Monday, April 27, 2009


I'm going to wait until later to really post. Maybe even tomorrow since my outlook on the day has kinda nose-dived a little.

(Think of the part from One Crazy Summer where John Cusack gets his heart broken and the bunnies and flowers in his animation start with a song, but end up blood and guts on the background from sudden machine gun fire.)


I can't find a video clip, so go rent the movie. And then check back again tomorrow if you're looking for something worthwhile.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I told you so, Mom.

As the number of days I have until the ETA dwindles down and the tiny floating baby in the box below starts looking less like it needs a cheeseburger and more like a real baby, the more concerned I get.

Now, I'm past all the "will I be a good parent when there's two of them" thing and I haven't had a nightmare about forgetting the new one in the car or at the park in at least a few weeks. The worry has slowly shifted from my own flashing neon parental impotence to the basic opinion the child will have about me. I'm pretty awesome, in general, but there is always a chance someone out there is going to have a problem. And is it so far off an idea that it might just be him?

A friend and fellow expectant parent recently posted about his distant and somewhat despondent relationship with his family in this narrative spewing so much candidness that I am still reeling over his bravery. It was probably that post and this one by Dooby and the Bean that gave me the courage to finally post something I've been hiding away about my own fears on parenthood and being the child of a disappointed and perpetually put-out mother. Here's where it started:

I thought I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. Maybe I was eight or nine when I realized I didn't have to choose what my mom or dad did as a career, but by then- being an educator seemed like a pretty fair gig and a retired army mechanic/alcoholic wasn't looking all that promising. So much for royal succession.
My mom loved her job as an English teacher and worked hard and long at it over the years and often summers in order to make a home for us and offer me things most single parents couldn't. ( I got a new-to-me car when I turned 16 and had the privilege of going to summer camp six years in a row.)
I just realized I always refer to her as a single parent although she was married through my entire childhood. Let me define single in my own words: divorced from my biological father and married/divorced/married/divorced from my stepfather. And I think there was a marriage before the one to my own dad that she has conveniently omitted from her history whenever telling me stories.
None of the men in her life contributed to the household with much financial gusto and I think my mother preferred it that way. She was smart when making large purchases and kept her things hers and let my stepfather worry about himself when I turned sixteen, moved out of the house and left the embarrassingly teen-aged cliche "him or me" ultimatum in my wake.
My stepfather was a particularly difficult person to live with. He seemed always on disability leave from his contracting jobs and only sometimes mad enough at her to throw dishes after dinner. There was once a broken nose during a family vacation to Lake Whales. I was very young and would probably have believed her lawn chair folding story had I not been up the whole night listening to them fight and toss the cabin furniture around.
After thirteen or more years of sharing our lives with OCD guy, I suppose I was forcing the choice for both of us. It was depressing to watch a strong and independent woman like my mom get up in the middle of dinner to change "the wrong fork" for the "the right fork". Especially for the wrong man.
Life was a little more relaxed after she kicked out my step-dad for good. We had pizza parties a few nights a week and sometimes just ate popcorn for dinner. (Not too much food involving forks...) The fun didn't last. The air turned an ugly gray in the house and it became common practice for my mom to pour herself beer after beer into a coffee mug starting at four o'clock every day as the nights "alone" got harder for her to face.
Soon the quiet turned angry loud and I determined that the choice she made was, in her eyes, a regret. So I counted the days until college started in the arms of my first boyfriend. Chris was abusive,completely obsessive, and easy to hide from the glazed-over eyes of my depressed and single mother.
Moving two hours north to go to college was apparently just the thing my mom needed. She helped me pack my car up and waved, standing barefoot in the driveway with her coffee mug of Pabst and I saw her face wrinkled up in a tearful grimace in my rear-view mirror. My worry made it difficult to be happy leaving her, but I felt free and alive again on the road and out of her sights. "She'll be fine," I remember thinking and I don't remember if I had my fingers crossed on the steering wheel or not.

I decided to stop there and say something before I get to all the "disappointment" I promised in the setup. I have been writing this blog for a while now and have often mentioned it to my mother during our obligatory weekly phone calls. (They're only recently weekly because I keep calling to see if she's had a chance to visit this blog.)
I pitifully try to make it sound like fun and toss in that I post photos of her impossibly cute granddaughter as bait for her to give it a go. She laughs a guilty laugh and then goes on about being computer illiterate and not knowing how "the damn thing" works etc... and I remind her I put a link on her toolbar and she says, "what's the toolbar" and I then I pretend to give up.
If she can figure out how to play a never-ending game of solitare on her 2008 PC and buy an iPod for her boyfriend on ebay, then she can probably figure out how to click a link. (right?)
Maybe I'm insane or just pissed, but I told her that if she didn't spend a few minutes acknowledging my tiny space on the internet, I was going to start writing about her.

Sometimes I don't mean stuff and sometimes I do.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

midnight pretzel-snacking post

It's actually cheating because I was bored enough to go back over my ancient livejournal posts and swipe this one from the goody-bag. It makes me feel happy.

What: Drive Home
Where: VW Passat Wagon
How: In seatbelts, with sunglasses on.
When: 4:30 PM Monday
Who: see below cast
Why: Because I don't live at work
and Nobody else wants to take
Cadence home from school with them.

Cadence: Mommy, I love you. (lovely)

Me: I love you, too Lulu. (Loo-loo is her nickname. it just is.)

Cadence: And I love Daddy and Jed.

Me: They love you, too. Everyone loves you. (truest thing)

Cadence: And I love Raven and Pickles and Boone and the fish, too.

Me: (this is getting boring, but I play along...) Even the smelly pets!?

Cadence: Yes. And I love my grandmas. (she has 3)
And I love Eric and Sarah. (even our next-door-neighbors get a piece)
And I love Mama Judy and Pops. (jed's fam)
And Jenny and Emma and Jeff and Baby Laura. (jed's fam)

Me: (Yawn..) Uh huhhh.

Cadence: And I love big Laura, too. (petite with bangs. you know her. not technically "big".)
And Meghan. (bangs, again. blonde.)
and I love Ketan. (bangs. bangs, but he COULD use a new look)

Me: (note to self: call my friends more)

Cadence: And I love BIG Chris. (technically "big".twenty-feet tall. roughly.)
And I love little Chris with lots of hairs in his beard. (hilarious. as if he were an elf.)

Me: You have lots of love.

Cadence: Yeah.
Can I have a fruit snack when we get home? I love fruit snacks.

You all should be proud to be ranked up there with the My Little Pony-shaped fruit snacks. It's a serious honor.

Anyway. This is how it went. The best five-minute drive home in quite a while.
If you're not on the list.


Maybe next time.

Just remember...I still love you.

And now I think I should try to go to sleep.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lonely day in ma-ma-land.

Have you ever tried to swim in blue jeans? During one of my six summers at a North Florida camp a lifeguard suggested a survival exercise. He instructed the small all-girls advanced swimming class to bring their blue jeans the next day and although we thought he was out of his mind, he was cute and twenty and we were all twelve and well...girls, so we weren't exactly an incredulous audience.

I sat in a line of ten or so girls on the side of the dock on the spring wearing my Bongo blue jeans and Keds sneakers listening to his instructions about using our pants as flotation devices. And on his command, we all stood up, held our noses, and jumped. It was cold. We giggled and squealed and I vividly remember worrying about boogers and how my hair looked (as if the lifeguard wasn't eight years older and wearing a stripe of neon pink Zinc-oxide on down his nose).

I was a heavy bag of cement. And I couldn't move my legs fast enough to keep my head from going under. Nobody close enough to grab onto and nothing to step on for that extra edge up to the surface. It's exactly the same feeling I get when motherhood hands me a crap day.

Because my list of things to do today was excruciatingly mundane, I decided to take a break from the torture of my domestic blues Tuesday to post domestic blues. If I am more often shouting from the rooftops that I love being a mother and ever-loving the ups and downs of parenting my five point five year old daughter and still womb-residing son, well today is the antithesis of that proclamation. Bare with me.

Today I am swimming in blue jeans.

I'm impatient and selfish and hating the simplest of requests. Nothing is good enough for long enough to keep my head out of the cold loneliness and I'm just so tired of kicking my legs I could cry (or drown, if you're still caught up in the metaphor). My daughter even reminded me to smile during lunch.

The reality is as simple as this: I feel like all I am is a mother. I don't feel like a woman or a person even. I am simply the one meant to do what it takes to make other I people I live with safe, healthy, happy. On this day I don't enjoy ironing my husband's shirt. (Okay on NO day do I enjoy ironing my husband's shirts.) I don't enjoy cutting the crusts of a baloney sandwich for my daughter who THOUGHT she might enjoy something other than PBJ for once, but changed her mind as soon as the damn sandwich hit the plate. I'm missing my friends. If they're still my friends. Text messaging and facebook entries don't exactly a friendship keep. I miss Jed before he was my husband. When making him happy was as easy as showing up unexpectedly at his doorstep. Today making everyone happy feels like work. I feel like Rosie the robot today instead of Stephanie. Instead of me.

I'm trying to remember that motherhood is fickle. It's laughing until you pee your pants when an ice cream scoop falls out of its cone onto the car seat on one day and crying until you can't see straight when it happens the next. It's the same thing over and over with a new twist now and then to keep you from absolutely losing your mind.

But today it's hard. Harder.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Chocolate Wisdom

Last night was somewhat of a bummer for me. If my pregnancy hormones have been dormant in the emotional department for the last seven months, they have been saving up for today. Let's just say I showed my Maybelline waterproof what's up and then ate a half dozen of my husband's birthday chocolates to make things right.

To my delight, inside each wrapper of Dove chocolate goodness was a message. Think fortune cookie, but without the Cantonese lesson on the back. What a super ide
a! This is how a few of mine went:

1. Give yourself a break- you deserve it!~
Now this first one had me feeling a little guilty because I had just given my husband "the business" about something insignificant and then went straight for his birthday chocolates. Was this message meant for him? Should I be giving HIM a break? I needed another chocolate.

2. Seek out small indulgences fo
r yourself!~
How about six or seven? Those things are like crack!

3. Believe in and act on your dreams!~
This one had me excited because two nights ago I dreamed that my friend Laura and I went to Europe to watch an international sports game (insert desired sport h
ere) and then got caught stealing peaches out of an Italian orchard and making a narrow escape by driving backwards in her tan Carolla all while I was yelling, "It's drive on the opposite side of the road, NOT BACKWARDS!" There was also raisin rain and hot Italian dudes involved. Truly a delicious combo.

4. Steal 5 minutes for yourself today!~
Alright. So it's nine-thirty and I'm all cry-eyeballed next to JG on the couch watching the Office and laughing the chocolate out of my teeth over pee-filled water balloons and thinking "Does this count?"
Nothing to do in this situation but have another nugget of goodness and mull it over.

*(At this point I think I'm eating chocolates just to find out what my future/fortune/wrapper says.)

5. Give yourself a break- you deserve it!~

Again? Either these chocolates are psychic and pissed at me for pilfering from my truly deserving husband or... this one was truly meant for me.

6. Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die tomorrow!~
Okay, chocolates. You had me there for a while, but now I'm starting to think you just googled some canned inspiration and printed it out on your tiny foil blankets to add some depth to your milk-chocolatey ambrosia. Bravo. It worked.


((and then I did what any emotionally stable
woman would do after consuming 6x the suggested serving of life-inspiring chocolates....I made myself some gold fronts out of wrappers.))

Monday, April 13, 2009

Margarita, por favor.

While cleaning up my desktop tonight I discovered a few things.

1. bulbous, pregnant belly+laptop computer in bed= type-o city and a mean case of carpal tunnel.
2. I have a mysteriously downloaded file named Birth Plan precariously stamped on my desktop.

So as I am dragging and dropping random things into my trendy iTrash icon, and filing things into places they really don't belong just to call myself organized... I click on this Birth Plan template to see if it's iTrash or iNot.

It's just a list of questions and some long blank spaces for my answers that apparently I'm supposed to fill out and give it to a nurse when I get to the hospital so they know my wishes for labor and delivery to try and make the whole experience more comfortable for me.

As if the word comfortable has ever been uttered in a sentence spoken by a woman who has just given birth. Unless she's saying, "I'd be more comfortable if you'd sew the damn thing up and get all these people to stop hovering around my lady parts."

Here are the options I have according to the Florida Hospital Maternity Center:
Managing Pain:
Breathing techniques- Thanks, but no - I've been perfecting my own breathing technique for thirty years now and I'm pretty good at it. No instruction necessary. PASS.

Relaxation techniques- I'll only consider relaxing a part of child birth when they bring you a margarita after it's all over. PASS.

Walking, if possible- So you're saying I have the option to exercise while I'm in labor. PASS. Unless there's a bar down the hall from the maternity department where I can score that margarita.

Warm shower- is it a tequila shower? no? PASS.

Massage- Now this is a good one. I can tell you how many times I've asked my husband to give me a massage in the past seven or so months and it's actually happened.* It rhymes with hero. CHECK. I'll take that massage.

Birth ball- I always see ladies on television shows about labor and delivery trying these out. Slowly rolling. Slowly bouncing. I'd like to try it, but I want a "fresh" ball, if you know what I mean. CHECK.

Music- I actually want my husband's Zune confiscated for the entire process. No more playing bubble breaker while I complain about being uncomfortable. Hear my painnnnn. PASS.

Pain medication- CHECK. Two, please.

Epidural anesthesia- I'll let you know after the pain medication and the margarita.


The following statement best describes how I feel about pain medication:

It goes on with questions about who you'd like attending the birth and supporting you etc. (don't worry, all of your invitations are in the mail...) And any special requests, concerns or fears you have can be written down for review by the nurses.

I barely remember the details about having my daughter five (point five) years ago and I can appreciate the hospital offering options to make the whole ordeal go more according to my own plans. Which, after consideration, I have simplified to the following list:

List for actual birth plan:

1. don't die
2. don't poop

* JG- I'm still convinced you try to give me really bad massages (i.e. pinching my shoulders repeatedly) so I will just stop requesting them. This is a common trick men use to get out of doing stuff they're not into and I am aware of it. I watch reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond, too.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Me as Mom

There's a mom that waits in the lobby of the dance studio my daughter attends every week who has no problem smacking her ten year old son in the face when he misbehaves (and misbehaves is an understatement in this case). The first time I witnessed the punishment I winced. I couldn't help it. I was sitting just feet away and could feel the breeze from her hand blow my hair back before it made contact with the boy's face. *Pop* And the boy laughed. And I was mortified. By the exchange, by my own face turning red with embarrassment, and by my initial thought.... Finally.

I'm not a spanker. My husband is not a spanker because I prefer it that way, but the reality is that the thought crosses my mind more often than my fingers are willing to admit to the keyboard right now. Generally speaking, I live by the rule that I can't very well tell my daughter it's not okay to hurt others if I'm going to turn around and smack her any time she does something stupid. Anyone who has lived with a five year old knows that "something stupid" comes hourly. Unless sugar is involved- and then you can double that count.

I have learned to be content doing the fairly effective talking-through-clenched-teeth method of punishment. Add to that the eyeball squint or eyeballs popping out thing and you have yourself a variety of stupid disasters avoided or corrected. But as the number of candles in my daughter's birthday cakes increase- the efficacy of any combination of non-violent reactions I have in my arsenal decreases. That simple reality worries me.

Hold on.

What I started off writing was an introduction to my post about motherhood. And my small contribution to this project . And here I am blabbering about hypocrisy and eye-bulging anger. Two very prominent facets of parenthood, sure...but not how I want to declare my sentiments on motherhood as a whole.

So. What about motherhood?

1. The other day my husband brought to my attention that any time he asks me what I want to do, I immediately say what I think my five year old would answer. As if my idea of the perfect Sunday isn't sitting on the bench at the playground for an hour and then arguing with my daughter about candy at the Hannah Montana movie?

2. It's sticky hands on clean white shirts and poop smeared on stuff that couldn't even give directions to a bathroom or a changing table. A hundred bad hair days in a row for me and perfectly poised pigtails for her 365 days a year. It's saying "yes" after saying "no" eleven-trillion times just so you can complete an adult thought in your head.

3. It's giving up things like those last few semesters of college. Wild nights with single friends who don't have to be sober enough to find a way home before two. Sex in the living room whenever you want to! It's giving up travel, money, and unadulterated whimsy for million dollar smiles, backyard bubble blowing, fleeting winks of belly laughs and heavenly slices of toddler narcolepsy.

4. Motherhood is poring over news stories about missing children and then crying over the found ones. It's loving everyone's children, even the ones that make your kid look like Gandhi.

5. Motherhood is teetering on the edge of complete happiness most of the time and falling directly into it more frequently than your tired brain can recall when the woman at the grocery counter asks how you are. It's always having candy wrappers in your purse, but rarely ever candy when you really need it- and mostly- it's reveling in the unconditional love you promised yourself you'd never need when you were childless.

I'm not perfect. I have cried myself to sleep feeling guilty about something I said or did to my five year-old or even thought about doing, but held back. There are plenty of things I'll admit were mistakes I've made as a parent.

All I can say is I do my best at any given time. And it seems to be good enough for her.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

And now I review movies.

If you're not fond of crying and feeling like an idiot about it, I don't recommend watching Marley and Me. I had absolutely no desire to go see this little gem at the movie theater and put off watching my husband's downloaded copy until all that was left on the list of downloads were old werewolf movies and a few westerns. (Husband is hitting a ten on the man-scale these days when it comes to television shows and movies. If anyone is clean shaven in it, he doesn't want to watch.)

So. As much as I love a good werewolf flick (and my standards are realllly low for this genre), I decided that two in the afternoon with the little Ladybug darting around in her ballerina costume was probably the wrong time for disembowelment and gratuitous boob shots. Crazy werewolf hippies.

Marley and Me it was. My husband was down, which surprised me (see strict five o'clock shadow rule above) and we settled down for a "safe" movie that wouldn't scare the tutu off anyone flitting about randomly.

If you like the kind of movie that spans the life of a character, i.e. Benjamin Button, Forrest Gump, Gremlins... you may dig M&M. While the incredibly cute dog Marley is the star of the show, you can't miss the lives of Jennifer Anniston and Owen Wilson transforming and maturing in the foreground. There are career moves, real-estate changes, unexpected pregnancies and sickness sprinkled with dog poop and chewed mini-blinds to keep it all funny and easy going.

Until one certain point when my husband and I turned to eachother and said, wow, this isn't funny anymore. And then it started to suck. Because although Jennifer Anniston having post-partum depression or regretting exchanging her career for motherhood isn't enough to bum me out or make me cry, an old sweet dog that used to eat/poop mangoes almost dying like THREE times will totally make me bawl my eyes out. Apparently.

And then, sorry if you haven't seen it, but he friggin dies at the end. While it is no match for Old Yeller or Harrry and the Hendersons, this movie ripped my heart out and made my husband use up like FOUR tissues. (Three westerns, one Frank Miller film, and a Dog the Bounty Hunter marathon later and he is finally back on top of the man-scale again.)

Enter fairy-princess-ballerina who's all like, "What's the matter?" and "Why are you sad?" and then she starts getting worried that the world is coming to an end and we had to tell her that we just saw a sad movie and we're wussies etc. so she wouldn't have to finish off the box of Puffs Plus.

Then we both looked over at old black dog snoring on the end of the couch and started feeling all melancholy and husband crawled down to cuddle her and I started regretting every time I whacked her with the pillow for licking her butt in the middle of the night next to the bed.

Basically, if you enjoy dogs at all you'll cry. If you're one of those people who are pulling for Jennifer Anniston to find true love and have babies before her biological clock crumbles into a pile of Rolex dust, you'll cry, too. Either. Or. I don't care if you think your heart is made out of marble. Marley will break you.

Just a warning.

And here's my 84 year-old dog. She's alive. If you look hard, you can see a little white in her eye. She hated Marley and Me, too.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I surrender

I've never been a big fan of "studio" portraits. While I surely appreciate the little wallet-sized treasures I receive from friends tucked inside holiday cards and family newsletters (really? newsletters?) I'm sorry to say they usually get tossed following a brief week or two on the fridge or on the counter. I'd love to say I am organized and crafty enough to have a scrap book for these little snippets of peoples kids and families and, but I have better things to do.

I can tell you the last time I set foot in a JC Penney was because I had to take my daughter to the bathroom during a marathon mall playground outing during a rain storm. There's a Starbucks strategically placed directly behind the colorful patch of kid safe carpet and candy-coated foam animals at our mall and I find it can be the perfect place to catch up on reading or writing in my notebook during a rainy day. Of course, I'd never go there if Ladybug wasn't with me. That would be weird. Right? Yeah, I thought so.

Okay. So two weeks ago I brushed Ladybug's hair and put her in a kelly green knit dress that's now her very favoritist ever in the world and took her to JCPenney for some portraits. I swallowed my pride and decided that I wasn't going to be the mom that didn't have any weirdo posed pictures of my kid in front of brown or white or foresty painted backgrounds surrounded by a halo of frost. I mean, what was I going to show her prom date?

I have plenty of candid photos that truly just reach out and grab her personality and throw the cute right in your face, but those are no good for humiliation purposes. And besides. It's time all those folks who have sent me their gel-haired, plaid- shirt wearing, fluffily dressed kids holding Easter baskets or baseball gloves know exactly how it feels. I mean. Nobody keeps those, right? Right?

Anyway. I've given in. If not for the memories hazed over and posed and completely overpriced, but for the sheer joy of knowing that somewhere there's a girl from my high school who has some butt-ugly kids. And my pictures are wayyy better than the ones she sent me two years ago for Christmas.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


It's my husband's birthday, so all you get is a mouth-watering eyefull of some bona fide supreme cakes....


Friday, April 3, 2009

I really needed this.

So I guess it's time for me to finish the post(s) about my dad. I keep opening new blog windows in hopes that I'll be inspired by a new found wave of bravery or enlightenment, but the blinking cursor has nothing to offer but a steady pulse counting the thousands of other ideas I have in my head. Ideas that don't require me to sit with a box of tissues at the ready or lead to a marathon session of me digging through shoe boxes of old photos for the one picture where I can see his face as clearly as I can in my head.

Here we go.

My father didn't die when everyone thought he would. I've read stories about friends who thought they were losing a loved-one and then were miraculously spared the certainty death promises long enough to make more memories. To me, getting the call that he was going to "be okay" somehow was different from those stories. There was no orchestra playing triumphant music in the background or family near by me to hug and celebrate with. I hadn't expected the news and didn't have a sigh of relief at the ready or a floodgate of thankful tears holding steady for their cue.

Disappointed, I was not. Elated and relieved, I was not. It was just news. News that meant I had more choices to make, a new road unblocked. I was now free to tell my father the story of my life after he left. To open up my own ears to his life. To mend. Forgive. Forget. Remember. Or I could just not.

I thought so many times about the day in my dorm room when I clenched my eyes and face and fists hoping he wouldn't recognize my voice. Hiding. Like from a stranger. It's what I did. But, I didn't have to hide, really. I never heard his voice after the day in my dorm. My half-sister called me twice to give me updates on his status. The first time things were fine. He didn't walk well after the stroke and was hard to understand when he spoke. I politely declined offers to talk to him on the phone hiding my fears with the "poor reception" excuse. The second time she called, he was being moved to a home after making a pass at her as if she were a nurse. Understandably, it made her uneasy and probably pissed her off royally.

So he was moved to a home near her house. I assumed she visited frequently with her family since I am too selfish to let myself picture him lonesome and ornery eating peas and mashed potatoes from a can. It's what I always imagine nursing homes like. Cold, fluorescing, cafeteria food-serving lonesomeness. With mean nurses.

I went on with my life over the next year or so. I moved in with a musician and quit going to classes at the university after having been put on academic probation for poor grades. I started drinking coffee and made friends with people at rock shows in too dark, too smoky clubs downtown. People were interested in music and poetry and working jobs at restaurants to pay for motor scooters and tickets to see bands. Nobody asked about my parents. Nobody knew I was hiding from a second chance to know my father. And so, eventually, it was like I wasn't. I just let my life go back to how it was before he first fell ill. Pretending I didn't care what he did while he was gone was easier than grabbing him by his collar and shaking him. Or hugging him. So I just forgot again. And the phone was easier to answer as time went on. I didn't worry he'd find me. He didn't.

Because my Aunt Daisy is the favorite of the family, she called to let everyone know when he actually died. Or maybe she's the favorite because she was the only one who would've wanted to do it and who would call you "sugar" and send you a card, too. My boyfriend's band was rehearsing in the garage and I had to close the door to my room and shut myself in the bathroom to hear her molassesy, southern voice clearly. I waited to cry until after we hung up.

I went to the garage and since I still had the phone in my hand, the boyfriend thought he had a call because he put down his guitar and came up into the house, which is something he wouldn't do if I had just come to the door empty-handed. He noticed my tears and patted my back when I told him about Daisy's call. (He was the worst companion I can think of in all my history to be dating at this time in my life.) He insensitively went back to his rehearsal and took me to dinner later, but I'm pretty sure I paid and he talked about an upcoming tour the whole time.

I just skipped over the whole telling someone about my dad time that I think you're supposed to have immediately following the news. That's what they do in the movies. Someone asks, right? And you cry and laugh and tell them stories about catching frogs on the side of his double-wide trailer and smashing your toe in the car door of his Sapporo. And they smile with you or cry and hold your hand and hug you. I missed out on the only good part of losing someone.

My mother arranged for me to fly to DC, where his ashes would be shelved in a niche at Arlington Cemetery. She wrote me a letter to read on the flight, since we have never been great communicators, but she wanted me to know she was grieving as well. Sometimes I wonder how it is I can convey feelings at all, coming from parents who drank their emotions or wrote them down for private reading later.

Before the funeral I was surrounded by the family again. Just like at the hospital, it was wet blue-eyes all weekend. But this time there was relief on everyone's face. And it was easier to talk now that it was all really over. No more fake-outs. The man who had drank his way into and out of all of our lives over and over had finally done what we all had been expecting. Nobody said so, but every sister and brother that showed up was glad it was over. And I was finally granted the wish of knowing who else out there he had hurt and left and forgotten.

My half-sister regretted she couldn't give me any kind of dad memorabilia, but the only thing she had was a pair of striped pajamas he had worn while staying with her. She gave them to my nephew. I was jealous of an eleven year old boy wearing a pair of pajamas. Where was my souvenir? I had been clinging to the few blurry photos and trinkets I saved from random encounters over the years and there was this kid that barely knew my father lounging around in too-big pajamas playing Playstation the night before the funeral. I'm laughing now, but it pissed me off then.

I didn't ask how he got an honored place in Arlington National Cemetery. I knew he was in the army, and had guessed he was a war veteran. My mother never gave me much to go on and I didn't ever ask his family when they called or held reunions he didn't show up to. There were guns and a crisply folded flag. And snow. The whole show was really quite beautiful and touching in a disconnected way. I cried more than my nephew, but less than my aunts and half-sister. A bird pooped on the windshield on the drive away and everyone laughed. We ate lunch at Olive Garden and then I boarded a flight home. I got on with my life. Again. Having lost my father for the third and final time.

I keep thinking I should write about him. Put down what little I have onto paper and see how much I remember. Maybe even call up my relatives and ask them to tell me some stories so I can write those down, too. I'm just afraid of the sadness. Because I know that not all the stories are happy. In between learning how to use a blow-dart gun and eating MRE's out of little brown plastic bags on the back porch, I know there was a lot of drinking and maybe drugs. I know my mother cautioned me never to get into the car with him if he had been drinking out of the paper bag under his seat and that he owed countless relatives money. I know that he smelled like Brut aftershave and Old Spice mixed with auto-grease, but all they found in his motel room the day he had a stroke was an empty bottle of vodka and a government check.

I'm not ready to know what I missed. I'm not even ready to know what I know. I just hope that one day it will be OK to write down everything and eventually read it all without feeling guilty for having remembered it all too late.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Bill Murray Bicycle

Is it just me, or does everyone who is told they shouldn't do something become completely obsessed with that which they are forbidden?

I'm Stephanie and I am not supposed to run, bike or lift stuff over thirty pounds because I'm pregnant. None of those taboos are usually a problem because I generally frown on exercise in general or any type of movement that involves working up a sweat. I'm still living by the southern girl mantra "we don't sweat, we glisten".

I've always hated sweating. So much so, I developed an acute case of hypochondria in elementary school just to get out of participating in PE activities. One day the coach pulled a fast one on me and decided we all needed to learn to square dance. I certainly was feeling like a dolt for sitting on the grass with a pretend hernia while every other second grader in my class peed their pants with glee all spinning their partners and do-see-do-ing. I still haven't square danced to this day. Nor have I had an actual hernia. Fingers crossed on the hernia thing.

Now I'm a grown-up (if by definition alone) and can come and go as I please. I don't have to feign illness to get out of exercising and I don't answer to anyone (although I do a good job making my husband feel like he makes the decisions around here).

But WTF? Suddenly I have people telling me I'm not supposed to ride a bike? Which, like I said, would usually be all hunky-dory and shit, except I really can't stop thinking about riding the damn bike now.

My husband and I bought our bikes before we were married and I can count on one hand the times I've used mine. I'm pretty sure his tires still have the little rubber hairs all over them. We really got geared-up at the idea of the wind in our manes and the open road/sidewalk/rugged trail, but when the first trip ended at a hamburger joint blocks away, I think the reality curtain was officially pulled. We aren't movers and shakers. Or bikers.

I sat in the old lawn chair that leaves little plaid marks on the back of my legs in the center of the garage and stared at my bike this weekend. It hung from a hook on the ceiling and looked back at me smirking.

"Oh, NOW you want to ride me. Now you want the wind in your hair and the bugs in your eyes and teeth. Your butt's getting fatter by the second and you haven't moved farther than the mailbox in weeks and you're really missing me aren't you?"

Shut up bike, I'm not allowed.

"Oh, poor Stephanie is all fat with baby and she's too clumsy to ride on Mr. Swifty anymore, boo hoo." (I don't know why, but his name is Mr. Swifty in this story and his voice is Bill Murray from Caddyshack. )

And I thought to myself, I can't even lift the bike off the hook, let alone mount the damn thing. I had to keep turning my chair out to the sidewalk more to keep from drooling and panting over the idea of just pedaling away down the pavement. Before I knew it, I was seriously considering walking next door to get my neighbor to lift it down for me since I knew my husband would have no part in my plan. I'm pretty sure the guy across the street doesn't have kids and wouldn't know I'm not supposed to be riding. He would do it. GO GO GO, I thought.

But I didn't. I just sat there and sunk deeper into my lawn chair and my pity-pit, moping about the bike. And then I made a mental list of all the stuff I really don't like doing, but would give a right boob to do now that I'm pregnant. And stagnant. Running is one. And bungee jumping. Taking a spinning class at the gym I never go to. Ooh, I'm pretty sure I can't do cheer leading stunts with my five year old right now or go water skiing. I'd even do some bench presses if it didn't mean an actual hernia was involved (or worse).

I really just want to ride my bike. And feel as awesome as this lady does:

Maybe now is a good time to catch up on those square dancing classes.