Accidentally at a Halloween Party in a Bar

I’m sitting in a bar on halloween weekend, but I didn’t really mean to. The boys are at a Gymnastics Halloween Party, where neither of them wore their costumes, but Tucker’s face is on the worn-off second day of a werewolf face painting, and oddly, Tyler’s face is painted in my makeup, which led him to ask me fourteen thousand times if his lipstick had worn off before we left. The rest of him is dressed as some kind of karate ninja.

I’ve only been to this restaurant in the day time, for quiet little luncheons with girlfriends. Turns out, this place is like a lady of the night, wearing an entirely different atmosphere after 7 pm. I mean, oh my great day, I went in pursuit of a place to settle in with my laptop and a cup of coffee and quiet Jack Johnson ambiance. Instead, I’m at a Monster Mash, where sports announcers are shouting at me and there are strangely too many onions in my salad which has never been true in my life. I’m the girl who asks for extra onions on an onion sandwich. Or, I would, if anyone ever thought of making an onion sandwich.

Someday soon I will tell you why I have been in bed for three days, why I took my son to the ER and then I became the patient, and what I’ve learned about pencil lead. But I’m not doing that right now.

I’m not doing that right now because I’m busy reminding myself not to go home, or I’ll go back to bed. And I’m reminding myself that I’m sad because my physiology has been through the wringer in the last three days, and this is a pattern I can expect, not a backslidden slope into depression.

As an added bit of irony, the heroines in the book I’m reading are stranded in Laramie, Wyoming because their car broke down and the bartender tells them that most people in that town only live there because their car broke down and they never left. So they are terrified and sad and exhausted, and they are my company this evening.

I’m not talking about hard truths tonight because a girl’s gotta give herself a break from thinking and feeling and processing.

And haven’t I chosen just the place to do it.

I’m going to go back to picking onions out of my salad.  I think Batman and a couple of witchy princesses want my table.

Legos. Markers. Library books. Angry Birds. And Grace.

I cleaned the boys’ bedrooms.

Yes, I know they should clean them on their own. There are many things they should do. Add this to the list.

I laid down the ultimatum a couple of weeks ago – you have an afternoon to clean your room. If you choose not to, then I will clean it for you. And believe me, young men, you do not want me to clean it for you. My process involves trash bags. And no sharpies for labeling and retrieving.

I wonder if every parent ever has tried this tactic. I remember wailing at the kitchen table, grieving the contents of the trash bag, most of all the lavender corduroy pants. (Let’s all just take a moment for lavender cordury pants.) To put away or throw away: that was the question.

My mom still talks about the time this backfired on her. She swept through my brother’s room, filling bag after bag of his stuff, and she told him he could earn it back. Seven years later, he graduated from high school, and my mom found the trash bag of his treasures where she had hidden it in the back of her closet. At that point, my brother said, “It’s all right, Mom. You can have all that stuff.”

I tend to operate well under deadlines, great and small. When I write, I set my timer for 8 minutes and 44 seconds. Nothing sacred about that amount of time, just a good formula that is neither too short nor too long. And if the timer beeps and I have more to say, well, then command-R. Reset and we’re good to go. Check back in with me in another 8:44.

I do the same thing with cleaning. I set my timer for 15 minutes, thinking, ‘surely I can clean for fifteen minutes. I can do anything for fifteen minutes.’ And then I gain so much momentum that by the time those 15 minutes are up, I barely want to pause long enough to make the beeping stop.

Such was the case with the boys’ bedrooms. I was Tazmanian in my degree of productivity.

What I didn’t see coming, as I cleaned the boys’ rooms was the spiritual metaphor in this gift of grace.

In part, they hadn’t cleaned their rooms because – like their mother – they don’t like such menial tasks. But also, they didn’t clean their rooms because they didn’t know where to even begin in this sea of Legos and markers and library books and angry birds and yogurt wrappers and divorced pairs of socks.

I cleaned their slate.

When they came home, when they saw their carpet once again, they spilled with thanks. Thank you, Mommy! Oh, thank you! One of them actually knelt down to the floor to enjoy the plush carpet on his fingers and against his face. Thank you, Mommy.

They wanted out of the mess. They didn’t know where to start.

I get that, guys. Been there too.

Sometimes I Don’t Miss Him

Sometimes, I don’t miss Robb.

(My love, I’m sorry for that sentence. It’s just that it’s true… I don’t always. You mattered and you matter; I loved you and I love you; and there are times when I don’t miss you and – always more shocking to me – I don’t feel sorry for not missing you.)

I don’t miss him when I’m in a social scene that he would have hated, when I know he would have looked at me from across the room and subtly lowered his eyelids to tell me he was tired and would I please, please, please wrap this thing up and begin my farewell tour.

I don’t miss him when I’ve had a great date or a fun conversation or a spark of interest in a man. Not quite surprisingly, that’s not something I want to tell him about. And sometimes, when I’m looking for silver linings, I think about the unexpected gift that is mine: I get to fall in love again. The butterflies, first kiss, hours of infatuated conversation, learning someone new – the stuff dreams are made of – I might get to do it again.

Sometimes I don’t miss him. But one thing I’ll never stop missing is his friendship.

I had a safe place beside him, guaranteed mine, always open if I was willing to slow down and settle in. Whenever I needed to find my place in the world, I turned to Robb. When a friend hurt my feelings, when insecurities ran rampant and I didn’t know where I belonged, I could turn to him. My hypersocial tendencies kept me running with a full calendar, and he was always glad to have me back.

Off my computer, away from texting. Unplugged, we called it.
I could close the door against the world, and I could know just where I fit, just where I belonged – his arms around me, his chin resting on the crown of my head. I could know the one who knew me.

You know what’s crazy? It’s the book deals and endorsements and speaking engagements that are making me a little fuzzy around the edges, wishing for boundaries while I wonder how big this might get. Who knew ‘dreams come true’ bring insecurity and careful footing? Who knew that when your world doubles in size, it’s even more comforting to have an extra snug and cozy spot at the end of the day?

Robb could hold me. Contain me. I could find my own boundaries, feel grounded and safe again. I miss the gracious silence that said, ‘Hey, I know you. This is where you belong.’

And tonight I miss that friendship.

Mommy Has a Blue Face.

“Tell me you yell at them sometimes.”

Oh my great day. Yes. I yell at them sometimes. Sometimes they have earned my sharp response, my angry voice. Sometimes I’m tired or hungry or I just seriously have to pee and I can’t believe I can’t just get to the bathroom because this is happening right now. Such things make me irritable.

The other night, I decided to give myself a facial. I’ve always been charmed by these organic self indulgences, like in My Best Friend’s Wedding when Michael opens the hotel room door that Jules is resting against in her state of psychotic envy, and she falls backward into his room, and her entire face is purple with mud that is surely cleansing her every pore and giving her unknown softness.  Something about this charms me.

I smeared on a thick, sticky opaque mask. It started to harden, and it turned a brighter shade of blue as dried on my face. Tucker came into the bathroom and saw this statuesque version of his mom. He wouldn’t come any closer. “Mommy, you look so weird. You look, just, so scary.”

It’s a little creepy, buddy. I agree. Nobody is meant to have a plastic face.

He watched from the corner of my bathroom, looking at me only in the mirror, sort of hoping I’m sure that if he looked at me straight on he might actually recognize me, but he wasn’t willing to take the risk that this blue face might look back at him.

I was somewhere in the 15 minute wait before I could peel off my face, and suddenly someone needed something at the other end of the hallway. And that’s when I discovered that their bathroom is raging out of control, the toilet is clogged with Max’s poop that has been scooped off the floor with handfuls of toilet paper, and someone tried to solve it by pouring toilet bowl cleaner into the toilet, but now it’s just a mess of blue – sort of like my face. And all of the socks and all of the underwear are missing, along with all of the jeans and it will be 37 degrees in the morning. And then one of them held his innocent little middle finger and told me his friend told him it means the F-word: Fart. And Tyler has sold his toothbrush to Tucker for $1.

And I lost my mind, though not because any single one of these is worthy of losing my mind. But because suddenly my emotional grocery cart was top heavy.  There I was, screaming and shrieking with my blue, plastic face.

“Please tell me you yell at them sometimes.” True. I do.

And sometimes, they say to me, “Mommy, I will hug you good night when you don’t look like that, when you aren’t doing what you’re doing right now.”

Like Celery

Oh, tender heart. I hear you in there.  I feel you.

I don’t know what you want to say, but you are stirring. I feel like I could cry, but I don’t feel sad.  This emotional ambiguity is a new language, these feelings that happen two and three at a time and sometimes don’t match each other.

Perhaps it is the freedom I feel now, stretching my wings into the status of being single.  Transformation is merely a shift in perspective, but such a shift can change everything.  Hence, the word transformation.

Perhaps this great wave of emotion is due to the giant windfall of fortune and blessing that has poured over my life in the last week. Such things take time to absorb.

Like in fifth grade science, when we immersed celery into colored water.  It took a little while for the celery to drink the liquid, for the blue to extend to the tips of the leaves, for the vegetable to really show it had been changed.

I hear you tender heart.  I feel you fluttering away in there.

Beating with freedom and change.