Thursday, November 29, 2012

All I Want For Christmas Is…

…a fast forward button. I’d like to get the next 7 months out of the way and not have to actually live through them. I’m tired of the day-to-day struggles, the ever expanding mounds of paperwork, the family tensions, the phone calls, the uncertainty of what’s going to happen next. I would like to wake up and it’s next summer and everything has happened, everything is settled, everyone is happy or at least happier. I don’t want to live through the first anniversary of Mike’s death. I don’t want to survive turning the calendar to 2013 and leaving Mike behind in “last year”. I don’t want to go through Christmas, New Years, his birthday, Valentine’s Day, Leah’s birthday and our wedding anniversary without him. It’s hard enough going through every day, regular days, without him.

1352114808668_5032436

Monday, November 19, 2012

Please help!

As embarrassing and humbling as this is, I am asking all of my loyal and first time readers to please pass along this website: Save Leah's House We are under threat of foreclosure and I really don't want to lose our house after everything we have been through. My sister and I were talking about if we could find 300,000 people to give us $1, we could pay off my mortgage entirely and I wouldn't have to uproot Leah and traumatize her further. Even if you can't donate $1, would you please consider posting this link on your website, Facebook, blog, Twitter, etc? I'm so appreciative. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A Word About “Entitlements”

In the aftermath of last night’s election, I’ve been reading a lot of comments from people who didn’t vote the same way I did.  Not in a gloating sense or in taking joy in their misery (and believe you me, some of them put the misery I felt in Bush’s re-election to absolute shame!), but just to see what they are afraid will happen in Obama’s second term.  Here is just a sample of one of the comments I read today: “the entitled are still sitting at home while I work to support their laziness.”  I chose this one because it’s pretty anonymous, but there were some that made my hair curl.

Because, I’ve got to be honest, I’m sitting at home, taking a handout right now.  For anyone who may be reading this who doesn’t know, the condensed version of my tragedy is that my 38 year old husband collapsed and died at dinner just about 4 months ago.  I was a stay-at-home mom to our daughter and a graduate student.  I had and have no intention of returning to my previous career, so I had allowed my certifications to lapse and I cannot return to my former employer without passing tests, and a whole lot of rigmarole.  I’ve been out of the workforce for nearly 4 years now.  So the types of jobs I could currently probably get fairly easily would not pay my bills.  I am already facing foreclosure on our house and am attempting to force the banks into helping me with loan modifications so that I can maintain our home.  It’s the only place my daughter has ever known, and to rob her of that security after her father died literally before her very eyes is heartless and cruel. 

To date, I have not received my husband’s official death certificates.  This means I cannot receive any settlement from his former employer (the federal government), although there is limited money to be obtained from them when the death certificates are issued. 

This means that I was forced to apply for my husband’s Social Security.  It was the most humiliating day of my life the day I went through my Social Security interview.  My husband was a very proud man, and one of the things he was proudest of was that despite being disabled, he went to work every single day and earned his pay.  He did not collect Social Security, although he was certainly entitled to it.  When I had my interview with SSI, I felt like a total and complete failure.  But I literally had nowhere else to turn to attempt to support myself and my daughter.

Social Security is not adequate to meet our mortgage payments and utilities and other expenses.  I attempt each month to put Leah’s share of the money into a separate spot for her.  Sometimes I am successful, sometimes I am not.  This month she needs a winter coat, among other things, and it’s not easy to save up and continue to fully commit that money to savings.  But I do look forward to someday handing her as much of that money as I possibly can and telling her that her father wanted her to have it.

I am not out buying Cheetos and cocaine and sitting on my couch watching soap operas.  We have stopped eating out even half as much as we did.  I spend 6 hours every 2 weeks combing circulars and comparing prices so that I can get good food cheap.

I am not sleeping around and trying to get pregnant so I can have lots of welfare babies. 

Every month when that money is deposited into my bank account, I weep.  Because all it is is a symbol of what I’ve lost and my inability at present to care for myself.  And if I become employed, they will take the money back.  So whatever I make has to be able to compete with what Social Security is giving me, and frankly, I very much doubt that being a checker at WalMart is going to come close.

But the fact is, yes, I am entitled to that money.  For years, literally years, Mike and I have both paid into that system, and if you’re employed, then check our W2 or your pay stub and you will see where Social Security is deducted from your pay.  Every year, you get a statement from Social Security that indicates what your award will be if are disabled or if you retire, and what your survivors will receive if you should suddenly die.  You are entitled to that money.  Let me repeat that:  You. Are. Entitled. To. That. Money.

And make no mistake, every time you make a blanket statement that says “those people just sit around and collect their check while I’m out working”, you lump everyone like me and my daughter into that category of good-for-nothing, lazy bastards that allow you to make yourself feel good when you have no idea what “those people” are going through.  And unless you have personally interviewed every single recipient of Social Security, which in 2009 was somewhere in the neighborhood of 55 million people, I’ll thank you to keep your opinions to yourself.  Are there people who take advantage of the system?  Probably.  But the vast, vast majority of us are honest people who need some help.

I wish to God I didn’t have to rely on Social Security right now.  I look forward to completing my education and returning to the workforce.  But I am thankful that I have it to rely on and that while everything else is on hold, we are able to have food, electricity, gas, and warm clothes.  And I’m sure that my fellow recipients feel the same.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

So Unlike Me

The other night, my mother and I were sitting around watching some truly horrible reality television when she asked if I had anything gooey and chocolate-y around. A quick check of the freezer revealed that no, I did not. It was 9:30 at night. I put a pair of jeans on over my nightgown and became that woman. That disheveled woman wandering the bakery at Giant at 9:30 at night. Utterly, shamelessly, obliviously in my own universe. I haven’t been in that place since I was up night after night with a newborn.

My mother was alternately dying laughing and absolutely mortified. Mike and I had a Christmas tradition where on Christmas night after everyone went to sleep, I would sneak out to McDonald’s in my pajamas and get burgers at 11 o’clock at night, but there’s a big difference between going through the drive through with a coat on and wandering around Giant out in the open.

Looking back on it, I’m a bit mortified. But I got cake.

I’ve been re-reading some old journal entries on my blog and trying to remember the person I was before July 12. From what I can gather, that individual was organized, neat, competent, spontaneous, independent, and fun to be around. Today I live in a home that is cluttered, I can never find my keys, wallet and phone, I seem to be constantly asking friends and family to keep me company, I can’t find it in myself to return phone calls, and I seem to be fearful and needy.

Being in my home is both a blessing and a curse—I hate being there where he died but I hate going out. Our home was Mike’s pride and joy—we occasionally talked about getting out from under it, but he said he’d just be devastated if that ever happened. It was tangible proof of all he’d accomplished after a youth of being told he couldn’t possibly amount to much. We lived in our home 3 days shy of 7 years on the day he died and were talking about all our good memories. Now all I can seem to remember is that night and the four month expanding nightmare that has followed. But if I should leave it, I will be in a place without him, a place he never knew, and I can’t imagine that either.

I cling to Leah as my lifeline, but I also secretly want her to leave me alone so I can lie in bed and cry. She is the most patient and sweet little spirit, far too good to be stuck with such a mother as me at the moment. And I have always prided myself on being a darned good mom.

For three years, I worked hard to cultivate a positive attitude and general optimism about everything in life. Mike’s death robbed me not only of my husband, but also of my sense that things would work out for the best and everything would be alright in the end.

I loved who I was as Mike’s wife, but I don’t much care for myself as his widow.

The third in my reflections for my writing-based grief support group…

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Complete Picture

Leah started preschool this year. We recently had our first parent-teacher conference and as the teacher was telling me about the things that Leah enjoys doing, I interrupted and asked, “Leah who?” The kid she was talking about was almost certainly not my kid.

I’ve had the feeling since Mike died that there was a big part of him that I never really knew. I recently met with another woman who was widowed at a young age 5 years ago and after her husband’s death, she compiled letters and stories from all the different people in his life so that her young children would know their dad. I love the idea of this, as if it fills in the blanks of what people might have seen of him that I did not.

I participated in less than half of Mike’s life. It wasn’t until after he’d died that I ever got to see his baby pictures, that I sat and talked with his friends from high school, that I got to know the close friends he’d developed on long commutes on the VRE and at work—people with whom he spent far more time during the week than he did with Leah and me.

I saw him interact with his family from time to time and with our daughter, but who was he when I wasn’t around? I have spoken with several people who have asked the question, “Did he talk about me much? What did he say about this situation?” Sometimes I can tell them, sometimes I can’t. A message on Facebook said recently, “I’d like to have heard more about our impact on Mike.” I couldn’t respond. I don’t know.

I remember him as a lovable goofball, intensely devoted to me and Leah, only slightly less devoted to the Patriots and ketchup, intensely patriotic, and I never knew anyone who loved their life more. He had a lousy singing voice but it never stopped him from singing loud and proud, he had a wonderfully strong New England accent that I always loved listening to and caused a few funny misunderstandings, he liked to write cheesy poetry, he had a memory like a steel trap and could tell you just about anything about anyone he’d ever met, down to the date and time, he liked to play practical jokes, he hated vegetables, and he had a heart of solid gold.

That’s not the person they knew at the office. It’s not the person they knew in high school. It’s not the person Leah knew, or Mike’s sisters knew, or his friends knew.

I am now collecting stories about Mike from everyone who’s willing to participate, but I feel sad that it’s all just vignettes and pieces of that beautiful human being, who was so much more than a story and who took it all with him in the end.

Friday, October 19, 2012

October

I can’t believe it’s October and I am sitting here.  How did three months go by?  What have I been doing?  Where has the time gone?  What would we have been doing these three months if Mike was still alive?

As the shock of all that has happened wears off, I find myself in the time of year that always made us so happy.  A cooling off period.  The summers here were something we never adjusted to, and the fall was such a welcome relief from the heat—a time we could come out of our cave and watch the world go by and imagine that we’d still be on our porch when we were in our 40’s, our 50’s, our 60’s, and beyond.

Fall always meant coming back together, holding hands, sitting closer to each other, waiting for his train with the windows down, road trips and apples and fresh air.  Now the days seem to stretch forever and they are so empty, so, so empty. I feel like the trees that, like it or not, are losing pieces of themselves but I have no hope that come spring, I’ll get them back.

Friday, September 28, 2012

An Evening With the Beats

P1010552 So in March, I took Leah up to DC for her birthday to see the Fresh Beat Band in concert.  We got the tickets from StubHub or something like that and we had a lot of fun—the concert was great.  When we heard they were coming to Richmond, Mike and I decided to pay for the whole family to get the backstage party package and for us all to go together.  We “liked” them on Facebook and got the pre-sale code, and as soon as the tickets went on sale, got tickets and passes.  The concert was last night, and I was lucky to have a number of friends who were going to the concert.  My friends Heather and Steve had a pair of passes and tickets for their daughter, so I gave Mike’s ticket to Steve and he joined me and Leah, and Leah’s little friend Kailee, her sister, and her parents were just two rows behind us.  I had mistakenly bought the wrong tickets and sold those to another friend, Heather M., so that she and her daughter could go to the concert as well, so there was a nice homey atmosphere about the thing.

P1010543 We arrived early, planning to have dinner with Heather and Steve, and it gave us the chance to get a FREE parking spot on the street.  Leah decided there was NO WAY we were sitting in the car waiting for them, so we texted them and walked over to the theater.  After dodging the street vendors selling T-shirts, we got in line and waited, which didn’t thrill Leah a whole lot, but the time passed pretty quickly, Heather and Steve and Abby arrived, and we got our party passes and went in.  Somehow, I managed to score tickets dead center stage in the very first row.  I couldn’t get over how great these seats were.  Steve and I chatted and Leah ate popcorn and played with some glow sticks I had the good idea to remember to bring, thus saving myself $10 on a flashlight that she was destined to lose. (As you can see, Leah was way more interested in her party pass than in taking pictures!  Thank you, Abby for looking up :-D)

The concert itself was divided into two parts.  It was wonderful.  Very lively and upbeat.  The first half was great, lots of dancing, we knew the songs, good bits of humor.  At one point, “Marina” came over to us and put her hand down to Leah, and Leah gave her a high 5.  I thought we were living the dream then.  Little did I know!

During intermission, Steve appropriated his wee one Abby from Heather, saying he felt better having a kid with him in the front row.  As the show got under way, Abby was cutting the rug.  It was hilarious and adorable.  She was dancing her patoot off!  Leah and I had swapped seats, and Leah was just sitting in the chair, watching the show.  I did notice a few times that “Shout” had put the eye on her a little bit and seemed to be watching, and all of a sudden, he jumped off the stage right in front of us, scooped Leah up, sat in her chair with her on his lap, and continued singing to her. It lasted just a little bit, but I thought, “My kid, my awesome kid really hit the jackpot and she so deserves this moment.”  I was trying throughout much of the concert not to just start crying.  I wore Mike’s wedding ring around my neck and I could just about hear him singing along and I missed him so much.  At that moment, when Leah was in Shout’s lap, I wanted to lose it completely.  Apparently a lady behind us videotaped it and caught up with me afterwards and has offered to send me the video, so I hope she does so I can see it!

The concert continued and in all honesty, I think Leah’s favorite part was when they shot off the confetti cannons.  As we were making our way out, she was scooping up as much confetti as she could get her little hands on and shoving it in my purse. 

P1010544 We got down to the hall where they were having the afterparty, showed off our fancy orange wristbands, and gained entry.  There were craft tables set up, although the coloring pages and stars were long gone before Leah got the chance to do much, but there were lots of tunnels, balloons and inflatable instruments and she invented her own game of golf and had a blast.  I was a bit disappointed in that there were lots of signs up that said NO AUTOGRAPHS—we had brought Leah’s CD liner to have autographed and they gave us a poster at the door, but I guess it takes too long.  Boo!

P1010547

Soon our group letter for pictures with the band was called and we got in line with Heather and Steve.  The people ahead of us hugged the band—the parents did, and Heather asked me if I was going to do that.  I said, “I’m going to tell them our sad story and see what happens.”  We both kind of chuckled over that.

But I got to thinking about it, and I thought, “What would Mike do?  He would go up there and start talking to them like he’d known them forever.” And I decided to.  Leah was wearing her birthday shirt and when it was our turn, Shout yelled, “Leah, come here!” and the whole band said, “Hey, Leah!”  She toddled over obligingly, a bit nervous, but that generally makes her only more adorable and “Kiki” asked if it was her birthday.  I said, “No, we are here tonight, I want to tell you guys, we were supposed to be here with my husband, Leah’s dad, but he passed away a couple of months ago and these passes were the last thing he was able to buy for Leah.”  The smiles kind of fell off their faces, and they started hugging Leah, and I decided to continue.

“Every Saturday morning, my husband watched Leah so I could sleep in and their ritual consisted of watching your show.  Mike was blind and he was going deaf, but he knew all your music and I would hear them singing and laughing every Saturday morning.  I just want to tell you guys that I love you and thank you.  Her memories of her dad right now are of the four of you.”

 P1010550The four of them were literally speechless, and frankly, I couldn’t have said much more because I was getting a bit emotional.  Shout jumped up, tears in his eyes, and threw his arms around me and gave me a big hug.  Then Twist did the same, and while he was hugging me (and let me tell you, that guy can give you a bear hug and a half!), he told me some personal information about himself that was so moving, I just couldn’t get over it.  Then both girls gave me a hug, and Shout snuggled Leah just a bit more before we got a picture of the four of them with her.

P1010551

I thanked them again and told them to keep up the good work, they wished us well, yelled “Good bye, Leah!” and we walked off.  I found Heather and Steve and I was talking with them and walking away when the event manager ran up to me and said, “Ma’am!  The band wants you to have this!” and handed us an autographed picture.

P1010553So Leah got her autographs after all!!!  What a sweet thing to do!  Then the manager said, “The band would like to know if they can have your contact information?” So I said “Sure thing” and he handed me a pen and paper and I wrote down our information.  I was hoping I’d be brave enough to actually go through with talking to them, so I had tucked a couple of newspaper articles about Mike in my purse, and I pulled them out and asked the manager if he would kindly give them to the band.  He said he would be happy to.  And that was that!

Leah appropriated an orange balloon to take home and then we left.  I’m not sure who they have working VDOT in Richmond, because we were leaving and there was an electronic sign up that said, “Roadwork, Left Lane Open” but what it SHOULD have said was “Two Left Lanes Blocked” so it took us a while to come home, but I didn’t mind.  I was floating on air.

What an awesome group of people.  What, if anything will come of leaving our contact info, I don’t know.  But it was a magical night and so special for Leah.  She has so much going on in her life right now and is doing her job of getting me out of bed in the morning admirably, and I am so glad we were able to go, and laugh, and have fun.  Anything else is the icing on the cake.

Fresh Beat fans for life!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Well… That Just Happened

Much as I hate the stupid little clich├ęs that seem to pop up on a regular basis, “That just happened” is pretty appropriate any more… 

So it’s just over two months since I’ve been widowed…  I still can’t believe I’m a widow.  It is absolutely nothing like I expected.  There is a part of my brain that can’t quite wrap my mind around the idea that Mike is gone and he isn’t coming back.  I cry on and off, I engage in magical thinking on and off (apparently adopting the cat wasn’t enough to piss him off and make him come back to yell at me), I think of him near constantly, and the small things are becoming the big things. 

I’ve met a lot of people in the past 2 months.  I have a ton of phone calls to return when I get around to it.  Friends have been so kind, but I don’t feel like really talking to anyone.  I’ve been truly touched by all the cards and letters I’ve received, the emails, the donations to Leah’s future.  I won’t have to cook Leah and myself dinner until sometime in October courtesy of my MOPS group, and much of the time I don’t have to worry about lunch either.  People have babysat, cleaned my house, made and returned calls for me, done yardwork, put me in touch with counselors and support groups, driven me around town, and made emergency runs with donuts and chocolate.  It’s been extraordinary, the support I have.

The bills are piling up.  I’m trying to figure out what to do about the mortgages and the house.  I haven’t paid the mortgages in 2 months and have applied for a modification.  I will not come out of this situation with a lot of money.  I will have to discipline myself to stick to a firm budget. 

But for the first time in forever, I don’t really care and I’m not really worried.  After all, the worst has happened.  My beautiful, smart, kind, funny, wonderful husband is gone.  We fulfilled our marriage vows “till death do us part”, and now he has died and we are parted.

I miss all the little things.  I miss hearing his watch click shut at 4am when he’s deciding to get out of bed and go to work.  At least once a day, something happens and I immediately think, “I gotta tell Mike about this!”.  I miss “Attagirl, Susan” when I accomplish something big or small.  I miss his hugs, he hugged like he owned you, like if he let go, you’d float away and vanish.  I miss changing his hearing aid wax catchers.  I miss a bottle of ketchup on the table all the time.  I miss sleeping in on Saturday mornings and waking up to giggles from Mike and Leah both.  I miss hearing him yell at the Patriots and the Red Sox, and singing at the top of his lungs.  I miss my morning emails, and the news articles that I never bothered to read.  I miss making him take and return phone calls.  I miss sitting at the train station and meeting his friends when he got home at night.  I miss cutting his hair.  I miss snuggling in bed and getting him to turn over.  I miss him coming down with a variety of exotic ailments.  I miss his same 5 stories over and over again.  I miss dreaming about our future.  I miss evenings in his office and how he’d say, “you’re not bothering me, I love being in here together.”  I miss “karaoke” nights.  I miss his laugh.  I miss his funny faces and his chewed up finger nails.  I miss his voice and his smell.  I miss being loved like he loved me.

I would do just about anything, anything at all to bring him home, to make this different.  The last 2 months are a blur, and it seems so unfair to still be here, to still be living when I have so little to offer the world and he had so much. 

Please don’t avoid me.  I need to hear about how you miss him too.  I want to hear your stories and what kind of a person you remember him to be.  Say his name.  Risk making me cry.  Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who remembers and misses him because everyone is so darned worried about upsetting me.  I’m already upset.  Talking about him and his love for all of us and the silly things he did helps me.  Invite us out.  Sometimes we’ll come, sometimes we won’t.  I love keeping Leah busy and keeping the pressure off me a little bit.  But some days I just want to hibernate and hide. 

Please don’t pity us.  What has happened is awful.  What’s to become of us, I do not know.  But Leah and I were so lucky to have had Mike and we are so lucky to have each other.  Offer your condolences, your sympathy, but not your pity.  We are going to be ok. 

Please ask how I am.  I will continue to answer “I’m OK” unless you seem to want to hear more and then I will give you the full on answer about good days and bad days and surviving.  Please ask how Leah is.  She is OK too.  But we love knowing that people are thinking of us both.

Please be patient with me.  I don’t feel like writing letters, talking on the phone much…  Most everything has lost its meaning.  The prior joy I took in Facebook and email is gone.  I’ve never been a phone person in the best of circumstances.  But leave messages, call, email, write a note and send it.  I do keep a list and someday I’ll return everyone’s good wishes.  Understand that one day I may feel like going out and doing a bunch of things and then I may not want to leave my house for 3 weeks.  I’m doing the best I can to make sense of thoughts and feelings I don’t even understand myself.

Please don’t take it personally when I don’t want to go to your church, talk to your counselor, try your drug regimen, eat your macrobiotic diet, or start doing your yoga routine.  I have a crappy relationship with God right now, I’m not ready for counseling, I’m not good at taking pills, I can barely reheat food much less try a whole new cooking lifestyle, and I’m lucky I can touch my hips, much less bend over backwards and touch my toes to my nose.  I’m appreciative of all your suggestions, but I have to go about this my own way and in my own time.  Keep your dietician’s number handy though, and I might use it in the future.

Thank you.

For now, I will keep on keeping on, for our daughter and for him.  My life has to mean something more now.  It’s only fair to him.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Updates, Thoughts, Questions, Feelings, Blah

So it’s been another month come and gone.  Christmas is over, I think I finally got everything put away about a week ago!  Seriously, every year I find something that I ‘forgot’ to put away and it makes me crazy.  This year was 2 big wall hangings.  How I forgot to put the one by the back door away, I don’t know, particularly considering that I could see it every time I left the house, but it never occurred to me that it was Christmas related, I guess.

School is settling into the doldrums.  The ethics class is fascinating and leading to good discussions.  I was really jazzed about the archives class, but it’s turning out to be a total fizzler.  There are more than 20 of us in the class, we’re all supposed to post every week and respond, and on a good week, we’re lucky to pull together 12 comments.  I suppose this should make it easy to get an A, all I have to do is really light up the message boards, but there isn’t much to respond TO and the readings are so dreadfully dull, I feel totally unmotivated.  I spoke with my advisor on the phone a couple of weeks ago and he’s pushing me into an archives track, which is fine and probably which way I will end up, but based on this class, I’m thinking about renegging on the whole thing.  This summer I’m dedicating my time to the research methods class and then will have my core classes done.  In the fall, I will take introduction to digital collections and some other class that I can’t remember off the top of my head.  If I still like it, then I guess next year I’ll start looking around for internship possibilities, even if that means putting my baby in day care!  YIKES!  My mom needs to get off the stick and move north.  I really, really dislike distance learning.  It was so nice to talk on the phone to an actual human being, and coming from someone who HATES talking on the phone, that’s saying something.

In Leah news…  She is actively dismissing becoming “a big girl”.  Today marked the day I finally decided she didn’t need to be in a crib any more, and I took the front of the crib off and converted it to a toddler bed.  She screamed and cried and yelled at me furiously.  “Mommy!  NO BREAK MY BED!”  Tonight when it was time to get into bed, she was still incensed.  We are down to our last pacifier and I am not buying any more.  She’s been biting through them and I am just mortified that she still uses one.  I swore she would NEVER use one from the day she was born and here she is nearly 3 and it’s her thing.  She doesn’t have a favorite stuffed animal or a blanket, but that stupid pacifier is her thing.

I registered her for pre-school earlier in the month.  She is going to go 2 days a week, even though I wanted her to go 3.  That was more selfish on my part.  I think pragmatically it’s best that she ease herself into it.  She really liked the super expensive corporate day care preschools and she hated the preschool I wound up putting her into, but I felt good about the teachers, the atmosphere, and the kids who go there all seemed happy.  They had a good, diverse mix of kids, and it is a Montessori program that we can actually afford.  Her little friends Jilly and Anna will be going there as well, so I’m excited she will have friendly faces to look for.

Consequently, I have to get her potty trained and she flatly refuses to do it.  She knows how, she knows when, she just doesn’t want to.  I’m going to try a couple new things and see if they work.  Thankfully we still have 7 months until the rubber meets the road, but it would be nice not to have to lug diapers everywhere we go. 

She has given up on dance lessons for the time being, much to my dismay, but as I listened to myself talk to my mother about my feelings on that matter, I realized that I am really trying to overcompensate in not having had children for so long by pushing Leah to do and have everything.  I was saying “But I want her to…” a lot and that really has everything to do with me and nothing to do with her.  She is perfectly happy to spend her days at home with me, playing and reading and having fun.  We take little adventures as the weather permits and recent conversations with an expert have led me to realize that Leah’s crazy behavior stems from a desire to have choices and be included in decision making, so many times I let her choose between 2 things and decide what she wants to do for the day.  I also let her choose to get ready.  Today was the first time in FOREVER that I didn’t chase her all over the house to get dressed, and she very calmly and serenely let me put her shirt and pants on her and when I opened the back door, she placidly walked to the car and waited to have the door opened instead of tearing around the backyard, cackling while I try to catch her.  It was a banner day until I “broke her bed”.

In other non-Leah news, today I got a letter in the mail that I did. not. want. to. open.  It was from Manhattan and was the dates for my 15 year college reunion.  Jeepers, has it really been that long!?  This led me to indulge in my once-a-year-or-less Google binge of people who have been and gone in my life.  There are 2 men in particular who I always think of and Googling one brings up nothing and Googling the other brings up almost too much.  They were both people I thought would be in my life forever, both people I could talk to and laugh with about anything.  I suppose in thinking about them now, it’s not with a sense of “What If?”, but a different kind of nostalgia.  I have looked for other friends and reconnected with some who responded and some who didn’t, and I think, “Why?  What makes the difference?”  Anyway, I’m not going to my reunion and I only Google for my own nosiness, not out of any general sense that I would make different choices.  I look over the grand arch of my life and I think I’ve done pretty well.  There are few things, if any, I would change and I think my choices have stood the test of time.  So I’m not going to the reunion.  Every time I get together with Joe, it’s like a mini college experience—my husband and his partner are kind enough to look the other way while we play dorky drinking games and giggle over the same stupid crap that made us laugh 17 years ago and makes us laugh today.  I’m in touch with my good roommate on Facebook, and Joe’s housemate Todd, and everyone else would be able to find me with a quick Google search, so I just let it lie.  But I’m happy to hear from anyone :)  Just in case, you know, you ever Google me.

I’ve thought of many of my friends in the past months, wondering, “If it wasn’t for Factor X, would we still be friends?”  For instance, if we didn’t have Leah, would we still be friends?  I don’t know, I have a sense that some people just hang around because Leah’s so cute.  Mike and I were talking at dinner about some neighbors who suddenly seem to be giving us the cold shoulder and our confusion as to why that is exactly.  It is hard to get out and around any more—when Leah was a baby, it was easy.  No resistance, she was like, “Yeah, I’ll go eat lunch at thus and such, I’ll just sit in my carrier and eat my fist", but now requires entertainments.  Still, now that I’m cutting back on other commitments, I will make an effort to be a better friend.

The big news is that I dropped out of my book club.  It wasn’t going in any direction that made sense to me and I found myself getting increasingly frustrated and upset about the whole thing.  During the last meeting, I just sat there with no one saying anything and thought, “This is such a waste of my time”.  I had been thinking it over for a year and finally just decided to pull my own plug on the matter.  I also gave up on AFS and being a liaison.  Right after I got back from my dad’s house, I spent all day Saturday running up to an AFS interviewing event.  I interviewed 3 kids and hung out a bit with a couple members of the area team who were pretty open about how things have been going and I don’t think there are too many kids left in the original homes they came to this year.  When I got home, we had a big email about all the things we were supposed to be doing as liaisons that weren’t getting done, and I just decided I really couldn’t handle it all on top of the classwork and being a mom and a wife, so I drafted up a resignation and sent it out.  It was an immense relief, although a bit of a disappointment in myself not to follow through on my commitment to the girls.  But it was a bigger challenge not to follow through on my commitments at home.  SO I chose the lesser of two evils.  I have offered and they have accepted that I can take them out once more before they depart.  Given that it’s February and I already have no free weekends until May, I’m not sure when that will be, but we’ll work it out.

Leah’s 3rd birthday is upcoming.  Her big present is that we are going to see the Fresh Beat Band in concert in DC.  She has no idea, but I got her the CD the other day and she goes CRAZY when it’s on, dancing all over the place.  If you haven’t seen her video on Facebook, you are missing out.  Friend me. :)  We are having her party on March 31 since her birthday falls on Easter Sunday this year.  My mom is coming up for Easter and my sisters-in-law are coming for the party, so I’m excited about that.  It’ll be nice to have both families around to celebrate. 

Mike and I are leaving on April 14th to go to Myrtle Beach for a week. Dad and Linda are coming to babysit Leah for us here at home while we relax and celebrate TEN YEARS OF MARRIAGE. And they said it’d never last.  Pfff.  Well, actually I don’t know if anyone did say that, but if they did, they were wrong.  Hard to believe it’s been that long and how much has happened in those 10 years!  New homes, new states, new kids, new friends, new lives!  Jeepers.  (That’s my new word as I am really, really working on not cussing now that Leah’s favorite word when something goes wrong is, “Damnit!”  Although, come to think of it, I don’t say that, so I don’t know where she gets it).  I’m hoping to enjoy a couple of tours and different attractions in SC.  We’ve been to Myrtle Beach so many times that it seems like home, but it’s really one of my favorite places ever.  Still, it’d be nice to see what’s in the area besides what we already know.

Well, I’m rambling, so I’m going to close here and go to bed.  My Lenten “thing” is to go to bed early and to meditate for 15 minutes a day in an effort to relieve some of the stress I feel.  I haven’t managed to meditate once, but I have been going to bed earlier, so there’s always that.  Until tonight when I suddenly felt ramble-y.  So good night and I’ll be back with more another day!  :)  And don’t forget to get in touch if you’re a long lost friend!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Time Flies!

Wow, November 11.  Go figure.  I got a little note from Merry Mom asking how I’d been and realized I hadn’t posted in TWO MONTHS.  YIKES.  I guess I’m due for an update!

All is well here.  BUSY.  Like, crazy busy.  As usual.

So, the big news is I survived my organization of information class.  I really had a VERY hard time with it.  I felt stupid the whole semester and was so glad it was my only class.  I somehow managed to get an A, and when I tell you it was a miracle and in no small part due to my partners in the small group project, I am not lying.  Not even a little bit.  I had a lot of help from our local friends too, who attempted to teach me XML and database building, and thanks to my husband who took lots of time off so I could get caught up and get homework done and whatnot.

I am registered for 2 classes this semester:  Ethics for Library and Information Professionals and Introduction to Archives.  I’m excited about it, neither class seems too hard core and both seem interesting, more importantly.  Classes start Wednesday.  I’ve gotten a volunteer job at a local archives, so I should get some hands on learning, which should help with a paper I have to write for the archives class!  I hope the archives class and volunteer experience helps me decide once and for all if that’s the direction I want to go in.

AFS kept me busy.  There were some problems with Kristin and her new family and their other student, so I wound up doing an intervention, which is not really what I think I’m good at, but I did it and got the family to stay together for a little so I was proud of that accomplishment.

Thanksgiving was a lot of fun.  We did the Turkey Trot in the morning—my goal was to do it in less than an hour and I accomplished that goal, which made me happy.  My dad was here and made the turkey, but we were all tired from walking and running so I can’t say as we did very much.  We had a little birthday party for my niece that weekend, and I really can’t believe she turned 3.  The time is just flying by!

December was a whirlwind!  Emily and I went to see Diane Keaton in November and decided to go back and see Michael Ian Black on December 1.  He was HILARIOUS—we were at 6th and I Synagogue and he started a joke that mentioned Anne Frank (it wasn’t a joke about Anne Frank) and he looked up at the stained glass window waiting for lightning to strike and said, “Well, if it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen now!” and everyone was just laughing hysterically.  It’s the second time I’ve seen him, the first time doing a solo act, and he was really great.

We took Kristin and fellow student Ilaria to Wolf Trap for the annual holiday sing-a-long and for pizza afterwards.  They had a lot of fun and I enjoyed having them along for the tradition.  The following weekend we spent some time at my sister’s and then went to our friends Paul and Kris’s house and church for their annual Christmas pageant and dinner.  It was really lovely, and wouldn’t seem like Christmas if we didn’t go.

Unfortunately, I was in a minor car accident the following week, and my car was in the shop until after Christmas.  I was driving to meet some friends for dinner and a kitten ran in the road.  I stopped and the person coming towards me stopped, but the guy behind me didn’t stop and hit me.  At first glance, it didn’t look so bad, but ultimately cost Allstate somewhere in the neighborhood of $6000 when all was said and done.  They did give me a rental, and I was pleased about that since I put almost 800 miles on it in just over a week’s time.

The following weekend was my Christmas concert.  This is my second year with the Stafford Regional Choral Society and in November I was elected to the board of directors.  I really thought that this Christmas concert would be the best concert I’d ever sung in, and I dare say I was correct.  I did a lot of rehearsing at home with the on line tracks, and managed to sing without my music, which made me happy since I didn’t have to lug a bunch of books around!  The choir chairman was nice enough to give me rides to rehearsals and the concert since my car was out of commission and I hadn’t gotten my rental yet.

The following day, Monday, my dad and his girlfriend decided to make a big turkey pre-Christmas dinner, and since I was still eating turkey from Thanksgiving, I decided to go ahead and invite some people over.  We had about 15 people who came to eat turkey and still had plenty of leftovers!  Leah had a ball.  Our neighbors came and brought her gifts and some other friends came and brought us fresh eggs from their chickens.  It was great!

Tuesday, for their first Christmas present, I took Dad and Linda to see ICE! at the Gaylord National Resort.  Mike’s and my theme for Christmas this year was cherishing old memories and making new ones.  To that end, we made a conscious decision not to buy “stuff” that people wouldn’t want or wear, and instead to either make things or make memories.  A few years ago, we bought tickets for the whole family to go see ICE! but couldn’t afford it this year, so I just took Dad and Linda (Leah got in free).  We had lunch with my sister beforehand and then went to the show, which was really lovely—it had a Madagascar theme, which didn’t mean much to the rest of us, but I enjoyed it anyway.  It was a really nice afternoon.  Midway through, I got a text from my mom that she was coming up early, so I prepared myself for her arrival as well!

Wednesday, Mom came and Mike and I went down to Richmond to pick up Penny’s brother Mickey at the airport.  He is in boarding school out in Kentucky (Or Cuh-cucky as Leah calls it) and needed a place to go when the school closed for 2 weeks for Christmas.  He took one look at us when he saw us at the gate and kept on walking and when I stopped him to ask if he was Mickey, he said he had to get his bags and took off to the baggage claim.  That was essentially the high point of his visit.  He was a rude little bugger. 

Thursday, Mom came back to our house to stay for a week plus.  She and my sister started arguing and at this point I can’t say who’s wrong or who’s right, I just really wish it hadn’t happened.  My goal for this Christmas was for everyone to get along, no fighting, and to have a peaceful and calm time.  It didn’t happen.  By Christmas Day, I had a nervous breakdown.  There were SO MANY people and SO MUCH was going on, it was crazy!!!  Friday, my buddy Joe arrived and Saturday we went to my sister’s for Christmas Eve. 

Christmas Day was here, my sister brought a stray with her, so if you’re keeping count, there were 13 people here.  Judy’s stray wanted to make wassail for everyone and the crockpot wouldn’t hold it all, so we had to do it on the stove, which he fretted over literally all day.  The present situation, even though we all scaled back, was again totally crazy out of control—even if you only buy each person 1 thing, that’s 13 presents for 13 people (for a total of 169), and you know that no one bought ONLY one thing for each of the kids.  So it was pandemonium.

For our part, Mike and I made each family member (Mom, Dad, Judy, Lucas, and Joe) a scrapbook of memories of our times together.  It was a special moment for everyone and there were a lot of tears flowing as everyone looked through their pictures and swapped books and traded stories.  We also made a photo collage of all of us making funny faces (mostly unintentionally).

facesAnd framed them. Everyone got one of those.  So it helped lighten the mood a bit from all the other crying.

Dinner was the traditional roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.  Mickey announced the first night he was here that he wasn’t eating a thing I cooked, all he wanted to eat was beef ramen noodles, despite the fact that he doesn’t eat beef.  He informed me that the noodles are only beef flavored.  I asked him where the beef flavoring came from and he couldn’t tell me.  I read the package and sure enough they contain beef, but I didn’t give a damn and didn’t tell him.  And I also let him eat Yorkshire pudding, despite it having beef “flavoring” in it. :-)

Dad and I did our traditional trip to Richmond to see the Ginter Gardens Festival of Lights, which was beautiful, as was the weather!  It wasn’t warm, but it was far warmer than usual when I had to stand by the bonfire for an hour mid-way through.  They expanded their repertoire slightly so we got to see some new lights and of course, we got crapped on at our favorite awful Burger King, where we ALWAYS get lousy service.  It was a fun night!

Post-Christmas was similarly busy.  Our “memory” present to Mom was a trip to the Melting Pot, so I took her out one night for that.  Joe decided I needed to start watching Ghost Adventures and Ancient Aliens, and we invented a drinking game to correspond with those (every time someone yelled “DUDE!” in Ghost Adventures or said “Aliens” or “extra terrestrials” or some variant there of in Ancient Aliens, we took a drink).  By the time we were done, (and let me be clear here, we were drinking Mike’s Hard Lemonades, this was not serious alcohol!  But I haven’t had a drink in probably 5 or 6 years and Joe is a real lightweight when it comes to alcohol so this was never going to end well), I was sitting on the floor convinced I could understand every word some German guy was saying, and Joe was moaning about a headache, which took him most of the next day to get rid of. 

We spent one day with Andy and Melissa bowling and taking Mickey to Coldstone Creamery, since he wanted ice cream.  Mike took the whole week off, which was nice for me to have a break! 

I took Mickey on my famous nighttime tour of DC in an effort to get him to spend some portion of the day either not watching TV or playing around on the computer and to interact with some member of our family.  I think he enjoyed it once we left, although he put up a bit of a fight about going.  I was excited to see the new Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, which I hadn’t seen yet and somehow almost drove past.  You can’t believe how big that thing is.  The pictures I’ve seen of it do it no justice at all.  It is literally massive.

We essentially did nothing to celebrate New Year’s Eve.  We forced Mickey away from the computer 10 seconds before the ball dropped on Times Square so at least he could say he saw it, although he wasn’t much impressed.  Mike went back to work on the 3rd, so I tried to come up with things to do with Mickey every day.  We went and saw a 3D movie—my first one ever, The Adventures of TinTin, which was OK, went to the mall, and had lots of Thai food, which is in short supply in rural KY.  Friday we started getting ready for our 3 Kings party, which was seriously scaled back this year—half what it was last year.  I didn’t want to have a huge crowd and be exhausted, so I decided just to have a few people and call it a night.  Mickey announced the beef stroganoff smelled terrible and that he was going to sit in the kitchen so he could leave, and then after watching me cook, clean, and set up for 2 days, just as we were ready to sit down, he asked if he could make ramen noodles.  I should have told him what he could do with his ramen noodles, but held my temper and told him no as politely as I could.  When I sat down to dinner on the other end of the table, my friend asked me what was wrong, that I looked like I was ready to commit murder.  Haha.

We dropped him at the airport yesterday and spent the rest of the day tidying up.  I had a nice evening last night, preparing English tea and watching the Downton Abbey premiere on PBS.

So that brings us to January.  Leah is in dance lessons—has been doing it for over a month now and LOVES it.  She is particularly fond of tap dancing and although she is the tiniest and youngest girl in her class, she is doing just great and learning a lot.  We have started back to Toddlin’ Time on Tuesdays and now are on the hunt for pre-school.  I am touring one place tomorrow which is probably the one that is farthest from my house and at the far end of where I am willing to go.  I start school on Wednesday.  We are going to my dad’s for a week next week, but Mike is staying home again to have some peace and quiet. 

Otherwise, I am watching lots of Quantum Leap on NetFlix, trying to keep up with housework (a losing battle), and trying to make good on my New Year’s resolution of cutting back and doing less while making it mean more.  I would like to get back into Weight Watchers, but every time I say that, I go for 3 weeks and quit again.  I need to find the motivation I had in 2008.

So I’ll probably write again in another 2 months when Merry says “WAKE UP!” :)