INSOMNIA

Ahh, the sounds of 1am. 

And 2am.

And 3am.

Yep, nothing but that toilet that runs every so often.

These nights suck. Not always while they’re happening. I mean they do when I’m working and I count the hours until my alarm is going to go off, but during the summer they don’t suck as much. They will, of course, as the sun finally rises and I finally feel tired enough to sleep.

Sometimes it’s my brain that keeps whirring, and sometimes I have no idea why I can’t sleep. Last night wasn’t completely my fault though because this was happening at 3:30:


This was after a bout of ear scratching and subsequent panting. And then she rolled onto my shoulder, but it was kind of ok because I have these knots that never get worked out and I’m pretty sure my scapula was separated from my body and the stretch felt hurtful, but in a good way.

So I kind of gave up and turned on HGTV to watch a couple that looked like they had just rolled out of bed and spoke like they both dropped out in 6th grade– “Like, I dunno, babe. Which one do you like?”– who apparently have 4 million dollars to spend on a private island off the coast of Florida. And I’m not trying to judge, but I’m kinda cranky with no sleep and really? 4 million dollars? On a vacation home/ island? And then I got pissed off at them because they picked one that didn’t have a causeway so you had to take a 10 minute boat ride to get there and, I mean, who DOES THAT? Like how did they get all their precious knick knacks out there (which I assume consist of gold lions or some other ostentatious shit).

So then I started thinking more about how stupid it was. Like where does it go when you flush? I pictured this giant septic tank under the sand, and then I started rooting against these people hoping a tropical storm– not hurricane because I’m not a total bitch– would erode the sand and break the tank and the island would be covered in rich people shit and shreds of gold leaf toilet paper which I’m sure they use to wipe their asses. Or maybe the butler does that for them.

But then there was an episode of a gal from Chicago who was defying cultural norms and moving to Guam to see the world and be a pharmacist (two things that seem anomalous in my sleep-deprived head, but whatever. Pharmacists just don’t generally seem to be the exploring adventurous type, but maybe it’s because I’m not part of the pharmacist inner circle.)

Anyway, she went with her sister to pick out a house and honestly, after seeing the views, I wanted to move to Guam. And then I got a little weepy because she was part of an Indian family where you really don’t leave home until you’re married, but she wanted to be independent and live her life and that made me think of Sandra Cisneros’s “The Storyteller” where she described the EXACT SAME THING and I was all like, You go girl! And crying for this unknown woman to make it as a pharmacist in paradise and fulfill her dreams.

And I hugged Ginger and scratched Fiona behind the ears (since she determined that my stomach was now the place to curl up and take a nice cat bath) and I realized that I was never, ever going to get any sleep tonight, and that since it was now 5am I could just pretend that I was just getting up and try and trick myself that I actually slept.

But I wrote this, and that’s (kind of?) productive and now Ginger is acting like I kept her up all night because she begrudgingly followed me downstairs and now looks like this:


Poor baby.

I’m SO introverted…

When I first discovered I was more of an introvert and proclaimed this to my friends, they laughed. And I don’t blame them because I have known them for more than half my life and it takes me that long to get comfortable enough to be myself. 

When I only know people for say, 20 years, I don’t know the boundaries. Can I call you my bitch and you won’t be offended? Can I make blow job jokes? Can I say “fuck” in front of you? 

These are the tough questions. And these are also why I tend to avoid people so as to save as many awkward silences as possible. 

True confessions:

1. I sometimes hide upstairs in my bedroom to cuddle cats while my kids have their friends over. 

2. I have turned my classroom light off and locked my door on my prep to avoid socializing. 

3. I have gone to Bikram yoga just to have 90 minutes of silence. 

4. I skipped my kickboxing classes two summers ago and went to Starbucks to read instead. To hide it, I still wore my workout clothes. 

5. I am writing this while in the middle of a splash park with my kids so I look busy and unapproachable. 

6. I have gotten migraines just because I was stressed about going out that night. 

7. I used to travel alone once a year just to recharge and be anonymous. Glorious Saugatuck weekends in the off season. 

8. I only started running so I could have alone time. I am super slow and don’t care. 

9. I have lied about having plans rather than go out. But in my defense, sleeping is a plan. 

10. I always want to drive so I have an escape. And control. 

11. When the doorbell rings, I have crouched down and crawled like a ninja in my own home to avoid detection. 

12. I will put off making phone calls for weeks to avoid talking to strangers. This is partly why I am now 19 months late for my mammogram. 

13. I drink just about every time I finish a post because otherwise I’d never be able to let others read these. Tonight’s delight is a Bloody Mary with a beer chaser. 

I enjoy company and friends, just not all the time. I wish I was the “cool” house where I entertained endlessly and hosted large barbecues and dinner parties, but it’s just not in my DNA. I’d have to sleep for a week after to recharge. 

So maybe in another 22 years, we’ll be good like that. I’ll make dick jokes and you’ll laugh, I’ll call the other team’s coach a douchebag and you’ll nod in agreement, and I’ll make pussy jokes while petting my cat. Until then, I’ll keep it strictly professional. 

I promise. 

Top 10 things I can do now that school’s out

There are all kinds of lists out there for teachers, and some of mine have a lot in common with them. Teaching is a bizarre profession with a lot of misconceptions, so it can be difficult for people to understand the ramifications of making thousands of decisions quickly on a daily basis. 

Summer “off” isn’t really just a two and a half month alcohol binge, although there is plenty of that. We NEED the time off to decompress, recharge and rejuvenate so we can do it all again with enthusiasm next September.

And as I finally emerge from the numbness associated with the end of the school year, this is what I’m looking forward to:

1. Being able to use the restroom whenever I need to.

No joke. This one makes a lot of lists for good reason. Four years of college and a Master’s and I still have to ask permission to go to the restroom during a class period. And before you ask why not go between classes, well, duh. However, kids tend to stick around and ask questions after class, or kids walk in as the bell rings to ask questions before class, or you have that class from hell that you can’t walk away from for a single second. At one point during testing, there was no one to relieve me so I could relieve myself and I was desperately texting for someone to help me out. I’m looking into Depends for next year.

2. No more lunch packing.

I HATE packing lunches. My kids’ as well as my own. The building temperature varies day to day, so I might pack comfort food, but then the heat is blasting and there’s no way last night’s meatloaf is even close to appealing. Or pack a cold sandwich when the wind seeps through the cracks around the windows and all I want is soup. 

3. Eating lunch (and every other meal) whenever I damn well feel like it.

Breakfast? Maybe. Scarfed at 7:15 before first hour. At work my lunch is at 10:15. As in one hour and 45 minutes before noon. Do I really want lunch food at this time? Not really. When school gets out at 2:40 I’m starving. It’s just longtime AARP members and teachers who are clamoring for dinner at 4:30. 

4. Drinking because I want to, not because I… um… have to.

Ok, that makes me sound like I have a problem, and I do. Sometimes these kids and parents and administration drive me up the fucking WALL! So yes, I will plan to have a drink after school. I will look forward to it like a nomad in the desert looks forward to an oasis. Sometimes it’s a “You made it through the week!” celebratory drink, and others times it a “I need to forget this fucking day even happened” drink. 

5. Not having to see THAT class anymore.

There’s always one class, one kid, one parent, whatever, that constantly gives you hives and nightmares. In my case, this year, it was THAT class. Not everyone was bad in that class, but the group of a-holes was big enough the affect what we were doing every single day. I had multiple seating charts, multiple activities, and multiple migraines. And of course, this is the one class that had 36 students and every one of them showed up every fucking day. Some because they were court appointed to do so. It will take me every part of the summer to forget those bastards and regain hope again.

6. No more endless, pointless, meetings.

I realize this is true in most professions. The word “meeting” is synonymous with “time you won’t get back.” In education, they seem to always take the last Professional Development day to go through an insane amount of training about a process you won’t see or think about again for the next several months. This year it was how to use data from ability tests that were given in the FALL. Excellent. I’ll make sure to apply that when next year’s students test, but by then we’ll give a completely different test.

7. Putting on the “face” every morning.

This is hard because I don’t mind putting on the “face” usually, but over the course of the school year it gets absofuckinglutely exhausting. The “face” is one of patience, understanding, empathy, compassion, humor and focus. I know I have to project that on a daily basis in order to do my job well, but there are only so many stories I can take about why your homework isn’t done (again), how cute your kitten is after seeing the 500th picture, what you saw on YouTube last night about 9/11 being a hoax, or listening to you explain your dreams for going to UM when it’s your second time in 10th grade English. By May, IDGAF and I won’t be able to fake that I do. I will pretend again in September.

8. Reading what I want to read, not what I have to read.

Some are classics. I will never tire of Macbeth and all the current references that play offers. Or discussing “Dog Lab” with my AP students. But Romanticism? Blech. Pastoral poetry? Yawn. “I would make you a belt of straw”? No thanks. Have dinner ready when I get home and maybe we’ll talk. And just because I’m an English teacher, it doesn’t mean I have read every single piece of literature out there including every recent book published. Summer is to give my brain a break and read mindless drivel until I regain some sanity. What am I reading right now? The Harry Potter series. For about the tenth time.

9. The alarm. At 5am. 

There is nothing worse than being up late at night, waking in the middle of the night, or just going to bed at a decent time knowing that your alarm will go off in just a few hours. It’s awful. I envy the people who are able to work out before heading to work, and I hate that I NEVER get to see my own kids until after work. Of course, alarms will be set for certain things, but if I’m up too early I can always…

10. NAP!

I love naps. I will choose sleep over food. The freedom of being able to say, “I’m going upstairs to lie down for a while” seriously makes life worth living. Ginger and the cats oblige me and it’s just the three of us falling asleep to Flea Market Flip. Best part? NO ALARM! I might wake in one hour or three. And it will always be glorious!

Sometimes I hate my job, but I absolutely love what I do. The summer is time for me to erase some of the worry lines, re-discover my genuine laughter, let loose and recharge. I cherish every summer with my own kids to slow things down a little. 

And now it’s time for a cocktail. Cheers!

I just want to pee and run in peace. And not necessarily in that order.

This week I was driving home from work when four police cars came flying down the road, lights and sirens going crazy. Moments later three MORE police cars whizzed past.

Earlier that day, I sat with my pre-student teacher and the lone junior left in my anthropology class and the subject turned to the harassment of women by men, as it does when you have more than one female in a room.

One young lady recounted her visits to a donut shop where the manager would joke that she was his child bride. 

He was in his 50s.

She was 12.

He would give her free donuts and make the joke again and again. 

Hilarious! Hard to believe he was selling donuts and not making HBO specials.

The other young lady recounted her tale of being asked to help a man jump start his motorcycle. She sat in her car while he arranged the jumper cables, but she made sure to slide her pepper spray out and have her phone in ready emergency mode.

He didn’t make a pass. In this case he really needed a jump for his motorcycle. It wasn’t a euphemism.

So of course, that opened the very girly conversation about the merits of different pepper sprays. Mist? Gel? Foam? 

Yeah, this is what the ladies discuss. Ways to jack yo man ass up if needed.

After that we painted our nails and talked about The Bachelorette. 

Not really.

On Monday, I took Derek to baseball practice at a local state park and decided to relish  in the peace of the trails. But before, I had to pee.

As all women do, I surveyed the parking lot beforehand and noticed two gents and a young lady with her dog. I noted details of the men, like what they looked like and what they were wearing and what cars they were driving. Because this is what women have to do in order to survive.

As I walked to the restroom, the story was immediately in my head. Of another young woman who dared to pee while on a run.

Seattle jogger Kelly Herron was four miles into her run when she stopped in a public restroom for a break. As she told ABC News, “As I was drying my hands I became aware that something was wrong,” and turned around to see a man who had been hiding in one of the stalls. “He immediately took me down to the ground, hit both my knees and legs, and then it was a fight on the bathroom floor and I just kept screaming, ‘not today motherf****r,’” which she referred to as a sort of “battle cry.”

During the attack, it occurred to her “this doesn’t have to be a fair fight,” which is when her self-defense training kicked into gear. “All those little things that I learned in my life … how to punch and everything came back to me,” she told ABC. “I started to feel like I was going to lose consciousness … but I got another surge of adrenaline and I reached for the door and was able to get out.” In the class she took just three weeks before, “I learned, hit with hard bones to soft fleshy places so I just started hitting the side of his head.”

She is the badass I want to emulate. But I would just say “motherfucker” without all the asterisks.

I’m uncouth like that.

So, I entered the stall, sat, and suddenly heard a door bang.

Was it this restroom or the men’s next door? No clicks of paws. One of the men? Another door shut, this time on the other side of me.

So, like all women, I instantly tensed and prepared for a fight. I peered through the crack in the door while I pulled up my pants. Without turning I reached behind me to flush. I burst through the door looking both ways quickly, and then as normal women and Avengers do, I kept my eyes on the closed stall door while I washed my hands.

Once outside, I, of course, felt ridiculous. 

Ha ha ha… I thought I might get attacked… silly me! So dramatic. So overly sensitive. So a woman who is under constant scrutiny from men who view her as an object to be overpowered…

I did my trail, but kept my eyes and ears open. Watched the shadows. Checked out rustles in the foliage. Made eye contact with everyone who passed. 

And I finished. Relaxed, but not as relaxed as I should have been. 

Oh right. Those police cars with their sirens blaring?

 A 47-year-old man is in custody after a woman was nearly sexually assaulted Tuesday while jogging in the Oakwoods Metropark but fought her attacker off in Huron Township.

Darien Noel Fickling, of Romulus, is charged with kidnapping, robbery, assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct and assault with intent to commit great bodily harm.

According to police, a 26-year-old woman was jogging alone on a bike trail at about 3 p.m. when a man attacked her from behind and hit her in the face multiple times. She was knocked to the ground.

The attacker told he “was going to kill her” and attempted to sexually assault her, police said.

The woman was able to fight the man off and ran away. During the assault, the man stole the woman’s cell phone.

What. The. Fuck.

I just want to run. And pee. In peace. To get some peace. 

Maybe we need penis-free parks. 

Or this is maybe a business opportunity for running bodyguards. But the bodyguards would also have to be penis-free, because that would defeat the whole purpose. 

Or I could market running shirts that say, “SCREAMING CASE OF HERPES. MANY OPEN SORES. STAY AWAY, MOTHERFUCKERS!”

That probably won’t be enough, though.

What pepper spray was that again?

It’s never a weekend off

I just couldn’t stop thinking last night.

And that happens a lot, and to a lot of people. Worries, obligations, to-do lists, revisiting the day– all of these keep us awake from time to time, or even many nights a week.

Last night was different though, because I couldn’t stop thinking about him.

He’s a student in my class, an overachiever, a pleasant kid with a quiet disposition. Many would have good things to say about him– hard working, cooperative, responsible.

But he’s hurting.

A couple of weeks ago he missed a few days. No big deal, but I noticed. And when he returned, my kidding around was met with a harsh edge of abrupt responses.

But things improved and I didn’t think any more about it. Until he missed a couple more days about a week ago.

Yesterday I had a rare opportunity. The seniors were gone so I had two hours at the end of the day to work and get caught up. 

He came to see me about a missing assignment, and since I didn’t have a class, I asked if he wanted to just work on it there so I could answer any questions. 

We both worked, he asked an occasional question, and the mood was calm and serene. During this time, another student came in to turn in a project and she commented on the lone student. 

“Aww, poor you! You’re all by yourself in here!” she said.

“It’s ok. I don’t mind being alone. Some people don’t like it, but I do. Sometimes it’s good to be alone.” 

After working most of the hour, making small talk, he finally said, “Did I tell you why I was gone?” And the way the question was asked, it was clear that he knew he hadn’t. It was clear that this was a question posed as a means to share something important. It was clear that he had been struggling with how to approach this.

“No, what’s up?”

He shared that a good friend had recently passed away. An older friend who had just finished his first year of college. It was sudden. There was no time to say good-bye, no time to say how much the friendship meant, no time to prepare. 

He shared that he always went through a mini-depression this time of year, and he had already been dealing with that, and then this happened.

He shared that he went into a tailspin, and had taken a couple of days off to recuperate. He was looking forward to the end of the year to rest and decompress after a stressful year of hard classes, standardized tests and the general pressures of being a teen. 

I never take it lightly when a student confides in me. Never.

I offered condolences and empathy. I asked how he was doing now. I emphasized self-care and said I’d check in with him after the weekend.

And now I’ve been up all night. Piecing the absences and demeanor together. Developing a timeline of events. Questioning what I said. Wondering what I should have said. Replaying the conversation over and over. Planning conversations for next week. Hoping I didn’t say anything damaging.

It’s a holiday weekend. Three days to relax and hang out and rejuvenate.

And I’ll allow myself to do that.

But he’ll be on my mind.
*Some details have been changed to protect the identity of this individual.

It’s time for triage

May. The end of the school year. The sun is finally shining, the flowers are blooming, and daydreams are plentiful.

In other words, for your average high school teacher, hell has been unleashed. 

I like to make war analogies whenever appropriate, and this is no exception. Students are in danger of academic flat-lining, and we’re facing yet another mass casualty situation.

This is when the panicked questions begin.

“Is there any extra credit?” 

“What do you mean that project was due?”

“I was on vacation all last week. What did I miss?” 

“I had strep all last week. Did we do anything?”

“If I get an A on the exam, I’ll pass, right?”

“How can I be failing? I got an A on the last assignment!”

My answers:

No, complete the regular credit.

Yes, the project we’ve been working on for three weeks. The one that I emailed home. The one we have been finalizing for the last two days in the lab.

Everything.

Yes.

Do I look like a calculator?

The last assignment was a participation only assignment worth 10 points. It’s like expecting to quench your thirst with a drop of water.

And then there are the seniors.

They’ve been checked out since… oh… Christmas. Some can still manage to do well and show up and care. Others have gone AWOL.

So, it’s triage time.

My classroom has a huge Red Cross on it and now everyone is flooding in to be stitched up in time to finish the year and graduate. Emails flood in from parents and counselors and students asking what they can do to pass. Most of these parents are complete strangers who have never come to open house or conferences or called or emailed the entire year. Most of these students have over 20 absences and haven’t even completed half of the work.

So the divisions starts.

Those who have a solid D and above are off my radar. I call them the walking wounded. They could likely use some help, but they’re going to make it. If I have time, or an an opportunity presents itself, I’ll give them some input and help them out.

Those who are in the high E to low D- range are my target group. I can help most of these kids in the time that I have to help them pass. As long as they don’t pull out the IVs I put in place, they have the best chance of making it. Some will fight me and yank themselves off the ventilator I provide by suddenly not showing up for 5 days, but still, these ones have the best chance.

Then there are the train wrecks. Their grades are so messed up that even if I called for a transfusion, it would take too many resources and too much time. They have wounded themselves over time, refused treatment, checked themselves out against my medical advice, and are now wanting a pill to swallow to make it all better.

It’s an impossible task.

So, when I see those teachers on the news who have duck taped students to chairs, or written “Test Tomorrow” in marker on a student’s forehead, or given an award for Least Likely to Pay Attention, I am horrified and cringe.

Because those stories could easily be mine. I’m just lucky that I haven’t completely lost my sanity. Yet.

The lounge this time of year has a macabre, twisted and dark quality. Things that we never would laugh at in September are daily routines. It’s the only way to survive.

It’s similar to combat humor.

I’m not proud, but this is how intense it is at the end of the year. We have paper chains counting down the days the seniors have and how many for the underclassmen. We half seriously joke about spiking our water bottles. We wonder what happens to the confiscated drugs and wonder if there’s any Valium available. 

And at the end of it all, there will be survivors and casualties. There will be sorrow, regret and triumph. I’ll watch kids cross the stage and know that I helped them get there, and I’ll mourn the ones that I just couldn’t reach. And I’ll spend a lifetime wondering what happens to them after high school.

But right now it’s the height of the battle. There are known and unknown enemies, and some kids still insist on detonating land mines. And we’ll all work and reach out and try to save as many as we can.

But they can’t all be saved. Some insist on sabotaging themselves. Others are in denial. And for some, it’s just too damn late.

And when the war of 2016-2017 is over, we’ll clean up the mess, the blood and chaos, and take that last trip back home trying to make sense of it all.

Until the next tour of duty in September.

Fumbling in the dark

There’s a scene in Guardians of the Galaxy where the guardians are in total darkness and can’t find their way. Suddenly, Groot releases a flock of tiny embers, and they are able to see the path they need to take.

I’ve spent the last few months in relative darkness. It’s always this way. Starting in March and ending sometime in late spring or summer. 

Every year I try to ignite different lights to guide me. I’ve taken solitary weekend trips to sleep, clear my head and regenerate. 

That worked. For a few years.

I’ve tried exercise and yoga to practice mindfulness and encourage endorphins. 

That worked. Once.

Last year, there were so few embers to guide me that I added new meds to my regimen and they were able to ignite enough light for me to see the path.

The thing is, there is no magical formula to light my way. When I have a purely good day, where I feel emotionally and physically healthy, it stands out. Like really stands out. 

And then I think that night– what did I do? Not do? How did this balance of mental health occur? How can I recreate this feeling? How can I hold onto that contentment and satisfaction and energy?

And it’s so fucking frustrating because there IS no formula. There IS no list I can check off to be mentally healthy every day. And of course, that means I have no control over my brain. No control over its influence. 

As a sufferer of anxiety, that’s the most vexing thing of all. No. Control.

And when I succeed at lighting an ember, it eventually gets extinguished. Or several will be lit, but they die too quickly– succumbing to an avalanche of nightmares, weather, personal slights, stress, work.

This year, I held on to spring break like a life preserver. We headed to Florida and for the first three days I slept more than I thought possible. I laid on the beach. Took walks. Loved my family. Relaxed. I came back with a pretty solid ray of light guiding my way.

And within two weeks it was just about gone. 

Work, busyness, dreams, physical pain, fatigue, weather, stress, everything that everyone deals with on a daily basis just mixed and blended and slowly extinguished almost every light.

And I was back in the dark.

And so I’ve been quiet. Unmotivated to write, unmotivated to care much about anything. All of my energy has been spent on my kids’ happiness and staying somewhat competent at work.

But recently, the light has been coming from other places.

A thoughtful gift just because. An invitation. A letter of appreciation. A message of positivity.

And these have shone brightly enough that I’m beginning to find my way. 

So I’m enclosing them in hurricane glass and feeding them with oxygen to burn brightly, for as long as I can. 

To light my path and find my way.

And I feel like I’m almost clear.

Part 2– How to survive a power outage

During and after the wind storm of wind storms (see previous post Here), our power was out.

For six days.

The power has been back on now for almost a week, and now that I have actually slept, done laundry, vacuumed and built a shrine to both Edison AND Tesla, I can reflect on the stages one must go through in order to survive such a long time without power with two children who would volunteer to have wifi hotspots wired into their brains.

STAGE 1– Cool Headedness

The power goes out and you are a rational human. You check with neighbors to see if you’re the only one. You contact your electric company and report the problem. You text your husband to share the news. He replies, “Fuck” and you think, What’s the big deal?

You read the neighborhood Facebook page and find that several trees have fallen. You venture outside, chat with neighbors, offer your manual sump pump and start thinking that this might last a while.

You’re still not panicked, but now you’re silently cursing the fact that the generator is sitting useless in the garage because it didn’t start during the last power outage.

You get a little freaked out, but again, cool headedness prevails. You call a small engine repair shop and luck out with the owner who says he will not only rent you a generator and bring it to your door, but will also pick up the non-running one and fix it.

And he does, and he fixes it and brings it back before nightfall and he even hooks everything up for you because you’ve never paid attention to that crap.

The fridge and sump and wifi are running, and all is right with the world.

Stage 2– It’s an Adventure! (The shortest stage)

With no heat, you pull out sleeping bags and blankets and light the gas fire and cook eggs and sausage on the gas stove.

The house is chilly, but it’s like camping, kids! Look at all the stars we can see! Snuggle under the covers! Maybe we’ll roast marshmallows!

 Stage 3– It’s a Naked and Afraid-type Adevnture where someone might not get out alive

Ok, shit’s starting to get real. The weather forecast looks bad with temps in the 20s. You haven’t slept, so you haven’t cooked and your body is starting to reject all of the fast food and pizza you’ve eaten.

At first, it was cute that all the animals snuggled against you for warmth at night, but now you have dreams that you’re in shop class but you’re the one in the vise and your pets are laughing at they turn the crank.

You start to get a little obsessed with the electric company’s app and the neighborhood Facebook page is filled with comments like, “Says a crew is scheduled!” And you scoff and know it’s a lie. A LIE!!!! You secretly start to think that they are just fucking with you and telling everyone that a crew is scheduled, but you know there’s no crew and the electric company people are all laughing their asses off while they sip REAL COFFEE in their HEATED offices. Motherfuckers.

Stage 4– Going Savage (aka Giving No Fucks)

Every conversation is about heat, electricity, laundry, and food. And all of those conversations contain a healthy dose of expletives. 

You might do irrational things like… put a gymnastics bar up in your sitting room and buy chalk and watch your daughter and friends try things that could end in certain death but you don’t care because they’re occupied and you have your half and half vodka drink and who cares because you’ll probably die anyway and the electricity will come on just in time to keep your bodies from preserving and your cats will eat you to stay alive and….

Let’s just say it’s a very dark (figuratively speaking, not just literally) place and what happens when you get there is no one else’s business. And not to be spoken of again because who are you? No judgment here. We’re all (kinda) human.

Stage 5– Acceptance

We’re never going to have power again, you think. This is my life now, with extension cords, the fridge pulled out and pet hair collecting into tumble weeds. The kids will just have to shower early from now on so they have some light. Maybe we’ll churn some butter later and paint sillouhettes by candlelight. Perhaps a game of jacks, or we’ll tell stories by the fire. It will be like Little House on the Prairie with fewer bonnets and more swearing.

Oh, fuck it. You’re not kidding anyone. THIS SUCKS.

Stage 6– Total Despair and Insomnia

Snow??? WHAT. THE. FUCK. Snow = no generator = freezing house = no sump pump = flooded basement = completely, totally, undeniably FUCKED.

Oh, but the electric company says we now qualify for a credit. Of $25. *biggest eye roll ever*

So you stay up all night checking the app and looking at the weather radar and trying to connect with your inner Bob Vila to figure out how to keep the generator dry and protected when the snow hits. And then you get on FB and post about your insomnia and three other neighbors respond and tell you they are in the same boat traveling to the land of Up All Night. And you finally get out of bed and haul saw horses and a table out of the garage and make a doghouse type thing for your generator that you then feed with more gas that you bought with the kids’ 529 money.

And you drive into work already silent raging and running scenarios through your head knpwing you could quite possibly snap at a student and end up on the news, but you think, “Jail has electricity, right?” And you think it might not be so bad, but then there’s the strip search and gross fingerprint ink and you decide you’d better be extra aware and warn your administrators that you might be filling out more discipline slips than you’ve ever filled out before.

Stage 7– Ahhh, Sweet Electricity!

You don’t believe what the app says anymore. For one person it says power restored by 9:30pm. For another it says 11:30pm the next day. You don’t want to hope to believe positive posts by neighbors that say there’s a truck in your neighborhood and you might get power back that night. You just sit in your chair that now has a permanent ass groove and settle in for another round of Candy Crush trying not to focus on the fact that you’re so tired you can’t even drink.

And then,

out of nowhere,

A light flickers on!

You don’t believe it! You test other lights! You wait for 30 minutes to make sure they’re not fucking with you! You dance, you cry, you turn the generator OFF!!!!

And you go to bed.

And when you’re tossing and turning wondering why the hell you can’t go to sleep, it hits you. 

No generator noise.

Awww, I guess I kinda got used to that little guy lulling me to sleep, you think.

And then you roll over and enjoy the sweet silence.

What I did on National Women’s Day (part 1)

Last Wednesday was National Women’s Day, and while my sisters were marching and speaking and changing lives, I was making my own statement. 

I covered myself in dog shit and howled at the moon. 

Let me clarify. This was not some midnight ritual meant to make me feel empowered as a woman. There were no animal sacrifices or burning bras. It was a desperate yell-scream-groan at the sky while wrestling with a trampoline during 60mph wind gusts. 

The moon just happened to be visible. 

Let me back up a bit. 

On that day I happened to be home when the wind storm of all wind storms barreled through Michigan. I heard a “FOOMP” and looked outside to see the trampoline flipped upside down teetering on the fence between us and our poor next door neighbor who always has to deal with our shit. 

So I did what any independent woman would do in this situation.

I texted Bill. 

I’m actually pretty impressed that I used such fluid alliteration, but alas, Bill was at work and the trampoline was still unstable. 
So I did what any independent woman without a choice would do. I heaved on my good winter coat and grabbed a step ladder and walked into the neighbor’s backyard. 

Of course I didn’t bring gloves. And I didn’t change out of my good boots. Big mistake. 

Because the neighbors have the most adorable dogs ever. Who like to poop as dogs do. All. Over. The. Yard. 

Undeterred, I hoisted the step ladder up, turned to the trampoline and heard a crash. The step ladder had blown over. 

Plan two. 

If I gauged the gusts just right, I realized I could jump, grab the frame and flip it over the fence so it could lie upside down on the grass. I waited for my moment, hoping I wouldn’t get crushed in the process.

And while I waited, I envisioned the officers who would have to report my dead body. 

Cause of death: idiocy. 

During a lull, I jumped, ok, barely got off the ground, grabbed the frame and yanked that motherfucker down like Captain America snagging a helicopter. 

But the frame was bent, and it needed to be taken apart to be truly safe. 

With a screwdriver in one pocket and hardware going into another, I separated all of the parts from the frame, pausing at times to lay across the trampoline to keep it from flying. I was completely focused until I got some mud on my hand. 

But it wasn’t mud. 

It was dog shit. And then I looked down at myself. 

I had dog shit on my coat, I had dog shit on my hands. 

I had dog shit on my face, I had dog shit on my pants. 

I had some dog shit everywhere, just not in my underwear. 

(Credit: Dr. Seuss. It’s also reading month, so read something worthwhile after reading this trash)

That’s when I yell-scream-groaned. 

After getting almost blown over several times that would have even made Jim Cantore proud, the trampoline was finally apart. 

I dragged the frame to the back corner of the yard just in case and dragged myself back home. 

I felt like I had been beaten with a club while running a race. And I was  gross. Grosser than gross. I carefully peeled off my much loved winter coat and threw it in the washer. 

And then the power went out. 

Stay tuned for Part 2! The stages of surviving a power outage

Update– roots of these feelings run deep

This is me and my son. My boy. My buddy.

I’ve thought a lot since my last post. Why my response was so charged. So visceral. So violently protective.

And after looking inward, the anger turned to sorrow, as it usually does. Anger results from fear, and fear comes from a lack of control, and a lack of control makes me into Annie Anxiety and reduces me to a sobbing mess.

So here’s the real deal.

When Derek was born, I slept on the couch while he tried to sleep in his car seat on the floor next to me. It was just the two of us every night dozing and feeding and watching House Hunters all night long.

And he was safe. 

When he was ready for his crib, he had trouble. His breathing would rasp. He would hold his breath and then let it out. All. Night. Long. I half-slept on the floor of his room and spent nights listening to the monitor. Every time he went down on his back, the same thing. 

After a visit to a specialist, we found he had tracheomalacia– where the trachea isn’t rigid enough to stay open, and can be exacerbated by back sleeping.

So I held him as he slept on my chest, upright, on his belly. 

And he was safe.

Advance a couple of years to his toddler preschool class. One night while singing the last song, he broke out in an excruciating scream. He didn’t fall, get hit, or bump anything. I took him home, helped him out of the van, and he was suddenly fine. We went to the doctor anyway and we found out that his elbow joint was loose and could easily dislocate.

She showed me how to put it back into place.

Several days later, I helped him out of the van, and took his arm. Instant screaming and pain. Bill couldn’t stand to try it, so I forced Derek’s arm down in front of him, held the elbow still and flipped his hand to his shoulder to pop it back in. The screaming instantly stopped.

And he was safe.

Like most moms, I have wiped tears, laughed at antics, and walked myself upstairs to stay calm during tantrums. 

He went through a horrible stage when he was four where he was completely defiant. He could make me so mad I would be in tears, and if he felt completely backed into a corner, there was no easy way out for anyone. My patience was tested again, and again, and again, but I knew it would all be worth it eventually. He would learn what battles to fight, and how to fight them.

And he was safe.

Through it all, he has been my boy. My buddy.

But that time is limited.

One day, I have always known, he will cease to be my boy. He will tromp off with his dad, his friends, and wave bye as he goes.

Without me.

And I also know in my rational brain that this is supposed to happen. That it is good for him. That gaining confidence and independence makes a healthy, functioning, fully adaptive adult.

And I want that for him.

But not yet.

I’m just not ready.

I’m not ready for an empty space next to me in the chair where he now squishes to fit.

I’m not ready for the lack of late I love yous when he’s supposed to be in bed.

I’m not ready for lonely walks around the block with the dog without making him laugh until he cries.

So I’m grieving. 

Ahead of time, yes, but grieving all the same.

My anxiety-idiot brain says he won’t need me. And won’t want me. I’ll be tossed aside like once beloved stuffed animal.

He won’t want my hug. My goodnight kiss. My hand ruffling his sweaty hair after an intense game of Horse.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned and re-learned again and again, it’s that despite all of my planning, I can’t control outcomes. Therapy and medication have tried to beat that into my brain despite years of neural pathways coaxing me that it can be done. 

And in all honesty, for his sake, I can’t want him to stay my boy forever.

Just a little while longer.

Because I’m just not ready.