Present

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This year my goal is to be present and find presents to make other people happy.

I won’t be looking for a lot of happy for me. My proclamation of “best Christmas ever” that I made to my friends last year haunts me. It wasn’t the song that was written for me about surviving hard times. It wasn’t the affirmations folded up and ready to be put into the candles I was going to be able to make. Nope. It was that I thought every gift was so thoughtful. I was touched to be known so well.

Don’t I feel stupid. The whole thoughtfulness was disguised to hide how every single facet of my life was a scam, a sham and a fraud. I wasn’t known or heard because every part of what I hold dear: trust, partnership, honesty, my family and security was being betrayed. A song about surviving hard times together when only one of us knew we were in hard times is so ridiculous and so horribly cruel that I can’t breathe when I think about it.

So I won’t think about it.

Instead I’ll think about what I can do for other people. I have high hopes for what I can do for others. I wish that meant solving childhood hunger or something equally important but I am
not that…well evidentially I am not that smart because I can’t think of a single word to insert here…My point is that I am going to make people smile in my own way. If I make others smile than my heart will be lighter.

I started yesterday with a hand made boob cake for my friends birthday. There is a reason I don’t bake. A very good reason. I stink at it being the main one. But she’s has a hard year and it’s her birthday and by cracky I wanted to make her smile. So I did it. It was atrocious but tasted okay. That was all beside the point. The bigger and better point is that the cake and the story made her smile. That smile started my Christmas.

Years ago my friend said, “Libby you know how to make those?” referring to the big, whimsical wreaths being sold on our intranet. Puhleeze. Way beyond my skill set. She told me to learn because she wanted one and couldn’t afford the prices they were charging.

Skip ahead. Thanks to my mom I learned how to make the wreaths! Today I gave her the wreath she wanted so long ago. I thought she might as well get to enjoy it this Christmas versus getting it for Christmas and not getting to enjoy it until next Christmas. And so she got it today. And she was happy. So happy. Her happy made me happy. Later she stopped by my office and admitted that she had started her day in not so good a way but that her wreath changed all that.

And I am not done yet.

I’ve got an email out about a cool gift that might mean something to someone. (Thanks Theresa.) The big kids are giving up Santa for an adventure because they too are skittish about this year. I hope to do a few little things so that people know that they matter to me. Thinking about that helps me to not think about anything else.

Christmas isn’t about presents. I know that. But Christmas is about letting others know they are loved and cared for and thought of. I can do that. I want to do that. I will do that. I’ll enjoy it. And having the chance to make others happy will keep my heart happy.

My People

My group of friends was recently called a “support group”. I don’t think it was meant as a kind adjective. The insult was lost on me because that’s exactly what my little group does for one another-support.

Having chunked cable I now spend my nights running marathons. Marathons of tv shows that is. Grey’s Anatomy is my latest obsession. 9 seasons now. The group on this show refer to their friends “you are my person”. That fits. I have people.

Today one of my people put out a call for help. We descended on her armed with casseroles, alcohol, a boob cake and her 2 favorite men: Ben and Jerry and presents! She greeted us each with a hug and a gleeful,”you came comfortable!” I knew what she meant. My little support group takes you as you are so leggings, faded shirts and fleece are all perfectly acceptable. No dolling up required.

And once together we did what we do-cried a little, laughed a LOT and got stuff DONE. We cursed and bickered good naturedly as our varying taste and personalities bumped into one another’s. With this group saying,”you are right,” or “I am wrong” isn’t even hard. I didn’t stutter a single time as I admitted that less was indeed more in this case. Really. I didn’t.

No one even made fun of my lopsided, pitiful little cake. In fact they laughed which was exactly what I needed. The delegated cake buyer didn’t even get mad when I pulled out the catastrophe. “Girl you needed a creative outlet. I read your blog.” She put her perfectly delectable and preciously ganached creation back in the bag and let my sorry excuse take center stage. She even ate a piece of mine over her triple chocolate masterpiece. That’s a friend right there.

The escapades of the last few days seemed less tragic when the story was spiced up with anecdotes from fartbuster or when hearing how Wes didn’t die or with the sweetest Italian ever rolling her eyes and adding her 2 cents. It’s hard to cry when you are laughing at yourself.

Misery does love company. More than one of us has had a pretty miserable year. I am miserable, or have been, and am thankful for the company of my girls. Somehow we’ve managed to not be miserable at the same time. The one in the worst shape takes the floor while the others interrupt, advise or go ahead and cry right along with you. Nothing is sacred, nothing off limits and no topic taboo. If you put it out there you’ll get an opinion or two back. Of that you can be assured.

Today I was not the unhappiest or the worst of the lot. Hard to believe, right? Today someone else got the floor-or at least they did after I told a quick tale. Today I made someone happy. Today I was surrounded with people who know me and I was loved. I had people today. I might not have anyone to bring me coffee on Sunday
Mornings but I do have a friend willing to pluck and decide when to pull the plug if I get into medical trouble. (Seriously the plucking proxy is a load off my mind.) I’ve even got a back-up if the first proxy gets a little trigger happy (or tired of plucking). Today we had hugs and a quick roll call if who was going where for thanksgiving so that no one ended up alone.

I might not have a person. But I have people.

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There will be CAKE at this pity party!

It’s not a good day. Yesterday wasn’t a good day. Driving down 315 at 80 miles an hour (Yes, I was late and yes, I speed.) I was hit my a blinding, physical and painful realization. I physically swerved off the road. I am alone. There is no one that knows how I like my coffee. No one to bring me coffee. No one that I can bring coffee to. No Sunday morning coffee chats. No late night spiked hot chocolate conversations. No one to see me in my fuzzy pajama pants or that I was comfortable enough to wear my glasses around.

There is no one that I can pick up the phone and call to share something funny. No one I can turn to when I am scared. No one turning to me to share something funny or to chat. I don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of…no one to share the worries or the victories. Its me. Just me. No one to talk to about big-fat-man present ideas. No one to hang the Christmas lights or the saw the tree trunk to fit the tree stand.

I don’t know where all that came from. It was out of the blue. I had been doing to well that I wasn’t prepared for the unexpected sadness or the jolt of panic. Like a tsunami the thoughts kept rolling: not only do I not have a companion anymore the one I did have made choices so that he no longer had that place in my life. DAMN. That hurt like a sucker punch to the solar plexus. Like I widow, I mourned for all the things I would never have again. But I wasn’t a widow. I was a divorcee. Someone chose not to love me.

I refused to cry. Refused to go down this path. So I cranked up the radio to a song that didn’t bring up old memories and continued on my trek.

Life had other ideas.

I woke up this morning with a fluttery, panicky feeling in my chest. There isn’t medicine for a broken heart or for fear. Since drugs don’t work I decide to start my day under the influence of glitter and hot glue fumes. I put on iTunes and got about my day. I made my own coffee. I took a few sips before I had flashbacks to the previous day’s realization. I poured out the coffee. Refusing to host a pity party I decided to create. Creativity is good. That worked until a doorbell chime broke the spell that can only be created by glitter, hot glue and lots and lots of ribbon. In my mis-matched pajamas and coke bottle glasses I answered the door. A couple was there to talk about my former house. They loved the neighborhood, were looking for a good deal and heard that there was a short sale. Someone in the neighborhood told them about me and so they just stopped by to find out more. Not exactly the conversation I was thinking about when I was lamenting about no more pajama conversations. Like a good sport, I bared by soul answering all their questions on why and how and how much so that all THEIR dreams can come dream now that mine have died.

I want to go shopping. I want to buy Christmas presents and do things that I think will make others happy. But alas that isn’t possible. So I go back to making things that might make other people happy. I start back on my 1/2 done Christmas wreaths presents determined to NOT go where my emotions threatened to take me. “I love the way you love me” came over the speakers. I froze. The glue gun didn’t understand so hot glue spilled over my fingertips. I jumped up with tears in my eyes–from the pain of the glue and even bigger pain in my heart. ‘don’t cry-don’t cry-don’t cry-don’t cry,’ I told myself. Stepping into the other room (literally a single step) I headed to the couch. Sitting down for some deep breaths would solve the turmoil. Or it would have had my entire couch not been covered in tiny circles and lopsided P’s. My 4 year old had also been creating. All over my couch. Right next to the hole created from the dog-from-hell in my newlywed days is a big blue rendition of what my last name used to be. A P in permanent marker.

I abandoned the Christmas wreaths and the tunes for obvious reasons. I abadoned by idea to sit down re-group for equally as obvious reasons. There had to be a room where I wouldn’t be assaulted by memories. Ahhh..the kitchen. Goodness knows that I hadn’t spent a lot of my married life in that particular room. No pity party. Instead I vowed to quit thinking of myself and to focus on someone else’s party. A friend has a birthday tomorrow. I’ll make a cake. I can do that. No dangerous emotional pitfalls in baking a snickerdoodle cake. Right?

Wrong. I don’t know what I am supposed to be learning for all of this. I don’t. They say God only gives you what you are strong enough to handle. I think he’s gotten me mixed up with someone else. I am trying to make lemonade from life’s lemons but dammit you have to have some sugar to make lemonade. I’d like a moment, a brief moment, that the weight of the world isn’t resting solely on my shoulders. Just for a minute, a second…just long enough to make a damn cake for someone else for goodness sake. I am trying to be brave and resilient and to not dwell of the days before. Couldn’t the universe meet me part-way?

While looking up the recipe my phone dinged and an invoice from my attorney for legal fees popped up. I didn’t open it. I assembled my cake supplies determined to keep moving forward but I discovered that in my second divorce I didn’t get custody of both cake pans. While discovering that fun fact the phone rang. My baby girl was excited to hear the voice on the other end. I was not. Timing really is everything. Back to the kitchen where I would BAKE THIS CAKE. Turns out I didn’t get custody of both sauce pans either. Or more then 1 mixing bowl. I hiccuped but didn’t sob. As is true to my life these days I improvised…I melted butter in my one cake pan, found some miniature cake pans from child’s cooking set I made my damn cake. It’s not going to look like I wanted it to. It won’t taste like it should since I had to make-do but there will be cake. There will be Christmas and there will be cake.

The cake is in the oven so I sneak up to write this. I can’t keep it bottled up. I can’t cry. So I do this. My little one thinks having me in her room where the computer is means play time. She brings me a book to read. “Goodnight NOLA”. Bought that for her on a getaway from the days when I could getaway and had someone to get away with. I didn’t read it. Of course she asks, “Mommy why you sad,” when I tell her that I can’t read it right now. She’s still at the age where I can distract her so I sent her for another book and hastily wiped my eyes.

The tiny house smells like cinnamon and sugar. I’ve made 2 christmas presents. Life goes on. Dreams don’t. But life does. So I’ll end this and get back to mine. I probably can’t stop the pity party from coming but by cracky I can make sure this pity party has CAKE.

Absurd-r-us

My daughter is distraught. Her pants are too long because they go all da way down to her shoes. (Insert wail here. And tears. Big alligator tears.)

I dressed her this morning and the moment she saw the pants she started crying. I am talking splayed spread eagle on the floor like a bug plastered to a windshield while gasping and crying. Immediately She hiked them up to her knees before she would walk to the car-All the while complaining of being cold. Trying to reason with a 4 year old is about as pointless as trying to reason with a 12 year old.

She whined all the way to school about da long pants. By the time we made the 6 mile trek she had pulled and rolled and manipulated her floor length pants into booty shorts. The teacher on car door duty was appalled. She wasn’t the only one.

I picked her up from school 10 hours later and the the first thing out of her mouth…yep…she hates her pants. Trying to convince her she’s snug and warm was futile. She begged for tights or leggings or anything but da pants. . “Let it go” I thought but had the sense not to say it aloud least she launch into song. Thanks Elsa and Anna.

Making our way across the dark parking lot on the UGA campus I hear,”mama-wait” and her little hand slips from mine. I thought she’d dropped her toy bag or needed to zip her coat. Nope. She has to hike up her pants so that they were over her knees. It’s 34 degrees and pitch black but we are going to stop in the middle of the road to make capris or Bermudas out of pants. Holy mother.

Watching diving lessons I once again hear,”mmmmoooommmmmmmm,” the number of syllables is in direct proportion to her displeasure. The pants have slipped and are covering her shoes. Flip the switch folks we are going to defcom 5. Moments later she had them hiked back up. I snapped a photo as proof of the crazy.

My day started off with seriously irritating and disappointing news. Before 7:30 I had a daughter melting down, had cried off my recently applied eye makeup, had a $600 knot in my stomach, had already been reminded how different “doing the right thing is defined and had seriously considered going back to bed and hiding under the covers. For about 10 years.

I didn’t go back to bed. Instead I fed 3 kids warm breakfast, got all
3 out of the house at house at an almost respectable time and managed to almost dress myself in matching clothes.

I got to work almost on time. I hid my tears and put on my big girl panties and jumped right into a call from another country that had been scheduled to provide assistance with-pause for a highly technical term here-big &@@ computer issue. That call didn’t go so well. I started with 1 potential disaster but got off the phone with 2 more.

Hang on-there is a point.

The point is that a 5 year old being broken hearted that her pants touched her shoes is not the most absurd part of my day. Sadly. My point is that this day almost got the best of me. Almost being the most important word of that sentence. I didn’t quit. I didn’t give up-not on the pants or the computer issues.

Instead I called myself out for my tendency to over react. I reached out to friends who responded sympatherically with a DAMN GIRL but then offered wise and crucial advice. I made them laugh and they validated my right to be me. I ranted and raved and cursed for exactly 10 Minutes and then I got back to business.

My daughter wore her long pants. My new application system took my application. I admitted my limitations and let go of things I can’t control (sort of). And I reached out to find a hug when I needed one. Today I handled the absurd. Take that Tuesday.
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Are happy days here again?

Friday didn’t suck. It’s the first Friday since the TRUTH DAY April 15th that hasn’t been gut-wrenching. Typically by Friday afternoon I am fighting back tears and am struggling to find some way of salvaging the day. This Friday I worked hard and then jetted to buy a surprise for me son. I scurried to pick him up and to grab the little girl. Rushing home I literally scrambled dinner—egg burritos and bacon for dinner. The bigs happily woofed down their food and then bolted out the door to the high school football game. The little grabbed her ipad and crawled up in my lap. I snuggled her and flipped on the TV. There was nothing spectacular that made it any different from any other Friday night. In fact it was boring, it was ho-hum and it was normal. It was just the first time that normal felt normal. The first time that everything felt whole and non-fractured. I didn’t ache for what I didn’t have, I didn’t mourn anything that was lost and I didn’t be-moan things that others have. It wasn’t a conscious decision to make this Friday better than the others. It just happened.

Saturday I donned by Titan shirt and excitedly began my career as a high school swim team Mom. And I loved it. I was surrounded by old friends, I was cheering on my boy and those that I feel like are mine and it was glorious. I was where I was supposed to be. I was who I am supposed to be. I was present and happy and so aware of how blessed being IN THAT MOMENT was. My precious little guy was happy and content. His world was right and that makes my world better. There is nothing more rewarding then watching my son do what he does. I watched him flip and twist (sort of) and dive for the first time ever. I saw him jump in the water against bigger, faster swimmers without a moment’s hesitation. I observed him dancing on the pool deck as if he didn’t have a care in the world. I saw him rally his teammates and be something larger them himself. I got to see all of that. And in watching that I realized that he fact that he shares a room with his sisters or that his mom has a different last name had no bearing what-so-ever on this day. He was successful. His life, on this day, was good. Some part of me was proud. I had given him all that he needed to be here and to be happy.

Later that night he cocked that sideways grin at me as he strutted around in his TITAN attire. I noted, “You think you are all that and a bag of chips, don’t ya?” His grin said it all. As a freshman he scored points in diving, his time placed him 4th or 5th in the backstroke out of 24 swimmers, his relay teams were in the top 5 and his team won first out of 13 swim teams. He had a right to feel strong and confident. Late that night my fella stood up, stretched and said, “All that and a bag of chips is going to bed.” My laugh made him smile that crooked grin that melts my heart. He headed upstairs but stopped half-way and said, “Thanks for being there today mom. Thanks for ALWAYS being there Mom.” My answer, “There is nowhere else I would have rather been.” It was a simple exchange but it made my heart happy. I think he was proud because he knew that here, on this day, he had done all he needed to do to make ME happy.

Sunday he and I helped at the school. It was nice to be part of something. Later, he and I had a ‘date’ to the high school sports auction. He donned khakis and a button down in preparation of being introduced, officially, as Titan swimmer and diver. He looked more grown up then I’d ever seen him. There was a brief pang of regret when it came time to tie his tie. He didn’t have anyone to show him how. For a second I was sad. But then I realized I knew how to tie a tie. I don’t know fancy or meticulous knots but I could get the job done. So I did. He put on the tie I had tied and we were ready to go. As we walked out the door he headed toward the driver’s side and I realized that he would be driving to our date. He looked like a man and he was acting like one. For once I wasn’t sad. I was proud. Later, after being introduced and being allowed to roam free with his friends a bit he found me and we headed upstairs to stand in line for the dinner being served. Some friends hailed him over as we found the end of the line. He went to join them. I got out my phone and pretended to be uber busy so as not to stand out in the lines of moms and dads waiting for dinner. A few minutes passed. “Mom…come on Mom…” I heard. I looked up and my boy was gesturing wildly for me to join him and his friends. I shook my head and indicated all the people in front of me. I am not a line breaker. “C’mon Mom. I’ve been saving this spot for you, “ wink, “no one cares.” I shook my head. “Mom…you can’t stand there by yourself. No matter how busy you are trying to look. C’mon.” The couple in front of me laughed and encouraged me to bump ahead of them. “How sweet” they remarked as I weaved in front of them. My boy gave me his crooked smile. My 15 year old son had included me with his group of friends so that I didn’t have to stand or eat alone. We got our plates and made our way down the corridor. The entire meal he joked and chatted with his friends but made sure to include me. I was touched. Most of the time he’s goofy and oblivious but not that night. That night, without me saying a word, he knew that it was hard to be alone in a sea of couples. He didn’t make it a sad moment or let it dull the day…he just took care of it.

Later that night he remarked, “Thanks for our date Mom.” Oh be still my heart. “And thanks for a great weekend. It was really good mom. Really good.” His words let me know that he too had struggled with the weekends. His life had changed too. He was disappointed and hurt and had to deal with the consequences of others decisions. I suppose I had forgotten that somewhere along the way. Something in his tone and demeanor let me know that he felt different about this weekend too. He got behind the wheel and off we went to where the girls were waiting on us.
My family doesn’t look like what I thought a family would like look. Our lives aren’t what I imagined or hoped they would be. We aren’t living like I expected. Somedays our reality isn’t easy. Sometimes I grieve for all our lives are not. But not this weekend. This weekend I didn’t have anything to be sad about. I had nothing to regret. This weekend I realized that my little family isn’t traditional. My little family isn’t the norm but it’s mine. It’s not the life we expected but we’ve managed to make it work. We haven’t just managed, on weekends like the one we just had, I realized that we’ve thrived. I’ve given my children lots of disappointments but I’ve also shown them that by being tough and strong you can overcome disappointments. I’ve made a lot of mistakes; more mistakes than I care to admit, but I’ve shown my little ones that mistakes happen but it’s how you deal with the mistakes you make that matter. We are all still a little bruised and a little tender. There are moments when we are mad and still moments when we are incredibly sad. But those moments are getting further and further apart. More and more the happy moments, the moments of contentment, are replacing the moments of woe.

There She Blows!

Fall ball. It’s not serious. It’s training, learning, casual and fun. To most people. Repeat after me people,”Fall ball”.

Monday night I sat and listened as one father slammed my daughter. I stayed silent. He’s an idiot-or a genius who doesn’t know to come in out of the rain-either way he’s stupid. Let me interject something here–Contrary to most peoples beliefs I don’t seek drama. That’s my daddy in me.

There is a point where I don’t walk away from drama either. That’s my mama in me.

I am proud of both.

Next night. 3rd inning. My hero-coach Jesse gives everyone and I mean everyone a chance. The girls rotate. Outfield, sitting and infield..every girl moves thru his rotation. He teaches girls that would never be able to learn otherwise. He believes in them and they give him their all. And even if their all is not perfect they know he will still believe in them the next game, and the next and the one after that.

My precious girl gets to play 1st base-she gets to learn 1st base-during the 3rd inning. It’s her chance and she lives for the chance.

Pop fly to right field. Younger Player almost gets it. Moron behind me says, “if (insert his daughters name here) was playing that would have been an out.” My daddy side of me bit my tongue and watched the game. Moron dad keeps taking and talking and talking. First he laments to another parent that her daughter doesn’t belong in the outfield.

I want to shout,”hey $&$&&$!-my daughter plays outfield , but I don’t. I move down a little further on the bench and try to ignore ignoramous. He’s hard to ignore. Most idiots are.

“3rd inning is when he (coach) puts in the (I hears lesser) LESSER players.” Duuuuudddddeeee. I am right here!! We’ve played with this jerk for 2 years. He know me. He knows my daughter. The tone he used to portray his disgust at the outfield is grating.

Luckily, I am distracted by a shaky throw from 3rd to….you got it….first and my daughter who is playing first.
My girl grabs it (wahoo) and drops it (dang). Self-proclaimed commentator feels the need to voice his opinion. “I don’t know why HE does this.”

I am starting to feel less and less like my calm dad.

Because there are no outs and it’s 8:45 the ump calls last inning. Mush-for-brains has got an opinion about that,”well this game just got out of hand.” He’s talking about the defense. My daughter and the defense. “He needs to do something,” implying that he thinks he needs to remove all those lesser players from the field??? “Ohhhhhh! This could be never ending,” he’s still talking but I’ve become my mothers daughter and have had enough.

“Sir!” I take a deep breath. I am going to need it. I pivot around on the bench to where he sits-right behind my left shoulder. Word is wisdom here-if you are going to slam someone’s daughter perhaps you should sit farther away from her mother. Just sayin’. “That’s my daughter out there and that is about the 3rd negative thing you’ve had to say. This is fall ball. He’s giving them he chance to learn. It’s the only way they will learn,” I don’t raise my voice but I am using my best mom voice. He’s staring straight ahead and won’t look at me. The mother next to him is wide eyed. “Stop. Please!” He mumbles “well I am sorry” without ever looking at me. I turn back to my seat and resume watching the game. Smart-stupid-man thankfully quietens his commentary. There are whispers which I am positive involve me but that doesn’t bother me. Mess with me-okay-mess with my daughter or coach Jesse-not okay.

We lost the game. And guess what? The world didn’t end. No one was hurt and the earth kept spinning. IT IS FALL BALL!. And guess what-5 girls got to play infield. 5 girls left that field knowing that their coach believes in them. 5 girls learned a little but more about the game they love. And you know what?! That’s way more important to me.

Damn that man for making me use my softball mom voice.

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A Day

Today was my wedding anniversary. Well, I guess technically it is the anniversary of the day I got married. The second time.

It’s just a day. There are 364 days just like it. A day that started at 12:00a and that will end at 11:59. The sun came up. The sun will do down. This day will be made of 24 hours. That’s it. It’s just a day.

There wasn’t anything to celebrate on this day. Nothing to look back on or forward to…not the kind of things one typically looks back on or towards on their anniversary day.

There was no one to share anything with. My babies didn’t know this was anything but a Sunday. It’s not a day fhat matters to anyone else. I busied myself so as not to think too much about the day. I put the finishing touches on my little ones costume. I made my girls soft fuzzy pillows as a test for some Christmas presents I want to make. I sewed a new pillow for my couch. I made baked spaghetti and cheddar bay biscuits. It was a normal Sunday. There was laundry to be done and dishwashers to be unloaded. So that’s what I did. I did everything I was supposed to do. Everything that was expected of me.

Except I didn’t get out of my pajamas. I didn’t put on make-up or even get out of my glasses. I didn’t go visit my friends. I didn’t function outside the walls of my tiny little house.

I couldn’t be sad. Not visibly anyway. I had little eyes on me all day. They wouldn’t have understood and I didn’t have the words to explain it to them. Instead they thought it was their lucky day. Their “hang out” and “do whatever” day. Those don’t happen so often around here.

Friday I got divorced and Sunday I ignored the day that started it all. It’s a lot to take in on such a short amount of time. And I had a bigger job to do than dealing with ME. I had costumes to make and driving lessons to give. There were groceries to buy. There wasn’t time to mourn things that were lost. No time to ponder things that are over. There was just time to do the Sunday chores and to treat this day, this day like any ordinary day.

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