choking on humble pie

The point of this online diary, this examination of my life thus far, was to help me find my way. After nearly 20 years in a career that while it was enjoyable, seemed to be going the way of the horse and buggy, I left the workforce to stay home with my baby girl.

All was fine and well in the beginning. Home all day. Every day. This is great! I’ll get all these projects done, fix up the house really nice, get those gardens in order. In short, do all the stuff I never had time for when I was working countless hours at work.

But then the novelty wore off and I got bored and lonely. Enter new set of friends and new set of activities to fill my day. Wonderful. Now I have just about as much to do and keep track of as when I was working. And guess what? Projects still aren’t done. Gardens still aren’t planted. Etc.

Now I realize I’ve come full-circle. It’s not just a new life, it’s a new set of excuses.

I have to start looking at what I am doing as a job. I have responsibilities and deadlines and commitments. I should get up on time every day and get done those duties for that day and go to bed as if I have a job in the morning. I think in the long run this will help me move on to the next level: getting back to work again.

Right now I’m stuck in a rut. I don’t have a plan B. Or, my B plans have not materialized as I’d hoped due to lack of organization, lack of confidence or lack of motivation.

I’ve had a week of putting out fires ignited by my lack of organization. This kills me since I’ve always considered myself to be highly organized. Yet, if you knew what messes I made this week, you’d question my sense of self to even attach the “o” word to my list of qualities.

This, too, on the heels of a three-day tirade (ask the husband half of this relationship) about how no one in this friggin’ outsourced, downsized economy knows how to do his or her job properly and I have to redo and redo over again things that just don’t ever seem to get resolved.

Clue: We redid all our insurance plans this year and not one policy went into effect without multiple problems.

Clue: I now realize I drive a lemon, a gas-guzzling, money-sucking lemon. And we will be paying for this vehicle long after it is out of our lives.

With that in mind, I receive angry phone call that calls me out and places me square in the seat of all the moronic workers out there I’ve been cursing to hell all week.

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Love 'em while they're young

It’s easy to hug and cuddle chubby babies. They coo and giggle and gurgle and smell like baby powder. They are soft and sweet. Even as babies grow into small children, they still retain a certain charm: they are brutally honest, genuinely interested in you and the world around them, and mostly accept what you say as fact.

Then something horrible happens to them. They become teenagers. I say this from the perspective of being a parent to one. Yes. Yes. I remember what I was like. Horrible. Perhaps one of the most horrible teenagers ever.

Does that mean I have to relive the experience from the receiving end? Apparently so. For those still in the cuddly baby stage, a primer:

Rule No. 1: Accept the fact that no matter how you dress, style your hair or “accessorize” you are doing it wrong. You don’t “get it.”

Rule No. 2: No matter what comes out of your mouth when you speak, you are “annoying.”

Rule No. 3: Despite the fact that you have lived on this earth for 43 years, “you don’t know what you are talking about.”

Rule No. 4: You are a wallet with wheels. End of story.

I think it’s safe to say that my reminiscing of the birth experience earlier this week was a moment of weakness. It’s time to strap on the body armor and shore up patience and strength for the next few years.

Is it still baby weight after 14 years?

Monday was President’s Day, an utterly useless holiday since it does nothing more than combine the birthdates of two dead presidents into the justification for an appliance store “blowout sale.”

But in 1994, President’s Day was special, so very special, because it was the day I knew I was having my Girl from the West. Being hugely pregnant and past my expiration date, I was scheduled to arrive at the hospital at 6 a.m. on this federal holiday for my induction.

I was scared of being induced, since it meant I would be pumped full of artificial hormones and have to stay in bed connected to several monitors, a blood-pressure cuff and an I.V. So much for all the natural childbirth classes I took. I also was scared of not being induced because that meant I’d be pregnant for the rest of my life.

Long story short, after hours and hours of laboring and pushing, pulling, poking and prodding, at 8 p.m. that night, my first daughter came kicking and screaming (not just a cliche, but the truth) into this world at 9 pounds, 10 ounces. And, yeah, I didn’t have a c-section.

And now it’s her 14th birthday already. Her babyhood is long gone. Her early childhood nothing more than a few storage bins of finger paintings, Girl Scout sashes and a few treasured trinkets.

But I still remember one of our first nights home with “the new baby.” During one of many middle-of-the-night feedings, I sat on the floor of her colorful nursery and counted in my head how many minutes, hours, days it would be before this servitude would lighten up, when I’d get a little bit of my life back.

I’m ashamed to say it came too fast. I’d do anything to get just a slice of that time back. Before I know it, Girl from the West will be on her own in the world and I’ll count the hours, days and months until I see her again.

That’s the raw deal for first-borns: they are the parental guinea pigs. I’m a much smarter, more efficient and appreciative parent with Girl from the East.

The raw deal for moms of teens? You can’t call all that junk in the trunk “baby weight” any more.

One week, two good-byes

This is the first day I’ve had in a week to sit in silence and contemplate the loss of two figures in my life.

First, the phone call came last Tuesday: my grandfather had died. Yes, he was 94 years old, had outlived all his friends, his wife, his generation of family members and was failing. All this I know and realize the only logical future was for him to die peacefully in his sleep. A once-active retiree, his life in recent years had been narrowed to that of being wheeled from one of three rooms in his assisted-living facility. He could not see. His hearing was very limited. He could not walk. This eliminated the ability to read books, listen to books on tape or to watch (or hear) television.

I think all he had to look forward to in a day was his meals and the occasional visitor. So I understand that he is “out of his misery” and “has joined his wife in the after life, heaven, the great reward” or whatever is to be believed. I get that. But the finality of the last grandparent dying really hit me.

So we grandchildren and great-grandchilden said good-bye last week and realized how damn lucky we were to have such wonderful grandparents in our lives for so long.

Parallel to that were the final days of my husband’s cat, who probably was older than 94 in cat years. She had been sick for about nine months, recently diagnosed as cancer of the digestive tract. An unpleasant nine months, as you can imagine what tumors do to an animals ability to digest food.

Watching this cat suffer was as painful as visiting my grandfather. It’s the remembering what and who they once were that makes it so difficult. It took a lot of effort to get this aloof feline to like me.

My mother has wearied over the years in balancing her work with caring for her father. Now that he is gone, she wonders what she’ll do with her time. It became part of her life. So, too, with our cat. The constant care was draining and upsetting, but it became part of our routine. It’s a relief to have it over. But the feeling isn’t without a dose of guilt.

It is my hope that both are truly in a better place.