Archive for April, 2013


Head Above Water

April 19, 2013

When life gets hard, I wear more makeup. Well, when life gets normal-hard, not dead baby hard. When Teddy died, I did not care how I looked. But right now makeup is my war paint. I use it to prove that I’m professional and cool and above it all, to show that I’m coping, to keep people from feeling sorry for me. To transform myself from vulnerable to invincible. I refuse to be a wounded wildebeest right now. Instead, I will be the feisty wildebeest who will disembowel you with my horns if you try to take me down.

It occurs to me I may be a touch paranoid about my workplace, now that I’ve written that.

Also, I have an acne breakout on my chin that rivals anything I dealt with in high school. It’s hard to be cool and tough when your skin is screaming “hormonal imbalance!” at everyone who looks at you. The makeup helps with that, too, though, so maybe I’m breaking even.

Sometime this week someone was supposed to contact me to set up an interview regarding my denial of tenure and my appeal of this decision. It’s Friday now, and I’m hoping I hear from them soon. I hate this so much, and honestly, I don’t think it will go through, but I need to do it. For me, it will make the difference between letting go and giving up (thanks for your post on this, loribeth). I’m so good at blaming myself for everything, at saying “I’m sorry. I suck. You’re right, I suck. Global warming? Yep. I caused that.” And that is precisely what I need to avoid. My work was (and is) good. I met the criteria. I’m continuing to do good work. I’m an asset to the libraries and the university. This needs to be my focus, not just for any upcoming interview but for my own sanity and ability to move forward.

I’m applying for a couple of jobs, and it is both scary and fun. I like that there are possibilities. That I can imagine my life somewhere else and it’s not all (or even mostly) sad. Also, it’s a good exercise in talking yourself up. Because I am good at a lot of things, and reading sets of required and preferred qualifications for academic librarians reminds me that I’m a sought-after quantity (don’t snort – I’m boosting my confidence here). Life goes on. I hate it when people say, “Everything works out for the best,” not just because it is wrong but because it seems to come from such a privileged, smug place. But not all disappointments result in long-term sadness, and sometimes change really can be good. Moving might just be good. Shaking myself up and looking at what I really want from work, beyond stability, almost certainly is good. Of course, moving a family where two people are academics is a little bit tough, so I would have to get an awfully fine job offer to justify uprooting right now. But there happen to be a couple of awfully fine jobs out there, so who knows?

I am jealous of everyone I know who owns their own home, though. I want roots. I want my own place. I want it palpably. I look at real estate listings and quietly sniffle, and watch snatches of HGTV and wish that I were “loving or listing” it, or working on a renovation project with the property brothers. And someone needs to tell all those new home buyers on Property Virgins that whining about stainless steel appliances and dated bathroom vanities just makes them look like spoiled yuppies with messed up priorities.

Saturday night, N. was cranky with me for some reason. I was cranky right back. He got up in the middle of the night and I heard him go outside and my heart sank because I only know of one reason for him to step outside at night like that. One reason. And I had nightmares about him smoking pot again and woke up scared to death. But I couldn’t smell anything, and when I asked him about it, he looked chagrined and said, “There was a dog that wouldn’t stop yapping and I almost lost it. And then it’s owners came home.” And I believe him, and I have no reason not to – he’s been working amazingly hard at staying clean and I feel guilty for even doubting, but sheesh. And I am realizing that this fear is just part of what it is to live with someone in recovery right now. I feel a little guilty about it, but it doesn’t mean I’m a bad partner, it’s not an unreasonable reaction, and it’s one I’ll be less likely to have as the months and years move on.

April 10 was National Siblings Day here in the U.S. It’s the kind of holiday I never knew existed before Facebook. I think so much about where Teddy would fit in our family, about how much he and Bea would love each other, and it seems like spring spurs my imagination to seeing the two of them together – this little boy, his face a blur, leaning over his smaller sister, holding her hand and running to the slide, showing her a ladybug. I know it wouldn’t have been idyllic, that there would have been howling and screaming and “she broke my favorite toy!” and “he pushed me!” and “I was sitting there!” I know it would have been twice the sick days (at least) and twice the laundry and twice the mess and chaos, but I want it anyway. All of it.

Which is why, when I wear mascara, it is always, always waterproof.


Small thoughts

April 16, 2013

It’s not that there aren’t any words, just that there don’t seem to be any that are good enough. All of my words are wrong, but I keep writing anyway.

My heart goes out to the people and communities affected by the explosions in Boston. This didn’t set my heart racing and sinking the same way that the Newtown shootings did – which doesn’t mean I am even thinking about degrees of tragedy – just that it didn’t hit the same triggers for me that were hit in December.

But it’s still so very sad, and infuriating, and disheartening. My gut aches with outrage – sometimes it seems as if the cruelty and senselessness and misogyny and hatred floats up to the surface all at once. Except it doesn’t, there’s always more, when you look – in the past, going on under the surface.

And I feel like I should be doing more – putting on my armor and joining up with a band of Amazons and fighting evil, or giving up all my worldly possessions and dedicating my life to the study of non-violence. But I have work to do and a child to raise, dinner to cook, stories to read, dishes to wash, and a bedtime to enforce, and the hours of the day slip through my fingers like water. There are very few crime-fighting super heroes who are secretly moms, and this is why.

It’s not enough, I know it’s not enough, but right now I am just trying to make love a part of everything I do, to send positive thoughts into the world while stirring the pasta and coaxing Dot into brushing her teeth, while helping a researcher figure out how to use an e-book and typing up meeting minutes. I try to be the change in small ways, as much as I can. Today my life seems small and domestic and almost unbearably precious.

Love to you, Boston. So much love.



April 10, 2013

Today I am over at glow in the woods, writing about the curse of a changed perspective.

Glow is one of the reasons I was able to keep breathing after Teddy’s death. The community, compassion, and support of everyone there has meant (and means) so very much to me, so writing a guest post there is a decided honor.

Stop by if you have a minute and tell me a story about your own perspective.



April 4, 2013

I think it was the daffodils that sold me on April Fool’s day.

Growing up in Montana, where the wind howls over the prairies and winter temps dive down into negative double digits, you sometimes have to wait a good long time for your spring flowers. Smart gardeners plant their bulbs close to their houses if possible so that the warmth from the house would encourage blooms sooner. Unfortunately, not everyone has flower beds next to their house, and our daffodil bulbs, planted between the backyard fence and the sidewalk leading from the house to the garage, were always the last in our neighborhood to bloom.

On April 1, when I was in grade school, we woke up to see a row of sturdy, bright yellow daffodils in full bloom growing along that sidewalk. Well, not growing so much as “growing” because they were plastic. My mom’s good friend had sneaked into our backyard in the early morning to share some plastic sunshine with us. Once we figured out the trick (and it didn’t take long, in the chilly Montana April) we laughed and laughed. But for those few seconds before we caught the joke, we had beauty and astonishment, an unexpected gift.

It was the sort of trick that put a smile on everyone’s face, a kind and clever trick that involved elements of wonder instead of meanness. It was the sort of joke that required good friends, an old-fashioned neighborhood where people knew each other’s business, and one family’s powerful longing for flowers and springtime. I know most jokes don’t get these ideal conditions, and I  know April Fool’s Day can be mean. I know that even when it isn’t, there are decidedly legitimate reasons for not liking surprises.

But every year, even when the year is a bad one, I pause on April 1 and think about daffodils, and remember the wonder.