Monday, May 30, 2011

How Did THAT Make You Feel?


I had planned to write about what made me feel positive and empowered in this day, and what scared me.

But I just haven't got the strength to write tonight.

I need to get the move done. 
I need to feel in control of my money situation.
I need to be held and reassured.
I need a sunny day.
I need to cook and eat in my new situation.  I'm afraid I will forget to.
I need to stay caught up on my paperwork.
I need a little time to read everyone's blogs.
I need a reason to smile.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sustain Me

I guess I'm needy.

Really interesting (and very American) that we manage to pack so much negative connotation with the addition of a one-letter adjective suffix.  No one wants to be needy. But we like, for the most part, to be needed.

I am doing much better today than yesterday, because I have had a lot of friend-time. Maybe it makes me needy, though, that I do better when I have more human contact?  I don't even have to address my current difficulties, necessarily.  Just being with others, talking and listening, seems to do the job.  Book club was at my house today.  They had a lot of money-saving advice for me.  I read down the line items in  my budget to see if I had remembered everything.  The last time I'll entertain guests there.  I have given a lot of parties in that house. I asked them if they thought I could pull off decent parties in 857 square feet.  Heck, yeah!  There's a balcony, after all!  So once I get settled, I'll throw a make-your-own-taco party.

I sign the lease tomorrow.
I move on June 1, and plan to sleep there after that.
I'll have the kids stay over for the first time on the 5th.  They actually seem excited.  To explore, and find new kids to play with.  Probably also excited to get Si and me apart, so the stress level will drop.
I will take Wednesday off and get this move knocked back in one day or my name isn't Mrs. McGillicutty.

Maybe then my tension will lift and this never-ending stomach ache will go a-fucking-way! I really need something that I can't describe:  a feeling like finally exhaling after holding your breath for a long while; like a small animal taking refuge from a large bird of prey.

My dear friend David sheltered me in numerous ways today as well.  I told him that we hadn't hung out in a while, and he invited me to his place for a rather lavish vegetarian Indian meal.  Offered options for dining location, I chose to perch on stools in the curry-scented kitchen.  We talked a lot about my love-life, it's true.  But also a lot about money (David gets by on far less than I will have to, and manages OK) (Of course, he doesn't have kids...) and  lot about spirituality.  I would say that David takes Buddhism very seriously, except that we always laugh a lot when we are talking about it. 

The tension is hard to bear, but as long as I have little moments with friends, I keep limping along toward the finish line.  Hmm...  Metaphor alert!  Mixed metaphors!  It's cause I"m falling asleep.  And my stomach harts.  I"m going to bed!

Primal Scream

Actually, I'm not a screamer.  Sometimes I wish I were. 

Si says I am.  He is mad at me about the tone of voice I used on the phone tonight,  so he is refusing to talk with me about our banking matters.  I may have sounded strident, but I didn't mean to.  He and the kids were getting out of the soccer match in the pouring rain and I wanted to find them and pick them up.  I may have raised my voice just because of all the background noise at his end.  I apologized.

I slept for 6 hours last night.  Maybe even seven!  I am exhausted again, though.  And stressed.  As I was driving to pick up Si and the kids, I burst into tears.  Well, so I say;  but the fact is that  I haven't really cried (in the cleansing way that includes tears) much at all in months.  For the record?

I am trying to think through what the source of the stress is.

Uh, Kate! You are getting a divorce.  It's stressful.


Yeah, all of that.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Drawn to Scale

I have chocolate tonight! I don't eat milk chocolate - dark only.  Unless it's an emergency.  This is very dark with cherries and almonds:  a "Thanks" from a tutor that I mentored a little last week.   Love brand chocolate includes a love poem in the wrapper.  I have a closet passion for poetry, and wish I had more time to read poets.  Sometimes the chocolate wrapper poems are so good that I clip them and hang them on my computer at work.  Tonight, it was Jonson's schmaltzy, "Speak to me only with thine eyes."  Never mind!

I spent the day returning phone calls, rating resumes for Mark's job, contacting people to set up interviews and writing my grant applications.  One guy wrote on his resume, "uncanny interpersonal skills".  I imagined his first day at work:

Holy shit, Kate!  Did you see the way that the new floor manager dealt with that disgruntled employee?!? Wow!  That was amazing.  Almost cosmic. UNCANNY!

And according to Sara, I had a cow.
"Mom had a cow!"
"I did not have a cow!"

This apartment is 857 square feet, so I have to think carefully about how to make good use of the space.  Lucky for me I lived so many years in a little cabin - I got really good at this.

Tape measure in hand, we went to check out our miniature abode. We were a little pressed for time, so I got on the chop-chop.  "Sara-boo, can you please take the other end of this?  Pull it over to that wall there."  The unit is on the top floor, so it includes a place for fake-fire.  "Hey, Mom, where's the balcony?"  I was jotting down figures and did not look up, but gestured absently with a flap of my hand.  "Over there." "Where?  No it's not."  "Huh? Sure it is."  I actually hunted for the balcony, like it was hiding or something.  The model had a balcony, after all.  Hmmm... No balcony. No balcony?  [Alarm bells!  Whoop!  Whoop!]  The girl needs a place to be outside!  Now I will be cooped up!  Not only am I a little prairie dog, but I'm a prairie dog that will NEVER SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY! 

This was enough to stir the assertiveness of even this okey-doke Wisconsinite.  Normally, I would not have made waves; but this time, I called up to the leasing office. 

"We seem to be having trouble finding the balcony."
"Oh, we don't include balconies in the third story units.  But there is a fireplace..."

Oh, goody. 

I was sweet and polite, but I told her in so many words that I wasn't going to be living in this unit.  They had another one on a second floor, so it had a balcony. "No fireplace, though..."  Fuck the fireplace. (I didn't say that, but I thought it.)  The apartment with the balcony is an extra $30 a month, though, because the appliances are new and the cupboard fronts are upgraded.  (Grooooaaan!  They've got me over a barrel!)  I'll do it, though.  For the balcony.

I have to think about packing.  My little entitlements:  50% of all household Q-tips.  Half the peppercorns! I would have written this off as too trivial to matter, except that I am actually going to need all this shit, and I don't want to have to run to the store on the sudden realization that Si got sole custody of the  olive oil. I have to think about moving.  Our trucks have caps on them, so the bed, the futon...  Awkward!  I need a couple of strong guys and a truck.  I can't decide whether to rent a little cube van?  Hire a student who has a van and a buddy?

There's a lot to be done/considered:

  1. There is no coat closet or place for boots, etc...  I'm thinking, board-mounted hooks on the wall by the door.
  2. I can have a nice, big bookcase if I take the one from downstairs:  it is not pretty, but it has a low profile - only comes out 10 inches from the wall.
  3. Sofas are big.  There is no better way to suck the roominess out of a room than to plop down a sofa.  I could do without, I guess, but then where do I flop when flopping is required? AND, if I want to try, I need a couch.
  4. My dining room area is super-spacious because my table is going to be a 3 x 3 folding card table.  Actually, I may set up two of them, to make it look a little more generous.  Or maybe the sofa would fit in there!  We could sit on it to eat, then rotate it for lounging.  It's not heavy. 
  5. I'm not interested in having TV, but I'd like a TV set that the kids can use for playing Wii  and watching movie rentals.  But a TV takes up space, and if it is going to have a Wii, it needs to sit at a thigh level.
  6. All dressers will go in the closets.
  7. My room will be a little funny, cause I'm going to put my desk in there, as well as the Clavinova. I know - I should leave the Clav behind until later.  But what if the kids are not there and I feel lonely and at loose ends?  I could practice!  I'm taking the guitar, as well.
  8. I'm gonna have to get bunk beds for the kids.  Priority one!I can't fit a desk or anything in there until I solve the bed problem.  Maybe one of those that lofts a single bed so a double bed or a desk can go under it. 
  9. The kitchen is pretty good; but the bright, fluorescent lighting is soulless and depressing!  I'm going to put a little  lamp in there, to turn on if I'm just making tea or something.  Cozier.
  10. Can I bring my antique cedar chest?  It takes space, but the storage would be awesome. I could put art supplies, games, etc... in there.
  11. I'm gonna need A LOT of milk crates.  I spent years and years furnishing with milk crates, lumber and cinder blocks.
  12. What if there is no light over the dining table!?  The electricity was turned off, and I didn't think to check.
  13. How does one recycle in an apartment complex?  Get a newspaper? 
  14. What about the other things I may need but not have? Salt and pepper shakers.  Support from my friends, family, employer and acquaintances, some of whom must think I'm crazy.  A hand mixer.  Something to play music on.  Emotional strength.  Clarity in my relationships. A shower curtain. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

There Once Was a Woman

Today saw the culmination of many different things.

Simon and I finished our last real session with the divorce mediator.  I know now what my financial situation will be and how we are going to handle custody. The divorce won't be final for some weeks, yet; but we are going to start living separately on June 1.  My goal is to sleep in the apartment that night, even if it is with canned soup in a saucepan and a mattress on the floor. In fact, that suits me fine.

I chose the apartment in Cottonwood Heights.  I have to say that I have misgivings, and sense that I would be happier living in Glendale.  I had the best feeling about it!  But I need to do what I can to take pressure off the kids.  Maybe next year when I buy a place, I will buy something in Glendale.

And my bad-dog of a heart finally decided to come home.

I was writing away at my grants his afternoon and delayed leaving a little, then a little more.  As I walked up to the truck, I admired a cute bike leaning against the chain link (a beach cruiser!  Yellow!).  Man!  Just the sort of bike I have always wanted.  I backed out, looking over my shoulder, and when I turned to face forward, there was C. on the other side of the chain link, holding the bike.  I put the truck back into the parking slot, v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y.  And blinked.  Was he still there?  Indeed.  I decided to see if he would dissolve into thin air if I walked up to him.  Nope.  Still there.  He reached over the fence to shake hands.  "Hi.  I'm C.B.  Good to know you."

"Kate Diggins."

He told me that he had moved out of his house and was living in the Avenues with a friend.

"And soooo... it begins!"  he said.
"How do you want to start?"
"I want to see you ride this bike!"

Which I did.  Blissfully around the school, around the parking lot, around the portable. And then, given the absence of chain link between us, I was able to wrap my arms around him, and we stayed that way for a long time.

And so.  There once was a woman who went to the grocery store and, while putting horseradish sauce in her basket, was suddenly swept by a wave of peace and happiness that she hadn't felt for a long time.  There once was a woman who came home and put the ice cream in the pantry while stowing the canned beans in the freezer.There once was a woman who looked at herself in the mirror and decided that she looked like shit:  rough, limp hair; eye circles; cloudy skin.  She decided to go to bed, and be healed by a decent night's sleep.

Did you think I was going to end with, "And they lived happily ever after?"  Hell, no!  I am happy, yes.  Safety and confidence are trailing a little; but they will get here soon, if all goes well. 

There once was a woman who was selfish, self centered and inconsiderate. 

And loved, as it turns out.  Without earning it or deserving it.  She is amazed.  And very, very sleepy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

East Side Girl? West Side Girl?

My blog entry this morning was despairing - a despair partially borne of exhaustion.  The day grew worse for awhile, then better.

This afternoon was a low point for me.  Dr. Perfect's nurse, Patty, phoned this afternoon to discuss a procedure that Dr. Perfect wants me to have in late July.  She started giving me details about the surgical center the doctor wanted me to use, etc...  I told her that I was soon to be changing insurance and asked if Dr. Perfect is on my my new carrier's list.  No, unfortunately. She said that, if we needed to get the surgery done before I had to switch insurance, it could be moved up?  Maybe to June?  Would that help?  Huh?  Yeah.  Sure; but I had become hung up an the fact that, surgery aside, Dr. Perfect is not going to be my cancer doc any more. 

It's not fair!  He's such a hottie!  Yeah, OK; and also because he has taken care of me since I was first diagnosed; and because he is a surgeon, not an oncologist.  The oncologists all wanted to shoot me with radiation or put me on drugs.  Long-time blog-readers know that Dr. Perfect is an important character in my narrative.  He is an important person in my life.  I went into the girls' room and shut myself in a stall. Put my head between my knees and cried. I mean REALLY cried, like I haven't done for weeks and weeks.  I had to stuff my fist in my mouth so no one would hear. Then the embarrassment of returning to my office with red eyes and having the staff cry, "WHAT'S WRONG?"  Mel guided me to the chocolate, though, which helped!

In other news, I am handling the housing stuff a little better, because I have a short list of two, and any new properties have to exceed these other ones in order to be considered.  The problem is that the two rentals are SO DIFFERENT. 

Here in SLC, there is "east-side" and "west-side" and the side you live on conjures up hundreds of stereotypes. I have been in the interesting position of having lived on the east side and worked on the west side all these years.  My suburb isn't the fanciest zip code in town, but it is one of the better ones.  The zip code at Guadalupe is acknowledged to be one of the roughest.  For years I have told people that Glendale gets a bad rap!  That it is improving all the time!  That is has character and diversity.  I decided to put my money where my mouth is today, so I went to look at a three-bedroom Housing Authority townhouse.  After visiting it, something in my heart shouted, "YES!  YES!" These people are my own students! My favorite people! It would be a year of living a very different life to the one that I had, and one I already know I would like.  If it were just me?  I would be a pig in shit.  But I have to think about Sara and Nate.  I called a family conference when I got home tonight, despite the late hour, and went over the pros and cons with them.  Here they are:

Apartment in Cottonwood Heights.  $819/month  2 BR

1.  Close to kids' current home, friends and school.  5 minute drive from this house. And my home-grown tomatoes.
2.  Contemporary, attractive floor plan.  You walk in and say, "Oh! Pretty!"
3.  Plenty of lawn and trees and a brook between the buildings.  Room to play outside.
4. Adjacent park with soccer fields!! (Nate's exclamation points)
5.  Small, but cute, attractive kitchen with nice cupboards and appliances.
6.  Balcony
7.  Pool! (Nate again)
8.  We'd still shop at our regular store, I'd still use the same rec center.
9.  Good light and ventilation (essential for me)
10.Very quiet.

1.  Small!  It will feel crowded.  Hard to have more than four people over for dinner.  How will I manage the make-your-own-taco party I want to throw?
2.  Two bedrooms and they are both small. The kids would have to share.
3.  Grill not allowed.
4.  Not particularly walkable or good biking for the kids:  very hilly.
5.  No coat closet or place to leave mittens and muddy boots.
6.  See #8 above.  If C. chooses not to return to my life, I will want very much to move to a different part of the valley and avoid all possibility of seeing him, his car, etc... I may feel the need to get outta Dodge.

Townhouse in Glendale.  $839 / month  3 bedroom


1.  Much larger than the other property.  Possible to have six people for dinner. Maybe more!
2.  Housing Authority management is a constant presence (the guy who showed me around knows all of the tenants well and spends a lot of time there.) Special program that encourages police officers to live in complex and park squad cars in front of their homes.  No tagging on any of the buildings.
3. Walking distance to Guadalupe and my friend Diane's house.
4.  Flat for kids to bicycle.
5.  Right near Jordan River Parkway for running, walking, biking, etc...
6.  Very diverse. Primarily Latino, Pacific Islander.  I saw a lot of African kids out playing as well.
7.  The unit was clean (No sticky, yucky cupboard fronts; no stains on the carpet.)
8.  Playground and soccer field across street.
9.  Little patch of yard on which you could put a grill.
10.  Picnic tables
11. Front and back door, windows on both sides of house for better light and air.

1.  Some freeway noise.
2.  Far from Cottonwood, making it very difficult to have kids over to play, to use my rec center membership, to get kids to activities, etc...
3.  Kitchen not as nice as other property.  No pantry storage.
4.  House is about 30 years old, with unattractive floor plan.  No one will come in and say, "Pretty!"
5.  Tough area of town.  Nate and Sara will have problems getting the parents of their friends to bring kids there to play.
6.  Concerns about whether my kids will fit in with neighborhood kids.  On the occasions when Sara has tried to participate in Guadalupe activities, she finds that the kids won't play with her because she "looks and talks funny".

Results of my summit conference with the kids?  Tears all around!  Sara is crying about sharing a room with Nate, and I don't blame her.  They need a space where they can each be alone.  Sara doesn't want to have to undress in front of Nate anymore.  She will bring friends to the apt. in Cottonwood and there won't be a proper place to "hang out".  She views the Glendale property as an interesting new experience.  Go, Sara!

Tears from Nate at the idea of having to make new friends. He positively sobbed.  I don't blame him, either.  The last thing he wants, when faced with his parents splitting up, is "different" or "new".  He wants a setting that he understands. His life is in turmoil and he wants everything to hold still.

How the hell am I supposed to decide?  I only have a day or two to make a choice.  I am going to visit a house tomorrow, in downtown.  2BR....  Any chance it will be "the one" and I will forget about  the others? 

BRAINWAVE!  (Yeah, I have moments once in a while.)  In the apartment, there is a walk-through between the two bedrooms and bathrooms, where the W/D hookups are.  I won't have a W/D, unfortunately.  Could a little nook be created in there?  A private place where either kid could get away from the other?  With a reading lamp and a little sofa?  Then, when they need private space,  it could be a little haven? I would make it fort-like...

Could that work?  When I don't have the kids, could I hang out in the fort?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Full Marathon

Watching for the finish line and unsure of how much farther it may be.

I write, I delete.

I write, I delete.

Nothing will come together for me and lie down neatly on my keyboard and frame my day or my feelings or anything else.

I used to wonder what it would be like to hit the wall.  Whatever that meant.

Every breath I take feels like I'm lifting a 25-pound weight. 

Housing. A frustration that makes me second guess one decision after another. Believe me, the good decisions are already leased.

Money.  Hash.  Macaroni and cheese.  My socks have holes.  Sara needs beads for a project.

Children.  Sorry, kiddos.  No matter how you slice it, I think you are going to have to share a bedroom.

Si's anger.  Like a hammer, pounding me with hurt and guilt and jealousy and more guilt and...

Love.  A constant ache that seems as endless as a Mobius strip.

The mediator says I will be happy.  My counselor says the same.  I would settle for safe.  Somewhere out there is joy?  Just grant me acceptance and strength.

I remember hearing a runner quoted in the press, explaining his prayer as the last few miles ceom to meet him:  "I just keep saying, 'God, do me a favor.  If you keep lifting my feet up, I promise I will keep putting them down.  Deal?'"

Sunday, May 22, 2011

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

(Written last night, in a stupor; published today.  Lately I am writing haphazardly.  My blog has temporarily become a disorganized dumping ground for my thoughts.  Soon, I will revert to more concise and graceful writing and leave this "yap, yap, yap" stuff behind with all of my other problems.  [Snnnnrk.])


Sara and I were (reluctantly) up at dawn, so we could help set up for the Girl Scout yard sale.  It was pretty successful:  netted us about $400.  That means that the trip to San Luis Obispo is paid  for and we have leftover money to use on a camping trip in the San Rafael Swell at the end of the summer.  I enjoy the company of the other moms, too.   We had a good time.

My Cat Stevens cassette is still in the tape deck; and as we drove along, he was singing about housing options that would please him:

I'd like to live in a wigwam...
And dance 'round the totem pole.

He was also cool with living in an igloo (so he could ice fish).
He would happily travel with a caravan (so he could hang out with Gypsies).
Or reside in a commune (so he would get a reputation as a hippie).

After a couple of stanzas, Sara looked sideways at the car stereo and stated, flatly, "What is this guy's problem?!"

Meanwhile, I was thinking, "Hey, Cat; get out here and try finding some fucking housing.  I'll take your place on the commune."

I went to visit the rental office at Pinnacle Highland Apartments today.  This complex is so big that it is visible from outer space.  They have a two-bedroom that is (barely) within my budget.  This would be the easy way out of the housing search.  But $895 a month gets me a gas fireplace (which feels like fake fire to me) and a master en suite bath with a big "garden-style" tub.  I find myself thinking that I would happily bag those affectations for a third bedroom.  And Pinnacle Highland is claustrophobic.  It's on a hillside, so when you're driving through the massive complex searching for the office, the buildings tower over you.  There is no grassy area for kids to play and no park in walking distance.  I would feel like a little prairie dog!  Or a bee.

If it were for 6 months, I would be much more tolerant.  But now there is a possibility that I will have to rent for a year.  That makes me more interested in whether I can actually be HAPPY in a space.  I am being weirdly picky, I know.  Great. 

I lived in my "studio" apartment in Poland for two years.  It had no kitchen.  I used a two-burner hot plate and borrowed a mini fridge from the school biology lab.  (Yeah, don't think too hard about that.)  I filled a plastic tub  from the bathtub tap, set it on the toilet seat, washed dishes, then dumped the dish water down the toilet.  I also did my laundry in that tub, using my feet as an agitator. Sometimes the tap water ran black.  Or red (that was a little freaky).  At that time in Poland, hot water was generated municipally  (I always imagined an enormous hot water heater buried deep beneath the town).  Most Poles also had wall mounted gas water heaters in their homes because the municipal system was frequently down for... uh... maintenance.  I heated pan after pan of water on my hot plate.  Or I would bathe at a student's home.  People were always trying to break in.  Peace Corps paid to have bars installed over my windows after the second or third time that I stood there and watched some dude with a crowbar try to jimmie my window latch.  BUT.  I was cozy there.  The windows were large and opened wide.  It had broad window sills (which I used in lieu of a kitchen counter) and old fashioned radiators that clanked and hissed.  I had a little lamp that cast a soft light on my table where I would sit and grade papers at night.  I had an old wooden radio that I had tuned so that every night at 12:30 AM, I could hear Voice of America news in English.  They would do three headlines:  I listened avidly. 

[In a creaky, little old lady voice]  Yes, children, in the days before the Internet, we had to listen to the radio and walk 12 miles to school each day with no more nourishment in our bodies than a handful of gravel. 

After I left, a new Peace Corps volunteer came and refused to live in my apartment!  She sent me a letter and said that she had insisted on it being completely renovated.  "How could you live there?!?"  Uh, well, it IS the Peace Corps, after all...  I just got used to it and grew to like it, I guess. 

Uh-oh...As I wrote that, I realized that the lesson is:  Get your ass moved girl!  Then adjust.  Shit, if you coped with the Peace Corps, SURELY you could tolerate an en suite bath!?

The Girls Scouts made me laugh at this yard sale. They donated a lot of their old crap, of course, then blew their allowances buying the other girls' crap.  Sara came home with a set of door beads in which I get tangled every time I go in her room.  I acquired, though, for a measly $10, a set of everyday plates, three bowls, a corkscrew (on a desert island with only one kitchen gadget?) and a bunch of assorted kitchen necessities.  Oh!  And I took all the cardboard boxes.

I had a long conversation with an 86-year-old man whose wife had just passed away.  He told me all about how they had met; how it had been love at first sight; how they had been married for 61 years; how her last words had been how much she loved him.  You know, is there an invisible bubble over my head that says, "Step right up!  Tell your sad stories and make this lady cry?"

When I was done working at the yard sale, I came home and actually took a nap.  I am so sleepy these days: because a part of my psyche seems to be resisting sleep; and because another part of my psyche is trying to make me sleep to escape stress.  It's bizarre, I know.  At any rate, a nap is a precious luxury to me.  The Holy Grail of the sleep deprived.  This one was particularly lovely. It was warm yesterday and the breeze blew in my bedroom window.  I lay on top of my super-soft favorite quilt and wrapped up in my great-grandmother's flour-sack quilt.  I was extraordinarily blissed out and realized that it was because I was barefoot for the first time in months.  I wriggled my toes sensuously against the quilt and slept. 

It wasn't enough to help, though.  I ran hills this afternoon and had to stop twice to rest.  Normally I can run the whole route without stopping.  I try to blame the fact that I lifted weights before I ran, because I like that explanation better then the fact that I am about to hit the emotional fatigue wall.

It reminds me of a passage I read once in a novel.  This English woman goes an vacation to Spain and while she is there she falls madly in love with a man who invites her to stay in Spain and live with him there.  She has to quit her job, deal with her finances, explain to her family, etc..  When it 's all done, she goes to bed and sleeps pretty much non-stop for three days. That'll be me:  when/if I finally feel safe again, I will sleep the clock once around.  I might even have a little cry and THEN sleep the clock once around.

Friday, May 20, 2011

That Which Does Not Kill Us...

For the record, I'm not sleeping, but I AM eating.  If one more person tells me that I'm getting too thin, I'm going to be annoyed.  I mean, holy shit!  You should have seen me yesterday!

There is nothing better than a big plate of huevos rancheros;
Unless it's huevos rancheros for lunch;
Unless it's huevos rancheros for lunch with my new/old friend Lillian! 

Thanks, Lillian, for hanging out a little! I had fun!

This lunch was respite from a discouraging day.  I think I have to face up to the fact that the next few weeks are going to be bad, no matter how hard I work on my attitude.
Although I don't really know yet what my budget is, I need a place to live.  I have to get out of the house - I can't stay here with Simon any longer. 

I stand sometimes in my living room with its gleaming floors and expensive rugs, and I think, "I never hung out in this room."  I think about the furniture conversation Si and I will have next week.  I ask myself, "What pieces do you really, really want?  What will break your heart to leave?"  Uh... Nothing? I only feel strongly about the antique pieces I brought from Wisconsin after Dad's funeral.  Then, there is a triangular corner-cupboard in the family room that I love....  I would like the deep freeze, because it will help me economize on food. I hate the table and chairs:  I'm going to have to use a card table and borrow a few plastic chairs from Guadalupe for a while. I'd like to keep my bed, but... so would Simon.  Who knows what I will use.  We have loads of sofas in the house and only one of them is really comfortable:  the ratty, holey one with the ill-fitting green cover that is in the family room.  I'm looking for rentals under $900 a month. Under $800 a month would be even better. I would be willing to settle for two bedrooms rather than three.  Problem is there is a good chance that I will be renting for a year before I can get off the current mortgage and apply for another. This makes me reluctant to live somewhere dark and dingy with poor ventilation.  And I hate blinds.  Ick.  I would love to avoid a big apartment complex if I could help it. 

Today made me so sad, though.  The cute house that seemed too good to be true?  Snapped up!  An apartment near the south campus of the community college?  Already leased.  There was a little house in the lower Avenues for $750 a month.  After lunch with Lillian, I went to 2nd Ave., between M and N Streets, to look at it. I had the number for the landlord, so I could call him immediately if it was a good find.  I was excited as I pulled up.  A little blue stucco, over 100 years old. But as I walked up to it, my heart sank.  Broken windows.  Trash in the yard.  All the screens were busted out.  There was ancient mail piled in the letter box.  All the blinds were pulled down; but the front door had a little window.  There was this plastic glazing over it but, since it was chipped and scratched, I was able to scratch it little more with my fingernail and peer in. All I could see was a dirty wall.  If it were for sale, I would be interested.  But this place screams, "Landlord doesn't care.  Landlord won't do anything."  I would spend the next year fighting with the landlord.  This made me feel discouraged. Finding a place is going to be a full-time job, and the last time I checked I already HAD a full time job. 

My counsellor seems to find me amusing.  I suppose I am:  I go in there with a lot of pent up stuff and talk about 100 miles an hour.  This saves me from having to over-burden my friends.  Often, I am able to tell her things I have figured out - like ditching the "good mom / bad mom" stuff.  She agreed:  there is no good or bad mothering.  There is just a series of situations that you respond to.  She seems dismayed that I have not given up on C.   I told her that I'm worried about the heartbreak that may await me, and how I will manage it.   She simply says that I have to decide not to feel heartbreak.  Uh...  In my opinion, there's a distinction between thoughts and feelings.  She counters that there is no "brain" vs "heart".  It's all brain.  I get it.  But there are parts of the brain from which love emanates, and those parts cannot always be controlled.  Yes they can!  No they can't!  She has not convinced me to drop my emotional responses to the world. If I did, I would have an easier time, but I wouldn't be Kate anymore. 

 We also spent a little time talking about "selfish".  She says that I need to distinguish between "selfish" and "self care".  According to her, I lump everything together and call it all "selfish", which is why I feel guilty and evil.  She wants me to consider this and work on it.  I sat listening to her, feeling truly befuddled.  She's right: I can't tell the difference. 

She called me "brave" today.  She is up in the night.  I try to act like I'm OK, but I am scared shitless. I go around with a stomachache all the time.  My hands shake. I laugh a lot and keep my day moving forward; but sometimes, I can feel myself crumbing.  I have to take a deep breath and just keep stepping forward.  One step at a time until I arrive... somewhere.

When I feel scared, I listen to my old Cat Stevens cassette,  "Footprints in the Dark", which I got when I was a Sophomore in college.  It has gone to many far-away places with me.  I remember vividly that it was new and I had it playing on my Walkman when I left for England.  Cat admonished me:

Don't wear fear/
Or nobody will know you're there.

I had never been out of the USA before.  My plan was to be a Carney for the summer, then study at Oxford for my Junior year.  My parents were OK with the Oxford part, but not with the carnie part.  My mom yelled and shouted; said I wasn't going.  I had already bought my ticket with money from my Domino's Pizza job.  She said she wouldn't take me to the airport (which was about 80 miles away).  Dad finally agreed to take me, to prevent me from hitchhiking.  I clearly remember  pulling out of the driveway with my mom standing there in the puring rain, crying and yelling.  Dad left me at the airport without words of encouragement. It was hard to leave knowing they were mad at me.  I had an an address for my friend Katie, who was living in London.  I had no idea what part.  I had been so determined to show my parents that there was nothing to worry about that I didn't ponder the craziness of my actions until I was on the tarmac at JFK. It was late at night, and pouring rain.  The lights from the terminal were reflected on the pavement, and I remember realizing that I was scared to death. 

Then I though, "Well, what are you going to do? You are on the plane.  You are leaving and not coming home for more than a year.  You are past the point of no return."  I think it's easier to control fear once past the point of no return.  There's nothing to do but surrender. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Not Licensed to Parent

Today was a little bit of a roller coaster.  But I know my job:  stay hopeful, stay happy, stay strong.  Try not to fret about my bad-dog heart.  Be ready for anything.  It is very tiring. But I don't even have to look very carefully to find enormous gifts in this day.

 For example, I actually cleaned out my in-basket completely for the first time since last October.  There is a lesson to be learned from this kind of slacker behavior.  (With some very important exceptions) if you just leave shit in your in-basket for a really long time, by the time you are ready to file it, it is no longer relevant and filing is unnecessary. 
Additionally, it is impossible to hate a day with meatballs in it.  I was working away and thinking about how hungry I was; and there was a rapping at the office window!  The windows are those aluminium kind with a hinge at the bottom that you pull from the top - most of them in my office are stuck shut.  I found one that worked and jerked it open.  There was my student Maria M., standing in the rain with a little paper bag in her hand.  "Teacher!  You hungry?  I made abondigas!"  Oh, my God, Maria.  What kind of mind-reader ARE you?!?  I went to let her in the door.  "Maria!  Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!"  XXXXXX  In the bag were a lime and two chiles (for flavoring), and the meatball soup above.  Plenty for my supper tomorrow as well!  Maria does this sometimes:  during lent, she made a huge pot of lentil and nopale (cactus pad) soup, and her kids wouldn't eat it because they don't like nopales. I made out like a bandit that time!

I should also be happy because I posted Mark's job on Craig's this afternoon and I am getting INUNDATED with resumes. Tomorrow will be an interesting Inbox.  Most of them are gong to be stinkers; but for now, they are little unopened bundles of potential in my Outlook.  And I have found two houses for rent that are incredibly cheap.  I'm setting up a walk-through on one for tomorrow or Friday.  The other I will call on tomorrow. This one I'm going to see looks beautiful in the photos.  For the rent they are asking, I can't help thinking there must be something wrong with it.  Too good to be true. 

Mostly, though, today was about coming to grips with my parenting anxieties.  I was so miserable last night, and felt so guilty.  I had a ticket for the opera Falstaff this evening with a group of girlfriends, but I begged off because I figured that only a negligent mother would go to the opera after working last night and spending the four previous nights in another state.  I stayed home and played with Sara - she wanted me to come and hang out in her room with her.  We listened to her favorite tunes and lay on the floor, decorating the oilcloth "sit-upons" she made at Girls Scouts for our trip.  She told me all about her new boyfriend, Caleb. He likes to dance.  He shouts, "Hey, Beautiful!" at her from across the playground.  I didn't say so, but I remembered my sixth grade boyfriend, Billy. He used to shout the exact some thing at me.  While aiming a snowball at the back of my head.  We danced around the room and acted silly; and two thoughts came to me simultaneously:  my relationship with Sara is fine. I will be leaving soon.

Nathan is much more challenging.  He is angry about the divorce and sometimes yells and shouts at me.  He has always been a little mouthier and more volatile than Sara.  Lately, he has been acting like a twit at soccer.  He is a little advanced for the team he is playing on; and I hope that, when the club shuffles kids around next month, he will be put on a team that knocks him down a peg or two.  A the moment, he verbally berates his teammates when they mess up; or he has these rude, exasperated gestures.  When I told him that I expected better sportsmanship from him, he got defensive.  He's in it to win!  He wants the team to care about wining, like the players on Real Salt Lake. I pointed out that I have never seen Kyle Beckerman yelling at his teammates during a match.  I also pointed out that kids who are mean to their teammates soon find themselves without friends...  He didn't care.  WTF?  Nine-year old boys are a mystery to me.

I took this problem to the most passionate soccer person I know:  my colleague Ray M.  He understood immediately.  He told me about how, as a kid in Tehran, he started off playing barefoot in the streets with a rubber ball.  He was very good and was invited to join a club, which meant that he could play on a real field with a proper ball.  Just like Nate, he became convinced that he was God's gift.  He didn't yell at the other kids - he was too rough:  careless slide tackles; pushing; elbows. His father tried to talk to him about it, but he didn't want to hear.  Finally, his father met with the coach and they agreed to suspend him from any play for a month.  While he was grounded, he saw that the team was winning and making lots of goals without him, which was humbling. It reminded him that he wasn't indispensable, and that he needed to focus on his role as part of a team. 

I told this story at dinner at supper, under the pretense of general conversation about soccer-and-people-we-know.  It reached Nate loud and clear, though.  He laid his fork down and said in a shaking voice:  "Well, that wouldn't work in this country.  Coach wouldn't agree to that."  Simon said, "Actually, I think he would, if I explained why I thought you needed to take a break."  We'll see if he has been scared straight?

Parenting is no picnic. 

So!  Am I a good mother?  To answer that question, I look to my own mother.  I would call her an excellent mother, but in the same breath be able to list a whole bunch of less-than-admirable, insensitive, unfair or cruel decisions she has made.  When the situation played to her strengths, she was amazing.  Sometimes the situation played to a weakness.  Here's what I realize, now:  none of us was perfectly parented. Most of us are OK with that.  I will be deeply flawed as a parent, and I'll expect to be forgiven and loved anyway. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


(Written sleepily on Tuesday, 5/17)

In the literal sense.

Day 30 SUCKED.  I plan to insert as many parasitic references as possible into this entry.

Yes, I missed one.  I thought I had done a good job checking myself for ticks.  But late last night I was in the shower and using my loofah on the backs of my arms.  It hurt, and I decided to stop ignoring the fact that the back of my arm had been stinging a little for a couple of days.  So I looked at the soft, inner part of my upper arm and there he was. Bastard.

I'd love to say that I'm not going to gross you out, but... well... I plan to.  Part of the fun.  I don't gross out easily, and I was saying, "Eeewww".  I had been beating up on this tick with my loofah, which caused his bite to start bleeding.  So when I first laid eyes on my passenger, he was covered in blood with his nasty little feet scrabbling madly, but with his head buried stubbornly (and completely) in my arm.  Shit!  How could I have not seen it!  I have never missed one before.  I have removed lots of ticks, but always with a casual flick because they hadn't really dug in, yet.  I was mad at the thought that this fucking FREELOADER had been sucking my bodily fluids for two or three days!  And catching a ride to Utah as well.  I took a pest across state lines.

OK, time for the chorus to chime in about all the ways to neatly dislodge a tick...  At work today, I heard them all (most of which I have already heard many times before).  The hot match trick...  the Vaseline trick... the nail polish trick...  But my logical, let's-try-a-hot-match self had left the building.  There was just a wet, naked dumb person  staring at this bleeding parasite.  Hatred boiled within me.  I grabbed a tweezers and pulled...HARD... (those guys are tough!) until he came off.  Leaving his head behind.  Of course.  On close examination, I can see how these little geniuses do it:  they grab on with hook-like outward-pointing pincers, essentially stapling themselves to their host. 

I was reduced to knocking at the door of Si's "apartment" in the wee hours, asking him to "Check my scalp!  Check my scalp!"  I also presented him with a needle and invited him to excise the tick-head.  He tried while I bit my lip, to no avail.

I'm thinkin' it will work its way out on its own, if I'm careful not to let it get infected.  I will leave it for a little while and we'll see.  I called the doctor to see if he had any thoughts.  The nurse said, "Well, as long as it doesn't get red and sore, it should be OK to leave it."  I looked at my red, sore arm and said, "OK!"  That's mostly from Si's excavations, anyway.  So now I can say to all of my friends, "Wanna see the tick-head buried in my arm?"  That is the up-side...

Today remained (shall we say) draining, throughout.  Nathan woke up with a tummy ache and needed to stay home.  I had overdue library books.  I bumped my thigh on a metal chair arm at the airport yesterday and it shaped up to a big, nasty bruise.  I got my first bill for counseling and, since I haven't used any of my deductible this year, counseling is very expensive.  I have a session with her tomorrow, but then I think I will need to stop.

I told Mark that our prospective replacement for him had fallen through.  He told me that he still had to leave, anyway.  In two weeks. 

I did not linger at work, as I often do.  I want to try to get more sleep!  I walked in and Si expressed mock concern at my prompt arrival.  I was SO EARLY!  Was everything all right!?  Had my boyfriend dumped me? 

Does he really think that I'm hooking up with guys every night after work?  I thought, but did not say, that staying late at work spared me these late night "conversations".  THAT is what I'm hiding from.  I do frequently date this blog on Tuesday and Thursday nights... 

After tonight's conversation, I wish that I had just stayed in the shelter of my office until late.  Instead, I am snuffling and feeling guilty, selfish, self-centered, and all the usual adjectives.  I don't mind the little jabs at me personally very much.  It's the stuff about my parenting that really hurts. In fifteen minutes, I can go from feeling like a fairly good parent to feeling like I neglect them and am ruining their lives forever.  Then I come upstairs and sit on the edge of the bed and feel the truth of this; and I think, "He is right.  I have been a bad, negligent parent."  When I tell Si that I feel bad and that I have taken his words to heart, he gets mad. 

Turns out that this isn't about the day-to-day stuff of parenting.  When he was telling me that I fail to put the children first, that I am being selfish, he was really talking about the financial settlement.  If, at our next meeting with the mediator, I'm not willing to accept the deal he's putting together for me (which is the best he can manage), he might not be able to keep the house, which he is trying to do for the sake of the kids.  THAT'S how I'm a bad parent.  Or I will be?  If I don't accept his offer?

Mmmph.  So the parenting conversation is really meant to set the stage?  Am I being psychologically primed to accept a bad deal? This is good strategy:  nothing will hurt me more than feeling like an incompetent mother.  If I can see it for what it is, can I resist it?  Or is it true?  Am I going to force Si into selling the house?  Perhaps I am the evil, bloodsucking parasite.  I should tell Si:  just burn my butt with a match end or smear me in Vaseline.  But puh-leeze cut it with the bad mother stuff. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

What's To Come


Charles drove me to Milwaukee this morning.  He had to fly to Baltimore today, so it saved Mom another trip to the airport.  He advised me to take Si up on the offer of the newer Tacoma as part of the divorce settlement.  He regaled me (doesn't he always?) along the way with his experiences doing marketing for Harley Davidson, which is one of his main gigs.  The new bike designs for younger, edgier riders.  How they market to women; to Blacks; to Latinos. 

Part of me can't wait to get home.  I handle trouble better when I'm busy.  Down time leads to wool-gathering. 

Part of me wishes I could stay here and hide out a little longer.  Away from the hostility, frustration, doubt, fear and heartache at home.  The dark circles are gone from under my eyes.  I have temporarily lost that pinched, wizened look.  I look good!  I feel rested!

Mostly, though, I'm worried.  Mom cried when I left this morning.  "Don't worry," I said as I hugged her good-bye.  "I'll be OK!"  Remembering something C. had said once, I told her, "I'll be poorer, but I'll be happier."  Do I truly believe that?  Well, depends on the day.  And the time of the day.

Tomorrow, it will be a month since I have seen C.  I have managed pretty well, I think! I moved ahead with the divorce process; I got my professional life back under control; I dragged my ass out of a sad place to a happier one; I have dated a little bit.  I have missed C. horribly; but since he needed this time and more, I haven't looked for him or hoped for him.  All in all, not a good month, but tolerable.  I made it.  My therapist is pleased! 

But the next month?  Ooof.  I try to find a favorable angle from which to view it, but... it's going to suck.  All my risk is about to come home to roost. In 30 more days, what will become of me? 

During this time I need to get a financial settlement hammered out with Si.  I need to have found a place to live and actually moved into it.  I need to start living without my kiddos.  I need to find counseling for them.  I need to establish myself alone. I need to hold things together at Guadalupe.  I still don't have a replacement for Mark:  my earlier prospect has fallen through.  I have two grants to write.  And somehow I have to stay happy and focused and brave and forward-looking.  It seems a lot to manage, emotionally. I'm dreading it. 

And I dread that, through it all, there will be the waiting and the hope/doubts/faith/fear that will tighten in my chest as one month stretches toward two.  Life with him in it?  Life without him in it?   The trip to San Luis Obispo will come right at the end of this period of time, punctuating the second month the way that Wisconsin did  the first month.  I have no idea what my life or mental state will be like when we pull out of SLC, headed for CA; but if it isn't good, I need to be ready with a brave face for this trip.  I need to be 100% great for Sara's sake. Then we will get home, and that... will be all.  My old life will be over and I will not be returning to it.  And I will make the best of it.  Make the most of it?  At least I will finally be able to say, "Now, I know."

["All rows now boarding for Denver."]

I can hesitate and drag my feet, but my flight will leave on time, regardless.  Better get on it and see what comes next.

Slow-Blooming Spring

Sunday, May 15 
 I woke this morning after eight hours of perfect sleep, to a somewhat better frame of mind and an upgraded forecast.  It was sunny, but with a hard, icy wind.  Leapt out of bed and into my clothes, dancing my bare feet across the floor.  Waited for my tea water to boil while frantically chafing my hands.

I found Dad's work gloves where he had left them, laid across the wood stack in the toolshed; I did some more raking.  The cold weather has delayed the leaves and undergrowth, so treasures were revealed to me when I hauled my burlap bundle back into the woods.

 My grandmother would spend her entire summer here and had gardens.  The fact that her forsythia is just now getting around to blooming goes to show how late spring has come to Wisconsin this year.  I found a rhubarb patch sitting randomly in the woods as well. I vaguely remember that she had a couple of raised beds.  One was in a wooden rowboat - must have composted itself years ago!

My old friend Lisa came to see me.  We took her two little girls down to the beach, but had to hunker down in the sun-warmed sand on the sheltered leeward side of the sandy point, which we laughingly called Ploody Peninsula.
After they left, I unchained the canoe and launched it into the bay.  Despite the relative shelter afforded the bay by Ploody Peninsula, the wind was a real problem.  I worked hard between gusts, wishing for a bad-ass, extra-long stern paddle instead of the regular one I had.  But, with just small me in a 17-foot canoe?  The wind simply picked me up and danced me over to the neighbor's landing across the bay!  No amount of sweep and jay could save me from the inevitability of the neighbor's landing.  I was wishing for ballast!

I was a little bummed because I have a canoe trip coming up in September and I would have enjoyed brushing up my skills a bit. 

Back in Oshkosh tonight, we were hanging out at Charlie's place, and I was laughing about my predicament.  Mom said, "Pffft!  Don't let it bother you!  Once, your dad and I canoed across Lake Moriah to Buzzell's Woods and a storm blew in as we were coming back.  We could not get back to the landing! Kept getting blown off to the side of the lake!  Dad tried everything, but he couldn't manage it.  It was funny!  We ended up walking the canoe around to the landing.  That was your Dad; and there were two people in the canoe!"

Charles chimed in that he and Dad had developed a theory, as yet untested:  when alone in a wind-blown canoe, turn around so that the stern is in the front  and then sit on the bow thwart.  That would have you up high enough for optimum paddling and still in the back half of the canoe, but farther forward than before, for better weight distribution. 

We'll test it next time I come home, Charlie.  But we'll tie a long cord to the bow.  You can stand on the shore, and when I fetch up at the neighbor's landing, you can reel me in!


Near Wautoma
Saturday, May 14
Mom didn’t seem keen to have me come up to the cottage all on my own

This may be because she hates saying here alone.  It gives her the willies.  This doesn’t bother me at all, since I spent all those years in our old cabin, which was a lot more isolated than this.  In the right frame of mind, I could happily spend a week or two here on my own. "Spooky" woods at night don’t bother me.      

Or she may have been concerned about the cold.  Today’s high was 46 degrees. 

 This was a bit dampening, but I got busy as soon as she left and found all the useful bedding, including this Hudson’s Bay blanket.

I brought in firewood.  And then I drove into Wautoma for stuff like soup!  To keep me warm.  I didn’t take the canoe out today.  The wind over the lake was cutting little whitecaps and it didn’t look like much fun.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.  The cold doesn’t bother me. 

Today, I raked last year’s oak leaves from the yard onto a big piece of burlap and hauled it into the woods to dump it.  I got about half done with that. Blistered my hands, but that doesn’t bother me, either.  Watched egret, heron and a big wild turkey while I was raking. 

There were only a few pesky critters.  Ticks are an issue here.  I had kind of forgotten.  I was reminded when I felt something tickling my thigh in a bug-like way and just sort of squashed it absently against my leg with my hand, thinking that would kill whatever it was, y’know?  But it wouldn’t die and kept on tickling until I finally pulled down my pants and found the tick busily burrowing under my skin.  I’ll have to do a tick-check before I go to bed tonight.  A few mice as well.  I watched one bound across the floor just now. Charles has these little plug-ins that make a soft buzzing, supposedly driving mice nuts and keeping them out of your home. It will hurt his feelings if I tell him that they don’t work.  Besides it is just one mouse.  Mice and ticks are no bother. 

I am rocking in my grandmother’s rocking chair, toasting my shins in the heat from the fire.  I am drinking tea mixed with cognac, from a tin cowboy mug.  The kids have just called me to say goodnight.  I asked to speak to Simon, to see how things were going in my absence.  He would only stay on for about 20 seconds before he passed the phone off to Sara.  I should go to bed myself, but that means undressing in the cold, and I’m stalling, putting off the inevitable.  However, sleep is part of my therapy, so I’ll just strip off here by the fire and then nose dive into my nest.

All in all, the only thing bothering me right now is my frame of mind.  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Anonymous in Menasha


Quick entry, because I need to get under way for Wautoma.

It's good to be back here.  I have been sleeping.

Mom is well, but very small and thin.  She manages not to drop below 80 pounds, she says.  She eats, though:  I've been watching.  She is not upset with me about divorcing Si - just concerned.  Yesterday morning at breakfast, she appeared with a list of questions:  have I considered health insurance?  What about life insurance?  What do I plan to do about the kids and how upset they are?  How much savings do I have?  How will I feel if Simon starts dating again?  Of course, she was a single mom at my age, so I listen carefully to what she is telling me.  She understands my turmoil.   "Look," she said yesterday.  "You might find these useful."  She lined up three mini-bottles of cognac on the kitchen counter.

I should have left for the cottage yesterday; but with my family, stuff is always happening and plans change.  We went out to lunch with my brother and sister-in-law yesterday.  My SIL had just taken her last exam of the semester and wanted to celebrate, which is how I found myself in a dive bar in Menasha, singing Karaoke with her and her three best girlfriends. 

Not only have I never sung Karaoke, I have never really watched anyone else do it.  "We're not very good, " her friends told me.  "That's why we go to Menasha - no one knows us."  I watched for a while.  Some people were really good singers.  Some were not.  One guy liked to hold onto a prop guitar, which was actually a wooden wall-clock (you know the shellacked kind?) from which he had removed the hands.

SIL's friends are fun.  I hadn't met any of them before and was a little embarrassed that all I had to wear were grubbies.  Remember Thoreau's famous words:  "I went to the woods because I wanted to be alone, wear my oldest pants and get covered in tree sap."  I hadn't exactly planned to go clubbing while I was here.  The best I could manage was my yellow striped shirt over top of my Mickey Mouse t-shirt, and my black and white skaters.  They were not concerned.  We laughed our asses off and shouted requests and danced and drank too much.  They protected me from the predations of some of the regulars, all of whom they referred to with nick-names ("That's Hard-On Rick.  You don't want to dance with him." "I don't?").

So, when it was my turn, I picked Linda Ronstadt and decided that what I may lack in skill or artistry, I would make up for in ballsiness.  My friends were hooting encouragement from the front table. "WHOO, KATE!  GO!   GO!  GO!"  Well, alrighty, then.

I been cheated! (I belted)
Been mistreated!
When will I be loved?!  [Excellent fucking question, really...]

So far, so good.  Watch the words on the screen.

I been put down!
I been pushed 'round!
When will I be loved?!

Uh...  How does the next part go?  There are the words on the screen, but I am not too sure of the tune.  SIL shouts a few measures for me and I take it from there.  I cover any confusion by dancing.  The ending is familiar, so I finish big, with lots of drama.

When will I be looooooooved?! 

Lots of hooting and hollering.  High-fives and congratulations.  "Wow!  That took balls!  First time we tried it, we all got up there and did it together!"  NOW you tell me!  I had a celebratory Jack Daniels and danced like a total doofus to:

I believe in miracles/
Where you from/
you sexy thing?

I strip teased out of my top shirt all sexy and roll-shouldered, which amused the other women a bunch.  I spent a lot of time yelling and laughing at stupid stuff, the way women do when they go out without any men.

This morning I have a headache, but I'm glad I stayed in Oshkosh an extra night.  I needed to let off some steam.  I am feeling a bit morose when I think about my problems back in Salt Lake.  Increasingly, I struggle to maintain hope of a positive outcome with C.  I try hard to pretend that I am confident.  I think I'll go up to the cottage and build a fire.  Read my book and pump my hope and optimism reverves.  Enough to sustain me for a few more weeks.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Denver.  Long layover.

I am sitting cross-legged on the floor, 'cause I have a knee fetish and the gate is full of travelers about to board for Detroit.  Must control myself...!  No licking allowed... No, actually, I am taking advantage of the outlet in this pillar I am leaning against.  My battery is getting old.

I enjoy traveling; and although I miss my kids already, I sometimes enjoy traveling alone.  In think it is because so little is required of me.  All I have to do is make my way from A to B.  I am anonymous.  If I want to, I can be completely silent for the next six hours.   And I want to.

I can smell french fries.  I wasn't hungry in SLC, but I am now. 

I find all the people incredibly entertaining. Of course, I knew someone on the flight from SLC - that almost always happens. Today it was my old friend Krzyszek, who used to tutor at Guadalupe.  I have only managed to find three Polaks in SLC, and he is one of them.  We looked at each other twice, then laughed in recognition.  I gave him a quick hug and kiss, but I was blocking the aisle and had to keep moving.

I generally can't sleep on the plane, and this flight was very cold.  But I am so exhausted - kept reading the same paragraph in Newsweek over and over.  Finally, I put my jeans jacket on backward and unfolded my orange scarf, which is actually a pashmina.  I wrapped my legs in it, and I was snug, if a little odd-looking.  I dozed fitfully. 

When asleep, I was visited by the person who always visits me when I am half-asleep.  It's been almost a month since I have seen his smile.  I wish I could say that I miss him less or that my feeings are fading. They are not.  Despite my efforts, the longing is intense. My mantras:  pass the time with work and play.  Be strong.  Be ready for the happy outcome.  Be ready, too, never to see him again.   A little more time will pass and then I will know, one way or the other. Then the rest of my life will commence, in some form. What is it?  Day 25.

When awake, I spied on people through my lashes.  The lady next to me was reviewing a brief.  She works for the Bureau of Reclamation, I deduced.  I peeked at her charts and read up on Glen Canyon waterflows.  Across the aisle, 2-year-old Eliza was giving her mother fits.  She started off well, but got bored and twitchy on her mom's lap.  You know how, when a kid that age doesn't want to do something,  they have that way of arching their bodies? Screaming,  "NOOOOOOOOO!"  I remember flying with kids that age.  I got lucky, though.   Neither of them ever had a tantrum. 

[Looks like my gate has been changed.  Oh, well.  I will move later.  I'm comfy here.]

Yesterday was a very long day.  I had to:

  1. Do the usual kids-to-school routine.
  2. Rec Center. Run about four miles.
  3. To Guadalupe and straight into a meeting with my boss.  She asked me if I had a lot on my plate that day and I said I did.  She looked pained, but told me that she needs me to write a short piece for United Way on how we teach our students about money and personal finance.  Sure!  When do you need it?  Friday?  Uhhhh... Guess I'll write it in Denver.  I have a layover.
  4. Phone calls to return.
  5. E-mail triage.  I only dealt with the ones that couldn't wait 'til later.  One from brother Charles.  OK if he lends me a car with a manual transmission?  Awesome!  I dislike driving automatics.  My left foot is always paddling at the empty air.
  6. Strap on my paper-crampons and begin the final assault on the summit of Mount Paperwork.  Melanie helps me. Ray takes over the phones and tells callers I'm in a meeting.
  7. Girls on the Run.
  8. I go to the TOSH complex on my way home because I need a physical if I want to go to San Luis Obispo next month.  Luckily, the Girl Scout troop leader is also a pediatrician...  I piss in a cup, get my blood pressure checked and let Julia listen to me breathe in an examining room decorated with clowns and giant diagrams of ear infections.  We have a quick gossip-fest about which moms are going, which moms are whining already, whether we'll be able to smuggle a couple bottles of wine along, etc...  The important stuff.  All Girl Scout paperwork now SENT!
  9. Grocery store.
  10. Home. Sweet potatoes in the oven to roast.
  11. Toss an old sweater over my work clothes and head outside.  Water my baby plants and my soon-to-be lettuce patch.
  12. Get a shovel and dig a big hole.  Enjoy this immensely.  Plant my new Burning Bush.
  13. It's getting late.  Si will be home from his adult league soccer match pretty soon.  Salmon  on.  Broccoli on.
  14. Supper as soon as Si gets in the door.
  15. Check in for flight on-line.
  16. Pack.
  17. Back to Guadalupe, I'm afraid.  I pulled off my old sweater and grabbed my purse.  Si gave me a look and said, "Wow.  You look really nice for someone who is just going to work alone at her office."  WTF!?!  "Si.  I have been wearing this all day."  No reply.  "I just had an old sweater over it, is all."  No reply.  I realize that I am sounding defensive.  Mmmmmph. "Do you really think that I am meeting a man rather than going to the office?!?"  Well, no.  Not really.  Uuuugh! Y'know, if I didn't spend so much time fighting with him about stuff like this, I wouldn't be so behind at work. Just sayin'... 
  18. I got to the office at 10:30.  Conquered Mount Paperwork!  The staff will be so proud of me!  They finally have the updated reports they need. And I am now in relaxed mode, and can enjoy the rest of the school year, stress free!  Aaaaaaahhh!  BUT.  I still have to create the monthly student newspaper. And plan my lessons for tomorrow night (Everybody!  Read the student newspaper!).  Leave a note for Kristen, who is subbing for me.  Leave a memo for the staff, reminding them of things that need to get done tomorrow night. 
  19. Home.  I am not going to say what the time was. Body slam my mattress.  YES!  Now, just in case you think I'm one of those people who can't go anywhere unless her desk is totally clear, it's not true!  I can prove it!  I didn't even glance at my mail.  I didn't empty "Kate's Scary In-Box".  I left all the murky coffee, tea and soup mugs on my crusty desk.  So there.
  20. Strangely, I decided to blow off blogging.
Si drove me to the airport this morning.  I was so grateful.  It bought me an extra half-hour of sleep not to have to deal with long-term parking.  The sunrise was beautiful.  I thanked him for his help.  He told me that he wasn't doing it to be nice, but just to save money.  [Sigh]  Well, it's nice anyway, Si.  I still appreciate it. 

As we drove along, he told me that he had called the mortgage company, and that the news was bad.  We refinanced last fall for a fabulous interest rate (3.8%!), but now they tell him that they can't change the terms of the loan or refinance it or allow Simon to assume it on his own until a year has passed.  I am not sure that this is a game-changer for me in any way.  I don't think so. I would ponder further, but my  brain is fairly fried.  For the next four nights, I plan to sleep 8 hours a night.  I will perhaps talk the mortgage issue over with my brother.  Having a friendly adult partner-type person to talk with each day is a great privilege.  I see that now.  Even an absence of hostility feels like a balm. 

My butt is numb.  I should go find the correct gate for Milwaukee.  I will stare at five women with beautiful, thin legs until I don't want french fries any more.

[Ah, yes.  This is the right gate. I know that accent anywhere.]

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Selfish IS a Four-Letter Word

It IS.

I've been thinking about this a lot today.

Yesterday's session with the mediator did not go well.  My fault, I think.  I was still rubbed pretty raw by all the adjectives from Sunday and felt disengaged from the conversation.  We talked a little bit about custody again, and I admitted that I felt bad about not getting to have the kids more; but I agreed that it was the most practical solution.

Then we started talking about ways to deal with the house.  Si wants to keep it and buy me out.  He told the mediator about how he wanted the kids to have the stability of their regular home. 

"Do you think it may tip the scales a bit?" asked the mediator.

How do you mean? 

"Well, unfortunately, the kids know that Kate is initiating the divorce.  You will have more custody of them.  You will live with them in their home, while Kate lives somewhere else.  Don't you think it weakens Kate's position as an equal co-parent?"

He didn't think so.  She asked me what I thought.

"Well, yes; I think that's true.  But that's the price I pay."  I shrugged and my eyes slid toward the window.
She sat still for a second.  "What do you mean by 'the price you pay'?"
"By being the one who leaves."  To me that was such a no-brainer.  She looked at me funny, though.

Then, Si talked about his fledgling proposal to buy me out.  We agree that the kids' college fund is sacred, but he is offering to cash out their trust funds, paying me with that money, then having the kids be part owners of the house.  They get their money back (and maybe a little more) when he sells.  I was amazed.  When we were in the heat early divorce discussions, months ago, he told me...uh...firmly... that he would not allow me to touch their trust funds.  As if I would have even thought of it.  The trust funds are gifts from Simon's parents.  It's Sara's and Nathan's money; and before that, it was Digginsmoney.  I have never had much use for Digginsmoney.  

Si now sees this a s a tidy solution, but I have issues with it.

"And when they find out?  That Mom went away and took all their money, too?"
"Who will tell them?  They don't need to know."
"They will ask where you got the money, and you'll tell them the truth.  Or your parents will tell them. With gusto."  They can't stand me.  As my FIL put it, I "took our first born son away from his home and his country".  (I know:  gack.  Yes, they really did say, "first born son", as if they were about to present him to King Herrod or something.)  When they find out that I touched Digginsmoney, there is going to be nastiness.

I mentioned that I felt that this "tipped the scales" of my relationship with the kids yet farther; Si took exception. We were sent to our separate corners:  the mediator wanted to see each of us alone.

She was in with Si for over half an hour.  When it was my turn, the mediator said that she had talked to Simon about having some accountability for the demise of the marriage, and that he had admitted that he had not treated me well over the years.  Given that, she asked me why I maintain that the divorce is my fault. 
"Because no matter what, I'm the leaver, and that makes me the bad one."
"Why does that make you bad?  Maybe you are escaping a bad situation."
"Well, because leaving is...selfish!"
"Why does selfish have to be bad?"  I couldn't even figure out what she meant.  I sputtered.
"Well... well.. of COURSE it's bad!  It's the WORST!  It's the WORST thing a person can be.  It's the thing I most hate being."  Believe me, I have been pondering the question of the worst traits a person can have, in my humble opinion.  I think I may have settled on:  selfish, unkind, weak and cowardly.
"Why?"  (I know.  She needs to cut it out.)
"Because... because.."  I was at a loss. "Huh.  Because... selfishness... is the absence of other-centeredness.  And other-centeredness powers the wheels of social change...  So when I divorce Si, I am gong to be-"
"Selfish.  And broke and-"
"There will be money.  You're going to be OK financi-"
"-and unloved and stupid and-"  (Let's not forget rude, since I was interrupting her at that point...)
"Happy.  You deserve to be a little selfish.  You have sold yourself short for years.  You are going to be happy, and show your kids what that looks like."

I am having a hard time getting my head around selfish ever being a good thing.  I have a hard time dealing with all the guilt that my selfishness has caused.  CB told me once that I should "be more selfish".  He was talking about buying a guitar, though!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Snail Mail

When life gets a little bit sucky around here in my brick bungalow paradise, I sometimes get discouraged by blogging.  I CAN'T WAIT to move forward to the point that I can relay the humorous side of single-girl life.  I am expecting some surprises.  (Hmmm... That's a little oxymoronic...)  Right now, it's all yuck.  What to write about when my life is a steaming heap of day-old possum innards?

I'm a member of this little thing called "Plinky".  Plinky sends prompts and suggestions to writers who want to experiment with different topics.  I have a vast collection of these now, because I never use them:  my life is giving me abundant material just now.  But I'd love to rest from all the emotion for a short interval, and this one is pretty light-weight. 

"What was the last real letter you received in the mail?"

I disqualified Christmas letters. So, would you believe that the last social letter I got was in 2006?!?  From Dad, who was 75 at the time.  He was such a Luddite. No computer in the house, so no e-mail.  I saved it - here it is.

Dear Simon, Kate, Sara and Nate,

Adventure Central checking in:  the conquest of Whitney, Labor Day weekend 2006.

No permits available for the regular "tourist trail", but we could get a last minute permit for the "Mountaineer's Route" - so we did it (PMP [that's Dad], Jerry Hershman [his best buddy from medical school - late Triassic Period], Dan and Jeff Hershman [Jerry's sons, who are about my age, and who often find themselves hauling their asses up trails with Dad and Jerry]). There is no real constructed trail with switchbacks, etc...  An indistinct path (or paths) that will get you to the top, following cairns, rock, gravel and dust.  We camped first night at Boy Scout Lake, 2000 ft. up from parking lot; next day another 2000 ft. up to Iceberg Lake, elevation 12,000 feet.  Third day up to summit - we scrambled up rocks & gravel to the "Notch"  Then Dan had us rope up while we climbed the last 1000 ft. up on big rocks and cliffs.  Hand holds, looking for foot holds (don't look down!).  After the steep rock, all we had to do was walk up to the summit, meet the hikers who came up the real trail.  Coming down was hardest for me.  Dan thought I might not make the 4000 ft. descent from Iceberg Lake.  First he took my sleeping bag & finally just strapped my whole orange pack onto his (total: 60 lbs.).  My thigh muscles were like rubber bands at the bottom.  3 days to recover!  But we all survived the mountaineer's route!

Jerry H. and I have made a solemn oath:  no more mountains!  How about the beach next time?

We had company from some climbers from Belarus (White Russia).  They went up the steep east face.
So, you have to put a new roof on your house!  Must have been quite a storm!  Just put a blue tarp over the holes - that's the Alaska way.

Everybody is back in school?  Routine getting settled in, I trust?

Your peaches should be in season if not damaged by the wind storm.

Other news:
Gilman Ness died of cancer.
Badgers and Packers just getting started.
Brewers in decline!!

Next adventure:  in a few weeks we embark on Canadian train at Winnipeg - ride to Jasper - get off for four days, then on to Vancouver for a week then ride the luxury train back to Winnipeg & drive home.  No phone calls, no tasks except eating a lot.

Sara & Nate - here's a picture of me climbing the rocks.

Yeah, I know:  Dad is making more appearances than usual in the blog these days. Coincidence, and a lucky one. I have just remembered that I did get a letter a couple of months ago from Evelyn Jahnke.  She played the role of grandmother to me when I was a kid.  I didn't save that letter, though.  Just as well.  You would have had to read all about every single thing she entered in the county fair last summer. 

I saved this letter because I was proud of Dad for taking a challenging route at his age, coming from the much lower elevation of Wisconsin.  My quads would have been pretty rubbery as well. Mom was pissed, though.  Squawk, squawk!  "He could BARELY WALK when he got off the plane!  He and Jerry are ridiculous.  They act like they're....60 or something!  One of these days he's going to keel over and die on some trail."  That was his stated plan.  No wonder he didn't leave an advance directive.

Miss you, Dad.  I'll be up at the cottage in a few days.  Yes, the family has suggested that I go where everybody goes when (as Charlie says) "it hits the fan", and some serious R&R is called for.  Plus Charlie wants someone to get the raking done.  I plan to build a fire down on the point. I will lie on the sand and roast a sausage on a stick.  I'll drink a beer for you.