if you’d like to reach me, leave me alone. – sheryl crow

10.2014 pumpkin

Faithful readers of my blog (hi mom) will know that I like to pretend I am a homesteader even though I live in the suburbs. It makes my yardwork seem more interesting.

This morning Miss L & I woke up and I made her some pancakes. I got all crafty and added a dash of cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice and she thought they were fine until I TOLD her I had added these things, and then her enthusiasm markedly decreased. (You should have seen her reaction to the green tomato sauce the other night…”WHAT’S THAT?!”)

The weather here in Michigan is blustery and autumnal and we spent the morning homesteading.

We cut back the rest of the tomatoes and the peony bushes, and the front yard hostas which had gone yellow and wet-papery. I took cuttings of my coleus (yes I know how that sounds) and decided to try overwintering my Boston ferns, which are now trimmed back and living in the garage until spring. We drained the hose and hung it up in the garage; I trimmed bushes and we filled birdfeeders and stacked some firewood and I pondered what to do with the compost bin and the woodpile. The woodpile needs to be relocated closer to the back door, but I was having a crisis of confidence. Last night, whilst Miss L and I ate Oreos and watched a Harry Potter marathon, I tried to build a fire and failed. I thought, what’s the point of bringing the woodpile closer to the house if I can’t build a fire? Then Miss L went happily off to her dad’s house and I had tea and toast with honey creme and I tried again with the fire. This time, it worked splendidly and I’m pleased to say that it is still going in the woodstove. Emmett is crashed out in front of it looking blissful and I am proud.

I still think about packing it in – telling the Legal Dept that I am leaving to be a homesteader, selling my house in the ‘burbs, taking whatever equity i have plus my small savings, and buying a tiny fixer-upper on a lot of land up north near my folks. I would learn how to keep bees and have a half-acre garden and maybe some chickens…it’s a nice little dream. I have always had reclusive tendencies and I think now that I am divorced, I’m just ready to be out in the open with the fact that I like being alone better than I like being with most other people, and if left to my own devices, I could seriously disconnect from society in a way that I would probably regret later. Part of me feels anxious about this, and I have moments of, ‘I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life! I’d better start Internet dating! I can feel my skin losing elasticity with every passing moment!!’ I’m in that murky grey area where the thought of being a single old lady whose shopping cart is full of wine and cat food is terrifying, yet the prospect of dating anyone – going out on dates – is completely unappealing.

So, Miss L needs her great school and I need my job and friends, and I need to be forced outside of myself on a regular basis, and I just need to keep reminding myself that everything happens for a reason. I don’t have to figure it all out now and anyway, hey, I can build a fire while I’m waiting

throwback thursday

throwback thursday to 2009's orchard trip.

throwback thursday to 2009’s orchard trip.

I like my job just fine, and am extremely grateful to have it, but after passing the midpoint of what I am considering to be the Bataan Death March of presentations (which started in June with the two big ones, followed by the disastrous executive committee presentation of a few weeks ago) I am ready to go be a crazy hermit in the woods with chickens. I might starve, but at least I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone…

The one yesterday went better than the executive committee shit show, but still not well. I had to speak to an auditorium full of people, wearing a mic, and I was shaking so hard that I couldn’t use the laser pointer. I don’t really know what to do at this point except resign myself to the fact that I can prepare (I practiced so much for this presentation that I dreamed about it) and know everything by heart, have meticulously prepared slides and narrative, and still stand there as terrified as I have ever been in my life. There’s nothing for it. If they keep asking, I have to keep doing it, it’s part of my job, but it takes me a long time to gear up and a long time to ramp down, I leave the presentations drenched in cold sweat, dehydrated, and with a sick headache that lasts for the rest of the day. I have another one next week that may be as big as the one yesterday, and I just have to get through it, as much as I would prefer not to. The worst part is knowing that my problem is all in my head and that if I could just get a grip on myself, I would do a great job. But I just can’t and when it’s done, I go be by myself for awhile and laugh a little, shakily, and try to console myself by thinking there is something character building about continuing to try to do my best. It’s disheartening, you know, to put so much effort into something, doggedly, and continue to knock your own self back down. I feel like Charlie Brown on the pitcher’s mound.

So today, still in an emotional recovery mode, I had the chance to take a teleconference meeting from home and I did it. In the old days, I never took opportunities like this – I was always afraid it would reflect poorly on me and jeopardize my employment. Now, if I get a chance to do something from home and have a leisurely breakfast with my daughter, and walk her to school on a mild, damp autumn morning, I do it, for better or worse. It doesn’t feel stressful anymore – it feels like a treat, and even if it means I am more mediocre employee, it makes me a happier human being and mother.

I brought in a sack full of green tomatoes, and am thinking about trying a green tomato pasta sauce for dinner tonight. The world outside the windows is full of wet leaves pasted to sidewalks and turning lawns yellow. The trees are almost at peak here in Michigan and from now until Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite time of year.

sentence per picture

10.2014 table

My dad made me the most beautiful farmhouse table and my mom painted it the most perfect shade of driftwood grey; now we just have to figure out a way to get it out of his workshop and into my house!

10.2014 emmett

Emmett, feeling sweet and artsy and pensive for a change.

10.2014 family mission

Leader in Me workshop at Miss L’s school to write our family mission statement and get acquainted with the Covey ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective Schools’ program.

10.2014 sunset

Sometimes even sitting in traffic can have its upside.

10.2014 orchard collage

Our annual orchard trip, picking the perfect pumpkins and spending time with our family.

Happy Sunday! xo

sleeping bear

10.2014 lower platte

Two years ago, in the summertime, I ran my first half-marathon, the Ann Arbor half. It was a long, painful slog and although I love Ann Arbor, the course was less than thrilling. Miles 8 & 9 took us around Briarwood Mall. I had to look at an empty parking lot and an oil change place during what are, for me, the worst miles of the race.

That same year, I saw an advert for the inaugural Sleeping Bear Half Marathon and with almost no time to train for it, I decided to run. It had a couple things going for it – it took place in my favorite part of the world, less than a half-hour away from where my folks live, and it was in October, my favorite month. And it was small. I knew right from jump (and still know) that the big races, the Chicagos and Detroits, are not for me.

The Sleeping Bear has quickly become my favorite race, for many reasons. I did it again the following fall and the unpredictability of the weather (the first year it was sleeting and I finished the race with ice caked on my shoulders, the second year it was mild and warm but utterly pouring, I was wet to the skin in five minutes flat and it never let up) and the beauty of the course hooked me. Moreover, it’s come to symbolize a lot of things for me. I’ve run it during incredibly difficult emotional times in my life, and even though I’ve only done it twice, I can remember the emotional resonance of different points in the course both years. For me, it symbolizes my ability to accomplish things I thought I couldn’t, to combat terror and bleakness with small goals and dedication and optimism and commitment. It symbolizes me taking care of myself and believing in myself and expecting a lot out of myself and doing it alone – I don’t typically run races with anyone else. Every mile helped me stay positive and strong, both years.

10.2014 empire

This year, plagued as I’ve been with shin splints and inconsistent training and strained back muscles and lack of willpower, I wasn’t ready. But I couldn’t give up another year of affiliation, so I volunteered instead, and had almost as much fun. The weather was cold and damp, we huddled in Johnson Park in Empire with a stiff gale blowing in from Lake MIchigan. In the early morning darkness, in a field that deer had occupied moments before, the organizers set up the tents and timing equipment. They were all jovial and focused, passionate about their event, stalking around in tall Hunter boots and all-weather gear. I warmed to my jobs, helped out with packet pickup and registration, I sold their t-shirts and hoodies, I pinned on bibs. And I was course marshal 10, stationed at the half-marathon turnaround, with a view of Glen Lake on one side and the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb on the other side, with Sleeping Bear Park Ranger Patrick.

10.2014 park ranger patrick

I tried to cheer on every runner, and the vibe was awesome. Park Ranger Patrick kept us safe from traffic, and the Glen Lake Fire Department parked their truck on the wide shoulder of the road with their American flag blowing in the cold wind. The runners, tired and spent as they were, yelled back at us, thanking us for coming out and volunteering. I had a huge smile frozen to my face and one runner came up to me afterwards and summed it up perfectly. “This was the most joyful race I’ve ever been a part of,” he said, and I had to agree. And it was made more joyful for me by taking the time to give back. As jealous as I was, and as left-out as I felt at not being one of the nervous runners lining up, the ability to help those folks accomplish their goals was such a happy, positive feeling.

I hope next year that I’ll be running that course again, and if I can apply this mental and emotional commitment and enthusiasm to my training, it may just be the full 26.2 miles.

don’t forget to breathe

09.2014 leaf1

I love trees, and bought the property in no small part because of the maples, pines and a tulip tree. I don’t love the willow tree, or the fact that the two pretty maples in our front yard succumbed to the autumnal pressure to turn color early, and that a driving rain last night subsequently stripped them bare.

I actually laughed as I pulled into the driveway after work tonight. My house is the lone house on the block that is literally covered in red and orange leaves. Every other property has immaculate green lawns, and my house looks like those cartoons with one thundercloud hovering over a single person while everyone around them is in bright sunshine. With leaves instead of rain. You know.

Miss L was a ferocious raker this weekend, and I was really impressed by her work ethic, but her primary goal was to get a big enough pile to jump into, and then joyfully throw armfuls of the leaves around, thus undoing all the work she had done. It was sort of an infectious glee, though, and she looked like Linus in that Snoopy cartoon, jumping into a pile of leaves.

So, as well as feeling a little guilty that my yard looks so disheveled compared to everyone else’s, I remembered that soon the Snow Hag next door will return from her summer travels and start flinging things over the lot line – handfuls of leaves she claims are from my trees, branches, general yard waste – I might as well get a head start on her. So tonight I put on headphones and Alexi Murdoch sang ‘don’t forget to breathe’, his glum voice underscoring the comforting, repetitive action of the rake moving across the grass and the changed quality of light now that the trees are bare – the thin, watery evening fading, the dark clouds piling up overhead.  I haven’t raked in a long time, noticing the colors – the dark reds and veined yellow and oranges and the occasional lime green streak – smelling that damp, dark odor of earth. When I was done my brain felt clean and empty and I wandered through the back, gathering up the last few decent Paul Robeson tomatoes and stowing them in my pockets, idly making note of how productive they’d been this year.

09.2014 leaf2

 

Emmett and Sarge pressed their faces up against the window and meowed against the glass, wondering when I’d be in for dinner. Then I stood around like a dork in the pretty evening, and took pictures, and I’m sure the neighbors more than ever wonder what the hell is going on over here, and I couldn’t care less.

 

making room

There are a lot of terrible things about getting divorced. Although I am very lucky to be part of a positive, consciously uncoupled, respectful and friendly co-parenting situation that we have both worked hard to develop and maintain, there are still a lot of things to get used to. From the word go, the thought of not having Miss L for days in a row was absolutely devastating. I dreaded that separation and imagined long, lonely days in an empty house, so I stockpiled lots of projects to keep me busy.

This now seems a little funny. Nothing is as traumatic as it seemed like it would be. Miss L is an example and an inspiration – she is happy and excited to go to her dad’s house and seeing her so positive and well-adjusted, and knowing that she just loves spending time with both of us in different ways, has been the biggest relief. I barely have time to do the housework and laundry, the yard work, grocery shopping and meal prep, much less complex knitting projects, half marathon training, furniture restoration, learning to swim or writing that novel. I try to do a lot of chores on the days that Miss L is with her daddy so that when she’s with me, I have everything organized and more time to relax and have fun. But I usually end up working longer hours to make up for the days when I dash out early to beat commuter traffic to pick her up; I come home feeling drained. I do more sleeping and staying in pajamas and crash out for naps at the drop of a hat. I’m not sure if this is psychological or physical or if I just need to kick my own butt. I’m hoping this is a passing phase that will correct itself as I get used to the schedule, but right now I’m just rolling with it.

I have a four-bedroom house and for the last couple of years the two back bedrooms have been a staging area for GB’s things and other stuff that we just don’t know what to do with or haven’t gotten around to recycling or tossing. This weekend, when Miss L was with GB, I finally roused myself sufficiently to start cleaning out one of the rooms. I’m relieved to have a workable spare bedroom again. The room itself is in terrible shape and needs a complete makeover – wallpaper stripped, repainting, floors refinished, baseboards and toe boards redone, new closet doors, window treatments – but I start getting tired whenever I think about that. Having it clean and organized with a comfy made-up bed feels like a major accomplishment, even though my upstairs hall is now filled with trash bags and piles of boxes. It feels like I am moving into a new place, as though I never fully occupied this space before now, even though my name has been on the mortgage for almost eight years.

As I combed through the bookshelf and the closet, it felt like going through a museum of my life. I went through my knitting stash, photographs and scrapbooks. I took books down from the shelves and made piles for Goodwill and it was funny to set things aside. The books about law school prep, Australia travel and restaurant guides, pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum depression – those were all huge phases of my life and those books are well-thumbed and now I don’t need them any more and never will again. Now replaced with books about surviving divorce, finances for the single woman, creating happy homes at mom’s house and dad’s house. The knitting books and running books went to higher shelves, still to be used, but not as often as they once were. There is room on the shelves for new books now, and I am excited to see what they will be. Raising a teenager, dating as a single mom, maybe biking or mountain climbing, who knows. Right now all I have the energy for is a hot bath and a nap!

you belong with me

Miss L was less than thrilled to wake up early on a ‘stay home day’ (“Mommy, is it the middle of the night??” she asked groggily when I roused her). But by the time we were in the car and she was eating her breakfast PB&J toast sandwich and drinking milk out of her Thermos, she was ready to go and be of service as a volunteer at a local charitable 5k race.

We agreed that you see many, many beautiful moments when you wake up early.

09.2014 sunrise

All day long, she kept singing, ‘You belong with me, you’re my sweetheart’.

09.2014 my sweetheart

After we cheered on the 5k runners, we got our yardwork and grocery shopping and some chores done, and it was a productive and happy day. Nonetheless, my sweetheart and I are very happy that tomorrow morning we get to sleep in.