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.

 

 

 

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Texas: The European Tour

Did you know that Texas has a plethora of cities named after European cities?  I have known about Paris, Texas since I was a young girl.  I’ve toured most of Europe since we lived in Germany most of my childhood.  We spent many a holiday visiting the UK, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Italy, and more.  As a young adult, I traveled to Greece.

Now that we’re living in Texas, a lot has changed.  We’ve aged and don’t really feel the urge to travel great distances like we once did.  But on a whim, I took the kids on a road trip to Paris, Texas during Spring break a few years ago.  It was fun.  They have an Eiffel Tower there….but with a gigantic cowboy hat on the top of it.  Next to that, there is a veterans memorial dedicated to all of the veterans from that area as far back as the mid-1800’s.

After that trip, I decided that we’re going to check out every European city within our great state of Texas.  The next place we visited was Dublin, Texas.  It’s hands down our favorite so far.  We got to tour the Ben Hogan Museum there.  It was great.  Ben Hogan was such an amazing contributor to the game of golf.  He deserves his own little museum.  We also toured the Dr. Pepper Museum while we were there.  That place is so cool.  They’ve got DP stuff that goes back over 100 years.  We also had some sandwiches at the little sandwich shop that runs the DP museum and purchased a case of sodas bottled by the Dublin soda factory that still runs today.  I’d like to go back there one day when the antique shops are open.

We had a very sweaty trip to Athens, Texas.  Unfortunately for us, we got a late start on a Sunday, and by the time we arrived almost the whole town was closed.  We did go on a self-guided tour of the Arboretum there and it was extremely pleasant, albeit hotter than a $12 stereo.  The best part was a huge gazebo with a massive fan in the ceiling (it wasn’t on) and a stage.  No one was around, so I stood on that stage and sang my fool head off.  The acoustics were awesome.

This past Spring break, we attempted to see the sites of Rhome.  (No, that’s  not a typo.  It’s just a Texan spelling of Rome, I guess.)  The tiny little veterans memorial there was nice.  But that’s pretty much all it had to offer.  We got a little spooked by the muscle car full of rednecks that kept driving up and down the road while we were at the memorial.  The occupants kept staring at us like we were Martians.  Probably they’d never seen such good-looking people before.  Of course, it may have been the hijabs the girls and I were wearing.  Anyway, we decided 15 minutes was long enough and piled back in the van and went home.

Today, we decided to try a city whose twin used to be behind the Iron Curtain:  WARSAW.  Warsaw’s history is pretty sparse.  It was established back in 1847 and had a post office until 1858.  I think the largest population it had was 65 back in the 1990s, until recently when there was a huge population growth and now the town numbers 300.  They have a community center now.  And. Nothing. Else.  The trip was a 114-mile U-turn in someone’s driveway.  It’s a couple-hundred horse town….but no stop lights.  We didn’t even get out of the car.  We just drove back home and made ice cream sundaes and watched the rain fall for a while.  But that’s okay.  It was one more town checked off our list and family time of sandwiches in the car, one stop at a gas station to pee, and another story of “family togetherness torture” for the kids to complain about to their therapists when they’re older.

 

 

Milestones

Tomorrow afternoon will mark a big fat milestone in our lives. Two more of our five kids will be crossing that stage at their high school graduation. This isn’t the first time we’ve done this. So why am I so overwhelmed with the feels of it all?

Randa is 20. She’s our “special needs” kid and while eligible to stay at the school for one more year before she ages out of their Alternate Curriculum program, she is bored. She wants to graduate NOW. They told us going in that there was going to come a time when she is going to advance past what they are able to teach her. That time has come. Many would argue that she could mainstream into the general education population. That is just not a possibility with her issues. So we’re going to do more Mommy-Randa stuff starting next Fall. We’re going to visit museums and family members around the Metroplex and take some classes at the fabric store and learn to sew and join a water aerobics class. Randa is excited to start the next chapter after Sam Houston High.

Ismail is 18. He, like his older brother before him, seems to be struggling with the excitement of graduating versus the sadness and anxiety of leaving behind all he knows. I am guessing that boys are like this. (I wouldn’t know, having never been a boy.) He is suffering today as he paces around and asks questions to which he already knows the answers. He’s spent a lot of time on the front porch. Being outside calms his nerves. He is still not certain what he’s going to do. He wants to become an electrician and be a man and not have to answer to his parents and buy a car and get a job, and all of the swirling plans that all boys his age have.

But Ismail is still so tender-hearted in so many ways. And his family is all he’s ever known. No matter where we lived on the globe spanning three countries and several states, we’ve always had each other. The idea of moving away to another part of the state to go to school without his safety net is so intriguing and exciting and altogether scary. So he’s put off making firm plans as of yet. He wants to take a little time off and work. And that’s okay. Ismail has always been one who needs to chew on his idea before he spits out his final answer.

And tomorrow as I stand on that stage, holding Randa’s hand to help her to battle back the anxiety as she walks across toward the end of her high school tunnel, I’ll be watching Ismail, one place ahead of her in the alphabet, reaching his. I’m so proud to be their mother.

Our Summer Vacation to Athens

So, this week has been a major ass-kicker for me…mostly in a good way. Sunday we took advantage of the fact that my son and daughter both quit their summer jobs and that my husband finally replaced the compressor in the van giving us air-conditioning. YAY. So we finally got on the road about 2 pm and headed off to Athens. (That’s Athens, Texas, y’all.)
Of course, due to the late start and having to deal with a major autistic meltdown with a pit stop at Dairy Queen to calm nerves all around, we managed to get to this po-dunk town after everything that we wanted to see had closed. So we headed back to the main drag and pulled into the East Texas Arboretum and did a little hiking in 104 degree heat. It was an impressive patch of woods with lots of lovely gardens and fountains and a one-room school house and a bat house. We spent a whopping hour there before piling back into the van and driving home. I think the highlights for me were the photos of my kids and husband playing “slow-mo Ninja” in the gazebo and the fact that I didn’t have to cook. (We bought pizza that night.) My husband was excited about the fact that I had enough fuel points to only have to pay 86 cents per gallon when we filled up the van.

We’ve traveled quite a bit all over the US, Europe, Middle East and North Africa. But since moving to the US and making our home in Texas, we’ve decided to spend some time seeing all of the major European cities within Texas state lines. We have now gone to Paris, Dublin, and Athens. Not bad for day trips, huh?

Fam in Athens

Supposed To vs Actually

We’re supposed to go on a road trip today. We’re supposed to be stuffing the entire overbooked with practical shit summer into one day of family fun not too far from home. My kids are supposed to be up and packing picnics, getting softball equipment, and bags of ice ready and into the back of the van (the same van that my husband just had repaired so that we could make this trip WITH air conditioning as opposed to the usual sweat-logged journeys of the past.) I’m supposed to be gassing up said van and using up all my “fuel points” to get the cheapest gas around and jumping up and down like an idiot that’s one a $50 scratch ticket. (Thank you, Kroger Plus card.)

What’s actually happening is my husband is in the backyard painting the cement slab he laid for the kids to play basketball on, I’m checking email (and now blogging quickly as my jeans are still in the dryer,) and all 5 teens are still asleep.

I vote we ditch the kids and show them pictures of all the fun we had while they slept once we get back.

 

Overbooking and Aging

I’m not really old. But I’m no Spring chicken, either. And for those of us who have been in the “over achiever” category all our lives, this whole aging thing is just ass-kicking. No, not a little tiring. I mean, beat-down with a baseball bat, friggin’ leaving you taking 3-hour naps in the middle of the day, exhausting.

When I was 18, I lived in an apartment with my sister. We both worked several jobs in order to pay the rent, utilities, phone bill, gas/maintenance on our cars, and our part time college tuition and books. And by several jobs, I mean that we were like that overworked family from the West Indies whose members all had multiple jobs on “In Living Color.”  I remember at the time working 5 days a week for my office day job from 7:30 am – 4pm and then from 5- 9pm bagging groceries on Ft Meade 3 days a week, answering the switchboard at (the now closed) Laurel Toyota and Jaguar in Laurel, Maryland from 4-9pm twice a week and all day Saturday and loading boxes onto trucks for E.I.Kane Office Movers on Sundays and days off with the other jobs. I sometimes worked overtime at my day job watching over contractors to keep them out of the “off-limits” corridors or working for our own internal office movers.

The older I got, the more part-time jobs I held down after my day job. I worked as a cashier
for Rite Aid, Romano’s Restaurant, (the now closed) Rumblefish Nightclub, Damon’s Ribs (closed down within a year of my leaving allegedly due to the owner embezzling), and various babysitting jobs, tutoring jobs, and once as a free-lance maid.

Once I got married and had kids, part-time jobs were a thing of the past. I couldn’t juggle all the schedules of five children and work plus a second job. So I made up for the “not enough to do” feeling by over-achieving at housework and cooking. I learned to sew. I would scrub down the walls and shutters and windows every month. I would scrub area rugs and wipe down cupboards and appliances. I scrubbed floor tiles and hung my laundry out to dry on the line.

I’m in my 40’s now. Screw all that shit. I keep a tidy house…mostly. I still cook amazing foods…because we can’t afford to feed a family of seven at a restaurant frequently. I now over-achieve by volunteering all the time and this Summer, my kids decided to kill me slowly by signing up for Summer School to take accelerated Physics and Geometry. That would be fine ordinarily….except they signed up for different sessions. The two taking accelerated Physics took it in the first session. The one taking accelerated Geometry signed up for the second session. Ugh. Also, the two that took the first session now both have jobs so I feel like I’m constantly behind the wheel of a car. My rotator cuff is threatening to go on strike…permanently, due to all the gear changing and u-turns required in a car that does not have power steering.

I’m currently attempting to set up 3 different fundraisers for a non-profit organization and I’m running into brick walls while trying to meet the deadlines I set for myself thanks to all the driving. Today was supposed to be a “get the house CLEAN clean” while the kids were at work and school. I ended up losing in a battle of wills with my bed that kept taunting me. I took a 3 hour nap.

I think I’m just going to admit that I’m too old to take on all of the things like I used to do. The sooner that my family can just learn to applaud when I’m able to fold and put away a basket of towels AND get the dinner made, the better. And so what if I’m getting all this accomplished while still wearing pajamas? At least I remembered deodorant and I’m remembering to put actual pants on before going grocery shopping. What more do you people want?!

 

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.)

Conversations with My Kids – Study!

“Mom! I want a turn on the computer.”

     “You had a turn. Leave me alone.”

“I want another turn.”

     “Uhm, did that whole ‘You’re grounded from your second turn’ thing slip your mind?”

“But I’m BORED!”

     “Do I LOOK like Julie from the Love Boat?”

“What’s a love boat?”

     “Never mind.”

“But I’m still BORED!”

     “You’re still grounded from your second turn today. Go study.”

“I don’t want to study. Today is Friday. I don’t study on Friday.”
 
     “You don’t really study any other day of the week either.”

“Mommy!!!!! Come on. I want my turn back. I don’t have anything else to do.”

     “Read a book. Draw some pictures. Watch TV. Go to sleep.”

“Boring, boring, boring. I’m going to get a job at the cyber cafe.”

     “No, you’re not.”

“Why not?”

     “It smells like smoke in there because the owner is always smoking and won’t even turn on the fan.”

“So what? If I work there it will be on Friday and Saturday when I don’t have school and I will work when he is upstairs eating dinner.”

     “I’m considering banning you from going there again. Besides, you can’t get a job a month before final
exams and we’re moving next month. You need to focus on your studies.”

“But I can’t work in the States unless I’m 16 and that’s another 4 years away! That’s a third of my LIFE!”

     “See? You totally own fractions! Go work on geometry.”

“You NEVER let me do anything fun.”

     

NO I Don’t Know Where the Promenade Deck Is

It’s 5 million humid degrees outside and it’s 1 a.m. and my kids are “bored” and begging me to entertain them and I would LOVE to play “TAG with a Cattle Prod” and I’ll be “IT” but I don’t have a cattle prod and I already made the rule that we can’t run in the house.  And for the record, my name tag, if I were required to wear one for this SAHM-gig, would read MOMMY and not “Julie McCoy – Cruise Director” so it’s not my responsibility to entertain you people.  This is a really small apartment packed to the gills with hot and sweaty people and no air conditioning. It’s not the Love Boat.

Have I mentioned it’s hot?  I HATE the summer.  Winter is cool because, even if we don’t have heat, we can put down area rugs, pile on the blankets, wear two  pairs of socks and snuggle.  But summer? YUK. You can only BE naked. I mean, what’s after that? I don’t even plug in the water heater in the summer. And you’d think that that would provide us with cold showers all around, right? Wrong. Egypt is so damn hot that the cold water comes out of the pipes hot. Yup. Like solar powered water heater without the inconvenience of putting all those little solar panels up on top of the building.

So I’ve got the box fan blowing on me on high and hoping that my computer doesn’t overheat because you know, NO AIR-CONDITIONING. I’m going to go take my fourth shower for the day and hit the sack. But I’ll be dreaming of the Yukon, baby. And snow and polar bears drinking icy bottles of coke. And maybe I won’t wake up so sweaty tomorrow.