On not taking what was never mine.

I'm having to learn to subdue the things I share.

It's a hard lesson for me, really. I have – for years now – been fairly unabashed about being totally frank about almost all aspects of my relatively insignificant life. I've talked about sex, boobs, money, illness, fears, embarrassment. Mistakes. Disappointment. I've lain myself bare over and over. It's been therapeutic, and I've never regretted anything I've said.

This year, though, my big kids entered the social stratosphere. Phones and accounts and the whole nine. Text message mothering is in full swing at the Steen/Marsh household, guys, and it's a beautiful thing.

But now that school is in session and I've realized how anything that I say can no doubt circle back full force on the kids, I feel a little…lost.

This blog is so special to me and I will never fully leave it behind, but the stories aren't just my stories anymore.

My kids deserve a face and a day to day that isn't sifted through for things to talk about, analyze, or recount. I want them to know that I, above all people, respect their rights to be who and what they are on their own two feet. They have always deserved this, and if I have violated this trust in the past then let this be my apology.

 

I will not go away.

I will still be a proud mom and I will probably still embarrass them with birthday posts or letters or general weirdness.

But I am saying this: Max, Ava – I will not steal your rights, whatever they are. Whether it's an experience, a breakthrough, a learning moment, or even a joy…

I will let you tell your own stories.

I hope that you do.

 

Sitting on go

I am unacquainted with standing by.

Apparently.

Since I have finished school, I've found myself at kind of a loss. For…well, anything.

I sit at home and listen to the alternate fighting and love of my children. I think of all the things I should be doing – laundry, writing, reading, cleaning. Making things to hang on the walls since they are all presently blank. Also, there is a strange conglomeration of 8-9 nails on the wall above my couch and I spend more time than I care to admit sitting and wondering what could have possibly ever hung there.

 

I've thought about grad school. But…what? What could I do? I'm thirty four damn years old and really I have no more idea of what I want to be when I grow up than I did when I was nine.

I thought about teaching. Praxis testing is expensive. And what happens if I do all that work and find myself in front of however many kids…and then I hate it?

Problem is, I got used to school. I got used to being occupied. I also have the fortune/misfortune of being married to a man who is always on the go, so many nights the kids and I find ourselves at home, existing through the night. I don't mind it, though. I have time to watch King of the Hill, talk about movies and games with Max, play 4,000 games of various substance with Lucy, or decipher Pretty Little Liars with Ava.

Then I think about what I'd want to do, given the chance.

I'd be creative, I'd have a different outlook on every day. I'd solve and make and do and be.

Or I'd be Beyoncé.

Anyway.

Enough. Enough with the thoughts.

 

in memoriam

I’ve struggled with what to say. I mean, there are so many things that can and can’t be said and just in the relatively short time since his death I think they’ve all been said multiple times.

 

I was not what you’d call a rabid fan of Robin Williams, as I’ve said before I can’t really say that I’ve ever really called myself a “fan” of anyone that often. I mean – I’m admitting something here – I know in my life span I have watched both Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets’ Society, but I apparently watched them too young because for the life of me I remember nothing much about either of them.

But oh, how I admired what he could do. To transform himself into this gleeful entity and also be able to portray deep – sometimes even dark and flawed – emotion. He was such a phenomena, such a bundle of possibility. It was like this special privilege that everyone shared – to be able to be surprised and entertained by this man that looked so ordinary and held so much unseen.

He made us laugh. I owe so much laughter to Robin Williams – laughter and sudden whop-you-in-the-gut elation were my favorite things that he was so good at providing. The first crow, the final Genie dance, the red clown nose.

It would be impossible to talk about this terrible loss without acknowledging the role that depression apparently played, so I will.

I am no stranger to depression. I don’t think any of us are, really. There have been days that I couldn’t see the point in being around, that it seemed things would be better altogether if I weren’t in the way. Days when it felt like ever having been happy was just a dream of a feeling.

Maybe that’s what he felt. Maybe there was more truth to Gabriel Noone than to Mrs. Doubtfire.

Even with all of this, I think what we’re supposed to remember is the joy. The belly laughs and the emotions conveyed. The bizarre and zany and even the strange and sinister. Whatever news comes to light about his death and the circumstances thereof, his state of mind and the secret self he apparently hid from a world who would want to help him – I think he deserves for us to remember the happiness.

I think that, especially now, if he could look back, Mr. Williams would say something a lot like what Chris Nielsen has already said.

“…I realized I’m part of the problem. Not because I remind you, but because I couldn’t join you. So I left you alone. Don’t give up, okay?”

You don’t like me and that’s okay

I have lived my life as a pleaser.

 

It was a long time in the process of growing up before anyone in my surrounding circle of acquaintances was mature enough to admit to anyone else, “I just don't like you.”

 

And the first time it happened, I was appalled. Hurt. What the hell? I'm amazing! Why would anyone consciously not like me and want to be my friend?

 

Modesty has never been a great skill of mine.

 

Over the years as I've grown into my crotchety middle age, it hasn't really gotten easier.

 

I've realized, though, that it happens.

 

You meet someone, and immediately you know how you feel about them…at least a little. Sometimes that initial impression is wrong, of course, but often it's correct. It's lasting. You can try and change it, reason it away, but sometimes your guts just don't like someone else's guts.

 

Other times the dislike is a result of action. Poor judgment on one side, the other. Both.

 

It turns out the same.

 

Sometimes auras just don't jive. The way you see the hallway may not match my perception at all, and my perception may make you angry just because it exists.

But I'm me. I refuse to apologize for being who I am. If I wrong you I admit it and apologies are certain…but I cannot feel bad about who I am as a person for the rest of my life just because of mistakes that I've made.

 

It doesn't mean I'm not worth your time. It doesn't mean you aren't great or that I'm not absolutely spectacular.

 

Sometimes you just don't like me. And that's okay.

 

Legend of the Fault in Twin Dance with Mercedes

Since school has ended for me, I have become somewhat ensconced in random areas of popular culture.zelda

I’ve been playing Legend of Zelda because why not? I’m a grown ass woman, why would I not spend huge chunks of my time maneuvering an androgynous little person around obstacles, getting pissed and hacking at monsters and saving pearls to place in certain spots and …other such. WHY NOT?

200px-The_Fault_in_Our_StarsI also fell prey to the lure of angsty young adult literature and I read The Fault in Our Stars. I read it and then I saw the movie. I didn’t hate it, even though the way those teenagers spoke and interacted was completely unrealistic and the way Augustus kept forcing the whole “Hazel Grace” thing was a bit much. I did what I was supposed to – I dragged my husband and I wept tiny ladylike tears.

In answer and maybe even as penance for the whole YA angsty participation, I am working on finishing the last available installment in the Song of Ice and Fire series. Blood and guts and boobs and incest and dragons. All the necessary ingredients.ADWD US New

NOT TO MENTION TWIN PEAKS.

How have I missed out on Twin Peaks? How have I avoided spoilers for these last 20 years?

Regardless, Josh and I have embarked on the journey of slowly binge watching all about Laura Palmer and Bob and Agent Cooper and we are halfway through season two now. I have so many questions right now I could probably drive David Lynch through whatever is TwinPeaks_openingshotcreditsleft of his questionable sanity.

Finally, I read the new Stephen King novel, Mr. Mercedes. It was mediocre in the wonderful way that only Stephen King can be, not the best but still movie popcornish in its consumability.Mr-Mercedes_612x380

All in all, I am exhausted. And happy. And chock full of trivia.

 

In twelve more years, or the last of the offspring birthdays for the year

(Max was twelve on June 14th. Happy birthday.)

maxtommy

In twelve more years, things will not be as they are now.

In twelve more years, you will no longer be my twelve year old son.

You will be twice as old as you are now.

You will no doubt be taller, broader, more of the you you’re growing into.

You will be my oldest, still.

My son.

The first to make me a mother.

maxflyIn twelve more years I wonder if I will look back to now. I wonder if I will remember your shoulder shrug chuckle and your constant interjection of usually random input. I wonder if you will still need to be told to take a shower and if you will remember your passion for Minecraft and Mario.

I hope I do.

But for now, while you are still my twelve year old son, I want you to know that I am proud of you. That I may never accomplish anything greater than I did when I gave birth to you and your sisters. That you are one of my greatest moments.

In twelve more years I will be just as proud. Prouder. Thank you for allowing me to be your mom. I will spend twelve more years watching you become a better person every day.

maxgraffiti

On fathers.

I have not ever been known for my speediness. Once upon a time I was exceedingly punctual (a trait that I inherited from my father, funnily enough. My Dad who is forever half an hour early for everything. I will never forget the morning that I took my senior trip to Europe, we arrived at Memphis International Airport at least 2 hours early. No flight was forgetting me, by damn. Not if Larry Wilkes had anything to say about it), but those days are past, I fear.

It was Father’s Day this past weekend.

Father’s Day has never been something I was good at. When I was younger I never had money to buy my dad a gift, and besides, what do you buy a man who could MacGyver himself a ham sandwich or a Mustang convertible with equal ease?

Now, while I may from time to time have a couple of dollars behind a plastic bank card, it feels…strange to buy my husband a gift with money we both control. I know, it sounds weird. Not to mention there’s this whole other dynamic of the big kids and how they have a kickass dad even though we didn’t stay married very long. He’s a father, he gets the day too. I end up at a loss.

I do what I can. Things I think they will like. When I can.

dadusBut what I had for this Father’s Day, what I have for future ones too (unless one of these men comes out and says, “Hey, do you know what? I would really like to have XYZ for Father’s Day.” Seriously how fantastic would that be for all involved?) is an entire being of gratitude. A heart that would gladly slice itself in half for these men in my life that are my lifeblood.

It’s never enough. Even now, I am torn. I want to talk about my dad and I want to talk about my kids and the fathers they made of Dan and Josh. I never have enough words. Or the right ones.

usoaklandBut it’s Father’s Day. My Dad deserves some talk. Dan knows he’s a great dad. Josh knows he is my whole heart.

With you, Dad, I built a house of sticks. I learned to fish. I shot a gun. I picked out materials for a glider. I made rock families in pockets of grass and made you and the lawn mower furious. I tried to play basketball and you never told me how terrible I was. I rode behind you on a bike through thready Shiloh roads. You taught me, through good and through bad, that honesty and goodness and just doing the right thing is how the world should be.

I try to find good things in my life every day. It’s an exercise that keeps me from focusing medadon small problems and being overwhelmed. Good things like a cup of coffee at just the right temperature, or a memory. A flash of something past.

So many of my good things are because you are my dad. Thank you.

A Thursday nothing.

Is it just me, or is anyone else having a really slow go of things this week? Normally the week always gets a little draggy, but this week I woke up on Tuesday convinced that it was Friday.

Yeah, it’s been that kind of week.

The big kids are finishing up with the school year, and they’re spending the week with Dan, which means I have basically spent most of my recent evenings alternating between watching Sofia the First with Lucy and trying to convince myself that I haven’t in fact forgotten my two oldest children in a store somewhere.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person who has such stagnanty stretches of time. I feel like I’m treading water for no real reason. Waiting for something to happen.

I’m probably still becoming accustomed to not having 1590 assignments to stress about.

Also, for the past six months I have maintained a constant cystic pimple. Like not the same one, but I will get one and when it goes away another one comes up.

Not sure what that’s about.

Helpless

I am going to do my best to not come across as petty and whiny in this post. I realize that I am lucky to have a healthy family with a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. I am grateful for this.

Davasurpriseisclaimer over.

For Ava’s birthday on Sunday, we bought her an iPhone. Not a new one, not even the next-new one. But it was perfect for her and it was exactly what she wanted. She was thrilled to be able to look at Facebook and send wi-fi text messages and take pictures.

The surprise was executed flawlessly. She was surprised and thankful.

Then, the next day – Monday – she went to rehearsal at the local community theatre.

Where her phone was stolen.

I found out about this on Tuesday morning, where I proceeded to worry for the entire day. I still haven’t stopped.

I felt powerless. I was – I AM – furious.

How dare they? How dare someone see something that belonged to my daughter – something she had waited for and hinted for and waited for some more – and just TAKE it? Her BIRTHDAY present? Something that had made her so happy?

And I can’t do anything about it. Nothing.

I realize this is a teaching opportunity. A chance to show that the world kind of sucks and things aren’t fair. A chance to enforce that things are JUST THINGS.

But she’s ten. It was a special birthday. There’s nothing wrong with being ten and having something you want, or being happy that you got it.

I was happy that – for once – we had the capacity to give her something we KNEW she would want and enjoy. And that’s okay, too – isn’t it?

Just once I would like to be able to not try to find the bright side. Just to be able to say that my kid is brokenhearted and I can’t fix it and it sucks.

You thought I was done mentioning it

Sunday was my anniversary.IMG_0158

Eight years. Eight years of name calling and furious fights, snuggles and tv shows and approximately 673,000 text messages since we finally decided to make ourselves an us.

I have learned a great deal about myself in the last eight years.

I’ve learned that compromise is an art, and
that loving someone means loving all of them, even when they leave clothes in a pile and don’t throw away empty boxes.

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photo credit Addie Talley

Listening to bands you’d rather not.
Eating rice cooker Thai food and pretending it’s not revolting.
Not watching shows alone that you always watch together.
Learning terms that apply to their job so you have something to talk about.
Tolerating the pet they love.
Knowing when to lose.
Wanting their dreams to succeed, even if you feel left behind.
Even when they disappoint you.
Even when you disappoint them.
Always being ready to try again because whatever it is, it’s worth it.
Wanting to be better, because they deserve your best.

To my husband:

You infuriate me. You amaze me. You make me proud. You challenge me. You accept me.

You make me better.

And I love you.