Friday, November 30, 2007

The Longest Finger of All

At church on Sunday, after Leah had tired of drawing in her notebook, she sat back in our pew and began fiddling with her hands. Minutes later she lifted her fist high in the air, her middle finger erect. I cupped my hand over hers and whispered, “Leah, don’t do that.”

“Why, Mom?” she asked.

“Because it’s not nice.”

“But, Mom,” she said. “It’s my longest finger.”

How could I reason with that?

“Yes, Sweetie. It sure is,” I said. “Just keep it to yourself.”

So for the rest of sacrament meeting she admired her middle finger, the longest of all, from the safety of her little lap.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

And thus it begins...

A sign Kaleb penned himself and hung on his bedroom door just this week.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Dating-Service Guy

Okay, so I’m sitting here in the library, waiting for a desk with an internet hookup and there’s this guy browsing some electronic dating service. Can I just say, ew? Now I don’t mean to be nosey (okay, so I do) but he must have set his search specifications to “busty” because he’s enlarging all these pictures of very buxom woman with come-hither looks (it’s certainly no eHarmony). And he’s sat himself right in the middle of one long desk with two internet hookups. Now I come to the library to freelance – if I stay home where my ex mother-in-law is watching my children I don’t get anything done. So I come here to focus for 4 quiet hours a day and work at a desk with a free internet connection. I know, it’s a public place where everyone’s welcome to use these services, but, pah-lease! Try to get lucky somewhere else, mister.

Sheesh. That was a grumpy post. It's now one hour following this aforementioned "encounter" with Dating-Service Guy, and I've gotten my own desk with my own internet connection. I'm feeling much better now.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday

I have a riddle for you.

Where do you find a bunch of crazy people crowded together before daylight without their straight jackets on?

Answer: Black Friday, otherwise known as the Day after Thanksgiving Day sales. And I say that with love, people, because I’ve been a loyal attendee for years.

When I lived in Utah my ex and I were great Black Friday strategists; we would pour over the ads and make lists of where to go and at what time. We would wake up at 4 and wouldn’t get home until after 10 (for you sane people, that’s in the a.m.). And while I haven’t had much experience shopping in Idaho Falls, Black Friday in Utah was more than a day, it was an Olympic event.

I made my sister, a Black Friday virgin, come with me one year. She was amazed to see retailers passing out refreshments to 5am shoppers on their way into stores. But on Black Friday those shoppers are more like marathoners taking the paper cups of orange juice and hot chocolate to pour over their heads as they start the grand competition called Christmas Sale Shopping.

We quickly learned that the shopping cart was a great handicap; the best Black Friday shoppers go armed with a billfold and their own two hands, ready to carry everything from a 32” plasma TV to stacks of Spiderman action figures. And besides, you could get stuck in an aisle for hours trying to maneuver your cart around crazed shoppers.

The really serious shoppers tag-team shop, with walkie talkies in hand as they work through their lists, elbowing old ladies and children who may stumble into their way.

This year, however, my ex and I (in disagreement on just about everything but shopping) decided to sleep in and go a little later this year. What we discovered was that you don’t avoid the crazies that way. While you do avoid the strategists, the Type-A shoppers with lists and hand signals and shopping paraphernalia, you don’t avoid the lazy crazies, who, like us, decided to roll out of bed at, heaven forbid, seven in the morning only to discover that the $20 acoustic guitars and $80 digital cameras were, alas, all gone.

But even thus impaired, we still managed to spend over $100 before noon on Black Friday, standing in shorter lines and fighting smaller crowds. You pick your battles, I guess, even on the fierce field of Christmas shopping.

But maybe the true winner in all of this is my mother who called me the other day to say, “Watch for Zack’s Christmas present. I bought it on QVC and had it shipped to you.” And, following a lengthy conversation on Christmas shopping, added, “I just may avoid the stores all together and get all your presents on QVC this year…”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What I Know for Sure

(I know, I stole it from Oprah, but the woman’s too busy getting pedicures with hundred dollar bills rolled between her toes to sue lil ole me – so I’m gonna run with it. Love ya, Oprah. And should you ever want to run a show about poor bloggers trying to become multi-millionaires on nothing but poopy posts, I’m here for you.)

While at BYU-Hawaii a kazillion years ago I attended a devotional that changed my life (unfortunately, the same portion of my brain that remembers the devotional can’t remember the person who delivered it. Sorry.). The speaker said, “Just because it feels good doesn’t mean it’s right, and just because it’s right doesn’t mean it feels good.” I’m certain he used an example of making out in the back seat of a car. Feels good, not so right. You get the gist.

At the time I was engaged to a great guy, one who treated me very well. I loved him and was caught up in everything that was Wedding (there was a $200 deposit on the dress and a luau with a dozen pigs in the works). And then I went to that stinkin’ devotional.

For weeks I hadn’t felt quite right about our engagement. I may have loved him, but there was something about our plans that didn’t sit well with me. Every night I would pray for the anxiety to disappear, but that only seemed to worsen it. So when I heard those words at that devotional given by Anonymous, I knew I had to break things off.

Not only did I break off the engagement (I’ll spare you the heart-wrenching details), but I decided to serve a mission for my church, proving the following algorithm to be completely true for me:

Engagement/Love/Marriage/General Swooning: felt good, wasn’t “right.”

Serving a mission in Japan for 18 months: didn’t always feel so good, was "right.”
While that was the hardest thing I’d ever done up to that point in my life, I still know I made the right choice. And acting on what I knew to be right, regardless of how difficult it was, was a defining moment for me. I became a stronger person because of it (a stronger person who no longer speaks Japanese, so don’t ask).

So here I am, years after the fact, dragging through the days and reminding myself that while divorce may be the “right” thing for me now, it sure as hell doesn’t feel good.

Thankfully I believe there's always a time when things will feel both good and right.

At least that's what I'm telling myself today...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A First Date

I’m going to take a break from my melancholy self and write an uplifting post. I’m determined to think my way to a happier place so I’m going to tell you about my date. Yes, I’m newly single and tonight I went on my very first post separation date. With whom, you ask? My son. I know—you feel a little ripped off. You were expecting a juicier story – the likes of which I don’t expect to experience in the immediate future. But believe me, people, if I ever have a juicy story, you’ll be the first to know (because I’m shameless that way).

Anyway, my date with my son was fabulous. He was the perfect gentleman, and while I had to pay my own way (and his), he was a good conversationalist, well-mannered, complimentary, and asked if we could go out again. Soon. Now how often does all that happen on a first date?

I guess it’s a misnomer to call it a first date. We’ve gone out before. In fact, I’ve gone out on dates with Leah and Zack too. And I’ve got to say that while I didn’t come up with the idea myself, it’s been good for us nonetheless (I won’t lie – I’ve Googled all current parenting tactics).

We spent three hours together, just me and him, without a chore chart, my nagging about the chore chart, his homework, my nagging about his homework, and the wonderful dynamics of sibling rivalry. It was Kaleb and Mom stripped down to the basics. I asked about school, friends, teachers, and yes, I took his pulse on the divorce.

“So,” he asked. “Does that mean you’re going to marry someone else?”

Whoa, let’s not beat around the bush. But I was grateful for the candor, the honesty that comes, full-force, from a child. “Sweetie,” I said. “That’s not going to happen for a long time. But if it ever does, I’ll tell you.”

“Will you have more babies?”

Sheesh, questions I hadn’t even been brave enough to ask myself. “I don’t know. Do you want more brothers and sisters?”

“I’d like an older brother to play with,” he said, and then, “Are we going to be late for the movie?”

The conversation was over and I had only been in the hotspot for, say, three minutes. Not bad.

And just so this post has a little juice—while watching the Bee Movie (not a fan), I saw a very handsome man sitting just five seats down from us. I know. I got nothin'. But I can share a fun picture of an unattainable man I have been known to lust after (Thanks, Rachel, from Three Day Blog).

Goodnight, everyone!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Without My Children

I both relish and despise the weekends my ex has the kids. On the one hand it’s exhilarating to have hours to myself—to freelance, to watch movies, to take baths. I can go shopping, without a cart, and meander the store looking at things—me-things. Body wash, jewelry, handbags, magazines. And then it gets late and I start to ache, wondering what my children are doing, if they’re having fun, and how much of their lives I’ve just missed.

Kaleb has another loose tooth—will that go under a pillow at our house or his Dad’s? What profound questions will Leah ask that I won’t be there to answer? And what of Zack and his potty training—will he finally get it when he’s not with me? They are my children, flesh of my flesh, and I’m sharing them like luxury vehicles, piecing out moments of their lives like poker chips. And I wonder how they feel about this, passed between my ex and I without thought or question of what they want, of how they would like to spend their time.

If you asked them they would probably tell you that all they want is for their parents to move back together, to share a home so they don’t have to be ported back and forth between us. Because, really, who’s it for, them or us? Are we divvying out their lives because it’s the best for all involved?

So on this Saturday night, when darkness makes every burden a little heavier, I’m deciding that it’s childhood compromised, a sad tug of war between two adults greedy for their children.

And to be completely honest, I’m feeling especially greedy right now…

Thursday, November 08, 2007

You're Fired!

About three weeks ago I was unceremoniously fired from a job I’ve held for a little more than 6 years. I’ve never been fired before so, I admit, I took it personally. Unemployed, and from a volunteer position, no less. You know where I’m going with this. My three year old let me go.

Following an especially difficult trip to the grocery store, I was buckling a disgruntled Zack into his car seat when he informed me, “You’re fired, Mom!”

I was stunned, because really, where had he learned to say that? And then, shouldn’t he have warned me in some kind of formal performance review?

“So are you giving me two weeks’ notice or should I leave you here so you can call a Taxi?” I asked. He wasn’t amused. I continued my bitter monologue home. “Do you have someone in mind or are you just going to take this to the classifieds?” And then, “Remember to ask for someone who will wipe your tears, wipe your nose, and yes, wipe your bum. Not a very appealing job description. You may want to offer a salary with benefits.”

As I considered the untimely end of my career I couldn’t help but entertain my options. I could get a job where I only had to work 40 hours a week, where I could clock out at 5, catch a movie on the way home and then, well, go to bed. I could pursue more exciting avenues like becoming a secret agent or working at a waffle factory. Imagine, all those hours I would get paid for working.

But those thoughts were dashed the next morning when Zack came in to wake me up at 6:30.

“Mom,” he said. “I hungwee for beckfast.”

“But you fired me,” I said. “Last night. Remember?”

“Mooooooom,” he said, pulling on my sleeve. “It’s time to wake up.”

Employers these days can be so fickle. Especially when they’re not potty trained.

So I’m back on duty, full-time and uncompensated – well, at least with anything my bank will allow me to deposit. And there are perks. I can wear slippers to work. I get to go to the park a lot. My employer sometimes shares his Halloween dividends with me. And while it may be considered inappropriate in a more traditional work environment—the boss gives me lots of wet, sloppy kisses.

It’s a sweet job, really.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Storm of Pain, and other shameless metaphors

Humans are interesting creatures, not unlike animals in their desire to shun pain, to do what they can to avoid the sting of a wound, be it physical or emotional. About the time I stopped posting to my blog I had stepped into the axis of my pain, and I have to admit, it surprised me.

Just weeks earlier I had been talking with my friend Mary, explaining that I had already mourned the end of my marriage three years ago. All that was left to grieve was the impact it was having on my children (can we say denial?). I was efficiently moving through my divorce, checking through these emotional steps like items on a To-Do list. That’s when the unbearable pain hit me, stealing my breath. Suddenly my heart resembled a split melon, wide and messy with emotion. I thought I was going to die, thought I wanted to die, and gravitated towards my ex, the only one who truly understood how much our divorce hurt.

Not until this moment have I recognized two types of pain. One steals upon you slowly and before you realize it this pain has taken over your life and become common—what you’re used to. We recognize it in the story of a frog, seduced to his death by lounging in a pot of water slowly set to boil. We become comfortable with this type of pain—we recognize it and have learned to cope with it. It’s manageable.

The other pain is a storm, a Katrina of hurt that disorients you, blurs your vision and masks the horizon. I was in the eye of this storm just one month ago. And I’m convinced that often we’re required to step through this brand of pain in order to reach a much better place, a promised land, a city of hope, a bright future. Cheesy, I know, but true. But how eager I was to slip from this pain into another that was more comfortable, albeit equally debilitating.

For the first time in my life I empathized with people who turn to drugs and alcohol to escape pain. It’s just that base instinct we all have to free ourselves from a long moment of crushing heartache. Whether we, when possible, avoid the storm altogether or turn to something that will numb our awareness of it, we’re depriving ourselves of a blissful destination at the end of an arduous journey. That is what I have to believe. For me, my ex, and my children, I know this painful moment in the string of eternity is really just the gust of wind we need to reach a better place.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself today…

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mission Mompossible

The other night I watched Mission Impossible for the first time in years. And as I watched I realized why I will never be a secret agent. Not because I can’t hold my breath for more than five minutes while I defuse a bomb underwater. Not because I can’t scale an elevator shaft in an evening gown. And not even because I’m probably taller (and heavier) than Tom Cruise with Suri on his back. No, not for any of those reasons.

I could never be a secret agent because I wouldn’t be able to listen to the entire secret recording without rewinding it. By the time it self-destructed I’d be turning to the person next to me asking, “Did you hear what he just said?”

The truth is, I’ve become my mother (bless you, mom!). In order to follow a movie I have to rewind it at least 5 times or ask my children to 1) repeat what’s just been said or 2) turn up the television, again.

Now there are valid reasons for this. One is my poor hearing. My mother was right; all that rock music did make me go deaf. But more problematic than that is my newly acquired lack of focus.

Before I had children I could watch three movies in a row, sitting for more than 362 minutes in a wooden chair watching B-grade films without missing one scene. In fact, to the chagrin of my co-watchers, I probably would have deconstructed each before the credits had run, cross-analyzing the films like a graduate student with nothing better to do (because I was). I would use words like “acquiescent,” “theoretically,” and “banal.” Yeah. I was a real smarty-pants.

But not so much these days. I’m lucky if I can watch a Pixar film and get all the adult jokes the first time through. And the phrase I’m most likely to say while watching said film is, “What did he just say?”

Which takes me back to my future as a secret agent. It ain’t gonna happen. Not that I was planning on it or anything; it’s just nice to have options. I’ve decided this is how my encounter with that secret recording would probably go down.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

“Zack, get off the counter! And Kaleb, you put that cookie back… Did he just
say Prague? Am I supposed to defuse an underwater bomb in Praugue?”

…and scale an elevator shaft in your evening gown with Suri on your back…

“Did he say sell the pretty little surrey with the fringe on top, or scale an elevator shaft with Suri on my back?”

We would not do well if the safety of our nation rested in my ever-so-chapped hands.

This post will self-destruct in 20 seconds…