Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Christmas Letter

Pin It (I posted this and then somehow, de-posted it when I went to edit it. Sorry for the confusion. I'm a moron.)

I never got around to sending out Christmas cards this year, but I did write a letter. I dobt I will actually mail it, but I figure I'll post it in all it's cliched glory...

Dear Random Family Member and/or Friend Who Happens To Get This Card (Because We Love You And Stuff But Are Too Lazy To Individually Address This Many Letters),

It’s the post holiday wrap-up here at Chez Smith. I'm hoping to get this in the mail prior to Christmas, and if so, Merry Christmas! If not, Happy New Year. But if things go as rather I expect they will - Happy Valentines Day!

What have the children been up to? I’m so glad you asked. Sarah was recently accepted into MENSA and danced Clara in the Nutcracker. The reviews were amazing, and she has been invited to dance with Ballet West on a continuing basis. Our little Abby keeps busy winning championship snowboarding competitions for her age bracket and is involved in a variety of humanitarian service projects, including helping to fetch and carry bricks and mortar for Habitat for Humanity. Sweet little Carter was picked to be the youngest Oliver in the history of the two hundred year old Alpine Playhouse, and we are so proud of his tremendous musical talent. We've been taking phone calls from agents who would like to represent him.

No, I’m totally lying. I just figured stretching the truth is what people typically do in Christmas letters, might as well make them really GOOD lies, right?

But they ARE great kids. Sarah is six and in the first grade and is our tender hearted little girl, a tremendous reader, and the kindest soul you'll ever meet. Abby is five, and is social and imaginative and fun, and also a little bossy. (I have no idea where she gets the bossy from. Probably her dad.) Carter is three, and is not afraid to bat his long eyelashes to get what he wants. He's very loving and affectionate (thank goodness for his mom, who is a little sad that he’s the last baby we can have). Not that I’m allowed to call him a baby. Because as he reminds me daily, he is NOT a baby, he’s a BIG kid. HUGE. All in all, we think they’re pretty awesome. Smarter than the average bear, cute enough to get away with a lot of stuff, and good enough not to try it all that often.

Not having our stuff together, that was sort of our family theme this year. Our business crashed and burned and we have been circling the wreckage for a while now, but are trying to shake it off. Husband will (if things go well) be starting with the Sheriff’s Department in February, and is currently working as a Foster Care Case Manager. He started running a while back and says he loves it. I am somewhat skeptical. How could anyone love to RUN? Running is good for escaping wild animals and catching naked toddlers, but for fun? Doubtful. It is strange to have him back at work after working with him from home for so long. I really miss having him around.

I’m working for a high-tech company in SLC as a technical writer, mostly from home. I also have a variety of freelance clients who use me for everything from developing weekly eZines and writing web content, to preparing technical bid responses for the government. I started a blog a few months ago, and it's been a really fun way to express myself and meet a lot of other amazing women who like to write. I recently put ads up on it and I’m hoping that eventually, I’ll have enough ad revenue to buy a Slurpee. One can dream.

We hope you had a great Christmas. Ours will be small, but wonderful, because we get to spend it with friends and family. And ya know - the toys will probably be broken in three weeks, but the memories, they’ll last forever. Sniff.

With love...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How You Know You Have a Little Problem Called PMS

Pin It (Warning, squeamish men might want to leave the room, because at some point I'm gonna say the word PERIOD. Oops, see, I just did it.)

Christmas Eve:
4:00: At brother and sister-in-law's house, go back and forth between laughing and being incredibly negative, at rapid speed. It's good to keep people off guard.

6:15: Relentlessly correct everything your husband says. When he privately expresses irritation, get all teary eyed, because how could he be so MEAN? Demand that he forgive you, or Christmas is RUINED.

8:00: Realize you brought a dumb white elephant gift. Burst into tears and leave the room. When people ask why you are crying, tell them you don't know, that you just feel pathetic.

8:15: Realize you only brought a couples gift and not separate white elephant gifts for you and your husband. Burst into tears. Again.

9:30: Someone says something nice. Start crying because people are JUST SO NICE.

10:35: Sister does something amazingly nice for you. Sob.

And again.

And again.

Christmas Morning and Afternoon:
Apparently, you are given a respite for Christmas morning that allows you to behave in a fairly normal way. Hallelujah, it's a Christmas miracle. Ponder previous day's teariness, wonder why you were falling apart... You are not usually such a huge cry-baby. What is WRONG with you? Ponder, ponder, ponder - see chips and dip, lose train of thought.

Christmas Night:
7:00: Fly home because you have to be at work in the morning, and husband and kids don't need to be back till Friday. Say goodbye to husband and kids. Cry.

10:00: Land. Find car in long-term parking, covered in ice and snow. You forgot to put windshield ice scraper in the car. In between using an old gardening glove to try to get the ice off the windshield, cry and shake fist at the sky.

11:00: Realize on the way home that the gas light is on and you are below empty. Realize you have entered some type of twilight zone land with no convenience stores anywhere near the highway. Panic. Weep. Locate 7-11. Calm down again. Put gas in car.

11:15: Get on freeway. Try to relax. Take wrong turn, end up in West Valley. Get back on freeway. Swear a lot. Call husband. Ask him to help. Get upset when he reminds you he is 400 miles away. Fail to make the connection. What does that have to do with anything? Why can't he do something to help? WHY? WHY?!!!

11:30: Get off the freeway and onto icy surface streets. Slide around a lot in little car while screaming and cursing. Drive approximately 15 mph toward a stop sign, start skidding anyway. Narrowly avoid accident.

11:40: Very slowly, very cautiously drive into neighborhood. Very slowly start to turn into snowy driveway. Before your front tires even get over the curb, get stuck. Try to go backward. Nope. try to go forward. Nope. Call husband. Tell him you love him, you worship him, and that you will never be separated from him again, ever, ever, EVER. Because you need his snow moving capacity.

11:45: Change into snow boots and parka. Shovel snow. Shovel some more. Shovel again. Try to drive car. Still stuck. Try to push car. Still stuck. Cry. Bang head against car. Fall down in snow. Cry some more, and for added drama, pound the snow with your fist. Curse the heavens.

12:05: Decide to just leave the car there in the street and deal with it in the morning before work. Car is sticking out into the street and will probably get hit, but you do not care. If the car gets hit it was obviously the will of God. Go into the house and change.

12:10: Phone rings. It is your neighbors, your lovely, lovely neighbors, who have noticed that your car is stuck in the road. They are coming to help dig you out. Meet them outside. Shower gratitude on them. In three minutes, the car is in the garage. Weep. Hug them. Weep some more. (Seriously though, how AWESOME are my neighbors? Love them. FLOVE them. SO MUCH FLOVE.)

Morning of the 26th:
8:05: Open the garage to shovel driveway before you go to work. Notice neighbors kids have shoveled driveway and sidewalk. Cry.

Hear Carrie Underwood song. Cry all the way to work.

At work: Get period. Realize the period may be related to weepiness. Cry, because for several years, when you were having kids and nursing, the period was a non-entity - no crazy hormones, no intense pain, nada. Realize that, apparently, both the whacked out PMS hormones (and you thought you just had gotten emotionally MATURE - ha!) and the intense, fever inducing pain are back. Cry.

So... yeah.

I think I may be dehydrated. Excuse me. (Sniffle.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Deep Thoughts

Pin It So, uh, I now work in the IT department of a mid-sizish company. We have our own little wing. The dress code is very, very casual. Today I was wearing a white t-shirt with a red sweater, nice dark blue jeans and boots and I felt so freaking overdressed it is not even funny. The guy in the cubicle across the way was wearing jeans that were missing the middle part. I could see all of both of his knees. And not in the fashion statementy way. Just in the - I've had these jeans for a really long time and now they are falling apart and soon I will be nude kind of way. The boss laughed at him, but didn't ask him to change or anything, just sort of shook his head in that, "Oh, you're such a character," type of way.

Anyway. I'm feeling very fashionable. (My friends and family just keeled over laughing, I'm sure.) This is quite good for my ego. It's almost as good as going to the fair. I always feel so slim and classy at the fair, don't you?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Workin' for the MAN

Pin It So... I just started a new technical writing job. A JOB. That's right, after years of working for myself, I've been forced to pack it in and join all of the other miserable drudges on the roadways. (The freeway is seriously FREAKING ME OUT. I used to be a maniac on the road, but for the last three years I've mostly just driven on tiny little 25 mph backroads and now, I swear, my life is flashing before my eyes everytime I drive into the office. Serious anxiety. I'm thinking I need to design a jet pack, Gilligan style. It would probably be safer than Utah freeways.)

From what I understand, the first week or so, I will have to actually get dressed and come in to an actual office, with other worker type people. After that, I've been told I can work from home and work the hours I want, and all of that good stuff. So it will hopefully be a lot like working for myself, but with benefits, and retirement type stuff and a guaranteed paycheck. (That last part is actually sort of important, as it turns out.) It's a great opportunity and I'm excited about it, but nervous.

I spent most of the day sitting around and smiling nervously when people talked to me because hoooooo boy, I'm so not used to having people around when I'm working. And people were talking ALL DAY LONG. It is FREAKY. I usually have to get in my mental writing zone and instead of having relative quiet, all around me I'm hearing, "Man, this server is SOOWEEEEEEET!!" and "I am NOT going up in the ceiling to pull cable," and "No, House is not grumpy, he's manic." It'll take some getting used to.

And guess what?! Did you know, apparently, in an office, they frown on the whole - blogging thing? (Who knew?) I will have to readjust my blogging schedule. I can't stay up all night long either because - I have to get up and get dressed in the morning now. It's all very bizarre. But nice. Nice and bizarre. Bizarre and nice. Cross your fingers for me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Birthday Party: A Parable

Pin It 1 And on the 17th day of the twelfth month it came to pass that the daughter of the Queen turned five years old.

2 And behold, it was decreed that a festival should be held and that children should come to pay homage to the young princess.

3 And when the Queen beheld the large number of children in the land, and heard their cries, and saw their eagerness to attend the festival, she knew that she could not invite one save she invite all.

4 And behold, the Queen prophesied that a great number of children would be out of town, and so it came to pass that the Queen did invite a large number of children,yay, even five and twenty children, to the royal festival.

5 And lo, the royal treasury was bare, and so the Queen did visit the market of one hundred cents and did purchase all manner of goods for the royal festival, and behold, when she laid them before the King, he declared that they were good.

6 And behold, the Queen had prophesied incorrectly, and on the day of the royal festival a great number of children appeared, yay, even all children appeared, save only one, and they arrived bearing gifts and tidings of great joy.

7 And there was much decorating of baked goods, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, for the Queen had only one can of purple sprinkles, and there was no yellow frosting, and behold, this did make the children with baked cookies in star shapes exceedingly angry, and the Queen was afraid, for the noise which the children maketh, it did cause her to tremble and quake.

8 And behold their wrath was mighty and the Queen bowed down before them and did work to entice them, yay even to distract them with games and dance and merry making.

9 And behold, the royal dog was freakingeth out, and the Queen did place him in the royal garage, so that he might not pee himself, for so great was his anxiety because of the children.

10 And after much merry making, behold, the Queen looked at her devils food cake, and looked at the King, and cried, woe unto me, for this cake shall not feed such a great number, and thou must travel to the market, and purchase more cake to feed these children who have come to pay homage.

11 But lo, the King said, Nay, oh ye of little faith, fear not, for this cake shall be enough.

12 And the woman despaired, but she began to cut the cake.

13 And lo, there was much rejoicing in the land, for as it turnethed out, there was enough cake, and there were even some children in the land who did not like cake, but who desired only ice cream, and so the cake was enough to feed many children, even five and twenty children, and the news of this great miracle spread throughout the land.

14 And the King said, Woman, I have been called out of town, and must go. Peace be unto you.

15 And the woman wept because there were a large number of children still present, yay, even five and twenty children and the woman cried, oh, surely I am a cursed woman among all women.

16 And behold, the children brought many gifts, and they brought them forward, in a great swarming mass of gift giving, even an obscene amount of gift giving, and behold, the children would not sit down and give heed to the princess, for they were making merry.

17 And behold great was the wrath of the princess when the children would not give her heed.

18 And the princess did endeavor to make the children listen to her, else she would scream and cry out to the people to leave the land.

19 But behold the Queen did show them mercy, and did exile the Princess to her room, until she could get a grip.

20 And behold, after five minutes, the Princess did return, and she did make amends to her people, and brought them good tidings of great joy.

21 And she did bestow upon them gift bags of assorted colors, and the children screamed with joy.

22 For the candy, it was good.

23 And soon, the mothers of the children did return to the land, and they did say unto the Queen, Behold, you are indeed a mighty and brave Queen, for when we droppethed them off, never had we beheld so many children at festival, and our fear was great, and much did we doubt thee.

24 But you are indeed a true and wise Queen and we shall not doubt thee again

25 And the children left, yay, even all five and twenty children, and the young princess and her cohorts were banished to their rooms, but with many amusements, and the Queen did fall onto the couch and did slumber for half an hour, until she was woken by the Princess, who did come bearing thanks and praise, for she hath enjoyed the royal festival exceedingly

26 And behold, how great was her joy.

27 And behold the Queen was joyful also, for she did love the young Princess exceedingly.

28 And behold, the royal festival was ended, at least for the space of a year.

29 And lo, I say unto you, if ye shall learn a lesson from reading this tale, then take heed, and do not invite a large number of children to the winter festival; yay, only invite a small number of children, lest ye suffer the consequences, even like unto the Queen.

30 And if ye have read all of this, yay, even to the end, now tell me, what think ye of my tale? Thinketh ye that I hath too much time on my hands?

31 Yay, verily verily, it may be so, for behold, the Royal King, he is gone, even again, and I am lonely, and so I say unto you, that she who leaveth a comment, shall be greatly blessed in the eyes of the Queen.

P.S. Lest ye doubt this tale, I hath provided this moving picture, that ye may see and believe upon my words.
(had to remove the video - it kept making my posts republish in the feeds :>)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Great Moments in Customer Service

Pin It At a store today - a store I will call, oh, I don't know, Toys R Us - I had one of those moments that makes me weep for the future of America.

I know there must be no fresher hell than working retail at Christmas time in a toy store, so I am normally very sympathetic, very patient. I bring my IPOD with me so that I can just sort of bop around the store getting my stuff, zone out while I wait in line, and not let all the bustle get to me. I say please and thank you to the clerks, have my money ready and generally try not to make life any harder for them than it already is, if at all possible.

Now, you gotta understand, when I go Christmas shopping, I take cash, not credit cards, because if I take credit cards, I am much more lax about how much I can spend. "Oh, it's just $10 more than I thought, no problem." And by the time I've left I've spent $200 more than I planned. So - no credit cards for me.

Anyway, I get up to the check-out lane and realize that I'm going to be over the amount I have, so when I get up to the check-out, I hand the clerk three rolls of crepe paper and tell her, "I'm sorry, I can't buy these."

She glares at me. "You can't buy these?"

I blink. "No."

She sighs heavily. "Let me get this straight. Are you or are you not going to buy these?"

I frown. "I'm not going to buy them."

"So you are not buying these."

Is she messing with me? "Correct."

She is sneering. Clearly, she hates her job and more specifically, hates ME, with the white hot power of a thousand suns. "And yet you brought them up here, to the check-out."

I stare back at her. "Yeah. It was a mistake."

"A mistake," she repeats slowly, with scorn.


"Maybe you should be more careful next time," she said.

"And maybe I should beat you senseless with this Tinker Toy tube," I said.

OK, I didn't say that. But I wanted to.

In reality I just - clenched my teeth and asked her. "Are you going to ring that up now or what?"
And she sneered and did just that.

Now, doesn't that just warm your heart?

Happy freaking holidays you bitter, cynical little twerp.

Next year, I'm shopping online.

Lights, Camera, Traxtion

Pin It

I know all you Utah or former Utah people were praying, just PRAYING that some blogger would go to Temple Square at Christmas time and document the trip for you. Because THAT Christmas post has never ever been done before. Right? (Don't answer that.) Well, I'm here for you. This is your lucky day folks, your lucky day...

Last night we ventured out. We drove to Sandy, hopped on the Trax train and hopped off downtown. We wandered around for a bit, the kids staring in awe at the tall buildings. They’d never been downtown before, and were almost frightened. I think we might be raising a bunch of little hicks.

We had dinner at a little diner, where the kids took off their coats, scarves, mittens and hats and went to the bathroom approximately four hundred and fifteen times before dinner was over.

We made our way over to Temple Square, the kids ooohing and aaaahing over the horse drawn carriages and snowflake lights on the buildings. One thing I love about having cute little kids all dressed up in their winter duds and walking hand in hand down the sidewalk? Everyone smiles at you. Everyone is kind. Even on the train, at rush hour, when people were tired and on their way home from work, people smiled at us, and when my daughter started singing Christmas carols they were all sweet to her.

My son didn’t quite understand the whole concept of Temple Square – “When we at Temple Square mom?” “We’re here. It’s here.” “Where?” “Here – these lights and buildings.” “Over there?”

We stopped for hot cocoa at the Hotel Utah. Abby drank too much too fast and got sick. We sat in the bathroom for a bit while she contemplated barfing, but eventually she felt better and we headed for home. At the train stop we met a friendly drunk who insisted on singing jingle bells to our children complete with some very odd hand gestures and jumping around. My kids had no idea he was drunk as a skunk, they just thought he was a very funny Christmas caroler, and this morning they were saying, “Remember that man who sang to us? He was SO nice!”

We got onto the train and started the ride home. The kids were tired, but they held it together. But then a train up ahead on the tracks broke down, so we had to get off the train, and onto a bus.

And then back onto another train.

By this time, the kids were exhausted. “We don’t want anymore trains, Mom, just take us home.”

And so we did.

The end.

P.S. Today I start my Christmas shopping. Pray for me.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

No, We're Not Afraid of Heights, Why Do You Ask?

Pin It

You have no idea how much mocking it took just to get DH to put the lights on that first peak. I mocked him until he offered to let me climb the ladder so that I could climb onto the roof and do it myself, and when I got to the top of the ladder I suddenly realized there had been some kind of geological event and the roof had shifted and was no longer a gentle slope but a perilous and frightening hill of steepness and fear.

And so we called it a day. Last year the lights only went across the front porch, and the year before that we had no lights at all, so this is actually progress. Maybe next year we'll get crazy and put lights on the shrubs.

It was my blog buddy Nicki who inspired me to share this pic. She and her friend Emily went up on the roof with ropes and stuff. I'm thinking they're a little bit nuts. They did it themselves, no husbands involved. (Hear them roar.)

But I'm wondering if this is a Christmas task that stays pretty strictly divided along gender lines even in 2007... Is it mostly the guys that end up with this particular Christmas hazard, or are women venturing out on the rooftops as well? What's the deal at YOUR house? I'm curious...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hey - This is a Really Funny Post!

Pin It No, I’m lying. This isn’t a funny post.

Apologies in advance to people that come here for a laugh – and I know there are two or three, because I see my name on their blogrolls with the words "Navel Gazing - for a chuckle" or something like that next to it, (eeeek the PRESSURE) and now they're gonna have to update their links to "Navel Gazing - Daily Dose of Depression" or "Navel Gazing - making you want to stab yourself in the eye with a fork since 2007." Sorry about that.

Man, I miss my DH. I've discovered something. All this time, I thought I just grew out of being depressed, magically, when I got married. The truth is, my DH is my anti-depressant. I haven't been depressed in eleven years. Now that he is gone what feels like all the time, I feel myself falling into the blue. His support, his strength, his love, his understanding - they've literally kept me sane for 11 years. Well. Sane - ish. It's a big job. (I miss you hon. Come back soon. Preferably early.)

I know I must be sort of depressed because I've lost my will to email people. SERIOUSLY. That's big. Usually (and my family will attest to this) the second I get an email I respond. My awesome sister-in-law will sit down and write these great, newsy emails to me and I will receive them and immediately write back. I know she probably winces when she gets an email back five minutes later because the ball's back in her court again ALREADY, bwa-ha-ha... But now I have email that's like, DAYS old. That's serious. I haven't started the Christmas letter, and haven't filled out Abby's birthday party invitations. I need to snap out of this.

Dude. I just pounded back, like, five Wild Cherry capri suns in a row and I think I might be a little drunk. I'd better go sleep it off.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Point, Set, Match

Pin It DH and I got into the mother of all arguments last night. We don’t fight a lot, but we are both incredibly stressed out right now, and so we put our minds to it and eventually we found something to fight about. I think it started because I wanted him to go shovel the snow when he was in the middle of doing something, and we both had just enough right and just enough wrong in our respective positions that it turned out to be really easy to dig in our heels and completely freak out. It was one of those fights where the phrases “Are you KIDDING me?” and “You’re ridiculous” were thrown around over and over again, by a different person each time.

I already know we shouldn’t fight in front of the kids, but I live here on Planet Earth, where sometimes, crap happens. They were in bed, but kept sneaking out to egg us on. They meant to make us stop, but it had the exact opposite effect because each time they would say something? Like when Abby told us we were being naughty and shouldn’t fight? We would then feel even stupider and angrier and more childish, and would fight SOME MORE because last night we were twelve. Carter came out and yelled at me, “You go sit in your room Mama, you go sit in dere WIGHT NOW!”

I will confess that at one point I was so enraged I threw three large chocolate chip cookies and an ice cube at my husband’s head. (But not in front of the children, I do have SOME self control.) I decided I would show HIM, and took off in the truck, skidding down our icy street, thinking I would do something dramatic, like stay out all night so he would be frantic with worry, thinking I’d slidden to an icy death. Then I realized I had no gas. And had forgotten my purse. And had exactly 27 cents in change in the car. This put a significant crimp in my plans.

I sat in the Home Depot parking lot, my breath making frosty circles in the air because I was afraid that if I ran the heater I would run out of gas, and thought, wow, I’m really showing HIM. HE’LL SURE BE SORRY.

Then I realized he was probably back home, sitting in front of the fire, feet up, flipping channels on the remote, and eating all of my cookies.

So after freezing my butt off for an hour I drove home in defeat and slunk back into the house.

He gave me the look, the one husbands give you when they are sorry and want the fight to be over, and he said, “I’m sorry honey,” and came over to give me a hug, but I was not yet done teaching him a lesson and so instead of giving him a hug I ducked under his arm, stomped upstairs to my office and made sure he knew by the way I was slamming things around that I was still VERY VERY ANGRY.

I heard him popping popcorn and putting on a movie I wanted to watch, and it was cold up there, but I was MAKING A POINT, dang it, and so I sat there in my coat at my desk and worked on stuff. Making a point is really boring sometimes.

Anyway, eventually we both apologized and everything was good and right again in the kingdom.

Today he is down in Las Vegas again for work, and I am here with the kids, by myself, for the whole week, and they are REALLY grumpy right now, boy howdy, so, even though the fight is ancient history, and water under the bridge and was ridiculous even when it was going on? I just want you to know, honey...

I was totally right.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Peace Be With You

Pin It
A little over thirteen years ago, my paternal grandfather died. When we got back from that funeral, we got the news that my maternal grandfather had just died.

I couldn’t get more time off, so I was at work as my family packed up the car to head back up to Utah for the funeral. In the late afternoon as we were all getting itchy to leave for the weekend, I got a phone call. It was my brother Mark.

“Sue, Dad had a stroke.”

“What?” My heart stopped for a second.

“Dad - he had a stroke, the ambulance is here…”

He’d been packing up the car, angry about something and slamming suitcases around, when he collapsed in his room. Nobody was there when it happened, but when they went in to get something from his room, he was lying there silent and still. At the hospital, we learned he’d had a massive stroke in his brain stem and there was no way he would ever recover.

My dad was not an easy man to love. He was angry and bitter, occasionally violent and often emotionally abusive.

When we were very young, he was different. He was happier and although his temper could be unpredictable, it always blew over. He was a man of extremes - great happiness, great affection, great anger, great silliness.

My younger brothers and sisters don’t remember the kind of dad he used to be, when we were little. He would take us on bike rides, take us camping, take us riding in the desert on the back of his motorcycle, take us hiking in the desert… He took us to judo and drove us to our championships, taught us to play racquetball and let us climb on the roof.

He loved us, his big pack of children. He went through a very serious bout with cancer when we were young. My grandfather’s biography talks about how at night my dad would stand outside of our rooms watching us sleeping - weeping and wondering if he would have the chance to see us grow into adulthood.

But as time went on, he changed. He became increasingly angry and unpredictable. His mother had a chemical imbalance, and I think he did too, but he didn’t believe in “that kind of stuff,” and wouldn’t do anything about it. Even without that problem, he was gradually hardening. He had a hard time forgiving people, and the bitterness was poisoning him. His behavior grew increasingly erratic and violent. He would get irrationally angry. He was rarely physically abusive, but he would scream and yell and break things and we were all a little afraid of him.

I know my dad didn’t feel loved. I know he didn’t feel understood or appreciated. But it was all there, waiting for him, this huge family of kids who were hungry for a father, if he would’ve been capable of just calming down, of finding some kind of peace so we could feel something other than fear and resentment in his presence.

At the hospital when he had his big stroke, we found out he’d had a series of smaller undiagnosed strokes, and they probably had contributed to his escalating behavior. The doctors told us he would probably die within a few days - that it was a matter of waiting.

I remember every day, waiting to hear. It was so strange. We were sad, but along with the sadness there was relief. We’d lived under his reign of terror, more or less, for a long time, and the removal of that presence from the house felt like a blessing.

The night before he died we went to the hospital, all nine children and my mom, and we sat in his room singing Christmas carols. It was our way of saying goodbye to him. I remember that the nursing staff was in tears, listening to us sing for him long past visiting hours were supposed to be over. My dad loved music - loved to sing and to hear us sing. I like to think that if he could hear it at all, he loved our last concert for him.

He died thirteen years ago today. When he died I grieved for him, for my dad, the one I remembered from my childhood, who gave us piggy-back rides, and sang us Kenny Rogers and Beach Boys and ABBA and danced us around the living room, who helped us build a playhouse and let us keep the puppies after they were born.

And I cried because I didn't know how to deal with his death. I wasn’t sure what would happen to him. According to everything I’d ever been taught, he was probably in big trouble with the Man Upstairs. Because he hadn’t had a chance to repent of anything, to make amends, to make changes. He just died, before he could make anything right, before he could have a come-to-Jesus moment. He just died.

As much as I’d been afraid of him some of the time, and been angry with him a LOT of the time, and been damaged by him emotionally in many ways, I still loved him. It hurt me to think that he might be eternally angry and hurting and sad. And sometimes I still weep for him - for his lost chance to make things right, for his wasted chance to love and be loved. All of his chances, spent.

I used to have dreams where my dad would show up in the hallway, a ghost who didn't know he was one, ranting about how I wasn't supposed to park the car in the street, only in the driveway how could you be so irresponsible and I would wake up in a cold sweat, almost relieved when I would remember all over again that he was dead.

Whenever I think about hanging on to an old hurt, hanging on to bitterness, hanging on to anger, I think of my dad. I think of what it cost him to hold onto his anger, of what he exchanged in order to have the privilege of holding those injustices close to his heart. And I let it go. It's easy to let things go, when you really know what it costs.

Most people, if they’re religious, when someone passes on, they like to think of their relatives as looking down on them from heaven. I’m not sure if that is something I can believe about my dad.

I just hope that wherever he is, that he’s finally found peace. If God is merciful at all, he is at peace.

I wish you peace, Dad. I love you.


Pin It I was using the power sander yesterday, trying to get all of the old finish off of an old dining room table, when I caught sight of my feet, which have not had a proper pedicure in months. I have callous issues. They are not pretty.

Inspired by an old tip from FMHLisa, I looked at the sander, and then at my feet. And gave it a whirl. I sort of expected that when I was finished, my feet would be baby soft and smooth. And what do you know?

It totally didn’t work.

It’ll sand all of the finish off a ten year old pine table, but it won’t even put a dent in the callouses on my heels. Egads.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hey, Even Mama Bears Have Feelings

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This afternoon I realized we were out of milk. We’re all sick and DH is out of town, but the world would spin off its axis if this household were ever without milk (no fruity pebbles! no hot cocoa! the horror!), so I had no choice but to de-pajama everyone and run to the store.

Fever apparently has a calming effect because they were angels at the store, listening (miracle) and just sort of meekly following me around as I grabbed the essentials - you know, milk and shampoo and chocolate.

We stopped in the Christmas aisle where I let them hang out for a while, pushing every button on every dancing, singing, bum shaking Christmas “decoration” they could find. (Who actually buys those things? I can't believe the market for those monstrosities is so vast, and yet they appear to be a huge profit center, since every grocery store and corner market on earth carries them.) I idly watched as some teenage girls, young and dumb and having a blast, pushed each other around in carts, squealing and laughing.

The blond girl pushing the cart popped a wheelie while the brunette girl inside the cart shrieked in protest. I kept thinking that if the cart tipped over, that girl was going to crack her head open and whatever brains were actually in there would leak out all over the floor. Clean up in aisle seven, stat.

When my head was ready to explode we got our caravan moving again, with Carter inside the cart and the girls holding onto either side as they walked. We steered toward a check-out lane and WHAM. The teenage girls came out of nowhere, ramming their cart smack into Abby at full speed, knocking her flat and pushing Sarah over for good measure.

I immediately went into full mama bear mode and yelled at the twits as I picked up my sobbing little girls. “What are you DOING?! This isn’t a playground, GROW UP!”

Abby had a nice purple lattice mark engraved on her face (that deepened over the course of the afternoon into a rich, rough bruise) and a pinched finger, but Sarah seemed none the worse for wear, just a little shocked and upset.

“Is there something I can do? Are they alright? I’m so sorry,” the blond babbled on and on and ON. I shot her a dirty look thinking, NO, you idiot, there’s nothing you can do. You’ve done enough.

After a minute or two of hugs, Sarah and Abby calmed down, and tears wiped away, we stood up. Somewhat impressively, the teenagers were still standing there, waiting to take their medicine.

I cocked my head to the side and put a hand on my hip, ready to let loose a few choice, cutting words of reprimand – my unfortunate specialty. I narrowed in on the cart driver.

She had tears in her eyes. I softened a little. She clearly felt awful about what had been, after all, an accident.

“Can I do something?” she asked plaintively. “What can I do? I’m so sorry.” She crouched down next to Abby and said, “I’m so sorry.”

As I tried to figure out what the right thing to say would be, something that would satisfy my maternal anger without completely crossing the line, Abby took over. She apparently had things SHE wanted to say and she drew herself up to her full four year old height.

Tears dripped out of her big green eyes as she looked at the girl accusingly. “You made me fall down,” she said shakily, holding my hand.

The injustice of the accident was too much for her to take and she started to cry again, her words punctuated with little sobs.

“Now--” (sob) “I’m - I’m all hurt—“ (sob) “THAT. WASN’T. NICE—“ (sob) “You shouldn’t hit—“ (sob) “people with a cart!”

She tucked her head against my coat and cried in earnest.

The teenager burst into tears. For a minute I thought she might dissolve into a sad little puddle right there in front of me.

Abby looked at the girl somberly for a minute. She nodded, then looked up at me and whispered, “Mom, she’s sorry now. You should give her a love.” She pushed me forward a little.

And that’s how I ended up hugging a random teenager at Smiths today.