Sunday, October 18, 2009

I Need To Be...

  • Cleaning
  • Doing Laundry
  • In Bed
  • Sleeping
  • Reading
  • Doing Something Else

But clearly, I'm not. Girls are gone for the week, and I am in avoidance mode. Grading is not on the list only because I'm caught up with the regular job, although perpetually behind with the consulting job. I will be a grading fiend the next few days with projects due in both of the classes I teach. I will want to get things graded fast, as I'm planning on going to see my Grandmother on Thursday for a few days.

Meanwhile, I sit with my cat next to me and I've been watching The Office on Netflix. Yes, very productive.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Trading Places

I took DD2 to the doctor today, and I knew it would be a frustrating visit. I don't know what's wrong with her - I only know that she is frequently too tired to go to school, her head hurts, her stomach hurts, she's nauseous, pale, running a low grade fever, etc... but that it's usually not bad enough to warrant a doctor's visit. Still, it has become way too chronic to ignore, as I have been called to pick her up at least four times this year, and it isn't even winter yet. So, I basically took her because it is just time to know something. The doctor seemed to agree.

Possibilities at the moment include sinusitis, migraine [I thought of this later - her symptoms match mine from when I was younger, if I really think about it], allergies, depression, anxiety... nothing that will be easy to really pinpoint.

Two moments from the visit, though, stand out for me. The first, when the doctor was trying to determine stress/anxiety concerns, and asked DD2 if she had anyone that she talked to about things. DD2 said without hesitation, "my mom." We talked more about this portion of the discussion at bedtime, and she told me how she tells me everything that she is thinking about and needs to talk about. I hope and pray that DD2 always feels she can talk to me, and knows that no matter what I will love her. I know I lost that feeling with my own mom at a very young age.

The second, was before and during drawing blood for testing. She was so scared, crying, and while I sat there comforting her, eventually helping her to calm down and to realize that blood work is actually a normal procedure that I've had done a lot... oh, how I wished I could trade places with her. The desire to do anything to keep my daughter from experiencing pain of any kind was stronger than I can ever recall.

And I think that is the chief frustration/lesson of being a parent. You want to protect your children, and keep them from pain of any kind. Doing so, though, takes away the opportunity to learn, grow, and experience all that life has to offer - both the pain and the joy.

I hope we figure out what is going on with her sooner rather than later.

"Little" Things

This lovely furlough day is not going as I thought, but what else is new. I knew it as soon as I woke up, particularly as DD2 seemed not to be feeling well. I made it to the gym and was almost halfway through what I planned to do there today when the phone rang for me to go pick her up at school. So, instead of my furlough plans, I'm taking care of "little" things at home, [namely, my daughter] which has included working with iTunes to get new music uploaded from CDs, make sure artwork is present for the album cover, as well as sync my phone and other iPods.... partly for her iPod, of course... ahem.

One of the things I've wanted to do for awhile, ever since a church that I went to a couple of years ago quit podcasting their sermons, is download sermons from this particular church to put on my iPhone. So, rather than just stand over the stove heating up tomato soup for DD2 [made with milk, of course, so it must be stirred], I listened to one of the sermons while stirring.

I love it when a sermon is exactly what I need to hear. Particularly when it matches things that I have been doing lately that I don't automatically recognize to be spiritual in nature.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hellooooo Furlough!

Tomorrow is day one of 6 state mandated furlough days for all universities and colleges. I'm not allowed to work - seriously. No email, no reading, no grading. Yeah.

It amuses me - how does one furlough a college professor? Clearly, it's been done, but the whole thing just seems non-sensical. We have people practically knocking down our doors to get in - admission is up. Irrelevant, though.

Soooo... gym, reading, pedicure - all on my agenda for tomorrow while the girls are at school.

Feels reeeallly weird.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


One of the things that has become painfully obvious to me is that I have a big portion of my life that feels like a hole. A hole in the fabric, a black hole, a missing piece. I'm bothered by it, certainly, but I don't see a way to change it.

I guess what is making me think about this hole is the company I keep. I have been having a ton of fun lately going out with or talking to various people, but invariably, these people represent distant past or the present. There is a whole segment of my life that is missing. That isn't all that is missing. I'm missing a whole segment of popular culture. Music, TV, books. No memory of any favorites that I can come up with during this time. A few movies come to mind, but not many.

I can attribute holes to a number of things. I have joked that I skipped my twenties, but truthfully I initially made choices that contributed to that. I got married right out of college, started working in my chosen field, did all that I was "supposed" to do, had two children, and became thoroughly engaged in their lives. My then husband and I had friends that we made, certainly, and I did things with a number of the women in my church. Yet while I know I made some initial choices that pointed my life in a certain direction, I remember that there came a time where I quit making many choices. More nights that not I would call my husband and ask him what he wanted for dinner. If my parents invited us for a meal, I would call him and say, "We've been invited to eat with my parents - do you want to go?" I don't remember choosing to watch things on TV - but the TV was always on. I didn't have much of a say in the finances, and I felt guilty for spending money. Music? I didn't buy any music - and we had the Columbia Record Deal going on for awhile, but the choices weren't mine.

I know along the way I felt an emptiness. The first time I felt that emptiness I got pregnant. For a short time afterwards I felt like things were exactly the way they should be. Then I felt empty again, so I got pregnant again. Same result - I can distinctly remember a time after the birth of DD2 that I felt that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. The third time that emptiness hit, though, I put myself through the longest birthing process yet - I got my doctorate. That third time really marks a turning point, because it is invariably denotes a shift in how I handled the feeling and is also what caused me to recognize that I somehow got lost in the process. I didn't have preferences, and I really didn't have an identity. I just knew that I wasn't happy - what I didn't realize is that events that had happened in my past had caused me to shut down with others, to remove myself from the equation so that I couldn't be hurt. Even my career choice as well as my religious beliefs had all resulted out of my desire to avoid being hurt. As this awareness came into my consciousness, I can remember teaching my adult Sunday School class and thinking what a sham I represented. I didn't connect with the people in the room, or the material. I taught and thought, "I'm not sure I believe what I'm teaching." Had it been a year prior, I wouldn't have even questioned it.

Ultimately, I decided to leave my marriage, for a multitude of reasons, but mainly to heal from past abuses. I wasn't given the space to do it within the confines of the marriage, so I had to remove the confines. While this action has saved me, it also caused me to lose a large number of friends that we had as a couple. I have never really understood the human need to "choose sides," particularly given there is no real way to understand exactly what is happening if one doesn't make an effort to do so. And while I'm not bitter, I do recognize their absence.

So I find myself with this hole in my fabric of friends. With only a couple of truly special exceptions, the people with whom I stay in contact and spend time with are those from my distant past or from my present. It is almost like someone has taken an eraser and wiped away people as well as things I should have experienced or remembered. The things that are constant are my kids and my job - those events are fairly clear in my memory. The rest? Gone.

It's eerie. And while I have few regrets, I don't ever intend to lose myself like that again. I do think the past few years have allowed me to heal and see myself as a whole person, and you know what? I like what I see and who I am. One of the things that I have been able to do and remain committed to is forging an identity that is not dependent on others, like my kids or any potential romantic partner. I have become someone who has preferences, wants and desires, and someone who won't settle for mediocre. It's why I run; why I travel; why I take the time for friends and for myself.

Still, I remain very aware that those holes exist for me. On good days I can embrace the emptiness and recognize that it was part of some vital learning process for me. Thankfully the good days outweigh the bad days.

It is, after all, not about contributing any more to those holes.... Embracing who I am, what I have, what I do, who I spend time with. Adding the w, and just being whole.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Dinner Table

While I work very hard to not "be" my mother, there are some things she does that I admire and miss. My mother is very good about cooking most nights, and those meals are typically really incredible. She, of course, has to give color commentary about how things taste, usually saying something overly critical, when really she is just fishing for compliments. Mom is also really good about baking something once or twice a week. I remember most Saturday mornings I would wake up to this incredible aroma wafting through the house, and it was typically a cake, cookies, or a pie... and I wonder why I have a sweet tooth. I don't cook or bake like she does, although I'm capable of doing so, and every so often will manage something that is worthy of being in the same class as what Mom creates.

When I got married, I tried... I really did try to emulate my mother when it came to cooking and baking. The baking fell by the wayside pretty quickly because my now ex-husband really didn't eat much dessert [although he ALWAYS did when my mother offered it] and I ended up eating most of whatever I baked. And as far as cooking goes, I fell into a pattern of various things that I prepare, with few variations. I admit I'm still in that pattern, mainly because of my kids and them being somewhat picky when they were little, but I am trying to mix it up a little more often these days. Kind of hard, though, because I typically cook one or two nights a week, and the rest we either go out or find something. Such is the life of a single mom/kids' taxi driver. And I think I do pretty well, all things considered.

Tonight's dinner? Pancakes. Yes, I made them. Chocolate chip pancakes for DD1 and regular pancakes for DD2. Only thing missing was bacon.

Is this something my mother would have done? Probably not. I started making breakfast for dinner periodically when DD1 was in kindergarten because her teacher suggested that I mix up the routine every now and then because DD1 had a hard time when things didn't go according to routine.

But what I know she would not have done is read aloud to us at dinner. I know we had family conversations about goodness knows what, or perhaps the TV was turned on so we could watch Wheel of Fortune or some other inane show. I know when I was married the TV was on more often than it was not, as we had a TV in every single room of the house. I don't really remember any incredible dinner conversations, although I'm sure they happened on occasion. In what I know is a knee-jerk response to that environment, my house currently has one TV, and it is typically on only on the weekend.

I'm trying to remember when my mother quit reading aloud to me, and I think it was fairly early on. It may have been a combination of me learning how to read and reading at a much faster speed than my parents, or it may have been because my brothers were born and the focus shifted to them. I know that I took my turn reading aloud to the boys along the way, but I don't remember when that practice tapered off.

I started reading aloud to my kids at the dinner table sometime after the three of us moved to our current town. One of my friends suggested it, and it has turned into a really amazing tradition that has enabled me to keep reading to my kids even after most would consider them "too big" for such. While we have typical dinner table discussion while I'm still eating, we typically move into reading together at the end of the meal. This practice has allowed us to experience some fabulous books. Some include Harry Potter, Matilda, Where the Red Fern Grows, Up a Road Slowly, Pollyanna, Anne of Green Gables, most of the Andrew Clements books, Ramona Quimby Age 8, A Wrinkle in Time, The BFG, and I know there have been more. We take turns picking the books, so this has allowed me to read things that I consider my favorites, as well as allowed the girls to pick their favorites, too.

Tonight I finished reading Percy Jackson - The Lightning Thief. DD1 chose it as our read aloud sometime last month, and I had my doubts about it but I quickly got hooked. It is a fabulous story that takes Greek mythology and brings it to a present day context. Percy Jackson is a young man who is always in trouble, has ADHD and dyslexia, but ends up realizing that his issues stem from being the son of a Greek god, and then the story takes off from there as he learns to cope and come into his own as a hero who bridges both worlds. My kids were able to learn about Medusa, Persephone, Athena, Zeus, Poseidon, Ares, Hermes, Hades, as well as a host of other mythological characters thanks to this first book. And I am just enthralled by the series - I will have to read all of the books regardless of whether or not they become read alouds for dinner.

Last night DD2 got a pillow and a blanket and curled up on the floor to listen. Tonight, they begged me to read another chapter, and then there was only one chapter left, so I decided to go ahead and finish it. All together I read for about 45 minutes.

The look on my youngest's face as the action got intense was just incredible. Total engagement and excitement about the book. She has already picked book 2 to be next.

I do love this tradition. I love sharing literature with the kids and being able to talk about what we read. But most of all, I love that they love books, and that they ask, "Mom, will you read to us tonight?"

Thursday, October 1, 2009

So far, so good

I am so pleased with the work my group is doing right now. What a great feeling to see that they are "getting it." As much as I hate grading, one of the best feelings about teaching is when I know that my students not only understand, but can synthesize and apply what they know.

And... at the moment, every single one of them "gets it." Yes!

So far, so good. I love it.