomful of people I don’t know – not my favorite thing. But they were nice, the food was great, and at last it was time to go. Except that now K needed a ride downtown as someone else cancelled on her, so we agreed that I’d drop her and take both kidlets back to my place for a sleepover. By the time we ended back at Casa Mountain, both kids were asleep in the car and could barely climb the stairs to M’s room. It took about 4 seconds to get them into bed.

Sunday morning was nice; I was up before the kids, made some coffee and had a quiet moment before they woke up, and then they cooperatively chose a movie to watch while I made breakfast and baked a coffee cake for the Bronco party. I was so pleased that they were being so good and getting along! By the time we showed up at Bronco Central, I was already “done,” but hung out mainlining coffee until the end of the game (which ended badly, btw). M was mad at me that we left before she was ready to go, but the Bronco party was more heavily attended than usual, it was hot and I was wearing a sweater (it was sunny and warm outside) and I was exhausted. When I saw that one of the little boys had tracked in dog shit, I’d reached my limit and knew it was time to go.

I still need to take down some decorations, but the time change always kicks my butt a little bit. That outdated ritual – which I think it’s high time we abandoned – seems to signal the beginning of the Holiday Season. Already there are Christmas ads beginning to appear. Good grief! One holiday at a time, people! I have to get through Thanksgiving first.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Mom?"

I adore my daughter. She is the light of my life. I couldn’t be happier to be her mom.
She’s driving me out of my mind with one thing since we moved into this townhouse at the end of July. She won’t stop trying to have a conversation from upstairs when I’m downstairs. Ignoring her does nothing; she just keeps yelling. We are not yellers. I do not yell. I keep repeating to her that if she wants to talk to me, then come downstairs where I am and then attempt to carry on a discussion. But no.
I may be in the kitchen with water running. I may be standing next to the washing machine. The furnace may have just kicked in, and so while I hear her urgently vocalizing something, the content of the message is lost. Besides, it is fucking annoying. And it is usually something of tremendous import: “Mom, how do you spell –“ “Mom, do you want to see the string on this toy?” “Mom, where is my sock?”
M, I say, if you have something to say to me, come downstairs. I can not hear you when I am not in the room. Stop yelling at me.

In one ear and out the other.

And with the snow we have had for two days straight, she is bouncing off the walls a little bit, although she’s been out in it playing. I wanted to go walking in the greenbelt in all this snow, but the wind has been constant. I hate wind.

Ack! There she goes again! “Mom?”

Monday, October 26, 2009

Well, that was fun

The month isn’t over quite yet, but it seems as if the fun is. I’d say I’ve been rejected, but I have a feeling that I don’t have a whole lot to do with it. The man I was seeing had a lot going for him, but the one thing I didn’t count on was the turmoil going on in his own mind. He’s been divorced for two years now, and I hoped that meant he was open to new things, but it seems that he is not. At least that is his story: he is still hung up on his ex wife. I do know from mutual friends that she has led him to believe on more than one occasion that they might get back together. With the holidays coming up, I suspect that issue might rear its ugly head again, actually. He’s got two young kids and he’s a devoted dad.

Whatever the truth may be, I was the recipient of what I call a Pre-emptive Dumping. When someone says they are afraid you are going to get hurt, so they’re going to end it now rather than later. Good times.

Oh well. It was fun while it lasted. To paraphrase Fleetwood Mac, I know how to pick up the pieces and go home.
What I wasn’t ready for was the big birthday event that we were both committed to attending right after that. The Jungle Quest birthday party was something that our kids were all excited about and had been talking about, and there was no graceful way to not go. I can’t think of a whole lot of other things I hate more than having to spend a day in close proximity to someone who has just dumped me. But M was really looking forward to the party, and so I made sure I looked really good, put on my game face, and we went to the party.
It was a great time for the kids. The main activity was zip lines: the kids were fitted in harnesses, then they climbed stairs up to high platforms, attached their carabiners to the zip line, and then jumped off into space. Some of the kids were clipping on in twos, and M and his daughter went together, clinging to each other like little monkeys. I was proud of M for being so brave and trying everything. She had so much fun. I enjoyed watching her and wished I could have done it, too. I was able to suck it up and smile, laugh, and talk to all the other parents and not let on that I wished I was back home under the down comforter.

Being a rip-the-bandaid kind of girl, I guess it’s just as well that I had to make that appearance right away. We do have several friends in common and our kids love to play together, and in the long run, he’s just the guy who broke my long dry spell.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

OW!

Yesterday, in a fit of culinary enthusiasm, I made a big pot of White Chicken Chili. I’d been invited to a potluck Broncos party, Authentic Mexican Food theme, and I wanted to bring something truly tasty.

Fortunately, I allowed for enough time, because this was a very labor intensive recipe. I stewed a whole chicken and then tore all the meat off of it, chopped onions, and oven roasted the corn. The recipe called for a tablespoon of ground cumin, and my house still smells heavenly. But it also included peppers; bell, Serrano, and Anaheim peppers. Typically, these are not “hot” peppers – the Bells are sweet, and the Serrano and Anaheim are generally considered pretty mild. I busily sliced, stemmed, and seeded these peppers and put them under the broiler to blacken, then peeled and chopped them up, and added them to the bubbling pot. Yum!
An hour later, my hands were red and painful. Washing did nothing to alleviate it, and all night, my hands burned. I woke up to burning hands. This morning, barely awake, I rubbed my eyes, and my eyes started to burn, although not for very long, thank goodness! So, this morning, I googled my affliction, and found this:

“The perception that peppers are "hot" is not an accident. The capsaicin key opens a door in the cell membrane that allows calcium ions to flood into the cell. That ultimately triggers a pain signal that is transmitted to the next cell. When the cells are exposed to heat, the same events occur. Chile burns and heat burns are similar at the molecular, cellular, and sensory levels.”

Nice. The chili turned out wonderfully, by the way.

Friday, October 16, 2009

State of the Union Address

Wow – mention my job search, ur, um, sex life and I get more comments than ever! Sort of like in real life. I’m gratified that you are all so happy that I’m satisfied (ahem) but I thought I’d throw in a teensy bit of clarification.

As a single mom, I am now out in territory that can be pretty tricky. I have a fairly huge amount of concern about how what I do affects my daughter. As I’ve said before, I’ve learned primarily from watching others make mistakes, and then trying hard not to do the same. One kind of behavior that I’ve witnessed over the years is women who parade a stream of men through their lives, introducing each one as their boyfriend, and having their kid(s) meet and get used to each one, only to have that relationship end and the next one begin. It leaves the kids with a lot of confusion and abandonment issues. It can leave kids feeling like no one is worth getting attached to and there is no point in feeling invested in a relationship.
Since M’s dad is essentially out of the picture, and certainly out of the state, I don’t have any child-free nights to call my own. I traded sanity for a convenient babysitter, and don’t have any family nearby that I would leave my daughter with. We haven’t been here long enough for me to have established a babysitter in the neighborhood.
What’s a single mom to do? In my case, it means having “company” only after M is asleep in bed, and not having anyone be here when she wakes up. That is hard to do and not have it be a rather one-dimensional relationship, to say the least. Not many decent guys are willing to go along with that for very long. I got really lucky; I experienced the perfect storm of knowing someone that I am already friends with, that has his own kids that are the same age, and who likes me enough to be a fun, genuine person in the little time we have.

My daughter knows this guy, and plays with his kids when we all get together with our other friends, but she doesn’t have a clue that he and I have been seeing each other. To her, this guy is just one of the other Dads at the Bronco games. I like it that way.

I don’t have any idea whether this delightful interlude will go on for a while. I hope so, but I am realistic. My imagination might be all over the place, but my feet are on the ground. If this ends tomorrow, I will miss him, but life as we know it here at Casa Mountain Home will go on as usual.
It’s the way it is.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The week ahead

This is going to be a challenging week. Tomorrow, I have my first Parent-Teacher conference with my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher. I did them at my daughter’s preschool, but now she has homework! And for some reason my kid is totally spazzing out about an issue that I never would have imagined would be a big deal to her: she doesn’t want to call out her name in response to roll call. She says she’s afraid people will laugh at her. This is weird, because she is a pretty outgoing and socially confident little girl. Sometimes her willingness and enthusiasm to approach strangers – like other little kids at the playplace at McDonalds – blows me away. So this sudden eruption of pseudo-shyness is aggravating. Especially because it’s becoming an issue and they’ve had to talk to me about it. I’ve talked to M and so far she is not budging. I’m at a loss.

Also, a position has opened up at the company I worked for when I used to live here. It is a spot that I had always thought I could do well, and I am going to apply for it tomorrow. They were closed today for Columbus Day. I hate it when I really want something, because I tend to obsess and worry and then feel really bad if it doesn’t pan out.

I have a job fair to attend on Friday, in Downtown Denver. I hope the weather cooperates. This will be a new experience for me. I hope my good pants fit. I haven’t tried on my business clothes for a while. Yeah, that’s what I think about. That, and the parking.

Thank goodness I’ve had a little excitement in my life for the past couple weeks! There is really not a lot to compare to the boost to one’s confidence that seeing someone new gives to your outlook, is there? I’ve been noticing a certain spring in my step (ahem) that definitely has been missing for QUITE a while! Having worked among mostly guys, and rather “unpolished” ones at that, for a long time, I’ve had many occasions to hear the trite opinion that what someone really needs is a good and thorough fucking. I was always the one to roll my eyes and respond with varying degrees of distain. That kind of crass remark seems so simplistic and sexist. But, of late, I gotta say... I see some truth to it. *grin*

I think it is doing marvelous things for my skin...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What's reflected in the mirror

Since I finished the unpacking and setting up process, and began job hunting, it has been a little awkward trying to establish a routine. Having been, in the past, a very physically active person, I thought that I couldn’t wait to get back into working out, but strangely enough I’ve avoided getting that started. I’ve been watching movies and tv and reading – things I didn’t have time for while I was finishing my degree and working. I understand the desire to enjoy my free time, but I also want to feel more energetic, and I know that getting into better shape will help that.

This morning, finally, it was cold outside. My little indoor/outdoor thermometer said 35F when I came downstairs. After I took M to school, I decided to go for a long walk. There are leaves on the ground and a wonderful freshness in the air. I felt the muscles in my legs and hips responding to my stride, and it felt good. I’ve always been a strong walker. It was a beautiful morning. The sky was cloudless and blue, and as I walked through the greenbelt and watched the fat, round bellied Prairie dogs standing alert in the sunshine, and listened to the rustle of the Cottonwood trees in the gentle breeze, I wondered why I wasn’t doing this every day. When I crested the hill on my way back home, I stopped to inhale the scent of the river basin rising on the air. I felt such a wave of peace and gratitude to be here in this place that is so beautiful to me.

Tonight, after my daughter’s bedtime, I sat down to watch an Oprah show that I’d DVR’d, and it was about a young woman who had survived a plane crash that had left her burned on 80% of her body. She has four little children, and demonstrated remarkable spirit letting everyone see how she now lives.

I thought about how I’ve been kvetching about getting older and the signs of aging I’ve noticed in my skin and my hair, and I felt the tears roll down my cheeks. How easy it is to be shallow. How easy to really think that it matters how smooth and flawless the skin around my mouth is or is not. To feel distress over the fact of the curiously curlier white hair that is becoming more noticeable near my ears. To turn in front of a full length mirror and regard my upper arms, my stomach, and my thighs, and to feel anything but joy.

I am strong, and whole, and my body has done everything I’ve ever asked of it. I am in perfect health, and I had a successful and unremarkable pregnancy at 42. I can lift and carry, bend over and touch my toes, and make it to the top of any mountain. Why do I disrespect my body by lamenting its changes? How do we lose sight of the incredible gift that is just being ordinary?

I am not beating myself up; I am feeling curious about how we women, especially, view our bodies and are so skewed about what we are capable of. I feel less inclined to have a bad body image because I was athletic, and I want my daughter to have that same advantage, but I still succumb to the unrealistic and meaningless images that are all around us, telling us what we are supposed to expect our bodies to be for us. If no one ever looked at me – if I was always alone and didn’t ever wonder what someone else thought when they saw my body – would it ever occur to me to scrutinize my crows-feet? Or would I only be aware of how my legs can stretch to eat up the miles?

I have always thought that I would enjoy being an old woman, but I see that the in between stage might be a little challenging to my ego. I saw an elderly woman on the trail this morning, and as we exchanged a friendly hello, I thought about losing my powerful gait. I thought it was high time I got myself back into the weight room. Not to cling in vain to a youthful image, but to try to retain my independence as long as I can. I’d really miss my walks.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Out on the end of the branch, swaying

I’m not one of the cool kids. At best, I have cool friends. I lack the emotional equilibrium, I think. I over think a lot of things. When I seek counsel from my friends, it is usually because I want to “check” my perceptions.


While I am fine with being thought of as goofy and funny, I have a dread of being thought of as laughable. I don’t want to be the middle aged woman shopping in the Junior department.

I want my friends to respect me. I want to be a smart, funny, kind person. I don’t want to be a joke. But I guess I am more willing to risk it than I thought, because I have perhaps started something with a man that is quite a bit younger than I am.

It has not only “been awhile,” but my goals and priorities have radically changed since the last time I was dating. My ideas about what kind of man I am suited for has undergone a major transformation, for one thing. I am far more likely to spend time with other “smart, funny, kind persons” than I was in the past. You know what is different? The “kind” part. Maybe before, I didn’t think I deserved that? Maybe I needed to do more work on being kind to myself?

Aside from things I can’t change, like the fact that I respond to certain physical characteristics, I am pleased to find myself “choosing” someone whom I respect a great deal.

But it is too soon to know whether this is the beginning of something or just an interesting stop on the way. I’m somewhat uncomfortable right now, and writing helps me settle myself.

I have also begun job hunting. (Because I like my anxiety to be full throttle, I guess) I have already received a call from a recruiter, and that made me feel good.

Yikes.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Zen of Dr. Seuss

I love Dr. Seuss. Ol’ Ted managed to impart so much wisdom in his children’s books. His illustrations have inspired me. When I was a kid, I thought I would grow up to write and illustrate children’s books. I am sad to say that my dream did not come to pass, but my childhood was more in the category of science-fiction/horror, and I had to channel that creative energy into staying (relatively) sane.

As a mom, though, I simply adore reading Dr. Seuss to my daughter. At bedtime, after the jammies are on and the vitamin consumed, teeth brushed and room restored to order, she picks out the book(s) to be read. In the past couple weeks, while I’ve been struggling with depression, she’s been selecting Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? along with other Dr. Seuss books.

Toward the end, there’s a page that kind of chokes me up:

“Thank goodness for all of the things you are not!
Thank goodness you’re not something someone forgot,
and left all alone in some punkerish place
like a rusty tin coat hanger hanging in space.”

I think that those lines kind of hit too close to home, but what I have to remind myself of, when I get sad about my past, is that THAT ISN’T MY LIFE ANYMORE! It does me no good whatsoever to compare myself to other people who seem to have sailed past the things that tripped me up and left me floundering. I can’t concentrate on feeling like I’m too far behind in some kind of race. I survived my past, and that is the only part I need to remember.

All I need to do is go in and (try to) wake up my beautiful daughter, or turn the tap and get clear water, or go for a walk on my own two legs, or visit the library.
I have to remind myself how very, very fortunate I am NOW, in this moment, today.

I didn’t remain in the horrible place I once lived in (figuratively, not location specific). I got myself out. There are so many people who live in desperate, filthy, violent, dangerous, fragile conditions. People who have no joy, no beauty, no leisure, no choices, no peace. I am not one of them. I didn’t give up, and I didn’t drink the koolaid, and I didn’t pass it on.

If I have to carry the damn book around with me for a month, I guess that’s what I’m going to do. It has made me feel better than a lot of other things have.

“When you think things are bad, when you feel sour and blue,
when you start to get mad… You should do what I do!
Just tell yourself, Duckie, you’re really quite lucky!
Some people are much more…Oh, ever so much more…
Oh, muchly much-much more unlucky than you!"

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cobwebs

I am sad. I have been vigilantly emptying boxes and sorting through the tangible remains of my past. I have paged through photo albums, stood looking at framed artwork trying to decide where and if to hang it, and finding out just how many of some things I somehow accumulated (like the absurd number of throws I had until I got rid of a lot of them).
I’ve put in the donation box the pile of tapered leg jeans, the cropped shirts, and the Jane Fonda style workout gear. (No, the rest of my wardrobe isn’t a tribute to the 80s. I don’t know what that was about.)
I’ve been able to zero in on the moment of my life that I abandoned the photo albums I kept filling for decades and began to keep pictures only on my hard drive. Despite how relentlessly I (thought I’d) weeded my possessions, I had a stunning collection of fast-becoming obsolete electronics and accessories.

For almost twenty years, even with my cross-country moves, I had a sense of stability, a grounded-ness, and the concept of a home base.
I had a garden that I worked on for years, spending the winters with my catalogs and gardening books, spending the springs watching for growth and weeds, and all the time pruning and digging and mulching and trimming. Smelling, literally, the roses, listening to the rustle of the cottonwood tree, the music of the birds, the skitter of the squirrels. I always had dogs. I brought to the house my sweet doberman and my lab/shepard mix. Then there was a brief succession of “temporary dogs” – including roommates’ pets. Then there was Molly, my first purebred black lab, joined 3 years later by Maggie, the other one. The neighborhood was a grid of residential streets lined with sidewalks, at the end of which was a lake that was eventually surrounded by a walking path. Throughout the neighborhood there were people that recognized me because I walked the big black dogs all the time, and many of them knew which house I lived in. There were also quite a number of people who would comment to me when they saw me about things they’d noticed while driving by my house: improvements I’d made, or cars they’d seen parked in my driveway. I had the same Vet for 20 years. I spoke at a few City Council meetings, and once had a meeting with the mayor in his office. I was recognized in that town and I felt like I belonged there.

I had never had that feeling before that in my life, except in Yosemite. For the past four years I’ve been living in a little box with my nose in my keyboard, and raising my baby.

For the past week or so, as the number of cardboard boxes has diminished, and I’ve been finding a place – or not – for my things, I’ve felt the past following me around, like my dogs used to do. As I confront each pile of stuff from my life, I can’t help but remember so many things. Some of it is deeply painful.
Something I read yesterday really shook me up, and I wish I could write about it. Let’s just say for now that my past contains a period of about seven years in my youth that were obscured by trauma, and that have – to varying degrees – affected me ever since.
It doesn’t always hang over me like a storm cloud, but sometimes, and usually at random, it finds a way to seep into my soul and run like icewater through my veins.
I used to say that my house was my sanctuary. It was solid, and secure, and it wasn’t an accident (although I was aware of the irony) that it had a big oak door and was “patrolled” by big black dogs. The roses and the windchimes softened the affect, but – like the third little pig – I chose a house made of bricks.

I don’t feel unsafe here in this new place. It is amazingly tranquil and bucolic, along with the gates and the security. But I am still a ghost here, so far. Even now with my daughter, I blend into the scenery of the little families and suburban normalcy. I am invisible.

That is what, sooner than economic need, will drive me back to work, and soon. I have a few mundane tasks around here to complete, and then I will be pursuing employment.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Yeah, baby!

We woke up to a chilly, cloudy day. Cool air was coming in through the windows, and by mid morning a light rain was falling. Ahhhhh!



M wanted a fire, and it was just the morning for it. I read for a while and basked in the soft comfy chair, with the fire warming my toes, and loving a lazy Saturday. Of course, we had to head out to Costco and the supermarket. It is kind of funny to explain to M why we buy frozen chicken breasts at Costco but not apples. I remind her that we don’t have ten people in our family, and that we would never be able to eat the apples before they would spoil. (A lesson that she was able to grasp much faster than her father!)



We made my favorite oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies. In the past week or so, I’ve been trying recipes that I’ve been wanting to try. I made a yummy bruschetta that I know I will make again, and tomorrow morning I plan to make a frittata. I bought a convection oven last year that I am only now getting to use, and I love how fast it cooks a chicken breast.

The whole time I was in California, I didn’t cook except for a few isolated times. My mother has her very large kitchen arranged in such a way that neither I nor my father could figure out, and she wasn’t about to let anyone interfere. I had only two tiny shelves to store my food, and one shelf in the refrigerator. Anything else I had to keep in my bedroom (like my cans of V8) or out in their garage in my refrigerator, which they also kept stuff in. It quickly became clear that it was not a fight I could win. I stopped trying to manage an unmanageable situation and lived on convenience food, prepared food, and restaurant food. That I gained a few pounds is not just attributable to my busy schedule!

I am getting a cheap thrill out of my rice cooker, my steamer, my countertop produce and my pantry. My favorite cookbooks – Sunset and America’s Test Kitchen – are seeing the light of day, and I am figuring out how to cook on an electric stove. (I’ve always had a gas range)

I love that M wants to help me with everything, and that she is learning the basics of how to prepare and cook food. We talk about how to make things and she helps me shop. By the time I was in junior high I could make dinner for six by myself. At times cooking has been nothing but drudgery, but when the rest of my life is making sense, I find that my love of good food returns and cooking is the pleasure it is supposed to be.

And damn, it smells good in here right now!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Only Words

Something was bothering me last night and I could not get the noise in my head to stop so that I could go to sleep, so I ended up staying up a lot later than I wanted to. One of the things that I was thinking about was how much it bothered me how my parents talk to people.

I had the opportunity to spend some time on Sunday with some of my Colorado friends, and got to listen to Andy, and bask in the glow of the lovely atmosphere that surrounded me as I sat there in their yard and enjoyed the company. My daughter was running around with the other kids, I was talking to other grownups and laughing and listening to the conversations, and it was all so pleasant and healthy and fun that I really had a warm, peaceful feeling inside. I thought, yes, this is what you went through all of it for; this is what you came back for.

My parents both have a snide, snipe-ey way of talking that is not only mean spirited, but I realize has made me feel on the defensive all of my life. Even when I think they are trying to be nice, they just can’t help getting some little dig in, or belittling something, or making you feel foolish and small. It sucks the life out of the room. I have so many problems with my folks that I can’t begin to explain them all, but this one comes across every time we communicate with each other. My father called me the other day to tell me that he was sending M a present. (Because his name in his handwriting on the package wouldn’t tell me that) and he asked me how the job hunting is going.

When I said I hadn’t started looking yet, he made a sound, and then he said “I guess you’re living off your looks!”

Yeah, we wrapped up the call after that.

It isn’t just that my father himself never did what I did – when he went to college, he only worked in the summers, and for the most part my mother supported them – that’s why my grandmother (his mom) raised me. Even when he went to get his Master’s, he took a sabbatical from his teaching job and concentrated on school for that whole year. He had zero to do with us kids, and let my mother do everything. Through all of his adult life, he sat down to meals someone else prepared, put on clothes someone else washed, and lived in a house that someone else took care of. Okay, he mowed the lawn, etc., but only until his kids were big enough to take over.

I have had a job since I was eleven years old. I have never taken a class, until last month, ever in my life, without also having a job at the same time. I saved my money very diligently over the past few years, while I was also paying for M’s daycare, paying for all of my University costs and also paying off my old student loans, paying off my car, and feeding and clothing myself and my baby by myself.

I chose to stop working at the end of June. It is now the end of the first week of September. For him to minimize my hard work and my discipline like that is just so hurtful and unnecessary, I can’t even express.

They say they are so proud of me, but I don’t feel it behind their words. There has always been the undercurrent that makes me feel bad. I am so glad to be at a distance again from them!

I developed some really bad habits growing up in their house, and one of them is my sarcasm. It started off with me just trying to be funny, to distract people from the violence and anger in our house, and to hide behind. It morphed along the way because I was not the pretty, submissive, compliant girl that the society I grew up in told me I was supposed to be. There are times that my mouth gets me in trouble, and I say things that are hurtful. When my target is a bully, or an arrogant asshole, or someone who is taking advantage of others, I don’t regret the caustic things I have said. I don’t mind being the one person in the room willing to say what everyone is thinking. But the times that I have let my mouth run to the point that I have made someone feel like my parents make me feel, I truly feel sorry.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hairstyles or Mugshots?

Not long ago, some of my webfriends were discussing haircuts from our past. It is a subject that amuses me, because although I like to think I’m pretty adventurous about hair, I’m not, really. Yes, I have periodically cut it very short, but then, predictably, grown it out again. I have done the live version of pretending to be a Growin Pretty Barbie.

I recently spent the day with the local government – I had to renew my driver’s license and register my vehicle, which involved an emissions test. I decided to do it all in one day, and it took all day. Of course driver’s licensing and vehicle registration can NOT be accomplished in the same place. Not even, as it turns out, in the same area. Anyway, it caused me to dig up my files, and in doing, I ran across my collection of driver’s licenses, going back to the late 80s. Before that, they confiscated licenses when you applied for a new one. That was a real drag, because my picture in one was of a haircut that I loved, and somehow didn’t have a picture of myself with it anywhere else. I never could describe it properly to a stylist again. It was my Joan Lunden cut. Remember Good Morning America back in the day?

I thought it would be fun to show you my montage of hair, courtesy of the DMV in the two states I shuffled back and forth between for a while. (I hope this doesn’t get used to forge anything...)

What else is funny? The top one is laminated, like you would do yourself. The technology for making drivers licenses has gotten progressively better and harder to fake, but you can see that Colorado was way behind California for a long time. When I worked behind the bar in Colorado, I once attended a seminar given by the Lakewood police on spotting fake IDs. It was very interesting and informative. It is also amazing what crap some people will try to pass off as real. I never had a fake ID myself. I relied on my personal charm.

As I continue going through my “archives” – as I am beginning to think of my boxes that still remain – I am going to look out for more haircut pictures. 

Also, despite the fact that I started out a size 8 and am now a size 8, my weight in these has gone from 120 to 140.   I lied a bit back then, apparently.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

From the Shadows

I was disenchanted with the whole dating thing. As I got older it seemed more and more pointless. I got to a certain age when the men I was meeting were pretty much falling into two groups: guys who had never been in a long term relationship, and had no idea what to do with one, and guys that had never been out of one for very long, and were trying like mad to just fill a placeholder, more scared of being alone than anything. I just wanted someone who would consider me a gift – not a puppet, not a doctor, not a mother, not a savior, not a bank, not a doll. I had great men friends, and yet I was going to social things by myself.

By pure chance, I met a man I had no business being interested in, and he had no business being interested in me. At first, I was just goofing around, being myself, just concerned my own problems and life. We became friends, as unlikely as it seemed on the surface. We discovered that underneath the veneer of different backgrounds and different life experiences, we were pretty similar people, and we came to trust each other. One day, we became lovers. I knew our relationship was doomed from the start, and we broke it off several times, but he’d let months go by and then I’d hear from him again. The friends of mine that knew about him didn’t understand why I cared.

The lure was that he understood me so well. He didn’t think I was too smart for him, or too independent. He wasn’t threatened by me. He didn’t want me to be softer, or weaker, or dumber. He didn’t have anything to prove to me, and didn’t need me to do anything but let him be himself. Aside from everything else, that was what kept us drawn to each other like magnets for a long time, and through a lot of stuff in both our lives. We had some arguments, even some memorable ones. But that was part of the attraction, too; he would argue with me, rather than just clam up, slink away, agree just to shut me up, or lie to me.

When I knew him, I still desperately wanted a child of my own, and I couldn’t have one with him. That, in the end, put the nail in it. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then.

But I still miss his company. Not the heartache, certainly. Not the rock in the pit of my stomach, knowing he would never fit into my life and I’d never fit into his. But the time I spent talking to him, feeling his acceptance, his encouragement, and his approval of me, was something I have not felt since.

On nights like this, I doubt I’ll ever know that again. I don’t think so. My peak experiences seem to be once in a lifetime kind of things. Something to think about on dark, lonely nights, remembering.

I’m not yet old enough to be satisfied with only memories. I haven’t had the time or the inclination to probe into the shadows of my mind for quite a while. Tonight I heard his voice in the dialogue of a movie actor, by chance using a few phrases that had been his, in his accent. And then the movie was over, and I sat in the dark and felt it wash over me.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Now I’m really a Mile High!

Well, kids, I did it. I finished all of my classwork, all of my requirements to graduate! And I am really proud – I am going to receive my diploma with magna cum laude. I just found out my final grade on my last class and I maintained my GPA.

This has been a long haul. I chose to go back to school and finally finish this degree when my daughter was a year old. So, as long as she can remember, Mommy has been busy. I have worked full time (until the end of June) while going to school. I had a long commute. I had to dig deep and find a tremendous amount of discipline to keep at it: to stay on track, to sit down and do my reading, to write my papers, take my tests, and keep on schedule.

The funny thing is, I don’t know yet what I’m going to “do” with this. I did it mostly for me. I carried around a lot of regret that I hadn’t been able to finish college after high school, and a bit of an inferiority complex because I hadn’t gotten a Bachelor’s degree, even though through all of my times of going back to school, taking different classes and pursuing areas of study, I know that I have more than a simple “college education.”

I am REALLY glad it is over. It hasn’t even sunk in yet; I am so used to having a bunch of deadlines hanging over my head that it will take a while, I think, for me to really “get” that I don’t, anymore. I know one thing – I am looking forward to reading for pleasure, instead of for an assignment. Especially as I look ahead to winter, I am happy that I will get to curl up by the fireplace with a good mystery, and not have to stress about how many more pages I need to read before I am done for the night.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This day in History

1498 – Michelangelo is commissioned to carve the Pietà.
1789 – Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen approved by National Assembly at Palace of Versailles.
1858 – First news dispatch by telegraph.
1920 – The 19th amendment to United States Constitution takes effect, giving women the right to vote.
1961 – I was born.

It’s too early to know the effect on some of these events on the history of the world. ..

Too busy today trying to finish my class. I’ve got to finish a long paper, take a final, and complete some assignments this week.

But I am so grateful for so many things:

My remarkable daughter, who had a horrible morning today. I think the reality of schlepping off to school everyday finally hit her, poor kid.

The fact that I am four days away from finishing my Bachelor’s degree. I’ve been wanting this and working on this for far too long. Yay me.

That I am home now in Colorado, living in such a beautiful, healthy, peaceful environment. We walked in the greenbelt last evening and I just drank it in.

Where I am in my life now: I am healthy, I am whole, I am happy with myself and what I’m doing. In the words of the old song lyric – “I ain’t hiding from nobody, nobody’s hiding from me.” Things are good.

Monday, August 24, 2009

School Begins!

I am not the typical parent of a new Kindergartener. (While my kid was in preschool, I had ample opportunity to scope out the parents of the other kids, and I definitely look like my kid’s grandma.) *sigh*
I also don’t have previous experience with the whole “back to school” thing – except my own, which doesn’t count. So cut to me standing in the store on Friday afternoon with my list in hand, finally buying the School Supplies. I actually got chastised by the pharmacist at Target when I asked where the hand sanitizer was being hidden. Yeah, I know I waited til the last minute. Thanks! And yes, the hand sanitizer stock had been seriously depleted. Who knew?
Back in the dawn of time, when I was a Kindergartener, our “school supplies” consisted of bringing in an old button down shirt of our dad’s for wearing (backwards) during painting time. I was mildly shocked to see that I was being required to provide (exact duplication of list):

2 bottles Elmer’s white all-purpose glue (4 oz. – not school glue)
10 glue sticks
2 boxes crayons (24 ct. regular – not fat size)
1 box Kleenex
10 #2 yellow pencils (sharpened – not fat)
1 backpack
1 box magic markers – broad tip
1 container baby wipes
1 container hand sanitizer
3 Pee-chee folders (horizontal pockets) (Label with name)
1 pair Fiskar scissors – students size
Boys: 1 box gallon size plastic bags
Girls: 1 box quart size plastic bags
2 glue sticks (Art)

I have some issues with this list. For instance, since all the supplies except the backpack and the folders went into the collective bins, why are the “art” glue sticks separately listed? I had no idea pencils now came optionally pre-sharpened. What IS the difference between regular white glue and “school glue”? And what I really need an answer to, is what is up with the difference in the size of the plastic bags for boys and girls? This has just made my imagination run wild.

Nevertheless, I dutifully filled my paper grocery bag (full) of the listed items, and showed up as directed with my child and my bag to the Open House on Friday night. There we met her teacher and were given a pink sheet of paper with cute instructions as to where we were to put the stuff. Each couple of items had a little nursery rhyme describing a different area of the classroom so that the kids could get an idea of what everything was. It was kind of fun for M and I to find each area and for her to put something from our bag into the different bins.
I noticed, however, that there were other families that were having various reactions to the instructions. A few showed up without supplies (y’know, you’re supposed to READ all those handouts they give you). Some must have thought this was going to be a big social thing, and brought the Whole Fam Damnly, causing Grandma and Grandpa to have to keep moving out of the doorway. The room isn’t THAT big, people! But the ones who really tugged at my heartstrings was the one group I observed who were really struggling with the list and the instructions. It was an extended family group, and they all spoke English, but with a decided lack of familiarity with some of the things or the names of the things on the list. So with each part of the instructions, they had a little conference about what should go where. The baby wipes and hand sanitizer really tripped them up.
Her teacher is like a movie version of a Kindergarten teacher; young, pretty, still enthusiastic and upbeat. I love it. We got up this morning and M had a little anxiety about her wardrobe choice, so she switched, and I successfully did NOT tell her what to wear, except I strongly suggested socks with her shoes. She was too excited to eat much. We showed up with plenty of time to spare, she got in line with her backpack and received her name badge, and stood there grinning until the bell rang and they filed in. I am so proud of her.


UPDATE: I found out what the different size bags are all about, and I confess I'm disappointed. I cornered M's teacher this morning (nicely, of course) and told her I needed to know. She said that "they need to have a supply of different sizes and dividing them up that way ensures that they get enough of each size." Hmph. I was hoping for something more inventive...

Friday, August 21, 2009

You can't trace time

As I’ve been unpacking boxes and sorting through my possessions, it has struck me how much changes. I used to collect things, now I shy away from accumulating too much stuff. At some point, I was very fond of marble. I have quite a few marble objects that – while I still think are interesting – I know that today I would not purchase and bring home. I was also quite fond of oak, and the fashion world has moved on from that particular trend (several years ago, actually, but I haven’t shopped in a while). I have been out in the stores in the past weeks, and noted how dark the furniture is right now. I know that there are people who, from time to time, completely redecorate their homes. I have not been one of those people, mainly because I could never afford to be. In the early years, I had mostly castoff furniture, and remember my assorted second-hand (third? fifth?) couches. I was proud when I could finally afford to buy stuff on my own, and I used to buy things at the used furniture stores and refinish them.

I had an interesting little chat with a guy at a furniture store yesterday. It was midmorning, and the store was empty, and he shared with me some anecdotes about their merchandise. The last time I’d been in that particular store, it looked completely different. But that was when the economy was doing well and people were expanding, buying bigger and bigger houses, and filling those houses with big pieces of furniture. We talked about downsizing, and then he said he would like to move into a smaller place himself, but he didn’t know what he’d do with all of the stuff in his basement.

It is comments like that, and watching shows like Clean House, that really motivate me to pare down as I sift through my boxes and evaluate the worthiness of many of my things. It is so easy to collect lots of things. And then we attach feelings to those things and we feel obligated to hold on to them. I have found myself really struggling with whether to keep several objects, that when I was honest with myself, I no longer needed, and had never really been all that fond of in the first place, and yet I felt guilty at the thought of putting them aside. Some of them were from family members. Some were from times that were highly charged emotionally. The common thread that ran through them all was that they no longer fit with who I am and where I am now.
I think it is good to periodically sort through our lives and weigh what is working and what isn’t, what fits and what doesn’t, and what has outlived its usefulness. Change happens. I don’t want to be stuck in the past, or buried under the weight of it, either.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Green Boogers

One of the most fun things about living with a little kid is their frank way of talking. If you have a tender ego, you won’t last long. But they are brutally honest, which you don’t get – generally – from your friends. This can come in handy when you want to know whether you look the way you imagine you do. For instance, getting ready for my dinner downtown last weekend, my daughter just looked at me for a minute... then said I didn’t look like myself. (I was wearing makeup!) It took longer for her to tell me I looked nice. :)

Anyway, this week I’ve had a miserable cold. It kicked in exactly at the same time I got M enrolled in SAE. I had hoped to use the time to pound out my classwork (I have two weeks left) but instead I have been walking around with a head that feels full of cement. I took my midterm just hoping I would pass, and my paper, I am sure, was not my best work.

I still have horrible green boogers, and M has politely told me so, and that I look terrible. I am plodding along with my homework and putting things away. I’m really glad M hasn’t gotten this cold yet, and after her illness at the beach, I’m not up to her being sick again so soon! It’s a gorgeous day outside today... we’ll see how it goes.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Keep the checkbook out


One of my favorite quotes from a Clint Eastwood film is “a man’s gotta know his limitations.” Never more than in these past few weeks has this lesson come home for me. I thought it would be nice to let M stay home this summer while we went through our Big Move. It sounded good on paper...

We had our Beach Vacation, during which she was really sick.

We had our Yosemite camping trip, during which we had to endure my parents imposing their opinions and preferences on to EVERYTHING we did.

We had the three weeks of being “stuff-less” and living basically out of a suitcase and sleeping on an airbed. (I don’t recommend it.)

And then my class started, and I was trying to find stuff in boxes, unpack our things, remember where I put something, get the installations scheduled and completed, and also get her registered for kindergarten, establish us in our new place, and keep her entertained while at the same time contemplate things like differential thresholds.

I think I hit my personal wall. So, two weeks before kindergarten starts, I got her into SAE, or School Age Enrichment, otherwise known as daycare for school age kids. I had to pay not only the school year enrollment fee, but also the summer enrollment fee, even though there are technically only five days of the summer program left before it switches over to the school year program, as well as the weekly cost. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Today she woke up excited and eager to go, and we arrived at her new school with her Water Day tote bag and her lunchbox in tow. We walked into the cafeteria to a sea of little kids in matching tee shirts for their excursion. Within minutes, M was also wearing one of the shirts, sitting crosslegged on the floor with a bunch of little girls, telling them about herself.

The fact that the program is onsite at the elementary school is a big deal to me. It is literally 3 minutes from our home. In California, I was driving 19 miles one way to daycare, then another 15 miles to work, which took about an hour in the morning and about an hour and a half in the afternoon. On the freeway. 66 miles a day, everyday, day after day, and it really wore me down. One of the most attractive things about being here is the way that the Denver Metro Area is laid out. The transportation situation is night and day.
Anyway, she waved goodbye to me this morning and I came back to a quiet townhouse, ready to tackle the reading and writing I have to do this week. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to save some money so that I can do this. I already feel the pressure lifting off of my shoulders.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dinner Downtown

Last night, M and I had the pleasure of meeting and having dinner with Frank! He brought his friend Brian, who was also a good sport. It was fun to meet and talk to Frank, and I enjoyed our dinner.

My little angel was seriously sleep deprived and antsy during the entire evening. When we had (another) thunderstorm with hail yesterday afternoon, which prevented her from napping, I was concerned about how she would deal with a new place, strangers, and being up late... but I didn’t want to cancel on Frank, and I was really looking forward to an adult dinner with other adults. (Thank you, Frank, for being so gracious and nice)

It made me acutely aware, however, of how intense the past few weeks have been with M and me. For most of the time we’ve been here, we’ve been spending all of our time in each other’s (and ONLY each other’s) company. And under rather strenuous circumstances, too: no real bed, no furniture, new place, no routine, lots of chaos, etc.) She’s been really pretty good about the whole thing, but I have not done as well.

Last night, I was a little embarrassed at myself for being so bad at multi-tasking. I really usually pay better attention to my child, and yet I was so hungry to talk to another grownup and do something like I used to do before the nightmare of the last four years happened, that I know I was essentially ignoring her. And I felt bad about that. She was behaving like a typical five year old, tapping, talking nonstop, whining, etc., which is funny, because she is normally doesn’t do that, and I wasn’t missing the irony.
After the dinner, she and I walked along the 16th Street Mall for a little while, and she was delighted with the sights and sounds. We rode the shuttle for a few blocks because she really wanted to, and she talked to the weird guy on the shuttle without hesitation, which made him smile, and she tipped her head back and stared up at the tall buildings and declared that they were “a hundred miles up.” On the way home in the car, she looked out at all the twinkly lights and sighed and said “just like Paris!” (which I believe is her highest compliment, notwithstanding neither of us has ever been)
I really love my kid, and sometimes I feel a little sorry for her that I’m her mom and she’s stuck with me. But school will start in a few more weeks and then she’ll get to be around kids again and things will be better. For both of us.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

OMFG!

Well, the good news is that the fucking packing tape adhesive is coming off of my oak desk with liberal amounts of lemon oil and muscle.
The bad news is that the fucking packing tape adhesive is TENACIOUS and requires LIBERAL amounts of lemon oil and MUSCLE. When I finally broke down and began to attempt its removal, I had to enlist wine and Seinfeld episodes (yes, plural. thank you late night tv) and it was still not all off by the time I had to stop because I was exhausted. I will have to attack it again – and the rest of my furniture) soon, but then I realized that I was COMPLETELY BEHIND on my homework for my last class and had to drop everything and get BUSY.

Yes, I am the kharmic magnet of fucking delays and screw-ups! My advisor at the University informed me not too long ago (when I was trying to find out why my graduation application was not going through as expected) that she was “very sorry but there had been an error” and I was one elective credit short.
AaaaaaRRRRrrrrrrgggghhhhhhhh!!!!!!

So, amid the lovely decor of massed cardboard boxes and partially unpacked crap, I was feverishly trying to read from my textbook while M watches Noggin.
FML.

I can NOT find the remote for the other TV, so she could (theoretically) watch Noggin upstairs, and yes, I’ve tried. Yeesh.

On the plus side, I finally got the kitchen put together to the point that I was able to make dinner last night that was an actual, real meal and not some cobbled together excuse for one (NTTAWWT).
We sat down at a table and ate together. It was very nice. and yummy. Damn, I missed my own cooking! Four years without real “kitchen privileges” was HARD on my sensibilities AND my “bottom line.” (double entendre intended)

On the down side, I still have the bedrooms and bathroom and garage and my “office” stuff to deal with. Good grief, there is crap everywhere.

I swear on my mother’s grave (ok, she’s not dead yet, but still) that I got rid of fully 2/3 of my belongings four years ago when I left Colorado. (not to mention the house that I loved) WHERE – HOW – did this stuff materialize? Is that what happens in storage units? grrrr...

Ok, that’s enough for now. I have something fun to look forward to happening tonight (!) and still a LOT to do today.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Unpacking!

The moving truck, after multiple delays, finally arrived yesterday! Sadly, there was a lot of damage, and the moving company’s inexperienced movers wrapped a great deal of packing tape around most of my furniture, including nearly every wood piece, and it has marred or taken off the finish on many of them. My coffee table bit the dust, as did almost every cheaper piece of shelving or storage piece. Several of my lighter items were damaged beyond repair.
The good news is that my grandmother’s hutch, which I have “owned” for many years but until now, never had in my own home, arrived without a scratch. My massive oak desk, which is dominating my new little living room, has some surface damage but otherwise is okay. My beautiful upholstered chairs are fine, and very few of my dishes and such suffered any loss. My pictures all made it intact. My electronics are unhurt.

M is explaining to her grandma that she's still waiting for the movers to unload her chairs.
I am feeling quite overwhelmed by all of it. I’ve been attacking the boxes furiously since yesterday, because I know that I won’t be able to rest until there is some semblance of order – and a clear path to walk through. I have had most of the belongings that I kept when I left Colorado four years ago in storage all this time, and seeing my stuff has been weird; knowing how much I got rid of, I can’t believe what I kept. No one needs as much barware as I apparently at one time thought I needed. I have a box for Goodwill started already, which began with a couple of flowered china serving bowls that I think my mother must have given me at some point, from the collected remnants of relatives. They are awful – I didn’t remember having them in my possession.

It is strange how filthy cardboard boxes get, and how much packing material I am throwing away. One bathroom item exploded and got all over a lot of other things, despite how well it was wrapped. Fortunately, it smells better than just about anything I’ve ever bought, so if I have to keep discovering its residue, at least it’s not unpleasant. Putting my desk back together by myself was hard. My back is screaming, and I didn’t sleep well last night, despite my body’s desperate gratitude at finally being in my own bed again. I have yet to tackle my clothes or my papers, and I am a little daunted by all the infinitesimal decisions.

We’ve been camping out in this townhouse for two weeks, and I am deliriously happy to be through with that. Lots of little things are occurring to me as I unpack, and I will have more to say, but I wanted to put this out there before I get any farther along.

It feels bizarre to be touching every single thing I own in a systematic way. The past several years have been so busy and stressful, and now I have done a complete one-eighty and am contemplating each movement. My head is swimming with thoughts.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No Moving Truck - No Internet - No Good

Quick Update: My Stuff, all my worldly possessions, are not going to arrive until next week. The lies that the moving company rep told me would fill a book. Bottom line, we can't hook up the internet & tv until my stuff comes (duh, my router is on the truck) and so we are camping out in our new place.

it IS a lovely new place, but I really miss chairs.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Get back to where you once belonged...

Yesterday, after ten hours in 100 degree heat, the moving truck was finally packed, and on its way. I chose to hire movers this time. My parents’ house and its location are particularly challenging, and I knew I was willing to pay more to have someone else humping the boxes and (incredibly heavy) furniture down the stairs and around the corners, as well as lug the stuff into my new place once it arrives. Last time, I had more help, although then I had two Labradors and a baby to worry about.
Because of where the house is situated, a big truck can’t make it up the street, and so it requires a “shuttle” of getting a smaller truck and then shifting everything on to the big truck at another location. Last time, also in July, my dad and I did this with two hired teenage boys my mother knew, and it took days and ended up in some property damage. It was cheaper than this time, but I knew my dad wasn’t up to it, and I didn’t want to put myself through that again. And since it took those big guys ten hours (and I was watching – they busted their asses) I feel like the extra expense was well worth it.
So, this time, I packed it all myself, and then let the two impressively strong and very nice men sweat their asses off carting it all over Auburn. I was very happy to say goodbye to the storage unit. I hope to never have a storage unit again. It killed me to pay to keep my boxes in a bigger box. In comparing the total cubic feet of all of my stuff to last time, it came out the same, so I didn’t accumulate more stuff – which is good.
My daughter and I have been living in an upper bedroom wing of my parents’ unusual house for exactly four years. Yesterday I vacuumed and dusted the empty space we were so smooshed into and then set up the air bed we’ll be sleeping on for a while. We slept in this morning and then I got a load of laundry started. All I have to do today is pack my vehicle for the drive out to Colorado. Between the beach vacation and the camping trip, not to mention the grinding commute I’d been doing, I feel like I’ve already done so much driving and I’m not really looking forward to more. But, I have done this route countless times before, so I don’t anticipate any surprises.
We are going to leave Auburn tomorrow morning and stay in a hotel in Utah overnight. Then we should arrive in Colorado Saturday afternoon. I can’t wait to see my townhouse! I was able to lease the one I wanted, and it should be very nice. It has a garage, a pantry, a separate laundry room, walk in closets, and a fireplace. And 1036 square feet just for my daughter and me! WooooHoooo!!!
I am so thrilled to be leaving. I arrived here four years ago unhappy and determined to accomplish some very tough goals. I was going to pay off my debts, finish my degree, take care of my daughter in the best way possible, and save up some money. I wanted to gain back more control of my life and get back on track.
I accomplished everything I set out to do. I am very satisfied with what I have been able to complete. While we were here, both of my beautiful dogs got cancer and died, and that is a loss that I feel deeply. But my daughter is healthy, happy, energetic and full of imagination and curiosity, ready to begin kindergarten this fall. I have a paid off four wheel drive vehicle in good shape, a clean financial sheet and a good resume, some money in the bank, and a brand-spanking new B.A.!
While here, I developed some new skills, polished some others, made a lot of good friends, and by sheer force of will, managed NOT to smother with a pillow either of my parents!
But I will not miss this place. While I wait for the dryer to finish, I think about how I haven’t really had the space or time to process a lot of things. I have clenched my teeth and held my tongue far more than is healthy. I haven’t had a safe or pleasant place to walk, time to spend listening to friends, or any real privacy at all.
I look forward to this next phase as an opportunity to stretch, to explore, to play, and to get to know the more interesting and nicer parts of myself that have been kind of packed away for too long.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Yosemite – Part 2

I have an ancient memory of following my father along a narrow track in a field, keeping up (which was not easy), and it being hot, although the trail was sometimes marshy. When I began hiking the Illilouette hikes with my father, I remember being a little disoriented. That’s because the memory is of Tuolumne. And Illilouette is nothing like Tuolumne. We did Tuolumne when I was a teeny bit; about 5, like the picture.

On Thursday, we went for a walk through Tuolumne Meadow, which is one of the most beautiful places on this earth, in my opinion. Legend has it that Tuolumne was what inspired John Muir to work to make Yosemite a National Park. John Muir, a fellow Scot, is a family folk hero. He also founded the Sierra Club, which I’ve belonged to for decades. I am in awe of people like him who are so effective in their passionate belief in something and actually get things done. Especially, when it took so much time and dedication.

I don’t like to get too caught up in taking pictures, because I want to enjoy the moment, but when I saw M following behind my dad exactly like I had done (although I hope she was having a better time), I took this picture.



We stopped along the Tuolumne River, and I took off my shoes and cooled my feet in the icy water. This delicious clear water, essentially snow melt, is what I learned to swim in. As years passed, I would swim in the Pacific, much to the consternation of friends. Cold water seems natural to me. A trip to the Sacramento Delta one time was a surreal experience; the water was both silty and warm, and it wasn’t hard to believe that the Creature of the Deep Lagoon lived in its depths as my older brother told me. (I was totally freaked out that I couldn’t see my hand in the water)

As much as I refrain from trying to make M take on my own traits, I admit that when she – on her own – does something that I would do I am charmed beyond words. She took off her shoes and stuck her feet in the water, too, and was soon making up an elaborate imaginary play by the river bank. We stayed there, soaking up the sunshine and the beauty, until my parents wanted to go.

When I am in Yosemite, I am free, I am happy, and I am content in a way that is hard to describe. It is why, despite having to travel long distances sometimes, and at great (for me at the time) expense, I have never let more than five years go by between visits. This decade, I’ve been three times, twice with M.

Colorado is beautiful, and it is the closest thing I could come up with in making myself a mountain home. I feel best living at altitude, and where I will be living (NEXT WEEK, YAY!) is at 5450 feet. I know many places in the Rocky Mountains that make my heart sing, and there are many left that I have yet to explore. But I will return to Yosemite again and again. It is that much part of me.

I’m not going back with my parents, however.