May 26, 2012

Strange Days Indeed....

Going through menopause is very strange.  I don't even know who I will be from one day to the next.  My temper is liable to come awake in an instant, and things fly out of my mouth that surprise and appall me daily. For instance, the other day I saw a man old enough to be my father walk in from the shop where I work without safety glasses and before I could even think, my mouth opened and I said "What are you doing out there without safety glasses, boy?"  Yes.  I said that. I was immediately embarrassed and the person inside my head said "I can NOT believe you just said that.  Have you lost your mind?"    He looked at me like he was in trouble, and so appalled was I that I then felt compelled to explain how dangerous it was.  As if he didn't know that.  As if he wanted to hear stories of people with splinters of metal in their eyes.  He took it pretty well, and I consoled myself with the fact that his own mother would have said the same thing.  It all happened before I could even think, and thinking is not my strong suite these days, if you know what I mean.

After years of raising kids and keeping to one schedule or another, I find myself uncertain what to do if I have a choice now. Often I just do nothing.   

For so many years I didn't have a choice.  I got used to cooking, cleaning, reading books for the twenty-seventh thousand time.   I got used to going to sleep at the same time every night and sleeping soundly.  In fact, so much did I enjoy simply having time that I did not have to be doing some chore that even if I couldn't sleep occasionally it was all right, because my bed had become my refuge.  I am such a reader that should I become bed-ridden it would not bother me too much as long as I had books.  Let the world stop turning, as long as I had books to read I would be fine.

Lately I have found myself unable to sleep.  This has thrown me for a loop and turned me into the female incarnation of a grizzly bear, much to my chagrin.  I called an older friend of mine and told her what I was going through, then asked the most important question, "Will I change back or is this permanent?"

"It doesn't last that long.  You will be yourself again", she replied. I was so relieved.  She also told me to get some Melatonin, which you can buy over the counter and will help promote sleep.  I lost no time, believe me, and plan to take my first one tonight.

I have been dealing with the listless, apathetic feeling for so long that I was getting used to it, as long as I could still sleep.  Take away my sleep, though, and we have no deal  Who is we?  Beats me.  Me and God, me and society, me and life, take your pick.

So I really was not expecting an energy surge, but I got one.  Last night I got off work and took the boys out for supper.  Once we got home, instead of laying on the couch as is my usual routine these days, I gave both dogs a bath and cleaned the carpets upstairs.  This was like some kind of miracle alone, but just wait!  

Today when I got up I took Shadow to the vet by 8 am.  She was really impressed that she got to go anywhere without Jack.  This was the first time they have ever been parted.  It did not bother her one bit.  She pranced around like the lady I know she is and behaved herself very well.  She has an ear infection that cost me $60 but it was worth every penny just to see her strutting around like she was the queen of the world. 

I spent the rest of the morning, I kid you not, going to two different grocery stores, cleaning out the garage, and taking all the bedding I can't fit into my own machine to the laundry mat.  The boys, who have already learned not to let things fly out of their mouths, just gave me odd, slanted looks that clearly said "What has gotten into you?  Why are you doing all this stuff?  Don't you want to lay down for a little while?"

I was impressed and baffled at the same time, wondering what in the world had gotten into me, when all of a sudden the voice inside my head said "Hold on!  I remember this!!  I used to be this way!  When I was young!"

As always, the voice inside my head was correct.  I used to be whirlwind of a cleaning and organizing machine, I tell you.  In fact, I was that way until probably the age of 40.  Then, there was nothing I could now do.  It did not matter what broke, fell apart or got lost, I could fix it!  As I got older I told myself that slowing down was just growing up.  After all, when you think you can do anything you find you are often wrong.  I told myself I had just learned not to jump into things without looking, but this turns out not to be true.  Well, it's true, of course, we all learn as we go, but I was ignoring the one obvious answer:  HORMONES.  

If you are a woman, hormones, or the lack of them, rule your life.  I know how helpless that makes you feel, but take it from one who knows.  Just accept it and try to move on.  How I could miss such an easy answer is beyond me, but there it is.  I can remember thinking when the kids were small that when they grew up I would...........fill in the blank.  I had plans, you see.  Plans for the me I was then.  Along the way I forgot what those plans were and then I just didn't care anymore.  I put my foolish dreams away, or so I thought.  I can't say what those foolish dreams were now, but I'm sure if I looked in my old journals I could find out.  Not that I really care anymore, but just for kicks and grins.

So now I get up every day not knowing what will happen or what I will do or not do.  It's a surprise!  I was never very good with surprises but I think I am getting better.  Instead of thinking I know what will happen I just fly by the seat of my pants, which is pretty much what got me through my younger life.  Some days I am again the whirlwind of yesteryear, and some days I am a lump of frustrated apathy.  I just try to take it all in stride.  What else can I do?  What else, indeed.  The poor boys don't know what I will or won't do from day to day either.  That's OK.  They are teenagers and as far as I am concerned it only works in my favor.    They certainly have started listening to what I say again, if only out of their instincts for self-preservation.  I'll take it.  All in all I think we are all handling it pretty well.

And as for things flying out of my mouth?  Donut holes.  Pop one of those babies in and we are good to go.

May 12, 2012

Katie Is A Genius!

The other day, and because all my days and nights run together anymore, I cannot get closer to telling you when than 'recently', one by my favorite cyber-friends Katie gave me and the rest of the Internet some wonderful advice.  Now, the advice was all good, but the part that spoke most to me, being menopausal, was what she had learned about getting close enough.  You should really read it no matter what age you are.  She covers all the bases, that girl, although I doubt that she knows how good she really is.  None of us do at her age in my opinion.  We really should be better to ourselves.  Anyway, she is genius because she has already learned through hard experience that she has to give herself a break.  She did this with her 2nd baby by not expecting herself to get everything done and counting it good if she got 'close enough' by making piles she could attack at some other point in the future.

This idea took root in my brain because in case I haven't already told you this, you should know:  piles are my forte. (for-tay since I lack the knowledge of how to put the little squiggly mark over the e, something probably any 12 year old already knows how to do).   Piles are what I do, what I have grown to be good at.  Practically every available surface in my house holds piles of one thing or another.  I do not recommend that you even get started making piles, because it is a road to confusion and frustration, but this is often what we girls do to ourselves.  Why?  Because no one comes to our house and says to our faces what they really think, which is "How did your house get to be in such a shape, woman?  Zoikes!"  Well, maybe your mom.  Maybe, depending on how much she thinks it might hurt your feelings.  Most other people are too afraid to be rude.  With good reason, in my house, of late!  Just remember, apathy can be your friend.  You may not believe it now but once you reach a certain age, that apathy that you think is a bad thing can keep you from making scenes in which you would probably just make yourself look an old hysterical ass.  Use it wisely.

While Katie is still young and has a nice new house where everything has it's place and most of the stuff is in it's place most of the time, I have a house where I have lived for 11 years and have been making piles of stuff to get around to that whole, long, entire time. When I moved here, I had 4 children ranging in age from 3-11.  Children have started school, some of them have fallen in love, 2 of them have graduated and left home, hearts have been broken, resolutions have been reached, and all this time, I have been making piles.  Piles of stuff that I presumably meant at one time to get to, but just............haven't.  Instead I have added to the piles.  Occasionally I re-arrange the piles, and by re-arrange, I mean I stuff them into a drawer or put them in a box and then put the box in the furnace room.  Presumably to get to later, but I gotta tell ya, later is a long time coming.

To prove it, I offer you this:

This a picture of the Rock Star in the summer of '90.  He was born in December of 1989.  I was 24 years old.  My house was clean.  Yes, he was a cutie, but I want to to look to the right of him.  See the wicker shelf?  Notice how there isn't very much stuff on it?  That was because I had a nice new house and believed that everything had a place and everything was in it.  Ah, I miss those days.....that's why I think everyone should move every 5-10 years.  Unless you do, you *may* be looking a problem with piles yourself.
I showed you that so that you can appreciate what Katie's post inspired me to do.

Behold the same shelf 22 years later.  Remember that this shelf has only been sitting in this house for 11 years:

yes, yes, I know.  You cannot believe that I would even live with this let alone put it on the internet.  If Katie can blog her own first birth, I can come clean about what the apathy of menopause can do to you.  OK, OK, I cannot possibly blame this all on menopause......This is what drowning in children for 11 years and then the apathy of menopause can do to you.  Yeah, I knew it was bad, but with the first quiet times I have had in 20 years I chose to read or take a nap.  Judge me at your own peril, you young energetic hopeful people who think it will never happen to you.  I can be the warning that will stick in the back of your mind when it happens to you.  Just know that you are not alone.  And this was just the stuff that was out of the way, so to speak.  Check this out:
Yep.  My kitchen table.  Apparently the piling gene has been passed on to my children.  Let's play I spy for a minute.  On the chair closest to us is Jack's harness that I gave up on earlier this week when the dog's became cat-killers and a black sweater I wore to work because even though it was nice this week I work in a place with the temperature of Siberia.  On the bench to the right is my purse (yes, I know it's too big but I have piles there too) and one of the boy's swim suits which I laid there to dry.  On the other bench is an afghan put there a couple of weeks ago for the same purpose.  Why?  Because when you are a born pile maker any airy surface is great to dry clothes, of course.  DUH!  On the top of the table I see my sewing basket, which we needed to sew a miniature sail on a miniature raft for a book report on Tom Sawyer (A CLASSIC) this week, what's left of a bag of Apple Jacks (no one ever want the last of the bag), a clever little bag that you get your shoes in when you order them off the internet, a tupperware container containing the last of the pecans from 2 years ago, a case of Roman Noodles because the boys can both fix them and will eat them by themselves but I have no room in my cupboard for, a couple of bags of clips to electrify a fence for the cat-killers, an empty box of what I do not know, and a pair of binoculars covered in camo tape by The Cyclist that only has one site that still works and which I used to look at the Orioles this week.  Yes, all this is from this week except for the afghan, which I washed last weekend.

My mission was clear, and I told myself that I was going to get this cleaned up if it killed me, and if I could just get this much cleaned up, I could make other piles of the stuff that I could not force myself to tackle today.  This plan satisfied both my urges to get the house clean enough I wouldn't have to be embarrassed for people to come to it AND my penchant for putting things off.  WIN-WIN!!

I put in Mary Chapin Carpenter's Come On Come On album and it just flowed.  I absolutely love Mary Chapin Carpenter, always have, mostly because she is a very talented song writer with a smooth mellow voice and does all her own work, but also because she just does her music and puts it out there without investing a lot of money to make her seem like a bubble headed barbie doll.   She's a real girl, and it comes through loud and clear.  This album was our family favorite when the Rock Star and The Beautiful Redhead were small, so it was a great choice.

It wasn't long before I had many more piles and the dogs, baffled by the sight of my cleaning, no doubt, had gotten comfortable in front row seats.  Mary sang "sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug", and I sang along, aiming pointed looks at the dogs, hoping the meaning was clear, because they are still on house arrest.  I found a battery charger in the shelf, it's in the bottom right of the picture above.  When I put it away, I discovered that I have two of these items.  Who knew?

I found a bunch of good CD's, Gordon Lightfoot, Kenny Loggins, Bellamy Brothers (must have been a Salvation Army find since it was a CD, I am sure I haven't bought anything new from them since at least cassettes), and Billy Squire.

Mary was singing The Hard Way when I discovered this, I considered it a God wink:
What's that you say?  The remains of a lunch that I sent for some unremembered field trip at least 1 year ago, maybe 5.  There's no way to be sure.  The blessing was that it contained only empty trash, an ice pack and a spoon.

Mary was through The Hard Way and on to I Feel Lucky for the second time by the time my kitchen looked like this:
I was making good progress and I sat down to make a list of my piles.  I tried to take a picture of the list but it didn't come out.  
This was what was on my list:
Recipe's (very large pile.  I blame Pioneer Woman.  She cooks like the devil but is actually an angel  You will love her.  Check her out and you might want to buy some 3 ring binders because you will print off many, many recipes.

Pictures (spanning 80 years.  Family history + life.  Nuff said.

Seeds (Rosemary, Thyme, Pumkin)

Life Insurance Policies ( Yes, I am ashamed.  I even have a filing cabinet.  On the other hand, I haven't died, and even if I did, the kids may be amazed that all the info was right there in plain sight)

Old Calendars (If you don't have joint custody, this one would be hard to explain.  Just stay married.  It's easier)

Grave flowers (my intentions are good and no one will ever know the difference anyway)

Dog stuff. (nail clippers, bitter spray, broken collars, brushes, pad cleaning wipes, Frontline)
New Insurance cards (eegads!  Since I don't know how long they've been there, I don't even know if they are good at the present time)

Fishing gear (bobbers and very wicked looking hooks.  What could they be fishing for with hooks like that? Maybe frogs.

By the time Mary was singing I Take My Chances for the second time, I was feeling triumphant, because my kitchen now looked like this:

Still a ways to go, but I was on a roll!  By the time she belted out Passionate Kisses for the second time, I was looking at this:

Jack is exhausted by all my hard work but Shadow is still paying close attention. I wonder if I could teach her to clean.....  On the bench are one of the boys' school bags and a princess dress that belongs to the real grandmother of my Pretend Grandbaby.  She wore it to my house in March and I put it in a freezer bag so it wouldn't get hurt and I fully intended to return it a long time ago.  2 months isn't really too bad, for me.

I know it still looks full but the shelf is all clean and organized now.  The only things on the table that still need to be put up are either the boys' school work or pictures.  The pictures are a different pile and project all unto themselves.  My goal is get them all in albums for Christmas presents for the kids.  What year that will get done is anybody's guess, and if I die before I get it done it will be waiting for the kids in one big pile. It's important to pass on family traditions, you know. 

It was noon by this time and I had 3 nice boys downstairs who had not even bothered me one little bit. Probably they were staying downstairs in fear of my odd behavior since it's not every day I clean, let alone neglect to nag them to shower and brush their teeth 49 times.  Oh well!  Since they had allowed me to accomplish 11 years of work within 2 measly hours, I made them grilled ham and cheese:

One thing about boys:  feed them and they will be loyal to you forever.  That's what I like about them.  I find them very predictable that way, it's part of their charm.

Then I was off to the library and the store, because after all this I deserve a good book.  If you are wondering if I have ever considered whether my reading gets in the way of my housekeeping, I have.  Many times, but I don't think I'll be changing anytime soon.  Perhaps some day I will care more about cleaning.  I can only hope, as each day is a roll of the dice for me now.  The only thing that will ever keep me from reading is if I go blind.  Even then I can listen to audio books while I clean. 

Hey, there's a really good  

So if you have put off cleaning stuff up for so long that you have just gotten used to the piles, take heart!  With the right inspiration and music, you can turn that train around before you even know it.  It's a great trip down memory lane and once you do a little bit you feel so good you want to do more......sometime.  See how that works?  Anticipation with no pressure.  WIN-WIN! 

Good luck with your piles, assuming you have some!

May 10, 2012

Timing Is Everything

The dogs have put me through hell, literally, lately.

Two weeks ago they dug out of the fence and spent the whole day LOST.
I spent the whole day pacing at home, yelling my lungs out, slowly driving around looking desperately for them, crying, raging, imagining how mean I was going to be to them if they ever came home, imagining how sad I would be if they didn't come home, imagining having to tell the boys the dogs were gone, and alerting all the neighbors that they were gone, so they could contact me if they saw them.  Since I was driving around anyway I stopped by the police station to let them know, I called the pound to see if they had showed up there.  Nothing. There were a couple of sales with lots of people that I slowly cruised around until I made people nervous wondering what the heck I was doing.  Not a sign of them anywhere.

It was just exactly the same as when the older kids were not home when they were supposed to be.  It was exactly the same as it will be when the twins are not home when they are supposed to be.  This is still in the future, although it is coming at me very fast.

You think that you would 'know' if your child was in a ditch, slowly bleeding to death, and you are pretty sure that they are just out, having fun and physically fine, but let's face it, until someone actually lays in a ditch and slowly bleeds to death, you cannot be absolutely certain.  So you worry.

With dogs, you worry that they will be shot for chasing cows, or digging in someone's garden.  You worry that they will run through a field and come down on something that will impale their chest.  You worry that they will step on a broken bottle in a creek.  You worry that they will get hit along the highway.  Mostly you worry that they will meet some other nice people and just stay and you will wonder what happened to them, hoping it wasn't something horrible, till the day you die.  All this time, they are probably just running through timber and splashing in ponds and laying in the sun sleeping, enjoying the day while your hair is turning white and the gas tank creeps toward empty and you tell yourself that you cannot afford to drive around all day and that they are probably home now and you are missing them because you are not there!!  Throw a few hot flashes in there and it's enough to drive you crazy, or at least make you wish you were crazy and above such mundane worries.

After all this, they show up at the back door in time for supper, looking like butter wouldn't melt in their mouths.

Again, it is exactly the same as with a child.  You are furiously relieved and angry all at once, followed immediately by weak-kneed gratefulness that they are all right, followed by the stern talking to and the punishment which you fervently hope works because let's face it: their lives depend on it.

The dogs have been tied up since then unless we are home and while Jack is more mellow and takes his medicine basically like a man, Shadow should maybe have been named Houdini.  They are so proud when they get out, it's like they have performed some incredibly wonderful trick.  They positively exude joy.  If something runs from them they seem to feel 10 feet tall and bullet proof.  Anything that doesn't run and shows the slightest bit of resistance scares them. They are chasers-not killers. They truly know not what they do.  If only we were still in that same blissful state of ignorance.

I don't want to say girls are smarter here, because I do not truly believe that, but Shadow is able to not only slip a collar off her neck but also an admittedly uncomfortable harness. Like Houdini, I suspect she can dislocate her shoulders at will. Unfortunately, Shadow was not adopted by a family of spies or a circus where this kind of thing would appreciated, and this is Shadow's burden to bear.  We all have at least one.

This morning they did it again.  Jack even did it in his harness, not being one to expend energy uselessly.  By the time we found them they had apparently been through a pond and killed a neighbor's cat. Said neighbor decided the best course of action would be to inform two 14 year old boys in no uncertain terms that  if he saw the dogs again, he would be beating them with a golf club, one of which he conveniently had with him to wave around.   This, when reported to me, prompted at least one of my sons to respond in a way that would not have my personal first, second, or third choice.  Where was I?  I was 50 feet up the street in my driveway.  This is not, thank God, a neighbor who lives close to us.

By the time the boys and dogs get back to the house to tell me this, the boys are practically in tears and huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf.  It is at this moment in my day 7:27 am.  I have two dogs which I love but am in the mood to kill inside my house, two very upset 14 year old boys which I love but cannot protect from the ugliness of the world, and a neighbor that I would love to kill but have to set an example and therefore show love and understanding for. And it is only Thursday.  Annnnd we still all have to get to school and work on time.  These are the facts of my life at this moment.

Shiver me timbers.

Welcome to my world!!  Take a seat and buckle up, ladies and gentleman!  It's gonna be one hellovaday!!
I wisely decided not to complain; after all, I could have chosen to be an alcoholic instead of raising kids but that was not the choice I made.  There is no changing horses in the middle of this stream, we are just going to have to ride the rapids and hope for the best.  Besides, everyone else had already lost their cool, and somebody had to act like an adult even if they didn't feel like it.  By default this duty had fallen to me.

God was with me.

Of course he was!

I put the dogs in the garage with a little water, a couple of bones, a long lecture and some fervent hope that Shadow's multiple capabilities would be stymied by a locked doorknob, at least until I could get home at noon.  I had a little cartoon fantasy about her clicking out a claw shaped like a key, kind of like a dog version of Inspector Gadget.  Then I came back to earth and distantly wished for the days when cartoons were always on because I had small children.  I miss those days.  Then I sucked it up and charged back into the fray.

I told the boys that I was sure the neighbors loved their cat and I felt absolutely terrible about it.
This worked, as they know what it is to lose a cat.  It hasn't been that long since our own died, and that cooled down the killing rage that only teenage hormones can summon up.

Then I told them that whatever had been said, on both sides, had been said in the heat of the moment, and we all let our tempers get away from us sometimes.  Nobody is perfect.  The one rule that never changes.

Then, since this person works at the same place where they have to spend all day, I told them that if they saw this person there, and had to speak, that they should keep their faces neutral, their voices respectful, and sincerely give their condolences to the cat owner, and then walk away.  The walking away part was key, and I stressed it, because this is not an adult that I respect or even trust around children, for reasons entirely older and completely separate from this  particular incident.  But I cannot control the world, which is another rule that never changes.

As we drove to school, it occurred to me that as unpleasant as this day already was, the timing of it was eerily perfect.  In a year these boys will be driving, and going places without me, out of my control.  It will be up to them, then. This morning they had experienced exactly how I would feel if they did what the dogs had done, and they knew it.

I told the boys that now they understood what it was like to be a parent, who only wanted their child to mind for their own good, so that they could be safe in the world and know how to behave when their parents could not be with them.  We talked about how badly it can hurt to have to punish the ones you love, but that you had to do it for the child's own good.  It is really the only responsible thing to do when you are a  parent, because otherwise you really are leaving them at risk out in the world.  We agreed that we would buy some wire to make the fence electric, even though it would hurt the dogs to learn that lesson.  We talked about how smart the dogs were and how it wouldn't have to hurt them too many times before those very smart dogs would figure it out and we would not have to worry about that, at least, anymore.  Jack and Shadow will have even better lives if they learn to mind the rules and have respect for other people's property.  Whatever we have to do to get that lesson through their heads is what we are committed to doing, because sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.  I may have given away the secret that parents are mostly faking it till they make it anyway.  I figured if they were old enough to learn everything else this morning had brought to us, might as well go the entire distance.  Many lessons are lost when not followed through to the end.

Then I went to work where I would sit, upset by this whole thing all day long, faking a nice voice to answer the phone with and praying that adults would be able to be adults and children would be able to be children.  I did not get within 10 feet of wishing anything about dogs and cats, let me tell you.  Humans are quite enough to handle in my opinion, thankyouverrrrymuch.

Truth is, the world can be a terrible place where you can get hit upside the head with a golf club at any given moment when you think you are just out having fun.  Truth is, getting hit upside the head with a golf club is not by far the worst thing that could ever happen to you, either.  This is just a fact of life and the sooner we all learn it, the better off we all will be.  I always try to teach my kids to deal with reality instead of clinging to unrealistic illusions.  I do not have a lot of faith in unrealistic illusions, I have never been in the business of raising fools, and I guarantee you that hard reality will always show up sooner or later.

They seemed to really understand.  They were pretty disillusioned with both the world and adult responsibility this morning, which, I had a sinking feeling, was the most I could possibly have hoped for.

Isn't that sad?  Remember the slowly dawning feeling that you got the first time it dawned on you that being grown up may not be the big shiny gaudily wrapped present that you always thought it would be? That moment when, for the first time childhood seemed safer than what was coming toward you and that second thought that maybe you should go back, except for a nagging certainty that you would never really be able to go back there again?  Not really?  That happened this morning for my boys.  It is sad, but it brought a greater understanding that could pay off big dividends in the not so distant future.  Could being the operative word.  Depending upon the choices we are all yet to make.

And that, my friends, is life.  At least it's our life, right now, and we are doing the absolute best that we can. 

 Forgive our trespasses as we forgive others who trespass against us.