I dare you to visit this site without shedding a tear or having more appreciation for your own life. That’s about the only upside that comes from someone else’s pain.
I sat down to write this morning and then, like usual, I found myself caught up in a maze of internet sites that's typically my warm up routine to start the day. Some were time wasters like celebrity gossip sites and news sites that recycle stories as breaking news. (Ahem, CNN.) And then I followed a “friend’s” link on Facebook to this site http://bensauer.blogspot.com/
WARNING: Going here will make you think differently about your life, your children, and every minor problem you might’ve thought was major. None of it compares to this family’s heartache. Even the religious references didn’t bother me. Joan Rivers recently said that humor makes life more palatable. I think that’s what religion does for so many. And lord knows this family needs it, Him, or whatever will ease their suffering. Their religion is what I call hope.
I dare you to visit this site without shedding a tear or having more appreciation for your own life. That’s about the only upside that comes from someone else’s pain.
When my son turned thirteen in March it was somehow his birthday weekend. Not a single day, but a three day event where my son was on a pedestal and I catered to his every need, within reason. It just so happened that his birthday fell on a Saturday so stretching out the celebrations made sense. So when last Friday arrived, I announced that it was Mother’s Day weekend. Not a single day, but that same kind of celebration I’d given my son. Would you believe that he had the nerve to tell me that Mother’s Day is just that--a day? One Sunday a year. Then slowly he talked himself into a hole when I brought up his birthday weekend. And if you ask me, if any celebration should be extended it’s Mother’s Day. Am I right? My son isn’t entirely self-centered, though. He had his siblings trace their handprints on a canvas and he also gave me this card that he’d bought and paid for on his own.
I didn’t mind sharing my weekend with my daughter who celebrated her tenth birthday today. Double digits: Lord help me! My kids are always perplexed when I throw out that expression given that I’m not the church type. Lord, forgive me for saying that. Damn! That won’t work either. I’m sure I’ll be white-knuckling it through the next decade with or without the Lord’s help. Maybe forever if she’s anything like me. I took her to see Mom’s Night Out on Friday, which is a rare treat, just the two of us. And there I was on screen. Not actually me, but a woman sort of like me with a familiarity about her life that I couldn’t deny. Blogger? Check. Eagle watcher? Check. Burned out homemaker? Check. Even my daughter turned to me and giggled. (Side note: As much as I enjoy Patricia Heaton, save your money and wait until it comes to D.V.D. Sometimes the only funny parts came from laughing at the woman’s laugh who was seated next to me. But I’m also known to have a selective sense of humor. Translation: none.)
By far the best present that I received arrived around 6:30 a.m. I’d already awakened myself after mistakenly setting my school days alarm for 6:10. So much for sleeping in on Mother’s Day of all days. I recognized the meow right away because I hadn’t heard it for days. Four days to be exact since our cat went missing. I had assumed the worst- a fox, coyote, raccoon- or some other creature carrying out payback for tormenting some other helpless soul like the Chipmunk and Mourning Dove she’d brought home earlier in the week. My daughter had a stack of flyers ready to put up today because there’s always that sliver of hope until any proof forces you to believe otherwise. Hope. I’ve always loved that word for emoting the raw essence of life. Hope sustains life. And sometimes the best gifts in life are the unexpected ones. Just like conceiving my thirteen year old son.
Thank you for reading. Somehow the words “thank you” never feels adequate enough. But for now that’s all I’ve got. Thank you.
When I think back to high school, my biggest regret is choosing boys and booze over athletics and academics. I was more concerned with the when and where of the next party than I was with knowing the when and what was on the next test. Tests like those weekly vocabulary ones that I’d purposely forget to study for or would cram the list of twenty or so words a few minutes beforehand hoping that the meanings would lodge in my semi-high brain. That was mostly during my senior year when throwing caution to the wind was my mantra, better known today as idgaf*. Miraculously, I was able to graduate with a B average and proved a calculus teacher wrong when she told me it couldn’t be done. Tell me I can’t and I’ll show you how. Somehow my mathematical equation for grade point averages bested her quotient. Outsmarting a math teacher ranks as one of my all-time achievements. One that I probably couldn’t repeat if I tried.
Since blowing off those vocabulary tests in high school that, yes, would follow me in real life, I have this recurring fear that’s, as fears go, totally irrational because underneath every fear is a little paranoia. I have this vision where I’ve made it big and I’m being interviewed by someone who uses a word that stumps me. It’s like a one-on-one format and there’s no way out. I can’t answer the question or I reply in such a way that shows my ignorance. I’ve seen it happen to famous people and RHOA’s Porsha Williams if that’s not overreaching the limits of stardom. After her Underground Railroad confession, she’s not exactly the litmus test for adult intelligence.
Even worse than not knowing the meaning of a word is mispronouncing one, which is a tell-tale sign that it’s not a word someone uses often. If you’re one of the few people left who watch American Idol then you might’ve heard J.Lo’s mispronunciation of the word integral at the end of the show. Proper and well-spoken Harry even looked like he did a double take at her blunder. In fairness, J-Lo isn’t exactly known for her spoken word or singing for that matter. More like skimpy style and dance moves. And her new hit, "I Luh Ya Papi” reiterates my point.
Even journalistic veterans like Barbara Walters make mistakes and I’m not talking about her use of the letter R. As a longtime View watcher, she pronounces every letter of the NAACP organization instead of saying, “N-double A-C-P” as it’s commonly known. Sherry cringes.
When I sent out the first few pages of my manuscript, I nearly hyperventilated when I realized I’d overlooked a misspelling. One that Microsoft Word didn’t catch either. I’d spelled forgivable with an “e.” Look, I’m not the only one.
I guess the moral of the story is that we’re all human. And as long as we’re living, we're learning. I’m constantly learning new things, new words and how some words we hear really aren’t words at all. "Reoccurring" and "comprable" [sic] vs. recurring and comparable. And I just learned that saleable is a word even though my mind wants to tell me it’s not. And now with the Urban Dictionary*, I’m learning all kinds of words and expressions that were better left unlearned.
It’s Wednesday (right?) and I still have a case of the Mondays. This was the post I started nearly 48 hours ago.
I feel like I’m in a race against time. The kids leave for school and I’m like an antsy horse locked behind one of those auxiliary gates forced to run for my life or forfeit it until the next day. If you’re a stay at home parent then you’ll relate to my dilemma. Here I sit in a quiet house hearing a buzzing airplane overhead and watching young cardinals hunting for their next meal. The incoming sunlight is beckoning me outside. But I can’t go. I can’t move. It’s now or never I tell myself. Time to accomplish everything I’d promised myself I’d do when they left for school. The minutes pass and I’ve done nothing. I’m almost immobilized in the silence, stuck in limbo between that motivational pull to go after life or sit in solace. I choose the latter.
Then my anxiety goes into overdrive after reading someone’s Facebook post counting down the school year by how many days she has left to pack her kids’ lunches. Fifteen. That’s like counting down the days left in my sanity because summer is the real test of motherhood. And, for the record, I never pack lunches. That’s a life skill kids need to
learn by doing and by fourth and fifth grade they’re plenty capable. I will make the occasional PB&J only because my daughter says it tastes better whenever I do it. Maybe that’s the appeal of restaurant food that’s rarely tastier or fresher than home cooked meals. Food is generally more palatable whenever the work (grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning) is omitted.
Now I’m back in the current time, still stuck at go. Only now my throat hurts from allergies, a spring cold, or just that irritating post-nasal drip that makes whispering uncomfortable. And Peter’s home from school again with a poison ivy rash speckling his cheeks. Unlike most days, I don’t mind the company or using him as an excuse not to get anything done. Everyone needs a slovenly day (or two) every now and again. Days that you want over before they really begin. But, as I sit here at the computer like Monday, there’s that same sun shining in on me through the blinds. That earthy sign of cheer and hope, still lighting the sky in yellow and welcoming me outside. And, today, I just might oblige.
My fifth-grade daughter helps out in a kindergarten classroom during afternoon dismissals. One day she came home telling me about an encounter with one little girl. The conversation started when the girl commented on my daughter’s shirt. A shirt with a giant cat face printed on the front. The picture resembled the girl’s cat that she doesn’t get to see often because it lives with her dad. “I’m in the middle of a divorce,” she told my daughter.
“I’m in the middle of a divorce.”
I can’t forget those words. Not because of what they mean on their own, but the fact that they came from a 6 year-old kindergartner. A girl who feels like she’s going through a divorce right along with her parents. And in a way she is very much so “in the middle of a divorce” just not the way that we’d normally think. We’d probably say that technically the parents were in the middle of a divorce.
Divorce happens. I get it. Some people just aren’t meant to be. And if I told you that a few weeks later that same little girl happened to casually say that her dad was drug tested then you’d probably think good riddance to dad. My aunt once told me that people come into your life for a reason and when that purpose is fulfilled, it’s time to move on. That’s the unromanticized reality of relationships. There’s also modern society with an if-it-feels-good-do-it mentality that lets temptation override morals. I get that, too. Above everything, I think we can all agree that no parent would ever want to make their child feel like they’re in the middle of a divorce. That’s why this quote of the month is worth sharing.
A heartfelt thanks for stopping by…
There’s one word that’ll never describe motherhood—boring. Motherhood is many things like exhausting, monotonous, thankless and, to throw in a not so negative adjective, I guess it can be joyful at times. But, boring? Never. Yesterday the school nurse called me around 1:00 p.m. to say that Peter had bumped his head and that there was some blood. And, generally speaking, I’m a shake-it-off-kind-of-mom. I thought the nurse was just preparing me for when he came home with a gash on his temple (i.e. accidents happen and we’re not liable). Then she told me she was packing up his stuff to come home. Damn it! I thought. So much for the rest of my afternoon. And so much for that planned shower that I hadn’t yet gotten to.
I hung up and the phone rang again. My husband was calling to make sure I got the message because they’d notified him, too. I told him that I was going to play it conservatively and see if Peter needed stitches because I’m a little jaded thinking first about insurance misers, co-pays, and out-of-pocket fees. Then my husband and I got into a debate over whether I was acting conservatively or liberally by not rushing to the E.R. I have a tendency to confuse myself sometimes like when I say turn the thermostat down for colder air or tell my son to open the shower curtain so it can dry. He says, “You mean close it?” No! I mean stretch it out in the open position. Sometimes I only make sense to me.
I hurried to the school and as soon as I saw Peter, I knew he needed stitches. So we made a detour by home to blow out the candle I’d left burning on the kitchen counter because nothing like that mom instinct to divert a disaster. I decided to take Peter to one of those urgent care clinics because going to the E.R. is nothing short of a three hour process. I sometimes forget how comical Peter can be like the way he told everyone from the receptionist to the doctor what happened at length. How he was 360ing (turning in circles) in his classroom and the blood soaked the towel. The doctor asked him, “Did the desk hit you or did you hit the desk?” Pardon me, but unless kids are hurling desks around the room I think Peter hit the desk.
I asked the nurse how she was going to numb Peter and when she told me with Lidocaine, I assumed that meant an ointment. That’s the protocol at the children’s hospital. Then came a clear, miniature jar of medicine and a needle to inject into the wound! Peter was brave and tough and all the things we normally associate with boys. The nurse told us about a not so brave man who was a wuss. My word, not hers. Peter called him a pussy. Thankfully the nurse didn’t catch that. She left the room and Peter preceded to pretend to grasp all of the pussies in his vocabulary and throw them in the trash. Eight-year-olds don’t talk like that, I told him.
I got to thinking about men and boys, how we expect them to be tough and how society throws off of them. And I remembered this psychologist I saw on T.V. recently. She was talking about how men are always the stupid, inept ones in sitcoms and how that’s damaging to boys. I’m even guilty of throwing off on my husband whether it’s his driving, his inability to find something right in front of him, or generalized inferiority to women. And maybe I’m prejudiced because I’ve never heard my children say, “Dad can do everything.” They’ve instead said that about me because that’s what mothers do, a little bit of everything. But as a mom to two boys, I don’t want to put men down because that’s essentially putting them down. They’re too young to get the humorous jabs that are momentarily funny to me but might be damaging to them forever. I just hope there’s no harm in thinking it.
Peter’s been talking a lot about college lately. Not about football teams and mascots but getting an education there. I see the thoughts churning in his head picturing himself at college. He asks, “How many years does it take?” even though he still can’t comprehend time frames or the difference between next week, next month, or next year. His teachers told him that it takes good grades to get into college. I won’t tell him about alternate pathways like community colleges and trade schools yet. Thankful me is just glad that college is on his radar and for a second grader that’s pretty impressive.
It wasn’t that long ago that Peter could care less about school. He’d talk about going to summer school like it was a good thing not realizing that going is like a punishment. No kid would choose sterile classrooms and tests over X-box, swimming pools, and bike rides. Sometimes Peter’s reasoning capacity is off from the rest of the world. There are times when I can’t dissuade him from hurting himself. It’s like trying to explain that doing bad in school is like shooting himself in the foot. Then I have to deconstruct the un-literal meaning of that expression.
Peter carries around a daily progress sheet because getting an ‘N’ at the end of every week doesn’t have much of an impact on his behavior. He needs reinforcement from every teacher, after every class period, every day. And he’s behaved better since his teachers started using this method of immediate accountability midway through the school year. He knows that doing well in school will help him get into college a full decade from now. But who’s really counting? Not Peter. His teachers? Well, I think they're counting down until the end of this school year, especially when Peter gets a case of diarrhea of the mouth. This is the sheet that came home last week.
This is what's written at the top of the sheet in blue: Good day. Peter got a little frustrated at recess, but he turned it around…And not 2 minutes after I wrote that he yelled, “Let’s play a game called hate our teachers!" We talked about how words can be hurtful.
The roller coaster continues.
Do you ever have those times in life, maybe a day or a few days, that you know in advance are going to be stressful? And just to get through those jam-packed days you have to motivate yourself by thinking about how great you’ll feel when it’s all over. You tell yourself in your head I’ll be so glad when Tuesday (or substitute whatever day) comes. Well, that describes my past few days with Peter’s pre-birthday on Friday, his actual birthday on Saturday, an Easter for heathens on Sunday, and then my husband’s birthday Monday. And I don’t know about your family, but it seems that whenever a birthday falls on a weekend the celebrations carry on for days. Kids do have a tendency to milk things, so to speak. From birth, really if you breastfed.
Today I feel that achingly exhaustive paralysis. The kind that I felt when I cared for my newborn babies. All four of them in five years. Perhaps worse than the acute demands of a newborn baby are the needs of aging dogs. Yep, today is also my dogs’ 15th birthday. And that’s dogs with an “s” as in two of them. I thought how great it’d be to adopt a brother and sister from the same litter not thinking about housebreaking two puppies at once and the hazards of two dogs growing old at the same time. But here we are, or rather here they are, in their golden years.
So alas today is the last day of celebrating others, canines and humans and anything else worth celebrating. In my world, every school day is a celebration, especially Mondays. Three weeks from now there will be more celebrations when my daughter reaches double digits. A birthday that just so happens to fall on Mother’s Day. Then, just maybe, I’ll get my wish: One night of solid sleep. The kind of sleep children get and take for granted because they don’t know that good sleep is hard to come by. Really hard to come by. Long before I ever heard about the miracle that is melatonin or ever needed any for that matter, I used to lie in my bed at night and read the Lord’s Prayer.
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I shall die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.
The words were cross-stitched in some combination of blue and seventies harvest gold thread. I’d stare at the words in between consciousness and dream land while contemplating the meaning of life. You know, those deep thoughts like I mentioned in my last post. Funny thing how religious speak and my internal snooze alarm are automatically linked. And though the religious teachings didn’t last into adulthood (Sorry Dad; You tried.), I can still recall the words to the prayer. Just like the alphabet and pledge of allegiance and other things I’d learned by rote memorization because someone said I had to. Sometimes I only learn through coercion. And maybe if I had a prayer framed on my wall today, it might go something like this:
Now I flounder in my sleep,
I hope my dogs don’t make a peep.
Hogging blankets and passing gas,
Never knew it’d come to that.
Another night come and gone,
Awakened before the crack of dawn.
Trying not to wish you away,
At fifteen years, you’re not long to stay.
Achy bones and droopy eyes,
Not ready for our sad goodbye.
So rest as you will, I’ll sleep when I’m dead
Spending my nights comforting you instead.
Can you be something you don’t respect? That's the question I keep asking myself. Whether it’s in a marriage, career, or any position you’re in: Can you do it without respecting it? Maybe it’s staying in a marriage for the kids or working in a job just for the paycheck. Maybe it’s being a stay-at-home mom because being independent isn’t an option--yet. We can all call B.S. on people who do things that aren’t universally respected. Take that Duke girl who’s paying for school by doing porn. I think we all know she’s full of it when she says that she feels empowered. This also begs the question: Does the end always justify the means? Can we do something we don’t respect if the validation comes later on? Maybe our opinion of that Duke girl would change when she has a degree in hand. Yeah, no.
The reason I bring this up is that no matter how much I want to respect the art of blogging, I just don’t. I wonder why some bloggers even write. And then I see the garbage they’re getting paid to market. I never wanted that and have turned away those that have inquired. I guess some people don’t want to give away the milk for free, though some of theirs might’ve soured.
I know this might offend bloggers or sound like I’m shooting myself in the foot. Here’s the thing. I’ve been blogging for almost a year. I know how much time, effort, and planning it takes just to keep it going. It takes time away from family, hobbies, and for me, things that feed my soul like daily exercise and being anywhere but in front of a computer screen. And all for what? Just to see how many hits I get not knowing if what I wrote resonated with anyone. Perhaps some of my readers weren’t really fans at all but empty clicks from someone looking to spam me. I know I’ve visited blogs, read a few lines, and clicked away never to visit again. I should tell them that my visit to their site shouldn’t really count.
Maybe part of my frustration is that I want my time validated. I’ve spent almost a year blogging and nearly four years working on my memoir. I don’t want to look back and feel that I’ve worked on something for nothing. That way of thinking is similar to how I felt when I first learned about life and death as a child. I looked at my life in relation to the universe. “I’m something but I’m nothing,” I thought to myself. That reference still comes up in my mind. That doesn’t mean that every life doesn’t matter or, in this case, that blogging has been a waste of time. I’ve grown as a writer and tested my vulnerabilities. And even though my blog stats might be inflated from readers who didn't really count, I appreciate every reader who does.
What I’m realizing in this hamster-wheel-life is that I’m drifting away from what I really care about: sharing my memoir. A life story about getting married to an Iranian immigrant at nineteen. With one small detail: he was sixteen years older. The alienation that brought among my siblings and that lingers today. How we lived the American Dream with money, children, and what would be a white picket fence if our H.O.A. would’ve allowed it. A Recession that collided with our son’s autism diagnosis and all the emotional hell that brought. Living near poverty and the shame that comes with it. Trying to hang on to a marriage ripped to shreds from drugs, deceit, and infidelity. Building back a life that seems doomed to fail. An authentic tale of life and not some sugar-coated version of life people want to share on Facebook.
Most everyone has a purpose in writing. For memoirists, this describes it best: “We must build a structure with our truth so that other people can shelter there.” So, for now, if blogging is the way to get there, then I’ll keep mining for respect. Besides, nobody ever promised a life with guarantees.
Like many mothers, or women in general depending on who you ask, I have a lot of pet peeves. Things like dirty dishes left in the sink when the dishwasher’s been emptied and moist sunflower shells that didn’t quite make it into the trashcan. Empty packages littering the pantry shelves and losing grip of the peanut butter jar because someone tried to pop on a twist top lid. Kids are the masters of taking short cuts leaving others to pick up the slack. But perhaps my greatest pet peeve of all has to do with life in general. I call it going through the motions. And I despise doing things just because.
I’m sure you’re familiar with these man-made situations inherent in every bureaucracy. Situations where you’re forced to follow the formalities even though they defy logical sense. My initiation into the educational bureaucracy came when Peter was three. I had him tested to see if he qualified for a county-run special needs preschool. I submitted his paperwork in April and he wasn’t tested until after the start of the next school year. Getting a child tested and enrolled by the start of the school year wasn’t a priority. Sadly, bureaucracies are full of policies that define the irrationality of rationality.
Nearly five years later, I still encounter this kind of head scratching frustration. Take for instance the date of the annual IEP meeting. (Side note: IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan that’s a set of personalized goals and tasks for special needs students.) These meetings are done once annually and they must occur before the date of the last one. Dates that make me just as nervous as having my teeth cleaned in between the six-month period my insurance allows. Peter’s meeting happens to fall in March. This is two months before the end of the school year, which means that changes are enacted nearing the end of each grade. Wouldn’t it make sense to have meetings at the very end or beginning of the next year to coincide with the duration of each grade level?
During this year’s IEP meeting, Peter’s teachers were discussing his area of weakness in reading. I mentioned his most recent report card, which seemed to contradict his needs. To an untrained eye, it would seem that Peter’s excelling in on level, second grade reading with a grade of 96. Per the IEP, he reads at a first grade level. How could two criteria completed by the same teachers be so vastly different? Peter’s teachers told me to basically disregard the report card because it isn’t a true reflection of his progress. They explained to me that they aren’t able to record anything lower than on level. We shake our heads in unison, unable to make sense of this irrationality of rationality grading process.
So I’m left to wonder why teachers are forced to go through the motions and misrepresent a child’s progress. Just because there’s no option in the computerized grading system? Why should the minions of the educational system (in terms of pay, status, etc.) adhere to a process that falsifies a child’s abilities? Just to satisfy some higher ups who are disconnected from the classroom? Does this scoring system based on semantics affect federal funding or a school’s rating? What is it? What purpose does this serve? Certainly not our children.
Young, hot mother with boundless energy on track to be the next Sara Blakely.