Monday, August 29, 2011

I love you right up to the moon and back...

Today my daughter started her senior year of high school. That means that in just a few short months she'll be done with this phase of her life and moving on toward a long college journey. For me, this brings on an onslaught of emotions. As I watched her leave, so grown up and sophisticated, I couldn't help but think about how far she'd come since I dropped her off at daycare 16 years ago, and she cried until she threw up. And then I cried until I threw up.

I think about the nights I'd lie in bed with her, stroking her back, wishing she'd fall asleep so I could go do whatever chore seemed so important at the time. Now it seems so far away, the hours I spent rocking her, her tiny hand entangled in my hair, gently twisting it. Wiping her tears when I'd come home from work, and snuggling her until her tiny chest stopped heaving with sobs. There wasn't even a shadow of insecurity in the young woman who left the house this morning. She was all new blazer and jeans and red lipstick confidence.

I think about all the imaginary games we played, and how I wished for them to be over so I could do whatever mundane task seemed so important at the time. I wish I could go back in time and enjoy and thoroughly appreciate them. I think of all the times I picked her up from my parents' house, and my dad would be lying on the couch with Chloe treating him. And I think in just the blink of an eye she'll be a real doctor, treating real patients. And my dad will surely be smiling down on her. How prophetic that he called her "my doctor" ten years ago.

So I'm crying, again, just like I do every year when my kids go to school. But this year it's different. This is my first year of lasts. Her last first day of school. Her last year cheering. Her last homecoming dress. Her last prom. I am gonna be a mess. I have always cried at her school plays and concerts. I cried at NHS induction. I cried when she got her senior pictures taken. She used to laugh at me, which usually made me laugh too. Now she sticks out her lip, strokes my back, and softly says, "Aw, Mommy..."

Most of the time--when I'm not crying--I look at her in amazement. Amazed that she is so strong and smart and driven and confident. Amazed that she is so kind and loving and compassionate and empathic. Amazed at the goals she sets and achieves over and over again. Amazed at the dreams she pursues and sees to fruition. Amazed that so much goodness is emodied in such a tiny creature. Amazed that God let ME be her mom. Sometimes I shake my head in wonder. If someone had told me eighteen years ago, when I got pregnant, unmarried, unemployed, unsure of so many things, that this beautiful child was what was coming, I would never have believed them. I almost don't believe it now.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

St. Michael's Academy

Today, while reading a sweet post from a facebook friend about homeschooling, I started thinking about my feelings on that very subject, which made me cringe for a long time. I have considered homeschooling my children but honestly didn't think I was up for the challenge. I have an enormous amount of respect for parents, like my friend, who are filling their children's homeschooling days with love and learning. Unfortunately, I realized that I had an awful lot of unresolved issues related to the subject that needed work.

I was homeschooled from second through seventh grade. While those years gave me lots of quality time with my mom, they also made me feel different, weird, ostracized, and freakish. At my only extracurricular activity, gymnastics, I told my friends I attended a private academy, as I was too embarrassed to say I was homeschooled. Today, I happily realize, that there is no stigma--and maybe there never was--and that homeschooling is normal, accepted, and even encouraged in many ways.

Not for me though. After I went back to public school, I swore my mother to secrecy making her promise not to tell my new junior high friends about my dark past. Thinking back, I feel terribly that I surely hurt my mom's feelings, but it never even crossed my mind then. Making friends, fitting in, being popular, and not letting anyone find out that I had been a freak were my goals. My mom, bless her heart, just laughed and went along with my wishes.

It wasn't until many years later that I realized how profound of an effect it had. She mentioned something about our "home school" in front of Brad--at the time we had probably been married more than ten years--then quickly caught herself, asking, "Can we talk about it in front of Brad now?" I laughed but at the same time felt horribly guilty for being ashamed of my mom and our "school."

I know several families who homeschool, and we have played with homeschooled kids at the playground. One of Lily's preschool classmates is going to be homeschooled after preschool. When I meet these kids, I want very much to hug them and tell them never to feel different or freakish or insecure about their situations. I want to gush at them that they are so loved and special and should be grateful that their parents undertook this huge responsibility. I want to tell them that they will be so well-prepared for life educationally and emotionally. And I want to hug their moms and apologize as if that could make up for all the times I shunned my own mom.

But I don't. And no one has to call the cops about some crazy lady at the playground. I just smile because I can see on their faces only happiness and content. Then I silently say a prayer for them, and for my mom.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tomatoes from Heaven

I am blessed to be surrounded by a lot of positive people. My husband, my sister, my kids, several good friends, even the majority of my Facebook peeps are rays of sunshine. So it's taken me a long time to figure out how such a darkness could have fallen over me in the midst of such light. My dad was one of the most positive people I know, and when I lost the daily dose of, "Your hair looks great," or "I love your new boots," it was enough to cast me into a depression that thankfully medication has lifted.

In the month or so before the medicine, the really dark days, I told Brad I was sad because I couldn't "feel" my dad. I wasn't finding pennies all the time, I wasn't having moments of divine intervention as I had been. It felt as if he left me, and I wasn't ready for that. Before, it seemed like I was dealing with things pretty well. So much so that I even fooled myself.

Since the depression has lifted, I still hadn't really felt my dad, but I was still able to deal with things better. I talked to him and about him more. I asked his advice about different situations. I asked him to show me signs about different things. What I didn't ask for was vegetables.

My dad loved to garden. He had been a farmer and then taught vocational agriculture, but by the time I came along his mad skills were limited to a thriving vegetable garden in our side yard. Growing up, we rarely had store-bought vegetables. We always had fresh potatoes, tomatoes, beans, and asparagus from our garden. We had cherries, peaches, apples, pears, and plums from our fruit trees. Obviously, this is why I'm so picky about my produce.

But of all the things he grew, tomatoes were his favorite. I remember going to the store with him to get plants: early girl, beef eater, and cherry. In later years, I convinced him to get Roma--my personal favorite--and after he broke his hip and could no longer tend to his garden, we got him a topsy turvy planter so he could grow his beloved tomatoes on his front porch. And he did. Every time I went over, he'd take me to the porch to show me his tomatoes. Send me home with too many. "Dad, I'm the only one who eats tomatoes," I'd protest. But I couldn't bear to hurt his feelings so I'd take them home and eat them all.

I inherited his love of gardening, and Brad and I grow lots of our own veggies. This year, in an effort to save money and expand variety, I started seedlings in the spring on my countertops. Eggplant, several varieties of peppers, asparagus, green beans, beets, and cucumbers. Unfortunately, after "the last killing frost," our garden was still way too wet to till. My poor little seedlings were outgrowing their tiny pots, so in an effort to save them, I planted them in my flower bed. The dirt isn't so good out there, mostly clay, but I added some compost, and lo and behold they grew.

Unfortunately, as the weeks passed, I kind of forgot what I'd planted where, so imagine my surprise when the three biggest plants started producing tomatoes. I didn't plant any tomatoes. Did I? No. I'm sure I didn't. I bought some Roma tomato plants and planted them in the back garden, but I didn't plant any tomatoes in the flower bed. So as I stared befuddled at the "volunteer" tomato plants, it hit me, and I started to laugh out loud through my tears. Lily asked, "What's the matter, Mama?"

"Nothing, Baby Doll," I said, "Papa sent me tomatoes from heaven."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mars and Venus

This morning I realized, yet again, how different my husband and I are. After beating myself up for weeks  about my weight gain and struggling to get to the gym without disrupting my children's schedules or making them stay at the gym nursery too long, I decided to get up at the ass crack of dawn and go with Brad. Good idea. Good bonding. Good quality one-on-one time with my husband. In theory.

When I go to the gym, I put my headphones in, crank my music, and avoid eye contact and conversation. I am not a snob; I am just focused on doing what I have to do and getting the heck out of there. Occasionally I go with a girlfriend, and we work out and talk; then, it's more like a playdate. But when I don't go with her, I don't socialize. Until this morning.

"How's the weight?" "What do you think of this exercise?" "Is something wrong?" "You're awfully quiet; what's the matter?" "Are you sure that weight's good?" "I think that's too light for you; you need a heavier weight." OMG, enough all ready! I love you with all my heart, but seriously, it's 5:30 a.m.--SHUT UP!

Then there's the lollygagging. I do a set, breathe, do another set, breathe, do another set, and move rapidly onto the next machine. Brad does a set, wanders around in circles, checks himself out in the mirror, gets a drink of water, asks me fifteen questions, talks to a few other gym goers, checks himself out get the idea.

We've long known that Brad is a morning person, and I am a person who should not even have human contact until after 9 a.m. and/or 3 cups of coffee. He wakes up like a Jack Russell terrier, all bouncy and happy and tongue-waggy. I wake up like a bear whose hibernation was disrupted by a Jack Russell terrier's incessant barking.

But, it works. We work. Most of the time, except at the gym apparently, I love that we are so different. I love that we can sometimes irritate the hell out of each other and still be each other's person. I love that he texts me in the morning just to say, "How is your morning going?" I love that he wants to help me lose my extra weight (even though he likes it) just because he knows I'm not comfortable with my body. And after a weekend of college visits and preparing to let our first baby leave the nest, I love that I know we will be okay once the kids grow up and move away. Most of all, I love that I get to spend my life with my best friend.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

F you, scale.

So I wrote about how great I feel taking my medication and how being medicated is so wonderful and everyone should do it and how I'm embracing my weight gain, and blahbiddyblahblahblah. And those of you who know me, well two of you who know me, called bullshit on that. Said, and I paraphrase, "I know you, and there is no way in hell you are okay with gaining twenty pounds."

I'm not. I'm trying to be, but I'm not. The things that I wrote about, the curves, fewer wrinkles, yep, I like that, I'm good with that. What I'm not good with is getting on the scale and seeing a number that I've only seen when I had to view the scale around a pregnant belly. Why does that stupid number have so much power over me? Why should it matter so much? Why, when I feel good about everything else, does that number get to strike me down every single day? I don't know why. I only know that it does.

I eat very well, no meat--lots of fish--no dairy, only whole grains, lots of fruits and veggies. I go to the gym at least 3 times a week and work out hard. I mean seriously? I'm really not sure what else to do. One other time in my life this happened. I took a medication--that time it was birth control--and gained a bunch of weight. I stopped the medication; the weight fell right off, and I was good. Oh, except that I got pregnant, but that ended up with my sweet little L Bears, so that was good too.

I am contemplating stopping the medication. I just read an article about how depression is our body's (I read that as God's) way of helping us deal with issues. We get flattened, debilitated, so we have no recourse other than to ruminate on our issues and deal with them. Brad asked me what I thought about the article, and I said, "I think it's probably true, but I don't have time to be flattened. I've got three people who need me to be on top of my game."

What do I do? I take the medication, I guess, so I can function. I deal with the weight gain, I guess, because the good outweighs the bad. I just keep on keeping on.