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Lost Pet Anxiety (aka I Miss My Cat)

25 Oct

UPDATE: Three days after originally posting this blog, Cat showed up at our house completely unharmed, albeit a few pounds lighter. YAY!

It has been one week and one day since our adorable and, apparently, stupid cat leapt over our dog and ran into the dark and foggy outdoors. One week and one day, and there’s still no sign of her.

I spent the first five days of Hazel’s absence in a bit of denial. I was feeling pretty confident that she would come home. We had done, literally, every single thing suggested to us by the humane society, the microchip company, lost cat organizations, friends, and Twitter strangers. With all of these steps taken, why wouldn’t she come home?

But then she didn’t come home.

This whole situation has me feeling anxious, all the time. I check out the windows routinely, obsessively, and compulsively. I jump at even the slightest sound from outside. To say her loss is stressing me out is a gross understatement. I’m not accustomed to situations where there’s nothing more I can do. Usually if I try harder or devote more time I can get the results I’m shooting for. Short of spending entire days wandering our neighborhood shaking a treat bag (which isn’t exactly realistic), I can’t think of anything else I can or should be doing to bring Hazel home. I hate it.

I think what I hate most are the unanswered questions. Is she truly lost, such that she can’t find her way back home? Or does she remember where home is and just doesn’t want to come back? Did she get taken in by a nice family that for inexplicable reasons hasn’t checked with the local animal shelter to make sure she’s not already someone’s pet? Did she pledge her undying loyalty to a gang of feral cats? Or, is it the other option that I try to pretend isn’t a real possibility?

Enough people have shared with me stories of cats that have been gone for weeks before turning up at home that I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet. I just can’t wrap my mind around her being gone for good. So I’m going to continue to leave the garage door open a tiny crack. I’m going to continue to drive 2 mph through my neighborhood like I’m planning a crime. And yes, I’m going to continue to shake a tupperware of cat food out my window as I drive that ridiculously slow speed.

In the meantime, if you live near me, please keep your eyes peeled. If you don’t live near me, please keep your fingers crossed. We miss our kitty.

hazel

 

Mom Guilt

12 Oct

This past Sunday when bestie was over we somehow got on the topic of Mom Guilt.

Mom Guilt is a special brand of guilt reserved for mothers who are doing their best to do it all. It’s feeling guilty when you tell your toddler he can’t play outside because you have to stay inside and feed the baby. It’s feeling guilty when you let your baby cry for ten minutes while you finish your shower. It’s feeling guilty when you let your children watch more television than you know is good for them so that you can do the dishes. It’s feeling guilty when you neglect the dishes so that you can take the time to write for the first time in months.

Now, I don’t presume to speak on behalf of all mothers, but I have spoken to enough of my mom friends to know that most experience at least some Mom Guilt on a semi-regular basis.

I’ve been experiencing higher than average levels of Mom Guilt these past few weeks. I know that logically this is to be expected given the recent addition of Child #3 to our family. I keep telling myself that it’s normal for things to fall behind and priorities to shift while we adjust to life as a family of five. I tell myself this, but it doesn’t make me feel any better.

I’m doing my best to turn my life into a spinoff of an improv game I once played. Instead of adding, “yes, and…” to the end of each of my sentences, though, I’m adding an, “and that’s okay” to the end of each of my admissions of guilt.

Yes, Child #2 hasn’t had a ton of Vitamin D lately, and that’s okay. Yes, Child #3 had to scream bloody murder in order for me to shave my armpits, and that’s okay. You get the idea.

It’s okay because I’m doing the best I can. As much as I’ve prayed to the gods for superpowers or, even better, my very-belated Hogwarts letter, I sadly remain a mere human, and a muggle at that.

I’m not perfect. Even on my best days, there are still going to be dirty bottles on the counter and unfolded laundry in the dryer. There are going to be times when my household obligations don’t get my attention because of time spent with my children and vice versa. This doesn’t make me a failure as a mother, or as a spouse (side note: Spouse Guilt is another beast, entirely). It makes me normal.

I need to do better at reminding myself that at the end of each exhausting day [How long until babies sleep through the night, again? No, seriously, I can’t remember.] my children go to bed with all their basic needs met. Even better, they are (usually) happy, and at least somewhat clean. Most importantly, they are loved, and that is more than okay.

A Childhood Comfort

30 Oct

Ever since I was a child, I have always found the hum of heat vents to be comforting. I know this probably doesn’t seem important. After all, I am hardly the first person in the world to be calmed by “white noise.” My bestie prefers a fan on even in the dead of winter. My sons both find sleep hard without their sound machines. For me, though, it’s more than just a noise. There’s a comfort in the steadiness of it, the reliability of its warmth. No matter what else is going on in my life, it brings me peace and contentment.

The best, the very best, heat vents were at my grandmother’s house. I don’t know if it was because her house was old, or if it’s just the perhaps unreliable memories of a child, but her heat vents were stronger, louder, than any other I’ve ever encountered. I loved laying in my bed at her house and just listening to it. Even then, I found it odd that the flow of air could give the illusion of stillness. When the thermostat would reach the desired temperature and the heat would stop, I would bug my grandma incessantly to turn it up, warmer and warmer, until I fell asleep. Poor woman must have been sweating bullets all night, but she never said no.

Even better, though, than the vent in the bedroom was the vent in my grandma’s bathroom. Her bathroom was small, and when the heat was on the room took on a sauna-like quality. I used to bring a blanket and some books into the bathroom, curl up, and just be. Strange, maybe, but that little nook between the sink and the door was one of my favorite places. I never felt safer than I did on that bathroom floor.

Now my grandma is gone, and odds are I’ll never visit that house or her magical heat vents ever again. While the vents in my own house will probably never live up to the ones in my memory, they do offer their own added layers of comfort. 5:00 a.m., when the heat first kicks on, has become one of my favorite times of day. In those early morning moments, the heat and my husband’s breathing are the only things I hear. My mind is the wandering kind, but in those moments there is a reprieve, a satisfaction in knowing that he is there, and that my children are warm and safe in their beds. In those early morning moments, I am reminded to count my blessings, because In those early morning moments, everything is perfect.

On Luck and Love

9 Jul

Numerous people have told me on numerous occasions how lucky I am to have my husband.

“Not all guys are willing to change diapers.”

“Not all guys clean bathrooms.”

“Not all guys would watch the kids so you can go sit at a movie theatre all day.”

“Not all guys would be okay with you going back to school.”

While these statements about “not all guys” may be (unfortunately) true, I don’t think luck has anything to do with it. It’s not as though I was casually walking one day, tripped over a rock, and happened to find my husband underneath. It’s not as though he was the one assigned to marry me and he just happens to possess these qualities. I am not lucky to have my husband; choosing him was a conscious decision.

I always knew I wanted a man who would be involved with his children. A man who didn’t feel as though watching them was a burden, but a gift.

I always knew I wanted a man who viewed our marriage as an equal partnership, toilet scrubbing and all.

I always knew I wanted a man who would encourage ambition and dreaming; someone who would push me up rather than hold me down.

I have the husband I have because of my smart choices and high standards, not luck.

But, I have to give credit where credit is due.

I am lucky.

I am lucky to have found Husband at age 17. I am lucky that the same amazing man I wake up next to each morning is the boy who took me to my senior prom. I am lucky that now, at age 30, I am celebrating my 10 year wedding anniversary to the man of my dreams.

We’ve been married for 10 years, together for 15. We’ve gone from teenagers to young adults to (gulp) legit adulting, and I am so grateful that we’ve been able to grow and mature together. We’ve had our share of both joy and strife, but all of those snapshot moments, both good and bad, form a collective image of a beautiful life together.

I am lucky, yes. But even more so, I am grateful.

Husband is tied for first-place as Greatest Man I Know, right next to my father, which is the highest compliment I could ever give.

Thank you, Husband, for making the smart choice in marrying me. And for loving me after all this time. Always.

Wedding002

The Christmas I Was a Guest Blogger

24 Dec

Hey everyone! Be sure to check out my Christmas post over on the lovely Deanna Raybourn’s blog!

From my household to yours, Merry Christmas!

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The School that Saved Me

5 Dec

I’ve always been the type of person who likes to stay busy. I complain about it, of course, but really it’s all of my own choosing. Apparently, Child #1 has inherited that trait of mine. Through my school district’s Community Education program, my kiddo has basically done it all. Swimming, gymnastics, t-ball, basketball, cooking, science, Lego engineering. He’s jumped from one activity to the next, always excited about trying something new. His newest class? Karate.

One of the exciting things about Community Ed. programs is that they take us to schools in my district that I never would have set foot in if not for the class we were there to attend. As a teacher, poking around other schools is something that I love doing. Karate class, however, took me to more than just another elementary school. It took me on a trip down memory lane.

When I talk about the elementary school I attended as a child, I talk about Desmond Charles Elementary.* But, in reality, Desmond Charles only accounts for half of my elementary education. Before I went to DCE, I attended a private, Catholic, elementary school. In kindergarten I didn’t mind it, but at the age when school was mostly play, what wasn’t to like? As I got a little older, my Catholic elementary school became repressive. I felt like I wasn’t able to have a personality. Or really, I wasn’t able to have my personality. There are some who may have thrived in the rigidity of the rules and regulations. Not me. I had always loved learning, but I became less and less excited about school. While I was still young at the time, I remember my unease about going to school vividly. When I was at school, I felt like I was a shadow of my real self, only visible in the right light. I began to try to get out of school, crying to my parents that I didn’t want to go back. I am beyond blessed that they listened.

Desmond Charles Elementary saved my life. That may sound melodramatic, but I know it to be true. At DCE I had teachers who provided me with opportunities to be goofy. They encouraged and helped me to be creative. To write. To read. To sing. I found a home at DCE, and in that home, I found myself.

When I walked through the doors of DCE to take Child #1 to karate, I felt just as at home as I did the day I had left. The ceilings felt lower. The media center, massive in my memory, felt smaller. The desks most definitely felt shorter. What hadn’t changed a bit was the ease I felt as I walked the halls. To an outsider, they’d be nothing special. Just elementary hallways with plain walls masked by student artwork. To me, they were a reminder of the power of great teachers, and parents who truly hear their children when they speak.

There has been much talk in some circles of how public schools are failing our children. In some cases, that may be true, but it was public school that saved me. I won’t soon forget it.

*Desmond Charles Elementary is not the actual name of my elementary school. It has been changed here for privacy.

+DISCLAIMER: I am sure there are many, many people who have had fabulous experiences with Catholic and other kinds of private schools. I am just not one of those people.

On Robin Williams and Mental Illness

12 Aug

I am no stranger to celebrity deaths. I carry vivid memories of my grandmother weeping when Princess Diana left us too soon. I remember down to the detail where I was and what I was doing when I heard about Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. The shock of Heath Ledger, Cory Monteith, and Paul Walker, all taken unexpectedly in the prime of their lives, is still with me. It goes without saying that at the time of these deaths I felt sad. Death is not the kind of news that makes one feel joy. Still, though, I felt removed. The way you would feel if a coworker told you their husband’s mother died. Sad stuff, but not really impacting my daily life. I watched the people wailing on TV about how their lives were never going to be the same and I couldn’t help but think, “Why are you crying? You did not know that person. You knew their work as an artist, but you did not know them.”

Last night when I heard the news about Robin Williams, I felt as though it was a personal loss. I found myself tearing up, unable to watch the endless montages of his films playing on every station ever. Given my standard reaction to celebrities passing, this took me by surprise. I did not know Robin Williams. I knew his work as an artist, and I loved his work as an artist, but I did not know him. I spent a considerable amount of time yesterday trying to figure out why his death has touched me more than the deaths of so many others.

Perhaps it was because I appreciated his work more on a deeper level than those other celebrities. Any actor who voiced a character in a Disney classic is automatically on my List of Favorite People. I watched Aladdin so many times the VHS needed to be replaced. As a kid I chewed on a chunk of soap for quoting Mrs. Doubtfire. (“P-P-P-Piss off, Lou.” It was totally worth it.) Times spent watching his Live on Broadway DVD constitute both some of the best (bachelorette party!) and worst (That Night We Don’t Talk About EVER) memories that I have. Yes, the jokes are no longer timely, but I couldn’t care less. Martha Stewart prison jokes will always be funny. There was not a movie Robin Williams was in that I didn’t like. Furthermore, I do not remember a time when there were movies without him. I grew up watching him. Will I miss his talent? You betcha. But I still don’t think this accounts for 100% of why I feel his death so acutely.

After much soul-searching last night, I think the reason Robin’s death (yeah, we’re on a first name basis now) hurts so much is because of why he died. Accidents are always tragic, but it seems pretty clear that his death was no accident. In case you somehow are reading my blog before any piece of news on this matter, Robin Williams was a long time sufferer of depression, and it is believed that he committed suicide. This hits close to home.

There is a history of mental illness in my family. Who has it and what specifically they are suffering from are not relevant to this pontification. Suffice it to say that I have on several occasions had to talk someone off of the suicidal ledge. I have had to defend that person’s self-worth, explain their importance in my life, beg, cry, and plead for them to stick around just one more day. I’ve also had to call the police when my words alone wouldn’t cut it. I thank God every day that the people I’ve had these conversations with are still alive. Are they “cured”? Hell no.

I have seen firsthand the struggle it is to simply cope when you are diagnosed with a mental illness. If you have diabetes, insurance will cover your doctor visits and medication. When you tell someone you have diabetes, they do not look at you like you are less of a human being. If you have an attack due to low blood sugar, people offer you orange juice, help, and empathy. You are not to blame for your symptoms. It’s not your fault, it’s your disease.

If you have a mental illness, insurance will only cover so many therapy visits and only some forms of medication. When you tell someone that you have a mental illness, they look at you like you are somehow dangerous or unworthy of standard human kindness. If you have a mood swing, a flashback, or a panic attack, people turn away and expect you to get it “under control.” You are to blame for your symptoms. It’s your fault, not your disease.

There are people in my life who are fighting these struggles on a daily basis. Every waking second takes effort to behave in a way expected by society. There’s no such thing as feeling “normal.” I can absolutely understand how enduring these circumstances could seem unbearable, and where Death could seem like the better option when faced with a lifetime of pain and scorn. Obviously suicide is not the answer, but I can see how someone struggling could find themselves in such a desperate place.

As I said before, I did not know Robin Williams. I cannot say with certainty that the struggles I’ve observed in my family were also his struggles. I do not pretend for even a split second to know the specific brand of pain he grappled with. I only know that he suffered from depression and that now he is gone. I can only hope that his death sheds more light into the darkness that is mental illness. Rest in peace, Robin. You were loved, and you will be missed. And if you or someone you know suffers from a mental illness, please know that you are not alone.

*Disclaimer: The above blog details some of my personal experiences with and opinions about mental illness. It is not intended to speak on behalf of all people with mental illness or all people who know someone with mental illness.  

Robin