Sunday, October 31, 2010

What, Me - exhausted?

I was at M's school at 2:15 on Friday afternoon - and it was stiflingly hot. But how much fun to stand around watching the kids cycle through their party activities and then watch them have Halloween snacks. While I sweated in my tank top (having already shed my cardigan).

Then there was the parade, which involved the entire school marching in single file around the school, then the "dance" (which was more like a rave) and then the cafeteria for "pizza" and soda. Oh, and then M said she wanted to leave, but on the way to the car, it turned out she only meant "leave the cafeteria" - so she was having a meltdown at just the exact moment my boss called about an important file. Which I wouldn't have heard if we hadn't been outside, so... So Fun.

Then there was a birthday party at Skate City. My personal Hell. Crowded, noisy, BAD music, chaos, and M doesn't roller skate - but HAS to go, because her friends do - so we go through the Five Stages of Skating. Every. Time.

Excitement, Denial, Putting on the Skates, Not Skating while Crying, and Anger. Love it.

This time, I even put the f*#@ing skates on myself and did a lap with her. While she yelled at me in panic not to let her fall and cried, complete with me falling in a Spectacular manner (managing to make sure she fell on top of me). I don't roller skate, did I mention that? Despite my stunning athletic abilities, roller skating has remained at the top of my Most Despised List. All of this while being assaulted by the pounding, awful, conversation-cancelling "music". Pure Joy.

Oh, and the parents of the birthday girl handing me a couple dollars in quarters when they realized that the only thing M could really do was play arcade games, and they felt bad for inviting her when she couldn't skate. (sweet, but a little fucked up, don't you think? I mean, are we supposed to feel bad for the kid who can't do the thing we include them in? What message does that send? And do I really look like I couldn't handle the several dollars I'd already pumped into the machines one quarter at a time, via my suddenly blood thirsty daughter who was killing the arcade games, winning an impressive 120 tickets in 45 minutes?)   The birthday girl's mom told me what time to be back at the table for cake and presents, so we had time to kill.  I explored the weirdness of sharing the quarters among the little kids crowding around the games we were playing without crossing the line into scary creepy adult at the arcade (none of these kids we knew).  I found it best to quickly offer to stick a single quarter in the game next to ours for the kid standing longingly watching us, no money in their pocket.  There were plenty of these.  I managed to share the pile of quarters without it even causing M to pause in her motions.

There are the actually sweet minutes when the birthday girl opens M's present first, exclaims with genuine joy over the rainbow unicorn birthday card that M picked out, and is in rapture over the present M gave her.  And then M crowds around the other little girls as the rest of the presents are opened and they ooh and aah together over the loot.  Too quickly, Skate City declares the party over, and we file out.

There was the magical moment when she accidentally broke a glow stick, and I had to pull over in a Lowe's parking lot and find the wipes and help her clean up. Special.

This afternoon, carving the pumpkin on our driveway in the blazing sun (it IS October, right?) The little Hell Gang of snotty brat girls, riding the pink electric car up and down the street in front of us, running around in their costumes already and exaggeratedly ignoring M.  The little girl she'd finally begun to play with, who has just in the past couple days thrown her off again, because another girl who used to live here moved back.  But of course the lure of the pink car is too much for M, and she goes to ask if she can have a ride.  The two girls stand there, reluctant and torn.  They have been told to let M have a turn, but M needs someone to ride with her; she doesn't know how to operate it and will never be the one to just wing it.

I cross the street and ask the girls if one of them will ride with M.  They look everywhere but at M, frowns on their little faces.  Clearly, this is something they are not willing to do.  The mother of the pink car comes over.  What is wrong?  I explain.  She tells her daughter to ride with M.  Her daughter refuses.  The mother, the woman whose husband has been so badly injured, climbs into the pink car and gives M a ride up and down the block.  I thank her and appreciate it, but by now the girls have all scattered, and M is standing alone on the street.  All the other parents sit in their circle of lawn chairs on the driveway two doors down, smoking, drinking, and gossiping.

We go back in side and wait for sundown, so that we can trick or treat in our neighborhood.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What gets left behind

I few months ago, a neighbor was in a bad motorcycle accident. He’s a young dad, a nice guy, and has a wife and two little kids. The little girl plays with my daughter sometimes. I’m happy to say he is still with us and that the neighbors stepped in to help the family in crisis, but he’s not yet been fully released from the hospital and faces a long recovery.

Yesterday was a pleasant, sunny day, and he’d been allowed to come home for a few hours to visit his kids. I saw him outside basking in the mild October sunshine and went over to say hello. He is so vastly changed from the man he once was. He’s lost a lot of weight, he suffered brain injury and now one eye looks different from the other. All his long bones were broken and he’s now using a walker and can’t move one leg. But this isn’t about motorcycle safety.

I thought about what would happen to us if something happened to me. I can barely stand to think about my daughter without me standing between her and the world. Yes, I have life insurance, but that isn’t what I was thinking about yesterday.

I thought about all the stuff in my possession, and how someone would have to go through it all. My own mother has had the task a number of times of sifting through the paperwork and belongings of a deceased family member. She’s told me about how overwhelming the job can be, especially if the person was the kind who keeps everything and isn’t organized. That is what I was thinking about yesterday.

Having moved a few times in the past five years, I have pared down the amount of stuff I own. I have reduced the amount of furniture and large objects, and gotten rid of a lot of unnecessary things. What I’m still weighed down with is the small stuff: the papers, the files, the piles of little objects that someone would have to either comb through or discard wholesale, not knowing what was important and what was meaningless.

If my daughter was still a child, someone else would have to do this, and that makes me shudder. I decided to confront one more thing I’ve been avoiding, and have begun sifting through my own accumulations myself. I’ve used my decision to dismantle my huge oak desk as a launching point. It feels good to be doing this. The shredder is getting a workout.

The townhouse I live in now is very small, but it came with a two car garage (and I only have one car), so I am lucky in that I have a large storage area built in. I’ve decided, now that I’ve put the class work and the job hunting behind me, that I no longer need to have my enormous desk dominating the tiny living room, and am going to store it away while we live here and replace it with a couch and a little computer desk. I gave away my last couch five years ago, and right now we just have two comfy upholstered chairs to sit on. I love these chairs, but my daughter and I can no longer both sit together in one – although she tries – and it is time to have a couch again. I thought about how many more years I have left that she will want to cuddle with me, and that eliminated any last traces of indecision.

Plus, it’s kind of fun to buy a couch. I realized the last time I bought one was about twenty years ago, and my tastes and the amount of money I have to spend have both changed a great deal. I have coveted this couch for a long time, and it finally went on sale! I chose the sleeper sofa model, to add some flexibility. And it’s being upholstered in a lovely buttery dark taupe microsuede, so it should be able to withstand a lot of wear. It should be here in about six weeks.
Thinking about curling up on this couch with M this winter is great motivation to keep slogging through all the minutiae in and on this desk and get rid of the clutter and crap.   I’ll still need someone to clear my cached computer history, should anything dire happen, though!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Confronting what I've been avoiding

It is week 2 of my Fitness Training class, and I'm happy to report that I am no longer walking like an arthritic 80 year old.  We had to begin the class by being weighed, and I saw a number I have only seen once in my life before, and that was when I was pregnant.  I had gone into this class with the belief that I would be getting "more fit," and that it was just a tune up.  Instead, after two weeks of concentrated hard work, it is clear that I had let things go beyond what I had let myself see.  I'm really grateful that my workplace sponsors this class and allows me the flexibility to include it in my schedule, because I needed it.  Badly.
Having been an "athletic" youth (not skinny, not beautiful) I had taken comfort in my strength and endurance, and it carried me for many years. 

The reality is that nothing lasts forever.  And that the older we get, the more vital it is to maintain - to work to maintain, the gifts that we have.  In my case, I took for granted that having always been a jock, I would somehow remain one, despite not having done anything like this class in YEARS.

Somehow this reality check made me think about other things I've been avoiding.  I decided it was high time I complained to the leasing office of my complex about the trashy people living next door.  (yes, ironically the jerk who lived there when I moved in left, and the family who moved in are horrible in their own way)  There are four adults and one child living in a townhouse a little bigger than mine, and they yell at each other constantly.  It seems to be their only form of communication.  They are also mean, stupid, and lazy.  So many a night, beyond "bedtime", I will be hearing one of them yell to another one in another room, or downstairs.  And back and forth, for the longest time.  Most of the time, they all join in a loud spirited argument that includes the little boy crying and protesting whatever it is they are telling him to do.  (he goes to school with M, and he's regularly still up at 10pm or later)  I've spoken to one of them about it - the little boy's father - twice.  The other day I realized that it wasn't going to get better and it would be like this as long as we all lived here unless I bit the bullet and made a formal complaint.  I recognized that I feared retaliation.  There are three big guys living over there, and they have demonstrated already that they possess no class, no judgement, and no kindness.  And I have issues with angry, out of control men. 

But I did it.  I went in and talked to my leasing agent, and followed it up with a couple emails.  Last night it was blissfully quiet.

Which is great, because now that I'm working out like this, I really need a good night's sleep.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Anger Management

Things have not improved with Buster. Shortly after my last post, I called him in response to one of his emails that grated on me especially hard. I ended up screaming at him as I drove down the road on my way to pick up M after work. He knows how to push my buttons, and he’d pushed them all that day. He insisted that his moving to BFE Southern Colorado was “better,” but couldn’t, of course, give me any concrete examples of how it would be better. He thinks he’s going to be able to visit “about 3 times a year,” forgetting, I suppose, that he can’t drive in the snow and that his not-even-front-wheel-drive POS compact truck couldn’t even handle suburban Denver roads in the wintertime. But the tipping point was when he said that he could try to get joint custody. It was only a threat, and was meant to unhinge me, and it worked. Unleash the Kraken.

(Let me just say that IF by some miraculous intervention, he were to get his shit together, move into non-condemned housing near by, manage to mimic adult behavior to an acceptable degree, and be consistent for some reasonable length of time, I would actually welcome his participation. It would take a shift in the space-time continuum, or something on that level, to make me believe he was trustworthy or capable of caring for my precious daughter, but I’d certainly rather have him do that than what he’s BEEN doing for the past seven years. Just in case you were ready to get all huffy about Joint Custody as a concept.)

But the collected, mature-er part of me that is able to step back and observe my more... primitive...self yelling at the idiot on my cellphone as I drive down Santa Fe (Oprah would NOT approve), realized then that it might be a good time to explore more productive ways to burn off the rage and frustration.

So... I signed up for the fitness training classes at work that start next week. Two days a week at noon I will be working in a class, outdoors, with a trainer. There’s also a day of yoga that I am going to try to add. It goes for twelve weeks. I think it will kick my butt, since it’s been a while since this former distance runner has done any consistent workout, but I’m looking forward to it. As motherhood has collided with aging and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, I find that by the end of the workday I’m just tired, grumpy, and feeling more and more like a soft, squishy lethargic slug.
I think it will be just the thing. That, and imagining, in detail, Buster getting stuck somewhere in the wilds of Southern Colorado on a lonely stretch of road, far from a cellphone signal or another human being, in a ditch that he drove into because he can’t drive in the snow. (Apparently only I vividly remember the road trip we took from Denver to Auburn, CA, Christmas of 2003, when I was six months pregnant and he couldn’t/wouldn’t drive most of it because he had no skillz.) It entertains me to picture it.