Wednesday, August 20, 2014

This is What Kicking Pants Looks Like

You know how a couple of years ago, everybody picked a theme for their year? Like "This is the Year of Joy!" or "This is the Year of Pretzels!" And you know how I said that my birthday/the beginning of the school year is my New Year's? Yeah? (If not, can you just pretend that you know what I'm talking about? That would be great. Thanks.)

Well, this is my Year of Fear (lessness). I realized it when I was looking over my 36 Things. This year I have a lot going on that's primarily about taking back my dark night of the soul. And someone asked me the other day, why I've chosen to go from as little physical activity to weight training of all things.

My answer was that it was a metaphor. I've been strong, really strong for the past few years. I've survived a whole lot and thrived through most of it. I'm standing taller now than I have for years and years. In short, I am a pretty kickass lady. Except that it's all metaphorical. I'm metaphorically strong and physically pitiful. I'm going to change that. (If it kills me, which, you know, right after a day at the gym, it kinda feels like it might.)

So, let me tell you about why I've never given blood:

It's freakin' scary.

No, really. I once passed out when I was having blood taken for testing. My arm felt like it was on fire and the fire spread to my head and I thought I was going to throw up, but luckily(?) I passed out instead. When I woke up, I had a very annoyed phlebotomist, a cold compress and the world's tiniest apple juice cup.

I don't like needles. I don't like the way it looks when they pierce your skin. I don't like the way the skin depresses and then seems to suck itself up around the needle.

I don't like tourniquets. They make my hand hurt. Yes, my hand. For a long time.

I don't like the smell of rubbing alcohol.

And I mean, really, that's just for a couple of little vials with some kind of sludge in their bottoms. I couldn't even imagine the horror of someone sucking out an entire bag of blood. Plus, I've watched enough vampire movies and shows about nice guy vampires to not be able to picture those things in any context other than being ripped open by someone's teeth.

So, today, facing my fear like a big girl, I walked into a bloodmobile. (I can't believe my spell check knows what that is, but has a problem with kickass.) Anyway, I walked in and sat down and started answering questions. My hands were shaking so badly that I dropped everything they gave me. Literally. My thermometer hit the floor.

By the time we got to the mini-physical, my legs were shaking too. When it looked for a moment like my surgery in April might disqualify me, I nearly burst into tears. I was afraid that it I walked out, that would be it and I'd never get up the nerve to give again. I was relieved that I might leave without a hole in my arm. Mostly, I was just too scared to answer questions.

It all turned out fine, though and I went to lay on the couch-y thing. The worst part was the waiting. Next time, I'm taking a book. Is that rude?
Look at that bandage. It's a blue badge of courage.

I got a brownie out of it, though. And a tee shirt. And, of course, the knowledge that someone, somewhere might need that blood and I might just keep them from bleeding out. (Or starving to death, I'm not discounting vampires.) Mostly, though, I got the knowledge that I could take this terrifying thing and stare it in the eye and with a wavery voice and shaking knees, and say, "Come at me."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Conversations with the Voices in my Head

You know, Robin Williams...

Everyone seems to be having some sort of opinion on this. From those who want to criticize because suicide is "selfish," to those who are jumping to defend by lumping all mental illness together.

This is just another example of how we, as a culture, all hurry up to halfway act when something strikes our fancy and as soon as the roar dies down, we'll all forget this was ever a thing.

But it is, right now. It is a thing. So I've got some things to say about it:

  • I didn't get it when Michael Jackson died or Whitney Houston. I just wasn't that attached. I haven't really fallen apart over Robin Williams, but I get it, now. He wasn't just a celebrity, he was a personality and one that I kinda thought I sorta knew. I kept thinking about the guest spot he did on Louie and how I thought that was a better explanation of comedy than anything else, ever. Lonely and off kilter.
  • Suicide isn't selfish. I mean, yeah, if you're the one left behind, it is. But if that's the case, having cancer is selfish. Being in a car wreck is selfish. Suicide is just another way that our loved ones leave us. It's the end result of a fatal disease. Period.
  • On that note, though, not everyone with depression is suicidal. I'm not. I haven't ever been. I have this over-developed guilt complex that means that no matter how bad it gets, I'll think it's my job to suffer so that no one else has to. That's just how my neuroses stack up. But please, don't just assume everyone fighting depression is fighting to the death. There are degrees. 
  • But don't assume that someone isn't, either. Just, you know what, how about we stop assuming anything about another person's thoughts, feelings and mental state. Would that be okay? 
  • Don't tell people to get better. You don't tell someone with any other chronic illness that positive thinking and cute cat pics will solve their problems. (I do note that some people do this and if you are an equal opportunity asshat, go right ahead.) There is no way for your brain to cure the chemical imbalance in your brain without help. There just isn't.
  • If you've never thought the world would be better off without you, I want you right now to stop and realize how lucky you are. If you pray, say thank you. Because you just don't know. Don't think that you can imagine it. Don't think that there's anything else comparable. 
  • Go hug everyone you love. Tell them that you love them and you can't imagine the world without them. Tell them you need them and that they are important to you. And then listen. Let them talk. They might say something that scares you. Don't blow it off. 
So, that's it, my thoughts on Robin Williams. Now, go watch Dead Poet's Society, or The Birdcage. Just avoid Patch Adams. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

First Days

Well, it's here. We are now on Day 2 of Year 5 of 5:45 a.m. 5 years, 179 days to go.

In the meantime, in addition to this being a New Year's of sorts for me, the beginning of the school year is also my time to take stock and be floored by how freaking grown-up my kids are.

This is Brynna:

This kid... I just cannot with this kid. She is so smart, so beautiful, so funny, so creative and so freakin' stubborn. She wants to be exactly who she is and she won't take no for an answer. She was actually upset the other day because so many people have told her how creative she is this summer. And, although she sees herself as an artist and a writer, she doesn't want people to see her as only creative. She wants the world to know everything she has to offer. 

When she started first grade, we got a lot of pushback. A lot of people (family, friends and teachers united) told us that she was too young and we should keep her back a year. She was five when she walked, full of trepidation into that first grade classroom, after all and everyone seemed to agree that she would struggle. Last year, when she walked out of fourth grade, holding a certificate for high class average in nearly every subject, there was a part of me that wanted to take them personally to everyone who had ever doubted her. 

And this year, in her perfectly coordinated outfit, model-worthy haircut and first ever LL Bean backpack, she walked into fifth grade like she owned the place. And, she does. Queen of the school, I keep telling her. She's earned it.

This is Maren:

She started a day earlier than Brynna, because, like Brynna, she's the queen of the school this year, too. She is the only returning student from last year's extended day class, so she's almost an assistant for these first few days, getting everyone acclimated and teaching the younger students how Montessori works and where the rugs go and how to walk with your hands behind your back.

This is a role she was born for. Even though she's been shy going to school, nervous about getting back into the classroom and meeting the new kids, she's a natural nurturer. There is not a day that goes by that Maren doesn't find someone or something to try to take care of. She is compassionate and sweet; a peacemaker with a warrior spirit. (And sometimes warrior hands, I mean, she can really go at her sister when she wants to.)

This is officially her Kindergarten year and she is already reading really well, doing addition and subtraction and generally looking way smarter than her precious five years. (This time around, the school system dictated starting first grade at six.)

She is, in short, the sweetest kind of trouble I can imagine. And I know I am in for all kinds of trouble with her.

These are my girls, laughing at silly momma and her silly camera:

Someday I'll send them to middle school, to high school, even to college. Someday I'll cry when they walk down an aisle. On days like this, packing them up and sending them out into the world, someday doesn't seem so very far away. But I can hold on pretty tight and I will always be holding onto these girls. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Handful of Other Things I Did While I Was 35

So, yesterday, as I was working on my 36 Things post, finalizing the (ahem) accomplishments on the 35 Things post and generally feeling like a failure at life, I realized something important.

Most of the really good stuff I did, I never even considered doing. I couldn't have put it on a list, because I didn't have any clue that I was going to do it.

And you know, I'm not a failure because I taught myself how to knit, messed up my wrist and well, kinda never went back to it. I'm not a failure because my front yard looks only marginally better than the abandoned house across the street. I'm not a failure because my kitchen cabinets are still mismatched.

I am a success because I made it. I survived another turn of the ball and I learned and grew and changed and smiled and cried and fought and gave in.

So, here, in no particular order or organization whatsoever, are some other things I did in the last year:

  • I had surgeries - They weren't pleasant to live through, all though they really weren't that bad either. But in the end, I feel better, like a million times better than I have in years. I dealt with something that was negatively impacting my life. I made it go away. I won.
  • I dyed my hair pink - I've wanted crayola hair since I was in high school and the cute blonde girls dyed their hair at summer camp with Kool-Ade and I tried to too, but my hair was too dark and then it rained and I had grape flavored rain running down my face. I made a decision to do something I wanted and not worry about going to the office with pink hair or what the old ladies at church would say or whether or not I could afford to keep it touched up. And it looks fabulous.
  • I asked for help - This isn't always easy for me, but I was laid up pretty helpless with my second surgery and I asked for help with the grocery shopping, with my house and with my kids. I bit back my pride and no one died. (I think I'll embroider that on a pillow.)
  • I dated - I met someone, we went out and talked late at night. We had fun. He didn't treat me badly or manipulate me. It didn't work out and we parted with no hurt feelings. It was completely normal and completely outside my experience.
  • I took a writing class - I wrote a lot and remembered why I love it and why I need to do it more. I started a new book, and I kinda think I can finish this one.
  • I kept my job - Which may not sound like much, but it was a rough year for that around here.
So, yeah, it wasn't the perfect year, but it was a good year. A year that I can wrap up in a ball and call a pretty accomplished year. A year to look back at and smile. I hope all the years were as good as the last one, really. (Without all the surgery, because whew, the medical bills...)

Monday, August 4, 2014

36 Things to do While I'm 36

Another trip around the Earth has been completed. I am officially 36 years old. That means that I am closer to 40 than 30, now. Which seems unrealistic. I mean, how can someone who thinks she's still 17 be pushing 40? But whatever, age is just a number. I've spent the last year trying to prove that, and I think I've made a valiant effort. (Even if I pretty much failed completely at last year's list.)

Speaking of last year's list, go ahead and click to the right to see my progress with 33 Things, 34 Things and 35 Things. You can also check back here periodically, as I will update with my accomplishments or snarky comments.

36 Things to Do While I'm 36

  1. Take way more pictures of the kids
  2. Be in more pictures with my girls
  3. Take the girls somewhere they've never been
  4. Play with the kids
  5. Get outside with the girls
  6. Don't blow off bedtime stories
  7. Get new family pictures 
  8. Volunteer with the kids - 9/13/2012
Take Care of Yo-self
  1. See 6 non-kid movies in the theater 
  2. Rebuild my emergency fund (take 3)
  3. Track what I read 
  4. Read at least 50 books - 4 down, 46 to go
  5. Do something fun for me every month - August - drive in
  6. Walk 200 miles - 36 so far
  7. Deadlift my bodyweight - 31.25% bodyweight so far
  8. Spend more time doing things that I love
  9. Spend more time with people I love
  10. Quit the groups I don't love and find new places to belong - halfway home
  11. Go somewhere by myself
  12. Say yes instead of no 10 times - 2 down, 9 to go
  13. Say no instead of yes 10 times - 1 down, 9 to go
My Home, My Hobby
  1. Make the front of my house look like someone lives there (take 3)
  2. Finish my kitchen - painting my cabinets
  3. Clean the basement
  4. Make my bedroom into my happy place (take 2)
  5. Get housecleaning under control - for all of us
  6. Do something super cool and Pinterest worthy
  7. Throw a party
  8. Cute up the deck
Actual to Goodness Buckety Listy Type of Things
  1. Finish a book (take 3)
  2. Knit a scarf to prove I can (take 4)
  3. Sew something for me, for Maren and for Brynna
  4. Tell people I appreciate how much I appreciate them
  5. Donate blood - Done! 8/20/2014
  6. Watch a meteor shower - I watched about ten minutes of the Perseid meteor shower, but I had to get up the next morning, yadda-yadda. I really need one on a weekend.
  7. Make a completely irresponsible decision