Mr. Blue Sky

I woke up this morning to day three of being sick. No end in sight. It’s funny how being sick changes the filter on our world. Suddenly preserving my voice has taken the top spot on my priorities list, and scraping up enough money for cough drops and herbal tea is more important than the electric bill.

I already can’t remember what it felt like to breathe without that sound in my chest. Is the need to hear it over and over part of my tendency toward compulsion…does everyone swallow this much when their throat hurts? Maybe.

It isn’t like a stomach virus, of course. I can still go about my day. A stomach virus will make everything else disappear entirely, until it’s only you and the sickness.

While driving to work this morning, I was feeling mostly pissed off about the cough that continues to shred my vocal cords. So I did what I always do when I am stressed, and distracted myself with some music. I recently discovered I can lower my heart rate if I listen to Rubber Soul. It must be the magic of comfort music, or something like that. It isn’t rocket science. But I didn’t put on Rubber Soul this morning, or Revolver (which is only slightly better, I think), because I wanted to be surprised. So I picked a station on Amazon Music, and hoped for the best.  Continue reading

Come Back Later. We’re Temporarily Invisible.

I wasn’t sure I would post anything at all this month. But here I am, only two days past my deadline. Lately I can’t shake the feeling of dread that comes with sharing. I want to take it all back. Everything. The invitation into our world, the social media posts, the things I have written on other topics in other public spaces…all of it.

In a thousand different ways, and in a thousand different moments, I have handed out pieces of myself to a mixed audience. Both in public, and during my daily routine. My humor, heart, stupidity, brilliance, and even cruelty–offered to true friends, fake friends, and strangers. And now it’s all part of my permanent record.

I want to go back to being a mystery. I want to go back to being the nice girl who only occasionally expressed herself through vague lyrics.

Don’t worry. I’ll change my mind.

I know it’s better to have a few people love and support me for who I truly am, than to have many people feel politely drawn to me based on their best guess. And I am slowly learning to stop being so available to “friends” who want me to feel unsure about myself. I am trying to figure out how to throw the invisibility cloak on them, instead.

For the moment, I don’t want there to be places where someone can find me. So how do I offer an update on our lives in this frame of mind?  Continue reading

Crying Over Spilled Milk

We keep our refrigerator locked for one simple reason: broken eggs. Few things please our daughter more than seeing how many eggs she can throw across the room before we stop her; and it only takes one egg left unnoticed on the rug a little too long to inspire a lock and key situation.

Without regular egg-breaking stimulation, she has been forced to supplement her addiction with broken glass. She’s so quick. In the time it takes to blink, she’ll seize her window of opportunity and sprint into action. We have no drinking glasses left. One bowl. Three plates. When she enters a room you can see her eyes scanning the scene, choosing her target. Anything breakable will do, and if that isn’t available, she is always happy to push a drink off the table.  Continue reading

A Post About Vomit (Even This Title Makes Me Panic)

I had been looking forward to fifth grade camp since kindergarten. Every May, for one week, the halls of Kellogg elementary school became significantly quieter in the absence of an entire grade on vacation. My brother, sister, and even my mom had gone before me. I knew exactly what to expect. As the day approached I had no nerves; I was excited, as if Christmas vacation had come twice.

Early Monday morning we boarded the school buses and traveled to Clear Lake Camp. Upon arrival, the boys and girls were separated and sent to our dorms to claim our bunks. Our dorm was a building with three sleeping wings, and a common area with bathrooms. I chose a top bunk in the north wing and discarded my duffel bag.

They separated our home room classes into teams. Our class was called the Kirtland’s Warblers. In the dining hall they divided us into even smaller groups at assigned tables. After each meal, a chosen member of our table would collect all of our food waste, where it would be weighed and compared with the waste of every other table. At the end of the week the table with the lightest amount of waste would be awarded a prize.

We spent most of our days doing nature-related and/or team-building activities. We were each asked to write about our favorite experience for a scrapbook we received later. I wrote about how much I enjoyed the trust fall and team obstacle course. (Clearly I had no idea how much I would hate this type of thing as an adult.)

After lights out, a recording of the book “A Wrinkle in Time” was piped over the speakers. A few months earlier I had been sentenced to a week of going to bed an hour early after stealing a dollar from my brother, and I was allowed to keep the light on for that hour if I read a book. This was the book I had chosen, and I loved it. I could hardly contain my excitement that first night when I learned I would get to listen to it in bed all week.  Continue reading

Traditions for the New Year

I don’t know when I stopped buying sparkling grape juice on New Year’s Eve, but I am sure I was well past the age of 21. Traditions are hard to break. And that isn’t a bad thing.

It had never occurred to me that anyone could buy sparkling grape juice whenever they wanted to…why would that be necessary? It was “champagne for children;” and was meant to be sipped from plastic champagne flutes while adults drank the real stuff. At least, that’s what my experience had taught me.

I can’t remember adults drinking champagne outside of New Year’s Eve and weddings. Every other day of the year found them guzzling beer, wine, various mixed drinks—but champagne was special. Which meant sparkling grape juice was special. And if you only drink something once a year, on the exact same day each year, it becomes a tradition of the most serious kind.  Continue reading

Don’t You Want More Children?

in-the-car

If you wait long enough, some life decisions will be made for you. Career, marriage, children… where we will live. Practically anything can be decided by procrastination. Maybe everything isn’t what I imagined for myself when I was young. Some things have exceeded my expectations, and other things took a wrong turn that was completely out of my control. But for the most part, I am on the right path now, and I know exactly what I want.

Except for one topic.

Over the holiday, a conversation reminded me that we have made no decisions about having more children. I say “reminded” me, because I don’t think about it at all anymore – I just go about my days, oblivious to the thing that once dominated my every thought. But somewhere in the back of my mind I am aware that we have not really settled this matter. We are both officially in our forties, and Teghan is about to turn nine. Has the decision already been made for us? 

Continue reading

Seasons Came and Changed the Time

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We finally made it to the beach. Better late than never, but we aren’t exactly overwhelmed with lake options around here. When it comes to the difference between a summer in Michigan and a summer in Central Illinois—this detail tops the list. Especially for a little girl who asks to go swimming no less than fifteen times a day.

So we spent Labor Day weekend in Michigan, where lakes are so plentiful that we managed to get over an hour with the beach entirely to ourselves on a holiday weekend. This happened partly because the weather was cooler than usual; but mostly because when the locals realize summer is ending, they make that extra forty-minute drive to Lake Michigan.

We avoided Lake Michigan.

No matter how much Teghan loves the beach, crowds make her anxious. Which makes us anxious. And, she steals things. One moment she’s playing in the water…the next moment she’s playing in the water with a bag of chips in her hand. Where did those come from? Most parents are familiar with the panic that accompanies the knowledge that your child has taken another child’s food, or worse—is eating random garbage. It’s cute when a toddler does it. People understand. I’m here to tell you, the panic becomes amplified as your child ages.

(Our daughter has also never passed a straw she didn’t attempt to put her mouth on; which is always embarrassing, and sometimes gross. At some point during our holiday weekend she drank from an abandoned cup she found in a downtown park. Literally anything could have been in that cup.)

But this was one of the most relaxing beach trips we have ever had. For the first time, we got to be the parents who just sit on a blanket and watch, without worry, as our child plays in the water. No darting off into the wilderness, or suspicious gazes toward someone else’s ice cream for us to patrol. It was easy. Fun, even. The way beach trips are meant to be.  Continue reading

Finding Our Way in the Darkness

Paint

Two nights ago my daughter was sobbing uncontrollably on the hallway floor. The reason? She had removed a strainer from the cupboard and wanted it in the toilet. I had taken it out.

But that wasn’t the reason, really.

First of all, I have no idea how she even knew it was in the cupboard. She hadn’t seen it used in the toilet, so I am not sure how she decided it belonged there. And although I am 100% positive that my removing it was the source of her great distress—I may never know why it distressed her. Because in spite of the leaps and bounds she has made in communication, conversation is still not an option for us.

Other parents will reassure me by letting me know their children are unable to express what’s really going on inside their heads, too. I imagine children who have regular conversations with their parents do sometimes fall to the ground in fits of rage over something they can never quite put into words. And then I think, maybe this is one of those times and we are just like everybody else.

How can I explain the difference to someone who hasn’t experienced the ways missing conversation can truly keep you in the dark? It’s easy to throw up my hands and say “who knows” while I wait for her to calm down about an insignificant strainer. I strongly doubt it will affect her long-term. This one is easy. And really, it is more than slightly easier than the tantrums over something put in the wrong place, or because the neighbors didn’t park their car in exactly the same spot today. The good news is that it will pass, and she will survive. Maybe I don’t even need to know the details.

What isn’t as easy is when I do need more information and I know there is no way to get it. Like when she comes home from school crying, or comes down with an illness. I have no way of understanding what might be going on. I could ask questions all night long and never get closer to the truth. She would only go back and forth between completely ignoring my inquiries, and repeating the last word I said back to me.  Continue reading

How Will She Download 2016?

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Yesterday, through the wonders of modern technology, my best friend from second grade and I were able to travel back to 1984. Four years ago I had found an old home movie of us and shared it on her Facebook timeline. Then yesterday, the popular “On This Day” app reminded her of it, and she shared it back.

I was waiting in the car with Teghan when the notification came in, and we watched it together. It wasn’t easy to explain. Did she know what I meant when I said that was me? Is she able to easily put together that I used to be little like her, and that this video was taken many years ago? I’m never sure. Time is one of the most difficult concepts to describe effectively. But she seemed entertained.

In 1984 I was about the same age as my daughter is now. The video shows two friends putting on a show for the camera. We cannot take our eyes off of our own images appearing on the TV, and we are especially thrilled with the novelty of my dad turning the camera to “negative” mode.   Continue reading

My Monthly Budget Pep Talk

Rainbow Moe

We have enough. We don’t make as much money as we would like to; and I often have to remind myself that this is a conscious decision we have made for our family. But– why did we do this to ourselves?

Our priorities have nothing to do with money and everything to do with our daily happiness. Because isn’t that what the bulk of existence is—thousands of days that roll out into a lifetime? There are goals we make, and maybe we could reach them faster with a little more pain right now. But these minutes and hours are everything. And we would rather be poor on our own terms than financially comfortable on someone else’s.

Of course, we learned this through trial and error.

It isn’t the same for everyone. Some people have passions which appear in the form of time-consuming careers outside the home, while a large percentage of our happiness can be realized from the comfort of our living room. The fact that this applies to both me and my husband is both a blessing and a curse, I suppose.

We live in a culture which narrowly defines success and happiness, and it takes time and experience to figure out that one size does not fit all. There is no right or wrong, just a limited amount of time to get the most out of what we’re given.  Continue reading