Things That I Am Sorry For

Yesterday I woke up with a head cold that I am fairly certain is trying to kill me. In fact, even though I had a quasi-job interview (that's a sort-of interview for a sort-of job) and ran a zillion errands in town, the only thing I really remember was the 15 minute nap I took in my car when I was waiting for a lady to buy some of my too-many pairs of shoes.

Being in a perpetual, possibly fever-induced fog like this has given me time to think about some of the things that I am (perhaps) doing wrong these days. The first one that stuck out to me like an arrow point right between my eyes was sending Aspen and the other girls to school mercilessly with this same head cold that has rendered me Absolutely Dysfunctional. What kind of a cruel person, lacking all empathy and understanding, would do that. Where were the Episodes of Five Mile Creek and the popsicles and hot tea and chicken soup? I am a jerk mother. That's just all there is to it. So I am sorry, kids. That I made you suffer through math and PE and even running hills in volleyball, feeling like a Yeti swallowed your entire head. I was wrong.

Also, my sister pointed out to me that I should probably quit writing blogs and write a book, after I pointed out to her that people keep thinking I am writing about them when I am not. If I write something negative or remotely connotative thereof, I know of at least Three People within my inner circle who will automatically assume it is about them and tell their henchmen so. Conversely, if it is shining praise and uber-niceties, an overlapping circle of three or four will assume that it is about them and that it is reverse-flattery, written with a stinging slap of self righteous judgment, which isn't usually true. I will say, to these 5-7 individuals, whom I May or May not be writing to/about, that when I am having a particularly hard time Processing Certain Things, I will write an oppositional view for myself. One about All of The Good Things that perhaps I am not feeling at the moment. I will write gratitude and appreciation to displace my frustration sometimes. Which I believe is a healthy way to deal with a bad attitude in myself. So to my fellow ego-centric readers out there: Sure, I am writing about you: IF THE SHOE FITS. If not, maybe I am ranting delusions on a fever ridden couch. But long story short, my intent is never to hurt or wound or insult or defame. I love you all. Even ex husbands. Mostly.

Another thing that I am sorry for is overcooking. Not in the sense of burning food. But in the sense of Way Too Many Leftovers and How Have I Still Not Figured Out That Three Little Girls Eat Nothing. I have thrown away so. much. food. lately. And it kills me. Every noodle and every leave of lettuce. I have to learn to cook for three people, because on average, that's what I am feeding. Or less. These teenage girls eat like birds and I am not sure that I have ever learned how to cook for less than 10 people. It's awful. The waste. Not to mention that anything I make industriously from scratch they turn their nose up at. If I kept a box of Lucky Charms on the counter continuously, I wouldn't ever have to worry about cooking again. So much for all of those Pinterest crock pot recipes. If there is enough food to cover the bottom of my enormous crock pot, I know I have cooked too much. It's sad really. I have all these lofty aspirations for fall recipes and deliciousness, dashed to bits by picky under eaters. Fine then... after our fourth "leftover night" of the week tonight, I will quit with the bulk healthy cooking and revert to boxed dinners and two portion meals. Because the only thing worse than wasting food is wasting Good Food.

And now I am going to take another nap, my third for the morning, and see if I can pull my head out of the Yeti's mouth. Maybe when I am lucid again I will write another blog, apologizing for this one. Probably.

Things I Can Brag About

I'm just gonna go right ahead and say it: I have THE best family. Not the "perfect family". Not the flawless, fight-less, infallible family, but I know with all certainty, the BEST family.

Last Sunday my younger brother got married to a girl that brought our family a lot of things that we were missing without even knowing it. Like MORE Courageous Honesty, a Masters Degree, and a Democrat. I love this girl. Almost as much as my brother does. And nothing could be cooler than all of us getting together for a party all about them, #benjamaia.

Actually, not true. Something WAS cooler - it was that we all got together and I stood back and watched my uber talented, totally dedicated, and completely selfless family pull off the coolest wedding I have ever seen. Every detail, and there were a lot - because Amaia is a detail person, was sewn up, often literally. It was gorgeous. Amaia did all of her own planning and arranging, from across the country, and delegated parts and pieces to my mom and sisters and aunt. And while they all got nods and thank yous and pats on the back while we were there basking in the glory, I couldn't get over how totally grateful I was to be related to these people.

I watched my Mom pull every little loophole taut and make things happen. All of the things. As if the cutting and sewing and cooking and shopping and decorating weren't enough, she had a spreadsheet for every moment of every event and somehow channeled my new sister's imagination through all of it. And I didn't see her lose it once, all weekend. She was composure and grace and stamina. She was the spine of the whole beautiful skeleton.

And my Dad. The faithful doer. Runner. Goer. Fixer. Make-it-happener. Never was there a better fall-back guy.

And my sister Em, with 37 little kids clamoring at her, sewed and cut and picked flowers and arranged flowers until the wee hours of every night we were there. She literally ran herself into the ground and earned a three day nap, which I am sure she didnt get, to create a spectacle that enthralled every guest.

And Phil. The understated brother in law. The quiet plodder in the background. I watched him lift and pack and clean and move and herd kids and run errands and figure stuff out when the rest of us were just done. Even after the wedding, he was the first one cleaning up and one of the very last to leave. And never a complaint. I have witnessed his gentle strength firsthand as he swooped in to pack me up and move me across the state more than one time. For not being born a Stecker, he sure makes his place indisputable.

Sanna pitched in. Picked up anything she could from mom. And Lindsey, creating and designing and printing and imagining all of the little details for the reception. And The Cousins. The Aunts. The Uncles. Throwing together a sweet rehearsal dinner because they could. Many creative and caring hands make light work. Even my own kids babysitting their cousins, albeit in a disorderly fashion - but nobody died. And some days, that's a lot. Especially when there are 15 kids in one hotel room along with pink and orange paint and a hot iron.

A lot of families do a lot of things. And you'd think, being people, being human, that in order to get along, we'd all have to be cut from the same cloth. But really, with similar roots, we've all grown up in a million different directions, living as many different ways from each other physically and philosophically, as you could dream up. And with all of that, and only a few little tense hiccups, we pulled it off again. One more notch in the memory belt of Feats We Have Accomplished because we can set aside Judgement, Hurt Feelings, Strong Opinions and even sometimes, Arguments, to make it all work out in the end.

I am proud of us - the people I am related to. We pretty much rock.

Things About Defrosting A Freezer. At Night. In the Dark.

Found out today that we have a cougar in our neighborhood. Obviously this is in addition to the middle aged female down the street who is dating high school boys. But this one is actually of the non-domesticated feline variety, with claws and big teeth and excellent vision in the dark.

So I decided at an extremely inopportune time of the day - right before I should have been feeding kids dinner and after rewarding myself for mowing the lawn with a beer - that the inevitable necessity of defrosting the chest freezer could be procrastinated no longer. Because 15 months of avoidance makes the next 12 hours IMPERITIVE in this process, apparently. I think it was a combination of the picturesque ice waterfall in the southwest corner of the freezer, and the fact that my freezer content is at an all time low, that made This Very Second the "right" and "necessary" time to undertake the ominous task.

Never mind that there is a MOUNTAIN LION living in those trees right behind me. Nevermind that I am piling three boxes of semi-frozen, raw and slightly freezer burned meet right here on my back porch. Never mind that it is Dark. And Very Dark, and Slightly Frightening Outside, and all of those things.

It took me three gallons of hot water to realize that while the beautiful ice sculpture was gradually shrinking, the plug in the bottom of the freezer, even when removed, led to absolutely no where, so every drop of water that went in combined with every crystal of ice that had lovingly developed to embrace the s-l-o-w-l-y decomposing food in the morgue of my kitchen, and none of it was coming out. I consulted with the semi-resident-semi-expert, i.e. my little sister, to confirm the fact that tipping a chest freezer on it it's side would A) upset the freon equilibrium and prolong the wildcat baiting experiment I was running and B) probably hurt my back and disrupt several GIANT spiders that I have no interest in knowing exist anywhere, let alone between my freezer and house. This left me with nothing to do but scoop water and ice, in much the same physical movement as that weird routine that the PE teacher made me do with one of my SPED kids and a medicine ball earlier today. Shoveling water isn't nearly as easy as it sounds. It's slippery stuff. It took a lot of coercing to get it corralled and shipped out, as well as two dirty dishrags and an old roll of paper towels that some rodent or angry wiener dog had chewed one end out of.

End of story is a successfully defrosted freezer, with no Cat Encounters, and a back patio that looks like someone plundered Arendelle and took all of the fun out of Queen Elsa's ice age. Plus a few bags of random unidentifiable substances that are probably better off luring Cougars in to the mountain of trash that I have NO IDEA what to do with than being consumed by human beings.

All of this, combined with mowing a yard that more closely resembled a jungle, earned me more than one beer. And that's not even counting the day I had at the the job that I quit several weeks ago. I will never understand how stupid around-the-house jobs like this don't burn more calories than running. It's a total racket. Also, on a related note, I am eternally grateful that my scale broke and my only choice now is to quit looking.

Now that the yard feels semi-managed and the freezer will close properly, I need to see about getting it back up on the covered porch where it was replaced by a house-sized table saw that I can neither move nor use. If you know of anybody who wants one.... My freezer needs to get out of the rain. And snow. I feel like there are half as many hours in the day for what I need to get done. Before winter hits. Slowly, painfully, I am chipping away at my list of junk to get done. Pounding on that ice waterfall with my BBQ utensils until it gave way was like a metaphor for my life right now. I don't have the right tools, but I will figure it out. Without upsetting the freon equilibrium or, Lord willing, getting eaten by a cougar. Really the motivating force was the buried hope that underneath all of that, somewhere, just maybe, there was a couple scoops of leftover double chocolate fudge brownie ice cream. But no joy. Here I sit with a glass anticlimactic water and a trio of exhausted dogs from working mountain lion and freezer scrap patrol.

So for future reference: when defrosting freezers, pick a time when you have more than an hour to kill, or if you drank a bunch of caffeine and can't sleep. Not on a night when you're being stalked by a huge cat AND you know that they're gonna call you in to work in SPED in the morning AND when you already did all that junk with a medicine ball earlier in the day.

Things To Choose

This has been a summer of choosing things. And not always in a good way, like shopping for the BEST pair of shoes. More like the hard stuff, like feed the kids, or get another tattoo. That kind of thing.

All summer has been full of it. Choosing whether to suck-it-up and fight a little longer for one last breath of a dying marriage, or "cut the rope that kept you hanging from such pitiful amounts of hope"? Choosing whether to have the things I want, or be the person I am supposed to be. Choosing between having someone to be buried next to, or being able to breathe through the days and nights and maybe, hopefully, someday, cry a little less. A lot of the choices were hard things. With potential for greatness or despondence on either side. But not all of them.

There were good choices too, that were a win either way. Like Beer, or Wine? Or maybe Crazy Awesome Bachelorette party at the beach or my Next Avett Concert?  And no brainer choices, like forgive and love vs. carrying grudges and isolation. And the choices of Which Song to sing (or maybe NOT to sing) at karaoke, and whether to karaoke with new friends, or old friends, or cousins, or the ultimate option: ALL OF THEM!

I had to choose about my future. Based not on my past. Not on my fear. But on hope. On the future I know that I CAN have, with my kids. Kids that are getting old, by the way. I have had to choose to fight against them as they struggle alongside me to survive, or fight with them against the common enemy of fear and shame and guilt. I have had to choose to let go, instead of hanging on tighter. To let Somebody Bigger Than me fix all of the things that I was Pretty Sure I had handled, but didn't. And I am still choosing. Every morning, to wake up, and not suffocate in the Terror Of Choosing wrong, but to make the best choice I can see. Sometimes it's the one that doesn't make sense. Sometimes it's the only thing that makes sense. Sometimes it comes from outside of me, and sometimes the choice comes screaming from my core without question or indecision.

Like whether to slap my nephew's hand when he's picking his nose mid-wedding, or take the Best Picture Ever for future embarrassment. Or staying up til 2 AM three nights in a row, or just resign myself to Oldness. (Never. Or my name is Captain Hook.) Go play soccer with the high school team or milk the sore back excuse (I have never so gladly regretted back pain!)? Deal with the growing mountain of trash or try to fix the washer? Mop the god-forsaken floors or mow the ever-loving lawn?    Mend the fence or find the floor of my bedroom? Cook dinner, or delegate? Finish the bottle of wine, or... um, nahhh. No choice there.

I was talking to Somebody Sometime this summer, and we were discussing how you should respond to Real Crap when it happens to you in life. Like when your dream for a Happily Ever After is smashed into bits by a Big Jerk Who Lied, and you're only 19 years old. What do you do to fix that? How do you make the right steps to avoid the wrong steps later and how do you choose the right pathway out of that hell? I remember that point of choosing in my life. And for awhile, I tried choosing Out. I tried to give up. To die. I wanted to. But I was terribly unsuccessful, like with lots of things in my life. So then I changed my mind. I re-chose. And I decided to Kick Life in The Ass. Because I can. Because the alternative is just, well, depressing. And maybe it's been a long road of small and large choices along the way to all of that kicking, but I am still doing it. And I am still determined that I will come out on top of all of this choosing. I will win. And so will my kids.

I mean, how can these monsters NOT win?

Maybe for the moment I have chosen loneliness. And maybe I have finally come to the point where I can choose the thankless craft of parenting over My Next Avett Concert, or that tattoo that I have been craving since June. And maybe tomorrow I will wake up and realize I have been choosing all wrong, and start over again. But at least I CAN. Everybody CAN. That's the beauty of life, and of choosing. And what makes us the teeniest bit better than the fruit fly that cannot avoid drowning in my wine, compelled by instinct. (not that I don't relate to that specific instinct....)

All around me the echoes of my choices rain down on me. The memories and songs and sounds and tastes of the past, recent and distant. And it is a bittersweet thing. And I am thankful for every step of it. Every turn and twist and choice. I am thankful for how they have shaped my soundtrack, and my taste buds, and enriched this Ass-Kicking life. Even if they aren't still here right now, and who knows which options will come next, but I choose to be ready.

And for now, choose to listen to this...

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