Category Archives: frustration

The Most Ridiculous Week

I’m on the living room floor, crutches next to me, water bottle just out of reach. The front door is flapping open, the sick four-year-old is on the futon with the iPad, and I have no idea how I will feed us lunch.

Our refrigerator died on Monday. The parts were supposed to be in today but the repair guy can’t come until tomorrow, Friday. I had to throw out so much food. We rented a mini-fridge that freezes everything solid, and I transferred the piles of vegetables from our CSA out of our overflowing produce drawers and into two coolers.

IMG_3074.JPG

No, seriously, this is my kitchen right now. With a rented mini-fridge and a towel on the floor for any last drippings from the defrosting failed freezer.

Needless to say, packing lunches this week has been tricky at best. I found bagels in the freezer and used the last of our cream cheese on them for the first day. I bought sliced turkey, but it froze solid in the mini-fridge (Plan B: Shredded cheese and baby carrots, failed because the cheese had gone bad when the big fridge died, and the baby carrots had frozen solid in the mini-fridge; Plan C: Hummus, also too late to save it; Plan D: Granola bar and apple, and good luck, kid). [And no, the kids can’t really buy lunch at school; it’s brought in by some private catering company and you have to pre-order and it’s expensive and just didn’t seem worth it. And nut butters aren’t allowed at school, and the kids hate sunbutter.]

Making dinner wasn’t too hard except there’s not much room for leftovers in the mini-fridge, and the veggie coolers are out of ice.

What a fantastic opportunity to really deep-clean the fridge!

What a fantastic opportunity to really deep-clean the fridge!

Then yesterday I finally made it to the orthopedist (both kids in tow, and yes, I shamelessly handed them the iPad and my phone for our full hour in the waiting room—-overbook much, doc?). Dr. Orthopedist promptly ordered an MRI and glanced at the kids. “Do you have any more of them at home?” he asked me.

“No,” I replied, “just these two.”

“Good, because you’re going to have to be on crutches for the next six weeks. Maybe just four weeks, if it’s a stress reaction instead of a fracture, but I think it’s a stress fracture. I mean, obviously you’ll need to make an exception to shower, but otherwise, no weight on the leg.”

He stepped out of the room to write the script for crutches, and I started to cry. See, my leg has been hurting a lot, more and more, and even walking a mile really bothers me. Spinning class hurts. It’s been feeling bad, but since my soft-tissue person thought it was just some tightness, I didn’t think I should worry about it or think about it much. Yeah, it hurt all the time, more and more, but since no one said anything was wrong with it, I was learning to live with it.

It’s nice to finally have verification—even before the MRI has been done—that something is actually probably quite wrong. I can finally admit that my leg hurts! It hurts.

Then I emailed my husband and said that what with my leg and the refrigerator situation, we’d be having take-out tonight. There was no way I was going to try to deal with making dinner. He offered to come home by dinner time and pick up the food on his way. YES PLEASE.

Then—-because oh yes, it gets better—Ben was sick all night, tossing with a fever and wheezing. I tried to imagine how I’d manage school drop-off, trying to crutch up the steps carrying a sick 40-lb child, and I made the quick decision that it would not be possible. No, it would be possible, but for the love of god, I was going to take the day off. I asked C to drop off Max this morning.

And then—did you think we were done yet?—I got up after five fitful hours of “sleep” next to Sicky Coughy Wheezy Boy and remembered that I’d used the last of the coffee yesterday. As in, we’re out of coffee.

Poor sick little Lumpkins. He requested baby carrots, lemonade, and chocolate milk for breakfast. WTF, dear child.

Poor sick little Lumpkins. He requested baby carrots, lemonade, and chocolate milk for breakfast. WTF, dear child.

And then I made the oatmeal and tried to carry a bowl and yogurt and a spoon, while on crutches, to the dining room. We don’t have an eat-in kitchen, and the dining room doesn’t directly adjoin the kitchen. You have to go through the pantry to get from kitchen to dining table and back again.

This is Day 1. I have at least another six weeks of this. I ordered a rolling utility cart from Amazon to use to get food and dishes to and from the kitchen/dining room. There’s no other way to do it, unless I entrust the small children with plates full of hot food or hire a butler.

We’ll live on instant coffee until one of us gets to the store. We’re talking about getting me a handicapped placard for the car, for times when I have to go to the grocery store and won’t be able to hold the kids’ hands in the parking lot (thanks to crutches) and it would be safer for them if I could park as close to the door as possible. It feels like a weird reason to have a placard, though. Mostly I’ll be able to get around fine, but grocery shopping will be sort of more hellish than usual.

My kitchen is also more hellish than usual. I cannot summon what it will take to empty the dishwasher, reload it, and wash the other stuff.

My kitchen is also more hellish than usual. I cannot summon what it will take to empty the dishwasher, reload it, and wash the other stuff. Hello, TaskRabbit?

But today! Today Ben and I lay around all day, not doing much, and it was marvelous. And then my friend and I got into trouble for passing notes to each other (and cracking up uncontrollably, as a result) in our kids’ piano class. And then our friend/neighbor, to whom I gave most of our produce yesterday and also today’s CSA share for her to pick up, dropped off the best baba ganouj I have ever had, all smoky and silky, and a lovely salad, and I realized I haven’t really eaten fresh vegetables since Saturday, unless you count the aging celery stick I fished out of the melted ice in the cooler in the kitchen this afternoon. 

Enjoy the pictures of our squalid life right now. I am going to assemble my new cart now. Then maybe I can clear the dining room table, crutching along as I roll my little cart of dirty dishes to the kitchen, like some unfortunate lesser character from The Hunchback of Notre Dame or something.*

 

* I have no idea why I am in such a good mood through all of this. It’s just funny at this point.** I mean, to have everything kind of thrown down at once like this? It’s great. It really simplifies things, in a way. In a very messy and debilitating way.

** Also, maybe I’ll find a drive-through Starbucks tomorrow. I think the closest one is 12 miles away. Wonder if that is on my way anywhere.

 

 

 

 

10 Things I Can Do While I Can’t Run*

1. Blog more. You know, about what people do when they’re not getting up at 4:30 a.m. on weekdays to run.

2. Work out with the old people at the suburban gym. I got a 30-day membership to my favorite gym (thanks, Groupon!) and made the happy discovery that the suburban locations have midmorning classes because there’s a huge stay-at-home population in those towns to support them. I’m no longer stuck with just 6 a.m. spinning, 9 a.m. Burn, and noon spinning. No, now I have access to yoga at 9:30, pilates at 10:30, ballet or stretch at 11:30…it’s awesome. Even if I am the youngest person in the class.

3. Figure out ways to hang out with people that don’t involve running. Before now, the only time I saw my non-blogger friends (whom I only see at PR events, which is a whole different story) is to see them at dawn for a road or trail run, or on a weekend morning for a race. That’s it. Now I’m up that early with no one else to hang out with—I mean, to run with—and, uh, I’m realizing that now I have no social life. Except for PR/blogger events. Which are awesome, but my runner friends don’t go to those. So there are about a million people who I miss right now. Plus, running is such a comfortable space to hang out in. It’s totally different—-if we were to go get dinner or drinks or something—to sit around a table and expect the same kind of banter to flow. It just doesn’t. Also, priorities. We runners can easily meet at 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning in the pouring rain for a two-hour run, but it’s just so hard to find an evening to meet up for coffee. I get it. It’s true. It’s just harder.

4. Ice cream. I mean, why not? One local ice cream shop has some nice flavors on tap this month, plus I’ve been meaning to make my own pumpkin ice cream after having some a few weeks ago.

5. Writing. I wish I could gallantly announce I’ll be writing daily morning pages or keeping a journal or writing a letter a week or something, but I don’t yet know how this will shake out. Probably all of it.

6. Sweep under the dining room table. Really, it’s time. I don’t even know when the kids last used drinking straws. Why is one under there?

7. Spend a lot of time with my orthopedist and physical therapist. I hope they’re funny. Like, really funny.

8. Paint the hutch. I found a nice hutch/cabinet on the street and have been meaning to paint it ever since, but now I have totally no interest in it. But that means it is just one more brown thing in the dining room, which doesn’t need any more brown things.

9. Blog about food more. I talk about food a lot on Facebook. I’m in a food/cooking group on Facebook and just by talking about food come up with some amazing ideas and combinations. I post photos there. I post ideas there. Why aren’t I posting those here? I want to start a food blog but the name I came up with has already been taken by a porn site (no, really) so maybe I’ll just write more about food here. 

10. Play the piano. We just got a keyboard (thanks for the loaner, Leah!), and now I need sheet music so I can start playing again.

I don’t know why I am so calm about being crippled indefinitely and giving up my dreams of my first ultra and blahblahblah, but I am. And that’s fine. I don’t feel a big need to poke the wound and ask why it doesn’t hurt. It just doesn’t. Maybe it’s not even a wound. Whatever. I’m OK.

 

* Yeah so maybe I’m hoping this post will make me look like a jackass because by writing I jinx myself and will be able to run 10 miles no problem day after tomorrow. Yeah.

The Grief with No Cause

I’ve been feeling like I’m grieving: a deep heavy sorry, quick surprising tears. This has been going on for a month. More. I wake with a heaviness, an aversion to the day. My eyes sting quickly and often with frustration, tension, emotion. I’m short on patience, short on memory. I need to grieve, for someone has died.

I suspect it is me.

The grief has been here before, settling on me, and it usually indicates that my depression is back. But, before now, I’ve never been so high-functioning through it as I am this time. I have to be. There are children, who need breakfast and clean socks and flossed teeth and packed lunches. There was moving to a new town. A preschool application (no, for real, that’s how it works—you have to apply to preschool around here and even have the former preschool teacher or daycare provider fill out some long enormous form about the child). Financial aid applications. Taxes (to submit with the financial aid applications).

One client did not send their 1099 until the very last possible day, the very end of February, but our taxes were due (for financial aid) February 15… and it arrived the day our mail slipped through the forwarding system and went to our old apartment. I’d do our taxes now except we have not finished moving, and I need to spend my days on that. No, and that is not my story to tell, though I’m working my ass off to make it happen, long days in a basement churning with what looks like broken suburban dreams: fishing poles and beach chairs and camping gear, various auto fluids, yard toys, extra furniture. We don’t have room for it all in the new place; nor do we need it. We really expanded there in our former home, with the big yard and the run of the place. Here we’re compressed, houses close together, little storage. Impossible to be our free-range shouty reclusive selves.

yard

This needs a new home by Monday, if we can chisel it out of the snow.

I felt happier by miles when my last project finished, an especially difficult one for me (harder with the snow days, the moving, the designated work time sucked away to tend to matters of the home and family). I’ll be freer still once taxes are done and we’re fully out of the old place, all of which will happen by Sunday despite doctor appointments and two days with kids home from school.

Basement of suburban dreams

Basement of suburban dreams

My left hip is out right now, literally, meaning my leg is turned out. My foot is turned the wrong way. My stride is off and I cannot support weight on my bent left leg. Running is out right now. I’m broken until I see my chiropractor tomorrow to put my SI joint and the rest of my hip structure back into place. I think, if you care to hear, this is because last week’s race stressed an already-stressed hip flexor or quad, which ended up pulling my SI joint out, causing intense pain, which I tried to fix at home, so now the SI joint is no longer screaming but the hip and leg are totally f*cked up.

Not running kills me in so, so, so many ways. It doesn’t help, here in my low point, that my friends are getting faster than ever, PR’ing in every race, every distance, while I get slower and now can’t run at all. My nonrunning friends are landing great jobs. Another friend, from my MFA program, just got into an exclusive writing group. Everyone is celebrating their awesome, because they are all awesome skilled, fast, honest, excellent-writing people. And I’m, you know, cleaning stables right now. Bitchily.

Despite feeling like “always the bridesmaid, never the bride,” I’m very happy for them. I have some super-powerhouse running friends, and I’m proud of their dedication, natural speed, and how their hard work is paying off.

I wanted to take some time. “Slack tide,” my sometime therapist calls it, and she approves of the idea. Time to settle into our new home and unpack, finish the big tasks on my plate, find a job. Time to not make many demands on myself.

It’s hard to talk about much here, in this space, at this time, because I can only tell my own story but I’m obviously so enmeshed with others. It is, at present, blurry and messy and painful and boring and tedious and stressful, and it will wash out to smoothness soon enough, I hope. I’m trying to hold on, to ebb and flow with it all, to finish this week’s horrible big impossible push, and then next week I will actually be able to start applying for jobs. Full-time jobs. Sorry, children, sorry, husband, but it’s time. We’ll all have to figure out how to shift our schedules and tasks a little bit.

 

 

Oh, Depression. You’re back. Again.

I’ll give it to you straight: I feel like crap.

I’m committing to keeping my blog the way I want it to be (i.e., honest), instead of avoiding the hard stuff. So if you just came over here from Boston.com, welcome and, well, this is what’s going down right now.

I’m crashing again. It’s not just premenstrual stuff. We suspect maybe my antidepressant isn’t working anymore. I’ll see my doctor today, but the past 10 days have been really tough. I don’t want to get out of bed. Nothing is fun or interesting, really. I’m not running much. I ran yesterday morning with my trail running group, which usually puts me right on track (no pun intended), but I still felt somewhere between crappy and numb afterward. Where are my endorphins, dammit?

Granted, the output of social energy has been incredibly high lately; I went to a conference for four days, where I knew two of the 500+ people, plus I was under a lot of work stress and felt like I should be in my room working all the spare time instead of socializing, networking, and going out to dinner.

I got home from that and felt really angry: angry that I had felt, overall, pretty good at the conference and then came home to being the primary caretaker to children who seem to dislike me much of the time, to cooking all the meals and making all the lunches and trying to keep a bunch of new clients happy and what-have-you. My children were reacting to my having been away; my husband and I were not getting along well.

In the midst of this, we decided to change schools for our kindergartner, three weeks into the school year. So there was a lot of running around and paperwork and school visits and such…while trying to get my work done, of course.

That weekend, the weekend after my conference, we went to a friend’s place in Vermont for an annual gathering of camping, Capture the Flag games, bonfires, and so on. It was 75 wonderful people, but I was just about burned out on meeting any new people and trying to recall a single detail about anyone. I just wanted to curl up somewhere.

So yeah, you can factor all of this into things; it certainly explains why, on Monday, when my husband came home from work early (“early” being 6 p.m., the middle of the kids’ dinnertime), I crawled into bed and slept for an hour or so. The kids woke me for bedtime snuggles, and then I went right back to bed.

Ditto for Tuesday.

I know I slip into funks sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t hate it. I want to feel free and happy. I want to know I can wake up motivated and cheerful and be focused and productive.

I don’t know what the answer is. I just know that depression sucks and I thought I was done with it and I’m NOT and that pisses me off. That’s about as much emotion as I can muster right now: anger at my depression.

And anger that my husband and kids have to live with this. I know it sucks for them. I don’t want to start a new antidepressant. I don’t want to be on any medications. I thought that maybe this fall I could be done with them.

Instead, I’m falling while on them.

 

Full-Time Parenting, Nonstop, This Week

So this week I’ve been home nonstop with the kids. Max has had camp, but Ben was home sick for a few days. It’s shocking how much I can’t get done with one or both kids home with me all day, when I give up and realize I can’t actually work. It’s also weird how much I did get done.

Tuesday, for example,

  • I bought a compost bin (which involved going to two different places, city hall and the city DPW yard) and assembled it and got it started.
  • I bought and installed a window air conditioning unit.
  • I ran errands at Target and the pet store (aquarium stuff…we now have four small fish but still no cat. The fish are totally not my thing, but I didn’t mind picking up a tank vacuum and flake food).
  • I researched and ordered a chest freezer.
  • In the evening, I went to a book launch party as well as a freezer meal workshop, hurriedly feeding the kids and finding their PJs, applying dress/makeup/earrings to me, packing coolers so the prepped meat would stay cold while I was at the launch party….where I found myself with crayons and composting instructions in my bag instead of lipstick and the mini iPad. Oops!

This was all, except for the evening stuff, with Ben in tow. I also, of course, made all the meals, packed the snacks, dropped off and picked up Max from camp, did laundry, and tidied the house.

The previous day, Monday,

  • I’d made and did all the meals/snacks/laundry/drop-off/pick-up etc.,
  • drove 35 minutes to a doctor appointment,
  • had Ben announce he had to throw up just as they called me in,
  • left the doctor’s office without seeing the doctor, and drove back home,
  • brought Ben with me to buy an enormous amount of food for Tuesday’s freezer meal workshop,
  • saw Ben throwing up in his car seat when it was 93 degrees out and I had many pounds of cold and frozen meat in the car and was going to be barely on time to pick up Max from camp,
  • saw Ben fall asleep in his car seat and realized I had just enough time to get the meat home and into the freezer/fridge,
  • picked up Max from camp not quite late (waking up Ben to carry him in, in a clean shirt but still smelling like vomit), and so on.

And then cleaning all that up and letting the boys entertain themselves while I prepped the food (sliced, chopped, diced, trimmed, into 10 separate gallon-sized ziploc bags!–and YES, there was plenty of handwashing before I started).

Max was very excited to compost, almost excited as me. I am so thrilled about it and wish we’d gotten one years ago. It’s not pretty, our compost bin, but it’s a place to put all our many, many food scraps. I no longer will save every veggie scrap in bags in the freezer to make into stock. I can let go of the cut-off crusts of bread without thinking I should make them into bread crumbs (we have quite a supply of homemade bread crumbs in our freezer already, and we rarely use bread crumbs, anyway).

Today, Ben woke up normal temperature and hungry, hooray! Which meant I did all the usual stuff and then we picked up Max from camp. (Lego robotics camp, did I mention that? He loves it.)

Then we composted (Max’s idea–I love that my child bugs me about composting, as in, “Mom, can we go put stuff in the compost bin now? Please?“). We mowed the lawn, first Max and then me (don’t worry, it’s a human-powered push mower and not terribly sharp; sometimes it gets stuck on a particularly tough mustard stem; I’m pleased Max is finally strong enough to push it, because it’s not easy). The boys started a digging/raking project in our side garden, and we all worked through a light rainstorm until it was time to head to the preschool graduation potluck.

So it’s been a very busy week, and I got a lot done…a lot of physical/busy stuff done. I was busy, for sure. Nonstop.

But did I answer many emails? Get much work done? Get many (or even more than one) post written? Apply for or seek out new work? Engage much in social media (much of that is for brand/professional reasons, thank you very much, not just “wasting time on Facebook”)? Get things planned?

No, no, no, no, no, and no. I didn’t use my brain much at all this week. I was too busy with the day-to-day. I can see how some people can find some satisfaction in that. Me, I want to work on other things. I did manage to make some dentist appointments and a hair appointment and pay some bills online, plus edit a few things, so I’m proud of those accomplishments. Yes, I am proud I managed to schedule two dentist appointments. That’s the kind of awesome I’m living these days.

Plus, my PMDD (premenstrual dysphorric disorder) is a’ raging this week, Code Red, bombs away, etc., so some sitter time would have been very nice for all of us. But next week! And the week after! We’ll have lots of sitter time then, and it will be awesome.

Thanks for bearing with me during this quiet week (quiet for you, my readers; not quiet at all for me!). I have no photos of this week, though I did consider taking some pictures of the compost bin assembly (you know you’re a blogger when…).

So, instead, here are some photos of what we did last Saturday. The furniture in my kids’ room is hand-me-down. A neighbor gave us the dresser, and by chance we elsewhere got a nightstand that exactly matched. Both ugly as heck, cream-and-gold, psuedo-Georgian or something.

dresser

Ugly, right? Functional, sturdy, and neutral, but UGLY.

So Max and I went to the hardware store and picked out some paint. Though I admit lightly guiding his choices (I couldn’t bear “Light Mint”), he was the one to choose Yosemite Blue and Grassy Fields Green. We brought the nightstand outside to the yard, sanded it and cleaned it and then painted it. While I’m kind of a perfectionist, I had to let it go a little (though I instructed him to paint with the grain, and I caught some of his drips). He did a great job, and I did the detail work, and it dried quickly in the warm breeze.

By the time the boys went to bed that night, they had this cheerful thing between their beds:

nightstand2

Much better, right?

Painting furniture is so much faster and easier than staining it! We’re going to do the dresser next. The colors are strong, but we like them.

 

The Return of Beastly Mommy

I don’t feel like running. I feel all yelly and grouchy and impatient.

Granted, I haven’t run in several days; I was sick over the weekend, still recovering yesterday, and today couldn’t get my Garmin to locate the satellites. No, the satellites aren’t the only reason I couldn’t run today. I was grouchy and out of sorts and pressed for time. I’d let the boys bike to daycare and school, and I was going to run five miles after that, but my watch just wasn’t loading.

[scribbly black cloud over my head, standing outside the preschool, waiting for the damn satellites to load]

Why not just run anyway, you ask? I don’t know. I didn’t feel like it. My marathon training is a wreck, thanks to trying to work out three very different training plans (just pick one, for heaven’s sake!), and I wanted to know how far I was going to run today.

Aha! Finally it worked, and I ran and felt happy for about two miles. Then I thought about all I had to do in the one hour of child-free time I have today, and I ran home all grouchy and sad again.

I kow some people joke about wanting to get divorced just to get some time without the kids. I get it. I don’t really mean it, but I would love to have some days off. I’m sick of my time not being my own these days.

This morning, as usual:

5:20 a.m.  [patter patter patter] “Mommeeeeeeeee!
 “I’m right here, Ben, in bed.” [where I am EVERY morning at this time or earlier when you come pattering in demanding to nurse.]
“Wanna nurse booby!”
“I know, Ben. Come on up.” I pull him on the bed and allow him just a minute or two on each side. After the second side, he tries to return to the first side. “No! Wanna nurse that booby!”
“No, Ben, you already had that side. All done now.”
 “No! Switch sides!”
“No, Ben. All done. Do you want to go back to your own bed? Or do you want me to rub your back?”
“No my own bed. No rub back. Snuggle.”
Snuggle? Really? This kid is not a snuggler. I accepted immediately. He wrapped an arm over me, tucked his head into my neck, and fell fast asleep.

That certainly makes up for a lot. Plus, his protests didn’t wake up Max, who does not go back to sleep so easily. Plus, he’d appeared in my bed at 5:20 instead of 2:20, which is a nice treat. Snuggling it is!

Then it was 5:52 and I thought, “Well, I might as well get up and try to get some work done before everyone else is up!” Ten minutes later, I was at my computer, coffee by my side and hands on keyboard and….Max climbing onto my lap.

 And then for some reason he went to wake up Ben.

I got them both involved in a painting project, which they wanted and needed my help with. Productive kid activity 1, personal morning time 0.

Painting birdhouses

But then they fought over paints and paintbrushes, and Max didn’t want Ben using the pink paint, and I got yelly. It was time to get dressed and make lunch and eat breakfast and clean up and all of that and “I said get dressed! And Ben stop putting paint on the cat!”

Instantly grouchy.

I hate our mornings. Everything takes too long and no one is good at getting out of the house fast and I get annoyed. C helps a lot, but I think ahead to how I have to do this again at dinnertime, but on my own when we’re all tired, and I get all pissed off. And Max was not listening, and I got annoyed, and he hit me with the bathroom door, and I pushed back to prevent my leg from being pinned, and he got hurt and cried.

So that was my morning. Thanks for asking.

How is your day going?

Rude Awakening (Broken Record)

I know it’s partly due to the rude (RUDE) awakening of returning, for the first time in four years, from a place where I was fully immersed among like-minded others, talking and learning about things that interest me. No mention of kids, husbands, potty-training, the hell of dinnertime, the hell of bedtime, the hell of getting out the door in the morning–

–stop me if you’ve heard this before–

and returning to daily life here with two small children in an admittedly hot apartment during a heat wave (and no, more air conditioning wouldn’t really help). School’s fully out for the summer. Max had a harder time with my absence than his little brother did, leaving us with two full days of testing-testing-testing and some of the most defiant behavior I’ve seen from him yet.

Or, really, from any child.

Add to that Ben’s refusal to go to bed (he was up until 10 on Monday, and now it’s nearly 9 and he’s leaning companionably against my arm as I type this), and the completely nonstop neediness of these small people, plus perhaps some hormonal stuff (my general bitchy condition) and I am desperately unhappy.

I know, right? It’s hard to be grumpy when the whole household settles down and it’s just me and this cutie.

I’m, once again, too tense to eat. [Aside: I heard someone say this at dinner Saturday night, that that was her first real meal of the conference, because she’d been too anxious and tense to eat. I thought, Are you kidding? I can finally relax and eat and enjoy it! It’s when I’m home, on my own with the kids, that it’s a problem.] I’m really tense being around them all day. They do play by themselves/with each other, to some degree, but every 8 minutes Ben is screaming and crying and Max is yelling. It is really hard to think with that going on. I cannot even fold the goddamn laundry.

I did have today with just Max, as Ben was at daycare, and it was like a vacation. I took him to see a play this morning (which he loved) and then he wanted to come home instead of going to Ikea. We came home for lunch and I took a nap (a NAP! During the day!!!) while he ate sorbet, then he cuddled with me, and eventually we rallied (thanks to 3 cups of coffee for me!) and went to Ikea for some stuff and then to get him the soccer cleats he’s been wanting for months.

Then we picked up Ben and it was dinnertime and everyone was crying and yelling and I was trying to boil water.

And I thought, I am wasting my life. This is not what I’m supposed to be doing.

It came to me clear as day.

Unfortunately, every time I think, That’s it! I’m getting a full-time job! I think of Max’s misery about having a sitter pick him up from school, Ben’s refusal to go to daycare, the way they are extra-needy when we’ve been apart from each other, and I wonder how we’d all adapt if I returned to the workforce full-time.

It’s unfair, is what it is. I return to work full time, I still have all the stress of making dinner every night, plus needier children who’ve missed me. I return to work part time, I have all of the above plus more stress, since I’ll have to do it all since I’m only part time. I stay home full time and lose my mind, scream at my children all the time, start drinking wine as soon as I serve them dinner….

I don’t know what the answer is except I am about to quit this job.

Don’t Stop Believin’; Or, Give Up and The Path Will Show Itself

I’ve been struggling with my lack of job. Or unemployment. Or “between projects-ness.” Or no work in sight.

Paralyzed by it at times, in fact. I have barely been able to write at all. I’ve sent a pitch or two but was unable to follow up with the proposed essay. I’d have a flurry of activity, emailing old contacts and applying to unknowns for jobs I saw posted here or there, but there was no response. None. I was starting to feel like I lived behind a one-way mirror, able to see the world around me but unseen by anyone else.

Some people, like my friend Samantha, become incredibly productive and resourceful at such times (times of unemployment, that is), emailing and networking like mad, job-hunting creatively and productively, brushing up on old skills, learning new ones, assessing her skills and interests to consider other ways to make some money (teaching spinning classes, becoming a personal chef, pet care–she’s really an inspiration, not to mention a model job-search candidate, in terms of her motivation and creativity).

But I’m not like that. I fall into a crater of inertia. People at the playground ask me how my job search is going. I mumble something about how I have minimal childcare right now and no time to job hunt (mostly true, actually), or how there’s nothing out there (mostly true) or how I’m not finding anything (true, true, true).

All I can see before me is housewifing and child-raising and nothing more. I will die and fossilize like this, wiping down the kitchen counter. When asked what I do, it gets harder to say “I’m an editor! I’m a writer!” For how long can you cling to what you did, when you no longer do it? (I know, I know; technically I have only been out of work since the end of July, and I deliberately took August off due to lack of sitters, so really we’re talking about two months out of work. See what I mean about inertia? What happens today feels like forever. This is the way it will always be. I’m doomed blah blah blah…

I was, this very week, working on getting hired by a content website (wiseGeek, if you must know), because the other one I relied on for available work and fairly easy money (Demand Studios, if you must know, also known to many as the company behind eHow and LiveStrong). Demand is going through a massive restructuring right now, meaning there’s no work available, so I decided to apply to wiseGeek, even though the articles to write are more boring and the pay is kind of crappy. For Demand, I could usually find things I was interested in researching and writing about, and the pay wasn’t insulting.

Anyway. I had four days to get my test articles to wiseGeek, 400-word pieces on such topics as “What is a Low-Fat Pumpkin Muffin?” (I am not making this up–how does it take 400 words to explain this? and who doesn’t know what a low-fat pumpkin muffin is??) and “What is Bacterial Amylase?” (an interesting topic and one I’d actually enjoy writing)…for $10 each. I couldn’t bear it. I put it off as long as possible. I nailed myself to a chair in front of my computer, eschewed our nightly ritual of tea and cookies and 30 Rock, wasted precious child-free morning hours avoiding the work. I had a sitter scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, but she canceled just as I was about to tell her not to bother coming. I took Max and Ben for some adventure instead.

Thursday was the deadline. I’d spent Wednesday fighting with myself and the computer, loathing the task at hand but thinking I had no other options. I arranged for Ben to go to daycare Thursday morning, so I’d have a few hours to knock out the articles.

Thursday morning I got up early. I went for a trail run. I got the kids off to daycare and school and planted myself at Starbucks. Did I write the report on bacterial amylase and low-fat pumpkin muffins and “pick up stitches” [sic]? No, I did not. I wrote a blog post. I contacted all sorts of people I’d been supposed to contact forever but hadn’t. I went to yoga. I felt relaxed and happy and incredibly productive for the first time in a long time, because I’d let go of the wiseGeek thing. I’d stopped trying to force myself to do something I’d hate. I know it’s a great job for a lot of people, but it wasn’t right for me, and I had to stop fighting it. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, I wouldn’t enjoy it, the pay wasn’t quite worth it (do you know what sitters cost around here? Let’s just say $17/hr is not uncommon), and it would make me stressed out and unhappy, committing to them.

I let go, with no other prospects in front of me. And this morning my former employer, one of my favorite freelance clients, emailed with a writing project. It’s not sexy stuff. It’s educational publishing. But it’s not writing 400-word articles on “How Do I Choose the Best Basin Trap?” or “What Are the Different Types of Marimba Solos?” for $10 each. And it’s for someone I really like working for, in a field I’m comfortable in.

If I were really graceful, and if you wanted to read more, I’d tell you how this all ties in with the structural bodywork I’ve had done recently, myofascial release so intense that it makes natural childbirth seem comfortable in comparison, that I wish we had a safeword, that the guy’s comparison to psychotherapy was kind of right on (a few sessions in, you want to quit because that’s when you’re getting to the deep stuff and it gets really uncomfortable). But maybe that’s another post.

“Knock It Off!”

One who listened to Max this morning and yesterday would think he’s being raised by some horrible person.

“Knock it off,” he tells me. “Stop it!” And today’s priceless moment, as we were heading out for a walk and (I thought) getting along swimmingly: “I’m really upset!”
“You’re upset?” I asked him, as he was walking down the stairs.
“Yeah,” he said, breaking out into a big grin. “Pahhh!”
[“Pahhhh!” is the sound he makes when he thrusts out his arm in a gesture reminiscent of a person casting a fishing line, or tossing a ball for a dog, or–perhaps–striking someone with a stick, or–again, perhaps–urgently beknighting someone. I have no idea where he learned this gesture (daycare? playground? something inherent to small boys?), but it’s a “kidding around” sort of thing that he does for fun.]
He wasn’t upset. And there was nothing for me to “knock off” doing or stop. What he’s doing, though, is echoing me…me at my worst, when
  • the baby is crying and
  • his diaper is dirty and
  • Max is whining nonstop and spilling his milk on the floor and
  • the kitchen is stacked with dirty dishes,
  • there is no clean laundry,
  • the bread has gone moldy,
  • there’s an essay I’m dying to write,
  • my husband will not be home for 9 hours,
  • I’m trying to get us out of the house,
  • it’s not even LUNCHTIME yet,
  • and Max–still whining–is climbing up the side of the changing table and throwing clothes on the baby’s face as I’m changing the baby’s diaper.
So, it possible–quite possible–pretty darn likely, in fact–that I might, just might, after trying my absolute most patient maternal best to use positive reinforcement, deep breathing, gentle encouragement, distraction, and redirection, simply give up and snap, “Knock it off!” to my toddler.
Go ahead and judge me.
OK. Now let’s move on.
So yesterday Max wanted a post-nap snack of granola. I make granola; he loves it. I’m happy about this. I gave him a bowl, with milk. He ate half of it and then when I left the room for a minute dumped the rest onto the table and smeared it around.
I wasn’t happy to see this. I insisted he help clean it up. He wiped it around and then onto the floor. Then he stepped in it. I asked him to move out of the way; I also moved his chair. He kept pushing his chair back into the mess, tracking more granola around. I got fed up and picked up Max and moved him across the room and told him to stay there until I cleaned up the mess.
He walked right back into it. I was furious and told him I was very upset.
Somehow we muddled past this incident with no yelling and not too many tears and several hugs and some cuddle time on my lap.
Later, at dinnertime, after I’d cleaned up the granola mess, suggested activities for Max, cared for and nursed the baby a lot, played with Max, and made dinner, I put our dinner on the table and–yep–had to leave the room for a minute (what I wouldn’t give for an eat-in kitchen, or at least a view between dining room and kitchen). I returned to find him studiously crumbling his cornbread all over the table and floor.
“I’m making a mess,” he announced.
I stayed calm. “I see that. Why are you doing that?” I asked.
“Because it upsets you,” he said, keeping his eyes on the crumbs.
I was stunned.
“Why do you want to upset me?” I asked. He didn’t answer.
I’m not sure what to do here. I’ve been trying to give him my attention as much as possible; I also have this stupid “housewife” part of my current job description and have to tend stuff like laundry,* kitchen, cooking, and dishes–not to mention a two-month-old baby–during the day. Plus I sometimes check email and make a quick phone call to make an appointment for baby vaccinations or my knee doctor or something. But I’m otherwise engaged and present and trying to come up with fun activities and outings for Max.
So what am I doing wrong? What more can I be doing for and with him? Is this just some reaction-to-new-baby behavior, or is it typical two-year-old behavior, or am I a horrible mommy who is ruining a perfectly sweet boy?
What I could do is get a full-time job so that our housework responsibilities are more evenly divided, the kids and I get a break from each other, I get to do something tangible and creative with my intellect and energy, and we all end up happy. Right? Except for the initial months of stress I’m sure would ensue from such a change, plus a possible bad case of “the grass is greener.”
* Our washer and dryer are down in our moldy basement. We live on the second floor. To do laundry, I must make sure both children are safe before heading down, or else take one with me and hold him while I do laundry. Max hates to be left upstairs (or be carried to/from the basement), but by the time I put his shoes on, let him walk down the stairs, keep him from getting into anything grody in the basement, and let him walk up the stairs again, the baby is wailing. Doing laundry during the day is Nigh Impossible most of the time, but there is only so much laundry one can do when one starts at 8 p.m. and hopes to be in bed by 10 or 11.

The Knee

I know that in terms of suffering in the world, there are things far, far worse than this, but there’s a special kind of pain that can only be caused by watching one’s running partner heading out for a 17-miler while I can’t even join her for the 5 miles I’d intended, because my knee is so messed up that I can’t run two blocks without debilitating pain. I limp home and get the car to go meet her and let her know I’m bailing.

And only after she trots off do I let a couple of tears fall.
Just a couple. Because I can look on the bright side. For example:
  • Maybe I can bike later.
  • I don’t really like my new running shoes, anyway.
  • I can work out extra-hard this week and get my upper arms in better shape.
  • I won’t be exposing myself to all that nasty sunshine.
  • If I focus on swimming and biking now, I’ll be really ready to kick ass in a few postpartum triathlons this summer.
  • I’ve been dying to meet an orthopedist.
  • Um…and it’s Sunday morning and my husband is cooking breakfast and Max is in my arms, nursing, and later we’ll take a family bike ride and go to new parks and to the pool, and in the grand scheme of things, all is fine.
Even if *sniff* I can’t run right now, or for a while.