Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Mother's Love

Being a mom is hard.  Being a stay-at-home mom?  REALLY HARD.

For me it was like I went through the five stages of grief.  There was Denial: I’m just staying home ‘for now’.  I’m not a REAL stay-at-home momAnger: This is not what I imagined for myself.  I can find a job whenever I want!  Bargaining: Maybe I can go back to school part-time while I’m home with Ellie. Depression: I don’t really know what I want to do when I grow up and I probably shouldn’t spend money on anything until I’m sure.  Finally, Acceptance:  I’m a stay-at-home-mom…  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE being a mom.  I DON’T love feeling like I’m not contributing both to our savings account and to the world in general.  I wanted to change the world!  Now I change diapers.  

There are women out there who would nail my eyelids to the wall if they knew what I just wrote. I’m so, so, so grateful I’m a mother.  When I was 18 and they told me I’d never have kids I could easily imagine having them anyway.   (Eh, what do Doctors know?)  But never, not ONCE, did I EVER imagine I wouldn’t be working too.

Besides feeling like I’m not using my talents and abilities to their potential, I think my biggest problem is I like to be measured.  I’m not proud of this but I like to know exactly what is expected of me, and when.  Then I REALLY like knowing I’m not only meeting but exceeding ‘expectations’…

There IS no ‘grade’ for me to make here.  No performance evaluation with criteria I can measure up and compare myself to.  Ellie’s going to be sitting in a psychiatrist office someday twenty years from now and asking what it meant that her mother kept asking her for a ‘report card’.  Did I make an ‘A’ today baby?  A B?  SOMETHING!?  MEASURE ME!  TELL ME HOW GREAT I AM!  Ugh.  I had no idea now needy I am.  I’m really happy I discovered this about myself…

There’s also something acutely personal about the ‘job’ as a stay at home mom.  When I had a bad day at work I could stand back from it and say, hey, ok, yep I screwed up.  I could go home at the end of the day and remind myself that I wasn’t my job.  I was a whole person outside of work with interests and hobbies and friends that had nothing to do with my job.  I could immerse myself in a good book, or lose myself in writing a terrible one.  Not so with being a stay at home mom.  When I have a bad day at THIS job, there is no ‘stepping back’.  There’s no dispassionate evaluation of what went wrong.  No reminding myself that I’m more than just this job.  I can’t and I’m not.  Or am I?  This is it.  Isn’t it?  

For sure If I screw up this one I don’t have a career managing a big-shot company to fall back on.  (Hey I can’t raise kids but look what I did for the economy!)  And why is it only women that get defined by this ‘job?’  Men are fathers AND workers.  I feel like I’m stuck in a 1920’s newspaper article.  Wasn’t this all resolved decades ago?  Women can have a career AND a family.  She can be a good mom and a productive citizen too.  So why do I feel like I can’t?  The thought of leaving her home alone with someone I’m not related to literally gives me nightmares.  Imagining her crying for attention in a day care and not getting it because there’s too many other kids crying…HURTS my HEART.  So.  Frustrating.

Add to this a spouse who is trying to understand but really can’t.  (Hey, if I could stay home, I would.  I’d much rather stay home with her than go to the office…)  He’s so helpful isn't he?  I don’t bother pointing out that we’ve no way to evaluate that statement because he knows there’s no way on God’s green earth I could ever make more than he does.  (Unless you want to PAY for the pleasure of reading this blog?  No?  Well, carrying on then…)

I’ve never EVER had a job where I was all at once physically exhausted as well as mentally and emotionally depleted.  If a job is physically demanding (mowing lawns!)  It isn’t usually mentally demanding as well.  I know what you’re thinking.  ANYONE can stay at home and raise kids.  

1)  No, no they can’t.  2) ANYONE can drive, too, but to be a GOOD driver, you need to be vigilant.  Constantly on alert.  The SECOND you take your eyes off the road, disaster could strike.  Last week she fell and hit her head on the kitchen island while I was eating supper.  Disaster struck IN THE ONE SECOND it took me to pierce the broccoli with my fork and CHEW. 

At the end of the day, when all is said and done, when I’ve done my very best and surprised myself at my reserves of patience (or not…) how do I unwind?  How do I let go of the mistakes?  (I let her watch too much TV!  She didn’t eat enough green vegetables!  Am I changing her diaper enough?  Am I changing it TOO much?  Am I hovering too closely?  Am I not watching her closely enough!?)  Arg.  Deep breaths.  In.  Out.  I don’t have an answer for that except, it helps I can write about it here.  And I do love being a mom.  I feel like I’ve been a mom for a really long time only I don’t have to share Ellie with anyone but her own father. 

I think if I can manage to let go of my ego, the thing that says I need to be ‘measured to matter’ I can find a lot more peace with staying at home with her.  And I will find other ways to contribute to the world, to make it a better place.  I’m sure there are lots of ways to do that.  Ways I haven’t even heard of yet, and if I’m open to it, I can still help change the world for the better.  Even if it’s just with the love of one mom, to one daughter.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Cheat Night - the BRIDGED version of the Bill and Ange Story

I just submitted an essay to a magazine about when one seemingly random decision changed my life.  It was reasonably entertaining so I’m going to cheat tonight and copy and paste it in here.  

It’s the true story of how Bill and I met.  Not the WHOLE true story, but the main gist.  For those of you who know the WHOLE STORY you’ll have to allow me certain creative license.  This story is all completely true but there are some things I’ve left out for brevity (and simplicity) sake.  Enjoy…

This could change everything.  I was suddenly paralyzed by fear.  My breath caught in my throat.  As the water from my feeble shower head dribbled down on me I was awash in doubt.  Could it really change everything?  I tried to shake it off.  Ridiculous.  It’s just a job interview.  I finished soaping up.  I had them all the time.  I liked my current job, loved it in fact but it didn’t have benefits.  Or paid vacation.  Or weekends off.  Or evenings.   Or steady hours.  Or a boss with all her marbles.  So for the last six months I’d been searching and applying for jobs I thought I might be interested in.  

On a whim I’d applied to a large multinational company, figuring I wouldn’t get in and it would be good practice for me.  The interview was kind of funny.  I was so nervous – but luckily for me when I’m nervous I get chatty.  Most people find it charming.  The chair one of the guys (who would be my supervisor) was sitting in squeaked EVERY TIME HE MOVED.  Each time he shifted his weight in the chair it sounded like he was tooting.  “And so Angela tell us about one thing you would change about yourself if you could.”  SQEEAAAK.  Focus Angela, he’s not actually farting.  Do.  Not.  Laugh.  Anyway, I got this question bagged.  “Well I wish I wasn’t so perfectionistic.  Life would be much easier.”  Pause.  Smile in a depreciating manner.  Nods all around.  Score.  (And incidentally totally, TOTALLY not true.)  Don’t judge me.  I have bad teeth.  I needed the benefits.  It was this or a mouth full of holes where my teeth should have been.

Long story short, I got in.  Within two years I was rocking it at this new company and although I hated the job (ugh, customer SERVICE.  By PHONE.)  Nothing more needs to be said.  But, I was finally getting steady paychecks, and an opportunity for promotion and travel.  And benefits!  I could get my eyes checked; I wouldn’t lose (any more) TEETH!  SCHEDULED VACATION!  For the first time ever I could schedule vacation!  I wouldn’t have to save up money first so I could take two days off and then not be able to afford to go anywhere…  Not that I’m too good for a stay-cation.  There’s nothing wrong with staying in your jammies and watching Lord of the Rings from start to finish.  Again.  But, it was nice to be able to afford to go somewhere…you know…not just in my head.

And then Temi my pod-mate asked me to join him on the company soccer team.  They were a girl short and they needed two in order to play.  He cajoled, he encouraged, he pushed and he nudged and after he shot down all my excuses I finally joined them.  I ripped my quad muscle the first time out.  And I didn’t have any gut feelings, any fear.  I didn’t have any indication at all that this one decision, seemingly innocuous, would change my life forever.  But it did.  Somewhere between the ripped quad muscle and the broken left ulna bone I caught the eye of the goalie on the opposing team.  And not just because I’m a walking accident waiting to happen – he thought I was quite cute, despite the frequent trips to emergency.  He suspected I may be worth the trouble.  (I am).  Mostly. 

If you can believe it we got married three years ago and had our first baby girl 16 months ago.  We’re sitting here on the couch, right now, watching the Saints get beat by the Buccaneers.  Ellie, our daughter, is asleep in the next room.  When I think about what might have happened (or not happened) if I hadn’t joined the company soccer team that night…I don’t even want to think about it.  There’d be no Ellie.  There’d be no me.  I’m a different person because of the experiences I had with that cute goalie.  I got lost on a Paris subway.  I watched the sun set behind an ACTUAL CASTLE in Prague.  I drove in a convertible on a highway in Las Vegas.  (Ah, that was actually too hot…not all it’s cracked up to be.)

Right after we got back from our Honeymoon (In JAPAN!  WHAT!?)  Our company told us we’re moving to Virginia (we were in New Brunswick, Canada).  We lived in Alexandria VA for two years and just when I got used to the inner loop and the mixing bowl (I called it the spaghetti bowl) they shipped us off to Houston.  Well, Conroe.  

I’m an American resident now.  I can’t believe I have a zip code instead of a postal code.  I’m amazed at the turns my life has taken, spun from that one decision I almost didn’t make about going out after work to play some soccer.  

My husband Bill was born in Kobe, Japan, me in New Brunswick, Canada.  I am in awe at the workings of a universe that could ever have us meet, (how does that HAPPEN!?) fall in love, and end up in Texas together.   I hope we have five more kids.  I hope I get to live in Japan and Prague and India (for a bit).  Life is an adventure, a whirling, swirling, chaotic, completely unpredictable dervish.  All I can do is hold on and try not to break any more ulna bones.  Either way, I LOVE IT.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Stupid Cardinals. Evil snails. Leaping Spiders. Lemon Tarts from Heaven. Trump hates Oreo.

Instead of writing my blog I watched the Saints game tonight.  Stupid Cardinals.  That’s all I have to say about that.  Now I'm going to bed late.  Past 9:00pm!!

Earlier in the day I pruned the sago palms we planted last week.  Bill hung up some mirrors I’ve been harassing him to hang up for weeks.  (I don’t hang heavy, breakable things.  That’s just common sense.  And lots of past experience….)

I settled a comfy chair in the sunniest corner of the living room.  We set up a hummingbird feeder and a regular bird feeder.  Bill got me some top soil and azalea’s to plant when Ellie is napping this week.  He picked up a new work-bench from the Houston Kijiji, ‘Woodlands online’ and gave me the newer one he had in the garage.  I’m going to use it as a gardening table.  A gardening table!  How fru-fru!  There’s a snail on the wall next to my table.  He’s cute.  He seems to be saying…’ho ho ho, I’m cute now…wait until I’m eating your SEEEDlings, ha ha ha ha ha.’  (Tiny, evil laughter here.)  I’m just starting and I already have a gardening nemesis.  FUN!

I bought some sample paints for the living room so I’m going to use those to paint the table.  The fru-fru table.  SO FUN.  I need an outdoor play area for Ellie.  Or she needs to start reading really soon, so she can sit in the stroller and read while I paint/garden/watch birds.  Ah we can watch the birds together but I probably shouldn’t give her a paint brush or a trowel.  Well, maybe a trowel.  SO EXCITING.  Not giving her a trowel, I mean, getting to dig around in the dirt out there. 

There was a cockroach in my bedroom last night.  Then it skittered into Ellie’s room!!  I don’t like to kill things but that sucker was as good as dead the second it’s tiny, impossibly quick little feet brought it into her room while she slept.  That bug is no longer with us.  Eulogy at 5pm.  I captured a small spider this morning and put him outside.  I opened the cup TOWARD me instead of away from me.  Rookie move. 

He leapt out of there like it was on fire and straight at me.  I screamed LIKE A GIRL and fell on my butt.  I scrambled back up, dignity totally lost.  Spider happily scurrying away.  I swear that tiny spider freaked me out more than the cockroach.  Then he LAUGHED at me.  A lot like the snail laugh.  I may have two nemesis.  Nemesises?  

There’s something primal and totally irrational about my fear of spiders.  It’s a dark fear I can’t shake, stuck to me as surely as my shadow to my feet.  Stupid fear.

Know what ISN’T scary?  French food cooked FROM SCRATCH by someone FROM FRANCE.  So cool.  A couple Bill knows from work with a 9 month old baby girl.  I loved practicing my French with them.  Did you know Ange is Angel in French?  I forgot that.  She asked me what people usually call me.  Ange.  Angel!  She said, delighted.  Well, jury’s out on that one. 

Saturday night we had an appetizer of shrimp and mushroom and avocado, followed by an entrĂ©e of pasta and chicken, followed by fruit and cheese and then…homemade lemon tart WITH HOMEMADE CRUST!  I don’t even LIKE lemon tart but I ate that sucker up like it was a Reeces Pieces on top of chocolate chip-fudge-Oreo ice-cream.  (Not a real ice cream flavor by the way.  But it SHOULD be…)  All rights reserved.  Royalties go to me. 

Also, I’m with Trump – no more Oreo’s - they moved their factory from the US to Mexico.  Ah, actually, ExxonMobil is moving part of its facilities to India.  Hmmmmm.. . But then again if they hadn’t moved part of the business to Canada from Houston 10 or so years ago, I would never have met Bill.  Or had Ellie or wrote this blog or lived in Texas.  But mostly, no Bill, no Ellie.  I can’t imagine my life without them.  I may want to chuck Bill out a window from time to time but…I love the lad.  He’s a good lad.  And all our windows are on the main floor so…

Also, that is the ONLY thing I agree with Trump on by the way…don’t want anyone getting any crazy ideas about me.  That man be CRAAAAZY.

Very lastly, I just read a short story by Dean Koontz.  Last Light.  It was pretty good.  Awesome dogs, crazy bad guys, special powers, surfing…what’s not to love!?  And short, so I could read it during nap time.  Ellie's nap time, not mine, obviously...

And that is all that’s new with me. 

To sum: 
Stupid Cardinals.  Evil snails.  Leaping Spiders.   Angel’s Among us.  Lemon Tarts from Heaven.  Trump hates Oreo.  No Canada, no Bill, no Ellie.  Short Stories are Best.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Getting Lost While Checking for Coyote's

Fall in Conroe.  I step outside at 630am and I DON’T SWEAT.  Right away.  Ahhh.  This is going to be nice.  Very nice.  I can’t wait for my first Halloween here.  Will there be kids that come to the door?  Probably not many but that’s ok.  I fully intend to go all out anyway.  Until Halloween has thrown up all over my house I won’t be satisfied.  Oh what I could do with all these old tree’s in the yard!  And the long driveway….(hands rubbing together enthusiastically…)

Our little family has been through quite a bit of change this summer but it’s been good.  It was time to get rid of the old clutter and have a thorough cleaning of the junk we’d accumulated.  Moving to a new house forces you to assess everything you own.  (Do I REALLY need this rickety wooden plant stand I took from the neighbors garbage three years ago?)  No.  

I even enjoy typing an address in the GPS and having no idea where it is.  Like, no clue AT ALL.  It’s kind of fun getting lost in a new town, wondering how long it will take me NOT to get butterflies when I have to take the highway.  (From past experience, two years…)  As for how long it takes not to get LOST in town well, I’d lived in Moncton for 33 years and I’ll let you know when I stop getting lost THERE.

It feels really good to be here.  Like, really good.  Nothing special has happened and I haven’t pulled anyone out of the path of a speeding bus but I feel like I’m MEANT to be here.  Whooo, whooo.  I’m getting all whoo-whoo on you.  Sometimes I look around at the house or the sky when I’m taking Toby for a walk (When I should be checking bushes for coyotes) and I think…I was always meant to be here.  

I miss my family.  I miss my chosen kids.  I miss Moncton and friends.  Heck I even miss the job.  I miss Tim Hortons and Mountain Road and for some weird reason I even miss the Y.  But I feel like, I really feel like this is where I am supposed to be.  I don’t know if that’s any consolation to my mom and dad.  I am happy here despite the ‘missings’.  That’s a word.  If it isn’t it should be.

Part of the happy is looking forward to planting my vegetable garden, arranging my flower garden.  Those piles of dirt are like a blank canvas.  An empty page.  It’s just WAITING to burst with life.  Nothing makes me happier than mucking around in the dirt.  ‘Gardening’ is just an extension of the mud pies I used to make as a kid.  An adult excuse to get dirty and play outside.

Part of the happy-magic happens just after I get Ellie down and before I drop from exhaustion myself, when the fake fireplace is on and the TV is wailing the saxophone blues and a smutty romance awaits on my Kindle…that’s the LIFE.  

I encourage others to go ‘play’ in the muck.  Maybe you’d rather not dig around in the dirt (Spiders!  Worms!) but you’ve always wanted to try painting.  While you’re at it, go get lost.  Someone somewhere MUST drive to a Michael's, buy paints and a canvas, get lost on the way back, then once you’re home cover the porch with a tarp and GO CRAZY.  With the paints.  The PAINTS.  This is a PG-13 blog.  

Anyway I’ll let you know about the garden.  I’ll take pictures of when Halloween threw up on my house.  If I get to daydreaming and get eaten by that coyote well, them’s the breaks.

The Gift Of Nowhere To Go

Hiya my friends – look – I don’t know if anyone other than mom and some uncles and aunts back home read this but, in case you’re out ther...