Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Midlife, Midterm

I just realized that I think I'm having a midlife crisis. That's what all this is. The tears, the fears, the anxiety, the regrets, the sadness, the longing. How long is it supposed to last, anyway?

On another note, I just finished writing an eight-page essay comparing and contrasting the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States for my Political Science class. I really don't like that class at all, but I have to say, I am very grateful for the knowledge I am gaining. "Becoming a more informed citizen" has long been on my list of things to do before I die. So, besides fulfilling a requirement toward my Associate's degree and RN prerequisites, I'm really killing a second proverbial bird. And with a really important election coming up in California (elsewhere too, I know), this is excellent timing. I actually feel ready to vote.

This Friday is also my Microbiology midterm exam. Dare I jinx everything to say that this is my favorite class of all the classes I've taken so far? And here, I've dreaded the word "microbiology" for at least twenty years. Literally. Just goes to show. It doesn't mean that this class isn't kicking my rear-end, because it is hard. Really hard. But so dang interesting. You know my recombinant E. coli cells from last week? We had 86 glowing colonies! Can you believe it? That was an exceptional result, and so very cool to see, I have to tell you. Tomorrow's exam covers everything from microbial metabolism to DNA analysis. I find it all fascinating, and I'm praying I can remember enough to get an A.

Now, back to my first question. Seriously, how long does a midlife crisis last? I don't want to do anything stupid.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dancing in the Rain

So far in my life, I have never tired of the rain. I have never felt like, "Ugh. Please stop raining!" Now, granted, right now I live in southern California, but I haven't always lived here. Rain is the perfect weather for someone introspective, emotional, and homebody-ish as I am. Even the threat of rain--gray clouds, humidity, that rain smell--cheers me up. The hope of rain gives me something to look forward to. Even better? Thunder and lightning, like the storms of my youth, with the trees slapping against the windows and the wind howling in the blackness. One of my favorite things to fall asleep to.

It's been raining for the last several days. My yard is getting watered and I don't have to pay for it. The air conditioning is finally turned off and the windows are opened. Right now as I type, I look out the window of the early morning and the world has two colors: gray and green. Perfect. Let it fall.

Yesterday as I was teaching piano lessons, the intensity of the rain increased ten-fold. Suddenly, there was a torrential downpour, and it had to be celebrated. My student and I ran on to the front porch. Conor wanted to play in it, and fearing we didn't have enough time to get a bathing suit on, (this is southern California, after all. Downpours are short-lived.) I quickly stripped him of his clothes and sent him out into the rain in just his underwear. He danced and laughed, and I watched his joyful body, completely connected with the joy he is filled with in his soul, and I envied him. The feel of the rain pounding down on his little body, drenching his skin, his hair, not a worry in the world. It was pure delight. Aiden joined him, in a bathing suit, and we all just took in the happiness of free-falling water from heaven. When the downpour stopped, and the boys were sufficiently chilled, they came in to dry off, and my student and I returned to the piano. I even think he played better having watched the rain.

Today it is raining again. Probably the last day for a while, according to the 10-day forecast. We will soak it in.

Monday, October 18, 2010

In Which I Try to Be Sick and Take it Easy

On Friday morning, I felt it coming. Sickness. I've been hearing other people complain of sickness a lot lately, but I was feeling quite smug about the fact that I have not been sick at all since February. But I definitely felt it coming, which wasn't so much fun because Friday is my school day. I leave for classes at 7:30am and don't get home till almost 6pm. That's a long time of sitting in a chair, listening, trying to learn, and trying not to focus on how good jammies and bedtime sound.

In Microbiology, we got to do some pretty interesting experiments, which diverted my attention from the muddy feeling in my head. There is a species of jellyfish that can bioluminesce, or in other words, glow in the dark. Biologists have isolated the gene that allows them to do this, and we got to first, put it into a plasmid, which is sort of a container for genetic material, and then introduce it to E. coli bacteria. (Hi, nice to meet you!) If all goes well, the E. coli will take up our plasmids, spliced with this bioluminescent gene, and will glow in the dark. Stay tuned. I thought about how fun it would be to have glow-in-the-dark children. The professor said that one of the first intended uses for this gene was to put it into Christmas trees so they wouldn't need lighting--they'd just glow on their own! Very cool. It's also been put into an albino rabbit. I was thinking it would be cool to make a whole farm of bioluminescent animals, so they look normal in the daytime, but once the sun goes down, you turn on some black lights, and WOW! Glowing cows, sheepies, chickens, horses. The kids would love it!

Anyway, I came home and hit the sack early-ish, after taking a pile of magic get-well pills.

I got up early Saturday morning to take Lyndsay to run her first 10K, a charity run for Autism awareness. I was so proud of her. I tried not to, but I still cried as she took off across the Start line. I figured she'd need about an hour and twenty minutes. She runs 7 miles in about an hour and ten, but this was on a trail, much of it sand, much of it uphill, and some of it through 6 inches of water. At an hour, I approached the finish line to catch her coming up the path. I wanted to snap pictures and then run with her as she finished. I waited and watched as carefully as I could, for several minutes. At one point, I turned around to see the crowd, and there came Lyndsay, walking towards me, with her medal already around her neck!

What? I missed it! How did that happen? I have no idea, but I felt utterly awful about it. She finished in about 54 minutes, and we both missed each other. I made her do it again, without the medal, so at least the pictures would look authentic. Those are the moments when you feel like a complete loser of a mother.

When I'd woken up that morning, my thumb was swollen to the point of bursting. The pressure was so great that was actually what woke me up that morning, before I went down to cook Lyns some oatmeal before the race. It was weird. I remembered having a hangnail that Friday in school that I'd bitten down too far. Hmmm. I followed very strict aseptic techniques in the lab, but my mind started going over all the microbes we dealt with that day. I started having fears that Staph had gotten into my cut and was having a hey-day in my thumb. I pictured the spreading infection throughout my hand, and an eventual amputation of my thumb to save my life. (See how tired I am?) Then the drama of the piano teacher with no thumb, and how I had to find a special teacher who could teach me to play with 4 fingers and a popsicle stick attached where my thumb used to be, and then the Dateline episode where having overcome great obstacles, I perform to the inspiration of millions.

Well, you can forget all of that, because just as mysteriously as the swelling came on, it disappeared, so I think I'm in the clear. What a relief, right?

I really wanted to keep being sick, but apparently everyone was "starving". So, I made a batch of guacamole and hooked up all the TV addicts with chips and dip. I baked the rotting bananas into banana bread, and then some Black Bean soup for dinner.

I went to bed early-ish again, and got up for Church, not feeling all the way better, but not worse. Just kinda stuffy and sleepy. I felt like I had to go, because I knew I was getting released from my calling in the YW presidency after 3 1/2 years, and I wanted to be with those girls one last time. I did not expect to cry the entire day, but these days everything makes me cry, so I should have. No new calling yet. Stay tuned.

I tried again to take it easy Sunday afternoon, but everyone was near death again with hunger, so I made a roast and potatoes and carrots. Played one game after another for children requesting me to play with them. And at 3:30pm I swear it felt like 9pm. I went to bed at 7:30pm, and got up early for Seminary this morning.

Greeted by rain. Perfect. I love a rainy day! I haven't so much gotten to rest yet, but I did sit in my bed while I listened to and took notes on two different Micro lectures. And Aiden is home sick with me, keeping Conor company, so it's not all bad. Maybe by the time I actually get to rest and recover fully, I'll be better anyway. Isn't that just the way it works for a mom?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

This Kid

This is Aiden. He's almost 11.

I love my Aiden. He was just a baby, really, when his Dad left, and so he was a source of great comfort to me. He was the reason I got out of bed on many, many days. After all, he had to be fed and changed and loved on. He slept in my bed many times and was my little companion. We moved to Utah when he was 4, and when the other kids went to school, he tagged along with me on dates and Mary Kay appointments.

Aiden's at a great age right now. I say that because I have an older boy and I know very well what's coming to me, so I thought I would pause and reflect on how sweet and good and kind he is and enjoy it while it lasts. (May it last forever? Pretty please?)

Here is Aiden on his first day of school this year, 5th grade. He goes to a special magnet school for gifted/high ability students. Aiden is incredibly bright. He was tested at the top 2% of the nation's gifted children. But he's also very humble, very quiet, and introspective. He's got a lot going on in his head, but he doesn't let much out. I like that about him, and I love it when he gives me a peek inside. He wants to be an astrophysicist one day and work for Nasa or JPL.

Aiden loves to read. He reads every night before bed, and every morning after his shower and before breakfast while the big kids are at Seminary. You'll notice that the cat is very fond of Aiden. Aiden is the cat's favorite, and wherever Aiden is, that's where he wants to be too. Even if it makes reading or turning pages difficult. Aiden doesn't mind. He loves that cat just as much.

Aiden is a very athletic boy. He loves to always be involved in sports and he takes pride in being the 2nd fastest runner in his school. He loves baseball, and right now he is playing flag football. I go to all of his games and I think the coach yells at them too much, but he says it's "fun". Gender differences, I guess.

See that stride? He's in the back, sprinting like a cheetah. #21. Such a cutie.

Look at him charge right though!

Aiden is also a reluctant musician. He played the cello for two years, but then he got sick of carrying it to and from school, so he quit. He takes piano lessons, and most days he regrets ever asking for them, but he just has so much talent I can't let him give them up. I refuse! Our biggest battles are over piano, and he says nothing good comes of piano, but to that I say, "Well, except for the fact that you're learning to play!" Plus, it's good for him.

Aiden is a very helpful boy. His love language is Quality Time, so he'll do just about anything to spend time with those he loves. He is very capable and very cooperative. If I have a project in the kitchen, he's there to help. Here he is on a ladder picking apricots for me so I could make the jam. You may remember how we spent a day making tomato sauce too.

He and Lyndsay are very good buds. They are very similar kids, actually, despite their gender and age differences. Aiden is good at taking an interest in things that matter to other people. He also doesn't think it's dumb or lame to say that an outfit looks good, or that a hairstyle looks pretty, or that that fabric is so cute! Lyndsay capitalizes on this, and Aiden has become a trusted advisor in her life. Here he is looking over her designs for her bird clips.

I just love this kid. Look at those freckles! Sometimes he doesn't get all the attention he deserves because of drama or busyness with the older kids, but he is definitely a blessing to our family. In not too many years, he will be the oldest at home, and he and I talk about how much fun we'll have when we can spend more time together, and how great it will be when certain older brothers aren't around to bully and annoy. He's got a bright future ahead of him, but I hope he takes his time!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Segullah Kind of Day

Yesterday the mailman brought me a special treat, one that I've been waiting for for over a year: two complimentary copies of Segullah's Anniversary issue, dedicated to marriage, and containing my article!

Last year, you may remember, I wrote a blog post about my 4th wedding anniversary. A reader, Terresa, whose blog, The Chocolate Chip Waffle, I stalk, left me a comment suggesting that I think of working it up for Segullah's deadline. Segullah is a literary journal expressing the voices of Latter-day Saint women, and it's always been this pie-in-the-sky dream of mine to be published by them. The caliber of writers and talent, however, always left me feeling like maybe I should not get my hopes up. For some reason, however, when Terresa left me that comment, it bolstered my confidence enough that I expanded my silly post into a full-length article and submitted it.

What a trip to hear back from an editor that they wanted to include it! Now, it's true that it could have been that there weren't a whole lot of twice-married LDS women still screwing things up and willing to write about it, but either way, I was in, and I was thrilled! I've been published elsewhere, but this was a new experience, working on three different editorial drafts for several months. The finished product makes me feel so proud, though. The fine editors at Segullah helped me refine and polish my voice. And now, I hold that issue in my hands!

It's great reading, not just my piece. Mormon women are awesome, and definitely not all the same. All different experiences in love and marriage--and sometimes singlehood--all filtered through the lens of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was up way too late reading the other articles and poems included. I feel like one lucky little girl in the cool kids' club.

Segullah has an outstanding blog, if you'd like a taste. Cjane (you know the one) writes for Segullah from time to time, which is how I first heard of them. They've also published several anthology volumes which are outstanding. You can go and check them out on their website.

In the meantime, today I bask in the honor that is being published. I'm even going to figure out how to slap a Segullah tag on my sidebar to make it official. And Terresa! Thanks for the vote of confidence!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

October 12

Today would have been my 19th wedding anniversary. I have something to say in defense of my remembering that fact, and I'll tell you why.

A while back, during a difficult time between my current husband and me, when we had decided to call it quits, and then maybe not. . . our Stake President and Bishop came by for a visit. They sat in our living room, the two of them on one couch, and Adam and I on the other, smaller one. They wanted to know how we were doing. Somehow, I became the spokesperson for Us.

I told them that we had decided to keep going, to keep trying. I said something about Fiddler on the Roof, and how Tevye asks after 25 years if his wife loves him, and in response she lists scores and scores of ways that she has served him over all these many years, and how if that isn't love, than what is? I said something about my pioneer ancestry, who pulled handcarts--handcarts!--and how I had that same "put your shoulder to the wheel" kind of dedication. And then, and I thought I was speaking for both of us, I said something about the pain that we'd both experienced at the loss of our first marriages, how deep the pain is when someone you love leaves you, and how that wound adds to the already difficult dynamic we have in building this second marriage and blended family. In saying those words out loud, my eyes teared up and I got emotional.

Those seemed like all the right things to say, to believe. To will myself to believe. Commitment and service, rather than what we think of as "love". Determination. Perseverance. Forgive, have hope, have faith, keep going. I think, ideally, they are, but maybe not realistically in every situation. As Dr. Phil would say, I was going to "behave my way to success." My heart was in it. Again.

But one day, several weeks later, we got into a fight. And in that fight, he blurted out something about how I was still in love with my first husband, and how even the Stake President thought so. What??? He said that when the two of them had been talking after that home visit, that the Stake President had mentioned how odd it seemed to him that I would be so emotional (teary) in talking about the first, failed marriage. Besides that being inappropriate on so many levels, I felt very, very misunderstood. I still do.

I thought to myself, "How dare a man who has been married to the same woman for 30 years even think that he can understand and diagnose my pain?" I wonder how quickly his tears would dry up if everything that he had invested in suddenly walked out the door? Doesn't anyone get it?

It's not the man I miss. It's the dream. The dream of the marriage and family intact, building a life together.

It's not the man I can't get over. It's the rejection. The failure.

It's not the man I long for. It's the chance to do it over, do it right.

Is that so difficult to understand? Well, maybe it is, if your whole life has never gone up in smoke.

My first marriage was not perfect. My first husband was not always kind to me. We did not always get along, or see eye to eye. Things during the almost eleven years we were married were not always happy or ideal. But that marriage was the investment I had made with my life. It was the work of my days and the refinement of my soul. And then one day, he just decided he was done. He just left. And what he chose instead of me, instead of us, left many to wonder. It was rejection at its finest, and it has really screwed me up. I don't know how to get over that rejection. That sense of failure.

Over the years, I have watched the marriages of my close friends each go through trials, sometimes devastating ones--potentially marriage-breaking ones even. And yet, none of theirs broke. Now, they are forged together even stronger than before, reaping the rewards of that commitment. None of my close friends have been divorced. Not that I wish it upon anyone, but it does leave me feeling a loneliness inside of me that is very much my own. It's like I'm branded. Surely I'm not more flawed than everyone else, and yet, I'm the one who got dumped, so sometimes life doesn't add up.

I have watched the pain my children have suffered. Pain that at the time I used as a bargaining chip with my husband as I begged him to consider them and not leave. To which he'd respond, "They'll be fine. Kids are resilient." To which I respond, "Kids are resilient, but they deserve to be more than fine." It has been hard on them. It has been hard on me. It has been harder on them because it's been hard on me.

I suppose it's hard to understand. I am not in love with my first husband. But today would have been my 19th anniversary.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Enterprising Lyns

Ideas are powerful. I love it when my children have ideas. (Well, most of the time. That one about throwing tomatoes into the ceiling fan wasn't that great.) This is my enterprising Lyndsay. Lyndsay loves to make money, and she's been doing a great job of that since she was about ten years old. She makes working and earning and saving money a priority in her life, and by that I don't mean she's obsessed with money, but that she's the kind of kid who will find a way to pay her own way and doesn't use the "I don't have enough time" or "I don't know what to do" excuses.

Lyndsay also loves fashion accessories, and femininity, and oh, if those two things could go together more often the world would be a lovelier place! She saw, while browsing the internet, several different designs for hair clips, and she thought to herself, "I could do that!" And so, her idea was born.

She got right to work over General Conference weekend. While she listened to conference talks, she started drawing and cutting and designing. After coming up with several templates, she then hijacked my fabric scraps and got to work creating her masterpieces.

She talked with our friend Ale, who designs children's clothing, (and for whom Lyndsay also works, cleaning her floors and helping with her sewing business from time to time) who gave her some great advice on some products to use and where to buy them for the best price, and she even donated some of her fabric scraps and other materials for Lyndsay's project.

Lyndsay started wearing her birdie clips to school last week to see how people reacted. The initial response has been very encouraging. The birdies are cute and whimsical, and girls wanted them. She got lots of "You made those?" "You're selling those?" "When can I buy one?" and "How much are they?"

So, on Saturday, Lyns and I hit the town for her supplies. The fabric store was having a great sale, so she stocked up on fabrics, buttons, ribbons, and various other necessities, which she paid for herself. After price comparisons, she determined the best move would be to order the actual clips wholesale, so she did that online. And then, she got to work.

Here she is after all the tracing, cutting, backing, and ironing, which she employed her brother to help her with for an hourly wage. Now she gets to do the actual designing, adding the eyes, wings, etc. Her goal is to have each clip be unique.

Here are several of her birdies. But besides birdies, she will also have flowers, owls, and a host of other cute choices. She plans to sell each one for $10. And today, her first official day open for business, she took a little bin of clips to school for sale. She is wearing a different one each day, and she is having several friends wear them for her as well to help advertise. Soon, she'll probably start a Facebook page for her creations. Good luck to Lyndsay!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Jumping Off

This blog haunts me. I love it. I hate it. I love it again. I long for it to adequately express who I am---all of me, not just the me that feels safe to put out there, the me that won't offend anyone at all, hurt any feelings, not be inappropriate. I hate that at this moment, my life, MY LIFE, has those elements. I hate it because if it's my life, I should be able to express it any way I want to. I hate it because it makes me feel shameful, secretive. That there are vast parts of me that I'm not allowed, for whatever reason, to talk about. I'm sick of feeling shameful, at the risk of making someone else feel uncomfortable, and I'm sick of writing about my life peripherally. I don't do that well. I want to get to the heart of things. I like to be right smack dab in the middle of truth.

I think people appreciate that about me, my willingness to talk about what everyone is feeling but nobody else will say. Do you? Those readers who also blog will get what I mean when I say it's a risk. You put your guts out there and then you hope that people will read, and feel something, and mostly validate what you say and who you are. It's weird to see the reports come in every morning detailing how many people have been reading, and try to reconcile that with dwindling numbers of comments. "They hate me," I think. But, I realize that I do a lot more blog reading than I do blog commenting. I understand.

So, I need to be more real. I've been depriving myself of the cathartic value of this blog for fear of what anyone else might think. That's just not who I am. And surely, the people who really matter, who really love me, accept me and welcome me. Embrace me, even. I say that with no small measure of faith, because I'm trying to learn if those people even really exist in my life, or will one day, but I'm going to think in that direction. That I can be accepted and embraced. Truly loved, even?

Even flawed as I am.

I've been seeing a counselor. It happened by accident, really. I take one of my children to see a counselor to work out some issues, and the counselor would meet with me for a few minutes after that session each week. Turns out, I'm pretty messed up in my own right, and could use some fine tuning. Oh, it's painful!

My assignment this week is to make a list of who I am. Not what I do, but who I am. Good and bad, I need to see ME more clearly, rather than through the filters of the opinions of others. I haven't started writing yet, because I'm not sure I really know all the way what is truth about me and what is deeply-held belief about me. What kind of person am I, really? I'd like to think I'm good in my core in this way or that way, but I know I have a long way to go too in so many areas. Still, there must be a small collection of worthwhile parts of me. I just need to first, find them, and second, believe them.

Here I go.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

To the Beat

My children use my iPod, so I get exposed to all sorts of new and interesting music. Whatever music they want to listen to is fine with me as long as it is not offensive (sexual, racial, blasphemous, portraying violence) or littered with filthy language.

As I was headed out the door for a walk last week, I grabbed the iPod and decided to listen to Lyndsay's playlist, knowing it would be fun and upbeat and keep me moving.


Now, most of Lyns' music is great. She likes everything from R&B to alternative. Some Rihanna, some Gaga (some, I said), some Jason Mraz. And then I hear the chorus, "Don't trust a hoe, never trust a hoe." Interesting advice. I listen, and I think, what a pointless song. And an F bomb. Sigh.

I note the title of the song and when I get home, I delete it, and tell Lyns the bad news. "Why?" she says, but only through a smirk. "That was a great workout song!"

"Don't trust a hoe?"

"What? That's a great message! That's a good moral!" (she knows her case is weak.)

"We need a whole song to give us that message? With the F word in it? No."

Just to be a smart aleck, the next morning she comes down singing, "Black dress, with the tights underneath. . ." Nice try.

I'm in an interesting position raising these kids. I am (technically) married, but he is not their father. He is more a friend, which is nice for them, but leaves me alone on the battlefield when it comes to these teenage land mines. (And this "Don't trust a hoe" episode is hardly my biggest problem.) My kids used to really dig me, and I felt an immense security in their love and adoration of me as their mom. These days I am not so popular, and it's really hard.

I was so grateful to hear (with my children present, who I only require to sit and listen to one session of their choosing) during Sunday's afternoon session of General Conference, a talk by Elder Larry R. Lawrence of the Seventy. A talk he directed to the parents of teens. I take notes during conference talks, and these were the highlights:

*Be strong and of a good courage
*The world needs courageous parenting
*We need to value their lives more than temporary convenience.
*Parents who love their children cannot afford to be intimidated by them.
*Parenting is not a popularity contest.
*Parents need to speak up before Satan intervenes.
*The Lord relies on valiant parents.

I was having my "Hallelujah!" moments right out loud as he spoke. "Thank you, Larry!" I said as he gave illustrations throughout his talk. The kids laughed a bit, and choked a bit more. I was so grateful for the boost and another voice saying the same things that I've been saying. It may not have increased my popularity, but at least the kids know I'm not making this stuff up. I really do love them. I really do have their best interest at heart. I'm really trying my best, with confidence that one day they'll come around and thank me.

In the meantime, I'll keep my armor on. The battlefield is real.

And p.s., don't trust a hoe. Just don't. Now that I've pulled that nugget of truth out for you, you don't need the whole song.