Thanks be

(here’s the giveaway I know you’re looking for)

So there have been lots of thankful countdowns and such on Facebook.

Generally I don’t shy away from things like that.

AND WHO AM I KIDDING, NOW IS NO DIFFERENT.

I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for:

My health, however I may sometimes hate the way I look and think.
My heart, and the ability I have to love and care. Really. Some people can’t do that.
My desire to be more of a person.
School.
Wine.
The way Josh loves to cook.
Pumpkin muffins.
Friendship – over the past year I’ve done some regrettable things. I’ve lost people who meant a great deal to me. But I still have some people who love me, flaws and all. And that is a blessing beyond words.

And now for the hardcore love:

I’m thankful for Dan. He is exactly the father Max and Ava need, and we are all lucky to have him.
I’m thankful for my Mom. She is everything I have ever wanted to be.
I’m thankful for my Dad. He is, now and always, the measure of the type of man I need.
I’m thankful for my sister. She has been my partner in crime for my entire life, and one of the best friends I could have. Even if she left me out of her Facebook thankful countdown.
I’m thankful for my grandmothers. For how loving and sweet they both have always been, and the memories they’ve given me.
I’m thankful for Josh’s family. They have loved me and accepted me, they are my family.
I’m thankful for my son. Max has, in the past decade, taught me more about myself than I ever expected. His heart and sweet soul are something we should all strive to match.
I’m thankful for my Ava Thomas. For the fire and joy she carries with her. For the independence I envy, and for the beauty she carries, inside and out.
I’m thankful for Lucy Grace. She has given me new life, laughter, and a joy I didn’t know I had room in my heart for.
I’m thankful for Josh. I could gush and spew about every reason, but I can sum it in this: he has taught me what love truly is. I would have gone through my life an incomplete person if I did not have him.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Should

Is the autumn a reflective time for anyone but me?

No? That’s stupid? That’s okay. I’m used to that.

So anyway, I have this blogging calendar and it suggests topics for most days, days like the ones when I just sit and stare at empty because I know of nothing to say. Days that I wonder why I do this at all.

THOSE DAYS PASS, OBVIOUSLY.

This calendar – which is meant to have you schedule all your posts and be very on top of things – one of the suggestions was “throw away your shoulds,” which is abstract but not so much that I’m going to ignore it.

I find myself thinking lots of shoulds. Lots of times.

I should be more patient with my kids.
I should run miles.
I should write 1,600 words a day instead of the less than 1,000 I have thus far.
I should floss and shave my legs. Not that I don’t ever – I do. I just should probably do it more.
I should study more.
I should eat broccoli and rice and I should like sushi.

I do have some rice. It’s in a big bowl and Max’s ereader (which he dropped in the toilet) stayed in there for about a month so I’m thinking I should probably throw that out before someone eats it.

I should have a job.
I should be a better wife. Clean house and all that shit. Make the bed.
I should remember birthdays and anniversaries and send sweet heartfelt cards.

There are so many things that I should be doing that I don’t and that I shouldn’t be doing that I do.
Like go back to bed after the kids leave for school or send peanut butter sandwiches every day.

Seriously, I could go on. For days.

But why? I waste so much energy thinking about things I should and shouldn’t do and then suddenly I realize I haven’t done anything except sit and think about how I should be doing things differently.

So, screw all that. I’m not great at living, but DAMMIT I’m really good at being me.

Throwing away my shoulds sounds a lot easier than it is, and I’m really not sure what good this is doing.

Maybe a little.

I’m just glad it’s Friday.

Shrinking worldwide

Dan is back from China. Whole and well (actually, I’m writing this on Thursday night and he’s not in fact home yet, he’s in Chicago. I’m taking for granted that he will arrive whole and well and in doing so I may have jinxed the whole thing. If that happens, I’m truly sorry. I can’t control my powers).

This trip that he’s been on got me thinking about just how amazing technology is.

Cliche and trite, I know. But you never realize how true something like that is until you’re faced with it.

First there are cell phones. My first cell phone was in a bag and never ever got used. The whole family shared it.

Then came the Zack Morris square phones.

Then those Nokia brick shaped things with nubby little antennas.

Then on and on and on, and now we have smartphones that have more powerful computers than the first shuttle to the moon.

Then there was texting. $.10 apiece and I never did it much. Then it caught on and now I cannot name a significant life event that I have not texted someone to inform. I texted Josh that I was pregnant. I texted my family the same news. When we moved, when we came home. All announced via texts. When Lucy was born – texts.

Computers have gone from giant behemoth things (like the first computer I ever bought myself, it was a Gateway and it was as big as I was) to the sheet-of-paper sized iPad I’m typing on now.

I am never disconnected. I can always be reached. There are pros and cons to that, but since I’m a mom and for at least the next 17 years I’m going to need to be accessible, I’m thankful.

My kids missed their dad while he was gone, sure they did.

But they saw him and spoke to him every night. Even now I can check my phone and see Dan’s little blinking dot on the map, telling me where he is and if he’s going to be on time (he’s not).

So what I guess I’m trying to say is that I feel really very lucky to live in a time like this. I feel lucky that if I get worried that my husband was in the accident I just heard on the highway, I can text him and make sure he’s okay. If I’m running late I don’t have to leave anyone waiting. If I go away from my kids I can still see their faces. Even from the other side of the world. And that is everything.

Things My Mom should know now that she has Facebook.

So, this Facebook thing is pretty old hat, right? Pretty much everyone does the Facebook.

My third grade teacher has a Facebook. She’s the sweetest thing. I had erasable crayons in her class. Every time I see her pop up on my timeline I think about those crayons.

Anyway, parents have facebooks, too. This is not a new thing to anyone, because since MySpace bit the big one and Social Network became a huge explosive Oscar winning hit (which I still don’t understand because I pretty much fell asleep every five minutes), everyone and (literally) their mama has been giving the like button some business.

Except my mom. She held out, even though we kept telling her these fantastic things we learned on people’s profiles and pictures we’d seen and etc etc etc.

So for her birthday I made her a profile. I got her a real present, too – lest you think I’m one of those people who’d give an empty box and say it was filled with love – but as an afterthought I jumbled all the info I know about my mother (which is hard to put into words….interests: singing in the choir and cleaning) and I brought her into the Facebook family.

Which brings me to the crux of the situation.

I am myself on Facebook, much as I am anywhere else. The rub lies in the fact that since my mom no longer sees me everyday of my life and washes my underwear, she can maybe perhaps live in a cloud of denial to the fact that her youngest baby girl kind of has a filthy mouth, definitely has a filthy mind, and (GASP) is maybe a little bit totally a democrat.

But you have a blog, you say. How could she not know?

This is an excellent point, one that I have considered. But I think there is a very simple answer to that – I don’t think my mom reads my blog every day. In fact, I think maybe perhaps she actively avoids it. Which is probably sometimes for the best, except now that she is on Facebook we’re going to have to face some things.

So, Mom, I think you should know:

I have friends that are gay. Flamingly, unapologetically, give-you-a-makeover gay. I love them because they are lovely and perfect. You may be okay with this since you watch Modern Family now, but I just needed to put it out there.

You raised me in church. I believe maybe perhaps 80% of what I was taught there was inaccurate, and I am still sifting through the other 20%.

On the subject of church, I know you love your church. I believe it is important and wonderful that you have a group of like minded people to gather with and count on. But I also believe it is a huge social club and 95% of the people there have no idea how to be a real Christian. Nor do they care. You are one of the 5% and one of the most sincere, honest, and lovely people I’ve ever known. And you’re MY MOM. I have extra luck points owed to someone somewhere.

I do not believe that anything about Initiative 26 is okay, and I am totally, completely against it.

I know every cuss word ever.

I will vote for Barack Hussein Obama every time he runs for president, which I hope is every time until I die (yes, I know he can only serve two terms. Let me dream).

You are perhaps the best Mom anyone ever had.

I love you so much. I’m glad you’re on Facebook.

F@&$ Fantasy Football

Alright, I admit it. Fantasy football takes a shitload of knowledge and intuition that I just do not possess.

Initially I thought that it would be good for me. I thought hey, football will be on in this house all winter anyway, this is a great way to give me incentive to get involved. To learn. Broaden my horizons and have some healthy competition.

Yeah, no, that’s not what has happened at all.

I knew when we did our fantasy draft that I was a little out of my element. Like I said before, I picked Mark Ingram because of those MASSIVE. ARMS. The rest of my team I picked up based on names I knew and what the little Yahoo! drop box said about a player during the draft.

Which explains how I ended up with Terrell Owens, who is I think retired now, and a bunch of other players that I don’t even know enough about to know which to point out as the worst.

This is not my game.

And what’s worse, instead of being driven to care and watch the games and tweak my team for any given week, I think about how much knitting I could be doing.

Pathetic much?

There should be a similar passive point based game for things like American Idol, or The Bachelor. THAT I could get behind and totally know what was up.

Is that contributing to weak women stereotypes? I hope not. That isn’t my intention.

It’s just…I don’t know. I don’t understand the rules of football well enough, much less which player threw to who and who is due to have a comeback this week as opposed to sucking it up and losing me points last week.

So I sit. Emphatically at the bottom of the league pile. Because not only do I not know what to do, I don’t really even care.

Looking back. Reflection and stupidity

I was doing some reading earlier – reading of old entries and how things have changed and not.

I found this post, and it made me think about a lot of things.

It’s almost exactly a year later, and things are so much different that they’re kind of startlingly the same.

As far as God and purpose and meaning go, I’m still kind of lost. The hit our faith and confidence took during our time in Jackson was severe, and to be honest I’m not sure we’ll ever fully recover.

We were so sure we were doing the right thing.
We were so happy, and then we were miserable.

But now? Not in a million years did I ever think we’d be where we are now.

Well, not really physically “where we are,” because really all of us living together is pretty much an epic adventure and it’s become second nature to us all.

But where we are in the sense of goals and progress and general good will toward humanity.

I was sure when we left Jackson that we’d never fully be happy and fulfilled ever again.

Dramatic, sure, but cut me some slack I WAS GROWING A PERSON.

If I could do and say anything I wanted, I’d say things to those people we left.

I’d say to Ellie, thank you for hiring me. You were more of the face of good in our months in Jackson than anyone else we met. You meant more to me in those days than I can ever say.

I’d say to Michaele, you are me with red hair and better boobs. I miss you more than anything and I would never have made it without you.

I’d say to Jackson commuters – really? Suck it up and put down that bowl of Cheerios when you’re going 80 down the interstate. Eat a damn granola bar if you’re that hungry.

I’d say to Priest 1 – you were the biggest disappointment. When we met, you were awesome and inspiring. You were hip and down to earth and we both loved you immediately. The confidence we both felt in you – as a person, as a priest, as a friend – was completely cracked and really disheartening. You never seemed like a lap dog…until you were.

I’d say to Priest 2 – I reached out to you. I needed you. And when you ignored that? I have never felt that degree of worthlessness. I trusted too much in what I needed you to be.

And to Priest 3? I could fill a book. The level of hypocrisy and disillusion that I equate with you now is staggering. I don’t know what I believe comes after this life – I don’t know if I believe we just end, or if we go on…

But if we go on? If there are saints and angels and streets of gold? I don’t want to be there if you are. Whatever Paradise is supposed to be, you can’t be a part of it and it still be Paradise.

so there it is.

I suppose I’m still bitter (who am I kidding), but I’m also hopeful. I never thought I’d have that again.

I do. We do. And I think that’s the best revenge.

art shamelessly stolen from Natalie Dee

Family bed weirdness

I’ve never slept with accessories.

Teddy bears, blankies, dolls. Nope.

I always used to wonder, growing up, what it would be like to sleep naked. I never did, because I was chicken. I heard stories about people who turned up at the dorms in college and had roommates who pranced around au natural and slept totally in the buff.

Yeah, I didn’t have that. I did have one roommate, Amanda, who left some ravioli in a dish by the sink until it grew like three inches of mold. I like to think it was an experiment. My friend Katie came over to visit my room one night and was so horrified by the ravioli project that she set about sanitizing the bathroom area.

Katie ended up being my next roommate, and she decorated for every holiday. Every. Not just a knickknack here and there or a cling on the window, no…she had legit decor for every holiday. Valentines. Easter. St. Patrick’s Day. Halloween. Thanksgiving. Christmas, for months and months. It was festive and nice and totally a good memory, although Katie pretty much thinks I’m the devil or something. My point is that my roommates definitely kept their clothes on. And I don’t think either of them slept with any accessories, either. Amanda liked the radio and Katie always made her bed. End of odd.

MY POINT IS NOT EVEN ABOUT COLLEGE ROOMMATES.

So while I’ve never slept with accessories other than my iPhone since it came into existence and, you know, my husband, I do now.

Her name is Lucy and she pokes me in the eyes, pees on me routinely, and sometimes smacks me in her sleep.

I never slept with my kids. Max slept really well in his own bed by the time he was a week or two old, and Ava only slept in my bed in the mornings when she’d sometimes snuggle for a while.

When Lucy came along (because you might not know since I’ve never really mentioned it more than ten or twenty times but I live in a house with every person I’ve ever known), she pretty much refused to sleep anywhere except right next to me. And I know, I know, we should have let her cry for a while and made her get used to sleeping on her own, but her crying stresses Josh out a lot since he wants her world to be perfect and without misery. And she wakes up the whole house. And there’s really not room for a crib in our room anyway.

And maybe I like it that she’s snuggly. If you tickle me, do I not laugh?

Except she’s sixteen months old and she still doesn’t sleep through the night, and she’s kind of an obnoxious bed hog.

Things won’t change as far as our sleeping arrangements for a while, at least until we move, which will be…you know, time.

So I’m not asking for diatribes about how I am doing her a disservice by keeping her in my bed.

I just wanted to bitch for a minute.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m overdue for some hair pulling and milk breath.

Sometimes it just needs to be said.

There are people I love.

Of course there are, everyone loves someone.

What I mean is there are people I love besides the people I birthed, was birthed by, or choose to live with.

I love my family, and I tell them all the time, but there are people who I love and don’t tell.

I don’t know why. It’s not premeditated. It’s not like I sit around and think of dark, devious ways to keep my loving feelings to myself.

I guess I don’t really think about the fact that everyone isn’t inside my head (and believe me, you lucky bastards, that’s a good thing) and so I can’t expect anyone to know things unless I tell them.

The breakdown in interpersonal communication. It’s the curse of the techno generation.

But sometimes I’m reminded that other people are better at conveying their feelings than I am.

Like yesterday. My friend Cody had mentioned on Twitter that he was catching up on my posts. It was very sweet and made me smile.

And then I had the following text conversation:

Priceless. Perfection.

Seriously, have you ever thought about how much a simple statement can mean to another person? My mood went from “meh” to “fuck yes I’m awesome” in milliseconds.

And it made me sad that I don’t do that more often.

I mean, why do I have nice thoughts about people and not tell them? Why would you keep something like that to yourself?

It’s a total rush. I have it in me to totally make someone feel fantastic on a daily basis. I should do it. Often.

And I think I will.

Birthday manifesto

Tomorrow is Josh’s birthday.

Sometimes I’m great with special days like that. Like the year we had everyone over to the apartment and drank girl beer and talked into the wee hours. Or even the year I conned him into a surprise dinner out (at Ruby Tuesday, cause we’re classy round here, folks).

But this year I’m at a loss.

We’re pretty strapped for finances right now (turns out disposable diapers CAN’T be reused, who knew?) so spoiler alert: I haven’t been able to buy a gift at all.

A couple of times I’ve made him a gift.

But now I realize that homemade gifts are something that are usually not loved, they’re tolerated like bad smells in WalMart. And I love him too much for that, so I guess he’s not getting a crocheted market bag. You’re welcome, asshole. I mean what, you’re too much of a man for a pretty bag?

I thought about lots of things I could do. Back rubs. Video game time alone. Things I can’t tell you about (sorry mom!).

And maybe I’ll do all that.

But yesterday we found out that due to a few glitches in our qualifications, we may not be getting the federal money we’d expected to allow us to go to school. I cried for a while. He was agitated. We filed our appeals and now we wait.

We wait. All weekend and into next week.

It’s going to suck.

And it’ll suck even more if it doesn’t work out and we don’t get to go, especially since we’d both gotten incredibly excited about going back to school.

So I’ve decided to say this for all the globe to see: Joshua Steen, if I have to dig ditches and scrub toilets for the rest of my life to pay for it, you’re going to finish school.

We’ve settled for a lot of things over the past years.
We’ve overspent.
We’ve laughed.
We’ve undersaved.
We’ve cried.
We’ve won.
We’ve admitted defeat.
We’ve fallen short.
We’ve gone further than we thought we could.

And only with you can I have the ultimate faith that this will all turn out better than we’ve ever dreamed, so you deserve to know that I will not let you give up, and I will never give up on you.

I love you. I hope you have a wonderful birthday and just know that one day you’ll get spectacular presents.

Also, you’re getting old.

Not exactly Hoarders

Do you guys use Pinterest?

If not, you should.

It’s like a virtual bulletin/idea/brainstorm board where you can keep track of things you like.

Interiors. Crafts. Foods (oh my GOD people spend SO much time on food! Bento, fruit flowers..). Clothes. Outfit ideas. Creative party themes and useful things like that. It’s also a total timesuck, because I look at this cool outfit and that amazing reading nook and ooh this sunroom and then WHAM two hours are gone and my kid is outside smoking.I love this idea. Looking at other people’s creativity. Seeing things people like. Feeling a sense of community in wanting to create things and make things pretty.

The bad thing is, though, that I often come away at a bit of a loss. I believe Moses would refer to it as coveting my neighbor’s ass or something similar (although my neighbors are PaPaw Buck and the invisible lady with the painted mailbox, so really, no worries there).

What I’m saying is I look at these beautiful creations, be they centerpieces, cute jeans with a surprising scarf and bright shoes, or a clever saying painted on a wall, and suddenly my hair feels greasy and my teeth feel dirty and I might as well go put on a bathrobe and a turban and start dipping tobacco because clearly I am a lost cause.

I love the house we live in. I love that these walls house people I care the very most about in the world. I love that my kids can run down the hall and have Dad (x2) and Mom and everyone can all be together. I love that we get two sets of Netflix movies. I love that my kids are growing up knowing that things don’t have to be normal to be perfect.

What I don’t love is the fact that we’re all kind of slobby. We all keep things we should probably toss. I’ve tried every trick in the book – cleaning for 30 minutes a day, throwing something out every time something new is brought in, cleaning obsessively all day.

I suck at it.

And the thing is, my mom was/is the ultimate cleaning banshee. She somehow manages to keep everything looking like Martha Stewart just came for cocoa and even when my 3 kids and my niece and nephew and the dog are all rampant in full force I would have no qualms eating off her floor.

So I kind of feel like a failure before I even begin.

I mean, this is my job, right? To make the home. To have things pretty and fresh and nice.

I’m like everyone else, I go through spurts of mania enthusiasm and things will get clean and organized and I’ll be really proud. Then Dan will make a tuna sandwich and make the whole joint smell like barf or Josh will cook a chef-caliber meal and the kitchen is suddenly filled with pots and pans. Or my kids will, you know, wake up.

So I look at the crisp and pristine loveliness on Pinterest or the living rooms in Facebook albums and I pine.

Well, I alternate between pining and scolding myself for pining.

The answer to this is obvious – just don’t look at it.

But then I get these bursts and I want to make things over – but I am crap at organizing. It totally escapes me. I used to (still do) wish I would wake up one day with a Monica Gellar yen for cleaning and organization, but thus far it hasn’t happened.

I wake up still me.

Still cursing the load of clothes I’ve left in the dryer for three days because I don’t want to put up clothes (PSA: it is not really possible for two adults and a toddler, along with all their clothes and shoes, to neatly share one bedroom and bathroom without some clever apartment type finagling. And I don’t have that. I’m not a finagler.).

Still wondering what to do with all the dog hair.

Still needing to find a system.

Still debating throwing down a paint cloth and just covering up the duck wallpaper.

A girl can dream, right?