Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Stuff of Life

Oh, my gosh! What a good book this was!…And this one…! I remember reading this during junior year of college…And this novel was the first I read of this author…! And so on it went, as I sorted books to sell at a recent yard sale two weekends back, rediscovering parts of my past selves, holding back strong emotions as I recalled how some of what I have read in the last 15 years helped get me through the difficult bits that come up in life, wishing I could converse directly with certain authors, tell them that they saved my life on several occasions, and the various ways that this holds true.

Who knew that preparing for a yard sale could be so internally heavy? Could make you feel like you were putting yourself on display, prone to absolute vulnerability? I don’t think I did. Not until preparing for this one, and then later, splaying my goods over the grass of the common area across from my home did I recognize the feeling that had come over me: such that I was hovering out of body, looking down at a less modest version of myself, legs wide open. I had to look away, and might even have folded my arms across my chest, warding off that naked feeling.

I’m dramatizing, but anyone paying real attention to all that I was trying to shed like old skin, would have learned or at least gleaned a few things about me. Even if it was all the old me’s. Her and her and her…well, they weren’t bad chicks, just they made some mistakes. Moreover, they are not in life where this gal is now.

The night before the yard sale, while in preparations — in the 10 o’clock hour actually — after crying for the third time over my daughter’s older clothing from infancy on up to the 3T sizes that she has recently discarded (Was she really so tiny?), I resolved that I was trying to do a very good thing, as I don’t think that I am strong enough to keep stumbling over her life contained in boxes any longer, making that reason enough to keep digging my heels into the heinous task. It’s worse in some ways when it comes to her former belongings than it is with my own, looking over remnants of my literary life. The visual earmarks of what time has already passed in her early existence, and how I was too naive to see that it would go so quickly shatters me.

If you ask me, yard sales are the fire drills of moving. Even in their usefulness, they are nearly just as much work and anxiety.

Who knew that the stuff you accumulate in life, but don’t necessarily need, is in some ways the actual stuff of life? The stuff that your soul cries out for, even as your consciousness gripes about the clutter? It certainly did not occur to me the first time I did a yard sale with my friend Ivanna last summer.

So, when my husband and I found ourselves schlepping probably ninety percent of what we extracted from our home, back in after five hours, I made a verbal pact for the both of us: “Let’s not ever do this to ourselves again!” The this being a commitment to be more conscious of clutter when it happens in order to eradicate it more often, in smaller doses, as well as making sure to not buy things that we don’t really need. Though, we are in less danger of the latter after convincing ourselves a year or more ago to cease particular purchases (books, sadly; CD’s; DVD’s, etc).

Feeling stuck with all this stuff lining our main hallway, and part of our living room, I’m bummed. And desperate for someone to take it all off our hands. Ivanna and I are scheming to do a yard sale together next month, so having something to incorporate is good. But with as much around, I’m deliriously fantasizing about a home invader. One that would be surprised to find the lady of the house giddily handing things over, a crazy smile a là Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden adorning her face.

Since that won’t happen, we’ve now tasked ourselves with tapping into secondhand stores, Craigslist, and fellow co-workers for release and salvation from ourselves.

This past Friday proved productive on that front, as we woke early to sell the best of my daughter’s outgrown fashions to our local spot for the youth thrift store, Once Upon A Child. Since we had just learned of its existence from a neighbor following the yard sale fail of two Saturdays ago, I called a few days prior to see if there were guidelines and expectations. The woman I spoke with was polite and helpful, but — yes! rules galore! Anxiety kicked in as I pictured a rigid retail environment fully controlled by a toddler textiles Nazi.

The two rules that took up my head space the most were: only one box of clothing permitted to sell to them per day; and they don’t buy past 11 a.m. The store opens at 10 a.m.

Naturally, my husband saw this as a chance to push the envelope. So, we brought two boxes of clothing and two boxes of toys with us to sell. And we didn’t leave the house until 10:15. Apparently, I don’t enjoy ruffling feathers. Why else would I be worried, right? Also, I tend to expect the worst. Maybe I should stop giving so much of life an automatic bad rap in my head.

Anyhow, I guess we hit on a lucky day, as there weren’t legions of other parents standing in a Depression Era-esque line out the door. Nor did any of the employees balk at our handful of cardboard containers. It was an overall pleasant experience. And even though the manager did not buy all that we brought with us, it ended up being an almost fair exchange, as all we had to pay for the items we choose for our daughter from what was out on the floor was $1.08. I’ll be back again, Once Upon A Child. You’ve made my list of Secondhand Stores That I Am Happy to Visit.

Following lunch, my husband hauled several more boxes to the nearest Goodwill, including some of my beloved past reading adventures, naturally. But I better not get started back on that. I am still dealing with inner conflict: time to let go of all that has been read in order to move on with life and all that is ahead to read versus not wanting to let go because those books were meshed in with my life. (Honestly, what will probably happen is that as I find new fabulous fiction and other general genre gorgeousness, I’ll end up rebuilding my army of books…which carries definite plausibility.)

Some things still need new homes and owners, but I felt enough relief over the progress attained just with that day that not only did I rest easier that night, but I could swear that our house did, too. Even so, the memory of the amount of effort that we both put into the yard sale and then the follow-up clean out left us as fatigued as when our daughter was first born and will not fade easily or soon.

 

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The Aeroplane Flies High

“…I can feel the wind from the wings/I see the clouds, I feel the ocean with my feet, and I’m home again/It requires an ability to judge distance/The airplane flies high…turns left, looks right…/If I knew where I was going I would already be there/ I wish I had more time…” ~The Aeroplane Flies High by The Smashing Pumpkins

I was rapt observing the trajectory of two commercial airplanes, from two different airlines (both company names unclear to me from my ground view), wondering with every cell of my being about their destinations, what sort of passengers they carried post-dinner on a sunny Saturday evening, if their reasons for travel were for work or for play, if their stories were happy or sad.

My family — even though part of the thought-process in which I was under a spell — had fallen into the background as they played a game of chase just a handful of feet behind me.

We had ventured out for a walk to aid digestion when I found myself in a quiet mood, enjoying the company of my husband and daughter and the moment, yet feeling the pull of my inner self when I turned and noticed how full and powerful the clouds were, how they commanded my attention. And that is when I saw the duo, occupying the air as delicately as two birds might. Or even, in the same fragile and graceful way as two feathers shed from the bodies of the same beaked vertebrates would.

Take me anywhere, I thought. Please. Let me and my husband and daughter come aboard and take us to a new and different life. A life both exciting and fulfilling. Both happy and meaningful. To a town or city where we would be at home. Yes, please take me to my personal utopia, where ever it may exist.

The life the three of us share is overall a happy, healthy one. In my opinion, it isn’t each other that needs changing; it’s our locale.

But more than that, after feeling stuck in the first part of my life, fearful that I would never ever be able to leave the town that I lived in before college, the idea of travel planted itself in my brain and grew into a real mission of the heart by the time the holds of higher education began to loosen.

I pictured myself exploring … seeing the world.

Of course, some dreams retain elusiveness. Other than a week-long trip to Las Vegas in 2008, which was my first time ever aboard aircraft, I still have yet to become further acquainted with my own country, let alone other continents.

I stood wide-eyed, gaze fixed on those planes out of a sheer longing to go places. To grow in ways that you can’t with your feet on the ground. To become versions of myself that I might not without lift off.

The eyes can taste and feel, too. Literally, no. But in tandem with the heart, all that can be absorbed — like taking a big, long drink at the peak of thirst — to me, is much like them having ability to do more than just see. (This might be one reason that I am very much an art enthusiast.) Even so, sight all on its own can open a person up to so much understanding, so much fresh perspective.

If I kept watching the horizontal paths of the airplanes, maybe it would be enough for just a little of that to come through.

 

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The Picky Palate of My Little Lady

“Ew, mom. What is that smell? What are you eating?” The four-year-old who once ate everything that I put before her, especially when she had no choice from within the womb, now turns up her nose at any culinary delight of mine or her father’s, and with exuberant measure, in spite of all of the times that we have explained that it is fine for people — even people in the same family — to like different foods. That when she begins school next year, other kids might like to eat things that she isn’t interested in, and how this is completely okay.

“It’s just crab meat with Old Bay seasoning, ladybug. Calm down. You don’t have to eat it,” I reply, simultaneously thinking, I fed you tuna fish when you were no bigger than one, once a week. You turned out fine. Quiet yourself already.

The super selective and sometimes secret menu in which she adamantly adheres to has been a bother for about two years now. Desperate and done with the scenario, I can’t stop myself from asking parents with slightly older children how their luck has been, whether their child has given up the sustenance snobbery. They nod “no,” with equal pain in their eyes.

What boggles my mommy mind further is that at some point my discriminating diner became to minus from her menu items that she once liked. Hot dogs, baked beans, and baked potato are three that I think of immediately. We suspect that she might be toeing the line for becoming a vegetarian, as other than steak or chicken, she refuses most meat. No matter how many times we have tried to get her to sample bacon during a weekend breakfast, she stands firm in her belief that she won’t like it.

Odd, I know. Odder still, she adores mashed potatoes, just like momma. So why the differentiation between baked versus mashed? I don’t understand it.

On the flip side — and I know other children do this — she would eat mac and cheese every day of the week, if we acquiesced. I love gooey cheese and warm pasta, too. But the health nut that I am, and further becoming cringes at the potential effects that would be a result of a diet composed solely of the popular pasta. Why is it the common link among her age group? Why do kiddos fixate on this particular food?

Our salvation — even on days that it doesn’t feel like enough — is the fact that both myself and my husband have always strongly encouraged the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Considering that our 5-year-old friend and next door neighbor vehemently turns salad away when his also health-conscious parents offer it, but my girl is completely accepting of it being scheduled as part of dinner, tells me that at least that much is working for us.

The worst of it has been those nights that she ends up going to bed hungry because her firm rebelliousness overpowers both our reasoning and her empty tummy. Luckily, that has only happened a trio of times, but each of those made me feel like an absolute terrible mother.

So, when can I expect this frustrating food fracas to finale? According to one article, http://www.education.com/magazine/article/eating-habits-kids-picky/, “‘Most kids outgrow picky eating in mid-childhood…'” Well, that’s a little vague.

The writer goes on to warn that “‘lifelong picky eaters face serious health consequences because of their limited diets.'” When it comes to food and eating, this is one of my fears for her. (One of the others is that she’ll struggle to maintain a healthy weight since this is a common problem for so many Americans.)

Further, ‘”by helping your child work through the root of her eating issues, she’ll feel more at ease in food-centered social situations and will work toward experiencing the joy of sharing a scrumptious meal with friends and family.'” Oh my gosh! How do I help her work through eating issues — if she has any — when I am not aware of her having any??

Earlier on in the article, while addressing fear of food the writer references a disorder some kids experience, food neophobia, which is simply a fear of trying new foods. Yup, my lady falls into that category.  “‘…Just the sight or smell of an unfamiliar dish is enough to make them gag or vomit.'” Wow, gross. And, poor things. So far, my daughter only did this once, but it was recent.

At least we do already talk openly with her about food, and allow her to incorporate her favorite items, as the article recommends. We certainly want her to be able to share food with us — and others as her life progresses — and do so without subtracting all that is good about a meal from every meal.

The article also advises that parents provide their children with choices, as well as involve them in the process of shopping for and cooking meals. Not only do we do that, but throughout each week, as hubby and I try to keep from falling into a planning rut, we ask our daughter if she has any dinner ideas. Sometimes she does. Often, they’re not half-bad. She can think up a balanced meal involving a vegetable, a protein, maybe a grain. Check mark there, mommy and daddy.

Still, thinking up a healthy menu is not the same as being agreeable about consuming it.

I’m not super concerned though. Not yet. More than anything both myself and her dad are just weary of carrying out a similar conversation with our girl every evening in our dining room, as she perches half-off her chair, prepared to flee the meal, the table, and our loving logic at the first sign of us standing just a little too firm for her liking.

Patience, momma, I tell myself while exhaling hard. Patience. Because isn’t that one element of what it normally takes to raise our children?

And maybe sprinkle the good ole mac in there when we are truly at an extreme impasse.

 

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Building Character?

Curiosity killed the cat. And now, it’s working on this momma. My own curiosity has proven a murderous measure to take. I found myself in an experimental mindset when, back in October, the secretary position on the board for my home owner’s association was vacated by the woman who had been serving for at least two years. A stay-at-home mother like me, it became clear to her that the additional responsibilities were taking away too much from her role and obligation to her two children. (Also, she was assaulted by a resident. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen to me!) I should have heeded that bit a little heavier than I had, as well as the fact that this sort of thing does not fit with my personality, with who I am.

I decided to inquire about it anyhow, as the personal potential to do the job — a volunteer role — was there. After all, a majority of being a secretary is taking notes at meetings, writing emails, keeping paperwork. Okay. Not to sound arrogant, but I’ve got an English degree. I’m over-qualified, am I not?

My subconscious was incredulously screaming at me: For as long as you have lived here, under an HOA, you have always found the concept irritating. Remember? These are the people that tell you what to do with your house…that you and your husband own! Why are you curious? 

Because it was an unknown, which let’s face it, sometimes spurs the curious nature in a human. Because it would be a new experience, which is always a plus, especially if you are looking to grow. (I always am.) Because it could be a way to meet new people, in spite of giving up on that in my neighborhood after ten years with no luck. And because my neighborhood could use improvement. If I could help, if I could be part of a solution, instead of deadweight, wouldn’t that be better?

Sure, it would. But as I have learned, our board unfortunately does not have nearly enough authority in order to make grand effectual changes. To top it off, some of the residents think we are the devil’s suburban acolytes.

Six months have passed, and with it more times than I have kept track of my swearing that resignation is nigh, then flopping back to complacent participation. This has been due to a few challenging individuals: a current fellow board member; a previous board member; and a gentleman who seems to have never been on the board, but bosses the board about anyhow because he’s a psychopath who has resided in our neighborhood since the dawn of our homes in the mid-1970s. Then there is the uptick in my workload following our monthly meetings which always grinds my gears. Because I feel an immediate need to get it all done, I push myself to devote time to the work — meeting notes, the aforementioned emails to various entities in the neighborhood, and sometimes written letters to residents — upon returning from the meeting, when I normally also have a bit of a headache. The next few days after find me constantly checking board email for additional work, such as edits on the meeting notes, and trying to continue to follow through on whatever tasks remain.

My husband keeps talking me down, telling me that I make more work of it than I should, that it exercises my people skills.

There are instances where I don’t want to hear any of that. Decision is made. I experimented. It’s not for me. Good-bye and good night.

But then, I find myself trying to put a positive spin on what ends up feeling like another chore, another time vampire, as I fall back into just doing the job, especially as it seems there is never really the perfect moment to leave.

For example, this is the part of the year where with annual assessments having been due May 1, residents are sending payments in at a high rate. As the secretary, one of my responsibilities is to collect the mail weekly, then pass it on to our treasurer, who deposits any funds received. I certainly can’t turn away during this influx, can I?

The board also conducts exterior home inspections around this time, as well. I braced myself when this came up, knowing that I would have to contribute. I would have to stand in front of someone’s house to see what about it is “wrong,” and mark it on a form for us to then distribute to residents soon after with an affixed deadline on when improvements are to be made. It just doesn’t sit well with me to point out to homeowners, or even just renters, things in need of attention on their abodes. Probably because I don’t like it done to me.

So, just when I thought all of my “firsts” were over…this was not the sort that I hoped for. After conducting the inspections that I was assigned — residents pseudo-stealthily eye-balling me from windows and doors, and me not making eye contact as a way to look less threatening (if I did at all) — I definitely know now it was an undesirable situation all around. Further, this makes me one of those people I used to get irritated about. How did I come to this?

The best that I can come up with is that I am building character.

Is that what I am doing?, I constantly ask myself. What am I getting out of this? No further answers come from within. Yet, I hang on, when I want to let it go.

It’s possible that it might be more than that now, though. It’s possible that some true positivity is coming to light. Possible that one of my original thoughts about maybe bonding with someone on or through the board is arriving at fruition. And I think it is why I have been finding it hard to leave. I might not be meant to leave. Some force might have been holding me in place. And now, I might not want to give it up, no matter how vehemently I vowed in recent days that I would and I shall.

Because of this past Saturday and in spite of my certainty that it wouldn’t happen, I began to connect with one of the other board members — our vice-president– and her grown daughter. I think this might be the key to making me stay in because I don’t know if either woman would have the same regard for me if I walk away from our HOA. After all, I’ve lived here for a decade and never really had chance or reason to get to know them before, nor them me. But is this even a solid reason to keep on serving? Because of what look like two new blooming friendships? Isn’t that like when a teenager decides to be someplace because the boyfriend or girlfriend is there? Ok, maybe not actually the same. But I think the comparison I am wondering about is there.

In the least, if I am not actually building character by continuing on as a part of the HOA board, I might be starting the foundation of new friendship. That is a beautiful unexpected plus, especially with how the type of person I thought this would be doesn’t match either woman, which is neither here nor there. I look at this as being along the same lines of not being able to control who you fall in love with. Also, with how low my expectations for stumbling upon new friendship has sunk, I can’t help smiling over it, and thinking, okay, this job isn’t so bad.

Now, if only I can slay my fears that admitting to myself that I really fully like both mother and daughter will only lead to the beginning and the ending happening in the same breath — since that has been my previous fortune — than this might become a pleasant new chapter in life.

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