I think I can’t but I know I can

You know that scene in the movie Last of the Mohicans where one of the characters cuts into the chest of his opponent and pulls the guy’s still beating heart right out of his body then holds it high above his head while yelling…something?  That scene sums up how I felt as I walked the wrong way through the metal detector out of the boring official brick building into the sweltering heat. Except I hadn’t been cast as the triumphant warrior holding the heart in the air. No, I was the other guy. The one standing there staring at the gaping hole in the middle of his body wondering what the fuck just happened. He’s the one I can relate to right now. That guy. Some days the Universe should hand us an “I Survived” t-shirt at the end of the day. Life just plain sucks and there should be some recognition for getting through it once in a while. There’s not and you just keep chugging along. What other choices are there?

That’s what it feels like I’m doing these days, just chugging along at bare minimum trying to get through. At some point there’s got to be a light at the end of this tunnel but right about now I’m not so sure. I’m running out of steam. The car is on E and I’m not seeing a gas station anywhere. Feelings wise I don’t think I can make it but based on experience I know I can… Well, I’m 90% sure I can.

There’s an odd disconnect between the pain and the reality of life moving forward. I want the world to stop for a minute and let me wallow in it, give me a second to process it all, but decisions have to be made and quickly. Big ones, hard ones (Yeah I know Phrasing!) and I don’t think I can do this. I’m not equipped to deal with life on this level. Maybe I skipped class that day of Adulthood 101 but nobody taught me how to handle this kind of reality. I want to crawl under a rock, or maybe the blankets on my bed in my dark room, and hide for a month, come out when I’m ready to handle this disappointment and sadness, when I’m ready to cope with the struggles of my life and decide whether this is where we say Okay and deal or keep on fighting. Whether this goes to the next level or becomes the new norm. How do you really know when it’s a thing you can or should change or one you should accept? I never was very good at that, recent events have made me worse. I question my perception of reality now more than ever before. It’s hard not to when I see people buying the craziness that’s being sold dirt cheap. Sometimes the thing being said the loudest and most insistently really does become the truth. Guess I should have learned a long time ago to speak up, to yell more. Shout the injustice from the roof tops even if it is all in my head. My belligerence level has always been a little too low for that.

I think I can’t. Can’t handle this, can’t deal…just can’t. But I know I can. Because I have before. One foot in front of the other, keep moving forward. Ignore the desire to stop and just lay down and let time wash over you. Focus on the positives while you’re crying in the shower. Work towards the concrete goals, those ones with an end in sight. Because even though it feels Not Okay right now, better things really are on their way .Maybe not the ones you thought you needed but still better. Better than this. Life will never be ideal. No one gets out of this without a scar; we’re all a little fucked up in the end.

That’s just the way it goes. I think I can’t but I know I can.

 

 

It’s 6 a.m. and Adele is on the radio.

Word to the wise, don’t listen to Adele at six in the morning after being up all night. Especially not this one and especially not on the third long night of work in a row…

It’s a lesson I learned the hard way this morning. All I needed was some sound to help pass the time in those few painful hours on the overnight shift where there’s not much to do and the drowse starts creeping in. I got more than I bargained for today though. Between her beautiful, sadly nostalgic songs and someone else’s bad divorce diatribe that I happened to read I started thinking about how things used to be. Not in a happy, the way things once were as viewed through rose colored glasses kind of way either. Some things can’t be viewed through rosy lenses even ten plus years later.

I’ve been working on writing my personal statement for the dental school application. Trying to find words to describe what I went through to get where I am and what it’s taught me is a challenge. Doing so in 4500 characters or less (including spaces) an even bigger one. If you haven’t noticed, being concise is not a strength of mine.This morning I started thinking about the semester I took the first organic chemistry and anatomy and physiology. There had to be another class or two in there as well but I don’t remember what. Maybe a math. Probably. Maybe that was the same semester I took online International Cinema; now that was a cool class. I don’t remember though, all I recall is that those two tough courses, both with labs, were on the same day.

At that time I had four young kids ages two, four, five or six, and seven. Two were in school already, two not. I took the younger ones with me to school and they went to the low-cost on campus childcare center while I was in class. That was two days a week. One of those two was my Very Long Day. I’d leave our crowded apartment with all four kids sometime before 8am to take the older two to school then sit in traffic on 23 stressing about whether or not I’d be able to find parking, get the other two checked in at the daycare, and be in class on time. Anatomy and Physiology lecture was first. Lab followed that and then maybe the ambiguous math class. After that I had a two hour break where I’d pick up the younger two from daycare and take them to my parents’ house about fifteen minutes from campus. I’d meet my husband there with the older two kids so he could go to work for the night. There was just enough time to decompress with my kids for a few minutes, make sure a parent or sibling was watching the four of them, and head back to school for organic chemistry lecture and lab. Four hours of organic chemistry that would end between 9 & 10 pm after which I’d head back to my parents to collect the kids and drive the forty-five minutes back home. There was a song by Blake Shelton that was getting a lot of radio play around that time called Home. I swear every week around 11:00pm on whichever day that was it would come on the radio just as my overly tired two year old who was fighting off sleep in his car seat would wake up and start crying that he wanted to be home.  As we were exiting the freeway just minutes from our beds, Blake Shelton would be crooning “I wanna go hoome..” and my exhausted baby would crying that he just wanted his home. Me too buddy, me too.

I remember sometime that same semester finding a small notebook my then-husband had used as a journal. I didn’t realize what it was until I had read things that couldn’t be unread. There are some things that can never be unseen, never unknown once they’re known. He had written in his tiny, neat handwriting that some guys at work had teased him about me trying to go to dental school so I could leave him and he was pretty sure that’s what was going on. I was pursuing a career in dentistry so I could mercilessly leave his sorry ass behind.  I was going to get through school and dump him. He was sure of it. It was a one-two punch to the gut for me. What do you even do with that kind of information? How do you carry on knowing that this person you’ve been married to for six or seven years now thinks you’re just using him to get through school and the you’re going to discard him like a dirty used glove, that he thinks you’re not only capable of that but most definitely planning on it? I’m not sure, you just kind of do. That doesn’t make it better.

If a picture is worth a thousand words what is a song worth? Ten million?

I reminisced about all this and a little more at six o’clock this morning and then thought about my feeble attempts to convey who I am, where I’ve come from, and why the powers that be should let me into their elite dental school. So far the few thousand words I’ve pounded out seem flat and dull on the paper…well, the computer screen. Some stories need to be told, I’m not sure this is one of them. There’s a right way to do this, ideal words to write,  but at six a.m. when Adele is playing on the radio all I see is the sadness.

If hungry/angry is hangry what do you call tired/angry?

It’s been a while since I’ve been Hulk Smash Angry…but I think tonight’s the night. I was attempting to finish another post that I started a couple days ago, the idea has been marinating in my head long enough but for some reason it just won’t come out right. Change tracks and try to get the rest of my personal statement for dental school written…no dice there either. I can’t concentrate. The anger suddenly swells up, raw and edgy. Sharp like a razor.. I didn’t even realize it was hiding there.

I’m beyond tired. The kind of overly tired that comes from a couple weeks of running myself ragged trying to get it all done and still not feeling like I’m doing enough. There never is enough time; I’m stuck in catch up mode. It feels like my permanent state of being, that frantic hurrying. It’s also from working an insane amount of hours over the course of a day and a half. There’s that too. The angry is a special add on that’s definitely enhanced by my current lack of sleep.  I’m tired/angry. Tangry? Tirangry? Angired? Whatever you call it I’ve got it going on. The little things are setting it off. Listening to a friend talk about how his kids’ college educations are already paid for after spending time around people with money and hearing them casually talk about paying for three college tuitions at once. Fuck you all and your kids’ bright shiny futures.

I don’t really mean that. I think that’s great, great that other people are privileged enough that they can start their adult lives without the crushing debt of student loans. Really, I do. I know that it’s a direct result of someone’s hard work somewhere, even if it wasn’t their own. Hell, that’s a major source of my drive to do better, wanting to make it so my kids don’t have to work so hard. No, that’s not the cause it’s just the salt in the wound today. Everything is right now though. All the wounds are salty. I’m downright salty. This week is going to be one of those weeks. A week of frustration from waiting for certain things to happen, things that are totally out of my control, and I won’t have my usual busy pace of life to keep me distracted. My kids are with their dad and all the dentists I’ve been following around lately are off for the week of July 4th. I’ve got no classes right now and no big test to study for. This should be a welcome break. I could really use a break. I’m not sure this will be it though. See, there’s court on Thursday and it will very likely be the resolution of this past year’s change of custody hearing (though I feel like I’ve said that before).

I should probably plan to run more this week. I hadn’t thought about that before tonight. And maybe drink a little more too. It’s best to distract oneself at times like these. I’m not doing such a good job of that right now though. Tomorrow, or rather later today, I’ll sleep. That will help. This weekend I’ll work and try to find ways to distract myself while doing so.  Maybe I’ll finish that dental school application or find a crochet project, something to take the edge off the quiet hours. Monday is a holiday. Then Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday is court and my kids come home. And after that things might be different. Maybe better. Maybe.

Beyonce Ain’t Got Nothin on my Lemonade

You know you’ve had a rough go of things when you come home from working all night to find a cop waiting at the end of your driveway and your first thought (after the instinctual “Oh shit!”) is “At least it’s not CPS”.

My life has been stressful and a little bit harder than usual lately. To be honest I’m feeling somewhat beaten down by it. I try not to complain (much) because I know and fully understand that many of my problems are a direct result of the choices I make and some are temporary sacrifices for eventual gain (hopefully!) but this whole adulthood shtick, it kind of sucks. It seemed like the adults in my childhood were having way more fun than I am now.

As I was driving home form work this morning I was feeling especially wallow-y. I had made a mistake with my schedule that caused me to be an hour late for work last night. That’s an hour I can’t afford not to work and ,of course, my yearly review is coming up soon. I was mentally berating myself for not paying more attention to the work schedule, which I had plenty of opportunity to peruse,  at the time it was posted  when I noticed the vehicle blocking my driveway. I pulled up alongside the SUV  saw that it was a city police officer, she was busy filling out some paperwork. I rolled down my window and all  hopes of simply being able to ask for the vehicle to be moved a few feet to allow me access to my drive quickly shrank as she inquired  if I lived there. Saying no seemed like a bad idea; I was way too tired to park around the corner and wait the lady out.

The officer explained that there had been a complaint about a car parked in front of my house, it looked abandoned and there’s a city ordinance prohibiting abandoned vehicles. I told her that I was planning on scrapping the car but had been waiting for the title to another car that was being scrapped with it and that I’d get it off the street as soon as possible. Thankfully she only suggested that I move the car, even just a few feet, every couple of days and did not write me a ticket.  She had every right to as that car does in fact appear abandoned. It’s been sitting in the same spot for a while and I’m not sure if it even starts anymore. Weeds are beginning to grow up around it. I should have thought to weed around the junk car. Maybe that would’ve helped. Too late now I guess. In general my house does not look great from the outside. The bushes in front are way too tall, my yard is mowed less often than all the others, the porch has lost more paint than it’s kept at this point and some of the boards are starting to warp, there’s a loose one on the top step that pops out of place, every couple of days I kick it back in line with the others but that’s the best I can do right now …When I look at it all I think “Stereotypical single mom house” and feel slightly embarrassed. I’m not even attempting to keep up with the Jones but I would like to be able to take pride in my home and how it’s kept. I’m just not there yet. There’s only so much I can do, right?

The enormity of it all (the whole house, not the pseudo abandoned car) was weighing heavily on me until the next door neighbor poked her head out the front door, probably for the inevitable comment about the cop in my driveway. I was preparing to explain the reason for the visit and formulating  my excuse for the eyesore of a car that’s been in front of my house for the better part of a year but every once in a while God or The Universe or Chance, whatever you call it, sees exactly what we need and sends it out to greet us on a somewhat shitty Saturday morning.

Instead of asking about the cop my neighbor told me that she had met this officer before, that she talked to her and suggested she to “be nice” to me. “I told her you’re a single mom with five kids, that you’re a great neighbor and that you and your kids are really nice”, the neighbor said. This same neighbor’s husband just a few days earlier had offered to take his weed hacker to the long grass around the edges of my back yard. He began with “I don’t mean to offend you…” (a phrase that immediately makes one think “Oh shit, what happened now”). Both that day and right then I felt grateful for their kindness and generosity.

A few minutes after I got into the house a lengthy text from the across the street neighbor came in. His son is buddies with my youngest two boys. He’s helped me with my cars before and often pays my eleven year old to do yard work he could easily do himself. He told me that the town’s police department had inquired about my car and that he informed them it was mine and I was looking into fixing or scrapping it. He also mentioned that he told the officer I was “a wonderful neighbor and the car wasn’t a problem”. I had to laugh a little. Here I was feeling down and out about the stress of my life and my own short comings and in less than ten minutes I got some, albeit small, affirmation from two different neighbors that I was okay and my mess wasn’t actually bothering anyone.

Yes, I know, that’s not exactly what they were saying. It’s what I heard though, what I needed to hear. Sometimes life gives you a little sugar to sweeten the lemonade you’re making.

dwight lemons

I work in a residential rehab facility for people who have traumatic brain injuries. Most of the clients are there because at some point their perfectly normal day-to-day lives were interrupted by some catastrophic event (mostly car accidents) that literally could happen to anyone at any time. It didn’t happen to anyone though, it happened to them and now they have to live with some level of assistance for the remainder of their lives. Some of them have severe physical disabilities to go with the brain injuries they received in their accidents. Often, when I have the chance to learn more about these people’s stories, I’m struck by the optimism and even gratitude they have (despite the typical, petty complaints that those of us who work there often hear). We all can take a lesson from these guys and find gratitude even in things that are overtly terrible. I’m not talking about cheesy, every cloud has a silver lining bullshit that is often said with a fake, overly enthusiastic smile and a “bless your heart”, I’m talking about a real, genuine sense of thankfulness. Gratitude.

If you Google “what is gratitude” a definition pops up at the top of the page. It tells us that gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”. Gratitude is not just a feeling of being grateful, it’s also an action. A change. A readiness to return kindness.

So, yeah, my life feels like it sucks sometimes. But if you’ve learned anything about me from this blog maybe it’s that I think feelings in general are bullshit. They lie to us and make us do some pretty stupid things (I’ve got a crappy eleven year long marriage that can attest to that). Even when life feels wrong and way too hard there is kindness and something good somewhere…maybe you just have to open your eyes and look outside of your own sad self to be able to see it.

lemonade

 

…and just one more for the road, because science is so cool!

lemon battery meme

If you’ll excuse me now, I’ve got to call a tow truck about a potentially abandoned car.

Just Don’t Suck!

It’s one in the morning and I just finished this….

I call it the messy fishbowl.

If I was Chris Hemsworth people would be raving  about what a good parent I was, making my kid’s birthday cake myself even if it’s at 1 a.m. If I was Chris Hemsworth’s wife those same people would be tearing me apart for not planning ahead and making the kid’s cake earlier or, better yet, not being organized enough to order my precious offspring a fancy cake that probably cost more than some people’s cars. Luckily I’m neither. I’m just your basic Midwest mom with blue teeth (throwing frosting away is a cardinal sin even when it’s blue, a little too thin, and from a can).

There was a time when I was the mom who made this…

cake

The not-so-messy fishbowl. Back when I put real effort into making my kids’ birthdays awesome. Okay, so that’s not the actual cake I made. I didn’t do the whole Jell-O water and fish jumping out at the top but it was pretty damn close. My then-young kids were thrilled. I was an awesome mom back then, even my kids thought so, but then again they weren’t teenagers. Things were different then.

In my defense, the current fishbowl cake was sprung on me this afternoon and I didn’t have to wait until this ridiculous hour to decorate it, I just procrastinated via a beer and Netflix (aka solo Netflix and Chill). This one is for my nephew whose sixth birthday is tomorrow, actually today now. My sister just had a baby a couple days ago, her fifth. (Yeah,that’s a thing in my family. I totally started it though). She was having a rough day so I went to help her for a bit and came home with the task of making the birthday cake. I figured I could do that before picking my own kids up from school for the evening but that didn’t happen and here I am finishing a cake after midnight on a weeknight. It’s not beautiful but it’s not terrible either. In other words, it doesn’t suck.

In three days I’m taking the DAT (dental admission test). It’s a big deal and I’m more than a little worried about it. I really haven’t studied enough; I am not ready for this. As I’m writing this I find myself wondering if I can move my testing date back. I doubt I can and I know that’s a bad idea. I shouldn’t even be wasting time thinking about it. The dental school application process is time sensitive. A couple thousand people apply; early applicants are processed first and given interviews first (if they’re chosen to be interviewed). I need to take this test now and I need to do…. average on it.

Yup, you read that right average. Although right now it doesn’t feel like that’s all that easy (#selfdoubt). I’ve been trying to maintain the ideal balance between terrified and self assured here but as test day approaches the scales are tipping towards terrified. There have been many pep talks interspersed with moments of panic. My perfectionist’s heart is struggling in this situation because I know I am not going to do great. But, like I said, I don’t need to do great, just okay.

See, all the other pieces of my dental school application are already complete or on their designated trajectories. The DAT is the only unknown piece. I’m pretty sure the rest of my stuff is looking good, very good, and overall I think I’m an excellent candidate for dental school. I’ve got a pretty good gpa with high grades in all my math and science classes (except that one C), I have years (like six) of dental field experience, my required 100 shadow or volunteer hours are in progress….(there’s more but I’m not going to bore you with all of it) As long as I do okay on the DAT I’ll be good.

I’m a big fan of mantras and lately mine has been “You just have to Not Suck. Just Don’t suck!”

Much like the cake I was making when I should have been sleeping or studying a few days ago, my test score doesn’t have to turn heads and wow people. It just has to NOT suck.

Scan_20160526 (2)This IS the actual, nice and neat fishbowl cake I made for my son’s birthday ten years ago. Those black dots on the fish are gel icing carefully applied to Goldfish crackers to look like eyes. I took the time to put eyes on Goldfish crackers. I curled Fruit by the Foot like fancy party ribbons. The little half smile on my five-year-old’s face (and the fact that he let me take a picture) show how excited he was that day and how utterly satisfied he was with his special cake. My nephew had a similar look on his face when the messy fishbowl cake was set in front of him. He didn’t know or care that his cake wasn’t perfect, it was his and it didn’t suck.

Lately I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos and TED talks by Brene Brown. She’s a social researcher and author who talks and writes about fear, shame, and vulnerability. Fun stuff, right?  Much of what she says about perfectionism resonates with me. I’ve realized that the past few years of my life have been a slow, arduous march towards self-acceptance. I’m not totally there yet but I’m getting closer. Things like this dental school application process take me back a little even while they’re showing me how far I’ve come. I feel the old bend towards perfectionism wanting to take over but also don’t feel like it’ll crush me if I don’t measure up get in the first time I apply. At one time that would have been the ultimate failure. Now I’m pretty sure I’d just do a little better at whatever needed improvement and try again. So my goal this week is to do the best I can and just not suck. It’s the antithesis of perfectionism: Just don’t suck!

I’m pretty sure I can do that.

 

 

 

 

Procrastination, Why Not

Today’s lesson in adulting is brought to you by procrastination. I’m not talking about day-to-day, small time procrastination, I’m talking things that you just kind of put off for years until those little things have evolved into Big Deals that bite you in the ass four or ten years later. When the consequence of your procrastination hits you a decade after you avoided the original (probably very simple) action you should have taken, an epiphany occurs…Maybe procrastination is not always an acceptable lifestyle choice.

Yesterday my gas got shut off. I haven’t had utilities shut off since my early twenties if ever. Generally I pay my bills when they’re due. Okay, fine, within a few weeks of when they’re due. My gas bill is no exception; heat and hot water are important especially when you have kids who will complain magnificently when they have to take cold showers. So how did my gas get shut off then?

I had noticed something was off with my gas bill maybe two months ago. It was very high, maybe twice what it would normally be especially this time of year when the weather is getting warmer. Then I found another gas bill behind the bench in my foyer, an older one. I’m not very good about getting the mail off my porch on a daily basis (ahem, procrastination) and sometimes my kids will grab it and toss it just inside the front door onto the bench. Obviously this is not a very efficient system. I figured I had managed to miss a gas bill so I paid it twice in April and went along my merry way until yesterday. I opened the newest bill (after it had been sitting around for about a week) and, Holy Toledo, it was $500! This could not be right. Clearly there was a mix up somewhere along the line. I planned to call and figure it out…right after I went for a run.

When I returned from my run there was a tag hanging on my front door saying my gas had been shut off. Crap! If I called and got it sorted out by 2pm they’d turn it back on same day. I looked at my watch: 2:05pm. Of course.

I did some sleuthing before calling and discovered that the account number on my bill and the one in my bank’s online bill pay system didn’t match. My first reaction was to think the gas company had changed my account number but why would they do that?  After much waiting on hold and pressing random buttons I was able to speak to a customer service agent at the gas company. She confirmed that my two April payments had not, in fact, reached my account. I mentioned the discrepancy in account numbers and asked if they had changed mine. She said No, they only give you a new account number if you’ve moved. I’ve been at my current address for almost four years now AND I’ve paid the gas bill online for a while…like, five or six years. There had never been a problem before.

Turns out my last two payments along with a heating tax credit I qualified for were sitting in the account associated with my previous address. Then I remembered seeing something on my bill about my payments being forwarded from account and the previous address listed. I had meant to call and find out what that was about. Like years ago. Or even months ago. But I procrastinated. It seemed like such a little thing. Until it wasn’t and we had to take cold showers for a day.

This wasn’t the first time long past acts of procrastination had caught up with me and given me grief. About a month ago I took my sixteen year old son to the Secretary of State office to get his official driving permit so he could log some supervised driving hours and finish driver’s training. The goal was to get him licensed before school gets out in mid June to make getting a job a little easier for him. Considering he had finished the driver’s training class back in February and I was just now getting his permit we were already behind schedule. When we got to the front of the line I handed our pile of paperwork to the state employee, she glanced through it and handed all the documents back. “I can’t give you a permit today” she said “he needs a new Social Security card.” What??

About ten years ago we went through the legal process of step parent adoption so my then-husband (now ex husband) would be the legal father of our oldest who is not biologically his child. At the end of those proceedings we were given a bunch of paperwork to file away for safe keeping (which I still have in a file folder marked “moving checklist”) and someone probably mumbled something about mailing in a form to get a new birth certificate. And, really, I knew this needed to be taken care of. It had been there, nagging at the edge of my busy mind for the past ten years. Every so often I’d dig out the paperwork and think about it but never actually got around to calling and finding out where the paperwork needed to go. When we needed to show proof of my son’s name change or parentage or anything I’d just whip out the fancy looking Order of Adoption. it worked well enough…until it didn’t. Now, ten years after I should have mailed the damn paperwork, we have to wait another four to six weeks (plus a little time for procrastination) for a new birth certificate so we can go get an updated social security card so the kid can get his stinking driving permit. The new goal is to get him driving by his seventeenth birthday in late July. Maybe I should push that back to his eighteenth just for good measure…

The moral of these stories is Just do it! Mail the freakin check, call on that bill, follow up on the mundane day-to-day, bullshit details of life. Why? because nobody likes cold showers, even for one day.

procrastination     procrastination 2

 

Some Days

star wars glasses

Some days I’m on top of the world; I’m a mother fucking badass. Others nothing works, I’m failing at everything and I just can’t win.
It’s been over six months and I haven’t broken a single Star Wars glass. So there’s that.  But the pictures are peeling off half of them. Guess sometimes you get what you pay for, maybe less.
My first teenager is a genius, near perfect scores on every standardized test he takes. The jerkface can’t seem to pass his high school classes though. How do you make a sixteen year old see that homework is more important than friends even when his mom isn’t there to remind him? There’s only so much a mom can do, at some point he’s got to start caring. Colleges sure won’t if he fails classes junior year. Even with perfect scores he won’t get a second look let alone a scholarship. Lord knows I can’t pay his way, I’m still fighting to pay my own. This weighs heavily on me, some days more than others.
For two weeks my little guy went to school without a fuss every single day. It was a welcome change, one motivated by a sticker chart with the promise of a trip to the arcade attached. No emails from the teachers saying he’s having a bad day, started crying and they don’t know why, or that he won’t sit at circle time and do what first graders are supposed to do for two (almost) whole weeks. But that one day a kid accidentally knocked him down and he got up and kicked the kid. In the “privates”. Hard. They’re friends again now but who knows if that poor boy will be able to reproduce. Some days!

You take the good with the bad, that’s just life. “Up down, up down, Life’s like a jump rope.” Maybe if the bad wasn’t there you wouldn’t recognize the good. Everything would just be Meh. Contrast gives value. If you’ve never been poor you might not have an appreciation for your relative wealth. Stuff like that. But some days I just want a mother fucking break, to feel like I have good luck and timing instead of the perpetual bad that seems to follow me like a shadow. Some days I want to be able to say it went my way instead of telling about that one time it was so close I could almost taste it. I want someone to care about making my  life a little easier. Just once, maybe twice. That would be a nice change.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the bad guy, that I’m doing the right thing but some days I want to throw in the towel, waive the white flag, and call it a day.

Some days that’s how it goes.

Possibility Without Commitment

Possibility without commitment, it’s my preferred state most the time. This applies to dating, school, and to making plans in general. I like having my options open not because I’m afraid of commitment (Okay, maybe because I’m a little afraid of commitment. Since when was caution a bad thing?) but because unadulterated possibility is so much better, so much more exciting and hopeful, so awe inspiring and amazing. Once you commit you throw away all that open ended potential to do or be anything. When you finally narrow it down and choose what you are actually going to do you give up the possibility of doing ALL the things. For me that’s hard. And that’s where I am right now. On the brink of commitment.

Realistically I haven’t actually made a commitment yet but as soon as I started telling people it felt like commitment. I mean, I had decided so why not? Except the What Ifs, you know the ones: “What if I fail?” “What if I can’t?” “What if I’m not smart enough?” “What if I’m not strong enough?”

Yeah, those what ifs. When you start telling people you create an expectation, they ask you about it later, want to know how it’s going and if you’re there yet (like kids on a road trip). Even if they don’t ask, you know they know and are probably thinking about it. “Didn’t she say she was going to be a dentist?” “Is she still in school?” Stuff like that. Sometimes they say it, sometimes they don’t but even when they don’t I can feel those thoughts. Or at least I think I can; it’s entirely possible that that’s just in my head. Probably no one notices or cares. Except me. I care. Pressure’s on even if it’s just from your own self.

Now, though, I’ve gone just a little bit further and put my money where my mouth is. I paid for the DAT (Dental Admissions Test)…almost five hundred dollars. For a (technically) poor girl like me that’s a lot. It’s an investment and also a little bit of a commitment.

Shit’s about to get real! Super real.

Over the course of the next six weeks  four weeks (I started this post two weeks ago) I plan  need to be getting my dental school application ready. Sounds simple right? Yeah. it’s not. On top of the aforementioned test there are a hundred volunteer or job shadowing hours to complete, transcripts and letters of recommendation to procure, a “personal statement” to compose, and a few other bits and pieces to get together and compacted into the correct format. Roughly 2,000 people apply to the dental school I hope to get into. They interview 300 of those candidates and maybe 200 are actually admitted to this top tier school.

I’m feeling the pressure but here’s the thing…I’m truly enjoying this moment in my life. Well, mostly. I’m a little scared, a little intimidated right about now and so I should be. This is a big deal. But I’m excited too, more excited than scared, at least that’s what I keep telling myself. Besides, if it’s not a little scary you’re probably not doing it right…whatever it is. That’s been my experience.

Ten years ago I decided I wanted to be a dentist. Ten years! That’s a third of my life. So why the fuck haven’t I done it yet? Good question. The short answer is life happens. That and self doubt is a great preventative. I’ve mastered the art of using self doubt to fuel procrastination.

When I first started down this path at the ripe old age of twenty-five I felt the pressure of my age weighing heavily on me. I estimated that if I hurried it up I could get into dental school by the time I was twenty-nine and graduate at thirty-three. Old but still worthwhile. My oldest would be fourteen at that point and my (then) youngest nine. I could do that. I just needed to push myself and get through it as fast as possible. My biggest fear was the four or five chemistry classes. High school chemistry had not gone well for me. Little did I know that chemistry would be the easy part, the stuff I actually enjoy. The rest of it, the real stuff: family, kids, relationships, that stuff, that would be the hard part and the part I had to get sorted out. Ten years later I get that, at least I think I do.

At twenty-five I equated  a doctorate level degree with success. I had four young kids, a shaky marriage, a part time job in my dad’s dental practice and a handful of random college credits. Most my friends were at least a couple years into their careers, many were having big fancy weddings and starting their perfect adult lives. The discrepancy played on my insecurities and fed into my deep seated inferiority complex. Going back to school with such a lofty goal felt like it closed the gap a little. The need to prove that I was as smart as all my friends and educated siblings brought out my inner over achiever. I got 4.0’s in every class I took. Literally every class. Turns out I actually am as smart as anyone else. Who knew?

And then I unexpectedly got pregnant…again. Seriously, I’m not even sure how it happened that time. I mean, I’ve taken multiple anatomy & physiology classes and an NFP course (I got married in the Catholic church so it was required) I know how it happens. But this one, I have no idea how it happened. At the time I was pretty upset that this monkey wrench was being thrown in my plans. I was supposed to be applying to dental school that year, not having a baby. What the fuck? It was 2009 when my youngest son was born, pretty close to ten years after my oldest. I was twenty-nine, unhappy in my marriage and life in general, and more than a little overwhelmed. I tried to continue with school the semester after my little guy was born. I got my first pair of -A’s. After that I realized I was in over my head, way over. I’ve never been a very good swimmer, I was flailing and about to drown. It wasn’t the A minuses or the baby that did it. It was everything. I had a Come to Jesus moment. I knew I could handle the academics of dental school but I also knew I couldn’t do that, be the parent my kids needed me to be, and keep my family together. So I stopped. I abandoned the dental school idea and changed paths. It wasn’t even an “I’ll come back to this later” kind of thing, it was “Welp, at least I tried…sort of…almost.” And I waved the white flag. I mean, I was 29. What’s the point of spending the time and money on dental school when you’re already in your thirties?

Obviously I had a lot to learn. I knew what I wanted but I didn’t know what I needed to know to get it. Right place, wrong time.

Now, at the ripe even older age of almost thirty-six, I’m ninety percent sure this is the right time and I’m in the right place. I definitely don’t have it all together. I still have five kids but now I’m divorced and in an ongoing custody conflict. My gpa is not perfect anymore, there are B’s and even a C on my transcripts. My finances are tenuous at best and my house is falling apart slowly and steadily. But even without a doctorate degree, or even a bachelor’s just yet, I know that I am successful. I know that whatever I attempt I will do and do well. I probably won’t be the best at anything. Ever. But that’s okay. I don’t have to be. I just have to do the important things to the best of my abilities and the other things can be good enough. So while the commitment still scares me and sometimes makes me want to run away, the possibility that comes with this one entices me. Commitment and possibility.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go run twelve miles and study for the DAT. I’ve only got four weeks now…

 

 

 

Blueberry Biatch Cheesecake

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Once again it was my year not to have the kids for their school spring break. Apparently this divorced parenting stuff goes in two year cycles. We’re three years out now; I think I’m starting to get the hang of this. Sort of…as much as anyone can. At any rate, I handled this past ten day spring void better than the one two years ago. There was no Easter hangover this year, mostly because Easter fell on my work weekend and was at the beginning of the ten days. Typically I’m a little more stable the first weekend than the last. That’ll likely always be the case. Ten days really is just too long!

As has been my emerging holiday-without-the-kids pattern, I was hesitant to commit to my family’s usual get-together even though Easter is smaller than some of the others  especially this year since my parents and youngest brother headed south to see other siblings. Around Thursday or Friday I finally gave in and told my sister I’d show up for Easter dinner….Well, maybe I wouldn’t be there for dinner because I worked the night before, I wasn’t sure yet ,but if they waited until five to start dessert I’d most definitely be there by dessert. Which, naturally, made the answer to my “What can I bring?” question dessert.

And then someone posted this recipe on Facebook…Blueberry Creme Friache Cheesecake.

It looked amazing. It spoke to me. I had to make it ! And also what the hell is friache?!?

The recipe kindly explained that it’s basically a super fancy (and way way better!!!) version of sour cream. If you couldn’t find it you could make it…or you could use plain old, boring basic sour cream in its place. But then your potentially awesome cheesecake would probably be sub par. I’m no stranger to cheesecake and the rest of the recipe looked pretty normal so I figured I’d take my chances.

multiple cheesecakes

Five cheesecakes I made for a baby shower not too long ago…proof that cheesecake and I are well acquainted. 

My plan was to run into Meijer (the store) before work Saturday night and grab whatever ingredients I needed to make the cheesecake that night.  I forgot that almost every person in my small town can be found at Meijer the evening before a major family holiday. The place was packed and I had not left myself quite as much time as I should have. It’s okay, I would just have to do the grocery store sprint. If you haven’t tried it your life might be way too organized. It’s best done with a frantic look plastered on your face, adds to the fun.  When I dashed up to the dairy case, ready to grab and run, I found a gaping hole where the sour cream should be.No! There were only non and low fat versions available. That is not acceptable. You really can’t use low fat sour cream in, well, anything that you want to taste good! There wasn’t time to call up the recipe and figure out what I’d need to make this friache bullshit so, with a dramatic sigh, I grabbed a low fat sour cream and turned to run to the checkout lanes. Just then something caught my eye…Greek yogurt.

General promoters of healthy living are always touting the benefits of Greek yogurt. It’s close to the same consistency as sour cream (and maybe friache too. Who really knows?) I threw down the grossness that is low fat sour cream, relieved that I wouldn’t be forced to use that, grabbed the tub of vanilla Greek yogurt and rushed out.

Other than the recommended biatch  friache and the lemon I completely forgot to get, I mostly followed the recipe. i really liked the method of roasting the blueberries in the oven and mixing them in a blender before adding them to the cheesecake. Everyone said it was very good…all I could taste was the Greek yogurt.

easter cheesecakesThat was a little strange in the chocolate cheesecake  made from the same batter. I’m pretty sure it still got eaten though.

Weird cheesecake is better than no cheesecake at all.

How to kill a minivan in 24 hours or less.

The short answer is be me. I have uncanny luck with cars, specifically an uncanny amount of bad luck.

Three years ago sometime around early April I had decided to get a new vehicle. At the time I was driving a 2002 Pontiac Montana with roughly 212,000 miles on it. It still ran but needed about a thousand bucks worth of work. I thought it would probably be smarter to get a newer, more reliable van instead of fixing that one. I didn’t want to end up stranded on the side of the road with a dead minivan that I had just poured money into and I had enough saved up to buy a slightly newer version of the same van with significantly fewer miles on it. So I did. I passed the older one onto one of my sisters to use with full disclosure of all the work it needed. It would most likely just be a temporary solution for her vehicle problems.

My shiny new(er) Pontiac Montana had no problems…for about a year. Then in the spring of 2014 I was up north with a friend and the van wouldn’t start. After a few tries it finally did start; my friend’s dad said it sounded like a fuel pump. So I got that replaced and life went on. Over the next couple years that bastard minivan left me stranded (usually with my kids) no less than three times. I replaced the starter (twice because I got a dud that stopped working after two months the first time), the battery (also twice because the alternator drained it when it kicked it), the transmission, the alternator, and ,maybe a month ago, the rear drum breaks. I got two new tires then too which would be the fifth and sixth new ones on the van (not counting the three times I got flat tires and put used ones someone had given me on it). In the meantime my sister was still driving the old van I had given her, the one I was worried would leave me stranded. Oh the irony!

Two weeks ago I was driving a kid to a friend’s house before going to pick up another kid at a different friend’s house in another town the opposite direction from the first kid’s friend’s house (of course) when my van was suddenly overheating. There was no gradual climb in engine temperature, just a blast of cold air when I turned on the heat, flashing warning lights, and the temperature gauge hitting the read. That is not supposed to happen! I pulled over to allow the engine to cool and figure out what the heck to do. By the time the kid’s friend’s parents could come to get him the engine had cooled down. I borrowed a container and some water from the store who’s parking lot we had been sitting in for half an hour (an auto parts store no less) and filled the coolant reservoir. The van made it the fifteen or so miles back to my house but I wasn’t going to press my luck so I grabbed my other crappy old vehicle, a car my dad gave me when the drum breaks had gone out two weeks before that, and went to get kid 2 from friend 2’s house. I managed to avoid doing anything about the overheating van for a solid week before taking it to a shop to get diagnosed.

It was a blown head gasket…Clearly it was time to throw in the towel on this oh-so reliable minivan. As is typical this isn’t an ideal time for me to be investing in a new car but a used car place  few blocks from my house had a Honda Oddessy that I could buy outright. It was older and had about the same mileage my current crap vehicle had but Oddessys are supposed to be good, reliable vehicles with engines that frequently see 300K miles. It looked like a good deal and didn’t have any apparent problems when I test drove it except that the radio didn’t work. That’s sad but technically minor.

Monday afternoon shortly after 3pm I left the car lot the proud owner of a Honda Oddessy minivan.

I drove the shiny new minivan to pick my kids up from school about ten miles away and then back home again. It was all fun and exciting, showing up with a new car. Tuesday morning I drove my kids to one school, then the other, and back home again for a total of thirty miles or so. Sometime between school one and school two the check engine and a tcs warning light came on. What the fuck?

When I got home I Googled. There was lots of information about solenoids and cleaning some pencil sized filter that feeds into the thingy right before the transmission. I sighed a heavy sigh and headed in to get myself ready for school. Half an hour later when I got back int he van and started it up, the tcs light was off and only the check engine light remained. Irritating but I could live with that. It was probably a fluke…or  sensor. No big deal.

Off to school I went, another thirty-five miles logged.

It was just before two o’clock when I get in the van to leave school and go to my favorite state park to run. It was a sunny day and I was looking forward to a nice five miles in the woods. As soon as I started to accelerate on the freeway entrance ramp I knew something wasn’t right. There was lurching and jerking between the gears. As I hit 60 mph the engine started revving really high; RPM’s were in the red. We’re talking like in the six to eight range. The van wouldn’t go above sixty. I tried all the tricks I could think of…but then it wouldn’t go above forty. Crap!

Crap on a stick!!!

I pulled off the freeway all the way to the right just as the stupid van was refusing to acknowledge the gas pedal altogether (about three minutes after the honking began. Seriously, people, you think I’m going 40 mph on the freeway ON  PURPOSE?!?)

My new Honda Oddessy was dead on the road a whole twenty-three and a half hours after I bought it.

Allegedly the most reliable minivan and it was not moving…

And that, my friends, is how you kill a minivan in 24 hours or less. If you have one you want to try this out on just let me know. I’d be happy to lend my magic touch…for a nominal fee.

Hey, I’ve got another new(er) car to fund here.

 

In case you were wondering, I spent about three hours on the side of the road before my dad (with his unlimited towing insurance card) and then the tow truck showed up. The used car place I bought the van from graciously took it back and set me up with a different car (that I had to finance:( ) applying the money from the Oddessy purchase (including the cost of tax and title) to the newer vehicle.

The good news is that it’s NOT a minivan. For the first time in thirteen years I am not a minivan mom. I’m beyond excited about that!

And the newer new vehicle, the one that runs, has a two year warranty. But, hey, it’s supposed to be one of the most reliable vehicles on the road so I probably won’t even need that warranty. (Believe that when you see it!)

 

minivan driving

Did I mention I no longer drive a minivan??? Yup, no more of this for me. I’m totally cool now.