Handle with Care. Please.

I’ll be cruising along, thinking I’m doing fine, and them BLAM! right into the brick wall of what being a single mama means. Tonight, while trying to handle a boy with the stomach flu who barfed all over my bed, I hit that wall. Stripping a king comforter, 6 pillows, sheets and blankets, for some reason was the trip-wire today.

I am fighting back tears, but they are winning. I have a sick child, and he needs me. I have two other kids who also need me. There is no “divide and conquer” anymore. It’s me. All me, all the time. Lugging the dripping laundry downstairs, my child starts to barf again, and I have to leave the laundry to attend him, wipe his brow, and give him comfort. And clean up Barf Part II.

I got the first batch of laundry going when I realized I have no bleach.When stomach flu hits, I don’t mess around; bleach is my friend. I am out. I cannot send someone to the store. I cannot run to the store. For some reason, the lack of bleach seems cataclysmic to me, and standing amid the pile of towels and pillow cases, I burst into tears.

They are hot tears of frustration, fear, anger, and aching sadness churned together with a fair dose rage and a dash of self-pity. Cursing my soon-to-be ex under my breath, I climb the stairs and begin putting my room back together. I had to dig to the back of the linen closet to find a king sheet, and then wrestled the thing on my bed. Crying the whole time.

Then I get to explain to my children why mama is crying. This is just so damn much fun. This is not what I signed up for. This is not what was supposed to happen. And yet, here I stand. Now what am I going to do with it? I suppose that’s the true test. Life sucks sometimes. It’s hard, and it’s not fair. At all. But… What am I going to do with it? What are you going to do with it?

And so I pick myself up again, wipe my tears, kiss my kids, say a prayer and carry on…

Gluten-Free Peanut Blossoms!

That’s two successful non-wheat recipes today! First, I made mac n’ cheese with some brown rice pasta The Wiz sent me from Arizona, and it was actually good! The elbows were firm and toothy, and not gummy at all, and I made a five cheese sauce, using up all the leftover Ementhaler, Asiago, Bleu, Gouda and Fontina from Thanksgiving. What? You don’t have a cheese tray on the holidays?  Best gluten-free recipe yet- until I made these. I got this recipe from a woman in my ward whose husband and daughter are Celiac, and they are the bomb. As you can see, there are some little elves eagerly waiting for them cool enough to scarf.

Gluten-Free Peanut Blossoms

  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tps vanilla extract
  • 1 bag Hershey’s kisses

That’s it. Mix the peanut butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla in your mixer until combined. Don’t worry if it’s crumbly. Roll into about 40  ping-pong sized balls, roll in granulated sugar, and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. At the ten-minute mark, take the cookies out and gently press a naked Hershey’s kiss into the center, thus creating the familiar crinkled and cracked edges. Pop them back in the over for 2 more minutes, then remove from baking sheet and cool. That’s it.  I know! It’s too good to be true, but I promise, they’re great!

Onward to Christmas…

The kids are bringing in the Christmas boxes from the garage as I type. The dishes are all done and put away from yesterday, and all orange is being stripped from the house.  (I just heard a crash…oh crap!) Thanksgiving is done, and while I will continue to find reasons for being thankful, the mishmash of sadness and loss that is the actual holiday for me is now behind. (the crash was minor, no one is bleeding)

I’ve got Christmas carols on, and we’re getting out Mr. Fakey Fakerson. This year, while I momentarily considered a real tree, the $50 price-tag dissuaded me, and I opted for a pine and cedar scented candle. I think it might be a decent compromise- I like it.

Nothing in the world could have persuaded me to go out this morning and hit the sales. Not a thing. I did try and find a paper yesterday, but after trying ten stores, only to have them all sold-out, I figured that was an omen, and I was wasting more gas than I would ever save, considering I had no intention of getting up at 4 a.m. to fight over the 6 items actually on-sale with the 2000 people in line. (run-on sentence of the year!)

My mom and my sister-in-law were out at 3 a.m.- and they eat this kind of thing up. More power to them- I know they are having fun and getting lots of good deals. My mom’s called me six times from various stores, and I get stressed out just listening to the chaos in the background. I think my mom used to be disappointed I’m not a more eager shopper, and I am grateful that my SiL seems to fill that spot!

p.s. added at 3:10 pm: The male parental unit has once again flaked out and cancelled on his children. I will not expound upon how that makes me feel, and the only thing I am glad for is that I never told the kids he was supposed to show up today. Someday, perhaps, I’ll throw caution to the wind and write about this mess. He always encouraged me to lower my self-censorship and write with greater abandon…

Thanksgiving

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is on the TV, as it is every Thanksgiving morning. My grandma was a firm believer in this Parade, and would even get up early to watch it live, sipping her Sanka and making me a grilled cheese sandwich and frozen red grapes. As an adult, I don’t particularly care for parades, let alone parades on tv that are spliced and diced- but it would not be Thanksgiving for me without Al Roker yelling at me and the Rockettes freezing their cute tushies off while they slip around in the New York cold.

My grandma died ten years ago today. Tomorrow would have been her 92nd birthday. In my mind, this time of year has become a mash-up of traditions- Thanksgiving, family, illness, death and birthday cake. It’s bittersweet- and sometimes I have to step back and catch my breath.

When my grandma died, the phone call came that time was nigh, and I rushed from my job to the care-home where she was spending her final months. I broke several laws and ran several lights in the five-minute drive, but I still did not make it. My family was gathered outside her room in the hollow, echoing hallway and I knew I was too late.

With trepidation, I gingerly entered her room, and stood by her bed, looking at her quiet body. Gently, I bent down to kiss her soft, relaxed brow. I’ve heard it said the dead look as though they are peacefully sleeping; I don’t think so. Even without knowledge of eternal things, it was clear my grandma was gone, her spirit was no longer in her tabernacle of flesh, and I was reverently and tenderly acknowledging the remaining clay.

In the days following her death, I was swallowed in grief. When your grandma wishes for no services, no memorial of any kind, it makes processing your grief and loss difficult. For the first time, I understood that funerals are for the living, that ritual is a balm for those left behind.

The day her ashes were scattered at sea, my family walked out on the Golden Gate Bridge with flowers we had collected from my mother’s yard, and bid our goodbyes to the mighty Pacific Ocean. Watching those flowers fall forever down to the cold waves below was bittersweet. I knew my grandma was not gone, but I ached for a way to hold her close, to keep the fleeing memories from floating away like the tide.

The blessings of my faith are countless, but the one I am most grateful for is hope. Hope springs eternal. Not the waves of the Pacific nor the refiners fire can take our souls, and that family is eternal. All family. The family of man IS the family of God.

So today, while Al Roker yells at me and the Rockettes slip and slide, I feel my grandma close. My daughter, who bears her name, bounces around on the bed next to me, squealing with glee at the cartoon character balloons floating high over the streets of New York. I’m going to fix grilled cheese sandwiches and frozen grapes for my children for breakfast, and tell them stories about my grandma.

Happy Thanksgiving. And Happy Birthday, Grandma.

Count Your Blessings

Happy Thanksgiving. I’m revolting. By that I mean I am going to revolt against tradition, not that I’m disgusting. Although I might be disgusting- I don’t know- I did shower today. Anyway…

I holler Uncle. While I like the idea of a day of thanks, I really, really hate all the foods and gluttony associated with this day. I don’t like Turkey, marshmallows are disgusting, and they are in everything, from the yams to the jello to the pumpkin pie- which all three of those food, even without the marsh of mallows, would still be on my Hate-It food list. Stuffing and gravy can bite me. Mushy, soggy bread with turkey fat? How many ways can I say “No thank you!” Yes, I even hate pumpkin pie. I know. So sue me. I’m really sorry if we can’t be friends now- I promise I won’t care what your oddities are. I’m a picky eater. Oh yeah, that and the wheat allergy. Look around at your table and figure out what a Celiac could nosh… Yeah. Slim pickins.

The idea of getting out the good dishes, setting the table and putting on the pomp and circumstance of a formal holiday was just more than I could bear. Things are NOT normal, and no amount of pinecone centerpieces and orange cloth napkins is going to cover the fact that there is a permanent empty spot at our table. I’d rather not draw too much attention to it.  Believe me, no one forgets anyway.

So I’m revolting.

We are having a Mexican fiesta. I’m fixing pulled pork tacos, tamales, relano pie, guacamole (which you know I own) and even homemade corn tortillas. Nothing makes Beanie happier than squashing masa on the press. My single nod to tradition is a tiny, teeny little pumpkin pie I picked up for Jared, since he was in Iraq last Turkey Day. Otherwise, all bets are off.

Happy Turkey Day everyone. Count your blessing, name them one by one…

Bury My Heart

My soon-to-be Ex has not realized that there are clocks in the world, and that some hours are unseemly for phone calls. I’ve gotten calls at 1:10 in the morning, 11:30 at night 6:04 am, and at assorted times in between. This morning, he called to cancel his scheduled visit with our children today. It would have been only the third time he’s seen them since October 1st, but hey, some things are more important I guess.

I am determined to get through this without becoming bitter or angry, but sometimes it’s really, really hard. The task of telling the kids Dad has made other plans fall on me, and they have been counting the days until they see him all week. The part that kills me is the little seeds of hope and happiness this extinguishes inside of them. Dammit, it’s not fair! And while I can take a ton of unfairness myself, my heart just cannot absorb seeing their sweet innocence hurt by the idiotic choices of someone they love.

I promise not to let this renting take over my life. I just haven’t figured out where or how to dig the trenches and erect the ramparts.

A Small Personal Note

I’ve told you about Chelsea before. She’s the closes thing to a sister I have on earth- and I love her more than I can put to words- which is saying something. Chelsea and I are cut from the same cloth. We look so much alike that people who know us have mistaken us at a distance.  Matter of fact- this picture? Most people think it’s me. It’s not. It’s her. Chels has been on my mind a lot lately…

When I got married, Chelsea made me 1000 origami cranes. Really. She did. She folded them all herself from crisp white paper, and then she hung them  all over the house.  They were wonderful, and magical, and I loved having them surround me. There were hundreds over my bed alone. I left them up for months. The thing is, I cannot remember what happened to them, and for some reason, it’s making me sad. So many tidbits and crumbs of ourselves we leave to others, and then they just float away. I love you Chels, even if I don’t know what happened to the cranes.

A Million Little Pieces

I am struggling. Badly. Everything is just so damn hard right now. Just getting up and making the day happen takes all I can possibly muster, and I’m not even mustering it all that well. This computer thing has really got me bogged down and bummed. I cannot transfer pictures from my camera, I cannot type in Word, I cannot do my bookkeeping, I cannot create invoices, I cannot do ANYTHING except access the internet- for which I’m grateful, believe me- but having a computer that is nothing more than a netbook sucks. The wind has just been sucked out of my sails.

The kids are needy, and I am a husk. It’s a bad combination. The Holidays are upon us, and I am cowering in the corner. I’m not a cowerer. I’m brave. I can do hard things. So this malaise baffles me.  I can’t even seem to figure out what I need to do. I know I need money, but not having  a working computer is really hurting that venture. So sit here, paralyzed, unable to move forward, stuck.

Thanksgiving is in three days, and I don’t even give a crap. I hate turkey anyway. I can’t get it together enough to go figure out what I need to buy. I wandered around the market today with Jeff and Abby while Bean was at school, but I couldn’t figure out what to get, so I got some diet Dr. Pepper and a thing of Ben & Jerry’s. And the B&J doesn’t even taste good. Blah.

I’m sinking. I’m sinking, and I cannot figure out how to keep my nose above the edge of the water. I just want it to stop hurting. I have the presence of mind to know it will all be fine someday, and this will not last forever- but I just cannot see how to make it through the next few weeks without utterly falling apart. And I don’t like that feeling. Not one bit.

Some Things I Like Today

  • Glitter. At least right now. And I’ve got more glitter than Martha Stewart.
  • Glade Soy Candle in Fresh Pine and Cedar. Takes me back to my childhood.
  • The Body Shop Pink Grapefruit scented soap. I wish I had a vat of it.
  • The chore-chart I made for the kids, and that they are living up to it!
  • Ementhaler on Rye crackers. No wheat in RyeKrisp!
  • Hand crocheted or knit dishcloths. Superior in every way.
  • The fact that my kids have really nice school friends.
  • Jeffrey’s first male teacher. Mature, experienced, solid, kind- best thing ever.
  • That the Mo family is having Thanksgiving with me.
  • That my RS president told me she’s been divorced. I would never have known…
  • Cornmeal pizza crust from Vicolo Pizza.
  • My retro Swingline stapler and the boxes of staples I got at a yard sale this summer.
  • Clean bedsheets on all the beds in the house. Seems like I always sleep better then…
  • Cold water from my reusable water bottle carried with me constantly now.
  • Nice people at the grocery store who smile and talk to me or my kids
  • A friend of Jeffrey’s who was thoughtful enough to include Bean in their plans.
  • Scotch tape in a weighted dispenser.
  • Remembering all the Thursday morning breakfasts with my grandma I got to have.
  • The dryer humming softly to itself as it tumbles all my laundry clean.
  • Snow forecast for tonight.
  • Rannuculas
  • Sheet music on my piano that I kind of understand.
  • Finding packages in the front porch every now and then.
  • European stamps and the cool, recycled thin envelopes they use.
  • When Bean cuddles in my lap and lets me hug him.
  • Butterfly Kisses from Abby.
  • Jeffrey telling me over dinner that he thinks I’m a great mom.

Reflections on Divorce, Part I

My kids are at my mother-in-law’s house, visiting with their dad for the second time since October 1st. They were overflowing with excitement, and burst from the car before I had even turned off the engine, throwing themselves into his waiting arms on the porch.  I watched, my throat tightening as Abby nestled herself in the hollow under his chin, wrapping her small arms around his neck. Those arms once meant safety to me, too. And now I stand back and watch, mindful of my heart and the minefield of broken dreams between myself in the driveway and him, standing on his mother’s porch.

This wasn’t supposed to happen to us. We were different. He spent ten years convincing me to trust him before I finally married him, and in him I placed my heart, hopes, children and dreams. When I finally gave myself to him, I gave my all. This wasn’t supposed to be us.

Some days  I’m like a second-day party balloon- without enough oomph to reach the ceiling, but with just enough air to linger in the middle, neither here nor there. I am not really married anymore- and yet I’ll never really be single again, either.  I am a wheel out of true, softly gimping along. I cannot see what is next, and I cannot makes sense of what’s behind me yet.

I have three hours while the kids get their time with their dad. He is across town, and driving home seems a waste, so I head to the craft store. I am purposeless, just spinning my wheels and killing time. With a giant hollow ache where my heart should be, the tinsel and Christmas glitter just seem sad rather than festive, and the canned carols in the store only make me feel more alone. I leave my cart unobtrusively by the register, one skein of yarn half-heartedly left on the seat, and walked out the doors into the cold clear night.

The quiet echoes in my head. It’s a lonely quiet, not a solitude.

I’ve always loved the holidays. I love decorating, and would be chomping at the bit to put the tree up before even Thanksgiving, some years. This year, I can barely even think about it- although I know it will happen. I will get the decorations out, I will celebrate with the kids, and when the lights are all out, and I think no one is looking, I will be utterly swallowed up by aching loneliness and the chasm of loss that hides behind my heart.

I know I can do this. I know the “firsts” are going to be the hardest of everything. I know we are all going to be okay- I just have to battle back the desire to see the end from the beginning. It doesn’t work that way. Each day, I must pick myself up, dust myself off, and take another step.  Eventually, I will have walked a mile. Just for today, for today only, all I can do is that one little step.