The more I know, the less I understand

cloudy key tower

Been very busy the last couple of weeks and have been neglecting the blog. I need to do this as close to daily as possible to keep my mind and fingers focused on writing something that isn’t work-related – for someone else, about topics I wouldn’t normally be writing about.

I’m lucky to have a job where I write all day. I toiled for many years in other professions. I did the retail and restaurant thing for many years. I kept my hand (feet, really) in retail as a second job up until only a few years ago, when I had my son and any spare time I had began to be devoted to raising him. I worked a retail job while I was pregnant to try to make back the money I spent going through IVF to get pregnant, and made it to my seventh month before all the hours of standing and walking, after working an 8-hour office job, became too much. Didn’t make back the money I spent either, not even close. One can toil for what seems like an eternity at low-paying jobs like that and see very little yield.

I was a secretary of many varieties for a great number of years. I worked my way up that chain, such as it is, until I was at the top of the pile, which is the Executive Assistant gig, and did that for a long time. Those jobs can include a lot of writing, and some event planning, and eventually I worked hard to slide into a job doing those things, instead of answering someone’s phone and keeping their calendar, and so it went from there. I’ve been able to get full-time writing jobs for 13 years now, which is pretty nice since this isn’t ever what I thought I’d be doing for my career.

It’s a bit of life’s sick irony that you only discover different career paths, interests, and things you are really good at until you’re pretty much too old and/or broke to pursue them as careers. There are other things I could have done and enjoyed, but when I was in college, I devoted my degree to theater and dance. I didn’t want a “fall back” career and couldn’t think of anything else I would want to pursue that would be interesting and lead to any type of work I’d want to do.

Of course, I’ve spent all my adult life getting paid for work I didn’t want to do anyway, so that’s how that worked out.

The good news is, I’ve never been so career-focused or focused on work above everything else that my personal life gets neglected. I’ve had a rich and wonderful and exciting and beautiful (and even difficult) life outside of these jobs I’ve held. I’ve loved and laughed, had wonderful friendships, helped others, and of course had my son, which has turned out to be the thing in my life that’s brought me the most pleasure, joy and pride, which I didn’t expect.

As I begin the work of planning my son’s 7th birthday party in a couple of months, I realize how much having him has changed me as a person, made me realize what’s really important is the people, the things I do outside of work. The afternoons spent at a friend’s house drinking wine and sharing complaints and funny stories about life while our kids play. This morning on the phone, my Mom and I were reminiscing about that one freakishly warm St. Patrick’s Day several years ago, when she was still working and took off work to come downtown and go to the parade with me. I took off half a day, and we spent the day walking around town, drinking beer, eating cheap corned beef sandwiches, watching the parade and enjoying the insane revelry that’s part of Cleveland’s celebration. It was in the 70s and absolutely gorgeous out, and we had an amazing, amazing time despite the insane crowds everywhere. We both know we’ll never be able to do that again for more than a few reasons, but we treasure that memory and made the decision to take off work for a day just to live life. It’s important. I know everyone doesn’t feel that way. People are at different points in the game, I mean, journey of life, and it’s hard to understand when other people don’t see how important it is. I am increasingly seeking out those people who get it. That’s quality time, right there.

Don’t let the clouds obstruct your view.

Your only rivers run cold

waterfall edge

I was supposed to go out with a girlfriend last night but she had to cancel. Honestly, I was relieved. I needed to get caught up on everything domestic – dishes that have been sitting for several days, had to cook some chicken before it went bad, fold and put away the laundry that’s been sitting in the basket.

It’s pouring rain here and last night was overcast and gray. It’s unseasonably warm, again, and I sat out on the patio last night with a glass of wine, looking at the bare trees and listening to the birds. Sooner than later, I will not be able to see through those trees to see the beautiful sun setting. But then I’ll be looking at all that wonderful green, so there’s a good trade off.

Keeping extremely busy is a good way not to let loneliness creep in, but it’s also exhausting. I was on the phone with a girlfriend last night who is in the same place. She cleans to keep the ghosts away. I cook, and eat, which is probably not a great thing. But I didn’t really overdo it. I’m trying to stay relatively on track with the renewed focus I’ve found again for working out and have been doing really great with that for a week. Yesterday, a quick, 2-mile run at lunch. Lifted the day before, with the machines at heavy settings. Today will be dumbbell work, if I can escape to the gym again.

Tonight I see the tax guy, which is not going to be fun. Going from claiming your child one year to not being able to claim them the next year is going to be a significant financial hit. I’ve tried to prepare myself mentally for the boom lowering. And I’ll get to claim in him for 2016 when next year’s tax season rolls around, so the pendulum swings both ways.

I miss that little kid. Keeping busy also helps me not to miss him. Or others who are gone from my life.

When I feel emotionally raw, I tend to wall up and isolate myself, and that’s not good. I’m trying to push through and make more of an effort to get in touch with friends, make plans and be social instead of withdrawing.

Clocks change this weekend, and spring officially arrives the following week. So much change. I’m just trying to hang on and not go over the edge.

Turn some pages

CLEskyline

I’ve managed to lose a few pounds by paying a bit more attention to my diet and exercise stuff. Back on track from my January goals, and planning for more progress in coming months.

I’m also doing pretty good with getting shit done these days. “Adulting,” as they say. I got the outdoor pavilion reserved for my kid’s birthday party in May, which required sending an email at 6:05 a.m. the day the reservations opened up because you can’t email before 6am that day, and if you wait until the next day, most of the Saturdays are already booked up. I also got him signed up this morning for his next set of swim classes, which start next month. And I’m seeing my tax guy on Thursday to start that painful process. I just want to get it over with and start on whatever my payment plan is going to be.

I wrote a piece for Dark Room tonight, which I hope to tweak at lunch or right after work so it’s ready for a reading this evening. And at the end of the evening, we’re all going to listen to the next episode of a dramatic podcast I’ve been involved in recording. These things help my creative side feel nurtured, which is really important to my well being.

I’m going out more, participating in activities, making new friends and getting together with existing friends I haven’t seen as much as I’ve wanted to. I’m accepting invitations to parties, planning dinners with friends, working on playdates for my kid. There are people who want to see me and people I want to see and I want to do better this whole year on making those connections, valuing people and spending time with them. It makes my life feel richer than any amount of money ever could.

It’s feeling like spring here this week, with temps in the 50s and 60s, and I just want to be out of my home and doing ALL THE THINGS. Hibernation period is coming to a close. I’m mulling over plans for the rest of the year. I still feel 2016 is on track to be a great and exciting year for me, even if it’s not shaping up how I originally imagined and hoped. Roll on.

While I looked around for my possibilities

snowytree2

The snow continued today. Despite the short winter, and the roads being too warm for it to stick around for long, my son and I are sick of it, and talked to the sky all day whenever we were outside. We caught snowflakes on our tongue, stared up into it, necks craned back, hypnotizing us, we shivered at times and brazenly went from place to place with our coats unzipped, fairly demanding that spring hurry up and arrive.

Despite the snow and the borderline freezing temps, we had a really great, busy day. He did not pass his swim class (exam was today), but I spun it in such a way that he felt ok about it. I talked to the instructor and he assured me many kids D’s age are still in a much lower level class and that most kids have to repeat this level and the next several times before they can move on. I told D about how I was placed into an honors class as a freshman, and how I struggled really hard to pass but it meant I was doing better than the best kid in the easier class, which was how they sold it to me. I didn’t buy it then, but hoped D would buy it now. All I knew by the time I was a jaded freshman was I was getting a C and a lot of other people had a better GPA than me because they were getting As. But I was very encouraging and he seemed ok about it, considering he doesn’t really like going. I saw a friend’s husband at the rec center, she has kids that go to my son’s school, and had that weird feeling I’m still not used to of seeing people I know out somewhere who aren’t theater people. Six years-plus into this parenting thing but the “community” part of it really didn’t start until he entered school last year.

After class, we came home and had a brief, disjointed lunch as this is the time of the week when I’m pretty much out of food, and haven’t bought more yet because what I buy for my week ahead alone is much different than what I buy when I need to pack a little kid’s breakfast and lunch every day the following week. He wasn’t that hungry and neither was I, probably due to our extra large breakfast of doughnuts and bacon (and lots of coffee for mom). The doughnut place is expanding into a new, bigger building next door. I hope they take credit cards at the new place – I always forget they are cash only until I pull up to the door. Luckily, I had cash on me.

After lunch we headed to karate. He isn’t taking a formal karate class, but they are doing an abbreviated program at his after-school, and this was a sort of extra credit session, which I figured would be a lot of high pressure sales and not much actual kids doing karate, but it worked out better than expected. I saw a girl who was in D’s kindergarten class last year; I’d become sort of friendly with the Mom and we chatted briefly – more of that weird community feeling – and then the instructor helped the kids all get their belts on and talked to us about discipline and order and how karate had helped him become a better young man and all that shit, which is fine. One of D’s buddies from after care was there, and they lined up together, which is basically the start of my son acting like a clown and a cut-up the whole time. It was like watching Daffy Duck do karate, I swear. He kept pratfalling and making these overly dramatic gestures and yelled louder than anyone, and it was all to try to make this kid laugh. Finally the instructor had to separate them.

My son is just not coordinated for stuff like this. Let him free-form dance and I find his movements to be graceful, strong and inspired. But try to get him to do specific, repeated movements and he’ll get it wrong every time they do it, no matter how many times they do it. He doesn’t just get things wrong, either, he gets them so wrong, it’s comical, and I couldn’t help but start laughing. The woman next to me asked if that was my son, that meaning the boy that was making everyone laugh and I said yes. Her kid, who was quiet, well-behaved and doing just what the instructor said, was next to my kid, and then we were both laughing because they were paired up, and my kid couldn’t do the paired moves right, which made the other kid confused. We were actually crying we were laughing so hard. The mom of the girl from D’s K class came up behind me, she was also laughing so, so hard and honest to god, it just went on and on and it was all I could do to keep it together.

Finally the tables were turned. A parent had to get up and take off their shoes and socks, and hold some plastic sheet while the kid ran from one side of the room to the other, then punched the plastic twice, then ran back. Then he’d have them run again, and again, and again. They probably did it 10 or 15 times. My kid may not be coordinated but he’s FAST and he beat all the other kids every time, at least when they all started at the same time, which wasn’t always the case since some were slow getting back.

Then they made the parents go to the other side of the room, and the kids had to hold the paper. Ha. I may be an old mom, but this horse has some life in her yet. If you only watched the portion of class where the kids did this and then the moms did this, you’d know D and I were related as I was faster than all the other parents, and was the only one not out of breath, even though we did it about 8 times. “You’re really fast!” panted the Indian woman next to me, whose son had been paired up with my kid during the latter half of class. “I’m a runner,” I told her sort of apologetically, and she said, well, that’s good, and I see where your son gets his speed. So then I was kind of proud. We may be weird and non-conformist, but we can make people laugh and outrun a lot of trouble.

Then we headed to the grocery. D was getting tired and I couldn’t think of anything to buy since I didn’t menu plan and have a real list with me. He begged me for pizza for dinner so we picked up movies from the library and had some pizza and watched some movie about cartoon animals from Brazil, which didn’t really entertain either of us, but we enjoyed snuggling under the blanket and D got up and danced every time they played tropical music. Maybe we should move to Brazil. People are loud and like dancing, they move fast and love the good things in life even if they don’t have a lot of money; family, friends, community, food, drink, music.

Things are definitely looking up for the week ahead. I have plans almost every night. It will be up to 47 tomorrow, 60 by Monday and 70 by Tuesday. This may have been one of your last gasps, winter. Not sure you can keep up with me now, as I’m heading into spring, the time of rebirth.

Spring ahead or fall behind

springbirdy

This little birdy knows spring is just around the corner, even if the calendar still says February (well, today). I saw him out on a walk this past weekend that was chillier than it was forecast to be, and yet much, much warmer than it usually is this time of year.

It was very, very warm yesterday. Like, the plastic came off the patio windows and I’m just going to leave it off warm. My son and I went outside on our little patio. I read him some of a book his whole school is reading at once, and then he played in the patch of dirt next to the patio where he likes to play with his little action figures and such. Which now had an empty cigarette pack and several butts, so I had to clean over there before he could play. I’m really getting to loathe smokers who have a complete disregard for everyone else, and yeah, I used to be one so I know what it feels like. It’s gotten so I will cross the street rather than walk directly behind one because I don’t want to get to wherever I am going and have my clothes reek of smoke like theirs do. I really hope to dissuade my son from going down that path. It is, as they say, truly a hard habit to break. And then there’s all the harder stuff, which many more younger people seem to be trying, having no sense of their own mortality and the grip drugs can have on you even after a single use. So much worry all the time, raising this kid, and I just have the one to look after.

It’s going to be a horribly busy week. The dinners I plan as part of my PTA duties, the nights of parent-teacher conferences so the teachers and staff have something to eat those nights, are tonight and Wednesday. I have my son this week so I have to shuttle him to and from school to the babysitter so he can get to bed at a reasonable hour. It’s boring for him to just sit around in the school lunchroom for hours and the cleanup goes way late, so I had to get the sitter. So I’m not only volunteering my time and efforts to set up, work, and clean up the dinners, but I have to pay for a sitter as well.

I’ve cut down a lot on booking the sitter as it’s just an expense I don’t have, to pay her AND go out on top of it. So generally now I’m declining invitations to do things unless they fall on my off week. Which means a lot less socialization, and that sort of sucks, but yeah, first world problems and all that.

My initial drive at the beginning of 2016 to push for change has changed into a whiny sort of ennui about the general state of my life, as efforts to make change happen have not been successful on really ANY front. I’m sure once warmer weather really arrives, I will feel driven again. To do something. Yes.

 

Obamas and Virginia McLaurin

(photos: Pete Souza)

I keep reading articles about how it’s “good for you” to sleep cold, turn the thermostat down. I realized last night this advice is just not something I can take. First of all, I assume the people this works for are not the type like me, who use the bathroom 4 or 5 times in an evening/overnight between going to bed to read and getting up in the morning, like I have to. This is really not pleasant when you are freezing and your teeth are chattering. Also, these must be people with better circulation than I have, because my feet literally just do not get warm when it’s cold like that, and my face and neck and anything else that’s exposed, like hands or an arm, are so cold it’s physically uncomfortable and I can’t even get to sleep. I finally gave up last night and turned the heat back up and realized I’m never going to be one of those people. I don’t care how thin it makes you or how good it is for you. You can have my electric blanket when you pry it from my cold, dead body.

Regarding losing weight, I can tell you that going for a 10-mile run in the morning and then being hit with the stomach flu in the afternoon, the effects of which lingered for three days, is a GREAT lose-it-fast plan. I’m finally down that stubborn 5 pounds I gained with winter eating. I also learned that being sick like this alone really, really sucks. My Mom is elderly and doesn’t have the strongest immune system, so she refused to be exposed to it and I can’t blame her. She dropped off some Gatorade at my door but I couldn’t keep it down, and ended up in the hospital because my abbreviated plumbing (see link above) leads to dehydration so quickly. So that was a fun few days. My son got it a few days before me. Thankfully, he is young and strong and recovered from it very quickly, just in time for me to send him to his Dad’s on schedule and then come down with it myself.

But I did get caught up on all my Tivo watching and read book, so that’s something. So here we are at Wednesday as my Monday, and I’m almost to the point I can’t watch or read about the news anymore because I can’t stand seeing so much hatred and violence. Uber driver goes on a shooting spree, megalomaniacal, dangerous dictatorial type wins another primary as our march toward becoming the shameful embarrassment of the world continues. I’m actually ashamed of our country. So much hatred and racism and violence and divisiveness. It makes me sick all over again.

I need Spring. Flowers and birds and positivity. I’ve lost mine.

 

 

My head can’t tolerate this

I been burnin’ my bell, book and candle

I’m right in that time of winter where I’ve lost my motivation to do much of anything but get through it.

There are bright spots, signs of future plans, happy moments. But mostly it just feels like a long, hard slog. These are the days men in the 1960s would take a little bourbon in the coffee in their metal Thermos tucked under their arm on their way to work. The gray windows, smeary and hard to see through to the gray road.

I was in a snowstorm so bad last weekend, I truly, truly did not know how or if I would survive. Hypnotizing snow and traffic only going 5mph, so I didn’t know anymore if I was moving, I was in the car so long and everything was white. Every slight tap on the gas meant a slide. And it was dark on the highway for such long stretches, and I didn’t know where I was and it was terrifying. So cold you’d die if the car wrecked or broke down, waiting for help which could surely not get through in the miles of cars inching along.

But I did make it through, and turned off the highway to go home on some side roads that at least had gas stations and hotels and restaurants, if I had to stop. I made it back and never wanted to leave home again, and several days later, I still don’t want to leave, though I don’t have much choice. One must work, get the groceries, take the kid to school, pick him up. Lather, rinse, repeat. At least what’s left after the storm is pretty.

Things are not always easy as a single parent. There are many, many ways this is better than it was, but there are ways it’s harder and then you still have to deal with that other person forever, and a lot of it is just not fun. I’m not the first or last to deal with these things, to battle snowstorms, to have laundry drudgery and cooking misfires and bad hair days and too many  nights where my joints are sore and the last thing I want to do is work out. I know this will pass.

I’m patient, because what else can I be?

And I know my problems are ones I’d rather have than many others, so I try to keep it in perspective. I have the riches of good friends and lots of love in my life. Not getting much done in the way of my 2016 goals, however. Everything I try doesn’t seem to be working out, at least for now.

The ringing in my ears is a tiny bit louder lately as well, which sucks ass. This likely means I am slightly less able to hear. Hearing going bad prematurely. Eyes going bad pretty much on schedule. Teeth going bad somewhere in between – permanent crown going on in another week.

All I know is this summer, I want to go somewhere HOT. Really, really hot. The last couple of years, it has just not gotten hot enough for me here. I mean go outside and it’s so hot you feel like you’re baking. Instantly dewy with sweat and any activity other than sitting and drinking cool drinks near some body of water, even a pool, makes you more sweaty. I want to work out hard in that heat as it’s coming on into the late morning warmth, swim hard when it gets too hot to bear, eat a wonderful, huge meal of grilled meats and brightly colored veggies, drink too much very cold white wine and then go to bed in a suite with the doors open and a fan blowing across me while I doze under gauzy, lightweight white cotton sheets. I want to get up and go to the balcony with a wrap over my shoulders and order room service French press coffee and a snack of fruit and cheese and maybe a little chocolate, then go walking around until I feel pretty good and over the cobwebs of afternoon nap, then sit in the late afternoon/early evening sun with a book under a light wrap, perhaps with some kind of watermelon smoothie until it’s time for dinner. I want all of this, and so much more.

But for now, I’m just burning my winter candles, doing a lot of reading, trying to carve out some meaning out of all of this and stay sane while I do it.