It Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Love You

When a woman decides to leave the business world to stay at home and take care of her family, it is a huge decision.  Sometimes men, and even some women, think that it is a choice that these women come to quite easily; that it is their “nature” to be in the home raising the children.  Perhaps for some, but most of us have usually reached this decision based on how exhausted we are from balancing both home and work fronts, how wasteful it is to spend 3/4 of our paychecks on daycare, and the amount of guilt we deal with by missing all of those “firsts” that our kids experience and the amount of crud they are ingesting because no one has properly swept under the kitchen table in months.

I left my career of seventeen years to stay at home with my five children because of all of those reasons.  And within two months of that income and health insurance loss, we sold everything we owned and bought plane tickets and moved to Greece. A month there was also a bust.  So we used a little of my 401(k) that we withdrew and bought more plane tickets and moved to Egypt.  We bought a little flat and a micro-bus and lived fairly well, for the next twelve years.  But then things changed and I was ready to come back to the United States.

My husband found work in the North Texas area and bought us a little house.  I packed up our stuff, sold all of our furniture and appliances and the flat, and headed for the airport with the kids and all the luggage we could strap onto the micro-bus.  And things were good and three of the five kids have graduated high school with two more cued up to receive diplomas and march on with their lives to “Pomp and Circumstance” as their soundtrack.

But they’re all still living at home and I’m not getting much accomplished anymore.  The list of things to do each day is getting longer for me.  And I still have this lovely linen fabric I bought to make curtains YEARS ago and still haven’t had time to make.  I have two novels and a book of essays that I started but cannot complete because I no longer  have free time to devote to them.  I want to go back to college, even if only online, but cannot justify the financial obligation when I cannot meet the time obligation it would require to get my degree.

I no longer feel fulfilled by completing all of the laundry, dishes, shopping, cleaning, dinner preparation, homework checking, bill-paying, and volunteer work.  I want more. And my husband feels hurt when I tell him that it’s not enough anymore; that I want to work outside the home.  He feels that he is not providing enough for us and that I must prop him up.  While we could definitely benefit from additional income, that’s not the main reason that I want to do it.  It’s about self-fulfillment.

I don’t understand why so many men take it as a slight when their wives want to return to the workforce when their children have grown out of the needy stages.  Perhaps I am too American or Western in my way of thinking, but I believe that this is a necessary step in their upbringing.

If teenagers and young adults are left to meet their own scheduled obligations, learn their own medical history, learn how to manage time and money and make meals for themselves and the family, then they benefit in real-life situations that they will be facing when they leave our home.  If the special needs young adult, who is at home and needs supervision, is looked after by her siblings for a few hours several days a week, the overworked and unpaid mom can get the required respite care she needs.  This can give her the energy to continue with her care giving without the resentment that she may end up feeling if she isn’t ever given any relief or assistance in her duties.

When the SAHM decides that she wants to reenter the workforce, or says that she no longer finds this work fulfilling, it doesn’t mean she won’t care for the family anymore.  Sometimes in our efforts to care for our families we lose our own identities and the lines between individual and the title of “wife” or “mother” become blurred.  It means that she’s been caring for the family for so long that she has not taken the time to care for herself.  Let her do that.  Support her.  It doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you.  It means she needs to love herself, too.





July vs. November

Each November I pledge to myself that I am going to dedicate time to writing every single day with a goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month.  (That’s roughly 1,667 words per day.)  I always sprint out of the gate at the beginning and then by day five or so, I peter out and start skipping a day or two or nine and then write my fingers off for several days in a row, only to lose track of time and realize the month ended last week and I only have 10% written.

So this year, offered a Camp NaNoWriMo to kick off their fundraising event, by having a Summer version throughout July.  I decided that would be fabulous to participate in because after four years of trying, November is clearly NOT my month for writing.  So I started a “cabin” of my own, only none of my writer friends joined so the last week of June, I opened it up to anyone.  My cabin mates were mostly quiet. Two seemed to interact occasionally with me.  And we were all off and writing.

Two of my kids had to have their wisdom teeth extracted under full anesthesia within a week of each other and the dueling pain meds schedule and accommodation of soft foods combined with palatable textures for the one with Autism became my full-time job.  And before I knew it, it was August and I only had 8,376 words completed.

July is not my month either, apparently.


Welcome to the Club

My sister called me this morning and asked me to lie to her. I don’t like to lie. I’m not very good at it and I honestly find the truth to be much more incredible, hilarious, and easier to keep up with. But she begged. So I did.

I told her that my husband and I were living the dream in our home with five kids (ages 16, 17, 18, 20, and 21) decorated with hearts, butterflies, and rainbows and that all that stuff we’d heard about how difficult these years would be is just a big box of hot air bought and paid for by pharmaceutical companies pushing their Xanax dreams. I told her that her two lovely early teens would be mature, pleasant, helpful, drama-free, productive members of society all throughout their teen years, just like mine have been and continue to be. I offered her my Groupon savings for unicorn rides at the next Mother-of-the-Year Awards Gala event.

And then I told her that they may want to consider upgrading that wine cellar they have and I’d be her designated driver if she needed to restock. Or I could load all the 12-step program meeting locations into her iPhone next time she came by here.

The truth is Dr. David Walsh wasn’t even remotely exaggerating when he wrote about the whole “teenage brain” thing. They are incapable of making rational and mature decisions. They’re just not equipped to make them. And it requires a hella lot of patience to stand by and point out why the choices they’re making are dumb or not well-thought-out or insane or whatever adjective you want to stick in here.

So, when my sister called and asked me to lie to her about this inevitable phase in her childrearing life, I did. I laughed all the way through it. But I did it because she just needed a little 30-second break from reality. Before hanging up, she said for me to tell my husband hi. He didn’t miss a beat when he replied, “Hi back. And welcome to the club.”


It’s Gotta Be the Heat

I’ve got at least four blog posts saved to draft. They all started out as good subjects to write about, but somewhere around the third paragraph each lost steam so I just chucked them into the draft folder.

I hate that. I know that I’m notorious for starting projects and not finishing them for a long time. It’s not that I’m non-committal. I’m always committed to what I am doing. I think that the issue is more that I tend to commit to several different projects at the same time and I can only divide my attention so many ways. Realizing that this is an easy fix, I still can’t stop myself from saying YES to so many interesting things to do. (Yes, that includes books. I’m reading two simultaneously-ish right now. One is a “how-to” and the other is a novel that sort of caught my eye at the library. I think both are overdue.)

The bottom line is that I AM a finisher. I will eventually complete all 4 of those other drafts in my folder. I will read both books…though admittedly the “how-to” will be the one I return without completing until I check it out again in a month or so when things “slow down.” The novel I’ll read in a waiting room while all 3 teens get dental check ups at the same time because I tend to make all their appointments on the same day if I can get away with it.

Why am I losing steam with the whole writing thing? I blame the heat. It’s hotter than a $12 stereo outside and I just don’t have the energy to think much past remembering to pick the kids up from Summer School. (Yes. I’m THAT mom forcing her kids to take accelerated Physics and Geometry so that they can have more electives options in their fall schedules. And yes, they hate me for it.)  I will probably even re-read the ten chapters of my novel that I started writing and then put away because I got pissed off at my characters for not gelling the way I wanted them to. (Of course I realize that it’s a mechanical issue: The nut loose behind the keyboard.)

But I always complete the stuff I start. I will get to all of it…except for the friggin’ yard sale that I will never have because of the HEAT and my inability to just SIT in it for hours. *sigh* I may have to stop collecting yard sale crap in my room or the “room organization” venture that I started may be the second thing that I don’t complete.

Again, I blame the heat.


Yard Salesman, I’m Not

Junk. It clutters my backyard, corner of my bedroom, hall closet, den closet, shed, and porch. I have got more crap than I can shake a stick at…which would be weird. Why would I shake a stick at anything? Much less a pile of crap that I want to be rid of? I know I need to do it. So why won’t I just have a yard sale already?

I live in the most PERFECT town to have a yard sale. Arlington, Texas knows three pastimes held just above religion and just below tailgating and they are:  Football, Baseball, and Yard Sales. In other towns, yard sales start early on Saturday mornings. In Arlington, they start on Thursdays and will run through Sunday afternoon.

New Spanish words have been created thanks to Garage Sale. A woman on our block moved here two years ago from a small Mexican village and speaks no English at all. She has a garage on her house. (Unlike us with our small carport.) She has a “GaraSeo” each week to help offset her cost of living. I saw the sign nailed to telephone poles on either side of the block for about a year before I figured out that she meant “Garage Sale” and was writing it as she heard it phonetically on her sign. Then last week as I combed the Spanish language circular looking for sale ads and coupons, I spotted a “GaraSeo” ad in the classifieds. Apparently, her creative language has caught on.

Another woman I know, though she lives in Dallas, used to have yard sales monthly. She would collect up all of the clutter in her house, pile it on folding tables in the front yard, mix a thermos full of margaritas and sit down and sell off all the shit while she got hammered in a lawn chair under a tree. By the early afternoon, her prices were way past competitive and bordering on monopolizing the yard sales in a 9-block radius. By 4 pm she was giving shit away. About the time the thermos was empty, she’d drag her folding tables back into the garage and count her earnings and celebrate the decluttering of her home and the ability to buy another fifth of tequila. (*Note: She is now a recovering yard saleswoman as her husband was tired of her making $30 on his table saws that he’d have to go out and buy again new. I’m happy to say she’s now on the wagon and while she is NOT working a 12-step program, she now donates her clutter to the local homeless shelter and stays away from her husband’s power tools.)

So. Why can I not do it? Why have I not been able to drag the old stereo that needs a fuse that I can no longer buy because RadioShack is now only selling stuff online? (Okay. They still have stores. But not around here.) Why can I not drag that stupid 5’x5′ table with the warped top down to the end of my driveway, along with the computer components no one wants, the dinette set that I don’t want, and the hideous knick knacks and things that my kids have purchased at other yard sales and dumped in my house? We have stacks of VHS tapes that no one watches. Furniture that we at one time needed but now just sort of walk around carefully. People it’s a 3-legged couch with torn cushions that sinks under your ass when you sit. It won’t cry if you sell it for $5 on a Saturday morning to someone who needs someplace to sit. It’s saving me the $30 I’m gonna need to rent a truck to hall it off to the dump. Let go, for crying out loud.

I’m not attached to this junk. I truly do want to rid myself of it once and for all. I think it’s the getting up early on a Saturday and arguing with my husband about what we should keep for sentimental reasons that is preventing me from doing it. That’s it. HE’S the pack rat. Not I. Well, that and being tied to a lawn chair in the front yard all day (without margaritas) and having to deal with people haggling over junk that’s already priced to go. I should just bite the bullet and do it already. I’m going. Yup. Heading out now to the dollar store for signs to hang up advertising my yard sale on Saturday. (*Garaseo en Sabado. Se hablo espanol.)

Brain Food…NOT About Zombies

ATTACK KIT COMMENT Pictures, Images and Photos
Reading is one of my all-time favorite things to do in the world. I think a dream vacation for me would involve a large comfortable couch in a large room with floor to ceiling bookcases covered in all of the books I am dying to read still.  Of course, in keeping with most of my fantasies, all 5 of my kids would be off in 100% completely safe boarding schools and the room I’m in would have 68 degree F air-conditioning setting that my husband would not be able to adjust.  (He can wear that stack of sweaters over there in the corner.)

I have this burning desire to just go to any of the major book stores and fill an empty shopping cart with one copy each of all the classics that I haven’t read, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Dickens, and throw in some Shakespeare that I haven’t yet shared with my kids. (They LOVED MacBeth and Othello.) I don’t want to
buy Mark Twain because I have a huge collection of his books that I bought at a yard sale back in the early 90’s. It was a big paper bag full of books for $5. WHAT A FIND! I also got a copy of  The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, The Last Days of Pompeii by the baron Edward Bulwer-Lytto, and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and Six Famous French Novels. Those are all on yellowed paper with that slightly musty “old book” smell.  I think that the French novels book was printed in 1903. Definitely worth the $5 spent, I’d say.  Anyway, I’d also pick up copies of the more recent books by some of my favorite bloggers that I’ve been wanting to read, like Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, Relative Insanity by Shauna Glenn, and the rest of Nuala Reilly’s Fayette series. (Of course, she has to finish the fourth book in order for me to get the full series, so, COME ON, NUALA! Get the lead out!)

Living in Alexandria, Egypt with five kids (who really AREN’T in or even likely to go to boarding schools) on a very fixed income, I don’t get to indulge in my reading addiction much. I occasionally cruise through the used book market on Nabi Daniel Street and come across some wonderful finds. (That’s where I found the Shakespeare in an English as a Foreign Language edition, aka edited beyond belief with a glossary so that my elementary kids would spark an interest.) Also, I’ve found some fascinating old hardbound books, some from authors I’d never heard of before. My favorite among them is by A.E.W. Mason, an English writer. The book I found The Dean’s Elbow is absolutely intriguing to me. It has some mystery, romance, scandalous relationships, and even historical technical information about the textile industry and perfecting dyes for fabrics.  (It was printed in 1930, so don’t go reading it if you’re looking for 50 shades of crap.) My most recent find was a new copy of Agatha Christie’s The Man in the Brown Suit. I used to read Agatha Christie in 8th grade and throughout high school. I had kind of forgotten about her. You know until one of the Inspector Poirot movies would show up on television late in the afternoon. I found a stack of brand new (never been read anyway) Agatha Christie books I grabbed the stack…but after arguing with the bookseller over price, I ended up only buying the one.  (Limited income, mind you….so I can go back and get another later. Maybe even trade back the one I just read, after the kids finish it.)

My reading “bucket list” has now become a “barrel list” and may soon turn into a “dump truck list.” But that’s okay. I know the answer would ordinarily be to order online but that gets costly when I end up paying more in customs taxes than the price of the book. It’s cool. I’m not really complaining. I look at it this way, I’m going to get that fantasy book vacation, God willing, when we move back to the U.S. My sisters both have substantial book collections that I could borrow from and the library is a fantastic place for kids and me to visit. While I kind of envy the book clubs that my friends are involved in, I think more I miss the access to public libraries. Really, guys!  Take advantage of it this summer with your kids. While at first some of them may whine a bit, “But it’s summertime! I don’t want to read!” MAKE THEM. My kids all love the library. Even the one who hates to read (mostly because he has a few learning challenges.)  Let them pick out the books…or give them a selection of some that you really dug in school that you think they may enjoy. I did this with Ismail when we were back in Texas a couple of years ago.  I chose a few authors that I thought he may enjoy and he chose How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell. He thoroughly enjoyed it and the exercise of reading every other page with me, awakened his hunger for reading again.

I recently bought a membership at the American Cultural Center library here in Alexandria. Once I get a few mandatory errands out of the way that involve school registrations and dental appointments, I am planning to make a regular bi-monthly trip with the kids there so that they can once again “get their read on.” I have taken a couple of them to the Alexandria Library but I was so unhappy with the policies there that I swore I’d never go back. (One library is for kids to 12 yrs, one library is for kids 12-17 yrs, and the main library is 18 and up. Parents are not permitted to enter the kids library with their kids and kids are not permitted with their parents into the adult library. Also they have a sign that states the library is not responsible for kids while not with their parents?????? WTH????)

So I’m hoping that my children will bring their English reading levels up to as high as they are in Arabic this Summer. It’s all about the brain-food. And no. I’m STILL not talking about zombies!