Graduation: It’s kind of a big deal.

Today is my would-be graduation day. Scratch that. Today IS my graduation day. I’m not going to graduation (because it’s too damn expensive and my kids are at their dad’s this weekend anyway) but it is still my graduation day.

College, bitches, I did it!

As of Thursday afternoon when I handed my completed final to the professor and walked out of my last undergraduate class, I have completed my bachelor’s degree. Logistically I may need to check on the status of a form and complete my loan “exit counseling” to actually get the piece of paper but all the real stuff, the classes and course content, that’s done.

I can now say that I’ve got a B.S. in General Biochemistry.

I’m not sure how this changes anything or what it really means for my family and our quality of life but, regardless of what may or may not happen now, I am super fucking proud of myself! I understand that getting my degree is not some magic pass to a better life; I get that nothing changes now unless I work hard to make it change. (I’m a single parent running a one adult household so that’s pretty much the story of my life. The wheels don’t turn themselves, something has to drive them. I get it!) But, still, graduating from college is a big deal. At least for me it is; it’s been a long road and I worked hard for this!

I didn’t realize how I felt about graduating until I was leaving my final on Thursday. All week I was oddly emotional and off kilter. I blamed stress, hormones, and lack of sleep. The usual suspects. But as I walked out of class and down those five flights of stairs I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride, a feeling of accomplishment, and a little bit of that “Oh shit what now” fear. Emotions, strong ones but mostly good.  glass case of emotions

As usual they took me by surprise. Before that point I thought that finishing, graduating, was just kind of…meh. I mean, (hopefully) this isn’t the end of my education and I’m not taking part in all the pomp & circumstance, no cap and gown for this girl, so it’s just a box checked off this list of things I need to do to get to the big thing I want to be doing (Hello Dental School!) I’ve been downplaying this and not even realizing I was doing it; I’ve failed to acknowledge that graduating really is an accomplishment. It’s also a big status change for me. I’m no longer a student. I no longer have to check the “some college” box under educational status.

With finishing my bachelor’s degree I accomplished a long term goal and that is something to celebrate. I worked hard to do this thing and I did it well. So while my eyes are still trained on what’s yet to come and there is no time to take a break if I’m going to do the next hard thing and keep propelling my life forward, I’m going to revel in my accomplishments and be unabashedly proud of myself this weekend.

kind of a big deal

Annual Christmas Craziness

Like every year (especially since going back to school), the few weeks before Christmas in mid December were Kuh-razy with a capital K. Finals/end of term projects for me and pre-holiday demands and events for the kids have me running around nonstop like the proverbial headless chicken. Because this is an annual thing I’m mostly prepared for it, as much as one can prepare for an already intense life to kick into hyper-speed.

drew-carrey-finals-meme

At one point (Tuesday), less than half an hour before the class period it was due, I was finishing a hefty presentation …from home…forty minutes from campus. All I could think was “How the Eff did this happen?”

elf-finals-meme

At another point, a day or so after the presentation procrastination, I was hustling my cranky kids out of the car to (quickly!) pick out a Christmas tree so we could get to the sledding hill across town where their aunt who was visiting from out of town was waiting for us with some cousins. It was cold, windy and already dark but gosh darn it we were going to get some sledding in. And we did. Just a bit before it was time for me to make dinner for 11 people. Directly following that I squeezed in an hour and half nap and headed to work for the night. Over the next couple of days I got six hours sleep. Total. In a span of 48 hours. I made it to my last test (it could hardly be called a final), attended my little guy’s school holiday concert, got the tree up and decorated before the kids left for the week, finished a paper, and worked another shift before finally crashing for 11 hours straight (and subsequently being an hour late for work Friday night).

But then my semester was officially over and a very strange thing happened…  end-of-finals-week-meme

I had free time. Well, relatively free time.

So I did what any sane person would do and began making some Christmas presents. There was just under a full week and making a list of things I wanted to make was as far as I had gotten.

First there was the Slytherin robe one of my sisters asked if I could make…

I used soap and drew the “pattern” out on the fabric. Other than the sleeves being a bit long (for growing room of course), it turned out perfectly and I expect I’ll see my nephew wearing this for a few years.

my-little-ponies-present

And then there was a random hat made with chunky yarn for my mom, a scarf/cowl thing for my brother’s girlfriend, a “fallen leaves” baggy hat (for the same brother’s girlfriend), and a “Little Sister” hat for my God-daughter. (The other God-daughter got some My Little Ponies but she’s getting an Anna cape for her birthday in January.)

Sadly, I only got pictures of the Little Sister hat. It’s a bit big but should be perfect this spring or fall.

After that it was the holiday.

(Okay, that’s actually the before-Christmas craziness there.)

And that, dear readers, sums up this year’s round of pre-Christmas/finals week craziness.

The Things we Keep and the Things we Carry

It’s hot and muggy, we don’t have central air and there aren’t enough fans in this giant old house with it’s high ceilings and plaster walls. The stagnant heat makes us all a little cranky, that and everyone having consecutive days of various friends sleeping over. Everyone except me. I don’t get any friend sleepovers. (Sigh) The house is a mess, the kind of wild, uncontrollable mess that comes from six people being home all day. The piles are every where pressing in on me, mimicking the heat in their attempts to smother me.  Papers, laundry, shoes, dirty dishes, the debris of daily life in its natural state. Entropy in action. It’s surrounding me.

In the one small window of my dark bedroom there’s an air conditioner humming, the door stays shut to trap in the precious cooler air. It gives a momentary reprieve from the heat if not the mess. Here, too, the piles haunt me. Predominantly laundry that I haven’t found the time or space to put in its proper place. I’ve been lead to believe neither the “clean” basket nor the end of my bed is considered the proper spot, though my patterns of behavior especially of late beg to differ. Normally it doesn’t bother me but the heat and crabbiness of the day make me want this laundry to be somewhere other than the floor and furniture. In fact, I want all the mess to be somewhere else. I want it all gone. There’s just so much stuff. Why is there so much stuff?

A couple months ago I cleaned out part of my basement in the process of creating a work out area. My kids and I have been in this house for almost four years now, double the longest time we’ve lived anywhere else. As we were sorting through the stuff that had collected in the basement a theme emerged. Boxes. For some reason there were a lot of empty boxes in my basement, specifically the boxes that stuff came in. Packaging. There was so much empty packaging that I had held onto for some reason or another. There was a box from one of my daughter’s nicer dolls that was a birthday present when she was seven or eight, the packaging of a remote control helicopter I bought off Groupon three Christmases ago, even the box from my vacuum cleaner…and a few more. I have no idea why I kept them but there were So Many Empty Boxes. Occupying space with no known purpose.

I didn’t realize I was a collector of boxes until I saw it all compiled, it got me thinking: Why? Why did I keep all that empty packaging? Why bother storing it for years and years? Seriously, you could compose the history of my purchases with all the boxes thrown haphazardly in the corner of my dark, dank basement. It’s like I was never quite convinced that I wouldn’t be moving again soon. I might need to pack up all that stuff and transport it in a year or two like I had before. Or maybe I thought I’d be desperate at some point in the near future and have to sell stuff on Ebay, just to get by. I’ve done it before. Things are more valuable with their original packaging.

It wasn’t just the boxes that I was storing without awareness.

In the back of my closet there’s a dress. It’s a shorter black shirt style dress with bold, angry plaid trim and shiny metal loops and buckles reminiscent of punk rock fashions. Years ago I had a skirt that was similar, I’d wear it with a cut up t-shirt, ripped black tights, and my Doc Martens. But this dress, I’ve never even worn it. My former sister-in-law bought it for me at the salvation army maybe six or seven years ago. We used to be good friends and when she saw it she thought of me. Shortly after that the shit hit the fan and divorce ensued. We haven’t spoken in years, my once sister-in-law and I. I tried to reconnect with her after the dust settled but I guess blood really is thicker than water and she wanted nothing to do with rekindling our friendship. I still have the dress though. It’s survived many purges. I just can’t seem to let it go. I’m thirty-six now, it would be a little ridiculous for me to wear it but there it hangs in my closet.

There are other things too. Torn t-shirts and jeans with worn out knees that I meant to make into something useful and fun, a grocery bag of washed out tin cans that were supposed to become C3PO, my dad’s cross country jersey from college, a watercolor of me on my wedding day that was a gift from my ex husband on our first anniversary.

It always made me uncomfortable, this painting of me standing there in my elaborate wedding gown and fancy hair, but I still have it more than two years after the divorce. Partially because I’m not sure what to do with it, throwing it away doesn’t seem right. Partially because I forget it’s there (out of sight, out of mind) until I stumble upon it again while searching for something else. Then all those  feelings come back, the awkwardness and discomfort I felt when it was given to me, not knowing how or whether I should let on that I didn’t love this painting of myself for fear it would be perceived as personal rejection and scorn by my brand new husband. Even in the early years of marriage I knew I had to tiptoe around his unpredictable feelings. I knew that having a reaction that was less than he expected would be construed as total rejection of him as a person; I couldn’t not love the gift and still love him, not in his mind. So I danced around what his reaction to my reaction was going to be and adapted as I saw fit. That tailoring and filtering, the inability to be authentic, I’ve tried to get rid of it, to throw it out, but remnants of it hang on. Scraps of it are woven into the fabric of my being, something I keep and carry whether I like it or not. And I don’t. It’s there though, as real as the mess in my sweltering home. It’s just one of the things that holds on, gathering dust in the corners until it finds an opportunity to remind me of its presence. There are things I carry, without even realizing, that do not have a place in my newer life, the one where I don’t dance unless I want to. The one where I’m the king of my own castle, albeit a mess of a castle. But I can’t seem to let them go. I have trouble discerning between the things I should keep, the useful stuff, and the things I carry. The stuff that weighs me down, the stuff that should have been let go of long ago.

 

Why am I doing this?

wtf meme

I keep asking myself this but I haven’t gotten an answer yet.

Today was my first day of classes for the new fall semester. I was slightly wary going into it, my class schedule is really not the greatest. Especially for me. I’ve got on-campus classes two days a week, Tuesday and Thursday, one in the morning and one in the evening with four and a half hours between them. (And of course the evening class makes it so I’m not home during divorced-parent switch time. That raises the stress of my schedule exponentially.) I’m still not sure what to do with myself in those four and a half hours. I also don’t understand why that one last chemistry class I still need to graduate doesn’t fit nicely in that space. I mean, it would but the university either didn’t realize or completely missed the memo on that one.

Really I should have picked up some easy bullshit class to fill the time and ,in doing so, avoided fucking up my financial aid. Of course I didn’t realize the financial aid was effed up until two days after my overages were supposed to be deposited into my account so I could buy books. In case you missed it, they weren’t. I’m sans student loan money until mid-September. And even then it’ll probably be less than I actually need and have gotten before. I could look at my student account and see what the adjustment yielded but I’m a little afraid to see what I’m dealing with. Which brings me to the main point of this ramble…

As I walked out of my first class (which ended less than an hour after I got there) feeling a mix of excitement, relief, and trepidation I began to wonder why I’m doing this whole school thing. Later, sitting in the three hour biochemistry lab marveling at how much I forgot since May, that thought popped back into my head: Why am I doing this? Wouldn’t we all be better off if I just worked more at my job or picked up a second job?

Things have been a struggle lately, specifically financial things. They’re piling and piling and I’ve got no exit strategy. And here I am during perfectly good working hours sitting in class accumulating student loan debt. Why? It’s supposed to make life better but I’m not sure this whole college thing is doing that. I’m happier but only when I don’t try to fathom how I’m going to pay for this education I’m (according to some people) selfishly acquiring. And, really, am I making my kids lives better by not being there when they get home from school, by constantly scrambling to patch together rides home from school and cross country practice? I’d like to think, yes, that it does do something, that it is and will continue to make our quality of life better. Maybe I’m operating on sunk cost premises here and maybe this is my competing fears of both failure and success but I if I quit now ,like I’m occasionally so tempted to do, there is no gain. Nothing at all.

I’m  ninety-percent sure this is all self-doubt and beginning of the school year angst. Tomorrow I’ll review protein chemistry and be happy to be learning new things again. I’ll remember that I really do want to be a dentist and have for a long time. I’ll think about all the cool things I’ll do for my kids and others when I am. I’ll find a way to work a little more this term and still be awesome  acceptable at my studies. And I’ll, once again, convince myself that it’s part of the process. Eggs breaking and omelets and all that.

first day of school 16.jpg

My kids are super thrilled about the start of a new school year too.

Eyes on the Prize: A 10k Recap and Some Other Stuff

This weekend was my small mid-Michigan town’s annual Melon Fest. Really the only part of Melon Fest I take part in is the Melon Run. It’s been my favorite 10k race because it’s close to home (I literally jog to the start line) and it’s an evening run so no 6am wake ups on a weekend morning. I’ve even placed in this race both the years I’ve done it but this year I was going to pass on it. Right now money is tight and time running short. The melon run was going to be one of those minor casualties of the overly busy summer I’ve been having…until I saw that they were handing out growlers from a local brewery as prizes this year AND it fell on a weekend that the kids were home. That sealed the deal. Beer and running with my kids? It’s barely even a choice, I basically had to do this run.

This time I got three of my kids in on the fun. My oldest did the 10k “with” me (he was exactly fifteen minutes faster than I was), my eleven year old did the 5k, and my little guy did the mile fun run. As an added bonus a handful of the kids on my cross country team participated in the run with us since practice had been cancelled. The other coach is out of town doing an Iron Man and I was doing the Melon Run. So instead one middle school girl (who is quite an impressive little runner) ran the 10k (and won her age division) too while four of the high school runners and six middles did the 5k. Having such a large group of runners and parents made the melon run even more fun.

elijah melon run

There’s my little guy towards the end of his mile.

As far as the actual running goes, I wasn’t feeling my best on Friday. There had been a couple days during the week that contained very little sleep and, even though I was exhausted, I had not slept very well the night before. I was dragging and feeling a bit dehydrated throughout the 6.2 miles. I stopped at almost every water station and walked a little too. I was struggling to keep myself running and even the thought of winning a growler was losing it’s motivational pull. The race finishes on a gentle up hill and  I desperately wanted to walk that last quarter of a mile but there was no freakin way I was going to do that with my kids, part of my team, and other parents watching me. While my inner voice was complaining and whining, I forced myself to pick up my feet and push up that stupid hill to finish the race. It wasn’t pleasant but I’m glad I did it; I just barely made the Under an Hour mark…which to me is anything under an hour and a minute. My official time was 1:00:39. It counts.

melon run me & C

And it was good enough for second in my age division. Obviously my big guy won his and we got growlers so I was happy. Now I’ve got a complete set of first through third in my age division from this run. Of course, two are medals and one’s a growler but still, prizes all the same and who doesn’t love a prize?

Speaking of prizes, late the night before the run I got and email from the ADEA dental school application system saying my application was processed and complete. I had submitted it just ten days prior. They tell you it takes four weeks to process and I was sweating my perceived tardiness in getting the thing completed. Shortly after that email another came through, this one from the actual dental school I’m hoping to get into (and the only one I applied to), saying that they had my application. I know it’s a tiny tiny part of this whole process but hearing that the school has my application felt like big news to me. This whole dental school thing might actually be happening. Holy Shit!

The past three months I’ve been sweating and stressing over the dental school application and getting it done and submitted. Everything else took a backseat while I struggled through June and July to get all the pieces in place. My running took a hit, there were no vacations or fun beach days, no extra work shifts, it all went on hold. But now there was email confirmation that I had gotten it done. All summer it’s been eyes on the prize and here was proof that the prize is within reach. It’s a great feeling.

growler prize

 

Slow that Roll

I woke up feeling like I had something stuck in the back of my throat. I couldn’t see or feel anything with my finger so I ignored the sensation and went about my somewhat hectic day. It was my oldest son’s family birthday celebration and I had thirty to forty people, most of them small children, coming for dinner. My family is laid back and fun; hosting a birthday dinner for them isn’t as stressful as entertaining that many other people would be. Besides, I’ve totally embraced the idea of “scruffy hospitality” (I’ve been meaning to write about that). But still, it makes for a busy day. As the dinner was winding down and people were drifting off to the backyard, front porch, or living room to relax and socialize I realized my throat hurt more than it had earlier. I went to the bathroom and AHHH-ed in the mirror to see what I could see. There, way in the back on the left side, was a white mass at least a couple centimeters across. WTF?!? So of course I tried to touch it.

Whenever I see white bumps in my throat I think strep. It’s happened before, it could happen again. I’m not very good about taking care of myself and regular medical care is something I definitely slack on but strep throat motivates me to seek medical attention asap. Plus I was scheduled to volunteer at a low-income dental clinic the next day and shadow a geriatric dentist the following. Even when I ignore my own health, I try to be conscientious about protecting other’s, especially the elderly. So, after everyone left, I trucked myself off to urgent care for a throat swab. I wish they’d just start selling those rapid strep tests over the counter already. But they don’t.

Turns out it wasn’t strep at all. I had an epitonsicullar  abscess. Basically an infectious mass was sitting on my left tonsil. Not contagious, but still requiring antibiotics. After asking about my gag reflexes and some reassurance that I would not, in fact, vomit on her, the ER doctor poked the mass and then swabbed it for a culture. She lectured me on the importance of following up in the next couple of days, saying that if the abscess didn’t go down with antibiotic treatment it may have to be lanced. That sounded simultaneously cool and dreadful. Downright cool to see on someone else, maybe not so cool to actually experience. So I followed her instructions.

The abscess did respond to the antibiotics. I was dragging for a couple days but at least I could still get my shadowing and volunteering hours in that week. I was really pushing to finish the required hundred by the end of July. I did not have time to deal with an infection! After that week the shadowing hours were done. It was a giant relief but my kids’ 4-H fair was immediately following. There was a bunch of craft projects to finish, horse show stuff to gather and prep, and parenting time logistics to haggle over. We got everything done in time but jut barely. There was a Thursday to Friday to Saturday morning that was downright insane. I may have broken my previously impressive record for Least Sleep in 48 hours. But things and people got where they needed to be and we all survived fair.

fair

Since late April and the end of the winter semester, I’ve been hustling to complete all the necessary items for my dental school application. I’ve been hurrying along to check all the boxes and get the thing submitted in as little time as possible. People would ask when the application is due, my reply was “As soon as possible.” Sure the deadline isn’t technically until October (January for some schools) but early applicants get first consideration for interviews and with a couple thousand prospects vying for a couple hundred spots you need every advantage you can get.  Those applications though, there’s a lot to them. It’s tough to get a hundred shadowing hours in when you’re in school, parenting five kids and their struggles, dealing with an ongoing change of custody hearing and you still have to work…because someone has to fund this rock n’roll lifestyle!

Originally my goal was to be ready to submit that bitch by the end of June, first week of July at latest. I quickly realized that just was not realistic. My self-imposed deadline for the shadowing hours got pushed back to the end of July with hopes of application submission very early August. It was touch and go for a while there but goals were met, the application was submitted at 1am on August 7th.

All summer my mantra has been Make it to August. Just get through to August and I’d get some summer. There would be relaxing, crocheting, reading actual books, and as many beach days (preferably at a Great Lake) as I could squeeze in. Last week was the second in August. On Monday my kids (well, three of them plus one friend and one cousin) and I went to Lake Michigan. It was awesome, relaxing and enjoyable on so many levels. But we were out pretty late and the drive home included dropping the extra kids off and collecting the dog. We got home after midnight. As the only adult and the only driver on the trip I was exhausted. Three of us had to be up early in the morning for one of the many, many appointments we’ve had this summer.

made it to the beach

Made it to the beach. Yay summer!

Seven-thirty came way too soon. I dragged my sandy, dirty self out of bed for a much needed shower, woke the two boys who had appointments that day and rushed around like the insane person I sometimes am. Part of me desperately wanted to call and cancel the appointments. Traffic was going to be terrible and we were already running late. I didn’t even have time to make real coffee and where the fuck had all my little guy’s underwear disappeared to? But those aren’t viable reasons to cancel at the last minute.

Really I blame the underwear.

We left the house late. Again. I was exhausted and felt frantic and frustrated. Again. After fifteen minutes of driving slightly above the speed limit we were at a stop. And then a crawl. And then a stop. Cars as far as the eye can see. Ugh!

Maybe if I got into the right lane I could exit and take a short cut. When does that other freeway split off? I think that’s on the left. There had to be a quicker way to get there. We were twenty minutes late two weeks ago. Once is okay, twice is embarrassing. I really don’t know this area well. Is getting off the freeway actually going to save me time? Maybe Google Maps will have the answer.

I picked up my phone and hit the “recent places” tab in the maps app. My stupid fat fingers hit the wrong thing. I glance down again to find it, look up and OH SHIT! Mother Fucker!

The Ford Taurus in front of me had stopped. Instantly I know I can’t in time but I sure do try. Foot slams on the break pedal as I hear more than feel the crunch. Crap crap crap. I knew I should have cancelled these appointments.

After asking if the kids are okay and pulling well off the freeway onto the left lane shoulder, I jump out to assess the damage. Radiator fluid is flowing out of my car in large quantities. It would almost be impressive…if it wasn’t spewing forth from my car. The new one that I just financed three months ago. Fuck me! I’m not even sure who to call or what to do here, I’ve never been in an accident before let alone caused one. The guy I hit looks petty pissed as he begins making phone calls, not saying a word to me or even making eye contact. I can’t blame him, I deserve it.

In fact, I really had this whole craptastic situation coming. I could have listened at the first or any of the many smaller signs that I was just barely holding it all together and slowed down. The infection was the warning shot, I paid it no attention. Now the Universe was taking me out at the knees. It was working. Perspective was being gained. Things look very different when you’re flat on the ground looking up.

My pace of life the past couple months has not been sustainable, eventually something had to give. While I wish it wasn’t my Volvo I’m glad the only damage done was to my car (and possibly my already tenuous finances).

In two weeks things get more than a little crazy again. I’ll be starting my last semester of undergraduate classes. My class schedule is not good but my choices here were limited. My five kids will be back in school at the same time; it’s my oldest’s senior year. The fall is also cross country season. I’ve signed on to be my kids’ school’s middle school cross country coach. I’m simultaneously excited and intimidated. Part of me is wondering what I’m thinking taking that on right now…it’s a lot. My life is always a lot and I continue to add to it. I need to simplify, to slow my roll. The question is how?

great lakes

Not the same beach or even Great Lake that we went to this time…

 

Something Resembling Cake Pops

It all started when I forgot to tell my thirteen year old daughter that she needed to grease AND flour the cake pans. She hadn’t baked with glassware before and my only square pans are glass. I didn’t think to mention it until I was trying to flip the second layer of the cake out of the pan and it stuck. Badly.

Crap! This was quickly moving beyond the point of being salvageable.

We were making the cake for my youngest’s impromptu seventh birthday party the next day while trying to clean up and set up something resembling an obstacle course in our back yard. The little guy had grand ideas for his birthday party, ideas that included Chuck E Cheese, Sky Zone, or some other overpriced mecca of childhood entertainment. My budget had other ideas. An obstacle course in the back yard was the compromise. That and a Minecraft creeper cake. That part, at least, would be simple. Except that I forgot to tell my daughter about greasing the pans when she offered to make the cake.

creeper cake 1

Our second attempt went much more smoothly.

Based on how quickly the ice cream cake disappeared at my oldest son’s birthday dinner a couple weeks earlier, I was estimating that one cake wouldn’t quite be enough anyhow. I looked at the crumbly mess of our first cake attempt trying to figure out how to make it usable when the light bulb went on: Cakepops!

Those are just chocolate covered balls of cake crumbs…right?

Well, that’s sort of right. They’re actually crumbled cake mixed with frosting, pressed into balls, frozen and then dipped into melted chocolate.

Instead of balls (insert childish snicker here), I stuck with the Minecraft theme and made cubes. Okay, cuboid type shapes. Something akin to cubes. My thought was with the chocolate coating and some green sugar sprinkles they would resemble earth blocks.

earth blaock

The problem is that dipping things in hot, liquidized chocolate makes keeping a discernible cube shape a challenge. That and it gets pretty stinkin messy. By this time it was almost three in the morning.

cake balls 4 chocolate

This requires a beer!

I think the problem arose from crumbs and cake debris contaminating the melting chocolate. After that the chocolate was less flow-able and much more difficult to dip the cake blocks in. There’s probably a tool somewhere out there to prevent this exact thing from happening. Acquiring tools takes some level of planning ahead though. That’s just not my style.

cake balls finished

After a few fully submerged blocks I gave up and started applying the chocolate to the cubes with a knife. They do still slightly resemble earth blocks from Minecraft. At least one kid recognized them so there’s that. Even though they’re somewhat…visually questionable, these things tasted SO so good! While I was making them I thought “Never again!”, while I was eating them it changed to “I should make these again. Soon!”

They were Yum-O-licious! Making next time I’ll stick to balls though. Hehe, balls!

 

As for the actual cake it was just batter died green, square pans, and brilliantly colored frosting. I truly appreciate the easy to mimic pixel world of Minecraft.

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.

 

 

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.