11Dec

Dramatic License

Husband, gently: “Aren’t you being just a wee bit dramatic?”

Me, dramatically: “NO! See that gray glob on the kitchen floor? Those are Sophie’s lungs that she screamed out this morning, and next to it are two-thirds of the thumb I slammed in the car door earlier. And next to THAT are the shredded remains of any talent I used to possess, and of course the enormous puddle seeping under the fridge is my sanity.”

I am never anything but strictly literal, you see.

One particular Thursday, over six years ago, Dan sat down in a senior college class lovingly dubbed “Stupid English” and asked the girl next to him if she was having any fun. The girl, who was at that moment being introduced as the class tutor, allegedly told him “Shhhh.” I have no recollection of doing such a thing, but I do remember looking forward to every Thursday morning thereafter. (It had less to do with the Stupid English and more to do with the Future Husband, though I wouldn’t have admitted that at first.)

“Stupid Thursday” has since lived up to its name. The first year of our marriage, we began to notice increasingly stupid things happening each Thursday. Tripping in public, food burning, cars dying, bread landing butter-side-down. By now, catastrophes are a common Thursday occurrence. Today, it was a rusty hacksaw of a molar boring through Sophie’s gums, my thumb discovering just how flat it can get, and Natalie’s lovely flower-shaped Danish Butter Cookies melting to a gooey mess in the oven… not to mention lesser ills like all dropping my keys in the rain while my arms were already full and my freshly-bloodied thumb was screaming obscenities… or all the dirty silverware being dumped out by a family member (no names, but “Sophie” does come to mind)… or stovetop spills or stains on clean clothes or an entire half-chewed banana ending up under the kitchen table.

It is such a relief that days like this are in no way related to my gross incompetence or the inherent need of toddlers to create disasters. No, it’s merely Stupid Thursday, which 1] gives me unlimited license to be dramatic (not that I ever am. ahem.), and [2] means that tomorrow is Not A Thursday. Joy!

10Dec

The Old Man is Snoring

Because sometimes Shel Silverstein says it best…

Rain

I opened my eyes
And looked up at the rain,
And it dripped in my head
And flowed into my brain,
And all that I hear as I lie in my bed
Is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head.

I step very softly,
I walk very slow,
I can’t do a handstand–
I might overflow,
So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said–
I’m just not the same since there’s rain in my head.

4Dec

Ducks AWOL

It’s a little after midnight, and I really should be in bed. If a 24-hour virus hadn’t made bed a necessity, my 8 a.m. dentist appointment tomorrow certainly should… but I can’t pull myself off the couch just yet. It’s been a hard couple of days. On Monday, Sophie snuggled up to me on the rocking chair and sweetly threw up 15 gallons of curdled milk. I came down with it yesterday around lunch, then Natalie at bed time last night, then Dan this morning, and I would just about trade my soul for a sick day right now. Just one day to settle into my skin without dishes piling up or little tears to wipe. Paid leave to hibernate under the covers and figure out who the heck I am again.

I feel as though my reserves of mothering strength have worn down over the last few weeks through rainy days and too many bouts of sickness, but mommies can’t be pansies. No, every bit of strength goes by instinct to the girls, which means other things suffer—marriage, health (ha!) career aspirations (ha2!). Nothing is terrible right now… just a little frayed. Too tired to exercise, too tired to write, too tired to fully engage my mind with my husband’s, too tired to shut down the computer and go to bed already.

When I was in school, autumn never lagged like this. A little by late November, sure, but there were always still tidy typed deadlines and bursts of knowledge to keep my mind churning along.  Without that pressure, without someone dictating most of my time to me, I feel grossly incapable. I come up with aspirations for myself, then divide them by two little daughters, then subtract housecleaning duties, then lower them by several degrees of self-esteem… and still I can never seem to reach. It sure looks a lot like failure around here.

This isn’t exactly how I wanted this year to end. I guess I supposed that 2008 was going to be the year I would get my ducks in a row… but here I am, and one of those ducks is lost somewhere under the couch, and one is partying in Bali, and one drowned just four hours ago under a deluge of preschool vomit, and six are wearing cool glasses in NYC getting published without me, and one tiny one is pecking around in the fridge for something resembling food. The ducks, they’re decidedly NOT in a row, and I’m not sure how okay I am with that. I can’t get to officially living my life until they are, right?

Probably not. I’ve always like John Lennon’s quote, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,” though I kind of hate it when it applies to me. I enjoy my plans working from time to time… but I’m pretty sure that nothing—plans or life or ducks-getting-in-a-row—is going to happen tonight. Perhaps I should get myself tucked responsibly into bed to get some of that sleep I keep complaining about not having, eh?


P.S. – If you like getting surprises in your mailbox, the holiday goodie from my last entry still stands!

1Dec

Gloom and Cheer

My little sister is sixteen and gorgeous. She sports a sparkly little nose stud, stylish clothes, and a haircut adorable enough to kill. She brims over with smiles, and in the Thanksgiving pictures, she and my mom are cheek-to-cheek with matching lipgloss, making silly faces together. I grin at the photos, but I can’t help the urgent stinging under my eyelids.

It’s not jealousy. I love my sister, and I’m quite honestly delighted with my current life. However, I wasn’t when I was her age. Frumpiness was thrust upon me young, and I spent nearly every moment of my early teenage years sinking with humiliation. Sinking and hiding. My mother—burdened with griefs I’m only now beginning to understand—never smiled at me. We never giggled together or shared makeup or staged silly photos. Any photos, for that matter. And when I see my beautiful sister and my beautiful mom having fun together, it inflames my war wounds. I may be a decade and an ocean removed from my past, but recovery still eludes.

Holidays in particular bring out the tangles in my emotions. No matter how happy I am with my sweet husband and precious girls, I can’t entirely forget the family life that once hurt me so deeply—the tense mealtimes, the clouds of violence, and the Christmastime hopes that always failed to fully materialize. While the New Year rang in on my fifteenth year, I lay in bed discussing suicide with myself. Happy holidays!

If I could ask any gift from my sister this year, it would be a memory—just one would do, and I’d return it in perfect condition. If I could just once remember my teenage self feeling beautiful or treasured or brimming over with shared smiles… well, Christmas would be a bit easier to look forward to.

With the gloom worked out of my system, I have to say that I really am excited about this month. We’re planning Christmas crafts and outreach projects and deliciously sneaky shopping trips with frost-tipped noses and hot chocolate at the end. One of my favorite parts of the holiday is planning gifts for friends, and I certainly can’t overlook the wonderful blog community this year. My husband may be getting tired of me telling him how much I like the internet, but I really do. I’m madly in love with it. I love having a place to spill my thoughts and having you all sop them up for me, and I love the way gratuitous kindness can spread unhindered across the globe. I know it’s not much, but I’m excited to send out a little end-of-the-year gift to you in time for Christmas. (Hint: It’s a recipe, and it’s Italian, and I promise it will be in the best interest of your happiness… and that of your sweet tooth. Enough said.) Just e-mail me with your mailing address, and I’ll send an envelope of holiday cheer your way! ‘Tis the season… and I’m grateful for you all.

26Nov

Mismatched Socks

Thirteen minutes, by my calculations, until the girls are awake… or at least half-awake, rosy from sleep, and needing closeness. Such little time, and as always—do I do, or do I write?

I think constantly these days about something Jenn Mattern once wrote, about her writing not being widely accepted because it was too haphazard. Too funny and too serious all at once with no firm publishable constant. That’s me, I think. My writing style is as steadfast as mismatched socks… much like my days, swooping from hilarity to dejection and always the vague sense that I’m not getting it right. I hesitate so often to blog because I just don’t know where to take this next. This isn’t a mommy blog or an ex-pat blog or a humor blog or a depression blog. It’s the unwashed contents of my brain, and who really wants to see that?

I’m in wildly different emotional territory than I was a year ago, but I can still feel these gray mornings tugging like gravity. I lie in bed until the last possible moment and wish and wish I knew what to expect throughout the day. The week. The month. Every uncharted moment faces me like a linebacker as I try to figure out if I am really as messy as I feel right now. Who knows? Maybe these daily giggles and heartaches are more of a gorgeous mosaic rather than a mess. I can’t help but hope so, at any rate… And until I figure out what kind of mosaic it is, this will just have to be a haphazard blog. Thank you for braving me.

20Nov

Pomegranate Seeds

The girls are finally in bed, and I’m sinking into the couch with half a beer and two fresh clementines, impulsively ignoring the to-do list that I wrote in flowery cursive to make mopping seem more appealing. (It didn’t.) These November days have been studded with these impulses, little sudden choices in favor of irresponsibility. A ten-minute detour at the park on the way home from school. A midnight game of mancala in bed when Dan and I are too restless to sleep. Guests on a whim. Dissecting a gorgeous red pomegranate instead of ironing. A second cup of tea. Rocking-chair rides with tired little girls, wrapped up in my arms with nowhere else to be.

To tell the truth, I feel embarrassingly petty writing this. Something in my soul believes, deeply, that it was meant to change the world. I feel it in music, I snag against it in great literature, I catch a glimpse of it on perfect blue-skied mornings. And yet, here I am coloring in my November with impulses. Pomegranate seeds.

But, for reasons I can hardly explain, I’m satisfied. I’ve settled into a rhythm of peace—or at least an armed neutrality—with housecleaning, and the cogs of our little family purr smoothly again. (Clean floors cover a multitude of sins, you know.) And my little spur-of-the-moment decisions toward happiness have put more than a year between now and last November. In fact, greatness may not be as far away as I once thought, wispy shreds of a future. I’m finding out that it’s more like pomegranate seeds and heart’s impulses. Like being completely present for one of my girls’ giggles. Like hopping off the beaten path with my husband. Like choosing deep breaths and whimsy. And really, that’s not so petty at all.

18Nov

Arpeggios

It’s that month again. A cough here, a drippy nose there, and then increasingly miserable viruses playing arpeggios on our lungs until spring. Poor Dan and Natalie always get the worst of it… bronchitis… ear infections… antibiotics and nebulizers and mountains of damp tissues. I usually weather through the mess with the special dispensation granted to mothers, but this past weekend knocked me flat. My personal cold settled in with a sonic-boom headache, and at first, I felt pretty trendy—finally joining the ranks of migraine sufferers and all—but spending the whole day in bed is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds. Especially when your own head is staging a coup d’état.

After a rush of writing productivity last week, I’ve been melting into the couch… playing a lot of Lego Indiana Jones, watching a lot of “Alias” re-runs, and pretending I don’t notice November sneaking by. Thanksgiving #1 is this coming weekend, and I am not ready for it. In the States, we always invited over college students and friends with no where to go for a feast and games; it was always a special and relaxing day. Even last year, for our first Thanksgiving in Italy, I cooked the traditional meal for a large extended family who had taken us in, and we had a fantastic time. However, I’m dragging my feet this year… maybe because of lingering sickness, but more probably because I’m reluctant to face the stark reality of a whole year gone. Time moves quite a bit faster than I do now.

Blah, blah. I’m sorry, it must the head cold talking. Have I told you about my new dishwasher yet? (Love.) Or that all-from-scratch pumpkin pie with dark caramel sauce and swirly whipped cream is on the menu for Saturday? Or how Sophie travels the house all day long finding books and toiletries and DVDs and dishes and laundry and dust bunnies to bestow on me? (With creation’s cutest smile, of course.) Or that I found strawberry-mango tea and Southern Comfort in the same grocery trip? Or how my sweet husband cooked for me all weekend, including a scrumptious Greek dinner? Or about the possibility of a girls’ night out next week (the first I have taken in… um, two years? for reasons entirely my own fault). Or about Natalie’s hugs?

So many things to be thankful for… even head colds, which help me slow down and inspire Greek cuisine and draw our dear little family together under blankets and heaps of love.

Handy considering it’s that month again!

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