Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stuff and Failure!

It has been a long couple of months... A lot of things have changed, both good and bad, and I am getting used to a lot of things being different and interesting and challenging and sometimes hard.

For instance, every single day with Leah is something new. There are days she wakes up and I think, "Who the heck are you!?" We are right on the verge of walking, I feel it in my bones. We've been going to the play park at the mall and I see her studying the other kids and really working for it. She's climbing steps now--she only goes up one or two, but man, that scares me! I can't turn my back on her for a second and she's up the basement steps. We put up the gate about a month ago, but if I forget to close it when I run up to get a drink or find the phone, bam! I come back and she is sitting there a step or two up, grinning ear to ear, considering making the rest of the journey.

Her little health scare with the heart murmur affected me more deeply than I care to admit. From the moment the nurse said something about it until we met with the cardiologist today, I have lived in a new kind of worry that I didn't know existed. Oh sure, since becoming a mom, there is the kind of generalized worry that I think most of us feel about our kids, but this was concrete "is my baby going to be OK?" worry. I pressed my ear to her chest about a thousand times this week, listening to her heart beat and praying. When Dr. Allen said, "This is the most minor heart murmur, I really had to concentrate to even hear it, don't worry and you don't need to come back", I could feel my shoulders dropping and the tears filling my eyes. I held it together until I got in the car and called my mom. Then I barely got out the words, "She's fine" before completely losing it (while hurtling down I-95 at 70 with a big truck behind me. Oh and it was raining.)

Today has not been a great day. She did not sleep well at all last night--she was up at 1:30, 3:30, and 6:30, which meant so was I. I've been going on the assumption that she is trying to pop out some molars, but then I remembered it's been 9 days since she had some vaccinations, and they said we could see the effects of those vaccinations 7-10 days out, so now I'm wondering if perhaps the crankiness is due to that more than teeth. It took us almost 2 hours to get her to sleep tonight. I have to say, when she grinned up at me when I held her and rocked her, I didn't mind so much. I just hope she sleeps tonight. I remember thinking last night, "How the heck did I do this a year ago!?" but she would sleep during the day, and so could I. Now she's a ball of fire. I swear, I was hanging out at the play park this afternoon like a zombie. I came home and slept for the better part of 2 hours. So of course, now it's midnight, and I can't sleep again! AUGH! I'm trying to decide if I should take Leah to the doctor or even call them tomorrow, but then with the teething, there's nothing they can do about it and if it's a reaction to the shots, we just have to wait it out...

The house is a bit of a shambles, but I am attempting to get back to it. When I think how utterly clean it was just a couple months ago, I'm a bit embarrassed I fell off the wagon. The Easter dinner followed by Leah's birthday party were two big events that just kind of swung things square into disasterland--tons of people helping out, putting things where I still haven't found them, everything getting moved, dirt and grass tromped in and out, food tucked into the back of the fridge. Leah is such a clotheshorse, I haven't done her laundry in over a month and she still has tons of outfits. I haven't done towels. The pile for the yard sale grows every larger.

Speaking of which, I'm thinking of having my yard sale on Saturday, May 1, weather permitting. If anyone would like to join me to make it a "multi family yard sale", please feel free. I would be happy to go elsewhere, except that I am thinking of selling some furniture, and I have no means of transporting it to anywhere other than my own yard. I have 3 folding tables, plus my dining room table, plus our spare dining table. You may need to bring your own tables and definitely some chairs... I'll provide coffee and donuts. :-) Let me know if you want to sell some stuff! Our neighborhood is usually pretty good for yard sales.

Anyway, my control journal is back out for FLYLady again, and I did two huge loads of laundry, lots of dishes, and have gathered up tons of trash today. I have a bunch of bags of "stuff" in the back of our car to drop off to my sister this weekend when I see her and then I'll be able to fill the car with garbage and haul it to the dump (yeah, like I'll have time for that this weekend too!). Still, I'm happy with how things are shaping up already, and just have a few areas of touch up before really getting into my routine again. I think it got so clean that I started thinking, "Oh, I can skip that this week, it's already plenty clean!" and that is the first pitfall on your way to disaster. Michael and I are presently debating the laundry issue. We've been using those new Purex sheets you may have seen advertised on TV. I thought they'd be a blind guy's best friend when doing the laundry, but a) they are kind of pricey and b) he doesn't like them (says the clothes don't smell fresh enough and he's not sure they're getting clean). Consequently today I went grocery shopping and picked up laundry soap, but I got the liquid, not the powder. He prefers the powder since it's easier to measure, but it's also $4 more expensive for 20 fewer loads. So now we are trying to come up with a system for him to use the liquid without making a huge mess all over the place. I don't know what we're going to do. We are thinking of trying a turkey baster that he could use to suck up the detergent and shoot it into the compartment for the washer. There's already hemming and hawing about whether that'll work or not, but it's the best idea we've had thus far.

We officially closed the door on the exchange student idea, unfortunately. My friend who is a coordinator is totally stressed out this year by the job and didn't seem able to follow through on the steps required to finish our application and get Caroline here, so we decided to ease her stress load and forgo the whole thing. We emailed the school and let them know of our decision, and hopefully now Caroline will be able to find a family quickly and enjoy her year.

This weekend is a biggie--I have choir rehearsal on Saturday morning and then my friend Kris is coming down from Springfield to have lunch. Saturday evening we have a 50th birthday party to attend in Burke. Sunday is the big concert, and I have to be at the concert site at 3:30 in the afternoon. This is going to make for a long day for Leah and Michael, so I decided to take Leah to rehearsal with me on Saturday to give him a little bit of a break. I don't know how that's going to work, but I do know I need the rehearsal time. If it doesn't pan out, I will simply have to leave rehearsal, but hopefully it'll be fine.

The exterior of the house is complete in terms of paint and shutters. I need to get a picture of the new shutters, but I am really happy with the end result. Hopefully our doors will get here soon and we'll be in business with this year's renovations. I have decided to take up mowing the lawn myself, since the kids out back are not interested in doing it. I need to take our mower in to get a new blade and then it should be operational. It'll be interesting trying to start it, I haven't started it up in a couple of years, so we'll see if it still runs. Otherwise, I'll go get a cheap mower, but there's a repair shop right around the corner that I'm going to take it to for the blade, since we've been through several without finding the right one. Then I will take a stab at mowing. I've never mowed before, but I have to say, I'm kind of looking forward to it.

The big thing from this week was the tire debacle. I don't know. As I blogged before, dealing with car issues is my biggest stressor, and this whole situation is exactly the reason why. When the tires first crapped out in December 2008, I did a ton of research on the web and calling around to various stores to try and find the blasted size this car required. Finally, the only place we could get them was at Firestone, and the guy at the Firestone dealer informed me that there were no high mileage tires in this size, the best I could get was a 30,000 mile tire. They cost me over $700. Ok, fine, I didn't figure I'd be doing 30,000 miles worth of driving in a year and half, but whoo boy, was I wrong! The majority of it was while my dad was sick last summer and we were going back and forth to Vermont every day and to Star Lake, and just getting to and from Plattsburgh. Then there were the weekly trips to Baltimore before Leah was born, all the driving to and from Maryland during the court proceedings, doctors appointments, etc and our appointments in Richmond. To say nothing of trips up north while I was still working, book club meetings, travels around town, leisure travel, etc. It's just been nutty. So of course, three of the four tires failed inspection, and one was on the verge of it. And the guy at the garage says to me that he can stick a high mileage tire on the car, made by a company other than Firestone, for the same price as the Firestone tires, and depending on how long we have the car, we may never need to buy another set of tires. So I ask you: Did I get screwed by Firestone? Or am I getting screwed by the inspection guy? I lean towards getting screwed by Firestone only because I have been going to this particular garage for inspections, etc for a long time and I do trust them there. But it REALLY pisses me off that one way or another, someone is not telling me the truth about tires and my car. We are also pissed about the sheer price of the things--$800 is more than we paid for the Myrtle Beach condo, and it more or less was a good hunk of our nest egg for the coming year that we had set aside out of our tax return. I do believe that we will be fine and dandy, honestly what's left to possibly break?, but it'd still be nice to have that money in the bank, just in case. Anyway, all that being said, it only adds to my stress level to get two radically different opinions about the tires, pay the same price for two radically different tires, and know that somewhere, someway, somehow, I was screwed by a mechanic. This only makes it that much worse the next time I have to have something done--the stress ratchets up again.

As for other aspects of life... Everyone keeps inquiring about the Weight Watchers stuff. I have more or less fallen off the wagon. I keep thinking about it, but by mid-day I'm done. I just don't care. I want the results without the work (haha, don't we all!?). There are so many pitfalls and temptations out there and there is a big part of me that is tired of resisting. As more and more people are more and more successful, I feel like more and more of a failure, which is making it harder and harder to even feel like trying. I am thrilled for other people's success, but it makes my own inability to commit that much harder to come to terms with. I know I can "just" get right back up on the horse and get going, but I am getting more and more depressed about the whole thing. I keep seeing May in the mirror--I joined in May of 2008, and I think that maybe I should recommit myself this May. I don't know. I keep making these arbitrary deadlines and they keep passing and I keep not doing anything. I just need to get my butt down to a meeting and get going. I just don't feel like it. I guess I need to have myself a good cry about the whole thing and then forgive myself, let the past go, and get started. It just sucks is all. I feel like a big fat failure and that is not the place from whence you can really start over. You need to feel some sense of "YES I CAN!" before you do. And I know I can, I just don't feel it.

There are a lot of things fallen by the wayside at the moment. 80 Plates, I don't know if I'll ever finish it. I get depressed just looking at the blog. I can't think of any other countries I'm dying to do and all the research I have done into it has been good, but it's a lot of work, and I am short on time. There are only so many pieces of the Susan pie to go around. And I suppose that is something I am struggling with a bit. What do I want to devote myself to? I sat down and made a list the other day of all the things I feel passionately about that I would like to do something about. For instance, every time I drive to the mall, I feel very badly about the homeless people out on Rte 3 begging for money, and I would love to do something about it. But what exactly? Michael did some research into volunteer opportunities for me to work with the homeless population here, but then I have to consider that this would require additional time away from my family, which puts the burden of childcare on him. And while Leah is finally starting to warm up to him, it is far from a smooth road at the moment, so it requires being willing to go out and just hope for the best while I'm gone, which robs me of some of the enjoyment I get from doing things. I would also love to be an AFS volunteer, a literacy volunteer, volunteer at the library, considering a part time job when Barnes and Noble opens here in town, considering launching some sort of business on my own about which I have several ideas. I want to go ten thousand different directions, and I can't. For my own sanity, I just can't.

Anyway, Leah's already been up once during the writing of this post, so I'd better roll on into bed before she gets up again. A little sleep is better than none. Thanks for listening to my whining if you've made it this far!!!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Eight Years

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Olive Kitteridge

One of the books I selected for the Twenty Ten Book Challenge was Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.  I wanted to get through our club discussion of the book before posting here.  It counts as my second “Shiny and New” book and finishes off that category of the challenge.

Olive Kitteridge won the Pulitzer Prize and tells the story of a small town in Maine and its inimitable retired math teacher, Olive Kitteridge.  According to the jacket notes, the story centers around Olive, but in fact, to me, that doesn’t seem the case.  In several of the stories, Olive is a mere mention in passing.

I’m really split just about 50/50 on whether I like collections of short stories where a narrative is attempting to be woven through the stories to create a novel.  In some instances, it works well and I love it, such as Philip Gulley’s Harmony series and Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Cafe series, both of which I adore.  Books like Olive Kitteridge, however, fail to meet the mark for me.  In most cases, I feel as though I want to know more about a particular set of characters and nothing at all about other sets.  In this case, the book was supposed to revolve around Olive herself, but in fact it was her husband Henry I found to be a more compelling character.  I would have loved to know more about Heather, the young woman in the first story who goes to work for Henry and ultimately endures a series of tragedies.  I did not care much at all for the tween, for the guy with the mother who killed herself, or for many of the other characters. 

The book was OK, when I was interested in it, I was really interested in it, but for the most part, it was a bit of a chore to work my way through and left me dissatisfied.  I generously gave it 3 stars on GoodReads—didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, it just was.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Reflections on the Past Year

A year ago, a nurse placed a warm little bundle in my arms and offered to take some pictures while I let the tears flow freely and whispered, “I want to be your mommy” into the ear of a child who was not yet mine.  I had no idea what kind of a mother I would be, I had no idea in that moment how my life would change.  My mind was whirling with a million different thoughts and emotions, telling my heart to play it safe and not fall in love while my heart was transmitting a signal loud and clear that said, “Too late.”

So many of the things that were important to me a year and a day ago are not important to me now.  So many new things are important that I never dreamed of.  I have made serious life changes, I have learned about myself and about other people.  I have met people I didn’t know, fallen away from people who I thought I would never stop hearing from, experienced mind-boggling highs and heartbreaking lows, laughed from sheer exhaustion, cried with joy and beauty.  I have experienced 150% unconditional love, a love that doesn’t care if I’m fat or messed up or crabby or tired or a thousand other “ors”.  A love that only cares that I’m me.  It has inspired me to believe in myself in a way that I don’t think I have since I myself was a young child.

I genuinely didn’t know it was possible to experience a depth of emotion like I feel when I look at my daughter.  I can’t imagine the hours I’ve spent looking at pictures of her while she takes her naps, just because I miss her while she’s sleeping.  The mere thought of her robs me of my ability to speak, a lump forms in my throat and I try not to cry.  I thought it was a cliché before when I heard women say, “Someone took my heart out of my chest and gave it arms and legs”.  It’s not, it is true.  Wherever she is, my heart is with her.  When she climbs up on me and wraps her arms around my neck, snuggling into my hair, I have no idea how my body can contain the absolute joy I feel at that moment. 

I am living the life I always dreamed about.  I have an amazing collection of friends, both here locally and far afield.  A year ago, I didn’t know Wendy, and I only knew Cindy and Amanda a little.  Today, I can’t imagine how I would have survived my first year of mommyhood without them.  They have become confidantes, advice-givers, and story-sharers.  They let me talk about puke and poop and temper tantrums and sleep depravation like it’s all new and I’m telling them something they don’t know.  The girls in my book club have been an ever-present source of support, from throwing me a shower last March to this past Monday when they listened patiently to me discuss the circumstances in which I now find myself, without a whole lot of family support.  Elizabeth, Lauren, and Dustina have given me a shoulder to cry on and checked in with me regularly.  Elizabeth helped me start to believe “We love you because of who you are, not what you do.”  Melissa has never turned down an SOS when I needed a break and to get some sleep.  The love I feel from Mike and Lesley and Russell and Amy, Leah’s surrogate aunts and uncles, the acceptance my daughter has received from people who don’t have to love her or her parents, it is inspiring and it touches me every day.  Landry and Meredith keep me laughing.  Colleen is as reliable as clockwork, and patient as the day is long.  How blessed Michael and I were to find her. 

And I cannot forget the young woman who left that baby in my arms and told me to be a mommy.  This weekend when we see her, I will hug Tasha and remember again all she sacrificed that we could be together, that “we” could be “three”.

I have been able to travel.  I have been able to attend my father-in-law’s 70th and sit by my ailing father’s bedside and go see my favorite authors and travel to see my best friends and go to Florida for the first time in years and entertain company and take care of my niece and witness the birth of my nephew and take care of my physical and mental health and hang out with friends any time of the day without a care in the world about how much vacation time I had. 

I have seen a new side of my husband, witnessed the unerring patience he has with a little being who has gone from being furious if he walked in the room to starting to finally mellow out and enjoy his company.  He has been patient with my growing pains as a new mom, has given me time to go back to being “just Susan” when I needed it, spoiled me when I didn’t deserve it, and encouraged me to change things I wasn’t happy about within myself.  He has asked so little in return, and I have never felt closer to him than I do now.  We are truly a team in so many ways.  Our marriage isn’t just a couple of people who kind of like each other.  We are “the parents” and we have “a family”.

I have let things fall by the wayside.  I am not going to give up on the goals I had for myself before I was a mom.  But I’ve learned to be gentler on myself and focus on the things that are most pressing and remember what’s important in the grand scheme of things.  I have learned that I have value and that I am worth more than how I have been treated in the past and how I saw myself in only that light.  And all because one year ago today, a little girl was handed to me and both she and her first mother put all their faith in me that I could be the person I wanted to be, for myself, but mostly for her.  I love you, Leah.  You have changed my life with yours.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Happy Cherry Blossom Festival!