Saturday, August 26, 2006

That Girl

A collage of photographs hangs on a wall in my dining room. An arrangement of black and whites set against various magazine clippings, cut to perfection. It really is quite a work of art. And tonight, as I walked through the room, I stopped and stared. It was as if I had seen these photos for the first time, one in particular.

A round faced girl sits squinting into the sunlight, staring at something unknown. She is thinking. And behind her sits a young man, squinting into the sunlight, staring at the girl. They are sitting on the railroad tracks that run behind the old Depot in Shawnee. They are so young. My engagement photos, taken five years ago this very month. And while I remember the day well, riding in my broken-up Chevy Cavalier with the windows down, Toni and Kara in the backseat and Luke driving about to the various desireable locations Toni had scouted for these pictures, I realized that I do not remember this girl. And as I sat in a bath tonight, I tried to think of who she was, and who she has become.

In the picture, I marvel at the svelte contours of a body that has not known childbirth, and I see the puffs of baby fat in her cheeks that have since been outgrown. Her eyes are steely and determined, and her posture is aloof, even unto the man she will soon marry. I see she is defensive. But what about the things I cannot see?

I remember that she still thought she would be a defense attourney and hated the very idea of having children. She cared more about being a size six than about being healthy. She had a propensity toward unkindness, but was feircely loyal. She loved clothes. She hated to be shushed. And she smoked too much. She held fast to radical political beleifs. She argued with everyone. Devil's Advocate was not just a game. She claimed to be Agnostic.

Her foresight was limited. She did not expect to spend years fighting for the acceptance of her in-laws. She did not know she would drop out of school before her wedding even came. She did not know that in a few short months, she would be effectively fired from a job she loved. She did not know she would spend months working eighty hours a week for peanuts and then shuffle off to Chicago only to fail at big-city life. She would not know about moving to Dallas, Norman, Wyoming. She would not know then that life is never measured by what you do, but rather by who you are.

She knew nothing of love. She knew nothing of loss. She would not have expected anguish over two lost embryos, or have expected such great joy over the two that succeeded. She would never have been a stay-at-home-mom. She would never have so vehemently protected her privacy and relationship with that man by whom she sat. She would not have expected to so easily follow him to the ends of the earth on a whim, despite those ever-nearing vows. I know she did not know what life would bring her, or she would probably have fought harder against the tide. She did not know her life would be wonderful. I know she still wondered where she would be if she had taken pre-acceptance to Harvard. Well, she still wonders that. But she looked down her nose at those she found did not meet her standards intellectually, economically and socially. She had no sense of community. She had no sense of self.

But as I looked at her, I felt awed. I realized that though I do not remember her well, I do KNOW her. Little pieces of her still lurk about in corners of my head. On those days when you wish yourself out of your life, you look back at those photographs in your head and walk yourself down another path. Because life is always bittersweet with wondering. She reminds me to keep wishing and wanting more. But now, I wish for more and want more, not just for myself. I prefer it that way.

And so I will leave her just where she is, hanging on the wall, squinting out at something unknown. Thinking. And I will hope that when I pass that picture, that will be the message to which I cling. Look outward, cling to the unkown, think. Because who knows where you will be five years from now.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My Bed, My Cat, Some Urine...

So my folks moved to town, and they brought my cats with them. Up to this point (the point at which we bought a home), we were not allowed pets, so my parents had been keeping them. Three weeks ago, I had no pets. Now I have five.

We bought the puppy. My parents brought my two kitties. My parents have an enormous black lab that we are now keeping for them in our backyard. My mom has a kitten. The kitten smells very, very bad. Way worse than a normal kitten. I don't know why this is...

So, back to my cats. One of them, Small and Grey (yes, that's her name), has adjusted to new house and life in it (including the dog) just fine. But the other cat, Miss Kitty Fantastico (yes that's her name) is TERRIFIED of the puppy. To really understand the magnitude of this, you have to understand Miss K (for short).

Miss K was born with distemper, and the first year of her life wanted to claw the face off of everyone and everything. Then she got better and settled down...some. But she is still terribly mean and hisses and claws and basically is a menace. Oh, and she is very, very fat. I mean, WAY too big for a cat.

Now in my head, I know that if you pitted Miss K and Willard against one another in a cage fight of some sort, she would KILL him in one fell swoop. She, however, does not know this. And so it came to pass that she spent the first two solid days in my bedroom. I was becoming increasingly concerned that she wasn't eating or drinking. But more than that I was concerned about how she had not visited the litter box. The way our house is set up, the only GOOD place for the litter box is in the bathroom off our laundry room. And in the laundry room is the Cage of Willard. So, she won't even go PAST there.

So, at 7:15 Tuesday morning, Miss K hops up on my bed mewing and nudging me, and I sleepily reach out to pet her, and she hops down onto my legs and snuggles in, AND PISSES ALL OVER ME!!!!!! AND ALL OVER THE BED!!! INCLUDING THE MATTRESS!!! Thank God I don't have my down comforter out for winter yet. WHY?! Why would she do this!!?? What possessed her? Had she just been holding it for that long?

It was a VERY bad way to wake up.

So, Willard's cage is very big, and we have it divided so it is just big enough for his little puppy body. The solution to this "no litter box, peeing in my bed" situation? We have started locking Miss K in the back half of the cage with the dog. She's got to get used to him sooner or later.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Things That Are Happening...

We are settling nicely into this house. The basement will be finished tomorrow, and our family room will be complete with plenty of room for guests. So, any time anyone wants a breath of fresh air, you are welcome to come and shack up with Luke and I...and by shack up, I mean you must come up here and get married to us. We do live in Mormon country.

So, here are some new developments in our lives...

* Philip said his first real words (aside from your basic Mama, Dada, Bye Bye) and they were "Thank you." Man, I am an AWESOME Mom.

* Helen no longer asks to "Go Home." She says "New House." Even when we are in the backyard and she wants to go inside, she says, "Inside new house."

* We have done enough work on this house that every time I get in the car with the kids Helen shouts, "YEA!!! Home Depot!!"

* Philip is going to walk any day now and then I will have two completely mobile children. I expect shortly after that, I will explode.

* Helen shows great signs toward wanting to potty train again. All of her stuffed animals go "pee pee" in the potty everyday.

* We got a dog. He is a mutt. His name is Willard. Two days after we got him, he actually exploded with diarrhea and spent three days at the vet with "Corona Virus." I made the woman at the shelter where we bought him pay for that brief hospitalization.

* Whenever the dog goes out to go to the bathroom, Helen says that Willard has pee peed in the potty. I think this as accurate as I can get from her right now.

* Yesterday, while getting in trouble, Helen looked me right in the eye and began singing, "Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me..." at the top of her voice. I think this was intentional.

* Philip can eat three Vienna Sausages in a single sitting and I don't necessarily believe this is a good thing.

* Philip and Helen wear the same size diaper, the same size shoe and are within four pounds and four inches of one another. In the past week a half a dozen people have asked me if they are twins. And while they are roughly the same size, Philip is clearly not as cognitively functional as Helen, so I always wonder if people who DON'T ask feel sad that I have a retarded baby.

* Luke's grandfather came for a visit and it went very well.

* My parents will be here on Friday...for good. Hooray!

Well, that is enough for now. I just wanted to catch you all up on my life, you know, aside from the feeling sorry for myself. That has, fortunately passed.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

I Hope It's Not Contagious

I am suffering, you see, from a very nasty case of foot-in-mouth syndrome. As a matter of fact, I seem to have a chronic case.

I do apologize ahead of time for what seems to be a lengthening list of very angsty, sort-of teenage blogs about my own troubles. I am falling farther and farther away from my original intent, to write about the antics of my kids. However, to be a good parent, to understand your children, you must first understand yourself. I am on the long journey toward that destination. As it would seem, it is not surprising that I am writing these teenage blogs, for everyday, I come closer and closer to the realization that I am still that sixteen-year-old girl, trapped in this body of an adult. I have an over-riding need for acceptance, and a nasty inclination toward gossip and vengeful spite. I take out my own insecurities on others. I fault others for finding me disagreeable when I, intentionally, make myself so. It is a very nasty spiral of events, don't you think?

More to the point, though, is the e-mail. It is an e-mail I sent to a friend with no particular intentions, just a friendly sort of ditty. Or so I believed. After rereading it, I see that perhaps it seemed otherwise. You see, I stupidly mentioned one or two or four mutual "friends" and made some vague statements about their effect on my life. Now my fear, and I believe this fear to be real, is that this was a very, very bad idea.

In the past year or so, I have had to face some demons from my past. Although I have never been deliberately hurtful or mean-spirited, I did spend a great deal of my later-adolescent (cough, ealry adult, cough) years just not caring about other people. I never went out of my way to make people cry, but if they cried over something I said, it was certainly no skin off my teeth. My bravado was embarrassing, only made worse by my overt attempts to MAKE people not like me, if I, in fact, did not like them. Or, if inside, I really thought they didn't like me anyway. I acted out a lot. I am sure now they have some form of Ridilin for this. I am looking into it. But now...Now I look back in shame. But now, I am also 1,000 miles away from my past. Literally. And those images do not easily fade from people's minds. And saying, "I've changed" really has very little effect on people you have hurt or wronged, especially if they do not get the pleasure of experiencing this change first-hand. And so...

Whenever I talk about anyone, even in passing, even with nostalgia and regret, even with love and remorse, my past attitudes creep sneakily up from my behind, and bite me firmly on the ass. And so I find myself, constantly, with one hand wrapped around my ankle FIERCELY pulling my foot out of the back of my throat. And sometimes it is entangled back there with my uvula and tonsils and all that seedy hatred that I used to spread so easily. And all along, I feel like I have this one sided game of Tug Of War going on, fighting with myself. I am apologizing ahead of time, for things I may not have even said, just in case their meaning should become misconstrued later on, in the hands of someone else. This is certainly problematic in today's cyber/e-mail-y world, where you can't see my face, or hear my tone of voice and instead all you get are these WORDS. And words are oh, so powerful. More so when taken out of context or misunderstood. Because you can never take back your words, you can just back-pedal. And then, it just looks like you are covering. And so instead I just keep talking. And in the back of my head there is this voice shouting, "Shut the F&*% UP!" That voice may be Lucas's. He tries so hard to keep me out of trouble.

And so this may explain my ghosts, my phantom friends. I am worried that I wronged them, and then perhaps wronged them again in an e-mail I meant to be almost jovial in spirit. Alas, in spirit does not translate well on my computer. Perhaps I should start using those emoti-cons more often. I will follow every sentence with little smiling winking faces. Foolish, that is. I just get so frustrated at myself. I try so hard to use the grown-up's potty, but to be honest, I am still walking around in emotional training pants. And isn't that sad. I have a terrific marriage. Enviable, some might say. But MAN if I just can't make it work anywhere else. Sometimes I think I will just give up socialization all together. I will become a hermit lady in my own home. Raising my kids and hanging out with Luke and never again facing the outside world. But then I would have to home-school...and I am already looking forward to having them out of the house... Poo. I'll find my way. Worry not, I will be back on the horse in no time. Perhaps I can find a funny story about Helen and Philip to tell tomorrow and we can put all this messy business behind us.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Question For Which I Need Answers...

Dear Friends,

There are a number of people in my life, from days gone long by, with whom I am in complete disconnect. There are various reasons for this. There are people I've alienated or insulted, people with whom I just no longer have anything in common, people whose life-styles I find so abhorrent and ridiculous, that I have made my own personal cut-off, and those who have just slipped through my fingers with the passing of time.

I look at my life and, such as is it, it seems so whole and complete. I have the things that I need. I have the people that I need. I have a life separate from any of these people. These are not folks that would make or break my day. They are not even, some of them, people that I particularly like. They are not people that I need in order to raise my children, be a good wife to Luke or grow in my spiritual life. They are just ghosts.

And ghosts they are. They haunt me. These are people that I do not go to sleep at night without thinking of. They mingle in my necessary thought-process throughout the day. Their faces enter in my dreams in bizarre scenarios. And for the last week or two, my thoughts of them are all-encompassing. I actually have trouble focusing on my ever-so whole and complete life because there seem to be these missing links to these people with whom I have lost touch. And I cannot for the life of me figure out why they are so important.

I have moments where I think, "God is telling you something. You need to re-build bridges you've burned and make some wrongs, right." But those thoughts are quickly followed by the, "You are lonely and immature and you just only worry that people don't like you, and you want reassurance and validation that you are, in fact, likeable, and THAT sounds like High School Sarah to me." And then there are the more agonizing moments when I just want to poke something long into my ear and scrape it around in my brain shouting, "GET OUT PHANTOM FRIENDS!" But I worry Luke will have me committed. Because I just don't know why it bothers me.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Who Am I?

I am having an identity crisis. Here are the reasons:

Identity Crisis 1
We are starting at an early age telling our kids about Jesus. We sing songs, read age-appropriate stories and try to fit him into conversation whenever possible. It is surprisingly easy to fit Him into conversation (and by Him, I mean the whole Trinity shebang, not just Jesus himself) because Helen's limited world-view holds the capacity of trees, flowers, mommy, daddy, brother and love, all of which/whom Jesus made. And the songs are just fun. Even if I find some of them reprehensible as they flow from my mouth on their catchy little tunes. The second verse of Jesus Loves Me... "Jesus loves me when I'm bad, though it makes him very sad"... this is hard for me to sing. And "Oh Be Careful" will never be sung in this house.

So, today, Helen and I were sitting at the table enjoying some mandarin oranges and chocolate milk, and singing "Zaccheus Was A Wee, Little Man." After the final line "For I am going to your house today," Helen shouts, "HELEN GOES TO HOUSE! HELEN GOES TO ZACCHEUS HOUSE!" Okay, she can't actually pronounce Zaccheus, but that's just semantics. So I tell her, "Sure, you go to Zaccheus's house. You and Jesus both go to the house." Because humoring your kids is how you make it through the day. And then Helen says the weirdest, creepiest thing ever...

She says, "Mama is Jesus."

And Luke's laughter chorused out of the other room. And I stumble about saying, "No, no. Mama is NOT Jesus." Because I now, somehow feel blasphemous. Why does Helen think I am Jesus? I have to assume it is because she thinks that I made everything. I made brother. Why not flowers and mountains and rivers? So our next bible lesson around the house is "Why Mommy is NOT Jesus." Does anyone have scripture to back that up?

Identity Crisis 2
Today Luke and I had a brief, yet very real conversation of the subtleties of the vocal quality of the lead singer of Journey. I find him to be very talented. Luke finds his voice strange.

When did I start knowing enough about Journey to have this conversation? Why wasn't I wearing a jeans jacket and leaning on my Camaro and brushing my mullet while we had this talk? Why was I listening to Journey on a CD? Why do I OWN a Journey CD? Why wasn't I listening to it on cassette while holding the boom box on my shoulder?

Seriously, a conversation about Steve Perry. I like COUNTING CROWS. That's who I am.

Identity Crisis 3
While unpacking in our new house, I found I own a number of romance novels. I do not know where they came from. Perhaps I went out and bought them subconsciously after I started staying at home with the kids. Perhaps I also watch soaps during the day and think Capri pants equal dress-up clothes.

This could be chalked up to my sister leaving one on a visit, or I got them mixed up in my books back when I lived with other girls, but no, there are like 15 of them. I really have no idea how this occurred. Some of them are by Danielle Steele. Now this is against my religion. No really, Jesus does not like Danielle Steele. It's in the bible. He smites people for reading that kind of literary garbage, mass-manufactured by Silhouette and Harlequin. I really just don't know how this came to be...

Identity Crisis 4
I ordered chicken-fried steak at a restaurant yesterday. I don't eat beef. And because I don't eat beef, when I DO eat it, it has a...very bad effect on me. Maybe once every 6 weeks or so, I have Luke take me out for a really nice steak, and I will always regret it. So, why, yesterday, was I possessed to order chicken-fried cube steak at a place that makes the Rainbow Inn (you know what it is) look like Steak and Ale (or someplace actually fancy). Anyway, I ordered it, and the waitress walked away and I looked at Luke kind of shocked-and-awed and said, "That's going to make me sick." Why did I do that? What is wrong with me lately. Have any of you seen the real Sarah? And could you send her back my way? I miss her.