I have always thought of myself as being mistake prone. Talented, but prone to mistakes. Smart, but prone to mistakes. Athletic, but prone to mistakes. Social, but prone to mistakes.
I remember first having these thoughts in high school when I was playing sports. I could make the most brilliant play one moment, and just give the ball away the next. In basketball, where things move quickly, it's one thing. But in softball, where a big E goes up on the board and everyone stares at you for a while, it is hard.
I've got a lot of big E's in my life.
It was also in high school that I first heard the word ditsy bandied about. As in, "She's so smart, but a bit ditsy."
I did not take that well. I still to this day do not think that I am ditsy. I am just...mistake prone. Prone to making mistakes.
Yesterday's e-mail snafu is a great example. And way too often lately I have found myself saying the wrong thing. Though well-intentioned, the words just don't come out right and I fall on my face. And I hurt people's feelings, or make them jealous, or make them mad. When all I ever wanted to do was make nice. I try too hard.
That sucks. It makes me think mistake prone is really dumb, fucking idiot.
But I got some great advice, by way of some random man, by way of his therapist.
It's called a rainy day letter. At a time when you feel really good about yourself you take a few minutes to sit down and write out all of the things that are best and true about you. You write out all of the compliments you hold close to your heart. You write about why the people who love you love you as much as they do. Go fishing if you have to, but figure out what is so great about you that you have a job, friends, and family.
Then the next time you make a mistake, and you feel like an idiot, and the negative thoughts are crashing over you like white capped waves, you take out your rainy day letter and you remember who you really are.
And you remember that we are all prone to make mistakes. Because we are all human. And maybe you're better off for at least realizing that you've made a mistake in the first place.
I think that is brilliant advice, though it is a little too corny for my normal tastes. Still, I think I'll compose one very soon. My self worth does run quite deep and I know I can fill a letter with plenty of things.
First and foremost on that list would be that I love very deeply.
Now that my children are older I find myself doing even more out-of-character things. Designing costumes, tuning violins, organizing fundraisers, substitute teaching and interacting with other people's children. These may seem like such ordinary things to every one else but when I catch myself doing them, sometimes I step back and say, "Who is this woman? I don't know her at all!"
I think the rate of change is all out of whack. One day you're suddenly a parent and your world is completely different. But over the next few years, you so gradually change from the parent of a baby, to the parent of a toddler, to the parent of a kid, to the parent of a preteen...
It happens so slowly on a daily basis but sometimes you stop and look back, shocked to find that your offspring aren't still in diapers.
What's most amazing to me is that, generally speaking, I am so happy with who I've become. I could never have imagined back in college when I was so into the women's liberation movement that I would one day be this person.
Last week I was seeking some advice from the people who know me best. And without fail, every one of them said the same thing to me, in almost the exact same words.
"You've been doing for others for so long. Isn't it time you did something for yourself?"
I thought and thought about it and I finally came to realize something. It has all been for me. This...thing...this motherhood thing is what makes me the happiest. I've been "doing for myself" all along.
And doesn't that just make me one freaking lucky S.O.B?
I'm in a weird--no--strike that. I am in a horrible mood.
I'm not sure why but I feel uncomfortable right now. Not only in my own skin, but in my own person. I get like this sometimes and I really don't know why.
But I do know that it makes me short, annoyed and irritated. Which I am sure makes me annoying and irritating to those I love.
I guess my husband is lucky that he is so very far away. He arrived in Hawaii safe and sound and left me a voicemail last night to say, "Aloha!" Cute. He wasn't really looking forward to going to Hawaii (freak) but he sounded really happy when I talked to him last night. It turns out that an old friend of ours is stationed there and will be part of the project my husband is working on.
But my poor kids are stuck here with only me. But I have found a babysitting service here, so I feel like the pressure is off me just a little bit. Now the husband and I can have a few date nights here and there. This service will also drive your kids to activities. So until I get to know some people here, I'll have to depend on a sitter who has been background and driving records checked to occasionally pick up a kid when both kids have to be someplace at the same time. (Like this Thursday.) The kids love having sitters and I have already met one I liked. I can't tell you how much of a load is off me now.
Wow. I'm already feeling a little better.
This morning I went to a room mothers meeting at school. Yes, I am going to be a room mom again. I'm actually sort of excited about it because volunteering is a great way to meet new people and make new friends. A few people have remembered and said hello to me around the school lately. It's a start.
I'm going to take some great advice from a good friend and go make my bed. Then I am going to clean off my dining room table.
I always feel better when my environment is neat and organized. I guess my surroundings need to feel more on track when my heart and brain can't be.
When I was a kid, my parents went to Hawaii on a credit union trip and left my brother and I home alone. They said the trip was "no kids" and at 16 and 12 we were responsible enough to take care of ourselves.
Then all their credit union cohorts brought their kids. Many of whom were my friends.
We got so screwed.
When I was in high school my mother took my grandmother to Hawaii. And when I was in college my parents went there again in conjunction with a cruise.
I've still never been.
It's been a running joke in my family for years, how I always get left behind.
So kind of as a joke, when my kids asked what we could maybe do as a reward if they practice violin for 365 days in a row, my husband offered, "How about a trip to Hawaii?"
We're on day 91 and the kids are already making Hawaiian plans.
But here's the kicker. My husband told me last week that he's leaving for Hawaii on Saturday.
Fucker. He's killing me. Soon he'll have been to two of the places I want to go to worst in the world (London and Hawaii) without me. *pout*
Oh sure, he's also been to Iraq and Afghanistan. But still.
So the kids and I are rather put out. But I have a feeling we'll be practicing violin every single day for 274 more.
One thing I like about our new digs is the conveniently located shopping plaza in our neighborhood. I'm not sure I've ever lived anywhere where it was so easy to quickly drop off some dry cleaning or pick up a few groceries.
The downside is that it is easy to pick up that food you're craving but know you shouldn't have. And they sell 100 Grand bars. I love those damn things.
We also love the doughnuts in the bakery there. Well, I love doughnuts in general, just on principle, but theirs are especially yummy.
Yesterday I gave in and went and bought four doughnuts. It's bad enough that the doughnuts are so easily accessible to me. I thought I was doing pretty good to buy just one for each of us.
And then the cashier lady yelled at me!
She was mad that I bought four when I could have a dozen for less money.
At first I laughed it off, "Oh, I know. But I don't want all those doughnuts in the house."
But she scoffed at me. She scoffed! She rolled her eyes and told me I was wasting money.
What the hell, lady? You're not my mother. I don't remember asking for your opinion. If the freaking eight cents I wasted means that much to you, you can have it.
Our friendly neighborhood grocery doesn't feel so friendly anymore.
I was waiting for him to come home with my daughter after soccer practice so I kept watching out the front window. So I saw his car pull into the cul-de-sac. And I saw my daughter sitting in the front seat.
He beat my daughter into the house so I asked him, "When did your daughter turn twelve?"
Oh, maybe it's important here to note to you non-parenting types that you're not supposed to let a child under twelve sit in the front seat because it is not safe with the passenger side airbags most cars have today.
Well, that interrupts the flow of a mediocre story. Suddenly I feel like a late night talk show host whose story has gone nowhere. Anyway...
He gave me a sheepish look.
Of course it took my daughter forever to get into the house, because she's...well...her, so I both teased him and let him know that I didn't like that at all. He was so busted.
I decided not to say anything to her because I knew she would feel so guilty.
My son wasn't privy to any of this. But this morning as we were pulling though the drop off area at school he loudly pointed out, "Look! That little girl is in the front seat. That's not a good idea!"
My daughter got instantly silent.
But my son went on and on. "That's dangerous. Her daddy should know better."
I swear my son and I aren't in cahoots. We're just two peas in a rule following pod.
Any kid who turns seven-years-old today--or any kid younger than seven--was born into a post-9/11 world.
In fact, I think any kid who will turn seven between today and nine months from today belongs to a special group of 9/11 babies.
There is a whole subset of women out there who were pregnant on that day. The women who were pregnant and lost husbands and lovers on that day will always belong to a group of amazing women who have a special place in the heart of America. But there are American women everywhere who bore babies into a world they hadn't thought they would have to.
I'm one of those women. I was almost seven months pregnant on September 11, 2001. My son was born in December.
Those 9/11 babies are starting first grade now.
Those 9/11 babies are old enough to ask questions.
Those 9/11 babies are old enough to realize that something is...different.
One day this summer I took the kids to a little New York-style pizza place near our house. They have a huge mural on one wall of a pre-9/11 Manhattan skyline.
My son who is fascinated by all things New York-related was naming the buildings. But he didn't know what those two tall, "twin" buildings were.
My daughter, oh-so-sophisticated and educated on the matter, told him that they were the Twin Towers that were knocked down by terrorists. And he started to ask questions.
So I sat there in a little dive pizza place and told my son all about it.
I told him how much had changed in the world. I told him how many people died, how many kids lost parents. He was taking it in and I was doing okay, until I told him about how it had effected us.
I told him that this was why his father has had to go away so much. I told him that this was why Daddy was gone for most of his baby years.
I couldn't help tearing up. Those were the hardest words I had ever had to say. Kids born into the post 9/11 world, especially those born those few months right after, especially New York kids, and especially military kids, are different.
Maybe they are better than they would have been. Maybe they are worse. But they are different.
And now they are old enough to understand, to learn about it in school.
Every year on this day I have one prevailing thought. We were so lucky. Lucky that my husband was here for his son's birth. Lucky that my husband wasn't at the Pentagon that day. Lucky that the chain reaction of political events that eventually sent my husband to Baghdad did not kill him.
Most of all, lucky to have our post-9/11 and our pre-9/11 children in our lives. And lucky that they feel secure enough to talk to us about it.
This morning I seriously did one of the hardest things I've ever done.
Okay, you guys know me. Right? After all this time you know that I don't care much about my looks. For god's sake, the first time I ever met a bunch of bloggers my jaw was wired shut and my face was swollen like a chipmunk.
I don't like the way I look but I also don't really care much. I'd never let my looks (or lack there of) keep me from doing something I want to do.
But this morning it took every once of my self esteem reserves to get me though the door to the school's Welcome Coffee and Volunteer Fair.
It's hard enough walking into a social situation like that all alone. It's even harder when you strongly sense that you don't fit in.
But with my ridiculous new haircut, it was nearly impossible.
I look so stupid.
I'm ashamed to admit it but I hadn't had my hair cut since I donated it earlier this year. I wanted to do something a little different but decided to go ahead and ask for my normal, simple bob but without bangs for once. Ooooh, what a maverick I am.
I randomly chose a salon only because it was open on Sunday, the only day my daughter and I had time to spare. She got a great cut. Mine...not so much.
At least my stylist admitted she made a mistake. Actually, she was messing with the back of my hair and said, "Uh oh. I think I goofed." To even things out she cut and cut and cut.
My hair is now a short, misshapen mess. A short misshapen mess I paid 45 bucks for.
I look ridiculous.
Anyway, I did it. I went to this coffee and volunteered for a few committees. I tried to make conversation but after ten minutes of perusing all of the fair tables and drinking a cup of o.j. I found myself standing alone like a dork and I took off. (I wasn't the only one. They needed more "old" moms to engage the new ones.)
At least I did it.
My philosophy is to fake it until I make it. (I think I heard that from Heather Graham's character on Scrubs!) Act confident until you can be confident. Act like you fit in until you do fit in.
Speaking of Vice Presidential candidates, my daughter and I spent yesterday together. It was nice to have time alone with her. She is growing up so amazingly fast and our times alone are few and far between.
She's been up to so much lately.
First of all, a few weeks after we arrived here this summer she tried out for an advanced soccer team. And she made it. I was so proud of her. I wasn't sure how she would hold up here in a new soccer system, but she's been doing just fine. Tonight she starts a special clinic that is supposed to prepare her to try out for the next level up (the travel team) next year.
She's also been rocking the violin. We're on day 81 of our 100 day practice challenge. Her goal is to graduate this level (Book 2) this year and she's right on track.
She has been fitting in well at school so far. She made a best friend and talks about one boy all the time. Those two kids actually won the student council elections so it sounds like she wormed her way in with the popular kids.
She was tested last week to be placed in the right level math and language arts classes. She ended up in Intermediate Math (Yay! All that summer work paid off.) and Intermediate Language Arts. (Boo. She's been testing in the 99th percentile up until now.)
Yesterday we got our hair cut (more on that later). She sat patiently and waited for my stylist to finish my cut for over an hour and a half. Then we had lunch on the patio of her favorite restaurant. She couldn't stop telling me how happy she was.
We concluded our day with a trip to the bookstore and The Talk. You know...The Talk.
She really is growing up fast.
She's such a good kid. Completely good hearted, empathetic and kind. She wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up, but she's also been writing novels in her spare time. (She's done more writing in the last few months than I have.)
She can drive me completely nuts, but I love her and appreciate her more than I could ever say.
My husband opened up the washing machine, took out his wet flight suits, hung them up, and left all of the other laundry in there.
When I asked him about it he said, and I quote, "I didn't know what you wanted to do with that laundry."
Well, my plan was to let the wet clothes sit in there until they started to mold and made the house smell like we were hiding dead people in the crawl space, so I'm glad he didn't do anything as radical as put them in the dryer.
Today I found out that my kids think I sleep all day while they're at school.
Now that public school is in session here, I realized something.
The public school kids here don't wear uniforms.
In Louisiana, every school--public or private--had uniforms, except for ours.
Not only did our kids not wear uniforms, they were encouraged to wear "play clothes" because learning is a "dirty business" and no kid should have to worry about their clothes.
And let me tell you, wear play clothes they did. My kids wore jeans and t-shirts daily.
Our new school has a new dress code. No jeans and all shirts must have collars. But since the policy is still new, you can tell that a lot of parents are stretching its limitations. But I'm a rule follower so I have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find clothes that fit my kids' personalities but still fit the dress code.
I hated wearing a uniform to school as a kid. In sixth grade, when I was well into puberty and had the body of an eighteen year old, I had to wear a jumper. And my uniforms always had...gulp...buttons and so grossed me out.
What about you? Did you wear uniforms to school? And did it affect you at all, because let me tell you...
After all those years of Catholic school uniforms I broke out in college. Nothing but soccer shorts and sweatshirts for me. With Teva sandals. And socks.
You know, come to think of it, I still dress like that today. Damn plaid jumpers.
There's nothing like ingratiating myself to the new neighbors by pressing the panic button on the truck alarm before 8 a.m. on a holiday morning.
And, of course, I was wearing the red shorts and a hot pink t-shirt I had worn to bed so that when they looked out their curtains to see who the fuck had woken them up they could turn to each other and say, "What? Did a five year old dress that loud women?"
Over the years, especially since I started blogging, people have made a point of telling me how much they admire my marriage. Which kind of always makes me simultaneously say, "Awwww," and wonder exactly what people are smoking.
Yeah, I love him. Yeah, we've got the fidelity thing down. But there are times when he drives me bat shit crazy.
Saturday was one of those days.
The thing I like least about my husband, as he well knows, is his demeanor. His default setting is...well...mean. He pretty much always looks and sounds really pissed off, even when he's not.
In fact, I'd say that 85% of the time, he's perfectly happy, but about 85% of the time, he looks like he could tear you limb from limb. The furrow in his brow has become permanent.
So when he actually is in a bad mood, it's pretty fucking miserable for me. And sometimes the kids too.
He was in a bad mood on Saturday. Possibly because Sunday was his 36th birthday. Possibly because my crying daughter embarrassed him. Possibly because his hormones got the best of him. Who knows.
But by Saturday night I was ready to trade him in for a new model.
Smartly, I think, he decided to go out to the garage and work on his Chevelle for a while. While he was out there, my mom called.
My mother is one of the only people in the world I can really share shit with. So I mentioned my husband's horrid mood. And she said that my father has been miserable too.
But it's different. First of all, when my husband is driving me nuts, he knows it. When I think he has been too harsh with the kids or relative strangers, he hears it from me. In those rare times that my husband gives me shit, I give it right back.
My mother is afraid to do that.
In fact, she is just afraid period. Not so much of being physically hurt, I don't think. Or at lest I certainly hope not. She's afraid of the big blow up.
I lived in that house long enough to completely understand. There is no talking with my father. No reasoning with him. No matter what you do, it's wrong. No matter what you say, everything is your fault.
He hasn't spoken to my mother in three days.
She doesn't tell him when the kids call anymore. She's afraid. She works in her shop and makes meals and basically just waits for him to wake up. He sleeps all day and is up all night.
And he's going back to the doctor. He's going to lose his eye. The other one isn't much better.
Obviously the man is severely depressed and needs help, but my mother is too afraid to suggest it. His depression comes with rage issues too.
I'm helpless in how to help my mom. You see, I'm afraid of him too. Everyone says that I'm the only person he'll listen to, the only person he'll pull himself together for, but that's bullshit. I've been in the line of that fire before and I am too weak to do it again.
I know my brother is scared too. His way of helping is by doing the things my father can no longer manage.
While I was still on the phone with my mom, my husband came back in and started tickling our son. His mood was much improved. I don't know if he thinks while he's working on the car, or if he just relaxes and cools down, but he was back to normal by the time he came in again.
Sunday was a good day. We celebrated my husband's birthday with dinner out and cake at home. The kids made him cards. And he did a bunch of work around the house. The kids played Happy Birthday to him on their violins and he grinned like a maniac through the whole thing.
From my mom, I learned how not to make a marriage. I learned from her mistakes. She even always told me, "Don't do what I did."
I know my parent's relationship and my relationship with my father affect my personality profoundly. There are so many times I project my father onto my husband. I hate when I do that.
I know I have a great marriage. You can see the worst of it right on this very blog, especially if you read between the lines. But I love him and we make it work.
And I won't ever be afraid of him.
The thing I'm most afraid of is turning into my father.
I don't know what I'm going to do about my father right now. Maybe my husband can make a difference.