Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Learning Contentment

I got pregnant with my son, Ashton, when I was 19. Jeremy and I were already engaged, wedding date set, etc. However, getting pregnant out of wedlock, especially having been raised the way we were, is quite a blip on the radar screen of our life. 9 years later, it’s still something that I regret. I don’t regret Ashton by any means; I wouldn’t trade him for the world. But I regret the disappointment of our families, the fear and anxiety that Jeremy and I went through, and the judgement passed on us by others. The day  the blood tests confirmed my pregnancy, Jeremy had to go to the bank to cash a paycheck. I sat in the car with the windows down, wiping tears as steadily as they streamed down my face. A car pulled in a few spaces away from me, full of teenage boys. They sat there, music blaring, joking, occasionally looking at me, at the crazy girl sitting in a clunker openly weeping. After a few minutes, one of the boys got out and walked over to me.

“Are you okay?” he asked me.

I kind of laugh-sobbed, and choked out that yes, I was okay.

“You seem kind of like you’re having a hard day. My friends and I couldn’t help but notice that you are a little stressed. We wanted to give you this,” he said, handing me a little stuffed animal out of the back of their car. It was Max from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, reindeer antler and all. “I hope you know things will be okay. Whatever it is, you will be okay.”

All I could do was cry harder and thank him from my heart. I never saw those boys again. I don’t even remember what they looked like. And I don’t think they’ll ever know what a balm they were to me on the day that I thought was the end of my life. I still have Max. My baby’s very first gift, from a total stranger.

Jeremy and I got married in July of 2003, when I was 5 months pregnant. We decided not to change the wedding date, because everything was already set. I wasn’t showing much, and it was easy to hide under a poofy wedding dress. When we went back to visit our home church a few months after our wedding, just a few weeks before Ashton was born, in fact, we faced a lot of stares and snide comments. Comments like, “Well that certainly was fast...”, and “Now I can see why you were in such a hurry to get married!”

That first year of our marriage profoundly affected me. We never really had a “newlywed” phase. We went straight from being newly married to new parents. We had no idea what we were doing. We were exhausted, scared, practically estranged due to sleep schedules (or the lack thereof) and my insane hormones. I became resentful of my life. Adding 2 more kids in the next 5 years did nothing to boost my morale. I went from getting judgmental looks as a pregnant 19-20 year old, to getting judgmental looks for being a 25 year old with 3 kids under the age of 5. I caught the tell-tale stares at my left hand, the grandmothers in the grocery store saying, “Well, you’ve certainly been a busy little girl, haven’t you?”, even childhood friends posing queries about birth control.

I wondered what I would do if I could go back. Would I trade my kids, even as much as I loved them, to be able to have a “do-over”? Sometimes, I’m ashamed to admit, the answer was yes. When I looked around and saw other women my age going to college, traveling- honestly, even just leaving to go to the grocery store without it being an ordeal- I would fantasize about what it must be like, to be young and child free, unencumbered, with places to go and adventures to have.

But these are all choices I made. Not going to college, getting married early, having kids (even the ones that were a “surprise”), this is the life I chose, no matter what others might think of me for it. For the longest time, I have chafed under the weight of my choices. I’ve tried to learn to escape them, through books, movies, music, daydreams (if you've guessed that this has been one of those weeks, you guess right).

Before any of you think I'm an ungrateful wretch, hear me out. I know, in my heart, that I have a good life. Sometimes my head doesn’t want to agree with me. It has taken me 9 years to even begin to understand what it means to “learn contentment”. It may take me another 9 years to actually learn it. I’m starting to be okay with that. Just like those boys told me on that day, years ago, whatever my life is, however I may feel about it at times, I will be okay. I’m willing to learn contentment. I have a patient Teacher.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Match Point

I think I’ve said before that a lot of times Jeremy and I argue just for the sake of arguing. Don’t ask me why... it’s just something we’ve always done. Even back when we were friends, we argued constantly. It’s just a habit of ours to disagree, I suppose.

Sometimes we laugh and holler about it... sometimes we get heated. Almost all real arguments start with the phrase, “You wanna bet?!”, followed by a prompt Google search. This is a surefire way to get us rolling, because 9 times out of 10, we do, in fact, wanna bet. Not that we have anything to bet; mostly it’s “a million dollars”, or, in my more dramatic case, “my entire existence”. Since this past Sunday, here are a few of the things we have argued about:

1. If crack cocaine is, or is not, an expensive habit. Jt said no; I said yes. We based our argument on how much money per week one would spend on it. According to (don’t ask me why there’s a website for this sort of thing... I can’t answer that. Also, don’t ask me why caffeine and chocolate are listed with drugs such as marijuana, ecstasy, heroin, and meth), crack cocaine goes for an average price of $45.00 for 1 gram. Jeremy insists that this is not expensive. I say that if you have a habit of abusing crack cocaine, then yes, this could indeed get expensive. Assuming you used a couple of grams every few days, it has the potential to cost at least $90 a week. He offered to go out and find some crack addicts for me, and ask them if they thought their habit was expensive. I declined. In the end, he was forced to agree with me in that, if I myself took up crack cocaine, it would be out of our budget, thereby proving that it is an expensive habit. Mary- 1. Jeremy- 0.

2. Stemming off of the crack cocaine argument, we argued over whether marijuana is more expensive than crack cocaine. He said yes; I said no. He told me that people spend way more on pot than on crack. I conceded that while that may be true, I wouldn’t believe that marijuana actually cost MORE than crack. He promptly followed with, “Wanna bet?!”, so naturally, I returned to our trusty, and looked up the going price for marijuana, which is listed as $55.00 for 3.5 grams. Jeremy was momentarily triumphant, seeing the bottom line... until I pointed out that pot was only $10 more for more than 3 times as much as you get with crack. Mary- 2. Jeremy- 0.

3. Whether or not the mess and clutter in our bedroom was my fault or his. This became one of our “heated” debates. I maintained that 70% of the clothes on the floor were his; he lashed back, saying that the reason that his clothes were on the floor was because I had allowed Chloe’s clothes to take over his dresser (I’ve told you before how small our house is... we have to share space). He won that argument, but not easily. Mary- 2. Jeremy- 1.

4. Whether Ashton’s Little League hat was smaller than Jeremy’s coach’s hat. I said that Ashton’s was smaller, Jeremy said they were one size fits all. My argument was that earlier in the week I had put both hats together on top of the piano, fitting Ashton’s inside of Jeremy’s. I told him that the brim on Ashton’s was shorter. When we found Ashton’s hat (which he had since buried in a couch cushion somehow) I was all prepared to be smug... however, Jeremy simply adjusted the Velcro strap on Ashton’s hat to match his, and yes... they were the same size. Mary- 2. Jeremy- 2.

So here we are on Wednesday, tied. I think that my victories are more significant, since I have Google research to back my claims. Jeremy thinks his common sense in the hat business should count for 2 points. Wanna bet on who wins this argument?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

I'm a proud mama tonight. I'd like to say I am every night, but I'm also an honest mama... so I know it would be a lie to say that I am enthusiastically proud of 100% of my kids' activities 100% of the time. But, tonight I am. 
My Bubba played his first Little League ballgame tonight. Unfortunately, they didn't win. Fortunately, it took Ashton a few hours to really let it sink in, and he didn't start sulking until about 10pm, at which time I put him to bed. He is so intense. He takes himself so seriously. 
According to Jeremy (who swears he is unbiased in this point), Ashton is one of the best players on the team, especially given the fact that he has never played on a team before. I can see this about him... he has always been focused, and it showed on the field tonight. Other kids were staring into space, zoning out... and Ashton was completely invested the whole game. Of course, he was on 3rd base, which is normally a hot spot; but in coach pitch, where the kids are just starting, the ball rarely even made it to 3rd base. Poor Ashton was so ready to do his part, waving his glove in the air, and at one point even throwing his hat on the ground, getting frustrated every time a player got past him because he never got the ball. He told me he never even got nervous, but just that his "heart was beating" when it was his turn to bat.

Anyway, this is strictly a bragging blog. Some of you may believe that since his team lost, I have nothing to really brag about.

Who can look at him and tell me I don't have a reason to brag?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Love and War

It’s way too late to be blogging. But I’m feeling introspective... which is just my way of saying I’m feeling down.

I’m wearing Ashton’s camouflage Snuggie. Well, not wearing it completely, because it’s child sized. I don’t have my arms through the sleeves or anything... so it doesn’t really count as hopping on the Snuggie bandwagon, right? Although, I can’t say that I would really be adverse to owning a Snuggie. Especially the ones that come with a book light. Especially since Jeremy broke my old book light.

Speaking of Jeremy... well, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that I’m not the only person in the universe who argues with their spouse, right? Of course, right. I can’t really say Jeremy and I have been arguing so much as... bickering. I hate that word- bickering. For some reason it reminds of when I was young, and my dad would reach his breaking point when it came to us kids. He would stand up, sometimes toss his newspaper on the floor, and holler, “That is e-NOUGH!!! I have had it up to HERE (holding his hand up above his reddening face, indicating where exactly ”here“ was) with your... BICKERING!”, with a hard pronunciation of the B. He made the word “bicker” sound like a slap.

Jeremy and I have always had a bust your chops relationship. It’s one of the things I love about us. But sometimes, as with everything, we can take it too far, and joking gives way to hurt feelings. On both sides. Both of us want to have the last word. It becomes a battle of one-upmanship (I can’t believe one-upmanship is actually a word. It looks weird). And in the end, at the risk of sounding sage and cliched, nobody wins. Except maybe me. Sometimes.

There! You see what I mean? I can’t even blog without having the final word.

So my point is, and what I’m saying to myself, and maybe anyone else out there who may need some sage and cliched advice, is that:

1. Bickering is immature. If it calls to mind memories of being yelled at by your dad for arguing with your sibling over who was sitting where, chances are, it’s probably immature.
2. Marriage isn’t about getting in the last word. It’s definitely not about winning. And that is a very, very good thing. Because (as previously stated in the above sage and cliched advice) most of the time, nobody wins.
3. My husband drives me crazy. Lord knows he does. And Lord knows that I drive him crazy, at regular intervals, and there’s a 60/40 chance that I’m doing it on purpose. I can admit that, and often do. However, and this brings me to:
4. In spite of being driven crazy, and the necessity to count to 10 frequently (which I do not always avail myself of), I know that I would so, so much rather “bicker” with Jeremy than be with someone else. More cliches, I know, but there’s a reason cliches are cliche. If being married to him means that I have to endure jokes about padded bras, occasionally (okay, maybe more than occasionally) sub-par housekeeping, and worry wart tendencies, I am completely okay with that. Because that also means that I get to tell him how awful his hair looks, and how he manages to ruin even the simplest of jokes. And how his Scottish accent somehow manages to be a mix of Cockney, Forrest Gump, Bob Marley, and Apu from The Simpsons. Yeah, don’t ask me. I don’t know how he manages that one either.
5. Somehow, just acknowledging the fact that yes, we bicker, and yes, we are still okay afterwards, makes me feel not so down. It's nice to know that I can wake up in the morning to someone I love and am annoyed by. Bad hair, stupid jokes, and all.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Feel Sorry For Me

Atleigh has contracted some sort of stomach bug. I've been puked on three times in as many days. Twice in my cupped palms. This weekend has sucked. I thought the puking was done- none at all yesterday or all day today- until tonight, when I tried to get her to eat a banana. Incidentally, all she has eaten since Friday night is: 3 pizza rolls (which ended up on my pants), a handful of mini saltine crackers, a cup of applesauce, 5 bites of a waffle, and said banana. She ate about two thirds of it before she bit off too much. I suppose her gag reflex was sensitive, because as soon as I realized she was struggling, and tried to "swipe" it from her mouth, she vomited. Into my hands. Chewed up banana. Lovely. Freaking. Lovely. Couple that with a fever ranging between 101 and almost 104, and you could say that the past few days have been far from ideal. Thankfully the fever broke this morning. Now if I can only convince her that food does not equal poison and vomiting.

I'm saying all this so you'll feel sorry for me. Do you?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Making Memories

It’s Friday (Friday, Friday... sorry, I couldn’t help myself). Jeremy’s camping with a bunch of guy friends. It was pouring rain earlier, thunder and lightning, wind howling. I felt sure he would turn tail and come home, but he stuck it out, good man. Like a trooper.

This is what I do on weekends when Jeremy’s gone: I buy frozen pizzas, spread a thick blanket on the living room floor, and let the kids camp out, staying up late eating pizza and watching TV. Sometimes they pass out around 10... sometimes they’ve stayed up as late as 1 in the morning before finally succumbing. They’ve inherited my night owl blood. Judge me if you will (and I know some people will) about letting them stay up so late. Kids need their rest, you’ll get them off schedule, blah blah blah. Let them judge.

Some of my best memories are cloaked in a dark living room, sprawled on the floor with my brothers and sister, the flickering blue light of the TV screen shining off of our faces. I had one of those reversible blankets, tan and brown, with a picture of horses galloping through waves on a beach. Amber had a battered old quilt, and each boy had a blanket, cleverly called- wait for it- the boys’ blankets. I still remember what they looked like, and which ones belonged to which boy.
Some nights we would play video games- we had a demo disc for the Playstation, some sort of downhill skateboarding game. We would play that over and over, for hours, taking turns with the controller until our thumbs hurt. Or Uniracers! Who remembers that game?! Other nights we watched movies. I remember laying on the floor next to my dad watching The Land Before Time, tears running down my face as Littlefoot’s mother died. And I remember years later, again laying next to Dad on the floor, watching him cry as Annie and Sam finally found each other in Sleepless in Seattle. I remember staying up late with my mom while she cross-stitched, watching While You Were Sleeping, The Cutting Edge, True Lies.... all of her staple “stitching movies” as we called them. All the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby “Road” movies, Young Frankenstein, and every Christmas Eve, The Muppet Christmas Carol.

So while some people might regard my idea of a fun family night as negligent parenting, I prefer to think of it as more of passing a torch, in a way. I see them, cloaked in a dark living room. Sprawled on the floor next to each other, the blue light of the TV flickering off of their faces. I see myself and my brothers and sister in them. And I have to ask myself, as my parents might have asked themselves all those years ago: What is sleeping compared to making memories?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Day Without Shoes

 Ok, so I'm sure if you've read my blog before, you saw my little paragraph about Toms Shoes. Today was their annual Day Without Shoes, to raise awareness for children in poverty stricken countries who don't have the choice of whether to wear shoes or not. I took part in that this year.

I'm not gonna lie. My feet are killing me. I didn't even do that much today (my wonderful sister spent the whole day at college barefoot!). I took Ashton to school. I came home. I went to Papa John's to pick up a pizza for lunch for me and the girls, I went back to pick Ashton up from school. But walking on the sidewalks, the street, even just walking in my house, made my feet tender. I always wear flip flops. Always. I didn't realize how much I relied on them until I had to stop myself 50 times from slipping them back on.

It rained today. The temperature dropped about 15 degrees in an hour. I'm not going to say it wasn't tempting to put shoes back on. Right now, my feet are freezing, bare toes peeking over the edge of the laptop I'm propping on my legs. But I think of all the little kids, babies the same age as my babies, walking miles without shoes. In the rain, the dirt, the mud and filth. The preventable diseases that they get, diseases that can be avoided with something as simple as a pair of shoes. I wouldn't consider myself an activist. Not really. But there are things that strike chords in my heart. My not wearing shoes didn't raise money for those kids. I didn't go to any rallies, I didn't carry a sign. I knew the reason I went barefoot today was to raise awareness in myself. To not take for granted something that is so easily accessible to me. Tomorrow, I get to wake up, and choose which pair of shoes I want to wear. I have dozens to choose from. My feet won't have to get wet or dirty if I don't want them to. If they get cold, I can pull a pair of socks on.

But for today, I'm going barefoot for them. And tonight, my heart is as tender as my feet.