Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sad

Sometimes, I feel there is this expectation for me to be the chipper comic relief, and I don't know how to reconcile that image with the reality that I'm not always happy.  When I had postpartum depression, it was slightly easier to be more open about how I felt.  First, I was too apathetic and exhausted to keep up the cheery facade, and second, because I had something to blame for my mood. I never said, "I'm depressed."  I would say, "I'm struggling with postpartum depression," like it was a separate being responsible for all of my woes, and I was the hormonal martyr.  For the past couple of months, I've had some familiar recurring negative thoughts and emotions I've have tried not to own up to, but here I am, typing away on my laptop, searching for something uplifting write about but unable to shake these unmistakable feelings.

I am sad.

There.  I said it.  I am sad, and I think it all began when I graduated.

Have you ever dreamed about something for so long that when you actually got to live that dream, you found it disappointing?  You know what I mean.  It’s like that weird fish fast-food restaurant in your home town you craved for years until you revisited the establishment as an adult and realized there is better food in the frozen section of Walmart.  Or that movie that all of your friends saw and wouldn’t shut up about it, but when you finally Redboxed it a year later, you find the picture rather lackluster.  Or, heaven forbid, it’s like that dress you’ve been drooling over on Pinterest, and when you finally venture out to a far-away outlet mall to try it on, it makes your shoulders look like a linebacker and your head appear shrunken. (#thestruggleisreal) Well, that was the level of disappointment I experienced after finishing my bachelor’s degree. Times ten.

Every spring, flowers burst from the ground and birds fill the trees, sounding their trumpets to announce winter is over.  Baby animals huddle beneath their mothers as the remnants of snow melt away.  The grass grows greener as popcorn pops on the apricot trees, and every spring, Facebook erupts with graduation pictures.  My feed looks like a Josten's catalog.  For years, I have concealed envy with copious amounts of "congratulations" as I watched friends and family obtain the one thing I thought I never would: a degree.  Heck, Paul even got two.  Occasionally, I would even watch celebrity graduation speeches circulating across the interwebs, and I just knew that being handed a degree would be a completely transformative experience.  Suddenly, my veins would pulse with wisdom.  People would stop and listen when I spoke.  My children would forever respect me.  It would be magical.

That didn't happen.

I graduated by clicking submit on my final assignment.  There was no pomp.  No circumstance.  No pulsing wisdom.  There was just silence, emptiness and an unreal feeling about the whole thing.  At the time, I did not understand why, but as the weeks dragged on, the reality of my situation became clear.  I missed school.  It's not that I missed the late night writing sessions or the mountains of reading.  I missed the daily human interaction and intellectually stimulating conversations that took place on the discussion boards.  I missed talking about world issues and how we would solve them.  I missed positive feedback from my teachers and peers as well as the constructive feedback which helped me grow.  It almost seems childish to admit, but after graduating, I felt lonely.

I'm not one to just stew in my feelings, so I am trying to stay active.  I have been appointed to the PTA council, buried myself in Girls Camp preparations, and have immersed myself in personal writing projects, but there are still days (like today) when the loneliness seeps up through the cracks in my schedule, and I just feel sad.  Is it okay if I feel that way?  Will you think less of me?


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Waiting

During my first pregnancy, many well-intended folks ventured that my delivery would be similar to my mother’s delivery with me, so when my midwife mentioned Annie’s due date was December 12th, I immediately attempted some mental math.  You see, I was born twenty days late.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I was TWENTY days late.  That’s one day short of three weeks and one week shy of a month!  It’s a wonder my mother loves me at all with what I put her through!  Anyway, as a first-time mom, I wanted my daughter’s birth to be perfect, and to me, perfect meant on time so I could take copious amounts of infant pictures underneath the Christmas tree.  However, if my daughter had the audacity to float around in her prenatal prison for an extra three weeks, she not only would not be born in time for Christmas, but she would be born in an entirely new year.  For tax reasons, Paul was equally concerned about that.  This fear ignited a fiery anxiety in me that only grew the closer I got to December 12th.  When the actual day arrived and my infant seemed content in her watery world, I cried, and I don’t mean shed a couple gentle tears.  I mean I spent the entire day stealing away to quiet spaces so I could wear my pity-party party hat without drawing too much attention to myself. Something deep down in my womb gut was positive that by not entering the world by her due date, my daughter was destined for a January birthday.

I can look back on December 12th with grand amusement now because just one hour after the day concluded, I went into labor and had my daughter in my arms before supper.  However, at the moment, the prospect of waiting for an indeterminate amount of days was more traumatic than the birth itself.  This just goes to show how much I hate waiting.  Man oh man, do I hate waiting.  I’d like to think I possess quite a few virtues.  Humility, integrity, morality, nobility, decency, masculinity, and probably any other virtues ending in ‘y.'  Patience, however, does not end in ‘y,' which is probably why I find this trait so elusive.

Recently, I have been plagued with much waiting. At the end of February, Paul learned that he had been nominated to join the executive team on a retreat in April to Cancun, Mexico.  It was an entirely unexpected but completely welcomed break from the rigors of life.  Unfortunately, because we had no plans on leaving the country anytime soon, we needed to quickly procure passports as to not miss the trip.  The kind passport lady said it could take up to six weeks for our passports to arrive by mail. She also had to take our birth certificates and told us to keep an eye out for those too.  Likewise, since I had just graduated, I was waiting for my diploma, and during this time, Paul renewed his driver’s license.  With so many sensitive documents floating around the postal sphere and a recent mail theft plaguing our sense of security, the wait seemed painfully long.  Each day I checked the mail only to find grocery store fliers and credit card come-ons escalated my anxiety to the point that had to hold back tears as I dumped my junk mail into the recycling bin.  It seems so silly now that everything has arrived safe and sound, but my impatient self doesn't care.  It’s like waiting transforms me into a caged animal.  You would think after twenty-seven years on this great green earth, I would have finally earned my patience badge for my virtue sash, but alas.  I think the older I’ve gotten, the harder waiting has become.  After all, every day is a day closer to death and yet another day that I’m not in Cancun.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

March Favorites

March was a month where the universe conspired against me.  I had all of the best intentions to clean, organize, hem curtains, be perfect, that kind of stuff.  Instead, I spent most of the month sitting on the couch.  Still, I managed to stumble across some favorites I thought I would share.

March Favorites
Meal of the Month

We ate (and regurgitated) some pretty excellent meals this month, but this lovely combo is our new favorite. Applesauce, electrolyte-replenishing drink, and oyster crackers. This mixture of bland and smooth is easy on the palate and the stomach.  It also comes up nicely if that pertains to you.  It did to us.  Both of my children and I got hit with the pukies in March, so having these ingredients on hand was a must.

Humidifier
Our old humidifier sounded like a jet engine, and since humidifiers are mainly used at bedtime, you can imagine the roaring sound of turbines and crushed birds was not conducive to restful sleep. When Sam came down with the croup at the beginning of March, I purchased this ultrasonic/ultra-quiet humidifier from Walgreens.  It works perfectly, so perfectly it warps doors so they won't close and dampens every surface of my children's tiny rooms.  Still, this whisper-soft machine came in handy again when Annie contracted pneumonia later in the month.  A worthy investment, I'd say.

Diffuser

My mother-in-law gave us this diffuser for Christmas, and it ran almost every night this month. Whether it was diffusing a breathing formula for coughs and sniffles or a stomach formula for yucky tummies, it was an indispensable part of our healing process.

Party Pails

My kids are pukers.  They puke when they have the flu, run a temperature, take ibuprofen, get congested, don't eat enough, eat too much, cry too hard, or ride in the car.  Neither like the idea of sticking their faces in the toilet, so these old ice cream buckets have saved my life too many times to count, especially this month.  My kids have one under their beds at all times, and we have an extra in the bathroom. Highly recommend.

New Bedspread
When we moved into this house, the decorative touches the previous owners added to the master bedroom highlighted how incredibly pathetic our furniture and blankets appeared.  Over the last year, we [finally] bought a real bedframe, some clearance art for the walls, curtains, and this month, a new bedspread.

Where this room used to look dark and bleak, it now feels comfortable and cheery.  I have taken sooo many pictures of this new quilt (kind of like I did with the bookshelves) because, after almost eight years of marriage, I finally have a bedroom that reflects me. AND IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY.

New Fridge
After over a year of struggling with our decrepit fridge, our tax return allowed us to replace it. The old fridge dripped buckets of water down the back that, if not collected in tupperware, would fill the produce drawers or pool in the bottom until it leaked through the door seal and created a puddle on the floor.  Anything sitting in the back of the fridge would freeze solid, but the ice maker in the freezer didn't work at all. The deli drawer wouldn't open half of the time because it was frozen shut, and that was the last straw, because no one gets between me and my cheese.  Rediculous.  The new fridge is a vast improvement.  It has a working ice maker, no leaks, and we are loving having filtered water on the door. 10/10 love this fridge.

Well, March. It's been real. It's been fun.  Ain't been real fun though.  Bring on April.  I have a good feeling about April. :)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Wave of the Flu

The house smells sour no matter how many windows I open and how many blankets I wash.  Both of my children spent the night throwing up, often in their sleep, and waking up to the hot wetness of their vomit.  Paul was on bath duty and scrubbed down crying sick bodies.  I was on bed detail, stripping sheets, rinsing chunks into the toilet, and filling the washing machine over and over again with soiled blankets, towels, and jammies.  Eventually, I transplanted Sam onto the couch while taking the adjacent one so I could hear the first gag and catch further episodes in a bucket.  This finally ended the messiness, and at two in the morning, I sent Paul to bed so he could get some sleep before work.  I laid awake on the couch, one ear down the hall in Annie’s room, and the other on nearby Sam’s sleepy sighs.  Occasionally, I would hide my phone beneath my blanket and google things like “when do children grow out of puking in their sleep,” “how to get vomit stains out of white stuffed dogs,” and “best cream for undereye bags.”  By morning, both children’s energy and appetites had returned.  They chased each other around the kitchen while I, in my exhausted state, shuffled my feet and moaned like a zombie.  Paul emailed his boss and stayed home to extend further help. This traumatic night was our first experience with simultaneous pukers.  Usually, our kids catch things from each other which staggers their symptoms by a day or two so we can focus on one child at a time. I’m beyond grateful for Paul’s willingness to help even though he is much more sensitive to the smell of vomit than I am.

Though the event initially seemed like a cruel twist of fate, tonight I find myself relieved and grateful they were sick together.  Not that I want to volunteer for another night like that anytime soon, but there were a few good things to come of the ordeal.  Today I did not have to quarantine one child in a futile attempt to protect the other from germs.  Tonight I can sleep easy knowing both children are better instead of waiting for another kid to exhibit symptoms, and the exhaustion of one sleepless night will not be drug out to two. It was like ripping off a band-aid instead of tearing it off slowly. A vomit-soaked, fevery band-aid.

Friday, March 3, 2017

February Favorites

To track my monthly favorites, I keep a list on my phone which I add to throughout the month.  When I sat down to create this post, I pulled up my one-list-to-rule-them-all, but as I started writing about the items, something seemed a little off....

Lightbulbs

Apparently, this was a favorite this month.  We are working on replacing all of our incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs.  It's been an interesting process finding the right fit for my picky preferences.  The first bulbs I screwed into the overhead lights in the family room buzzed obnoxiously, and the faux candle bulbs in our chandeliers were dim and appeared incredibly artificial.  After befriending the guys at the Home Depot returns counter, I think I've identified the right bulbs for my fixtures.  I especially love the LED filament bulbs as they are a vast improvement from their half bulb counterparts.

Butter Keeper
Our butter keeper cracked this month, so I picked up another one at Walmart.  It's pretty generic, but I guess I must have really loved it a couple weeks ago....

Headphones
Uh... I bought new headphones this month because my earbuds only work on the left side.  The new earbuds have sound coming out both sides but are probably the most painful thing that's ever happened to my ears.  Seriously, I'd rather have an ear infection.  I have no idea why I have included this on my favorites list...........

Metal Sheets
This was the point when I realized I was writing about a shopping list.  Oi.  With a little digging through my unorganized phone notes, I found the real one-list-to-rule-them-all. #sleepdeprived #sickkiddos  Without further ado, I give you my real monthly favorites.


February Favorites
Nail Polish
I usually don't wear nail polish.  Painting my nails takes at least an hour because I am so uncoordinated I have to wait for each coat to dry before applying another, lest I smudge the semi-wet paint.  Meanwhile, a headache forms in my temples as brain cells cry and die from the chemical smell.  My hands cramp up from the paranoid rigidity of my fingers, and the one-star Netflix movie meant to occupy my thoughts during the infuriatingly mindless painting has such poor acting that tears of discomfort spout from the outer corners of my eyes.  After all of that pain and sacrifice, one wrong move on the handrail or doing the dishes and BOOM-- nails that look like a fifteenth-century fresco.  However, this month, my local Dollar Tree had Wet n Wild nail polish two-packs for sale (that's 50 cents a bottle), and it was love at first sight with some of the colors.

The fast dry formula actually dries very quickly and lasts about three days before it starts chipping. With two little kids, my nails pick a lot of stickers and boogers off hard surfaces, but the megalast formula can go almost a week without chipping.  Painting my nails has become my new Saturday night routine.


Poldark
Photo retrieved from http://static.tvgcdn.net/mediabin/showcards/tvshows/700000-800000/thumbs/799483_poldark_430x573.png
Thank you, PBS, for this masterpiece.  The story follows a Welshman named Poldark whose great family name far surpasses his actual wealth.  Pulled into the quaint 18th-century coastal town, the audience watches his successes and failures to navigate the responsibilities of a gentleman while rejecting many of the societal expectations which try to unsuccessfully dictate his life.  This show is moody and raw sprinkled with a love story and tear-jerking tragedies.  It's the perfect addition to the nail polish routine and significantly improves the experience.  I believe you can watch it for free with Amazon Prime.

Great British Bake Show
Photo retrieved from https://img.buzzfeed.com/buzzfeed-static/static/2014-12/24/4/enhanced/webdr03/enhanced-16579-1419414089-8.png
Speaking of PBS classics, this show is positively scrummy (that means scrumptious for all you Yanks).  Bright, light, and filled with adorable British expressions, the mystical white tent tucked away in the English countryside is full of the sweetest drama. For the love of all that is holy, I beg you not to watch this show if you are on a diet, gluten-intolerant, diabetic, or just generally care about your health.  I found myself eating my couch upholstery while begging my husband to bake me a cheesecake late at night.  Please learn from my mistakes.  Do NOT watch this show.

Naps
I completed my bachelor's degree this month, and while my intentions were to jump right into sprucing up my neglected house, I quickly realized I needed to stop, breathe, and process this transition.  I retired to bed earlier than my previous school schedule allowed. I napped in the afternoons whilst my son slumbered upstairs.  As you've probably noticed from my favorites, I also watched copious amounts of TV.  I'm finally feeling my ambition return and have started hemming curtains and reorganizing closets, but a couple weeks of rest was absolutely necessary.

Paul
February favorites would not be complete without this birthday boy-- my Valentine and hubby.  When Paul and I married in 2009, we mutually decided to prioritize his education so he could be a competent provider.  After working and supporting him through his bachelor's and master's degrees, Paul supported my decision to go back to school.  He has left work early and braved rush hour traffic to be home with Annie so I could trek onto campus for evening classes.  He spent Saturdays parenting alone while I disappeared all day for child-free homework time.  He listened to countless hours of me reading papers and posts aloud.  He was my sounding board, assistant editor, and cheerleader during these late nights.  He's my forever February favorite.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

When the Luck of the Irish Failed Me

On Monday, February 13th, I completed my last day of class, and on Tuesday, February 14th (Valentine's Day), I ventured to the Dollar Tree and purchased a litany of St. Patrick's Day paraphernalia for crafting in my copious free hours.  I carefully laid out my spoils on the family room floor and planned a revolutionary wreath that was sure to send my neighbors into a jealous frenzy.

I began with 3 aluminum tins that I sliced and diced to create metal rings which I manipulated into a heart shape.

Next, I contracted tetanus from too many metal cuts as I glued my makeshift hearts together.

Then, I took poorly-crafted St. Patty's Day tinsel and wrapped it around my shamrock form whilst green confetti shed from the emerald strings, and danced and glistened in the air before adhering themselves to every surface of the room with static electricity.

Lastly, I stood back to admire my flimsy, nondescript bush.  It was suddenly obvious that my genius craft was a flop.  In desperation, I glued a leprechaun bobblehead to the center of my "shamrock," but instead of enhancing the good luck charm, my wreath looked like an Irish gull laid an unfortunate egg after eating Lucky Charms out of a convenience store dumpster.

My front door has since remained bare.  No jealous neighbors.  No lucky threshold.  Just an unwelcoming nail protruding like a finger bidding my visitors to turn and leave before my hot glue gun has time to heat up again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Lanyard

Written February 13, 2017:
I cried today at Annie’s Parent-Teacher Conference.  Nothing says, “I’m a stable parent,” like tearing up at your child’s kindergarten teacher while she explains library day.  After a moment of embarrassment, I explained I wasn’t crazy.  It was just her lanyard that was making me cry.  I realized that sounded worse than crying over library time, so I felt compelled to tell her the whole story.

Two years ago, when I reenrolled in school for what felt like the ten-zillionth time, I hoped this stint would end in graduation (finally).  A few weeks into the semester, I was meandering the aisles at Harman’s looking for gluten-free something-or-other when something sparkly caught my eye.  I turned to study a hanging wrack of lanyards bedazzled with plastic rhinestones.  The rows of halogen lights above illuminated the prisms, and tiny rainbows reached out to me like a divine sign.  I lifted a lanyard from the hooks and ran it between my fingers, smiling slightly and imagining a teaching name tag hanging from the clip with my picture and Mrs. Rowberry printed on the front.  I handed it to wide-eyed baby Sam who thoroughly tasted it as I made my way to the checkout.  At home, it laid out on my nightstand as a visual representation of my goal to finish school.  On nights where I stayed awake rocking a restless baby or cleaning puke out of stuffed animal fur and woke up completely exhausted with piles of reading and homework in front of me, that glittery lanyard whispered, “Keep going.”

Sitting across from Annie’s teacher on the final day of undergrad classes while she wore the same name tag accessory I picked out to wear during my first year of teaching was just too much to handle. It finally felt real that someday I may be sitting across from nervous parents and handing them report cards. When I shared this tale with Annie's teacher, she smiled at me and squeezed one of my hands while I wiped away a tear with the other.

I can never show my face there again.