The Odyssey

Yes, I have one.  Many do.  But, I have friends who actually act surprised when I mention him.  “Oh, you have a brother?  Why do I not know this?”

We aren’t that close.  We were close growing up being only two or so years apart, but drifted after leaving home and stayed that way for a small handful of silly reasons and a dash of laziness and complacency on both our parts.  Put it this way, when we were suddenly thrust into the same car to drive to Tennessee for our Aunt’s funeral, I had to Mapquest directions to his house.

I like him.  He’s kind and funny and a hard worker and a seemingly great husband and father.  We just don’t call or text or facebook or hang out except for the random holiday at our parents’ house.  We mean well.  We just get all hung up in our stuff.

Then this golden opportunity appeared under the cloak of grief.  Road Trip.  What better way to renew our sibling groove than to spend 24 hours in a car together?  Just like old times.  This could work or it could be, inappropriately, a nail in the coffin of our relationship.

In those 24 hours, we braved four Cracker Barrels all piping in the most dreadful contemporary Christian music, talked about poop, kids, ex-husbands (mine), more kids, divorces (mine), the genealogical roots of our family’s dysfunction, how difficult it is to be gluten-free when traveling, the crazy family dynamic currently in play, the death of our Aunt, and countless other topics.

We were reminded that in The Land of Drawl people talk differently, move slowly, and drive even slower.  Even the toilets flush slowly.  We listened to the housekeeping department at the hotel discuss a missing BYE-BUHL from a room.  (Translation: Bible)  They were also discussing some missing hangers.  “I need one like iss, not one like at.”  The kind of stuff that will make you pause.  Even if it’s simply from realizing that if we had never moved, we’d talk like that too.  Only in east Tennessee can someone visiting from Missouri seem like a total Yankee.

The trip was awesome.  No awkward silences.  He let me play DJ and even enjoyed some of the music.  We reminisced when he busted out his 80’s playlist.  We commented that apparently the right lane is now called the texting lane.  I learned that as far as organs transplants go, kidneys are the volume leader.  According to my brother, the Boy Scouts of America have settled for celebrating mediocrity, but he is working as a troop leader to keep the tradition alive and to keep pumping Eagle Scouts into society.

When the conversation waned and I got tired, he let me sleep.  When we ran out of available subjects and I started asking existential questions like, “Why are all barns red?”  He actually knew the answer.  It has something to do with iron oxide.

When he got tired, I let him sleep even though I was nervous about being left totally in charge.  When he felt like dorking out on Star Wars, I let him and I joined in the nerd fest.  Did you know the guy who acted in the fight scenes as Darth Vader died the day before we left?  I did.  And we bonded.

We jointly agreed to blow off part of a family thing so I could go shoot photos and he was happy to be the driver of the getaway car when I wanted to sneak around a fence into a chemical plant for a great shot.

After the trip, we fist-bumped and I burned him some CDs.  And I realized that I always have a go-to when the chips are down or if I need to free my leg from a bear trap.  For a friend with an understanding heart is worth no less than a brother.

My Twelve Days of Christmas

  1. A sour sense of consumerism and greed.
  2. A lack of work ethic when it comes to wrapping gifts.  Tissue + bag = done.
  3. OCD overdrive.
  4. A wish, a hope, a dream.
  5. Constipation.
  6. Overdressed, sweaty, sticky children.
  7. Underwhelming.
  8. A trip to Urgent Care/Walgreens Take Care Clinic for at least one of us.
  9. Waking up alone with zero presents with my name under the tree  because my kids are too young to buy me stuff.
  10. Extra Xanax.
  11. Disgust over the myriad ways Santa is depicted on everyday household items.
  12. A distant bittersweet feeling I can’t quite put my finger on. So, let’s celebrate by drinking eggs!

Man, I’m a bummer.  ‘Tis the season!

Day 30: Craigslist is the New Therapy

Let’s talk about Craigslist.  If someone were watching me, they would see me shedding items from my life like body parts all over town.  It’s not just a handy service for getting rid of stuff I no longer need in my house, but it’s a great way to give an overdue emotional release a deadline.

I am amazed at how attached I’ve become to “stuff.”  Don’t get the wrong idea.  I’m NOT a hoarder.  I am a total pitcher.  But what else can you do with a Graco Metrolite Travel System with two (yes, two!) car seat bases?  Owner’s manual included!

Post-divorce, I have sold my wedding crystal in the parking lot of Pei Wei, my wedding china in the parking lot of Babies ‘R Us 25 miles out of my way, my godforsaken child-RV disguised as a double stroller in the parking lot of a Drury Inn, my high chair at Crazy Bowls.  I forgot what I sold in the parking lot of Steak n’ Shake, but it felt good, I’m sure of it.

Yes, there is some driving and sketchy parking lot meetings, but unlike Aaron Ralston in 127 Hours, I always tell someone where I’m going before a meet up.  Just in case I get stuffed in someone’s trunk, I’ve at least told my mom I love her one last time.

By far the most moving was my breast pump in a Kohl’s parking lot.  That warhorse got me through two kids, two jobs, blurring the line between work and home and intensely private bodily fluids.  Thankfully in both instances, I had an office with a door that locked.  That thing saved my ass on many occasions.  I’ve pumped at airports, conference centers, hotels, the local history museum, my in-laws bathroom, my kitchen.  I wasn’t just saying goodbye to my pump, but to a phase in my life where I will never be again — where my body will never be again.  Unless I take up wet-nursing (doubtful and antiquated.)  But I certainly remember that experience in every cell.  And, that’s plenty.

It’s a liberating feeling.  Ridding myself of that which no longer serves me, but may serve someone else in a better way.  Wish I could tell you I did something meaningful with the cash.   On what did I spend the $30, $50, $75 bucks?  I have no idea.  Something much less useful, I’m sure.  But mostly it was a way for me to take the emotion I put into certain physical objects and simply Let. It. Go.  My marriage, my life I thought I had, expectations for big dinners on fine china that never happened, the memories of how small my children once were and the contraptions they no longer need.  It’s become a very meaningful process for me.  Who knew Old Navy and the like would play witness to my inner transformation.

Day 29: I Feel Like I’m in a David Lynch Film

Weird things my daughter said recently:

  • Why do people wear tank top coats?  (Known to the rest of the world as vests.)  I’m asking myself that same question, kid.  What’s the point?  If my arms are cold, I’m cold.  Put on a damn coat.  End of story.
  • Sam asked me to marry him today.  I said “No, thanks.”  Now he wants to marry a boy.  That’s my girl!  She has the power.
  • Does my hair look nice when I’m running?  Yep, definitely my spawn.

Day 28: The Imprint

First off, let me state that I am not wishing death upon my parents or planning their funerals or counting my inheritance.  BUT, as these two lovely individuals age, I often find myself thinking about what memories of them will last after they’re gone.

For my Mom, it’s her singing.  She used to sing in the kitchen when cooking or doing dishes.  That was it.  She has a great voice, loves all kinds of music, but unless you live under the same roof with her, rarely do you hear her sing.  I remember when I was an angst-ridden-Siouxsie-and-the-Banshees-listening bitchy teen stopping whatever dramatic thing I was doing to tell her that she had a really good voice; that she should sing in a bar or something.  To which she, of course, laughed.

For my Dad, it’s water sports all the way.  He was the guy who always got in there with us, flung us around, carried us on his shoulders, dove with us to the bottom for stuff, forced us to be on swim teams, cheered us on, made us chug iced tea and OJ before meets, and wiped our chins when we puked after each race.  I always figured it was because he was in the Navy and liked the water.

Now that I’m an adult, I find myself wondering what my kids will remember.  I’m realizing they are getting old enough to start imprinting some memories that will last them into adulthood.

Will my daughter remember what it was like when Daddy still lived here?  Will they remember me yelling?  Will they remember me saying “Not right now, honey.”  Or “in a minute!”  Will they remember me cussing?  Will they remember me doing yoga on the living room floor and chanting “Om?”

Or will it be simpler things like riding bikes in the driveway, making juice in the juicer, having breakfast for dinner, or going to the park?

It will likely be some odd combination of all of the above that will land us into family therapy, move them out of state to get away from me, and make the holidays unbearable.  There’s your memories, baby.

In honor of NaBloPoMo.

Day 27: A Superhero Halloween

I know, it’s nearly a whole month later….

This year for Halloween, my son wanted to be Superman so off to the store we went.

My daughter instantly began debating which Disney princess outfit she DOESN’T have (very few).  Once we got into the store, she suddenly didn’t give a rip about Disney because OH MY GOD, THE CHOICES!  So many delightful fancy, girly things to be!  How could she ever decide?!  I was the mom rolling my eyes and following along behind her.

She hunted up and down the aisles for just the right costume and then, so perfectly landed on “American Dream – Captain America’s daughter.”  Hooray!  An instant theme-y Halloween for all!

“It’s a superhero Halloween!” I declared and was greeted with enthusiastic cheers.

On the way home, my daughter asked, “But Mommy, where’s your Superhero costume?”

I said, “You’re looking at it, sister.  I wear it every day.”

After thinking about it for a minute, she said, “Hey, kind of like Clark Kent?!”

Exactly, my dear.  Just a liiiitle bit hotter.

 

In honor of NaBloPoMo.

Day 26: Clarifying That I’m NOT The Village Idiot

You can always tell who the divorced parents are at school dropoff.  The most telltale sign is the “overnight” backpack or the Pillow Pet.  Not to mention the look of complete and total exhaustion.  I’m not saying that married parents aren’t exhausted too, it’s just, well…different.  We look at each other knowingly and say absolutely nothing.  Nothing needs to be said.  I get it.  They get it.  We nod and keep going.  No one has the energy to find out if they’re even single or dating or what.  Not worth it at 7:50 in the morning.

Divorce can be the best of both worlds.  I have hyper-focused time with my kids, which can be exhausting and all-consuming, but then I get a chunk of time off, which I find is mostly spent catching up on all the stuff that was laid to waste while I had the kids.  I remember being married and wishing I had just one god-damn weekend to myself.  Hey, look at me now!

I’m finding out that I really can’t do it all alone.  It truly does take a village.  My kids have me, their Dad, his girlfriend, his parents, my parents, and a handful of sitters, not to mention the teachers and day-care providers – all villagers revolving around these two little people.  (I have thoughts on who is the village idiot, but won’t go down that rabbit hole.)

I’ve learned to power cook and freeze on my weekends off so I don’t have to cook every night.  (I learned the hard way that potato salad doesn’t freeze well.)  Right now I’m trying to figure out when we will have time to put up the Christmas tree and decorate, and I’m coming up short with a solution because of the custody schedule, but somehow it will all come together.  How will I handle homework?  I don’t know.  We’re not there yet.  But I imagine it will make things more hectic and make me feel stupid.  I can spell and do math like crazy, but I’ve never been good at word problems, grammar or history.  Sorry, kids, that’s what the internet is for.  So I’ve heard.

Already my daughter is in kindergarten and she has soccer practice, soccer games, Daisy scouts, play dates, birthdays, and oh yeah, school.  Throw in two households, an insane carpool schedule, three working parents, and you’ve got a very delicate balance with military precision that one sniffle could collapse.  Volunteering at school or 7:30am meetings require an act of God or better yet, Congress, to get us all to our destinations on time.  All it takes is someone showing up late, or God forbid early, to throw the train off the rails.

I often find myself making plans for play dates just to have an extra set of eyes around to make sure no one is running off or putting a plastic bag over their head (like my son was doing the other morning.)  I also find myself steering away from bigger outings unless I know another adult will be there with me.  There are just too many variables now that my youngest is out of the stroller.  I’m really not in the mood to test how well dialing 911 works on my cell phone.

I read an article recently on Back-to-School tips, which included “get Dad to help.”  That actually made me laugh.  My head hits the pillow at night wrapped in a sea of spinning color-coded calendars and a healthy dose of faith that it will all work out.

And it totally works for me.

 

In honor of NaBloPoMo.