Kicking the Ass of the New Year

swmming

I used to love swimming, and then I didn’t. We’d go the beach and I’d be happy on the sand, maybe wade up to my thighs. I rarely even took off the sundress slipped over my bathing suit (or, more usually, the yoga top paired with skirted bikini bottoms). Was it a body image thing? Am I really that careful about UV rays? I don’t think so. I think it was a control thing. In the water, there’s less of it. And it’s rare for me to go to water without having to think at least a little about keeping boys alive. So, I stayed dry. For years. Even after my kids gained enough ability (except for my oldest, who still can’t swim) that I didn’t have to worry quite so much about accidentally turning them into floating corpses.

But here I am, on a Sunday night, feeling if not water logged at least pleasingly spongy. I went swimming twice this weekend. In a really big pool. In my new bathing suit. Which is black and even a little pretty.

Maybe this level of pride is unreasonable for this wispy accomplishment, but hell, I’ll bask. Our world, have you noticed? is not conducive to accomplishment, unless you play video games. Which I don’t, not because I think they’re objectionable; I just haven’t found one that truly speaks to me and life is too short to settle. And by accomplishment, I mean this easy kind: you decide to do something and then you do it. Ah. Maybe it’s only me who has this trouble? The deciding and then the never doing? Anyway, I decided to start swimming, I bought a bathing suit, and then I, yes, went swimming.

The first time was yesterday evening when M and I escaped for a date, thanks to my visiting parents who were willing to babysit. The nice people at the pool gave us a discount. We swam for half an hour and then sat for a few minutes in the hot tub, and then went to dinner at a restaurant that has a fireplace. It was… a really good night. Until we came home to a lame dog and then M threw up a lot. But still! Date night! Hallelujah!

And then today I took the kids, the ones who swim, and while it was less exercise it was still fun.

And I’m going to swim again on Tuesday, because after my eyes are dilated at the eye doctor’s I won’t be able to read and write for a couple hours and what else is there to do in this world?

What to do with all this money?

bus2

This is a problem I’ve never really had.

Yesterday I went on a school field trip with my oldest son, and the ride home took two hours longer than usual for a total of four hours on a shrill, cramped, steamy school bus.

(Oh, how I appreciate my own particular kids after spending the day and much of the evening with the offspring of others. Is it me? Is it them? Do my children spring horns when they’re out of my range? I don’t suspect it, but if so, let me know. While T and I drew our own version of Calvin and Hobbes comic strips on the translucent windows, children around us fought and mouthed off and tossed trash hither thither. I was proud of my quiet, respectful kid.)

Around the three hour mark I finished my book and T dozed off against my shoulder. The woman on my other side offered me a can of espresso, for which I wanted to kiss her. We talked. We talked about how convinced we were that we were crap at our jobs, how difficult it is to stay married while renovating your house, how setting fire to your yard isn’t the best way to clear the land for a vegetable garden. Then she told me she’d recently gotten a promotion and to celebrate, she’d bought her husband a mustang.

I thought, but did not say: “When my husband got a raise we each bought new pants at J.C. Penny.”‘

I liked her a lot, and that can be unusual for me – I’m reserved and shy and a tiny bit suspicious about new people, so when I find someone I can connect with fairly easily I’m thrilled. But – a mustang? “Mustangs are so expensive!” she moaned to me. “Of course it costs way more than my raise!”

I’ve heard about this trend on the news. The consuming trend. But she was so coherent of it. She knew buying the mustang was a bad idea, and she did it anyway. She didn’t mention plans to sell it, but maybe that’s just not part of the story she told me. I hope they sell it. Sell it and put the money in the bank. Or invest the money in their house, because it sounds like they are barely able to survive their oddly modeled bedrooms and the weirdly situated kitchen and the flooded basement.

I only just met her, but I’m worried about her.

But, what’s that thing about that which we despise in another person is that which we see in ourselves, something something? While no mustang will ever appear in our driveway we do splurge perhaps too often on takeout Chinese food. And M bought an afghan he didn’t need today. And I do find it easy to click PURCHASE when I mean to click READ FREE SAMPLE. I am far from innocent. I completely understand what my new friend was reaching for when she bought that car. For just a moment to feel successful, accomplished, worthy of the admiration of her family and friends. Of course it only lasts a day or two, until the payment comes due and once again you are a woman approaching forty who has never, ever earned more than $22,000 a year.

Dear woman on the crowded school bus: let’s make a pact and avoid the shops for a while.

And thank you, again, for the espresso. It made all the difference.

Oh.

chickkens

I keep wandering into the kitchen and trying to fill my food craving. After eating a short bread cookie and a handful of salt and vinegar chips I realize – I’m just very tired. It’s not a food craving, it’s a sleep craving. I didn’t get much last night. My nose is stuffed up so whenever I lie down I can’t breathe. And a medium-sized boy joined our bed early last night. When the small-sized boy woke up and tried to squeeze in, he and I switched to the medium-sized boy’s bed (empty) where I got a couple hours, but then there was the not breathing and on top of everything just a sense of doom, pending failure, low-grade anxiety about everything I have not managed to accomplish.

So. I’m tired. Driving to West Leb to get a birthday present may not have been the smartest choice. But the alternative was to drop the largest boy at his Boy Scout overnight camp. I hate the Boy Scouts. They discriminate against gay people and they take my sons away from me for overnights. In the freezing cold! Damn them. I was afraid I’d get teary, and that would make T teary, and then those damn Boy Scouts might sense weakness. So I made his dad take him. Turns out, he still got teary. But at least he didn’t have his nearly unconscious mother sniveling into his hair.

I’m supposed to be working right now. I missed two deadlines last week. Projects are piling up at the office. No wonder anxiety has come to visit, right?

Two injured chickens have been using our mud room as a rehab center. Today M put them out in the sun. They look like two old women sitting on their metal porch chairs, house slippers at the end of their nearly-useless mottled legs, smoking cigarettes and gossiping about whomever walks by.

Maybe some leftover spaghetti will do the trick.

Play well, dears.

Seasonal Daze

rainhouse

I know I’m ready for spring when I strip our bed of its flannel sheets. Not just to wash and replace, but to tuck away in the dark recesses of the linen/BB gun closet until the temperature drops next fall. I’ve been waking up in the tiny hours with a sharp craving for smooth, cool sleeping surfaces. And fresh mozzarella cheese. Either it’s time for spring to arrive or I’ve got pneumonia. That happened once. I thought I was just hot all the time because it was April and our bed was still in winter mode, but it turned out I had a fever. For three weeks. I’m pretty sure, though, that this year it’s a seasonal thing.

What I love about spring:
the noise
the diminished wardrobe
sap buckets
open windows
deer prints in the mud
the once again acceptable taste of white wine and gin. Not together.

We’re not quite there, yet, despite the cotton sheets rumpled under me right now. It’s still red I reach for in the evening. Snow pants still clog the living room floor around the heater vent. If I look hard I can spot a snowflake or two weaving its way down from the skies. But it’s coming. Soon.

Play well together in the mud and wind.

Snow Daze

snowday2

Way back in my time, you’d listen to the radio. Your mom would wake you up with a whisper – “Snow!” – and you’d bounce to the living room radio and do your best to find a station that was announcing school closing, holding your breath and standing very still on just your right foot. There was no spoon-under-the-pillow, no backwards-pajamas, no ice-cube-down-the-toilet nonsense; we knew, back then, that the only way to effect School Closing Magic was to stand on your foot while you listened for the list.

Now we get an automated phone call, and an email, and the news is posted on the school’s website. The feeling, though, is the same. That surge of potential injected into a day you were expecting to be sameasusual. Suddenly, there is space, room, temporal stretchiness. Usually we make pancakes to celebrate.

Now, though, there’s also a sinking feeling paired with the joy. Snow days mean arrangements. Snow days mean projects pushed back, scrambled phone calls, desperate email pleas, that sinking feeling of resignation that the work you want to do is not going to get done, not today.

But, mostly, there are pancakes and happy boys. Play well, dears.

Stealing Time: Fortnight of Flash

 

We make the hike up the mountain to find the Fort. Walls built from sticks and string, a fire pit alive with someone else’s fire. We marvel. The boys succumb to ancient rhythms of stick swinging and destruction. We warn them: someone else built this place. It is not ours to destroy even just a little. They listen with awed eyes. They get it. They fall into the underbrush to satisfy their need to pummel.

We are about to leave. We call through the woods for the boys to come back. One of them, my middle boy , is still swinging his stick when he enters the clearing. A bottle of Heineken is ripe for bursting there on the ground, half hidden by a tree root, and my boy’s stick barely breathes in that direction to result in a POP and shattered glass. He looks up with wide and pained eyes and says, “Oh, sorry,” his apology half a question. He’s shocked at his own power and worried at the level of punishment he faces.

“No, honey. It’s okay,” I tell him. I kneel and pick up every piece of glass and wrap the collection in a red checkered handkerchief and store it in my camera bag. “It wasn’t your fault. That beer bottle wanted to burst.” There are times for admonishment and there are times for immediate reassurance.

We start back down the mountain. We’re all tired, and one of us smells like beer.

Time like a freight train…

 

Things I should be doing instead of this:

Working.

Sleeping.

Folding clean towels.

Packing for tomorrow. We’re not going anywhere but the soccer field and a birthday party and to the store to buy a bra, but yes, these trips require packing.

But I’m doing none of those things. I’m updating a blog nobody reads. A blog I’m reluctant to publicize. A space I’m weirdly considering my own. The internet, I know, belongs to everyone and no one, and should never, ever be considered private. I hesitated, just then, before writing the word “bra.” Too personal. But then I felt a bit rebellious. That’s my name up there. This is my second of data. I can write whatever word I want.

I’m writing a novel. I’m writing my third novel. You have no idea, or maybe you do, how depressing this is. I love the writing part, but the realizing part, I hate. The realizing that my two previous novels are never going to be published, not because the industry is in a slump but because they are not good enough. I’m not good enough. Maybe this next one will be good enough, but that’s not likely, and what will I do after that? Write another not-good-enough novel, I suppose. But it’s tiring.

Let’s talk about cupcakes for a minute to get our minds off depressing things like unpublished novels. Cupcakes are marvelous. I could eat them night or day. I eat the bottom part first, the boring part, so the rest of the bites are mostly frosting. I am a save-the-best-for-last kind of person, not an eat-dessert-first kind of person.

Goodnight, lovely nobodies. Play well.

I am awake

It’s a good thing I woke up at four this morning, because the dishwasher I thought I’d started last night? I did not start last night. Had I woken up at 6:30 and discovered this, it would’ve been a tragedy. But now, no problem! Here I sit in my kitchen with the sound of swishing water for company.

Everyone else is asleep. As they should be, since it’s four in the morning. I’m working. Or I’m supposed to be working. But really I’m catching up on reading bits of things I haven’t had time for. Because this month, October, is kicking my ass. I’m not going to list specifics because that would make me sob, but let me just mention SOCCER and POPCORN FUNDRAISER and OPEN HOUSES and DEADLINES.

Here’s one good thing: our farm share ended this week. I love our farm share, I love our farm and our farmer, but once October rolls around I am ready to stop receiving glorious, healthy vegetables every week. It’s been eight days since we all sat down together for a meal, and do you know how hard it is to eat broccoli in the car on the way to a soccer game? Never mind the spaghetti squash.

A few minutes ago, instead of working I read this, and it made sense in a hopeless way. I haven’t kept in touch with most of my friends from days of yore and sometimes, when I’m overcome with the need to worry about the future, I focus on the pending time after my children have escaped the school system, which right now provides many of my real-time friends. Who will I know then, left to my own friend-making devices? I’d better never get divorced. I mean, there are other reasons for never getting divorced, but the potential for friendlessness is a driving factor.

I started I Capture the Castle last night. I shouldn’t have, because now that’s all I want to do. Read. Which is a noble pursuit, but see above: DEADLINES.

Something upstairs is stirring – dog? child? Certainly not the husband. The day might be beginning. Play well.

Andi