RIP my sanity

My husband’s boss is a nice guy. I mean, really, he’s a great guy. This is a man who personally called up to check on me (having never met me) after I had a baby. He sent a baby gift, even. He’s taken care of Jonathan (and thus, the rest of us, since we’re now a single-income family) on the professional front, and has always been more than fair and generous to us.

That said, it’s days like today that I want to strangle the man. But really, I think this is to be expected. We are on Day 18 of my husband being gone, and I am losing. my. mind. A quick rundown of all that has happened since Jonathan flew out on May 6:

Russ spiked a fever.
Rocky (our dog) turned into an emo middle schooler (in dog terms, anyway).
The car didn’t want to start, and then – luckily – changed its mind. It was touch-and-go for a bit.
A limb fell out of our tree and damaged our neighbor’s fence (seriously embarrassing).
I missed most of my niece’s graduation having to cart Russ in and out of the auditorium.
Russ stopped pooping. No really. He just quit for about four days.
A particularly nasty experience trying to administer a glycerin suppository on the boy. That’s fun. 😦
103.4 degree fever, followed by a sudden jump to 104.3.
A midnight visit to the ER – Russ’s first ever, and sans Daddy. No bueno.
Russ’s second bout of Hand/Foot/Mouth in the past month.
The car didn’t want to start again. Changed its mind again. Whew.
Every toilet seat in the house is loose and I cannot for the life of me find the tools to fix it.

It’s just been a rough couple of days here at the end. For the first two weeks, I was really doing okay. I mean, I’ve learned to expect (no…assume) absolutely everything will fall apart at some point during Jonathan being gone. I guess perhaps its just Mother Nature’s way of making sure I’m on my game, or maybe a subtle reminder from the Universe that I’m blessed to have someone to do this parenting thing with 98% of the time. That said, as stated above, this last week of waiting for Jonathan to get home kind of leaves me cursing his boss and his company in general. I know it’s not  logical, and I’m only half serious.

Three weeks is too long for trips like this. It would be different if my husband was in the military or something. I think when you marry someone in the service, you have to know and accept what you’re getting yourself into. But Jonathan is a freaking auditor. And he doesn’t even audit books, he audits information systems – which can be accessed remotely from basically anywhere in the world. When Jonathan took this job, nothing was every mentioned about a straight three-week period being out of the COUNTRY. And it’s additionally frustrating because when Jonathan goes on international trips, it is very difficult to get in touch with him on an emergency basis. The company has no “emergency situation” plan for when the families left back in the states need to get in touch, or if something truly terrible happens and the employees need to get home ASAP. They just don’t think it warrants attention.

The other night when I had to take Russ to the hospital, I sent Jonathan an emergency email and he just happened to be sleepless at 1 am and saw it. Otherwise, the whole thing would’ve gone down and he wouldn’t have known until the next morning – at which point he would’ve called me in a panic at 3 am EST, because there’s a five-hour time difference. It’s just very frustrating to do this for three weeks. Parenting is mentally tiring, but physically it’s exhausting and Russ isn’t a light little newborn anymore. He is nearly 28 pounds of energy and opposition, and it’s taking a lot out of me at this point. My friend Grace and I joke that we don’t train to look a certain way or do a certain competition, but rather to keep up with our kids. But at this point, I’m losing steam.

Maybe this seems whiny or like I lack perspective, and if you think that, there’s a little button at the upper right hand corner of this screen that is going to help you out a lot. Turns out, after week three of this crap, I also don’t care if someone thinks I’m being a bi*** about all this. I’m tired. I want my husband back. I am done with this.

On the bright side, at least I’m not in the middle of a cancer scare this time around. As yucky as this travel period has been, it’s nothing like the mental/emotional roller coaster I got stuck on back when he went to Santiago in December. I don’t ever want to do that again.

Maybe P&G will send me some free tissues?

Blame it on the overabundance of TLC and Nick Jr. that always seem to be the narrative soundtrack undercutting the toddler noise in my house. Blame it on the fact that I’m a bit of a “crier” anyways, as my family, husband (God love him), and almost everyone I go to church with can attest. Or just blame it on the fact that with Jonathan traveling I am not sleeping as well and I become that much more of a crier when I’m tired. We could ever blame it on the fact that I’m possibly a bit unhinged by motherhood (as I think we all are, whether we want to admit it or not).

But these P&G “Thank you, Mom” commercials are killing me. I mean, it’s really, really bad. I’m talking every single time one of these suckers comes on and I’m just passing through on the way to go sweep up my fifth pile of cereal or bang my head against a wall or “whatever it is I do all day,” I find myself instead stopping, watching the full commercial, and welling up in tears by the end of it. Whahthecrap, P&G? Seriously!

I long ago overcame this notion that I have to build this incredible Me empire, and do things in my life that would culminate in the posthumous attachment of my name to an overpass or something like that. I mean, that’s great when people do achieve that, don’t get me wrong – I just don’t feel as much pressure in that regard these days. I definitely want to leave some sort of a “legacy,” but I’m really trying to do it in two particular ways: through my children, and through my writing. That is, if I ever finish an actual book. But the reason that all comes to mind is because of this idea that we all have to do something great, and the big question about what really is greatness? What really qualifies? Ultimately, I think we each have to decide that for ourselves.

Back in college, I used to serve as a counselor at a summer camp, and I remember thinking to myself that I was not very good at math and may only be a mediocre writer. I didn’t see myself ever being famous or particularly well known (or liked). But you know what? Seeing those girls smile, feeling ten little sets of arms wrap around me that last day of camp each year, and watching them all grow up (they’re all in college now) – that stuff mattered to me. And that was just what I got from one week out of the year. What would parenthood be like? I knew to expect something momentous, but that’s about all I knew to expect.

Through all the constant shifting between possible career paths, I always knew I wanted to have children and I wanted to really do a good job for them, to really be there and guide them. I wanted to accept them and teach them what real, true love is, and that despite this world being a sometimes ugly and nasty place, I would always be a place of safety and comfort for them. Is that a big goal, a huge aspiration? No, probably not to some people – and that’s fine. I understand. But for me, that’s always been a big goal. I feel like I’m on my way to accomplishing that.

In the case of these P&G commercials, I think a few things: For one, I think this is a brilliantly, flawlessly executed marketing campaign and I have to give credit where it is due. I may not purchase a lot of P&G products these days, but that’s really only because we’re trying to do more natural, chemical-free personal products and cleaning solutions. Before that change, I used a lot of P&G brands like Tide, Pantene, etc. So, to whoever came up with this in their marketing group or whomever they hired out to concoct this campaign, bravo to you. Well played. Now I just want to slap on a red, white, and blue track suit and go run around the neighborhood while chanting “USA! USA!”

Okay, not really – but you get what I mean. I’m definitely looking forward to watching the Olympics again this summer, and perhaps I will indeed pay a bit more attention to the mothers of the athletes, and not just the athletes themselves. Is that because of P&G’s brilliant marketing, or is it because I myself have become a mom since the last Olympics and that just sort of changes your wiring a bit? Could be a bit of both.

Anyhow, in case you haven’t had a good cry today, here’s you go. Let it out, man. Let it out. And yes, it’s the best job in the world.

Totally off topic, Russ turns 20 months old today. Time is flyyyyying…

Excuses, excuses.

Well, let’s just say it: I suck at blogging lately. Oh, I’m writing alright – but that’s over on my private blog space where I manage all the pieces for Cormorant Line. But I figured I’d go ahead and try to get back to some pattern of updating this thing here and there if for no other reason than to let you all (all 17 of you that actually read this thing – God love you) know how it’s coming along and how everything else is coming along. I promise I have not been thrown into a black hole somewhere.

I’m pretty much sure at this point that I cannot be political and creative at the same time. It is stifling. I have nothing more to say about this election. I’m pretty sure (I say that, but watch them prove me wrong) that there is nothing either party can do or say at this point to surprise, shock, or upset me. The bottom line? People are insane. When I am proving to be one of the more level heads in a political spitting match, I don’t really know what to say. Well, other than “Sweet Jesus, help us all.”

In the quest to make Cormorant Line into something that doesn’t entirely suck, I have been talking to a few really awesome people to collect inspiration along the way. Jonathan has, obviously, been a constant source of support. He knows I have more moments of doubting myself than I do of feeling like something is really good, so it goes without saying that he’s been my brainstorming buddy for the whole thing. I might as well plan on giving him editorial credit, that is IF this thing ever is finished.

We’re pretty much decided at this point that this meta-fictional tale is based upon one major conflict (with a couple other minor ones thrown in there): This is a story, half-truth and half-creation, about trying to weed out the truth and the embellishment from other stories. Does that make sense? No? I don’t think so either. But that’s it. It’s shaping up, that’s all I can tell you – a real work-in-progress (or, as one former coworker used to say “A W.I.P,” which makes no sense since the abbreviating acronym actually has more syllables than if you just say it in full – but I digress).

I have to write this thing with family names intact, but I’m toying with names to change them all to. It’s been fun, too, trying to find old family names that I like, that represent something and carry a certain deeply southern, twangy weight to them. I want old names. And this won’t be like a Taylor Swift song. Nobody from my past or present will have to call me up and ask “Which one am I?” You’ll know. One thing that’s shaping up to be challenging is writing some chapters from the perspective of a younger me vs. from the perspective of an older me. Apparently there is a five year old somewhere in there still, because that has been one of my favorite chapters so far. It’s not as easy to taper back the dialogue and strip it down to simple, child-like terms as you would think. But still, a lot of fun. For a short time, it’s like I get to go back and be a kid again, and it has been pretty incredible to enjoy those images, those songs, those sounds and smells all over again. You don’t realize how much recall your brain has the power for until you really get into that head space where you’re simply reliving things in sensory terms and putting them down on paper (or ya know…blog – whatever). That has been very emotional and I’ve gotten teary a few times. Truly, I had a blessed and wonderful childhood. My parents made sure I was always loved. They weren’t perfect, and neither am I – but Lord, I couldn’t have asked for more. Their characters have been a joy to write.

One thing I’m finding is that music really helps me zone in on the feeling I want for a given story. Because these aren’t really chapters at this point, but more like short stories that can stand alone, but that still link together the way a traditional novel would.

“Hysteric (acoustic),” Yeah Yeah Yeahs
“Ansel & Emily Desader,” Blitzen Trapper (err…well…pretty much everything Blitzen Trapper will work)
“Operator,” Jim Croche
“River Man,” Nick Drake

You’d think I was writing a eulogy with such an uplifting list as that, but I promise in the context of what I’m doing, these are a few that really make the goosebumps come up. You know that moment? When you’re tapping into a really good memory and the music is just right and the words are flowing? Goosebumps in that moment. I live for that. I have this whole page attached to the Cormorant Line blog where it’s just sensory triggers. Playlists embedded, photos of people and places, images that evoke some good old nostalgia, etc. It helps get me centered quickly, since about the only time I have to write are the brief waking hours when Russ is napping or has gone to bed for the night. I am so happy I’m married to a man who can sit beside me on the couch, we can both be writing, and it’s okay that we’re not always talking. There’s a love in that silence that is indeed hard to find, and I am blessed beyond measure.

But probably the thing I am both most excited and most terrified about at the moment is this guy named Fred. He’s an older man at our church who was in World War II and arrived at Utah Beach around the same time my grandfather was landing on Omaha Beach. That is incredible to me – that this human struggle, which remains so mysterious to most of us, is a shared vein between these two people. We often forget this, but most of the men from that generation have gone on – we don’t have many of them left. It is vital to our society to get these stories down now, while we still have these great men amongst us. They saw things and experienced things that we simply cannot recreate in our own minds – not accurately, anyway. My grandfather, as I’ve mentioned, died well over a decade before I was born. But I needed this aspect of Cormorant Line to be authentic, and I understand my limitations on the subject. So Fred has agreed to essentially stand in for him, tell me his story, and share any items or pictures he has from that time with me.

I am so nervous about this, I can’t really begin to tell you. We can take interest all day, we can study it as long as we want, but ultimately there is something that happens when a person goes into battle – particularly one of such a dramatic and momentous nature as the Normandy Invasion – that we civilians will never, ever understand. Ever. There’s just a wall there that we can never scale if we haven’t been there in it ourselves. I respect that fact enough to know that I could fully make a fool of myself in this process if I don’t go about it the right way. Which is why I need Fred’s testimony, and why I need as many facts about my grandfather’s experience there as I can get. It’s going to be a real process, that’s for sure. Fred has to bear with me a lot because I get super emotional (like a big idiot, really) about this stuff and often have to take breaks. It’s just overwhelming to think about some of it. These guys really are super heroes. To me, anyway.

So that’s what’s going on! I am really, REALLY going to try to update Angel in the House at least a few times a week from here on out. Really. Until then, y’all have a great week and Happy Mother’s Day!