Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Pause

This post may make it WAY into the realm of TMI for more than a few. But it is what is is. It's what is going on in my life and it is what I want to write about. So any skittish or cowardly readers who don't want to think about or discuss THE PAUSE may exit now.

For the last 4 months or so, I have been more than mildly worried that I have been losing my mind. Seriously. No, really - seriously. While on vacation in Colorado with my family this summer, I burst into tears many times, successfully (or not?) hiding my daytime crying spells and crying myself to sleep more nights than not. I had to soak my face in cold water every morning to try to diminish the puffy eyelids I get when I cry at night so my parents and siblings and nieces and nephews wouldn't think I had been transformed into a monster. This fall, I have found myself driving down Rt. 199 here in the Burg, sobbing - SOBBING - SOBBING over the fact that my kids were growing up (duh! It's what happens! They grow up!). I'm talking, not able to breathe, gasping, horrific earth-shaking sobbing. I have yelled at friends (well, I didn't realize I was yelling at the time, but she interpreted it that way, given the raised voice and all) and have found myself wandering the halls of the high school with tears streaming down my face. I have had knock down drag out emotional nosedives with both of my children. In all of these cases, there was a part of me there that was barely cognizant of what was going on, was horrified at my out-of-control behavior, and was completely unable U.N.A.B.L.E. to stop it. I have felt like a possessed woman and have been terrified that I am losing my mind. Seriously. At times other than these horrific emotional upheavals, I have felt completely out of sorts, unnatural, different, unsettled, and unhappy in general. I have been attributing this feeling to the stress of balancing raising my kids with my job and with being band booster president and with keeping the lives of so many people just moving in the right direction in general, but it didn't seem right. I've been stressed before and I haven't fallen apart like this. I have been struggling to simply keep it together, to simply make it from day to day. I have been on the phone with my parents so many times lately, having called them in a near panic, and found myself with tears streaming down my face and unable to articulate what was wrong, so I would pretend I had just called to say hi.

I have finally figured it out. Each of my enormous emotional upheavals have been accompanied the next day by, ahem, Auntie Flo. I have not had PMS like this since I was a teenager going through puberty (and maybe not even then). I've not felt such emotions since my hormones were undergoing the enormous fluctuations of puberty - the enormous fluctuations like those that also occur in..... (ahem) perimenopause.

Excuse me a moment, but....


Well that certainly explains it. Coincidentally, as my daughter's body is entering a new phase, as it is undergoing enormous changes and hormonal fluctuations, so am I. As she begins, so I end.

It was huge relief to realize that 1) I've not been making this up - I really have been going through something different and major the last 4 months, and 2) there is an explanation for it. It is also profoundly sad for me. It seems like it hasn't been that long since the whole female adventure started. How can it be that I am at the end already? It's not like I wanted more children. I already have the two most perfect children anyone could want or need. It's just.... so final.

At least I know what's happening now, and can talk to my doctor about something that might help. How horrible and terrifying for women long ago who might not have had information available. It's not been a good several months. I truly thought I was losing my mind. I can only hope that now that I understand, things will be better and I won't be as confused and worried about my sanity. Maybe I'll figure out a way to stop crying and maybe my kids will stop being afraid of being in the same room with me.

I don't believe in god. But if there were one, I'd have a few choice words for him. I say "him" with careful certainty because no god with female characteristics would pull this kind of nasty joke on women in their middle age, after they successfully made it through the emotional upheaval of puberty and bearing children. No. A female deity would not do this.

And so it goes. Time passes, and people age. Things are still good, and I'll still find the happiness out there...especially when this hormonal crap is over. Until then, keep the wine coming and send lots of happy vibes and wishes of patience to my sweet husband.

Ride the Pause. Wheeeeee!!!!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

warts and all

Warts make you think of witches, I bet. When I was little, I had a line of warts that would come and go on my forearm. I was absolutely horrified by them (as any good preteen would be). More recently, I've had a series of plantar warts that don't so much horrify me as piss me off. They're highly painful, inconvenient, and gross. The latest one is on my big toe, if anyone cares.

"Warts and All": The whole thing; not concealing the less attractive parts.

I was raised as a band kid. With a band director for a father, I grew up believing that high school consisted solely of band kids and football kids. Band kids went to school to learn to play instruments and to march at football games played by the football kids. This was exacerbated by growing up in Texas, which is big for football and band. My childhood memories include band trips and being passed around the bus by teenage girls who oohed and awwed over the books I was reading. I adored band and everything about it. (Largely because I adored my father!!) Then, somehow, I grew up a little bit and was old enough to BE in band. I adored it even more. My high school memories are, essentially, band memories. The smells of uniforms, of my mouthpiece, of the bus. The band hall with corregated silver walls and forests of music stands. The sounds of the band hall, of random pieces of music while kids warmed up. Snippets of marching tunes. Memories of friends, of competition, of being part of something great.

I didn't think anything could top those memories, until I had children. And then my children joined band and I was able to watch their joy in being part of band. Let me tell you...watching your child enjoy something magnifies the level of joy multifold. Thousands of multifold. Last year, my son was a freshman and started high school band. Finally!! Last fall was amazing. Suddenly, after years of absence, I was plunged firmly back into the life of band. Rehearsals. Competitions. The thrill of doing well. Laughter, silliness, companionship. I was lifted up to the heights I'd forgotten about - had never even really known to that extent. It was like a drug. I wanted more. I wanted to dive in, to encourage, to participate.

So I did.

I became Band Booster president. And this year? This year, I have been made acutely aware of the warts that exist behind the scenes. Instead of hearing the band play "The Jerk" in the stands and watch them dance, I am racing through traffic to return to the band hall to retrieve a forgotten uniform. Instead of 150% rejoicing in the 2nd place win the band received at their first competition, I am trying to figure out how to deal with a student passing out from heat exhaustion while a well-meaning but power-hungry chaperon turns into a bear and yells at anyone who dares try to help. Instead of dissolving in ecstasy into the fall temperatures and colors, and into the fun of MARCHING SEASON, I am receiving phone calls from irate and over-worked board members and stressing out over fundraisers. The joy has completely disappeared with the emergence of the warts. Big time.

I have discovered that I don't love band, warts and all. I really only love it without the warts. I love it as the fairy tale I grew up with. I love the possibilities and dream of it. I don't love the reality of it. I am not loving worrying about budgets and concessions and volunteer hours. I'm not loving it, and I'm pissed. (There is SOOO much drama I am not describing here, as you can certainly imagine.)

It would take only a small move to return to the love and joy I felt last year. I could make the decision that I do not want to continue to sacrifice my personal enjoyment and not continue as band booster president next year. I could step down and return to "highly involved" but not "responsible" parent. There's nothing wrong with that. It's certainly tempting, and it's a very plausible next decision.

There are those who love, and those who know the warts and still love. I have decided those are two very distinctive groups. I have not decided which one is preferable. Warts are reality. But they are an ugly reality. Are we better off ignoring their existence, or in acknowledging them and accepting them? I am not sure.

What is my role as a parent? That question is easy. My role is to facilitate the best life possible for my children. My son doesn't see the warts that I see. He sees the same thing I saw when I was in high school band - warts free. And there is nothing I want more than to assure that he and my daughter have a collection of fantastic memories.

How to assure that? To be decided.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Falling apart, redux, redux, redux, etc.

For the last five months or so, my family and close friends have been listening to me complain about how busy and overwhelmed I am (and they have been very patient about it, I must add). The story goes: I burst into tears at random times. I have trouble breathing sometimes (literally and figuratively). There is NO MORE SPACE left on any of the little squares in my calendar planner. I have to write in the margins! I often forget to make dinner for myself and my family. I have forgotten how to have fun during all this, and, and, and, I know I'm going to miss it one day!!!! (let the panic build-up ensue!!!) Wail, wail, tears!!! (So far, I have not forgotten to pick my children up from any activities so that is a good thing).

Anyway, today, for the first time in, oh I don't know how long (5 months?), I have a Friday off to myself. I sat myself down in front of the computer and started reading back posts from this blog. (Which was quite entertaining, I must say. I have cute and very funny kids!)

But the thing that struck me was - you could take many of my posts from 3-4 years back and I was going through the EXACT SAME FREAKIN' THING!!!!!! All my bellyaching, all my whining, all my feelings of being out of control...ditto ditto ditto. The only difference is which organization I have sold my soul to (PTA versus Band Boosters) and my kids are older and in slightly different activities. The good part is I don't really remember feeling this frustrated and out of control back then, so I have hopes now that these feelings will not only pass but will eventually be forgotten. Unfortunately, many other things will also be forgotten. I was a little sad at reading the amazing conversations with my kids I documented here on this blog that I have totally forgotten. Therefore, I thought I'd better start documenting again. I'll try.

There are so many various smallish sorts of things that are routine here in my current life that are hidden amidst the chaos, and that are, in fact, somewhat amusing. Things like - Erin's cat Lucy spends 98% of her awake time sitting in the bathtub licking the faucet.

She looks a little stunned and embarrassed when I switch on the bathroom light to find her there once again, like a druggie being discovered at her stash. Actually, it's a bit obsessive of her. More than a bit. If someone leaves the door closed, she lies in front of it with the shakes and in a cold sweat. Personally, I haven't tried licking the faucet myself, so maybe there's something to it...

There are dozens of other smallish things that make me smile ( or that sometimes make me grit my teeth and count to ten). For instance, Erin must be... (let me think of how to phrase this)...the most comfortable "person among chaos" on the planet. As an illustration, this is AFTER she has been instructed to straighten her room (and has, indeed, to a point):

Yet. YET. Before she may use any eating utensil, this child must inspect it with a magnifying glass for any trace of food, waterspots, dust, or scratches lest it upset her delicate sensibilities. And, apparently, I am a failure of a housekeeper in this regard. I have been the recipient of many the condescending look, as she stands in front of an empty silverware drawer, the counter littered with deficient spoons.

I feel much better now that these small areas of light have been documented for my reading pleasure 3 or 4 years from now when I am wiping away tears of panic while wondering how I will survive whatever current crisis is dominating my life. To my future self: Have a cup of coffee!!! It is what it is!!! You are in the middle of the river of life - not drowning, but being swept along in the wildest, greatest adventure there is. And don't forget to leave the bathroom door open. I don't foresee Lucy's addiction going away.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

what to do with fresh produce: 1

We got our first CSA haul last Tuesday. My goal this year is to not let ANY of the wonderful CSA bounty go to waste, nor to let any of our bountiful garden output go to waste. I'm being optimistic about our garden. Last year was so pitiful it wasn't at all difficult to use it all since we got a handful total. This year is going to be awesome though. So to inspire myself and have a place to document recipes I try, I'm going to blog how I handle the produce. I doubt anyone will read this. Maybe I'll share it with Mare. :-)

From the CSA:
Lettuces and mixed greens (Arugula, Tat Soi, Red Mustard and Mizuna): YUM!!!!! I've been having salads for lunch every day, using 3-4 lettuce leaves and a large handful of greens to add spice. Personally, I'd be happy eating straight greens, but I want to use up the lettuce too, which is too bland to eat on its own in my opinion. In the salads, I've included radishes and cucumber, and I also like fruits - strawberries in particular, but not necessarily with the radishes. Different days, just to be clear. I added boiled egg one day for some protein. I don't always add dressing, just salt. I did make a grapefruit vinaigrette and use that until it was gone. For vinaigrette, add the following to a blender: 1/4 cup grapefruit juice - usually from 1 grapefruit, 1/4 teaspoon grapefruit zest, 1 tablespoon honey (local honey from farmer's market!), 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 4 scallions sliced thin - only white part, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Turn on blender and blend. Then veeeeeerrry slowly, while the blender is on, drizzle in 1/2 cup oil (1/4 cup canola+1/4 cup olive). This gets messy. I put on the top and take out the middle plastic part but still have to shield it with my hand or a paper towel to keep the vinaigrette from dressing everything in the kitchen. Put in a plastic squirt bottle and keep in the fridge - squirt on salads all week long. Yum. This recipe is one we got from A Chef's Kitchen.

Earliglow Strawberries (2 quarts): The first quart disappeared from snacking. I used some of the second quart for today's salad (see above). Still have a few to use up...

Bright Lights Swiss Chard: I think you have to use swiss chard the day you get it. I adore swiss chard when it's freshly picked. Otherwise, meh. I sauteed garlic in a olive oil with salt, added the swiss chard (which I washed thoroughly and cut into 1" squares). Sauted for about 5 minutes, then stirred it up and flipped it over. I didn't get to eat any. It was gone by the time I was ready for my dinner. I do think I added too much olive oil. You don't need much. Next time I might even try the spray oil.

Asparagus: This went into Risotto with spring onions and parmesan. Saute spring onions in olive oil, then add risotto - I used 1 1/2 cups for my family - and stir for a few minutes to coat the rice with oil. Add 1 cup of white wine, and decrease heat to low/medium. As the wine cooks off and is absorbed, add a large ladle of warm veggie broth one at a time, stirring and letting liquid be absorbed between ladles. Once risotto is the right consistency, add asparagus and shredded parmesan. I cut the asparagus into 1 inch lengths, and blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes, then put it into ice water until ready to add to risotto. This keeps it bright green. Was going to also add green peas (the steam-in-your-microwave kind), but there was more asparagus than I thought there'd be. We just ate the peas on the side.

Spring onion: (see above for risotto)

French breakfast radishes: Added to my salad one day. Still have some to use up. I'm not sure what to do with radishes other than snack on them or put in salads. Radish butter, maybe?

From our own garden:
Cilantro: I harvested a bunch and set it in a jar of water while I decided what to do. The internet says you can keep fresh cilantro for a few days like this. Don't know if it needs to also go in the fridge or not. I ended up making black beans with brown rice. Soaked the beans all day, then cooked for about 30 minutes. In a large sauce pan, I sauteed 1 1/2 diced yellow onions. Added black beans (a couple of cups?), salt, and ground ginger. (yes, ginger). I chopped up all the cilantro and added it (maybe 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro leaves?). I also added some lemon juice. It was supposed to be lime juice, but I didn't have any. Lemon didn't taste bad, but I'll use lime when I make this again. Made some brown rice to go with it. It wasn't spicy enough for me - I'd add chopped jalepenos or habaneros if I were making it just for myself - but the family loved it.

Strawberries: nowhere near as good as the variety from the CSA. Maybe they'll get sweeter as the summer goes on. They might be good for smoothies when we get more. I need to pick them - there's starting to be a lot.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"it is what it is."

Subtitle : Jen invokes the privilege to engage in indulgent navel-gazing

"It is what it is."

My husband says this phrase a lot. I get incredibly irritated every time. I told him it sounds awfully condescending to me. Why not just say,
"I am mature enough to view this problem that is making you curl into a fetal position and sob as the simple event it is, all contentedly set in its proper place in the universe and I'm cool enough to shrug it off with a flip saying."
or more succinctly,
"I'm not stupid enough to make a big deal over this."
(I know. Poor John. Sympathy donations to him for dealing with such a shrew are welcome)

So then I started noticing that at the many band boosters meetings I'd go to, the band director would very often shrug at any given complication, give a half smile and say "It is what it is."

(Of course, I initially had a different reaction when he said it. I thought it was cute and laid back...the first 100 times or so. Now, I'm having a reaction more similar to the one I'd reserved for John).

I've started to notice more and more people throwing this phrase around. And my dislike/morbid fascination for is increasing. Why does this phase make me so completely crazy?

Here's what the urban dictionary has to say about it. Some of the suggestions resonate with me and my annoyance:
A way of demonstrating apathy; an unwillingness to evoke change; a way of saying "It's not of interest to me."
OOOOhhh. There you are. That's exactly why that phrase makes my toes curl. Apathy is one of the things I hate most. Ever. I despise apathy. Apathy is lazy, and I hate lazy almost as much as apathy. Apathy is action by inaction; committing yourself to live in isolated boredom. Passion is where it's at!!!! PASSION and engagement and putting yourself out there - now that's the way to be, right?

But as my recent "beloved-teacher-from-my-past-getting-irritated-at-my-posting-a-link-to-an-article-about-cutting-spending/raising taxes-and-my-general-liberal-crap-and-then-calling-me-a-bitch-on-facebook" episode might have taught me, putting myself out there - embracing my passions and wearing them on my sleeve has certain drawbacks. (I am still smarting from that episode and trying to figure out if there is more than a negligible smattering of bitchiness to me - I think there is - and I'm trying to come to terms with it). But even still smarting from that virtual bitch slap, I can't retreat in how I attack life.

Life is a sine curve. You can let life wash over you without engaging, and flatline. Or you can engage and actively push those peaks up there and ride the resulting wave, including the valleys. It only is what it is if you let it stay that way. Change can be evoked, and it's passion that evokes change.

Did you read that?

Change can be evoked.

And thus is the conundrum of my life. While I am not a fan of change in the "Lassie is going off the air respect", I don't feel engaged and alive unless I invoke it. So I engage and push for change and feel wistful for the way things used to be. Repeat. It's just the way I am.

Indeed, you might even say, "it is what it is".

Sunday, April 10, 2011

My second inaugural post

I miss blogging. It's been 1.5 years since my last blog post and I think that hiatus has been long enough. Part of the reason I stopped blogging is because it was simply easier to communicate in sound-bites on Facebook, and I didn't feel the need to sit down and take the time to think things through on a broader scale with enough depth to create a blog post. I think I've had enough of that strictly fast-food diet now though, and am ready for some home baking again.

So in my second inaugural post, I figure I have several ways that I can proceed.

I could reintroduce myself and give a quick outline of the last year and a half - but I imagine most people are not exactly on tenterhooks to hear a year and a half of trivia.

I could explore the various options about what this blog should look like and be about and hear back from my readers - but it's awfully narcissistic to imagine that I have enough "readers" at all, much less enough readers that have an opinion about what I should blog about, to poll. That's just a silly option.

I could just...start back up. I'm going with this option.

Lassie is going off the air.

When I was a little girl, back in the wonderful world of 70's TV, one of my favorite shows (along with millions of other little girls) was "Lassie." There are several youtube clips from old Lassie shows, but this particular one is what I remember. The theme song is important. That sad, wistful melody, played in a whistle... At the end of the show, listening to that theme and watching Lassie stand on a hill with the wind blowing through her fur, I would just bawl. I'd sit there week after week and just sob and cry at the end of every show. I can't imagine what all my mom was thinking about me. She finally asked me why I cried at the end of every show. I don't remember the conversation we had, but I must have finally been able to articulate to her that I was crying simply because it was over. I'd spent the last 30 minutes enthralled with being a part of the world of Lassie, with all of its lessons about love and friendship and love and devotion and love and family and love. (I know - isn't this just the SAPPIEST?????) And after 30 minutes of heaven always came the same realization: that the show was over.

Ever since, the code phrase in my family for what is wrong when I am distraught in one fashion or another over some change or another, is that "Lassie is going off the air."

My baby - he just turned 15, and my other baby, the littlest one, is 12. I am in the twilight years of being a mom of schoolage children. For many years there, my house was one of toys scattered across the floor and a pantry full of juice boxes and applesauce. The laundry was copious and consisted of lots of dirty bibs and tons and tons and tons of socks. Currently, the bibs have been replaced by black vintage 80s rock band t-shirts and middle school uniforms, but the socks are still multiplying. I've finally gotten the lunch-packing business down to an art now, whipping out a couple of mostly healthy lunches packed in mostly reusable containers in just a few minutes every morning. I can cook up a homemade dinner with separate versions available for vegetarians or mushroom-haters. I sign off on tests and write letters asking for excused absences when my kids stay home from school sick, and I no longer feel like I'm forging the official mom signature. I'm no longer at a loss about how to let my kids hold a sleepover, and dutifully buy bags of cheetos and plenty of rootbeer just before pumping up the air mattress to throw in front of the TV/DVD player with movies carefully selected to just barely toe the line between parent-approved age-appropriateness and coolness. I still spend hours sitting and watching practices for soccer, baseball, and volleyball, and watching rehearsal for school plays and band concerts, and of course, attend said plays and concerts. I've moved away from volunteering each week in classrooms, but still chaperon dances and school trips, and hold offices in the PTA and band boosters. My life was and is defined by being mom.

And I see the end coming, as it must, as it should, as it will. I'm helping my son to structure his activities to look good for college applications. The prospect of paying for college is no longer something that I put way off into the future. I recently realized that the dozens of family vacations I've always wanted to take with the kids is going to need to be whittled down to only a few, because time is....well, it's finite. Before I know it, the frustrations of finding socks stuffed behind the couch cushions, empty soda cans in the playroom, and candy wrappers scattered over my buffet are going to be solved....because there will no longer be children in the house. Didn't I just start this journey? Wasn't it just a few years ago that I fell to my knees sobbing in front of the perfect baby boy in the bassinet because I suddenly realized that his only mom was... me? who had no idea what to do with a baby boy? Wasn't it just yesterday that I made my first batch of birthday cupcakes to take into school for my kindergartner and was buying adorable little girl dresses at Target? I entered the parenthood years with trepidation, but with more enthusiasm than I've ever had in my life. I had the wind knocked out of me with the transition to being a parent, but it was the most invigorating rollercoaster ride I'd ever been on.

Yet, I really don't want time to stop. I adore the young people my children are now. I adore them. I have the most amazing conversations with them, and I often walk away feeling humbled by their depth of feeling and their depth of understanding of very complicated issues. They are amazing people. What I do miss is the job I used to have. Just when I finally started to get my footing and figure it out, it is time to think about moving to the next phase. I'm excited for the future. I'm excited to see what my kids end up deciding to do with their lives and see who they become. But I hope you all understand if I occasionally make cupcakes with sprinkles and topped with a Hershey's kiss. I hope you allow me to occasionally watch reruns of "Little Bear" and "The Wiggles" without judging me. I will miss wiping fingerprints off the TV and buying orange juice by the gallon.

I never want to lose the people that my children are at the moment where we are. It's just that..I'm a little sad/wistful. My job as mom is slowly moving from being the center of their universes to being someone who is merely very important. I will no longer be the architect of their every activity, the artist who colors their world. They will appreciate my cooking, but my job of feeding their souls will be gone. As it should be.
I'm just a little sad/wistful, because Lassie is going off the air.