Friday, October 31, 2008

turning the day around

It was a rough start - I hate to begin there, when so many moments are sweeter - but I was one more 'Mooommm, where are my ______?' away from pulling a Betty Draper, rifle in hand, shooting birds out of the sky.

(Which would be tough to pull off, considering I don't own a gun or smoke. But the thought crossed my mind.)

Three half days in a row had messed up our routine. (Parent-teacher conferences. It's bound to happen, although I'd gladly take a whole Friday off over this schedule.)

I gave up on my Mad Men fantasy and managed to turn the day around, making potato-leek soup, and then tomatillo salsa, giving my food processor a whirl.

After homework and chores were done - whew - we headed to Elk Rock Island, accessible this time of year on foot, with some ladies who were up for an adventure.
lisa & sage at elk rock island
I'm always fascinated by this landscape, this world we live in.
elk rock 3
It's a gift, I know, to still be surprised in an age when it's easy to become cynical. (I'm looking at you, November 4th. The TV ads alone might be the end of me and any cheer I can muster.)
rock climbing
I am thankful.
kids with sage
Greg beat us home; our tacos were waiting for us once we made it through traffic.
carving pumpkins2
And I kept my promise to finally carve pumpkins with the kids.
steps to former clubhouse during prohibition
The fresh air did me some good.


Five years ago today, we put in our offer on this house, after putting in some hours beating the streets and begging for candy. Houses were in high demand. Another offer came in, sometime after 2 am. We weren't the only folks in costumes, filling out paperwork, it seems.

Our For Sale sign looks sad these days, surrounded by leaves and little hope. But today, I'm remembering just how grateful I was to call this place my own.

It helps.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

in the spaces

Lexi is sawing away at the cello; it demands more concentration than my daydreaming girl can sometimes muster.

She struggles, and looks over her shoulder for support.

I like the way she is willing to go through the trouble. It's not easy on a burgeoning perfectionist.

I've been waking up around 4 am lately, unable to fall back asleep. My hips hurt, sure, but my mind defaults to strange places in this place between sleep and Zack creeping in my room.

Flash: The swimming pool I went to as a child, handing my clothes in a hanging basket - the undies discreetly crammed in a shoe - to the man behind the counter.

Flash: The breezeway at my elementary school on election day.

Flash: A barbecue at my Grandma's house, in vivid color. (It sits vacant now, gray and dour.) The sun is hot and I am eyeing a piece of cheesecake until I am shooed away, told cream cheese is wasted on kids like me.

I lie in bed, devoid of thought, just a parade of snapshots for a bedfellow, and decide this is what it will be like to grow old, treading in days gone by.

Monday, October 27, 2008

random thoughts on a random monday

My mind is racing and my house needs cleaning. (Case in point: I nearly took a swig from Greg's discarded sunflower seed shells, left in a mug from last night, instead of the precious coffee I need to fuel my morning. *sigh*)

I'm resorting to bullets. It's that day.

  • Zack's sweet teacher gave birth to a healthy baby boy last night. I know my guy is missing her already, furious that I threw out the crumbled cookie mess - 'but she gave me that frosting' - that lined his red lunchbox. I hope he likes his new long term 'guest' teacher. ('Substitute', I gather, is not politically correct. Who knew?)
  • Grocery shopping on weekends makes me crazy. Why does it take a family of five to storm the store? What's with all the reunions, aisle-side? I spy with my little eye one shopper and a bunch of tourists. Wouldn't there be peace in the land if one adults stayed home or did something else with the kids, because standing in a crowded store, staring blankly into space isn't working for me. It's inefficient. I'm shutting up now.
  • The Incredible Hulk was NOT as good as Ironman. (Sorry Edward. I have greater hopes for Pride & Glory. A girl can hope, after it got pushed back a year.)
  • I hope to revamp my other blog this week. Primary Sjogren's Syndrome is characterized by the systemic destruction of the exocrine glands; it's a disease of dryness. I'm trying to come up with a header that works with my tagline: Living the lush life in a dry bod. Any suggestions, oh brilliant ones? (House featured SjS in last week's episode, although it might have been missed amid the hot girl-on-girl controversy. Those reader boards lit up and yes, I know this because I am overly involved with my favorite doctor. Never you mind.)
  • My reader is bursting at the seams. I will come visit you soon and very soon.
  • My book that is nearly not a go, is turning into something else completely. I hear this is common; instead it makes me nervous. But a young girl has appeared, wholly spawned in my mind's eye, so I can now pretend to understand when my favorite authors talk about characters just coming to them. (Some of you have asked me how it is going and that means the world to me. I'm fighting my urge to type little happy face emoticons in my already bulleted post. Dignity, woman!)
The day beckons. I told the laundry to pipe down, but you know how those piles can be: relentless, never taking 'no' for an answer.

Friday, October 24, 2008

meet dilly and dally

The dryer drones early, breathing steam into the foggy morning, while Dilly and Dally melt into the furniture.

They've taken a cue from our more relaxed schedule - evenings open for a game of Clue and snuggling on my bed - and getting my kids to get up and out the door in the morning has been taxing.

(Or at least it would be if I was hovering nearby. I've gone as far as putting in for the license, but I'm not quite ready for a chopper.)

Dilly's moods seem more volatile lately. I remember we went through this for a while last year; I see Greg's absence is weighing on him more, the older he gets. He's testing my authority, and I'm not sure what to make of these changes in our relationship.

We've been reading together each night, on his bed and the extra attention seems to quell his outbursts. I only wish he hadn't picked a Star Wars book featuring Jar-Jar Binks. The dialogue might be the end of me, reading aloud and mincing the alien language. But I'm willing to do it if it helps bridge the gap.

(I've got a lot to learn about raising a man.)

Dally took one hundred pictures on our field trip to the gorge Wednesday, amid wind gusts and salmon and a hatchery.

I think a dozen or so are devoted to a certain boy, making kooky faces for her.

I am dazzled by how thoughtful and grown up this batch of fifth graders has become over the past 6 years. When inundated with bad news every time I tune in, it cheers me to know these kids are baking up fine, despite it all.

(And 10 and 11 year olds grasp the global news quite well. I heard talk about the 'bad economy'; even Lexi's letter to Santa had concessions made to address the coming recession. I wonder if this will stem the consumer tide in this generation coming up.)

I'm wandering on the page, taking my cue from my kids it seems.

I lost my point somewhere along the way, and the bus in coming; the brakes give it away.

I'm off. I'm scurrying to the end of my post, blowing you quick kisses, grateful it's Friday.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

jenny O and a few simple words

She mentioned it casually, over the stacks.

She thought I was lonely.

Jenny's remark came bundled in a retelling of a conversation she had had recently with her mother, one where I had been praised for being the kind of woman - don't laugh - who was still 'cool' and my own person and not just a mommy. She wondered if I was lonely.

I chewed on this comment for days.

Who was I to complain when I have been blessed with a solid family, from the day of my birth to the one I was creating?

I was social. I was well-liked, generally.

Yet I knew she was right.

I had made little effort since I had becoming a mother, caught in a role that didn't fit like a glove. At least, not at first. Acquaintances passed for friendship. I hardly made time, between work and my family, to see old friends, true friendships that had passed the course of time. And I though I loved the young people I worked with, people like Jenny, my life with a husband and diapers made me different, in a different season of life.

It was time I start reaching out; friendship and companionship, my prayer.

At first, it wasn't easy. Our school had its share of cliques and I wasn't sure if anyone was on the market. I started accepting more playdates. My husband started traveling and I quit my job, which left me even more lonely for a while, but opened up my schedule.

I started showing up. I started blogging. I started.

I lost touch with Jenny some time ago. I came across a note she gave me over the summer, her words meaning more to me than she could know.

(I'm starting to feel older these days, a little further down the path. There's something about a remarkable younger woman looking up to you that does the soul good, even if it makes me blush.)

So, yesterday I began stalking I found her on Facebook. She has moved on and away and is getting married next spring.

I couldn't be happier for her.

Monday, October 20, 2008

wrapping up a busy weekend, the hot coffee and sick girl edition

Oh beloved weekend! Where did you go?

PTA bingo at school on Friday night. Check.

Scrubbing house, before and after charity event for Sunday's Open house. Check.

Taking pictures of the motley crew, pre-Costume ball? Check.

Hanging out with Bad People. Check.
happy birthday, Lori
Celebrating Aunt Lori's birthday. Check.

Church, swimming lessons, open house and movie with best friends. Check, check and checkedy check check.

And just when I was ready to call it an evening, my girl tripped through my bedroom door, flushed and sweaty and queasy too.

It's raining hard this morning, and I'm taking solace in a hot cup of tea right now, nestled with my girl, hoping Monday turns around.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

lucky lass

Oatmeal and Tea, compliments of my young chefs. It's just the best way to start the weekend.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


The conversation spun round and round until I finally stopped her, having been sufficiently spanked for not picking a primary doctor sooner.

Dr. Rheumy's medical assistant seemed angry with me, her tone curt and unhelpful. She said things I know are not true. (She was adamant that some blood work, ones she has ordered for me before, are outside of their scope.)

So, I stopped asking questions and told her I would search for a new doctor without her input, and her response was to give me a customer service line, as if I called to complain.

I had called for her help, and when she called back days later, my request was met with fear and threats. Threats that if I don't 'take care of myself', the consequences could be serious.

(I called to get an appointment, to be seen. Oh well.)

I got off the phone and realized how often I react to fear. Fear if I don't take certain meds, my autoimmune disease will take over my life. Fear that if I take immunosuppressants, I will trash my liver or face lymphoma.

Fear my kids are not prepared for the future, when I visit the school.

Fear over the economy.

Fear I will pick the wrong candidate.

And when I am scared, I am easy to bully.

I am capable of making difficult decisions and taking charge when I need to. I tend to forget that. I tend to look too long and hard at the experts - the church, the politicians, doctors - for answers.

I'm sick of it.

The bus rolled up and soon, my garage was full of neighbor kids, ones I worry about during these hard times. I tend to hold my fear inside; cry privately over their often neglected lives, their families stretched further than mine.

I feel powerless.

But I'm not. Neither are you. I made simple snacks and sat out on the porch, watching the kids run and play.

One of the boys - one that's in foster care and has already suffered enough, born to meth addicts and saddled with chronic health problems of his own - smiled and thanked me for the snack.

I told him he is always welcome here, and I meant it.

And at the risk of sounding trite, I believe we have the tools to make our world whole, to make a difference, each in our own small way.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

hark! it's the Great Pumpkin Patch

There's no denying I am one giddy kiddo when it comes to pumpkin patches. I'm one skipping, goofball masquerading as a grown up, searching for just the right pumpkin and gawking at itty, bitty baby goats.

(Greg gave up football on Sunday to hold my hand and pretend to love it as much as I do. Of course, he doesn't but I'm glad we all went, just the same.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

on any given day

Morning begins early at the Milton house. When Greg is in town, he is out the door before dawn, with a kiss goodbye while I lay in bed waiting for the Early Riser. Just how reliable is Zack's internal clock? My alarm clock broke a couple of weeks ago and I've yet to sleep in.

He wakes up bright and cheery and ready to do something. He's been on a pancakes/waffles kick lately, but today I let him use a knife to cut his own grapefruit in half. I'm happy to report we typically don't head to the ER before school.

I usually spend the next hour or two wrestling my sleepy girl out of bed, urging her to eat and imploring her to spare her energetic brother's life while I make him wait until 8:15 before I set him free, to ride his bike or skateboard. My apologies to the greater Vancouver area; he's raring to go.

After we're all fed and the kids are out the door, I'm off to Jazzercise or for a walk or hike.

Followed by a shower.

The rest of the day usually includes chatting on the phone with these two:
ammy in the yardlori the personal shopper
My Mom and my little sister, Lori

I usually watch a little TV, a little news or something while I fold clothes, or sort through stacks of junk mail and school papers or pay bills.

I write and read blogs and try to catch my husband on the phone.

I grocery shop. I go to the library to pick up holds. I help out at school. I read between errands, always keeping a book or three handy.

I clean my house, especially since we put it on the market. I can't seem to get to it (because I find housework unbearable)(not that you love it)(I'm so ashamed of my aversion) unless there's raucous music or NPR playing or more likely: A book on CD. I'm listening to The Dark Tower today.

The kids come home from school around 3:30 and vie for my attention, talking over each other to report about their days, while inhaling my cupboards bare.

At some point, Zack will talk about numbers or math in a dreamy tone...

zack in the yard
And Lexi will inevitably cover some of her favorite subjects, not to be outdone.

And I will enter into my favorite part of the day: I make myself a strong cup of tea and while the kids play and do homework and flutter in and out of the kitchen, I start to make dinner.

I love the days when Greg is in town, and we eat together in the dining room, playing our warped version of: Would you rather? (Let's just say I'd rather not die by flame or flood, but if pushed to answer, I would rather drown.)

When evening comes, and the last kid has been piggybacked away - FYI, this mama will not be able to hoist them much longer - Greg and I kick back and watch a movie, or Mad Men or Heroes, this time of year.

And before this overhead light goes out, I always squeeze in some reading before I say good-night to another day.

a typical day

Oh! It's Monday, the day I committed to posting about my typical day over at Mrs. G.'s.

It will be up as soon as my typical morning blows over. Pinky swear.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Jen's birthday celebration

One of my favorite chicas had a birthday this week.
dave & jen
That's Jen and her hubby, Dave. (Good shot, honey.)
jen's birthday celebration
Sam, Jen, Stephanie & me (Thanks, Stu.)

We went into Portland for Happy Hour (and this group needed the Happy), and then to Harvey's Comedy Club.

I am so lucky to have friends like I do.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Ready to laugh? Not ha-ha, that's-so-funny-whorehouse laugh; it's more of a snort. Here's some of the plans I had for Fall 2008:

  1. Upon moving to new college town, look into getting a brand spankin' new job. It's been a couple of years since I quit my bookseller gig, and working part-time would be good for me and my wallet.
  2. Find a new primary doctor and specialists and form a new team to manage chronic health problems.
  3. Seek out a new church, preferably close to my new home.

See how bright and shiny and new it was all going to be, once I stopped wailing and clinging on to the pant legs of friends and family here? Brave and bold and ready for the next step.

Enter Plan B:
  1. Sorta give up on moving and decide it's time to make some changes now. Putting off some decisions made sense in light of an impending move, but I'm tired of hearing myself sigh. Tired of listening to pundits and politicians. Time to take some action.
  2. I put together a resume and applied for some very part-time jobs in the school district, making daycare a non-issue while my husband travels.
  3. I've made several calls to my doctor's office and am seeking a new primary doctor here as mine left the practice in the spring. She was perfect in my eyes, and I do not like being considered a new patient (and have to wait a month for an appointment) in her absence, but I am willing to court another doctor. I have some health concerns that cannot wait.
  4. I did not break up with my church. Instead, I have given up the early 'my kids are so crabby and now so am I' service on Sunday mornings and have opted for the noon service. Yes, NOON. As in, after lunch. Sunday school is more laid back, several cups of coffee in, and I am not racing to make it on time, shoving young families to the pavement on my way to talk about baby Jesus. (No actual toddlers were hurt in the writing of this post, or um, ever. Really.)
I attended the coffee talk with our principal today, became a PTA member again and renewed my volunteer background check for the school.

And while I was taking care of business and blooming where I am planted - blah blah blah - I got a phone call from a Realtor about showing the house this afternoon.

Oh, the best-laid plans...

Monday, October 06, 2008

it gives new meaning to the 'happiest place on earth'

I paused when I heard him say it, certain I misunderstood him from the kitchen.

Then he said something about his favorite whorehouse again, so I poked my head around the corner and - trying to keep a straight face - jumped in to my kids' conversation.

Zack, clearly irritated with his bemused sister: It is my favorite whorehouse, right by the Pirates of Caribbean.

I exchange a puzzled glance with Lexi before Zack continues.

Zack: *sigh* It had ghosts and monsters and stuff. I like whorehouses. I like whore.

MM: Hey, buddy, I'm not really sure if you know what you are saying...Do you mean the Haunted House? In Disneyland?

Zack: YES! I like the whorehouse in Disneyland. Because I like Halloween and scary stuff. Like you.

I have to imagine he was pretty horrified to discover that 'whore' and 'horror' are not interchangeable nor is it appropriate to race around recess proclaiming 'I'm a whore' when you really mean to say 'Vampire or Ghost'.

This one should be fun to explain at the parent-teacher conference this week.

I can hardly wait.

Friday, October 03, 2008

I didn't forget the ass report

A friend was leaving my house last week, when she hollered something about hoping to catch the wretched virus going around the school - the one the public health officials sent notes home about because of it's pukey goodness - to lose a few extra pounds. A few pounds, I might add, she doesn't need to subtract.

Clearly, I do not sure that kind of fervor. Yes, I am working out and I think it has been the key to the keeping the hounds of hell away. While I walk or dance or stretch, I am less likely to worry about the economy or the election or the way darkness will soon be shrouding the sun before 5 pm each day.

flock & fiber ass
Then my son takes this ever so flattering 3/4 shot and it is pretty clear that while my activity level is great, my eating habits still need some work.

flock & fiber ass
(And I need some new dance moves.)

So this week I have revamped my eating, getting back to whole foods. Almost no sugar. Lots of veggies. Green tea. More water.

It will be a few weeks before I will be able to tell if these efforts are working, at least on the scale.

But I feel better, just knowing that I am taking good care of my blue ribbon butt heart, and making myself over, from the inside out.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

cue the Cymbalta, and the dark wood paneling*

They say depression hurts. Despondent folks staring into gray spaces; neglected dogs and dishes littering the way back to bed.

I say I wear depression well, a sly beast with dull teeth, gnawing at my ankle, more irritating than painful.

To the untrained eye, Depressed Me looks a hell of a lot like Normal Me, only a bit more tired and quiet.

I could pin the tail on a number of asses to explain away these blues that will surely pass. Yesterday, I stopped chiding myself over the words that would not come - writing fiction is grueling at times; I am out of practice. I didn't follow any BREAKING! NEWS!; I took a satisfying nap before the kids came home.

I put my mind to rest over what my next chapters should look like; the next chapter in my book, the next chapter in my life as my husband's career soars, and my kids are growing up and slowly away from me.

This hunger feels necessary, natural right about now, the preamble to my mid-life.

And resting a bit and giving myself a break seemed to bring me back to the moment, sandwiched between my kids, each of us reading before bed.

No sorrowful music played in the background. I wore a cheery pink t-shirt, straight out of the wardrobe department saved for holiday sales and baby lotion commercials.

Cymbalta would not approve.

Depression is an unwelcomed guest. She may have to make other arrangements.


*I couldn't help but think of Jimmy and His Many Panels of Wood over at Beanpaste.