A Life, In Pictures

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And so

It’s funny how every year Christmas stresses me out on so many levels, financially and emotional, and yet every year things turn out just fine. I don’t know why I don’t remember that from year to year, but come the first of December I start freaking out and I don’t get over it until the holiday is over. I don’t know why I do that to myself; it’s like having a front row seat on the crazy train, really.

But it’s over now, and it was good. The kids were all pleased with their gifts from Santa (a real skateboard for Eli as opposed to a Wal-Mart one, a violin of his own for Sam, and a race track for Owen), they each got a couple of smaller fun things, and some much-needed clothes. We discovered, through Hannah, a delightful second-hand store specializing in babies and kids, so were able to supplement their NEW clothes with some really good quality previously worn ones, and they didn’t know the difference. Oranges and a little candy in their stockings, along with new undies and toothbrushes and body washes and deodorants, and it was good.

God always has a way of reminding me what it is really all about, if I let Him. A friend and I had decided to help out this single mom we know, and we managed to cobble together some small gifts and stocking stuffers for her and her kids, and god, I remember being where she is. It was really humbling for me to remember that, to in an instant be taken back to those times in my life where I literally had nothing and to be slapped in the face with how damn blessed I am now. While it isn’t good to dwell in the past, I need to remember that bit from The Big Book about not shutting the door on it, because I need to remember where I have been-not just in terms of sobriety but in terms of life itself (and of course they are intertwined).

We went to Christmas Eve services and sitting in front of us were the mother, sister, and three-year old daughter of a woman who committed suicide this summer. She was one who was just never able to get the program, and the end result was a family torn apart, literally and figuratively. It broke my heart to see her family at church, because I remember, too, feeling the way she must have felt right before she decided to end it all. So I see these things, these people, and I am reminded that I am right where I need to be in life. I have much to be grateful for that has nothing to do with money or any kind of material item.

Maybe if I am doing what I need to do in life, I will remember all of this next year, before I climb on the crazy train again.

Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve?

I am pretty disgusted with myself today. I think I have been in denial to an extent about the whole Christmas thing, because we have absolutely nothing to put into stockings. The presents are already wrapped, such as they are, we have a loose plan for where we are going to eat, etc, but no stocking stuffers. Which means we are going to have to brave both Wal-Mart and the dollar store tomorrow after Steve gets paid. Yes, on Christmas freaking Eve.I hate Wal-Mart anyway, and to be forced to go there on the busiest day ever and deal with every asshole coming out of the woodwork was really poor planning (or lack of) on my part. Yay me.

At least tomorrow night will be good. We will go to the church services, which will remind me of what it is all about, and we will then have dinner at our friends’ house. For some reason we are having a Mexican food night, which seems a little strange to me but hey, I just show up with whatever dish I am supposed to bring (Steve is making flan) and it’s all good. I love the people with whom we are eating, and it is truly a blessed time for me-so provided I survive Wal-Mart (or don’t end up in jail for assaulting someone), it will be a really, really good thing to go hang with these people whom I love, and who love me and my family without question.

And I truly am blessed, I know that. I try to practice gratitude daily, because I have so much to be grateful for. I forget sometimes, though, that because I am grateful doesn’t mean things don’t still suck sometimes; I am trying to be a little more gentle with myself-because feelings are feelings, and maybe they don’t need to be analyzed to death, but simply felt. I don’t have to love Christmas, and that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God or Jesus, it just means I don’t love everything that goes along with it. And all I really have to do is suit up, show up, and fake it for my kids. That, I can do.

Counting Down

I feel discouraged today. I had these ideas, you know, of staying home and writing, hopefully for some sort of pay, but basically I am felled before I even truly begin. I read all these other blogs, you know, and so many other people are trying to do the same thing, these people whose words blow me out of the water on a daily basis, and I realize that I have nothing to say that hasn’t been said before, by much more talented people. Talk about a blow to the ego. So now I am left with no job, no second income coming in, and no fucking idea what to do next. Like I said, discouraging, plus there is a large bit of ass-kicking going on because I should have thought this all through a little bit more thoroughly before taking such a risky move. I could always go out and get another job, but the only thing I am qualified for is selling insurance-and I was getting burned out on that. Plus, of course, there is the whole issue of daycare, so I really need to look for evening or night work so that Steve can be with the kids and we won’t have to pay daycare; can’t sell insurance on evenings and weekends.

Sigh….at this point, right now, I just want to get through Christmas. The holidays are fraught with all sorts of tension for me, and as hard as I try for my kids’ sake, I just want it all to be over with. I hate the constant financial stress, the knowing that my kids are going to be disappointed, I hate the whole “let’s all pretend this is the best time of the year” crap, just-I hate it. I am sure a therapist would have a lot to say about why I am the way I am, and I could probably self-diagnose pretty accurately, but in the end it really doesn’t matter WHY I feel the way I do, I just do.

So I hold my breath, just four more days…and it isn’t going to change the money situation to have Christmas over, but then at least the kids can go back to having no expectations. They haven’t yet learned that expectations lead to disappointment, you see, and even though I have great kids who don’t typically expect a whole lot, the holidays are different. Four more days.

No Arts and Crafts Here!

We have lived in this house now for almost three years, and had our first mouse. The other night I was up with the baby in the wee hours and I heard that telltale scritching in the drawer under the stove. Steve set a trap a couple of nights ago using peanut butter, to no avail. He then tried some cheddar cheese, and again, nothing. Owen said the mouse was “mocking him.” Last night he tried swiss cheese, and apparently the mouse was something of a gourmet, like that Remy from Ratatouille.

At any rate, the advent of the mouse reminded me that I have been getting a faint whiff of something dead for a couple of days. I thought it was under the sink, so without telling him why I made Sam pull everything out and clean it. No mouse, dead or alive, but at least it is clean. I then thought it might be in the refrigerator where perhaps some meat had thawed and bled under the drawers, so I pulled everything out and started scrubbing. There was chocolate and a broken egg, but no blood. Still, at least the fridge is clean now.

It might be a long weekend for the kids if I keep smelling that smell. There are lots of nooks and crannies to clean out, and Christmas vacation just started. We can blame it all on Sam; he is the one who suggested we do arts and crafts during the long break. Does he not know me at all?

No Worries

I have so much to say these days but I worry that people will get tired of hearing about Josie and how much she is growing, how lovely it is to lay in bed with her and nurse, how much absolute joy I am finding in this whole stay-at-home-mom gig. When it is hard and I worry about money and how we are going to do this on one income, I worry that people are going to laugh and say “You asked for this!” and take me less than seriously. Worry, too, that if I say anything about just how hard it has been to adjust to a new baby, one who cries and doesn’t sleep and spits up all of the time, I will hear the “yes, but you planned this and knew what you were getting into…” What happens, then, is that I worry myself into a frenzy about what people will think and I don’t write anything at all.

I don’t understand why I worry so much about any of it. My sister and I were talking recently about this very thing, about how the first few months were just so, so hard for me, and I couldn’t figure out what to do with this sad, crying baby, and I spent a lot of time crying myself…and I didn’t feel like I could SAY that because yes, I did want this. She asked me why I judge myself so harshly, because the joy and wonder of it all doesn’t negate the fact that sometimes it’s just really hard. I forget that sometimes, that people don’t necessarily see me in the same light I see myself, and those who might tell me I made my bed and therefore must lie in it are probably not people I hang out with or talk to on a regular basis.

And it IS hard. Josie is much better in terms of crying, and is turning into quite a happy baby. I don’t think it is a coincidence that her general disposition began to change as soon as I started working part-time, and has improved a thousand-fold since not working at all. She just had such a hard time with daycare and bottle feeding and being with someone who wasn’t me. That doesn’t mean it is suddenly a breeze, you know? There is definitely a big difference in having a baby at almost forty and, say, 20. Or 34, when I had my last one. I am a lot more tired than I used to be, for one thing. And the sheer amount of work involved is sometimes overwhelming; some days I find myself not even wanting to leave the house because of the work it takes to get her all loaded up in the car, and the CARSEAT! Yikes!

As with anything, though, there is so much good that it outweighs most of the hard, or at least makes it tolerable. I think it’s all hard, no matter what-working out of the home and trying to balance that, working part-time, not working at all-it’s all just a different kind of hard.

Today I resolve to worry less about what people might think, and instead just write like I used to. Life is still life, and I have much to say about a lot of it (really? We are going to stop teaching cursive in schools? Are you KIDDING me?). I haven’t lost my mind since having this baby, haven’t forgotten that life still goes on, haven’t forgotten that I have a brain and need to use it.

Ah, Beauty

She is beautiful in the way that all babies are beautiful, the way her mouth opens so wide when she yawns, the fat dimples on her elbows, that comical look of bewilderment at this big old world. She has discovered her hands and plays with them constantly, rubbing them together and looking for al the world like an anxious grandmother. She smiles that huge, gummy smile and churns her feet as if she is running the most important race of her life…and she is lovely and soft, plump and sweet.

The funny thing is, she looks like me. Owen looks so much like Steve, and I see a lot of Owen in Josie, therefore in my mind she looks like Steve as well. However, many people have commented that she looks like me; as I really look at her, I have to admit they are right. She has my ears, and my pointy little chin. My mouth is a frowney mouth when I am not smiling, and hers is as well. Her eyes are shaped more like mine, and she even has the same lips as I do.

This is a very disconcerting realization for me. I have never thought of myself as beautiful, or even especially pretty. Slightly or a lot below average, depending on what day you ask me, and never even remotely attractive. I have always believed that the old “you can’t judge a book by its cover” was coined specifically for me, thought that I better make sure I had some semblance of personality or I would never find anyone to love me. Now, though, I look at Miss Josie and she is really very lovely, beyond the “all babies are beautiful” thought. And…I am not quite sure how I feel about this.

I worry so much, because no matter how much we all want to believe, TRY to believe that beauty doesn’t matter, we live in a culture where that really isn’t true. Every TV ad, every picture on a magazine cover, every infomercial about how to lose 50 pounds in 30 days, tells us that we have to look a certain way to succeed. On TV, we have The Biggest Loser and What Not To Wear, and even though the point of both of these is to help people feel better about themselves, the underlying message is “you are not thin enough or pretty enough.” So now I have this daughter who looks like me, and I have never liked the way I look, and it scares me.

In my mom’s defense, I don’t believe she ever intentionally said hurtful things; I think she brought a lot of her own self-esteem issues onto the table and genuinely wanted us to be and look the best we possibly could. However, when the things I heard growing up were along the lines of “You would be so pretty if you lost some weight,” or “Why don’t you do your hair THIS way?” what I heard over and over is that I wasn’t pretty enough. My lack of popularity in school (can you say über nerd?) cemented that belief, and I have never overcome it. So I worry that I will project my own feelings onto sweet Josie, worry so much that I am inadvertently going to do and say things that will hurt her simply because she looks like me.

It’s so true that each child teaches you lessons about yourself, about how you view the world and the belief systems you have, but this is one I would rather not have to look at. While I am not happy with the way I look in general, I am comfortable with it in the sense that I have accepted it. I look at Josie, though, and I do NOT want her to ever feel like she is anything less than beautiful, inside AND out. I am terrified about my ability to do this successfully, to help her feel good about herself. I am terrified to look at my own self and have to realize that maybe I am not as ugly as I have always thought. It seems like such an egotistical thing to say, or even think.

So far little Josie has challenged me in so many ways, forced me to make different decisions and change some of my previously held beliefs. These are good things, even though it has been hard. I have to believe that this new challenge will ultimately be a good thing as well, not just for Josie but for me as well.