Sunday, August 5, 2018

Summer: From Fresh Vegetables to Ocean-Eyed Boys and Everything in Between

Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. - Henry James

I could hardly wait to get to the farmers' market yesterday. Parking is a mild annoyance and the market (held downtown) can get pretty crowded, but I remind myself of how much I will miss it when we're knee-deep in snow in a few months. I picked up corn on the cob, zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes (I'm growing my own but they aren't ripe yet), lettuce, cauliflower, green beans, and peaches. I've recently re-committed to Weight Watchers so I just need to make sure I don't supplement those nice veggies with Oreos (I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but pretty much all Oreo flavors are technically vegan).
.
Somehow, it's already August. My friend Nancy is a teacher and she always says that August is "like one big Sunday night" but I'm not a teacher and I'm not even close to letting summer go. We've had a few adventures so far this summer. The kid went on tour to Michigan back in June (with the touring choir of which she is a member). She also enrolled in some fun summer classes over at the high school - stuff like baking, set building, leadership games, and so forth. She told me that they actually played dodgeball the other day. I guess not enough generations have been traumatized by that "game" - gotta make sure today's kids learn the whole "Lord of the Flies" thing the hard way.

The classes have been held in the mornings. Then, in the afternoons, she's been hanging out in our neighborhood park. The city hires "parkees," which are college-aged kids who run organized games and activities for the younger kids. Lunch is also provided (which is nice because it bridges the gap for kids who might not get enough food while school is out). I like that she has been spending so much time at the park. She comes home sweaty and tired and very much in need of a shower. I'd rather see her playing kickball in the park than staring at a screen all day.

However, I found out another reason why she loves the park program so much. There is a boy there who (and I quote) "has eyes as blue as the ocean." Oh boy. I think she really regrets telling me about it because now every time she mentions the park I ask her if Mister Ocean Eyes will be there. "He'll look right at you with his ocean eyes," I tell her. This is met with eye rolls and sheer exasperation.

We have certainly seen a hormone surge lately. She took a shine to a young Kohl's cashier yesterday. I bought her a few new things for school because I had the coveted 30% off coupon and our state featured tax-free shopping days for the first time ever. Anyway, last night she discovered that there was a security tag on one of the shirts I bought her. "Look, Evan left the tag on," she said. Evan??? She liked his hair and his glasses, apparently. Oy.

The teen had to miss a couple of weeks at the park because she was in Virginia. She flew out to DC on the 14th and spent a week with my middle sister and her family. She got to spend three days at Busch Gardens. Lucky kid. Being her usual organized self, though, she showed up at the Busch Gardens water park with no swimsuit. To be clear, my child didn't bring a swimsuit to a place called WATER COUNTRY USA. I think my sister ended up running to Target to buy her a new one.

Her dad and I joined her at my sister's house a week later. It was a long car ride but we've done it a gazillion times before. We drove about 11 hours on Friday night and then arrived at a Super 8 in Youngstown, OH at 2:30 a.m. I had booked the room on Priceline. We didn't need anything fancy since it was just a matter of getting a few hours of sleep before hitting the road again. When I checked in, all bleary-eyed and exhausted, the chick at the desk said, "Okay, I see you've booked a smoking room." Oh, sweet Jesus. They were fully booked so there weren't any other options. We were so tired that we didn't even argue.

Now, I don't want to suggest that the romance is dead in our marriage but when we walked into our smoky room and saw that there were two beds, we were delighted. "Oh, thank God," we muttered simultaneously. We'd spent so many hours in the car together that we just wanted to sleep in a bed without another human in it. And so we did. It was weird to have ashtrays everywhere. I felt like I was on Mad Men for a second there (the general decor also made me feel like I'd slipped back in time a few decades).

The next morning, we got up and hit the road. We missed the complimentary continental breakfast (whatever that might have been) and decided we'd get some food at a rest stop later on. Stupidly, I took some medication that does require food to be taken with it. "It'll be fine," I told myself.

It wasn't fine. By the time I found some food, the damage was done. I spent the next five hours slumped over in the passenger seat, clutching my abdomen, while my husband drove through torrential rain to get us to my sister's house in Virginia. I felt somewhat better by the time we arrived, fortunately. Lesson learned. Take your meds with food, kids.

I'd like to say that spending time with my extended family was the best part of my vacation, but if I'm being very honest, the best part of my vacation was this: my brother-in-law got me and my sister tickets to see Erasure at the Warner Theatre. I've been a fan of Erasure for 32 years. I've asked Alexa to play Erasure so many times that she's probably planning an intervention of some sort. I make no apologies about being a fan. Seriously, I had the time of my life. My sister booked an Uber because of the distance and the still-pouring rain. Once we arrived, we grabbed a couple of over-priced drinks and took our seats, which were AMAZING. I think we were in row H, just to give you an idea. The opening act was just finishing up. Before long, Andy Bell, Vince Clarke, and two back-up singers took the stage. I was grinning so hard my cheeks started to hurt. I sang along to every song I knew. When they played my favorite Erasure song, " Sometimes," I thought I might pass out. "It's not the way you lead me by the hand into the bedroom!"  I'm happy to report that Vince Clarke is as much of a synth genius as ever and that Andy Bell is just as over-the-top as ever. Andy kept shedding clothing and I wondered if he might be naked by the end.

The other great thing about this concert is that everyone there seemed legitimately very happy. There was no fear of pissing someone off if you accidentally bumped them. My sister and I went to the restroom and when we came back, "Blue Savannah Song" was playing. A woman was dancing up the aisle towards me and briefly danced with me as I made my way back to my seat. It seemed like most of the attendees were in my age range and it may also have been one of those rare times when I was in the minority as a heterosexual person. I loved every second of that concert and am very grateful to my brother-in-law. My other brothers-in-law need to step up! Ha ha.

In addition to the concert, we also attended a high school production of Hairspray, visited my stepdad and grandma, and spent a day in DC. I was able to score tickets to the new African-American History museum, which is not that easy to do. I had to wake up at 6:30 a.m. and compete with strangers to snag some of the few tickets that are released each day. We also visited the Air & Space Museum, which is my least favorite museum of all, but I took one for the team because that's the kind of self-sacrificing, heroic woman I am. Despite the rain that plagued us for several days, my sister was determined that we tie dye some shirts, which we did. They all turned out great!

On Wednesday the 25th, we headed to the Eastern shore in Maryland to spend a few days in Ocean City. We stayed with my dad and stepmom. My sister and her family followed us out there the next day - they rented a place in Bethany Beach. The beach visit was a lot of fun, too. I attended yoga on the beach a couple of times. We hit the boardwalk and the GoKart tracks, ate Thrasher's fries (the mister even let me add vinegar), and of course spent time at the beach. We celebrated my sister's birthday the night before we left for the long trek home. We arrived home on Monday, my car piled high with dirty, sandy laundry. I actually tried to vacuum out the sand a few days ago but the sand said, "Nah, we're good!" So I guess the sand is permanent.

As for the rest of the summer, we have a few more things planned. The kid heads to choir camp this week. Next weekend, she and I are headed to the state fair. I gently suggested to my other half that he skip the trip this year. We go every year, and every year he looks kinda miserable. The following weekend, the three of us are driving to Minnesota to spend the weekend with friends. On the 21st, I'm flying out to Denver to spend time in the office. This is my first trip to Denver and I'm really looking forward to it. It will be nice to meet my co-workers in person. I'm a little worried that I'll be turned away at the border of Colorado because I don't know how to snowboard and don't look very outdoorsy. I'm hoping to sneak in, though. So, do they issue my legally-sanctioned weed at the airport or do I have to pick it up somewhere? Kidding! I'm kidding!

I'm sure school will start before we know it. The kid is headed into her third and final year of middle school. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but she's excited. You can imagine how I am looking forward to getting her up in the mornings. Of course, I bought her a pair of $60 Van's yesterday so maybe she can use those to sprint to school when she misses the bus.










Sunday, June 3, 2018

D is for . . . Don't Get a D, Dammit

Once our daughter hit middle school and started receiving actual letter grades (instead of the gentler elementary school report card ratings like "meets expectations"), her dad and I shared some expectations with her. Basically, we didn't want to see anything lower than a C. Too much pressure? I don't think so, but I can see how you could make a case for that. In sixth grade (first year of middle school), she had some close calls but managed to complete the school year with A's and B's. Seventh grade has been a much more challenging year.

Apparently, I've now turned into the type of mom who squawks about "unmet potential." And bad decisions. My daughter is very bright. All of her teachers (in elementary and middle school) have assured me that A is 100% capable of doing the work that is assigned to her. What she lacks is . . . oh, what do you call it? Oh yeah - focus. Her grades this year started out great. However, I could tell from the first parent-teacher conference back in the fall that her science teacher was not messing around. She was not swayed by the sheer cuteness of the petite girl with the big curls. Instead, Mrs. F was exasperated by a kid who asked to stay after school to work on extra credit assignments but then ran her mouth with her friends instead. She had little patience for half-completed assignments and the like. You know . . . a lot like the real world?

All year long, I've been riding my daughter about her science grade. She kept assuring me that she'd do some extra credit and improve her grade. Alas, the grade is in and it is final: D+ - which, in my books, is basically a D, which is basically a hair above failure. She current has C's in English and Math as well. Those grades aren't listed as final, but I'm assuming they might be.

I should add that she has lots of good grades on her report card. She's doing well in her electives (like choir), as well as in World Cultures and Spanish. My frustration lies in the fact that the not-so-great grades are in core classes. She has one more year of middle school and then the clock starts ticking with her GPA in high school. Actually, it happens before that because she has signed up to take advanced Algebra next year, as well as a Spanish class that earns high school credit. I don't want to pressure her about college, but five years is not really that far away.

I know she is starting to think about college, though. She's been checking out our state's university system, and making note of which campuses are known to have good music programs. The seventh graders took a "career interest" test back in the fall and not surprisingly, my daughter's potential job titles included: singer, dancer, actor, and - I swear I am not making this up - magician. The seventh graders were split up by career interests and taken on field trips last week. My daughter's group went to a local theater.

I was torn about what to do about her shitty science grade. I decided to do two things: 1. Make her clean her room because it was starting to veer into "the health department will be calling" territory and 2. Make her choose her own consequence for her poor decision-making. After all, she chose not to study for her tests. She chose not to complete her assignments. Those were the decisions that she made. So today she chose her consequence: giving up her computer for a couple weeks. She doesn't need it for homework since this is the last week of school. She mostly only uses the computer to play Roblox while simultaneously watching "Liv and Maddie" reruns on her phone. It's gotten to the point where just hearing a few notes of the theme song sends me into convulsions. "We both know we're better in stereo!"  

So yeah, I've been torn about how to handle this. We set expectations and she didn't fully meet them. What's the right approach? Paying/rewarding for good grades or leveling consequences for disappointing ones? She has one job at this point in her life, which is to be a student. I feel like I would be failing her if I didn't set expectations. At the same time, though, I am immensely proud of my daughter. She's talented and kind and an all-around good person. For all I know, she'd give me a D+ for my parenting skills. I dunno.  :::sigh:::

I am looking forward to the end of the school year so that we can avoid the dreaded morning routine, though. Now that I work from home, I sometimes grab one of the dogs and walk her to the bus stop in the morning. It's nice to have the extra time since I don't have to drive anywhere. Speaking of which, the new job is going pretty well, I think. I've got six weeks under my belt and I'm learning a lot. I sometimes feel like I'm at a movie and everyone else got there before I did. I'm looking at the screen and asking, "Whose car is that? Why did they get pulled over? Is that Gwyneth Paltrow?" I'm not bored, that's for sure.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to inspect a bedroom to make sure that cups filled with fungus and whatnot have been removed.



Thursday, May 3, 2018

Dear 13

Hey Kid,

Happy 13th birthday! You're finally a teenager!

Sometimes I think about the day you were born, after the dust had settled and the nurses had moved you to the nursery. Your dad and I went to the lobby of the hospital to make some calls. When I walked back to the nursery wing, my heart was racing. I had this terrible fear that I wouldn't remember which one was you, that I wouldn't recognize my new daughter. After all, I didn't carry you in my womb and we had only just met. I remember seeing a row of bassinets, each one containing a newly-arrived human. I nervously scanned the row.

But, I knew you right away. I've always known you, baby girl. I know your tender heart and your crazy curls. I know your green eyes and your fear of spiders. I know your infectious laugh and your insistence on pulling doors that clearly say "push." I know you.

I am so very proud of the young woman you are becoming. I love how you treat other people with kindness and compassion. I love how you keep singing, even when you think no one is listening. I love how you understand my quirky sense of humor so thoroughly that you make jokes that slay me on the spot. I love how you still let me hold you. Please know that you will never be too old for that.

We have running jokes, you and I. "You're my favorite," I say.

"I'm your only," you respond.

And you are, of course. My only. My person.

Happy birthday, Goober.

Love, Mom


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Looking Up!

I don't believe that if you do good, good things will happen. Everything is completely accidental and random. Sometimes bad things happen to very good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people. But at least if you try to do good things, then you're spending your time doing something worthwhile. Helen Mirren
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/helen_mirren_534603?src=t_good_things
I don't believe that if you do good, good things will happen. Everything is completely accidental and random. Sometimes bad things happen to very good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people. But at least if you try to do good things, then you're spending your time doing something worthwhile.  - Helen Mirren

I don't believe that if you do good, good things will happen. Everything is completely accidental and random. Sometimes bad things happen to very good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people. But at least if you try to do good things, then you're spending your time doing something worthwhile. Helen Mirren
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/helen_mirren_534603?src=t_good_things
don't believe that if you do good, good things will happen. Everything is completely accidental and random. Sometimes bad things happen to very good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people. But at least if you try to do good things, then you're spending your time doing something worthwhile. Helen Mirren
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/helen_mirren_534603?src=t_good_things
I don't believe that if you do good, good things will happen. Everything is completely accidental and random. Sometimes bad things happen to very good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people. But at least if you try to do good things, then you're spending your time doing something worthwhile. Helen Mirren
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/helen_mirren_534603?src=t_good_things
The last four months or so have certainly been eventful. In December, I had two car accidents in one day. I'm still dealing with some of the effects from that, including the fact that my neck still hurts every time I turn my head to the right. And yes, I went to a doctor about it. She basically said, "Right, but did you schedule your mammogram?" I think I will need to break up with this doctor because she is always more worried about getting me back for other procedures (get dat revenue!) than she is about why I came in to begin with.

My luck got a little worse in late February, when my appendix decided that 48 years together was more than enough. I recovered from that and then lost my job in April.

When I lost my job, I was touched (truly!) by the sheer volume of friends and family who reached out to me. My friend Jennifer sent me some fancy vegan chocolates to console me. Several people checked the job boards at their places of employment and passed my resume around. A former boss did a lot of networking on my behalf.

I reached out to some of my LinkedIn contacts and just happened to connect with the "right" one, the owner of a technology company in Denver. I'd referred a couple of clients to him in the past. It just so happened that he had a position that would be a good fit for my skills and background. We met at a Starbucks last week when he was in town on business. I was really impressed by his charismatic yet easygoing demeanor, as well as his passion for the work his team is doing for clients.

So, it looks like I start on Monday! I'll be working remotely (the owner is sending me a Surface tablet next week). The company isn't set up to have employees in my state so I may have to go the sub-contractor route until that's set up. I never dreamed that my job search would end so quickly. I am beyond grateful. I realize now just how stressful my old job had been. Things were not going well and I felt like I had become a professional apologizer. ("I'm sorry that your site is down. I apologize for the inconvenience . . . ") Now I can look forward to a brighter future and a fresh start. I know it sounds corny but I'm genuinely excited about it.

I've been thinking a lot about luck. I don't know if I really believe in it. I'm also iffy on the phrase "everything happens for a reason." People say it to be reassuring, which I have certainly appreciated. However, when I was younger and suffered four miscarriages, the only way through it was for me to come to an understanding that sometimes terrible things happen for no reason at all. And sometimes, when you least expect it, amazing things happen, too.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Ch-ch-ch-changes

When I was in my very early 20s, I worked for a German-born retired USAF general who owned a small international marketing company. One time, I left work a few minutes early for an appointment. The next day, I saw a note on his desk that he had written to himself: "Claudia left at 4:56 today." He was probably my weirdest employer. He paid me next to nothing and routinely referred to me as his sexetary. But then he would do outlandishly generous things, like taking me to lunch at a fancy restaurant or buying me crystal for my birthday each year. Thanks to him, I actually own a lead crystal ice bucket - not everyone can say they own one of those.

I've had the good fortune to have some very nice employers over the years. For some reason, though, I keep thinking of a scene from one of my favorite movies, The Muppet Christmas Carol. (Hey, I didn't say that I was a sophisticated movie-goer here!) The bookkeeping rats urge Bob Cratchit (AKA Kermit the Frog) to ask Ebenezer Scrooge if they can have some more coal for the fire. Scrooge flies into a rage and asks the rats if they'd like to be "SUDDENLY UNEMPLOYED!" The rats, in turn, break out into a Caribbean-style dance and start chattering about a heat wave.

Why am I thinking about that goofy scene? Well, because (as of yesterday) I am  . . . SUDDENLY UNEMPLOYED. I am still reeling from the shock of it. My emotions were (and are) all over the map: fear, worry, sadness, and stuff I can't even articulate. I mean, I've always had a job. I have been working steadily since I was a teenager. I think the last time I was unemployed was in 1988 when I was a student at Texas A&M, and then a brief period after the mister and I moved to the Midwest in 1995.

My career path has been interesting. I started as an administrative assistant at a local IT company in 1996. Later, I transitioned to the company's web development department and eventually got into project management. In 2010, the web department (which had been spun off as a separate company by that time) was sold to another local IT company that specialized in web hosting and managed services. Fortunately, I was offered a job by the new company and worked there until 2016, when the owner sold the company to a very large IT company. In 2017, the very large IT company sold the web development division to a small marketing agency. Got all that?

I was excited to get into a new field and to learn about content marketing (in addition to continuing to serve the clients that were part of the acquisition). I did everything I was asked to do. I earned two HubSpot certifications. I wrote blogs to support the company's inbound marketing campaigns. I managed web projects. I trained clients. Plus, I liked my boss and my co-workers (I still do, honestly). And then, suddenly, I was sent packing. I can't say that I took it well. I cried all day and I'm pretty sure I still have more tears to shed. It's hard not to take it as a rejection of me as a person instead of simply "we can't afford to pay you anymore."

Of course, I have to be very careful about what I say next. It's very easy for me to go down a path of being very angry. So, I am trying to stay positive, focus on the future, and hope that a great opportunity comes along. Why was I let go? I was told that the decision was purely financial (my salary was not huge, but I'm assuming that I made a bit more than my much-younger co-workers), so I'm trying to take that at face value. I was told that there was nothing I could have done differently and that I didn't do anything wrong. I keep thinking about how I worked with some of the same clients for a decade or more. I have to think that some of them may wonder where I am. I feel bad about that, like I've let them down in some way. 

Just recently I told a friend that after being acquired three times, I sometimes wondered when my luck would run out. I was hired by each company and held onto my job even when others were let go. It's kind of like when my husband hit a deer a few months ago. We live in an area where it happens pretty routinely. His number was just up. It was his turn to mangle a deer. Now, my number is up (not for the deer thing, though, I hope).

We're snowed in (yes, in April - Mother Nature can go suck an egg), so I've been working on my resume and gathering references. One positive thing is that I've managed to build a good network over the past 22 years and am reaching out to people who have offered to help me in my job search. Several have agreed to serve as references. I filed for unemployment this morning (for the first time in my life). As if getting fired isn't enough of a blow to the ol' ego, the unemployment forms just about finished it off. "Were you fired for stealing? Were you fired for drug use?" Geez.

What makes me sad (well, almost as sad as being unemployed) is that it just feels like loyalty doesn't mean anything anymore.  You can check your work emails on nights and weekends. You can beat the drum for the company. You can do everything you've been asked to do and more. But in the end, it won't save your job. And that's a tough lesson to learn.

Telling my daughter that I lost my job was almost as hard as absorbing the news myself. She is a very empathetic kid and I knew it would make her sad to see me down in the dumps. I assured her that it's my job (ouch) to worry about this stuff. I will do my best to make sure that very little changes in her world. I assured her that we'll still have her birthday party as planned. I did her laundry while she was at school yesterday (I normally make her do her own laundry), so that's one little bonus for her. I have more time for her, at least temporarily (I hope).

When I posted a note about my job search on Facebook, my friends were very supportive. According to them, I'm talented and smart and lots of other adjectives, too. You know what? They're right. I may not have tons of confidence when it comes to my appearance. I worry that I'm not a great mom. I certainly have my insecurities. But, I am confident in my ability to do a good job, wherever I land. They say that integrity is what you do when no one is looking. I'd like to think that I have integrity. I'd like to think that I've developed some valuable skills over the years. Plus, there has to be some employer out there who wants to hear my terrible jokes all day long.



Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Middle School Talent Show

My daughter participated in a music gala at her school last night. It was essentially a talent show, with a fundraising component added (raffle, admission, etc.) The show benefited the school's music department.

The kid sang the song "Colorblind" from Glee. Because of time constraints, she was only able to sing one verse. However, she had the opportunity to sing it in its entirety at church a couple weeks ago (see below) and she's sung it for me and her dad about a hundred times, so I think we're all set. She also had a small solo in a number performed by the advanced mixed choir.

I have to say . . . some of the kids really blew me away with their talent. One group of kids performed a step number. It was so much fun to watch. We have a local tribe that's very prominent in our community. Quite a few tribal kids go to my daughter's school. A group of them performed a water song (in the native tongue) and then later they did a smoke dance to a drumming soundtrack. I think I was just extra impressed because I think it takes courage to be in middle school and to proudly wear tribal garb. Middle school is usually more about fitting in than standing out.

One act shattered my heart. The screen came down and the music started. A student named Jocelyn came out and sang a song about her brother. It was a sweet, simple song with lyrics like "I love you to the stars." Meanwhile, on the screen, dozens and dozens of photos of her family flashed by. In each, the focal point was a dark-eyed boy with nasal cannulas sending oxygen into his lungs. He looked happy but there was clearly something wrong, health-wise. I wondered if it might be cystic fibrosis. The photos kept coming and I started to think, "Oh no, I don't think he makes it." Second later, a photo of his headstone appeared. He died in 2017 at the age of 10.

I have no idea how she sang so clearly and beautifully. It's only been a year since she lost her brother. The auditorium, which was packed, was silent. I was crying openly at that point. Oh man, I feel a little weepy just thinking about it now! Brave girl, for sure.

A couple of acts were less memorable, but it was obvious that all of the kids had worked hard. My husband felt compelled to whisper his editorial comments throughout the show but I shushed him because you never know when the kid who just performed has family sitting directly behind you. A band performed an original song. P leaned over and asked, "Do you have aspiriiiiiiiiin?"

After the show, the kids who performed were running around, taking selfies. I spotted one girl, an eighth grader who had performed in the step routine. She has vitiligo, made all the more noticeable because she is African-American. She's lost the pigment on her forearms, neck, and hands. Part of me wanted to grab her and take her aside. I wanted to tell her, "You're beautiful, hold your head up, wear sunblock at all times."

However, she was already holding her head up just fine. I noticed her walking confidently across the cafeteria, three friends following a half-step behind her. She was laughing, calling out to other kids. Later, my daughter told me that the girl is one of the most popular kids in the whole school.

I couldn't help but wish I'd been more like her in middle school. I had the same medical condition (plus a couple others, just for extra fun) and my experience was pretty much the exact opposite. I'm still bearing the mental scars from being told that I was ugly, unpopular, and simply "less than." Geez, I think I'm secretly jealous of an 8th grader! Seriously, though, I hope bullying isn't as bad as it used to be.

The talent show was one of the more memorable evenings I've had in recent memory. Say what you want about "kids today" but you know what? I think the kids are alright.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Because poetry is cheaper than therapy

People tell me all the time, "You're such a great mom!" Memo to those folks: my kid wants to run track at school and I told her that she can do it, but only if she takes the city bus home. I'm pretty sure a great mom would figure out a way to pick her ass up. I sometimes wonder if people believe that an adoptive mom needs extra encouragement. I dunno. I think all moms appreciate hearing that despite all the yelling and all the times we let our children eat doughnuts for dinner . . . we're doing okay.

I haven't been writing a lot of blog posts recently. One reason is that my daughter is getting older (13 in a few weeks!) and I think her privacy is more important now than it was when she was a toddler who pooped her pants on the regular. The other is that I'm finally writing that book that everyone always tells me I should write. I don't know if anything will come of it, but I'm enjoying the challenge.

At my church we have an annual "Poetry Sunday." It's basically just what you think it is - a celebration of poetry. I am a fairly crappy poet. I know I was an English major and all that, but I've never written a lot of poetry. However, I threw together a piece for this year's service and read it to the congregation today. So, here 'tis:

Flutter

Convinced I was carrying a boy, I named him Seth Patrick
Deep brown eyes like his dad, but with my completely reasonable nose
I watched the ultrasound monitor closely, squinting at the foreign images
The room was dark, the paper-covered pillow crinkling beneath my head
The doctor pointed, a tiny flutter. “The heart,” she said, matter-of-factly

Soon, that flickering heartbeat fell silent, my wailing the only sound
We had tried before and would try again, not comprehending the futility
Four tiny spirits tried to break through, each flying away in succession
A cliche, I know, but my arms ached for the infant I would never hold
I gently shook a toy frog in the nursery, a soft chime emanating from its belly

We sat across the desk from the social worker at the adoption agency
“Start with these forms,” she said, sliding them across with a smile
Months were spent with forms, home visits, security checks
I created a photo album about our lives for pregnant women to peruse
I was careful not to make us look too poor, too religious, too anything

“A birthmom wants to meet you!” The social worker was almost breathless
Days later we sat in plastic chairs at the agency, nervous and afraid
Did I have lipstick on my teeth? Did I look like a woman who could care for a baby?
J arrived shortly thereafter, her blue-green eyes and ready smile putting us at ease
“I know your baby will be beautiful,” I remarked, wondering if it was okay to say

I cried at my desk at work when the official word came. We had been chosen
I painted the nursery and confided in the frog with a chime in its belly
Would she change her mind? Would she decide that I wasn’t meant to be a mom after all?
Days clicked by. I stared at my phone around the clock, wondering when labor might begin
The due date passed and an induction was scheduled. The baby was in no hurry

On May third, Patrick and I stood at the foot of J's hospital bed, making small talk
We endeavored to be respectful, lighthearted, not at all presumptuous
At 5, we retreated to the cafeteria for dinner, though we were not hungry
Suddenly, a rush of excitement. “She wants you in the room!” We scurried to the elevator
At 5:56 PM, a pouty-lipped baby girl made her debut, her tiny red fists punching the air

My arms, all at once, stopped aching. The ache, perhaps, had been passed to J
My soaring joy would be forever tied directly to her abject sorrow, and we both knew it
I caught my breath and then called my mom on her recently-acquired cell phone
I tried to keep my voice steady when she answered.
“Mom,” I said. “Would you like to hear about my daughter?”