Day 13: I Cried While Watching Parenthood and I Don’t Even Have PMS

In my ongoing quest to not need a crane to tear the roof off my house to lift me out, I remain committed to my daily (almost daily) workout routines. The weather is getting colder and my hip is acting elderly, so lately workouts have been 45 minutes of the Nike Training App while watching television – don’t judge, it works. I get moving and if I’m entertained, it’s easier for me to block out the fact that there are a stack of cupcake cookbooks on the table by the door and shreds of tug of war dog rope strewn across the floor.

I digress.

Last night, I took a break from watching HGTV during my workout and instead played an episode of Parenthood. I’d watched the first episode of the first season on Sunday afternoon, so it was time for episode two.

I might have cried.

More than once.

I cried for the parents coping with their son’s Aspergers diagnosis.

I got a little misty about the bitchy mom wars (stay at home versus work outside the home moms – my least favorite war. YUCK).

And I cried at the scene where Sarah is interviewing for a job. And then I cried when she didn’t get the job.

Perhaps it is because I’m also a Sarah who is job hunting. Or a single mom. Or because my hair will never look as good as Lauren Graham’s. But when she sat across from the interviewer, eyes welling with tears and almost pleadingly says, “I really want this job,” my heart damn near broke in half for her.

(Perhaps this is why I should stick to HGTV…)

I took my daughters to a local animal shelter the other day and we signed up to be foster dog-parents. It’s kind of cool, actually: you go to the shelter, pick out a dog, take it home for the weekend (they’ll even provide you with dog food). They only ask that you post to the shelter’s social media sites to let potential owners know about the dog – is it good with kids? Other animals? What’s its personality like?

I have no intention of getting another dog right now. I like our dog; he’s a good protector. I can’t afford another dog. I don’t want to spend what little free time I have vacuuming up dog hair from the inevitable black lab the girls would talk me into.

But, we have love to give. I think some of these dog weekends might be okay.

Already the cold weather is bringing me down. Yesterday was the first day this season where Reynaud’s turned my fingers white and made them ache. Got a long few months ahead of me.

It’s a bizarre moment when you see someone in a television show or a movie and that person is battling similar battles as you are. Not that you think you’re a special little snowflake (and by you, I mean me), but the feelings that you feel that isolate you,

i really want this job

and you realize that there’s nothing special about the way you’re feeling. There’s nothing new under the sun. Moms have struggled before you, moms will struggle along side you, and they’ll struggle long after your struggle is over.

You should probably stick to HGTV.

Day 3: Sometimes I forget the internet has opinions

“Life is composed of light and shadows, and we would be untruthful, insincere, and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows.”
– Walt Disney

Last night after I posted, I tweeted the link to my post on Twitter and someone (helloooo to you if you’re reading) tweeted back and said it sounded like “incipient depression.”

I was offended for about two seconds.

And then I remembered, “Oh yeah, Sarah, this is the internet.”

I know that if I write something and I put it out there, y’all are going to have opinions about some of it. In this sense, I’m lucky that I’m not a blogger who has some massive readership. I’ll take a handful of people rolling their eyes disapprovingly at me through their screens versus hundreds, or thousands. When I hit “Publish” I know that I’m opening myself up to that.


There are shadows sometimes. And as our buddy Walt apparently said (according to a pin I saw on Pinterest this morning), pretending otherwise is not sincere.

There are peaks and valleys, shadows and light, hormonal times and less hormonal times. I take each day as it comes – and yes, some are better than others. Today was a little better than yesterday, but still with time change induced meltdowns and some exhaustion and an argument about brushing hair and being told that I am not in charge of everything, the President is in charge of everything (I wonder if I can get Barack Obama to tweet to me that he believes my kid should brush her hair and go to bed on time).

“Emotion is messy, contradictory…and true.”
– Nigella Lawson
(amazingly, as I was writing this post I saw a photograph Lotus had posted on Flickr with this quote as its caption. How appropriately fitting to this topic.)

I’m going to keep on being who I am and I’ll keep on writing about my days, and some days will be better than others, but I’ll be authentic because that matters. Will I love when the internet remarks about my state of mind? Well, probably not. But, you know… it happens. Well, it happened. Once. Let’s not make this a regular thing, y’all.

Being a single parent is hard. Job hunting is hard. Parenthood in general is hard. Life is hard. Not just for me, but for most people. And not all the time and not in all the ways but enough. No one wakes up and says, “Wheee. Job hunting is really fun and it’s great for my self worth and I really enjoy people not seeing the value in the work I do and the skills I bring to the proverbial table.” Most of us, when job hunting, hope to quickly pass through the hunting phase to the happily and gainfully employed phase. And when we don’t, it gets tiring. It wears you down.

That’s…to be expected, y’all.

I do my best to not dwell in negativity in life – because I do truly believe that it’s not good for me.

But sometimes you’ve gotta.

Sometimes it’s good to be upset.

(I’ve never thrown a hammer through a window.

But I’ve wanted to.)

Saying I was offended for two seconds and then writing 500 words about it seems contradictory but it’s actually true. Internet, I ain’t mad atcha. I’m just living life.

Day 2: Even in Australia

Alexander and the Terrible Horrible no good very bad what

Pumpkin woke me up at 7:30 on the first day in a week when I didn’t have to wake up early, on a morning after I stayed up far too late the night before archiving photographs because the warning messages were starting about “Hey girl hey, you have too much stuff on your computer so I’m going to just slow things down for you. Liiiiiiiiiike thiiiiiiiiiiisssss….”

I don’t know where the morning started going off the rails. Pumpkin had prepared my breakfast and left me a sweet note. The breakfast was cold and frankly I wasn’t really hungry – but I ate it anyway.

I started tinkering around the house, chipping away at my to-do list. I found a towel, drenched with bathwater, resting on the carpet in the hallway. Heavy with water and starting to smell of mold. Frustration rose. Who did this? Why? Trudged downstairs slamming a pile of wet towel and wet clothes with me.

Tried to put clothes away, tripped over toys.

Tried to let the water drain out of a two days old bath, the drain refused to cooperate.

A series of little things made me think of all the big things – all of it pointing like big neon arrows to: None of this would be so bad if you had a real job.*

And it’s true, you know, money can’t really buy happiness but it does quiet some of the nagging voices that tell you that you can’t really call a plumber to deal with the tub. And that it’ll be okay if the garbage disposal never really starts working right, you’ll just take out your trash more often. It lets you buy Christmas gifts without having a detailed grand master plan and it allows you to sometimes decide not to try to figure out what to make for dinner and lets you spontaneously tell your kids, “Hey! Let’s go out!”

But it’s not even just that.

A messy house that the kids don’t want to help clean. A dog that has somehow acquired thirty tug of war ropes, all of which have been chewed to shreds, leaving little rope pieces all over your living room. Not being able to fold clothes because the dog steals the socks.

A hormonal and Halloween-induced feeling of fluffiness and no energy to do anything but a jaunt on the treadmill that leaves your hip aching because your gait is dumb and your foot rolls out and it’s making everything hurt.

A kid who says she’s hungry but refuses everything you’ve suggested until you finally make a piece of buttered toast sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, thrust the plate in her direction and say, “JUST EAT THE TOAST!”

Michigan and Michigan State played and I always want Michigan to win if only to quiet the “ha ha sucka you lost” taunts from State fans. Michigan lost.

Preparing a dinner that The Princess refused to eat because, “I was just tolerating grilled chicken before. I don’t really like it.” (I mean, WHAT IS THAT? Tolerating chicken? Can you just give me a break now?)

All of those little things and more. This heaviness. This feeling. This being so tired and exhausted and just wanting the tide to turn and for everything to start going my way.

So Chris, He Who Makes Me So Happy, met me on his way to work to bring me his dog  as an excuse to stop and hug me in the middle of my day. As another reminder – my children are two more – that not everything is bad. That there’s a lot of good stuff. That I am loved. As I type this, his dog is licking his foot clean and the girls are laughing at this display, the weird grooming practice of this dog. This dog who hovers close, assumes the role of little spoon as soon as I lay on the couch.

I am grateful now that the day is almost over. I feel like I’ve been tumbled in the clothes dryer. Beat up, worn down and just exhausted. I am hopeful that tomorrow will be better. It should be.

I wonder sometimes if perhaps it is a mistake lately to post so much of this negativity. Meh. Maybe? Maybe not? I would hate to give the sense that all day every day that I am sad or ungrateful for what is beautiful in my world and focusing only on the negative. I could gloss the picture, surely, and let everyone believe that life was perfect but just as those people who post on Facebook (Fakebook?) all the time about how wonderful everything is, you wouldn’t really believe me if I said that, would you? I’d laugh in my face and call me a liar.

Fact is, some days just…are rough. And sometimes life is rough. And sometimes you have to give in to that. Sometimes you have to cry and curse the bathtubs that don’t drain, the jobs you don’t get, the abundance of leftover chicken, and the football team that beat yours. It’s just… life.


* I feel like I should state for the record: Sometimes I worry that people I work with will read this blog and get all defensive or angry the way I talk about job hunting or “real jobs” but I also figure that every one knows that it wasn’t my choice to transition to part-time. And most people realize that a single mom can’t really get by working 24 hours a week. If they don’t like that this change in circumstances is causing me stress than they are welcome to stop reading. I mean no disrespect: it is what it is. This is a situation I didn’t choose and I am working towards solutions that work for my family.


Thursday Ten: Hand Over Your Reese’s and No One Gets Hurt edition

1. I don’t love Halloween. I do love Halloween candy. I feel vaguely hypocritical that I want nothing to do with the trick or treating part of things, but I basically want all of the chocolate things when my kids get home. It actually works well that their dad likes Halloween – definitely will never be a holiday that we struggle over.

2. I may just go out and buy some candy so that I can make a leftover Halloween candy cake. I made one for the office last year and because I have a deadline tomorrow, I’ve funked my schedule up a bit this week so I’ll be heading in to the office tomorrow. Who doesn’t like when someone brings in AMAZING CAKE?

3. Note to potential future employers: I make excellent baked goods. I also excel at making things with melty cheese. So if you think some day you’ll want a marketing rockstar AND a superb quesadilla, well, you know…call me.

4. One of my favorite things is to visit the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids and get a cappuccino from Simpatico and a gougere from Field and Fire. Well, I’ve started playing in the kitchen to see if I can make my own gougere. This was from the first batch – tasted good, looked funny. My second batch (unpictured)? MUCH better. Prettier and yummier and with more perfect air pockets. I’m pretty proud of myself.
057 | 365

5. I registered last night for the 2014 Avon Walk. In New York City. I have no idea yet if I’ll be able to pull it off — clearly with a walk that far away, there’s expenses involved. At the very least, I’ll be able to raise funds to benefit the cause. Worst case scenario, I raise money and don’t end up walking. It’d be a shame for me BUT I could live with that because the organization still benefits. Still, I hope that life settles and that I’ll be walking in New York City next October. We’ll see, eh?

6. The Princess made her own Halloween costume after scoping things out on Pinterest. Pumpkin is some weird store bought spider lady thing. It makes me remember I’ve been blogging for eight years, as I started right around the Halloween when Pumpkin was a baby, and their names here are what their costumes were that year.

7. “What Does the Fox Say” is pretty annoying.

8. Also? That YouTube video of the baby crying at his mom’s voice? I don’t like that either. I may be a little bit dead inside.

9. Oh, I’m tired. Stupid “insomnia catching up with me” tired.

10. Quick: What’s the first word that comes to your mind? (Leave it in the comments. If for no other reason than so I don’t feel like I’m talking to myself.)

Yeah, well, at least I don’t live in my mom’s basement and sleep on Star Wars sheets.

I have been talking to myself in the car for the past week. I have been making amazing points and delivering riveting anecdotes and I have been issuing compelling statements.

About the benefits of blogging.

As the web-type-person in my office, I deal with those who blog – by “deal with,” I mean I’m editing content and I’m helping craft catchy headlines and I’m encouraging them and sometimes prompting with post ideas.

Like it’s my mother-fluffing-job.

Because it is.

For 24 hours a week, anyway.

I’ve been a blogger for eight years – I’ve been on Twitter for nearly that long – you’d think talking to a room full of people who are still pretty fresh-faced about the whole endeavor would be a piece of cake.

Yeah, well.

The thing is, sometimes I think the reason why I love blogging and social media so much is because like mannnnnny people who love the internet, I am just a wee bit introverted. I don’t love the spotlight. All eyes on me? NO THANKS.

I have a bit of social ineptitude that does prefer to just quietly crank out amazing work and instead of being in your face with a “look at me! look at me!” attitude, well, I’d rather hang back at the wall. With my iPhone in one hand. Probably tweeting, “look at me! look at me!”

My personality is part of what makes me good at what I do.

I knew that material better than anyone in that room.

I practiced my presentation so many times that I’m sure that if my dog could talk, he could recite the benefits of blogging and having an online presence. I was prepared and even if I hadn’t rehearsed, I know my stuff.

I let someone’s lack of faith in me shake me. I let someone else make me feel like I wasn’t capable of talking about the work that I do, the work that I’ve done. I’m frustrated by that – the way I let it shake me, the way I lost faith in my ability to somehow overcome my inevitable nerves (I may know what I’m talking about but I’d still prefer smaller groups and intimate conversations than presenting to large groups) and give a kick ass presentation.

I gave someone the power to make me feel like I might fail.

I made myself miserable about it for several days, constantly practicing, constantly worrying about what might go wrong.

I got so used to the car practicing that tonight, HOURS after I delivered my presentation, I found myself talking to myself again – what I should have or could have said. Or what I will say if I have a follow up presentation.

I might be a socially awkward, introverted blogger, but I’m competent and smart. I’m capable and I’m personable. I know my stuff. And today, I showed it.

{huge sigh of relief}


Waiting at the unemployment office

I once saw an episode of Oprah – it was awhile back, of course, because Oprah was still on the air and not just on her ridiculous Oprah channel. Denzel Washington was on her show that day, I think he was probably promoting John Q (a not altogether awful movie, if I’m remembering correctly). ANYWAY, somehow in this segment with Denzel, he shared his philosophy:

You have to do the things you have to do so you can do the things you want to do.

I think about that often, how there are things that just have to come first, priorities that need to shift to get in line with the way life goes.

And then I think to myself, Whoa, self. You give Denzel a LOT of head space.

I went back to the unemployment office today. I didn’t want to, for sure, but I had to. I’ve worked hard since I was 16 years old. I’ve always had a job. I’ve always paid taxes and contributed to society and all that whoosy-whatsit, and now that I’m not working full time, as much as I would love to not need the unemployment check, I kinda do.

It’s taken me awhile to reconcile myself to that – because frankly, not being able to do everything on my own without help is kind of pissing me off.

I didn’t want to go back. Thursday was really difficult for me and I wasn’t the least bit eager to experience that again. I didn’t want to cry in public. I didn’t want to be angry. I didn’t want to spend my whole day in that dismal office.

I gathered my paperwork. Check stubs. A People magazines. Two books. Two granola bars and a plastic sandwich bag of popcorn. It could be a long day, didn’t want to get hangry. A notebook and pen, because my god, if I’m going to sit there I am going to take notes.

I arrived just moments after the office opened. The parking lot was already full and when I entered the doors I was immediately faced with full house.

I was ticket number 537.

A glance at the wall showed that they were on 471. 66 people in front of me today.

One of the workers was talking as I walked in. They had yet to start assisting claimants and were going over basics – computers over here and here to use, if you’re dropping off a form go here, you can use these phones. La la la. The room smelled like stale second hand smoke. Every chair was full but no lawn chairs yet. Nearly all of us seemed to be wearing dark colors. Were we trying to fade into our surroundings or just taking on the grim nature of the occasion with our wardrobe choices.

8:30 a.m.: The first lawn chair made an appearance.

There’s an obnoxious loop of information on the television. One segment had a little boy in a suit singing in this exaggerated falsetto. I glanced around the room for a moment, trying to place the source of this noise, before realizing it was the television. Off an on for hours, that kid. Shrieking into the room. Who the hell thought that was a good idea?

A man holding a paper cup of McDonald’s coffee circled the perimeter of the room, his pointer finger buried into his ear up to its first knuckle, rooting rooting. Ear muffs perched on the top of his head. Root, twist, dig in the ear with the finger.

When I was a kid, I loved the story Harriet the Spy – but as an adult, taking notes in the unemployment office, well… I felt like an oddity. I’d alternate: write, read my books, look at the clock, look what number they were on, but infrequently I’d look at my phone. It was my lifeline, that phone, and who knows how long I’d be there. The thought of sitting in the unemployment office with a dead phone somehow seemed even worse than just being there in the first place.

9 a.m.: 489. Shoot me. Faster than Thursday but still gruesome as hell.

“I’ve had two mochas; my toes are curling up. I’m gonna have to go home to have a beer to calm down.” The guy next to me was only without a job for two weeks and out of nowhere he’s telling me his story. Do I want to know his story? It’s far too easy to shift into my mode of not allowing strangers to just engage in conversation, but it seems rude, and we’re all kind of in the same boat. He was fired and said he shouldn’t have been. He found new work quickly but due to an error, never received his unemployment check. “I’m the sole breadwinner, ” he said. “My wife just started working a few days a week, but I just need the check for two weeks and then I hope to never come back here again.”

9:22 a.m.: 497.

Thirsty and hungry and the walls prominently feature signs that say food is prohibited. I began regretting that I’d said I’d go to work after settling things at unemployment because I was already weary and tired, and fantasizing about a really cold Coke Zero.

I found that I spent a lot of time in the unemployment office looking at the clock. This constant need to know the time is something I also experience on airplanes, and so here on land, it surprised me. I started wondering if anyone behind me was taking notes: Woman with brown hair, repeatedly looking at clock.

9:50 a.m.: 499. Shoot me. Shoot me. Shoot me. I’m not patient. This sucks. I feel resigned to the experience. Today is the day and I’m here until it’s done. Even if inside it’s killing me a little. Fine. A lot.

In two hours they saw 30 people. There were six people assisting claimants. 15 per hour? Darn near a half hour per person? The inefficiency of this office is mind boggling. I thought of busy emergency rooms and how patients are triaged based upon urgency – heart attacks before paper cuts. The Social Security Administration offices assist people based on the nature of their visit. Schedule appointments. Prioritize. SOMETHING. The rampant inefficiency was explained by a worker who stood before us and told us that the slow times we were experiencing were due to their new computer system.

“Didn’t y’all beta test this mess?” is what I want to ask, but don’t.Way to roll out a system that your employees can’t figure out.

That’s the government for ya, I suppose.

It’s 10:52. Nearly three hours gone. Coffee would be so good now.

A man and his daughter. A woman putting on makeup  while her son flipped through a book. A man bouncing a screaming baby. I can’t imagine having to bring my children here. Grateful I had a choice.

At 11, they started handing out Call Back slips. Already, people arriving at 11 or after had no guarantee of being seen today. Claimants could opt to leave, filling out a form detailing their problem and someone from the state would call them back with a solution to their problem. I don’t understand why they don’t do that for everyone. Seems more efficient.

When they called number 527, a man with long dreadlocks called out, “Bingo!” and the entire room erupted in giggles. Grateful for a laugh. Grateful that there were just ten more people ahead of me.

11:55 a.m.: 530

I was assisted by a friendly gentleman who never could tell me what the problem was only that he was fixing it, there now it’s fixed. He was kind and when I said, “I don’t think I’d want your job!” he argued back, “But this job makes so much sense. I love numbers.” I would have been annoyed if I was him and if my day had been go go go go go since the second I walked in the door. Then again, I don’t have a ton of patience. And people who are frustrated or upset would wear on me after awhile, I think.

When he told me the benefit amount, I asked, “Are you sure?” I wanted to be outraged. I wanted to be angry. It was considerably less than the determination they’d sent by mail months ago, months ago when they hadn’t done anything and nothing happened. This lesser amount was a shock. A shock, but still? It will help. Though I’ve never been one to be cavalier where money is concerned, it is still humbling to be so grateful for the mere fact that it lightens my load by that much.

I walked out the door five hours to the minute after I walked in.

I hope to never have to go back.

The state of the state and hours I don’t have

I walked in around 10 a.m. The parking lot was full and there were people milling around outside the doors. A gentleman was in my path, puffing on a cigarette and I was frustrated. You can’t just not smoke for the time it takes in here? I thought. Ridiculous. I veered around him, opened the doors, and was confronted with reality.

The reality of the Unemployment Office.

More accurately, it was (and is) what is called a Problem Resolution Office. Michigan has offices located all over the place for basic things – classes on how to update your resume, job postings, computers for you to look for employment or file your claims. These offices are plenty and located pretty centrally to most places. I have one not too far from me. These offices, however, cannot answer any of your questions. At all. In fact, they’re pretty straight up about it.

When I was told in January that my job was going to eventually be reduced to part time, Human Resources was adamant about letting me know that YES! Your! Part! Time! Status! Qualifies! You! For! Partial! Unemployment!

I’d rather have a full time job, but you know, part time unemployment, that’d help.

And I filed immediately when my job finally made the transition to part time.

It’s a tedious process, and I get the necessity of that. You can open your claim online or on the phone. You can do so in person. They make a determination (Yep! You’re Eligible! or HaHaHa Sucker Too Bad So Sad!).

I did this.

They made their determination.

I jumped through all the hoops – and there are a great many hoops. You have to call or report online every two weeks to answer a series of questions. You have to actively seek employment and report that as well.

I did everything I was supposed to do, and yet…

Nothing. Nothing ever came.

And at first, I thought to myself that even just the mere act of filing would make the cosmos smile upon me and a great job would be sent my way. I’d file and then get a job and be like, “NEVER MIND!”

But that’s not happening. At least not in a time frame that is suitable for real life. And real wallets.

I walked in to the office and it was filled with people. Before walking in, I had been trying to gauge how awful the experience would be: Would it be more or less painful than Secretary of State?

Spoiler alert: SO MUCH WORSE

There were rows and rows of chairs in this plain box of a room. Nearly every chair was occupied. People lined the walls of the room, and people sat at computers spaced on either side of the room. There was a line of several stations were people from the office were assisting customers.

I grabbed a number from the ticket machine.

I was number 613.

I stood on the wall for awhile, just gazing around the room, at the people. I saw new people go up to the desk and realized I had never heard the numbers called. I approached the security guard. “How will I know what number they’re calling?” I asked. “Are they posted somewhere?”

He gestured to the wall behind me. They were on number 452.

There were 161 people ahead of me.

Chew on that, if you will.


I started watching the numbers on the wall, how they wouldn’t move. There had to be at least five workers assisting people at those stations and yet those numbers NEVER. MOVED.

He Who Makes Me So Happy (I should probably just start referring to him by name, right?) had dropped me off at the office to get some coffee while I waited, and so he joined me shortly, as I stood watching the numbers that didn’t move and the people that didn’t leave their seats.

There was a woman behind us who had brought her own lawn chair. And all I could think was, She KNEW she was in for the long haul today.

I knew it’d be busy but I was amazed at how busy. How long it took. How nothing happened.

Women with babies. A man asleep at the computer. People rotating in and out to go stand outside and smoke. The smoke break made sense to me then – that guy had probably been there for hours.

The longer I stood there, the more the experience made me angry. And the angrier I got, the sadder I felt.

I hate this process, I hate this system. I hate the economy. I hate how this office is run. I hate these drab walls and I hate this industrial carpeting. I hate these plastic chairs and I hate the humiliation.

And it’s humiliating.

None of us asked for these circumstances, I’m sure. The last thing I want is to need the unemployment check, but… I’m a single mom raising two kids and yes, I need that check. I want to go to a job every day, and work my ass off and be impressive and do work that I love, that I’m passionate about and that makes a positive contribution. I’m trying to get back to that point.

In the meantime, this is what I need to do.

The longer I stood there, the more I wanted to cry. And the fact that I wanted to cry made me mad, all of those other people bravely sitting there in their plastic chairs, on the floor (ew…), on their lawn chairs, whatever – just standing there, waiting. No one else looked like they were going to cry. What’s my problem?

We left, making sure my 613 ticket was tucked in my pocket so we could come back later.

In the thirty to forty minutes I was there, they only got through FIVE claimants. FIVE.

There were still over 150 people to be seen before it’d be my turn.

He took me for a drive in the country. Quiet roads lined with trees with changing leaves. A fox darting along the road racing ahead and then slipping into a cornfield. A lake and a park that was closed. A battered house with a wooden swing hanging from rope from a tall strong tree in the yard. A bright shining sun on a beautiful day.

I could catch my breath and see beauty and feel those feelings – the fear, the anger, the frustration – settle for a moment.

Here’s the thing.

The system is screwed. That there are THIS MANY PEOPLE needing problem resolution is a problem. This was just one day of one week of one month of one year. And if I were to walk in the doors tomorrow, I’m sure I’d find the same scene with different players.

That’s a problem.

Offices all over the state, but only a select few that can answer your questions? THAT is a problem. Why is it that I can’t visit the office near my home and get answers to my questions? Why is it I can’t just EMAIL someone?

We returned an hour later, and I got out to see what number they were on. The group of men standing by the door looked me up and down so I walked faster to peek inside the building to find that they were only on number 479. There were still over 100 people ahead of me. I gave my number ticket to someone else on the way out and left, resigned to having to come back another day, armed with books, more patience and snacks.

I feel helpless. I feel helpless and angry and frustrated. This is an ugly and difficult thing to need to do, and yet… they make it harder. Everything from the inconvenience of the office, the drab and depressing decor, the long and impossible wait times – all of it makes this time even more demoralizing, more trying.

I don’t know anyone else’s stories. I don’t know their situations. I am sure we are all different in a lot of ways, but in this way we are similar. All of us just waiting.


There Aren’t Enough Lazy Sunday Mornings

I've missed lazy Sunday mornings

Thirty minutes ago, I insisted that an exhausted and overwhelmed Princess stay up and finish her homework, not go to bed earlier as she wanted. As I listened to myself, I thought, “How has this become real life?” How long ago was it that I would tell me children at day end that it was time for bed, RIGHT THIS INSTANT, no more goofing off. And now? I know you want to go to bed but you have work to do, so you need to stay up fifteen more minutes to see what progress you can make.

I felt awful.

But? She buckled down, calmed down and got the work done.

There is so much of this operating in stress mode lately – and not just when it comes to homework. I’ve been doing it too.

I thought to myself numerous times today, There is only so long I can keep functioning this way. I’m barely functioning as it is. I’m tired, I’m frustrated, I’m scared. I’m working part time when I want to be working full time. Expenses at this time of year are growing (oh, competitive gymnastic season – both a joy and an expensive pain in my ass). Dealing with stuff and people I don’t want to deal with and keeping a smile pasted on is starting to make me feel as though giant hands are squeezing the air out of my body.

I don’t want to be angry. I just want to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep reaching mini milestones that tell me everything will be okay. Sometimes I need to turn my brain off. Sometimes I need to surrender to the fact that I’m loved and that I’m cared about and that the other details – however big they feel, however big they are – will somehow find a way of working out. If they don’t, I’m not alone.

I don’t do well with that, with the surrender, with letting go.

I’ve been operating in stress mode for so long that it’s hard sometimes to abandon it, even temporarily.

This weekend I did.

And Sunday morning, there was toast. Lots of glorious toast made from delicious bread. So much toast. Cups of coffee. Sitting on the couch with he who makes me so very happy with bellies full of toast.

I don’t have nearly enough moments like that – moments where I can give in to the knowledge that I’m really working hard to do what I can to make this life good for my daughters and myself. There are a lot of moments of thought, of work, of making positive change in my life. A lot of that. Not nearly enough moments with a plate of toast and company on a comfy sofa on a Sunday morning.

Sometimes Introspection is Just a Gigantic Pain in the Ass

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When I was a kid, my dad used to make my lunches for the week on Sunday. He’d make five peanut butter on sourdough sandwiches and wrap them in aluminum foil and put them in the freezer. Each morning, he’d pack one of the sandwiches in my lunch, and by the time lunch time rolled around my sandwiches usually were still frozen.

I can still taste it on my tongue, somehow, these frozen sandwiches.

I have no idea what made me think of these sandwiches today because it’s been years since I’ve had one just so, but it made me want to revisit that taste of frozen bread.

It… was a tough day.

Though last week was the first week of part time work, it didn’t feel like it because everyone’s week was shortened by the holiday. This week, it’s just me. And then someone from HR came to talk to me about COBRA (The short answer to that little question is: Uh, no. COBRA, why you gotta be so expensive?). And then we discussed the work week. I’d assumed I’d just work my hours, but two fewer days. Uh, nope. So then suddenly I needed to cut 90 minutes out of my day in order to not go over my number of hours this week (I suppose I could have just gone in late tomorrow. Really late). It’s just a bizarre thing, cutting my week short by another three hours when it’s already been cut by ten.

And then I started doing math.

It was with that heavy feeling of being overwhelmed by things outside of my control that I grabbed my camera bag and stepped into the heavy, humid Grand Rapids air this afternoon to take an hour long lunch, with no real plans and no real destination. It’s a weird feeling. I typically take short lunches if I take a lunch at all, and when I hurried out of the office today it was with thoughts of budgets and COBRA and “these circumstances really effing suck.”

Somehow I ended up thinking of frozen sandwiches.

Believe me when i say it was a welcome relief from thinking of numbers.

I have never really minded being in my head like I am – usually it’s fine. Being thinky is as much a part of who I am as my dimples, my big feet, my tendency to laugh at inappropriate moments. When times are stressful though, the introspection gets to be TOO much. Alright already, I want to tell my brain. That’s enough outta you. You’re done. Shhhhhh.

I looked up and I saw that garbage can. Tagged with the “Seek Joy” tag I’ve been seeing in places around Grand Rapids. Out of nowhere, seemingly. I smiled. Snapped some pictures. Grabbed my camera bag and made my way back to the office through the thick mid-day air.

At my desk, shirt sweat damp, brain slightly slowed, a bit more ready to face my afternoon. To work through the noise. To keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Today is my Thursday. Or is it my Wednesday? I don’t know, but tomorrow is somehow my Friday and I hope that it’s easier. I hope it keeps getting easier.

Thursday Ten: On the Fourth Edition

1. Happy Fourth of July (Apparently, AP Style rules say you capitalize all that stuff – if you care about AP, you should be super happy). Here’s hoping your day includes perfect weather, s’mores, a great view of fireworks, and a day off from work.

2. Realized earlier in the week that we missed our dog’s Puppiversary. Three years ago this week, Sir Pups-A-Lot* was welcomed into our home with open arms (and wallet). Can’t believe how the time has flown. Also, I’m pretty sure I’d never get another puppy but I think an awful lot these days about getting another dog. That’s not a great move either right now.

3. I really have a hard time with this summer parenting time schedule that the ex and I have with our girls because they’re with their dad for a week right now and I miss them terribly. They’ll be home Friday and with me for a week. It’s really really tough. When I was a kid and shuttling back and forth between my mom and dad’s houses, I never really thought about how it impacted them emotionally. Me? I miss my people.

4. The first week of part time work during a holiday week in which it is a short week for everyone makes it a bit easier to kind of ease into that new schedule but even so… meh. It’s not ideal. But, you know, I’m trying to stay positive and keep my eyes open to opportunities and solutions because yeah, otherwise I’ll stress myself out and NO ONE wants that.

5. Finally made it to the beach last weekend and had a terrific time. Didn’t stay long – long enough to feel the warmth of the sun and the sand between my toes and the cool rush of the water as the waves crashed in on our feet. Left before sunburn and brought some of the beach home with me. Hello, lovely.
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6. Had the opportunity to shoot family portraits for a friend and her extended family last weekend – and had a blast. I sure do love capturing those candid moments – I know the tendency is to want those posed shots, but I’m really aiming to focus on more of a life-style, photo-journalistic approach to my business. Why? Because anyone can line people up and make them say “cheese” (Okay, not just anyone, but y’all know what I mean) but I think my ability to capture those real moments in the way that I do sets me apart. Now, to find a way to focus on that, find my target client and work on it. That might help item #4 up there.

7. That I still remember birthdays of people I went to high school with probably contributes to why I use the calculator on my phone to calculate tips. There’s no room for math brain; it’s filled with birthdays.

8. Sometimes desperation triggers creativity. Like when I needed to re-do my toenail polish and couldn’t find any cotton balls nor could I find any nail polish remover wipes. I, uh… used a pantiliner soaked in nail polish remover. It worked…okay. But I would only recommend it in cases of extreme desperation because it’s surely not cost effective and it will make you feel ridiculous.

9. I fought the urge to buy the super big box of Cheez Its at Costco and I’m telling you this because yes, I think y’all should pat me on the back for that because THE BIG BOX OF CHEEZ ITS OMG. (I totally have I-didn’t-buy-it-remorse).

10. I’m still working on my 40 before 40 list and even though I haven’t completed my list I almost did the first thing on the list the other day. I want to buy a lemon tree. Yes, I want a lemon tree SO BADLY that it’s on my 40 before 40 list. I saw some at our local greenhouse-type place. Indoor lemon trees for about $40. While part of me should probably not go spending money frivolously (refer to pesky item #4 again… Grrrrrr…), I can’t help but think how happy that darn tree would make me. Tune in next week to see if I caved and went back.

*not his real name but how cool would that have been?