Friday, May 15, 2015

Odds and Ends on a Friday

I think there may be some sort of nuclear Miracle-Gro site outside of my office window. It's the only way I can explain the fact that every damn day the maintenance guys are out there cutting the same patch of grass over and over. It's not a normal amount, people. I have sat in my office (on my more unproductive days, obviously), and watched the lawnmower guy create crop circles in the lawn. Round and round he goes. Dude. It's cut. Move on.

Yesterday I was invited to set in on end-of-year calculus presentations. The students were creative, presenting raps and songs with calculus terms, a calculus alphabet, and a cartoon that included the Calculus Palace and the Integral Pinnacle. My favorite part, though, was when two boys showed how they calculated the volume of the big church on campus. That part was impressive. The part where they admitted that they used inches as their unit slayed me. "Yeah, um, these are, like, really huge numbers."

Just for grins I've been cutting out random headlines and leaving them in a colleague's mailbox. I find them amusing when taken out of context. Are you willing to yield? Betty likes to sew as her pastime. I got a new me. Bring on the love. The best...rompers. Sometimes I find quirky want ads. Off-duty police officer: cuts grass and landscapes.

School is almost out (both at work and at home) and I'm looking forward to the slower pace of summer on both fronts. I know in the fall I will be glad to get back to our regular routine, but at this point I need a bit of down time. Clean out the email boxes, purge the paper files. And read. The Japanese have a term for books purchased but unread: Tsundoku. We need a word like that in English. I have a major Tsundoku thing going at home right now. Books piled up everywhere, including on my Kindle. I am hoping that the slower pace of summer means that I can get through more than half a page at night, when I'm so tired from the day that I just can't keep my eyes open. It's a good kind of tired, but my OCD is kicking into anxiety mode with all those unread books sitting around (I have a thing about needing to finish things, whether it's the week's laundry or picking up around the house or getting that last little bit out of the toothpaste tube).

I am also looking forward to summer because the dining hall at work will serve a greatly pared down  menu. This means that I will likely eat only one serving of lunch everyday instead of three, which happens now because who can pass up sweet and sour chicken with crab rangoon and egg rolls when it's right there next to bacon-wrapped meatloaf with cheddar garlic mashed potatoes and smoked Gouda and wild mushroom soup? I cannot, to which my hips and thighs can testify. I have no will power when it comes to food.

I have developed a new-found appreciation of the Times New Roman font. I read an article recently that said you shouldn't use Times New Roman as the font on your resume, and I was offended. Times New Roman is a good, solid font. There's a reason it has been used so much. Because it's classic and it's legible. I have dabbled in alternative fonts. I was stuck on Century Gothic for awhile, when I was going through my sans serif phase. I dabbled in Palatino, Garamond, and Georgia. But you know what? I always come back to Times New Roman. Good ol' TNR. Old, stodgy and grumpy. Just like me.

Dammit. The lawn mower guy just showed up again.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The power of words

I think the thing that amazes me most this week, besides learning that the Latin root of "graduation" means "to step off," is that the ancient art of writing can still be so fresh and new and creative that it blows my mind. It also gives me a huge inferiority complex, but that's a whole 'nother blog post.

There's a hashtag trending on Twitter (okay, not trending for the general population maybe but mostly for word nerds like me) that involves fiction. It's #twitterfiction. (That's not the super-creative and awesomely fresh part. Just to be clear.) It involves lots of writers using Twitter to share new work. It's an online Festival of Fiction, which is cool in and of itself. Yesterday, I was completely blown away by the posts of Celeste Ng (@pronounced_ing). She Storified them all so you can read through them quickly and easily, with the photos. I'm gonna do you a favor and just give you the link right here, so you don't have to log into Twitter and find Celeste and scroll through her tweets, or go digging through the now thousands of #twitterfiction tweets. You're welcome.

Cool, right? Wicked awesome.

And then today, I found an interview that involves questions answered by eBay posts:

I read an article the other day about how writing about your past can help you reshape your own future. Some smart guys did research that shows when people are given the opportunity to write their autobiographies, and then edit their words, they can effectively change how they move through the rest of their lives. When the study involved college students, those who wrote showed improved grades and a much lower propensity to drop out. When the study involved people fighting obesity or illness, those who wrote tended to have much healthier lives.

Someone from the St. Louis Writers Guild (of which I am a proud member) posted on our Facebook page the other day that there is a program here in town that involves writing therapy for military veterans. My cousin in Cincy (hi, Clare!) shared one of her outreach programs that brings people together for a Community of Stories. She shared a video of a reading last year that affects me to this day:

I am humbled in the face of all this. And challenged to continue trying to share all the jumbled mess that is inside my head.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Lost and Found

Evidently I shouldn't wake up at 5:30 a.m. fuming about something and then go shoot my mouth off on my blog. Because it comes across as rude and mean-spirited. Maybe. That's how I'm reading it today, anyway. So let's just forget that ever happened.

I read an article this weekend about a woman who "threw away" her life in order to find herself. She was engaged and had purchased a new home with her fiancee and had a good job with benefits, when suddenly she decided that she wasn't happy. She didn't know why exactly, but she knew that she wouldn't find happiness until she ditched the fiancee and house and the stable life and found herself. I read this with interest, because I'm always intrigued about this notion of finding one's self. Most people don't ever, so I like to read about those who do.

As I usually do when I read these types of essays, I compared her words and her experience to my own life. Usually I find at least one thought that resonates, whether it's "look at ways to incorporate your passion into your life every day" or "pare down your commitments to the essentials that truly make you happy" or other such "go forth and prosper" missives.

At first, I thought that this essay missed the mark entirely. I could not relate to a single one of her thoughts or decisions. I don't want or need to leave the man in my life to find happiness; he brings it to me. I didn't have a child to fill some sort of societal expectation; we expanded our family because we felt it was right for us. I love the home we live in, which is good since we designed the whole damn thing. There's nowhere to run. There's no need to run.

I suppose this means that I have found myself, if I ever lost myself to begin with. Which is an interesting "chicken or the egg" conundrum. I don't really know how to answer that. I think at some points in my life I felt a bit lost. Changing majors in college (a vast swing from engineering to journalism) was unsettling. Being kicked out of my parents' house left me unmoored for a time. Navigating newlyweddedness with no self interests while my husband had plenty was eye-opening. But if I had to do it all over again, I would. Those periods of loss and confusion only served to help me truly figure out who I wanted to be, helped me become who I am.

So it's good to lose yourself sometimes, so long as you always find your way back home.

Also, M hung all my prints and posters in my home office this weekend, which makes me so damn happy I could spit. The room is nearly finished...I'm just waiting for the St. Louis IKEA to open so I can buy a desk chair instead of stealing one from the dining room table. I absolutely love that little space of mine, that room of my own. It's my home within my home, and it's there that I can find myself again and again.  

(Thanks, hubby, for all your hard work to help me create a space that makes me so happy!)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Mothers Day Rant (because that's how I roll)

I was so busy yesterday that I didn't visit Facebook until late at night, after sorting nearly a month's worth of mail and paying bills and balancing the checkbook and updating the budget and helping Zoe finish her poetry project and tidying up the house and getting cleaned up and going to Latin Vespers and dinner to honor a teacher who retired after 51 years of teaching Latin and Greek at which I photographed the honoree and his family.

I was so busy mothering yesterday that I didn't visit Facebook until late at night.

And when I finally got there, exhausted and yet happy, what I found pissed me off.

Now, to be clear, this is not unusual. There is plenty on Facebook, and indeed online in general, to piss me off.

What I found last night, at least among the threads in my own particular newsfeed, was a slow, rolling wave of anti-Mothers Day posts.

What. the. fuck.

Perhaps I'm overly sensitive because I struggled for so long to become a mother. No, wait, I know that's true. I get the pain, okay? I get the bitter mix of feelings of disgust and disappointment and ache and fear. I went through it, and I know many wonderful women who also went through it. Mothers Day was impossibly painful for me during that time. I avoided going to Mass because I didn't want to risk bursting into tears when all the women around me stood up for a special blessing at the end. I get the pain.

But here's the thing:

During those years of feeling less than, of feeling sad and angry and punished, I never once expected that other women who were lucky enough to be mothers to not get their due. My pain was mine, and it did not mean that others should suffer or go unrecognized for it.

Mothering is hard work. It's the hardest job I will ever have, just as fathering is for Michael. We don't know what the fuck we're doing most of the time. We feel our way along and figure it out as we go. Thank God I get to hold his hand through this. In a job that can feel pretty close to thankless sometimes, that is often overwhelming and filled with feelings that are just as passionate as those experienced during infertility, it's nice to have one day, one fucking day, where people go, "Hey. Nice job with the offspring."

Yesterday I read a Mothers Day essay by a writer whose work I usually adore. She went off on self-righteous parents who think that their love for their children eclipses all other love. She, a mother herself, discussed how the vast majority of parents are certain that the love of a parent is stronger than any other love. Here's the thing: I am absolutely convinced it is. This is, of course, based on my own personal experience. I had never, ever felt the type of all-consuming, selfless love that happens daily now that I am a mother. Perhaps I was more selfish than the average person. I'm cool with that. But now that I am a parent, everything else pales in comparison. I imagine that this feeling is shared by most people who are parents. Otherwise we wouldn't be so damn self-righteous.

My own feelings take nothing away from those people who aren't parents, whether by choice or by circumstance. I do not stand here in judgment. I can only relate my own personal experience, which is this: becoming a parent fundamentally changed who I am and what I care about. My priorities shifted in ways I never dreamed possible. Motherhood changed me for the better. I will not apologize for this, and all I want is one day to celebrate that, to honor all the phenomenal women I know who feel the same way (there are a lot). Mothers Day was invented for a purpose. Generations of women have been celebrated on this one day, and for very good reason.

I read another essay by a different writer, who acknowledged that the whole notion of Mothers Day is fraught with pain. Yep, it is. I've experienced this for years, way before I ever saw even a flicker of infertility on the horizon. My relationship with my own mother has been hard for a long, long time. Unless I'm feeing particularly strong on Mothers Day, I avoid social media just so I don't have to see all the glowing tributes from women in my generation to women in my mother's generation. It's a reminder of all that I missed, the possibilities that are irrevocably gone.

I don't begrudge those women who have loving, kind mothers. Am I jealous? Sure. Who wouldn't be? But I also recognize that the world would be a pretty shitty place if we didn't have women who had the mothering thing at least somewhat figured out, and I am thankful that many of those women have mothered me over the years. Those women deserve the sentiments, and my own experience does not negate that. I am thrilled that my friends have wonderful relationships with their mothers. It gives me hope that I can have one of those relationships with my daughter.

This country celebrates inanities nearly every day of the year. National Talk Like a Pirate Day. National Toasted Ravioli Day. We take to the streets to celebrate winning teams of overgrown boys who get paid millions to play baseball. The nation loses its mind over a freakin' groundhog once a year. But now we can't celebrate Mothers Day? Now, we must be more mindful of all the women who aren't mothers on Mothers Day, than the mothers themselves. Really?

Mothering is a hard job. I chose it and I love it and I do it every single day and I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm taking my props.

Happy Mothers Day.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The Most Boring Post in the World

I haven't blogged in a hundred years, and I don't have anything in particular to write about now but I thought I better check in.

I haven't been writing. What have I been doing? Limping. A lot. And working. Working and limping. Yep. It's about as exciting as it sounds.

I annoy myself in how long it takes me to get places now. I'm out of the boot and into a surgical shoe. It's designed, like the boot, to keep my foot from flexing. Try to walk without flexing one foot. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Yeah. It sucks, doesn't it? The only way to develop any sort of rhythm is to throw the right foot forward and bring the left foot up to it, maybe slightly ahead if you're feeling feisty. This means that I am essentially walking with a half-stride. This morning, as I gimped my way from the parking lot into the high school, I watched a little old nun with white hair gimp across the other parking lot. She was headed to the parish center. I realized that she was going at twice my clip. This was humbling, to say the least. Then a colleague mentioned, as we traversed a hallway this afternoon, "Wow. You are moving pretty slow."

I can drive myself now, which is great, but then I get out of the car and practically crawl.

I kept looking forward to the six week mark. Six weeks and I'm out of the boot! Six weeks! It's only six weeks...anyone can do anything for six weeks.

I forgot to ask what happens after the six weeks. I assumed that once I was out of the boot I would be, oh I don't know, walking. Yes yes. I know what happens when I assume. Anyway. Now I have three weeks of "transition." Or, in my mind, five days of the surgical shoe and then I just start freakin' walking, and then when I go back to the podiatrist in three weeks I say, "Yeah, sure. My transition was sloooow. Why do you ask?" Only I can't do that because M is back from Bangalore/Mumbai/Shanghai/Taiwan/MultipleStopsInHongKong and he's watching me like a hawk.

And so I limp.