Farther and Further from Sanity

It was a variation of a dream I have on somewhat regular occasion, where I’m running a little late for something, and super random weird shit keeps happening that causes me to get farther and farther behind schedule.  Which leads to me becoming more and more stressed out.
My deep in REM self always becomes super agitated because even though the things causing me to fall further behind schedule are at least somewhat beyond my control, I feel completely responsible.  Like I have unquestionably dropped the ball and deserve zero grace or redemption.
And yet, there’s another part of me that’s like, “Whoa there, back the em effing train up.  My intentions were good. No part of me intended to keep falling further and further behind, but shit keeps happening and I don’t know how to fix it and the hole keeps getting deeper and deeper and deeper and I don’t know how to fix it, and now all hell has broken loose, and can SOMEBODY PLEASE TELL ME HOW TO WAKE UP FROM THIS DREAM because I’m certain there is no way this is real life, because ultimately nothing here makes any damn sense, which means I DON’T KNOW HOW TO FIX IT. And then I wake up and I am hard core shook.
The particular iteration which preceded the above text message had to do with me needing to get a pair of white pants for my daughter, who had a role in the school musical.  Did I mention nothing in these dreams ever fully makes sense? I mean, my kid was in a musical once, but white pants???
I entered in a store and quickly found a pair of pants, which I thought were priced at $40.  I wasn’t happy about paying so much for a pair of pants she’d never use again, but I was in a rush, so I took them to the cashier.  They rang up at $120, don’t ask me why (because nothing in these dreams makes sense, that’s why). When I told her I wouldn’t be buying the pants at that price, she said, “Hold on, let me go call the manufacturer.  Sometimes they’ll sell them for cheaper.”
This is a retail experience I’ve had exactly zero times and I was hella confused.  And it led to hours of waiting, and me trying to tell everyone involved (the clerk and who else??  I don’t even know) it didn’t matter. That I’d move on to a different store and find the pants at a more reasonable price. That I didn’t have time to wait to hear from the manufacturer. That I simply needed to move on and figure out how to get the damn pants to my daughter. And yet, I somehow ended up trapped, waiting for this clerk to contact the manufacturer.
Then I somehow found myself in a car, where the person driving kept telling me she just needed to make a quick stop.  I became more agitated, because I really needed to get back to the store and find out if the clerk heard back from the manufacturer.  I had no idea who I was with, or how or why I got into a car. Or why I was still dealing with a clerk calling a manufacturer about giving me a better price on a pair of pants, when I told her I’d be getting pants somewhere else. I begged the driver to simply get me back to the store, but she acted as if I’d said nothing and kept driving to her ‘quick stop’.  It became painfully apparent the ‘quick stop’ would be at least half an hour away. Farther and farther behind. More and more stressed. None of this making any sense. Adding: Is my voice broken? Why do I feel like no one is listening to me? I told the clerk I don’t want the damn pants. Why was the driver ignoring my pleas to get me back to the store? WHY???

Somewhere in the sequence of events, I became aware I’d mistaken the show times, and of the three performances scheduled on this particular day, I’d already missed the first two. Completely dropping the ball and leaving my kid high and dry with no white pants.  
Shit just kept getting weirder and weirder.  And I kept getting more and more freaked out.  And then there was a scene where my husband, who is about two weeks into a four week business trip finally came home, and told me he’d be leaving the next day for another two weeks.  At which point I completely lost my shit, and knew I was completely losing my shit; yet really really wanted to be able to get said shit together and be normal and sane.
But I couldn’t.  I turned into a stark raving lunatic.  I lost all control of my emotions. I kept trying to tell myself to simply be calm and take some deep breaths and that we could figure all of this out, even though nothing was making sense.

But I couldn’t stop yelling at everyone around me.

They all started exchanging glances so as to nonverbally communicate: What the hell is up with this crazy bitch?? I kept trying to explain to them why I’d gone bananas, but of course I couldn’t, because none of it made any damn sense.

Have I mentioned nothing in these dreams ever really makes sense??!!

This is totally normal, right?  Like, everybody has had this dream, no? Maybe??
Probably not.  I get that. I’m super extra mental, which probably plays more than a small part in me having these traumatic experiences while in the midst of what is otherwise one of my favorite activities:  SLEEP.
Gee.  I wonder what’s going on in my psyche?  For what it’s worth, I also frequently wonder if I’m using the term ‘psyche’ correctly.  
Anyhoo.  There are some things I feel it’s safe to say.

My husband’s been gone since May 26 and won’t be home until June 21st.  And actually he won’t even be home then. He’ll be flying to Green Bay and meeting us in Appleton, Wisconsin for Elise’s soccer tournament.  It would seem I’m ready for him to come home. It would also seem he shouldn’t mention future trips anytime soon.

There are many things I’m feeling powerless over these days. Travel schedules, how the world treats those I love, choices my kids are making, soccer schedules, global warming, children in cages, the fact that my dog tore a gutter off the house in order to murder a ground squirrel, and the god forsaken biting gnat epidemic currently hitting Minnesota.  Seriously, those little bastards are THE WORST.

And yet, like in the dream, I feel I should have power over these things, like I’m responsible.  If I’d raised my kids better, their choices would be falling in line and they’d have nicer friends.  If I were nicer to my husband, he’d travel less, if I’d quit eating so many damn cheeseburgers I could lessen my carbon footprint, if I’d have been paying better attention to the dog the gutter would still be attached to the house, if I’d done some door knocking or phone calling in 2016 perhaps Tsar Cheetoh Tiny Hands wouldn’t have become the figurehead of the USA; and for Pete’s sake, no one held a gun to my head when I signed my kid up for soccer.  I’m not omnipotent, but Lord knows I’ve made some choices along the way.

This is the point in a post where a normal blogger wraps things up or tells why they’ve decided to write.

I’m not normal, we’ve established that. I have no conclusion. No reason for sharing this other than further self deprecation, and further evidence I’m completely and totally losing my mind.

The only thing I’ve learned by spewing this tripe is that Farther v. Further is kinda tricky. So I just used ’em interchangeably. Because consistency is for sane folks. Same goes for line spacing in WordPress.

Farther v Further citation

Sayonara Sophomore Year

We mercifully wrapped up sophomore year today, and I simply refuse to acknowledge the fact that we’ll be facing another sophomore year come September of 2020. Because the only word I can use to describe the 10th grade year we’re wrapping up is GODAWFUL.

As usual, there was plenty of good, and I should be focusing on that. We are all in stellar physical health. I believe a passing grade has been earned in all classes. We’ve battled a fair number of demons and enjoyed a couple of victories along the way.

But oh my heart, the lessons I’ve had to learn as a parent this year have put my heart and soul through a wringer. I have been bitch slapped by the reality of how many things I cannot control. I’ve tied my stomach into knots over the fact that I frequently have to let him make his own choices, even when they’re shitty. I’ve seethed with rage over the way other people parent, which is super rich considering I have no clue what the fuck I’m doing. I’ve shed tears over how incredibly awful kids can be to each other- knowing my kid has been on both the giving and receiving end of some truly abhorrent behavior (if you think girls have the market on being mean cornered, let’s talk). I have stewed over countless parental missteps I’ve made this year, some of which have led to aforementioned abhorrent behavior that my kid’s had to field. And of course, I’ve worried. Oh my God, how I’ve worried. About all of it.

I have next to no context for how standard issue all this BS is. My own sophomore year was also pretty dreadful. I was in a new town, a new school, and knew no one. I was entirely too shy and awkward to get into any trouble, which left me with plenty of time to excel in my schoolwork, which I did. And while I endured some incredibly lonely times while trying to find my way in a new environment, no one was ever overtly asshole-ish towards me. Regardless, I’d never want to repeat it.

I’ll say it again for the bazillionth time. Parenting is hard. I don’t know why I keep rehashing that fact, but here we are. I guess I’m the self-appointed president of the ‘WHY IS THIS SO FUCKING HARD’ club and will likely be calling next week’s meeting to order with sordid tales of the first week of summer.

Let the summer games begin. Lord have mercy.

Very anti-climatic last day of school photo. I didn’t bother asking him to pose for one, so we’ll have to settle for this one taken from behind the dirty window.

The Truth Shall Set You Free????

What a complete and total load of hot, steaming, stinking donkey dung that statement is.

At least that’s how I’ve been feeling of late, so imagine my surprise when I found out the origin of that statement is the book of John in the Bible. Uhhh. Sorry J.C. I guess maybe you said it, but today, in my reality, it’s crap.

And yet, I’m a fan of truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. And objective correct answers. I don’t like sugar coating (though if salt coating were a thing, I would be oh so down). I value authenticity, loathe disingenuousness. Absolutes are my jam.

It feels oppressive, not freeing.

Mostly because I feel like an anomaly in my love of truth. It seems most folks are more content with sticking their heads in the sand; and truth be told, they seem like happier, freer (freer is a word, who knew?) people than I am. By leaps and bounds. I am jealous of them. I want to stick my head in the sand, but I just can’t seem to figure out how to do it. The answer is probably yoga. Increased flexibility, quieter mind, blah, blah, blah.

This is, of course, all in the context of parenting teenagers. I’m currently very hands on, more so than I’ve ever been as a parent. To outsiders looking in, I am senselessly paranoid. And to some extent they’re probably correct, but let’s face it: my family isn’t like all the others. We’re weird. And mental. And we have some extenuating circumstances which make it logical for me to pay closer attention than perhaps most parents need to. I wish I could explain them all to you and those most critical of my parenting, but it’s simply not my story to tell on the world wide web. If you really want to know, PM me and we’ll make a coffee date. The takeaway from this paragraph, I think, is that I’ve officially become that parent.

For those of you who haven’t had the joy of being the over-involved, over meddling lunatic parent, let me share with you some adjectives of what it’s like. Frustrating, relentless, exhausting, emotional to the max, worrisome. I know things about my kid I don’t really want to know. I know things about other people’s kids I really, really don’t want to know. And sometimes, when trying to do the right thing, I share things I shouldn’t and there’s fallout for my kids; and on those occasions I would very much like drink all night and sleep all day and throw in the towel on trying to parent. Or perhaps run away from home.

Do not be alarmed. I am not taking those courses of action. But there are instances when I feel like I suck so badly at this that my kids would be better off without me. I don’t believe that in my head, but I sometimes feel it in my heart.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it a million times more: parenting is hard. Parenting teenagers is trigonometry/analytical geometry hard when I really never quite understood anything after basic algebra. And the past week has been calculus hard, which is a class I never even took.

But, it’s a week we made it through. Another one in the books. I like to think it’s not going to get harder, but I’m sure it will. For lack of a better course of action, I shall keep slogging through and telling as much of the truth as I’m able to. All the while incessantly repeating my mantra, compliments of Saint Julian of Norwich: All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.

I hope you’re right, Saint Julian. I hope you’re right.

Where’s the Beef?

Remember when I posted about trying to lose weight? I’m over it. Kind of. Sort of. Maybe.

I continue to exercise regularly, and have even reached the point where I can run (jog?!) a 5K without stopping, which feels like an embarrassing thing to announce when I was once upon a time a super fit marathon runner, but take a wild guess where my give-a-shit meter is? It is, on some level, a comeback, and I’m too old to pretend with you that I’m not a little bit proud at having clawed my way back to a moderate level of fitness.

My diet, though, y’all. It’s bad. And I’m not sure I have any flucks to give.

It’s May. And it’s well documented on the interwebs that May is pretty much a hell-scape for parents of school aged kids. Growing up in Kansas, though, I at least had the assurance that the school year would come to a close somewhere around the middle of the month. Not so much in Minnesota. The school calendar in our district usually varies due to construction projects at various facilities, but we are rarely done before Memorial Day. And despite having lived here for nearly 19 years, every molecule in my body is telling me it is time to bring this shit-show to a close, regardless of the calendar telling me we’ve got two and a half weeks to go.

My eighth grader had two soccer games last week that kept her out until after 10pm. One of them required a two hour drive. We picked her up from school, hit the road, and didn’t get home until 10:45. And for those of you who speak soccer, there was no AR on one side, so the lead ref took on that role as well. And, bless his heart, he was barely up for the task of even one of these roles, let alone two. Blown calls aplenty, and he ended the game 90 seconds early. We were down 2-3. Does this scenario represent hardship? Hell no. These are admittedly problems of the privileged. Was it annoying beyond belief to drive two hours on a school night and not have adequate officiating? Hell yes.

For what it’s worth (not a damn thing), I am not typically in the practice of referee bashing. My kids are now both certified soccer refs. I understand mistakes are made and it’s part of the game. So, I can live with this dude’s mistakes; but I still get to be pissed off about the club not providing an AR. And my bitching is limited to this blog. I didn’t yell at him. I would never.

Also, for what it’s worth (again, not a damn thing), we’ve got a game on Monday night, and Waze is telling me it’s going to take an hour to get there. Did I mention we have two and a half weeks of school left?

May is also the month I celebrate having become a mother in 2002. My boy turned 17 yesterday. Some of my DNA is in him, some of his DNA is in me, and I love him with every fiber of my being. But OH MY GOD. The piss poor decision making, the entitlement, his stupid-ass peers and their mother effing clueless parents are SUCKING THE LIFE OUT OF ME. It isn’t that I don’t empathize. It was hard to be 17 in the 90’s, and I sure as well wouldn’t want to do it today. And he’s got some exacerbating factors (stupid ass parents and the aforementioned shared DNA) which quite possibly make it harder for him than most. I feel for him, I really do. But I’m weary of the worry. Because there is always worry. And even though we’re all super duper done with the school year, the prospect of summer with him is bold font all caps DAUNTING.

And so, I’m only slightly ashamed to tell you I’m using burgers as a coping mechanism. In addition to the one above, I had a quarter pounder from McDonalds later that day (on the way home from that mother trucking soccer game). And I’m sitting at soccer practice right now and just ordered a bacon cheddar burger from the snack stand. Never had a burger here before, I’m guessing it’s pretty meh. So I’m not even requiring high quality beef to fall off the healthy eating wagon. I’m simply stuffing whatever red meat I can find into my mouth.

Where’s the Beef? IN MY BELLY.

Uncharacteristically Brief, but Characteristically Underwhelming Words on Motherhood from Yours Truly

My previous post got a lot of likes and positive feedback. And, I cannot tell a lie, I like likes and positive feedback. As I sat down today to try and write something, though, I cringed a bit when I looked back at it.

Because it was pretty damn judge-y, and may perhaps have come across as me thinking I know something. And believe you me, I know nothing, and have exactly zero room to judge; especially when it comes to parenting.

Here’s one of the few things I do know, though. (I guess I know one thing.)

Motherhood is hard.

And Motherhood during the middle and high school years feels super extra in the hard category. And I really can’t imagine how hard it’s going to feel as we navigate our final two years of high school for my son, who is about to complete his sophomore year of high school.

Yes, parenting in general is hard. I mean no disrespect to dads, but it’s mother’s day.

It’s hard not to mother from a place of fear when we live in a culture of fear. It’s hard not to get sucked into competitive mothering when living in an ultra-competitive society. It’s hard not to worry about what’s going to become of our children when they repeatedly don’t make the choices we wish they would.

And so I feel the need to apologize for calling moms out for trying to do the best for their kids. Because I do believe that moms (and dads too!) really are trying to do the best for their kids, in a society where it feels incredibly challenging to know what ‘doing the best for our kids’ even means.

So, my wish for my fellow moms on this mother’s day is a bullshit free day. A day without worrying about all we’re doing wrong. A day without judgement. A day of knowing we’re enough. No matter what the world tells us. No matter what the voices in our head tell us. No matter how many stupid decisions our teenagers make in the coming week. Even if they don’t get 4’s or 5’s on their AP tests. Even if they never took an AP course. Even if they smell bad and need haircuts. We’re enough, moms; and we’re all doing the best we can. And it’s enough.

Big, Bold-Faced words Regarding My Thoughts on College Prep

Image result for felicity huffman lori loughlin
Don’t be like Lori and Felicity. CAN WE ALL JUST CHILL OUT ABOUT COLLEGE?
photo credit

I love words, and there are many words in the English language that speak to my soul. Epiphany, solitude, grace, schism, and ambivalent to name a few. My word of the moment, though, is curmudgeon: a bad tempered person, especially an old one. Somehow in the past few years, I’ve morphed into an 85 year old malcontent who walked five miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways of course.

In actuality, I walked maybe three blocks to school. There were a few years there when I had to then get on a bus and ride five minutes across town to the early elementary school. And I had a car before the end of my freshman year. Because I was spoiled (there were some other extenuating circumstances, but whatevs).

Since there weren’t any, I cannot wax nostalgic about my hardships getting to and from school; but I can grumble about my college prep experience. Though I’m not really grumbling, because it WAS ALL OK. There is of course a caveat: anything I tell you in regards to this topic is to the best of my memory (which is suspect, since this was 25ish years ago and it’s been fairly well established that I typically can’t remember what happened to me yesterday).

When I was a junior in high school, we were encouraged to take the PSAT, so I signed up. Upon signing up, I received an information packet and a practice test, all hard copies of course. I took the practice test. I may even have taken it twice (I was a fastidious student). I took the test. My score, as I recall, was good. Perhaps even slightly above average. I started getting flyers for college in the mail.

Early in my senior year of high school, I signed up to take the ACT. Upon signing up, I received an information packet and a practice test, all hard copies of course. I took the practice test. I may even have taken it twice (I was a fastidious student). I took the test. I think I got a 28. I also think I scored really well in reading and comprehension and maybe not as well in science and reasoning. For some reason, I opted to sign up and take it again. I vaguely recall some schools I was interested in offering some financial aid for scores of 29 or above, but who the hell can really remember? Upon signing up, I received an information packet and a practice test, all hard copies of course. I took the practice test. I may even have taken it twice (I was a fastidious student). Did that last sentence sound familiar? I think I got a 29.

I went to college at a small-ish liberal arts establishment, then did a clinical year in a big university hospital. I got two bachelor of science degrees in five years. I acquired some debt (admittedly nothing like what students today are facing). I was very intentional about making sure I would be employable upon completion of my education. Somewhere in there I got married. I got a job. I had kids. I quit my job. I currently live the dream with a spouse, a house, two kids and a dog.

There were some mistakes along the way. I perhaps should’ve paid more attention to the fact that I scored higher in reading and comprehension than I did science and reasoning when choosing a career path. In the interest of scrupulousness and unmitigated honesty, I should tell you I don’t remember what the test sections were actually called and I’m too lackadaisical to look up that information on the google. At any rate, I was more adept with words than equations; and some aptitude testing would’ve likely been pragmatic. BUT, I did the best I could with the information I had. And, despite some mistakes, I AM OKAY.

Here’s what I understand: My son is a high school sophomore. The next two years are going to race by. I’m going to blink twice and *hopefully* be taking photos of my boy in his cap and gown. It’s definitely time to start thinking about what life after high school is going to look for both of my children.

Here’s what I don’t understand: The frenzy going on around me. The agonizing over what AP courses to sign up for, the collective anxiety about getting into college, the Facebook inquiries about which AP test prep books are the best, which test coach (seriously! seriously?!) to hire.

Some of this is admittedly the bed I’ve made. Our family lives in a district that touts having perhaps the best schools in the state. The adult population around me is highly educated, driven, and successful in their careers. The frenzy about me is undoubtedly largely a function of the population we’ve surrounded our family with.

BUT. Shouldn’t an advantage of living in such a place be that maybe, just maybe, we could let go of some of this anxiety? Could we perhaps not stress about having the premier AP test prep book and instead put a little faith in the educators who tirelessly work to make sure these kids are ready for the exam? I have this sneaking suspicion that these course instructors ALSO want our kids to be successful, so perhaps we should simply let them do their thing, have our kids attend the outside of class prep sessions these men and women conduct on their own time, and let the chips fall where they may.

If my attitude is giving you an anxiety attack, please quit reading. This is going to get worse.

Because I’m going to take this ‘let the chips fall where they may’ idea a little farther. It’s not just the AP instructors who have an interest in our kids testing well. OTHER TEACHERS WANT OUR KIDS TO DO WELL, TOO. So, maybe, just maybe simply going to school, doing the assigned work, and taking advantage of the available resources is the test prep. I am, indeed, suggesting that perhaps simply taking the practice test for the ACT is sufficient preparation. I am, indeed, suggesting that our children might do just fine without us worrying so damn much about a test score. I am, indeed, suggesting that OUR KIDS ARE GOING TO BE OK.

Our kids are all going to get into college, y’all. It may not be an Ivy League institution. It might not be our first choice school for them. They might have to transfer after a year or two. We’re going to make mistakes. Our kids are going to make some too. So, how about we cool it with the stressing ourselves out, stressing our kids out, and putting ourselves in this utterly unnecessary pressure cooker? OUR KIDS ARE GOING TO BE OK. We’re going to be OK too. It’s ALL GOING TO BE OK. And all this travail is turning me into a curmudgeon.

In my day, there was no test coach. We signed up, took the practice tests, and went to college. And it was all just fine, DAMMIT.

Words Fail, But Here are 1,119 Anyway

The Civil Rights Tour. If we’re not Facebook friends (or if you’ve gifted yourself and hidden or muted me, which I’d applaud you for), it was a week long trek through the deep south visiting monuments (churches, museums, cemeteries, and institutions such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Equal Justice Initiative) and listening to and talking with foot soldiers. I’ve spent the two and a half weeks since I returned ruminating, reading, honing my Civil Rights playlist, listening to podcasts, and trying to re-enter reality. And, to be honest, contemplating what ‘reality’ even means after such an experience.

I’ve also, of course, tried repeatedly to write about it. In another tab of my browser, I currently have another draft (1137 words!) where I tried to describe the trip; blathering on about why I didn’t care to use the term life-changing. In it, I had settled on the term visceral as the overall descriptor. For better or worse, I walked away from it without completing it. When I came back to it, I hated it. I’m vowing to myself to plow through this today and hit publish, even though I know from plenty of experience the same damn thing will happen. At some point (could be minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years) I’ll read this again and wonder why I EVER thought it would be a good idea to post it.

Yet, here we are.

I could share with you our entire itinerary and expound upon my reactions to all of it, but instead I’m going to try and give you a little window into what was going on in my gray matter (be afraid, be very afraid). There was a fair amount of turmoil involved, which should surprise no one.

I wanted to take dozens of photos at every stop,

so I wouldn’t forget anything. But I also wanted to drop kick my camera into oncoming traffic, so I could quit trying to preserve the moments and instead be fully present.

I wanted to photograph each man and woman we heard from,

because it felt so incredible to simply be in the same rooms, breathing the same air with them. But I often couldn’t bring myself to do it, because it felt irreverent to even attempt to capture their essences in a still photo. I did take photos of a couple of them, but am sitting here feeling a fair amount of regret for not have gotten a photo of Carolyn McKinstry, because I feel like the hour I spent listening to her was perhaps one of the most important hours of my life. But, then again, perhaps that’s because I had put the damn camera away and was fully present.

I wanted to grab my American history high school teacher by the lapels, shake him, and interrogate him

as to why there was so much of what I was learning that I didn’t already know. Seventeen year old Anne could clearly see the guy was useless and my week hammered that idea home. And yet, I felt some sympathy for him. Because he didn’t write the curriculum. And, if we’re being real, I questioned whether or not I’d have wanted to hear any of this coming from him; because there is no way he could’ve done the topic justice. And even if he’d been the best history teacher on earth, it’s entirely possible the significance would’ve been lost on a large percentage of the student body. Even me, though I fancied myself to be fairly woke at the time (long before woke carried the connotation it does today).

I was fairly obsessed with booking the same trip for my children

before I even got home, as soon as possible; primarily because so many of the foot soldiers are getting on in age. I fretted about the possibility that some of these greats could well be lost before my kids get to hear from them. But I also want to make sure my kids are ready, that they are in a place where they can appreciate the gravity of the era– what was at stake, the extraordinary people involved, the risks taken, the consequences suffered. And, there is admittedly some part of me worried about whether or not my kids could handle it. Though, ultimately, I know the outcome of insulating them from our past is decidedly not an outcome I want. Which is sadly where I differ from a very vocal minority of fellow parents within my school district. That, as I often say, is a post for another day.

Now that I’ve pounded out some words, we come to the point in my process where I question, question, question. Is my inadequacy in talking about this important, phenomenal trip doing it a disservice? Should I deep six the whole thing? Will my words be misunderstood? Should I just keep my mouth shut and continue ruminating internally?

The answer to all of those is undoubtedly a maybe. And yet, not writing about it doesn’t feel like an option.

Not the order I’d have liked for these photos, but I can’t figure out how to fix it.