Archive for the 'Stuff I Think About When I Should Be Sleeping' Category

Coming up for air.

Well, we made it.

Sort of.

We’re down to one dog now, and the movers didn’t arrive with our stuff for an extra 8 days, which was no fun, and we didn’t get our Internet service up and running until yesterday afternoon. But we’re here, and I have a working kitchen, and the ability to type on a normal keyboard, and now that our crazy dog is no longer with us, I actually have time to write.

I suppose I should write it all out, what happened these past three weeks, because someday I’ll be sorry if I don’t. But it’s hard because I’m grieving. That damn dog was such a pain in the ass, but I loved him. Four years I worked with him, and all for what? One week into this move, we had to relinquish him to a shelter. Because instead of calming down here in this bigger house, he just got crazier. I’m 100% sure we did the right thing, but still.

I miss my dog.

Ten Days and Counting.

Ten days left until we all board a plane for Colorado.

The movers arrive on Monday. They’ll take two days to pack this house, and one day to load it. Then they’ll start driving west and meet us there in about a week’s time. I am continually grateful not to actually have to pack. But experience has taught me that movers will PACK EVERYTHING. Including any of your trash. They can’t make any assumptions about what you may or may not want to keep, so they just pack whatever they find and send it along for you to deal with later.

Back when we moved here seven years ago, I occasionally opened a box that was filled with nothing but trash. One box contained only a bunch of styrofoam blocks that once protected some new computer we’d bought way back when. Another, from my office closet apparently, held a full trash bag I must have forgotten to throw out at some point. Inside the bag were quite a few empty cigarette packages from when I used to smoke. At least there weren’t any ashes. Ick.

So, armed as I am with the knowledge that the movers will pack EVERYTHING, I’ve been spending as much time as possible going through cabinets and closets, tossing what needs tossing, donating what needs donating. Yesterday, the girls and I went through the DREADED COAT CLOSET. For such a small space, it sure did hold a lot of junk: mostly outgrown winter wear and sports gear. For about two hours, the chaos that is my normal living room reached higher and higher levels of disorganization as we sorted through the unbelievably overwhelming amout of CRAP that’s been collecting in there for the past six years.

Peppered in with all that junk, though, were dozens of pairs of outgrown shoes, along with an extra dozen or so shoes that couldn’t find their matches. We started lining up all these shoes and boots, and the line stretched across the room towards the back door. We exclaimed over the littlest ones, and each girl stole an old tiny favorite pair to keep as a memory, hurrying up to their rooms to hide them away. In the interest of being able to walk around in the house, we designated the back half of the dining room as the Shoe Recovery Area:

shoes-dr

All these shoes have a story behind them. That lone black flip flop in the front center, for instance, lost its mate to a friend’s puppy last summer, when said puppy stole it and chewed it up. My younger daughter came home wearing only one shoe, but giggling the whole way. That black boot-ish looking thing all the way in the back at the top right is actually a walking cast my older daughter wore for half of one summer when she damaged some ligaments jumping barefoot off the swings CONSTANTLY for weeks on end.

And there there are the little pink princess crocs:

princess-crocs

See them there behind the white dress flats my daughter wore to her first communion? It’s not that there’s a really cool story behind them, but I had just been reminiscing about these little shoes with a blogging friend of mine last week, and then suddenly, there they were in the closet. My younger daughter wore them all summer long a few summers back, along with a little red dress and white hat we’d found at the thrift store. Now she’s almost as tall as me, and I’m not sure where that little red dress ended up. But here’s how she looked back then:

red-dress

And here is a close up of her feet in those little pink princess crocs:

chalk-bunny

We were jumping rope on the back porch that afternoon, and the rule was: you couldn’t land on the bunny. No matter what. Look how close she came. Those were good days. Good Pennsylvania days.

So, yeah. Yesterday I cleaned out my coat closet.

I may never recover from it.

 

 

Learning to lift the veil.

Mom says each of us has a veil between ourselves and the rest of the world, like a bride wears on her wedding day, except this kind of veil is invisible. We walk around happily with these invisible veils hanging down over our faces. The world is kind of blurry, and we like it that way.

But sometimes our veils are pushed away for a few moments, like there’s a wind blowing it from our faces. And when the veil lifts, we can see the world as it really is, just for those few seconds before it settles down again. We see all the beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love. But mostly we are happy not to. Some people learn to lift the veil themselves. They they don’t have to depend on the wind anymore.

— Rebecca Stead, When You Reach Me

While living in Pennsylvania, I had the good fortune to meet and befriend an amazing group of poets. One of them in particular had mastered the art of lifting the veil. Every time we talked, you’d get a little taste of what it was like, got a little better (braver) at lifting your own. She passed away in February. I wasn’t able to be with her that night because I was chaperoning a homeschoolers dance. I wish I could have taken a picture of what the sky looked like that night: a dense and beautiful fog had settled over everything, lighting up the snow covered fields. It was probably the most beautiful winter night I’d ever seen in Pennsylvania. But I was rushing that night, and didn’t stop to snap a picture. So, I’ll settle for this shot instead:
pams-sunset

This is what the sky looked like as I drove home from her memorial poetry reading later that spring. And for once I took the time to stop the car and snap the picture.

And just now, while I was typing this out, the sun came out for just a few moments, brightening up my office, laying a swatch of warmth across my desk, after I don’t know how many days of dark and gloom. Like she knows I’m thinking about her, and knows how much I wish I could sit with her just one more time, and watch as she lifts her veil, showing me just how easy it is.

The beginning of letting go.

Came across this interesting article on a message board this morning:

The Dramatic Rise of Anxiety and Depression in Children and Adolescents: Is It Connected to the Decline in Play and the Rise of Schooling? by Peter Gray.

It’s a bit long, and employs some psychological jargon that takes some wading through, but it’s still an interesting read. Basically, Gray says that the increase in amounts of modern industrial schooling correlate to an increase in anxiety and depression in children. And it’s not just about the school day; the control of children’s after-school hours also contribute. Here’s a quote:

In school, children learn quickly that their own choices of activities and their own judgments of competence don’t count; what matters are the teachers’ choices and judgments. Teachers are not entirely predictable. You may study hard and still get a poor grade, because you didn’t figure out just exactly what the teacher wanted you to study or guess correctly what questions he or she would ask. The goal in class, in the minds of the great majority of students, is not competence but good grades. Given a choice between really learning a subject and getting an A, the great majority of students would, without hesitation, pick the latter….

School is also a place where children have little choice about with whom they can associate. They are herded into spaces filled with other children that they did not choose, and they must spend a good portion of each school day in those spaces. In free play, children who feel harassed or bullied can leave the situation and find another group that is more compatible; but in school they cannot. Whether the bullies are other students or teachers (which is all too common), the child usually has no choice but to face those persons day after day. The results are sometimes disastrous.

When I was a kid, I went to school, and then I went home and did my own thing for hours on end. We were poor, so I had no after school activities like dance classes or soccer practices. I just went home and played. Or read. I didn’t even have homework until I was in the fourth grade.  We lived in a large apartment complex that was surrounded by patches of forest. All the kids in the neighborhood would roam the woods together, or we’d split off into smaller groups and play other games.  On summer nights, there’d be at least two dozen of us still outside way after dark, playing large games of hide and seek, or jumping rope or doing not-so-smart things like setting wasp nests on fire. And then running for it. And yeah, sometimes there’d be fights. But we all survived. When I went into therapy as a young adult, all my running around, unsupervised, late into those summer nights, was not the reason.

When I was older, our financial situation improved somewhat, and for a few years, I had a horse to ride. My mom would drop me off at the stable and I’d saddle up and ride the trails alone for hours on end. I also worked in the stables part time, and at the age of 13 was expected to be able to handle that kind of work. If I couldn’t get a ride to the barn, I’d roam the woods near our house. Alone. As a young teenager. Or I’d play by the creek with my sister. For hours and hours. My mother never came with us. She didn’t look out the window nervously to see if she could still see us. She didn’t say to us: don’t go too far. And I never once considered her inattention to my outside play neglectful.

But that was 30 years ago. Today, kids don’t live like that. They’re rarely left alone, especially outside. All of their after-school hours are filled with sports practices, clubs and other activities, and that, along with their homework is all they have time for. I never see children running around in this neighborhood (except for that pack of middle-school boys who roam the streets on summer evenings and make suggestive comments to second graders eating ice pops, that is), and I don’t let my kids roam around either (because of said pack of middle-school boys). It’s just not done anymore.

We homeschool, so I am able to provide a significant amount of free play time for my kids. But what I’m learning this year is that that’s not good enough. Here’s another quote from Gray’s article, that really drives this point home to me:

By depriving children of opportunities to play on their own, away from direct adult supervision and control, we are depriving them of opportunities to learn how to take control of their own lives. We may think we are protecting them, but in fact we are diminishing their joy, diminishing their sense of self-control, preventing them from discovering and exploring the endeavors they would most love, and increasing the chance that they will suffer from anxiety, depression, and various other mental disorders.

I’m learning that my kids need more unstructured time. What I need to learn now is how to take that next step. How to stop HOVERING. I can say: yeah, I let the kids play and I don’t structure the time or the game. But those hours are still technically supervised by me. I know where the kids are. I can get to them quickly if need be. And I know my 9-year-old wants more autonomy than that. What I don’t know, is how to let go and give it to her.

Of course, the fact that my youngest is only six contributes to my inability to just let them go play. Maybe when they’re a couple years older, this won’t seem so hard. Six seems a bit young to be allowed to wander the neighborhood unattended. The best I can do right now is to take them to the park with their friends and let them get a little far away from me in a group.

Peter Gray promotes an unschooling approach to educating children. I’m not sure I can totally get on board with that. I still believe that a classical education is a good idea. My goal is to educate the kids, and still have a ton of hours of free, unstructured play time. We get our work done in three hours or less, and there is no homework. When we’re done, we’re done. But I’ve still loaded them up with lots of structured activities. Too many, I think. And I do that for the same reason I’ve always done that: because I want to make sure I’m providing enough socialization time. It’s ridiculous, I know. But I still get stuck in that trap.

This summer, we’ll be doing a lot less. And I’m really looking forward to it. Maybe I’ll work up the courage to just let them go play.

Maybe.

If a movie could be a song, this would be ours.

We never really ever had a song, in the soppy teenage sense of the idea. Remember how important that was? Having a song with your [insert appropriate significant-other identifier here]. 

There is a song by Alan Jackson that came close, and we danced to it at our wedding, but it wasn’t a well-known song and never got any air time, so it didn’t really work the way having-a-song was supposed to work. We’d never be out driving somewhere and OUR SONG would come on the radio and it would have meaning. We’ve never really been that soppy, to be honest. We prefer to laugh hysterically at things, rather than gaze dreamily into each other’s eyes.

So, no, we never had a song. But we do have a movie. And here’s a clip from it:

Every year, on Valentine’s Day, we cook up a few pounds of Snow Crab Legs, melt a mess of butter, and watch When Harry Met Sally.

And we laugh all night long.

It’s not just the movie that defines us, it’s the fact that RegularDad really balked at watching it all those years ago when we were still in college. It had just come out on video and we were in my college apartment and I was all: hey, wanna watch this movie with me? It’s really awesome. And he was all: Nah… it looks kinda dumb. (Like a chick-flick, he was thinking, but didn’t want to say it, is my guess.)

I had to really talk him into watching it. And of course, he finally gave in, and ended up laughing his ass off all afternoon, because let’s face it, it’s an incredibly funny film.

What a defining moment that was for us. From that point on, he totally trusted me when I said: Dude, you gotta watch this movie.

So, that’s what we’re up to tonight. Hope you’re doing something just as fun. Just as defining.

Call me Spud.

So, two days ago, I peeled myself.

Yep. You heard me. I freekin’ PEELED myself.

I was in the kitchen, peeling potatoes for dinner, and the potato in my hand was somewhat small and unruly, and I was leaning over the trash can just working away at it, and next thing you know,

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGHHHH!!!

That wasn’t the potato!

Immediately upon my hollering, everyone else started hollering.The girls were all: MOM!!!! ARE YOU OKAY????? and RegularDad was all: WHAT HAPPENED?????? Even the puppy started barking. (The cats, snoozing under a bed, were all: wha?… did someone say something?… no?… good… zzzzz…..)

And I’m already at the sink, cursing a bit, with my index finger under some cold water, yelling back: I’M ALL RIGHT!!! Because if they came in and saw me like that, they’d FREAK. Moms with bleeding hands are downright scary.

The thing is, it wasn’t all that bad. I could tell pretty much right away that it wouldn’t need stitches or anything. You know how you JUST KNOW? Yeah… it was like that. I just KNEW. It wasn’t too bad.

But there was a… well… a flap, if you know what I mean. And that’s just GROSS. Any way you slice it. (Ha ha ha… slice it… get it… yeah, okay. I’ll stop.) RegularDad came in and asked to see the injury. I already had it wrapped in a paper towel and I was all: no thanks. I’m fine. It’s fine. And he was all: why don’t you want me to see it? And I was all, well there’s a bit of a flap. And he was all: we really need to get under that and disinfect it, and I was all NO WAY DUDE. GET AWAY FROM ME WITH THOSE TWEEZERS.

I laced a BandAid with Neosporin ointment and wrapped it around my flap, and went on with my evening.

Yesterday afternoon, I figured I’d refresh the BandAid, maybe put some more Neosporin on it. No big deal, right? But when I took off the bandage, it looked a little gross. So when RegularDad got home I asked him to look at it, and he did, and at first he was all: I dunno. Maybe you should go in. And I was all: I really don’t think it’s necessary. So, he cleaned it all up (even under the flap) and sprayed everything down with Bactine and then we did another Neosporin-laced bandage, and that was that.

Except I obsessed all night long over it. Because of my neighbor.

My neighbor spent all last spring and most of last summer at home on disability because he got a splinter. That’s all. Just a splinter. He works construction. He got this splinter and then didn’t clean it out completely, and ended up hospitalized with a shunt in his neck so he could have super-strength antibiotic cocktails infused right into his cartoid artery. Because of a FREEKIN SPLINTER.

So, all last night, I sat around thinking: what if there’s an infection brewing right now? What if I wake up tomorrow and see red lines creeping up my arm, and I go in to the doctor and he says: “You really should have come in the day this happened.”

Or, what if I make an appointment and I go in there and the doctor says: “You know, this really isn’t anything to worry about at all. Just keep on using the Neosporin and some BandAids, and you’ll be fine.”  Then he turns and scrawls “RAGING HYPOCHONDRIAC” on my file, and no one takes me seriously ever again.

Either way: I’m looking pretty foolish.

So, last night, I went to check in with some of my posse online, and they assured me that I was okay. That I could just do my own self-care and all would be well.

And I feel much better now. Although I haven’t looked underneath the bandage yet today. I can’t quite face it yet.

But still: Dudes…. I freekin’ PEELED myself.

It’s upsetting.

We’ll be eating potatoes with the skins on from now on. Hell, it’s healthier anyway.

No heaven will not Heaven ever be…

 regularcat-goodbye

Our Beloved RegularCat
born: January 31, 1994 ~ died: August 24, 2009

“No heaven will not Heaven ever be,
Unless my cats are there to welcome me.”
– anonymous


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