Being a Grown Up

Standard

“When adult life becomes so overwhelmingly frustrating, I almost feel like I want to be able to remove the skin I’m in and step out of it, taking on a new reality just as I change duvet covers when the seasons change. I don’t itch, not in a physical sense… it’s like a psychological itch; a discomfort that almost, but not quite, allows me to understand why some women simply walk out the door and leave their home and family behind when the challenges of life are piled on top of them.”

I wrote this paragraph a couple of weeks ago. For the life of me, I can’t remember the precise details of what was stressing me so much that I needed to capture these feelings. Obviously, it was intense. And, just as obviously, it worked itself out and I’m still happily married and devoted to my children and husband. I think sometimes the collision of Things I Can’t Control and Things That Don’t Go As Planned just creates the perfect emotional storm, you know?

Do you ever experience these feelings of wanting to just lock the door behind you and walk away? What makes you stay? I think I may need to investigate a little deeper and pull a book idea out of this…

Advertisements

Baby birds and healthy meals

Standard

A couple of weeks ago now, I moved my oldest daughter into her first apartment. She packed up the boxes, I helped her unpack a few. We went shopping for some of the necessities of single-living that she wasn’t able to pay for right away – dish detergent, broom, etc… We discussed the best way to buy groceries on a (very) limited budget: meal plans. And then I came home to my house. That evening, as I prepared a yummy dinner that featured pork chops and organic veggies from my CSA bag, I was struck by an unexpected bout of guilt. Guilt that I was making a healthy, not-so-frugal meal that my daughter and grand-daughter were unable to partake of. They only live 20 minutes away. But their meals will be based around cheap staples, 101 ways to use ground beef, and probably not a ton of fresh (certainly not organic) veggies.

That feeling hasn’t hit again, thankfully, and I’ve even seen a post on Facebook that featured a decent meal she created all by herself. I’ve begun to feel a little more comfortable with the idea that they’ll be able to make it. And by “make it”, you know I mean “keep their clothing clean and ingest a vegetable at least once a week.” 🙂 Sometimes, it really is necessary for the baby bird to be shoved out of the nest.

I have wondered if my mother worried about these kinds of things when I moved out. I was single and living on my own for approximately two months before meeting my first husband, who promptly moved in with me. I had my oldest the next January. I figured out how to apply for WIC, how to deal with the county health department when I didn’t have health insurance, and how to appeal my denial for health insurance when I could finally afford it but it was outside of my employer’s “open enrollment” period. (I won.) I don’t remember asking my mom for advice for these things, but I also don’t remember her being much of a worrier. I think she just assumed all would be well. Of course, I was 25 when I moved out, and didn’t have a baby yet… but still. Surely she worried just a LITTLE.

Perhaps I should go dig out her journals and read a little about her feelings on the subject. Or perhaps it’s best to just keep looking forward and expect success. Seems like it worked for me.

 

 

Sha-ZAYUM!

Standard

Do you remember that show from the 1960s called Gomer Pyle? It was about the mis-adventures of a young man in the Army, and his favorite exclamation for anything that was surprising, or shocking, or just out of the ordinary and unexpected was “Shazaam!” But he pronounced it sha-zayum because he was from North Carolina, where people are even more hick than they are here in Northwest Arkansas. That might be an sweeping generalization.

Today is the day that my baby daughter goes off to basic training for her career (at least for the next six  years or so) in the U.S. Army. She hasn’t decided if she’ll go regular or reserve or National Guard, and won’t have to make that choice until she’s about to graduate from college. And I have been assured by several people in uniform that she WILL get to graduate from college before she is sent off anywhere with a loaded weapon. I won’t say I was hard to convince, but I will share that her recruiter told her that the meeting with me “Wasn’t as bad as [he’d} expected.” Yeah, I’m that mom.

But I’m that mom because she’s this baby…

ImageYes, it’s true, I make adorable babies. She inherited that giant dome from me… bless it.

But those adorable babies grow up to have their own babies while still in high school… or they join the Army. I’m still waiting to see what level of Dante’s hell the Boychild will put me through as a teen. Lord help me.

Today we are driving the sweet baby daughter to Little Rock for her intake requirements at the MEPS center. Now, I joined the Army Reserves when I was younger too… but I was 24. I was already way past cute. My mother isn’t here to argue, so I’ll just state that as fact. One day I will have to go back and read her journals around that time and find out what she thought about all that… I made the decision and signed up without discussing it with her first. Yeah, I was that kid.

Side note: Given all that I and my siblings put mom through here on earth (not to mention 11 months of cancer treatment) I’m sure she’s somewhere unbelievably posh in the afterlife. 🙂

At least the Army is putting the baby girl up in a nice hotel (The Peabody!), before they ship her off to North Carolina for six months of 4 a.m. roll calls and 10 minute meals and snot fests at the gas chambers and communal showers. Good times.

So, here are the images I’ll be keeping in my head today. I know they won’t be there for long, and I’ll have to accept that the baby girl has grown up. But today – TODAY, this is what I see.

“Sha-ZAYUM!”

Baby Girl in Crocheted Dress

The Bug at 1-year-old. Her dress was worn by her sister, me and my mother in our 1-year-old pictures as well.

Baby Girl on the Fayetteville Square

At the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market in 1996 or 1997. When her hair finally started growing, it was a sight to behold!

Oh, hello June.

Standard

My youngest daughter is 18, and she has been enlisted in the U.S. Army since last fall. So, we’ve known since that time that she’s headed off to basic training this month to get fine-tuned according to the military code and training schedule. She’s been having mini-panic attacks in the last month or so – homesickness is making a pre-emptive strike it seems. I assured her she’ll be fine, and that once she gets there and gets busy she’ll feel better. And of course, she’ll be home next November.

Last month, my sister was offered an amazing career opportunity in Portland, Oregon. She’s been looking for a new job for a year or so, so I’ve known she was going to go somewhere for quite a while. But Portland… well, it’s not a long weekend’s drive away.

Today, my oldest daughter (and mother of the Grand-Cuteness) found out there is an apartment available at a transitional housing program for single parents called Havenwood. She and her daughter have been living with us, and she’s been on their waiting list for a little while. They’ve called before, but she wasn’t making a steady income… and simply wasn’t ready to make the leap. This time, she’s ready to go. She’s understandably nervous about the idea. She’s afraid of losing her job, and the instability that would cause. But of course, that’s what all “grown-ups” worry about, right? I assured her that life is unpredictable, and that this experience will help her gain confidence and be ready to be truly independent when she leaves there. And a healthy pocketful of fear is not a bad thing.

Daughter & Grand-cuteness

The oldest and the Grand-Cuteness.

So, suddenly, June’s theme is going to be about leaving.

It’s odd, this piling on of things. It reminds me of August 2009… that month my youngest daughter decided to go live with her father and my mother died. It was fairly devastating – dealing with those two loses at the same time. I think I shoved the grief of losing my daughter deep down and haven’t really dealt with it. The grief of losing mom was more than enough. But with my daughter it was not a loss as much as a feeling of rejection and failure. Strange how things come along in rushes like this.

This month will be different… since I know that I’m not losing anyone permanently, but I’m sure there will be some tough times here and there. And of course, I’m also looking forward to some of the changes. Cleaner bathrooms, spending time with my oldest that don’t involve lecturing and griping… cleaner bathrooms…

I don’t have anything wise or witty to finish with. I simply needed to put down the words. Sometimes that’s all I can do, I suppose.

The Ovaries Know

Standard

I don’t think it was coincidence that my ovaries started hurting as I listened to the stories told at last night’s Listen to Your Mother show. Ever since I delivered my third child, my Girl Parts have been a bit more outspoken… letting me know how they’re doing and what they’re up to more often than  I’d prefer. I’m terrified  they will demand their own Twitter account. But last Listen to Your Mother 2013 logonight as my gut started to ache, I had to smile grimace and accept that they were simply in sync with the flood of estrogen that was washing over everyone in the audience. Even those sitting at the top of the gymnasium style pull-out bleachers. It was that deep. It was a show of ovarian solidarity fist-pumping, I suppose.

As many of my readers know, I lost my mother to brain cancer a few years ago. And as others may know, I am the “nonnie” of an almost-3-year-old red-headed spitfire I call the Grand-cuteness. She and her mama are still living at home with us, and the process of preparing them for independence has been slow and, at times, extremely frustrating. Sometimes I even forget to think she’s cute – but not often. My other daughter is about to leave for basic training with the United States Army, and my 8-year-old son can be the light of my life and the bane of my existence on any given day. Sometimes, within the same quarter hour.

So, I went to the show last night fairly confident that there wouldn’t be many subjects covered in the stories told that I hadn’t faced or forgotten about myself as a mother, daughter and woman. But as the show progressed it was obvious I was wrong, and my ovaries knew it.

As with any show about motherhood, there were funny stories and poignant stories and fabulous shoes. Some stories I could empathize with directly as I thought to myself “Preach it sister!”, but others I could only sympathize with, as I had no direct experience with mothers with mental illness, the difficulty some women have getting pregnant, or the emotions that consume the mother of a seriously ill child or one who loses a child.

The women who told their stories last night did so with incredible grace, humor, and strength. Each of them had something important to share, and the lessons were not only applicable to mothers. Humankind, it turns out, is universal. The things we learn from our children and pass on to them as they are growing into adulthood (and even throughout adulthood, if my family is any example) are important to us as fellow humans. Storytelling, in general, is a vital resource of information, compassion, and equity for our species and I am so pleased to see it being cared for and preserved in this event.

Lela Davidson and Stephanie McCratic are the forces of nature that brought this show to Northwest Arkansas for the first time last year and again this year. They both blog and write and get some national attention for doing so, but I am most grateful to them for what they are doing through LTYM. It makes a difference to the women who participated, to the audience who appreciated, and – most importantly in my opinion – to the society that is rejuvenated by the community of humans it creates.

Ladies of the podium – I, and my ovaries, thank you.

War Horse: This ain’t your grandma’s puppet show!

Standard

When I was a little girl I was probably similar to most little girls (except taller) in that I went through a Horse Phase. If you were a little girl once, you probably know what I’m talking about. My mom had sketches of horses in her keepsake box, I have a copper rubbing of a horse in mine. I read Misty of Chincoteague over and over again. One of my daughters read every book about horses she could find. It’s just a girl thing. Like boys who go through a dinosaur phase. 🙂

Years later, I became a lover of all things having to do with the stage. I acted, I sang, I danced, I worked on sets and costumes… I fell in love with the magic and the escapism and the alternate reality that was possible when the design and dialogue combined successfully. When done right, a stage production can suspend disbelief of its audience like no blockbuster movie ever can.

Last year, I learned that this season’s Broadway Series at Walton Arts Center would include the highly acclaimed show, War Horse. It swept the 2011 Tony Awards, it had been made into a major motion picture, and now it was coming to Northwest Arkansas. This show combined some of my favorite things about theater, AND it was about horses! It was a no-brainer that I wanted to see it. When I spotted The Making of War Horse on Netflix, I watched in fascination as they described the process of finding a story that would be able to be told with puppets, convincing the author it would work, and training the cast and puppeteers to make it happen. If I wanted to see it before, that documentary reinforced my fascination.

WH 9

I can’t really put into words how much I loved this show. I was enthralled. I was blown away. I was even verklempt at some of the emotional parts of the story. I found myself believing that the movements of the puppeteer who controlled the horse’s head were actually caused by the horse itself. As if the puppeteer was being pulled and moved by the puppet, not the other way around. The ear twitches and head flicks, the snorts and the tail swishes, they all combine to bring the horse to life like you wouldn’t think possible. It was simply riveting theater. I smiled through the entire production for the sheer joy of it. Well, except during the emotionally difficult scenes – of where there are a few. The story does depict a war, after all.

My 8 year old son was my date for the show, and he was also riveted by the production. (His favorite part was the goose. :)) He was able to follow the story and only occasionally had to ask who the characters were when there were several people on stage in uniform. He understood some of the nuances of the story, and I attribute his comprehension to the outstanding story-telling that was done by the puppeteers, the design of the show, and the cast. I think I could see this show over and over again, like some people used to go see the musical Cats back in the day. It’s just that good.

If you have seen the movie version of War Horse, you’ll be familiar with the story, but I still encourage you to see the stage production. The things that the cast and designers do with minimal sets and outstanding lighting and sound design will amaze you. It’s worth the ticket price, I guarantee. Given the scale of the show, you may even be better off in the back of the theater where the available tickets are, because you’ll want to take in the entire view of the stage. Tickets are on sale through the box office at 443-5600 or online here. It’s only in town for a couple more days – so don’t miss out!

In addition to the fascinating production, Walton Arts Center is featuring some fantastic public art during the annual Artosphere FestivalThe Herd is making it’s way through the lobby… Sun Boxes are singing on the plaza (here’s a video!) and I always love to see the Stickworks figures that I helped create for last year’s Artosphere. So much awesome in one place!

The Herd at Walton Arts Center

Stickworks at Walton Arts Center

Have you seen War Horse? Share your impressions of the show!

The Universe is a BULLY!

Standard

The word “bully” has a negative connotation… so I guess I should use a different word to describe the way I’ve been treated by the Universe. In reality, recent changes are very positive, and, in fact, I’m grateful for the shove. I didn’t fall down so much as just get moving. The Universe was that kid behind you when you’re standing in line for lunch and get distracted by the pretty pictures hanging on the wall outside the art classroom… it had to get my attention. Had to say “HEY!! It’s lunchtime – go get some FOOD!”

Okay, that’s enough allegorical description, don’t you think?

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago it became very clear to me that I needed to stop talking about being a full-time writer and creator, and just do it already. So, I did. I resigned from my very satisfying yet predictable job with a local organization that I am passionate about and that does amazing things in our community, and became a new person. This person is eager to get out of bed each day and tackle that day’s to-do list. This person happily tidies up the house as she goes from task to task, and spends quality time with her son after school. This person went grocery shopping and was actually excited about the idea of planning meals!

I know, it’s ridiculous. But there it is. I am so excited about the prospect of getting projects knocked out during the week rather than having to cram as much as possible into my weekends and then go back to work exhausted, with half-completed projects waiting for me until the next weekend. I’m not saying I’m thrilled about having to cancel the housekeeper we had coming every other week (oh, how I loved the way the house smelled every other Wednesday!!), but being home more during the day means I can keep things looking presentable with very minimal effort. I really don’t mind cleaning if I can do it along with the other things I want/need to do. It’s only frustrating when I have to do it in the evenings after a long day at work, or on weekends when I’d much rather be on a river, or my patio, or a road trip.

My garden is celebrating with me…

White Iris

 

But, alas, I’m not married to a Rockefeller, so I am not allowed to be an idle woman. Not that I would be happy being idle anyway… I have already lined up one free-lance writing job locally, and have been putting out feelers with other connections I have. I’m confident that I will be able to replace my income with my writing and my creating, I just have to make it happen.

And just a note on that… over the last year or so I feel like I have been able to create some fantastic relationships with others in my area who are making a living from their artistic or creative endeavors. Artists, other writers, bloggers, and “slashers” who cobble together several of their talents into a career that suits their family, their experience and abilities and still allows them to live the life they are comfortable with. I’m so grateful for those people in my life – and the family I have who supports me.

Five years ago, when I got the job I just left, I was eager to embark on a new adventure – working as a fundraiser and communicator for a non-profit organization. Four months later, my beautiful mother was diagnosed with brain cancer, and the people I worked with became my support system, my shoulders to cry on… I was exactly where I needed to be during the year she was ill, and the years after she died. Now I’m headed down a different road, and again I am confident that it’s the one I need to be on. My mother always encouraged my creative pursuits, and was one of the biggest fans of my writing. I guess that’s a mom thing, right? I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s the one encouraging the Universe to bully me. Thanks mom. For everything.

My creative mom.

I love this picture of my mother working on some kind of craft. She taught me so much about living creatively.