Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

I've never made any before. Maybe that sounds snotty of me, but I guess I've always figured; if you have something you want to resolve, why wait until one specific day to do it? It seems like a cop if you're saying "Oh, I'll diet NEXT month"...when you set some projected date to do something, it's almost as if you already know you ain't really gonna do it, you're stalling, putting it off, whatever. New Year's Resolutions have always struck me as fakey fake. Not meaning I'm so perfect I don't have anything to resolve, or I'm above any kind of fakeness, no sir, just that I'm already deep in the muck of LIFE'S resolutions and there I'll stay until I feel I've got it going on. No timeline set. No fateful day it all will start. Nope, it's BEEN happening, and will keep on happening 'til I get it right.

But, you know, of course I DO like the idea of a fresh start, especially lately, when I've seen how much change I need in my life, in my behavior, in my attitude. I recognize that it's a lot. It's quite daunting, but certainly not insurmountable. Fresh starts: Bring 'em on.

To eliminate negativity, would be my number one resolution, if I was to make any. Only that's been the goal all along, and will carry right over into the New Year. To not sigh and think "Geez, I'm depressed"...defining myself AS depressed instead of thinking "Well, this is a depressing SITUATION, but it's not who I AM." Generally, that's what I've tried to do, until some dark moments this year when I simply felt too low and idiotic to attempt skipping along, tossing daisies in the air and singing "Tra la la, isn't this a pickle! But I'm not depressed, oh, no, no, no!" Am I Snow White? Do I feel like whistling while I clean the dwarf's filthy pigsty of a cottage? Have I mastered this whole staying-positive-come-what-may thing yet? Not even close. But I'm getting there.

And is it going to work out for me? You bet it is. Hi ho.

Friday Fun

Thursday, December 29, 2011

On Hold

Spent ONE HOUR and 15 minutes on hold this afternoon. After spending over a half hour on hold this morning just to be directed to call back in the afternoon. And yesterday, also a half hour on hold, to do a phone interview for our low income benefits. So, what I'm wondering here is: after being baffled by the 18 page accompanying paperwork that makes zero sense, HOW do (and I'm not trying to make any jerky generalizations about the folks that receive these benefits) poor people do this? It's the most confusing process ever, and THEN you have to review all your information every couple months, in case things have changed.

What if I COULDN'T stay on the phone indefinitely? What if I couldn't figure out the information on the World's Most Confusing Application? And again, not trying to say anything degrading about people in this income bracket, (dang, I'M the poorest person I know at the moment, and occasionally feel like the dumbest too) but, statistically, the average education of someone at this level of poverty, well, it's less than mine, if that's possible. And I'M not understanding most of this. Admittedly, I'm a bit of a moron, but in actuality, my IQ is reasonably high, and here I am, ABLE to be on the phone during the day, somewhat, asking questions and trying to sort it out. What about the people that can't figure this out? What about the people that can't stay on hold for hours on end? What about the people who need to be out the door at 6AM to pour concrete? Do they just give up? Do they just starve? Oh, wait, I guess the answer is: if you're pouring concrete, you have an income. At least a small one. But still, what if you've got a bunch of little kids? What if your wife has cancer? What if you have a learning disability? What if you need HELP?

I'm mystified that the system doesn't really seem to understand the situations that would need the assistance the most...the kind of folks, for the most part, that can't deal with the crazy run-around involved in getting it. I'm not saying I have some brilliant idea to do away with poverty and get the welfare system working smoothly, and I'm sure (fibbing a smidge here) they are doing the best they can with what they have, it's simply a smack-in-the-face close-up look at how flawed our Government is. And I GET that there are those who use and abuse these things, and a lot of the run-around is in place to safeguard against that, but...holy, holy. There must be a better way.

You sign up for heat assistance and it somehow cancels out your VHAP health care...then to get it back, you must set up an interview at the Hartford office, after you fax in your most recent pay stubs and tax information FOR THE MILLIONTH TIME, and then, whoops! They signed you up for Reach Up and now you need a different application for heating. And back to the Waterbury office and see about your food assistance because there's a new grant dealing with that and it needs to be filed on it's own. Once you file, you can add fuel help and have to switch it all back. (Don't forget that there's at least a half hour of scratchy saxophone music to sit through before you learn that the ONE person that can talk to you has left for lunch.) Then, "You're separated? Then we need to do all the paperwork over again with YOU being the head of the household, please fax us your own personal tax documents...Oh, it's only been a year and you've never filed separately before? Hmmmm, we don't know what to do about that." After a few days of this, you almost want to just give up and starve/freeze/whatever. Seriously, sitting on the floor, attached to the wall phone because I had been on hold so long that the cordless phone's batteries died, I moaned at one point "Oh my God, would wild dogs just come and eat me now?" And then there was a full ten minutes I believe, where I just sang over and over softly into the phone: "Your muuuuuuuusic sucks and soooooooo do youuuuuuu...."

Obviously, I need to use these programs right now, until I get my feet under me, and THANK GOD they exist. Only, know what? I'm awfully unhappy about using them. I'm unhappy because in our society it's a shameful thing, (I feel like a "Wait a minute, should I be doing this? This is in place to help the REAL poor people, not me!" But then I realize: "Emily, look at your bank account. Look at your income. Look at your bills. Who the heck do you think you are?! Zsa Zsa freaking Gabor?") AND also I'm unhappy because CRIPES! They've made it so damn hard to use these programs! In a way, I might be glad someday, glad to understand both ends of the income spectrum, (not that I ever was rich, by any means) I'll be glad I learned to swallow my pride, I'll be glad that I have a better understanding of what it's like to live like this. Today I'm just glad that they don't record what people say while on hold.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wishes and Fishes

Have I mentioned that I love Christmas? Yeah, well, I do. This Christmas Eve though, did not top the charts for favorite Christmas Eves. Justin took the kids to do his family's celebration which is how we always spent the night in the past, only for me, pretty weird to not be with them this time. Went to a small dinner party where we were basically served every food I hate worst in the world...shrimp, salmon, fruit cake... (Can't believe how that worked out, I felt like such a picky freak.) Kind of funny really. Anyway, when I got home the kids were already asleep from THEIR drive home. No reading Twas The Night Before Christmas, no putting out the milk and cookies, no tucking in excited little boys, asking when Santa will come. I spent an hour or so bringing down the gifts and filling the stockings. Afterward, I was so frozen I took a hot shower to warm up before climbing into bed around midnight. And then, laying in bed, of course I got to feeling all sorry for myself, fish for dinner, missing our usual Holiday traditions, all alone in my huge bed for the first Christmas Eve in as long as I can remember. I started thinking about whispering "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Birthday" or any of those special things to someone first thing in the morning, and I'd just rolled out the first two, big, fat tears onto my pillow, when I heard coughing and went in the next room to find Ira throwing up. Many hours later, as daylight breaks, I'm still up, having had not one single minute of sleep, really, really tired, and somewhat regret my wish to not be alone in my cold, king sized bed. Now I'm certainly not alone, but the bed is rank smelling and I get to clean up puke every twenty minutes, so be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Especially on Christmas when wishes magically come true.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

And Then There Were Three

You know, thinking this business out beforehand, wondering what it would feel like to be a single parent, I almost didn't believe that any of "that" would apply to me. All the heartbreaking struggles you hear about. I'd think, "Yeah, I'll be single, but I'll never be one of THOSE parents, those moms going it alone. It won't be like that for ME." I have no idea why I thought that way, it was utterly ridiculous and moronic. Who was I kidding? Sure, the kid's dad is there to help sometimes, he mostly takes the kids when it's his turn to have them, and on the couple evenings I'm working, but the day-to-day stuff: the midnight-cough-checking, the toast-making, the sock-finding, the constant cleaning, the time-outing, the fight-stopping, the present-wrapping, the gas-pumping, the grocery shopping, the toilet-plunging, the dog-feeding, the puke-washing, the band-aid-applying, the bath-giving, the 2AM's all me.  The kid stuff always was, but when you add in everything else, I'm so tired I can hardly think straight.

So, I'm NOT the lucky exception of the single mother rule, I guess. Whatever I might have thought, I was dead wrong, it's wicked hard and I'm just the same as all the rest in my place...I can't even imagine being one of the women who did this from the start, although I do wonder if it would almost be easier to never have been spoiled by the luxury of being a two parent team. Because the cold turkey, single mom gig is TOUGH.

I keep thinking that I'm somehow cursed, jinxed...WHY is every single thing breaking? But I realized, after pondering it over, stuff was ALWAYS breaking, all along, only someone else fixed it then. My camera, my computer, the oven, the electricity, the septic, my car, toys, furniture, the dryer... Now I have no means to fix any of these things, and I feel very alone without that built-in help. Sometimes I literally turn in a circle, as if looking for someone to pop out of the woodwork and lend a hand when my hands are full. And sometimes I just drop my armload to the floor and cry. I cry because I want somebody nice to come and hug me for a minute and say: "Calm down, I'm here for you. You're doing fine."

I can't help feeling guilty for wanting a partner to make life easier and nicer, that shouldn't be the purpose of a relationship, I know. Apparently you're SUPPOSED to be able to stand alone, be strong, be a complete person, and all that jazz BEFORE you get into a relationship. It feels callous to NEED a partner...isn't that the wrong reason to be with someone? Even if I do sigh with relief when somebody else helps buckle the car seats, when somebody else cooks dinner, when somebody else makes a decision on our driving route. (Feminists everywhere would be cringing with horror at my words...actually I am too...) I hate to ask for help from people I date, I hate that I asked that from my ex because it made me depend on him for the wrong reasons. I hate that, with the way I am these days, I can bring nothing to relationships but work and worry. I hate being the damsel in distress. And I can't quite trust that someone won't feel bitter towards me after they get sucked into the madness of Life With Children That Aren't Even Their Children.

I've been talking to a counselor on occasion, because I have a day or two, probably about biweekly, when I just crash down into depression so deep, I need help getting out. (This is one of those days...obviously, just look at this depressing post.) Other than that, I think I'm doing a pretty decent job of being by myself and raising the boys. We DO have bad days, oh for sure, but I was dumbfounded when Justin suggested yesterday that he take full custody of the kids and give me the house instead, claiming that he doesn't think I can cope with everything. Those babies were born from my screaming body after hours of agony, I've cuddled them close every day of their lives, I love them more than I love ANYTHING, they ALWAYS come first, no matter what, and they'll never, never, never be taken from me as long as I'm breathing. Times are hard right now, I'm trying to find my path, but I don't think that's a proper basis for saying I can't cope.  I've never had to work and parent and do EVERYTHING at the same time, I ought to be allowed a grace period to figure out everything I don't have a clue about, oughtn't I? It's like dumping someone who can't swim overboard and expecting them to do the butterfly stroke. No, I can't fix cars. No, I don't know how to rewire the stove. Nope, I have no idea where the water pipes go to, life is indeed a frustrating struggle for a single women who is unfortunately not very handy...nobody's showing me how to do these things, it's just trial and error, A LOT of error, true, but does that mean I'm a the terrible parent, and he's the capable one? Do I really seem that incompetent?Golly, I didn't think I was a COMPLETE mess, just lousy at all the technical aspects of things I never understood. (I actually got my key stuck in the ignition the other day and freaked out for about ten minutes, doing everything I could think of to get it out until Justin pulled in behind me and immediately said "You're probably not shifted into park all the way." Sure enough, a granola bar was jammed behind the lever. Embarrassing.)

All I can do is wake up in the morning, kiss my kids, and say "Hello World. Go easy on me today, will you?" Spend the day being as good of a person as I know how. Cry a little on occasion, but count my blessings too... try to remember to laugh at myself more, and hope for the best, sputtering my way through the butterfly stroke.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Love Christmas

Having no Zumba yesterday, due to a meeting held at the school, I had a nice mid-week night off. My friend Russ had tickets to a Darlene Love concert at The Flynn and thanks to my sister's babysitting generosity, we spent part of the afternoon beforehand doing Christmasy things, and I feel far less bah-humbug than I did a few days ago. Strange that a weekend away from my kids feels like way too long, but an evening out feels just right, now and then.

Anyway, we went to Paine's Tree Farm where Russ had tagged FOUR different trees, weeks ago, and wanted a second opinion. An hour, and a bunch of chainsaw smoke later, (You know it's Vermont when the guys at the tree farm just hand you a chainsaw and the keys to a tractor, and tell you to knock yourself out) we had the wagon filled with a magnificent fifteen footer for the lucky duck who has high ceilings, and a sweet, little tree for his mom's apartment.

After some death defying antics involving ladders and hammers and Christmas lights (seriously, I could hardly watch, good Lord) we headed to the concert, which was phenomenal. Darlene Love. Wow. That lady is all sorts of joy and happiness and holiday goodness rolled into one powerful voice. Odd that I didn't really know who she was exactly, had only vaguely heard of her, but then, when she started to sing, I knew every one of her songs by heart, and so would you.

After a festive night out, (AND I got to wear my awful, bright red, patent boots and snowflake earrings. What? People are ALLOWED to dress tacky during the holiday season.) I'm back in the Christmas Spirit. Helps that my cold has flown the coop, even though Eli seems to have woken up with it now. Attempting to address a stack of cards today, but my address book has gone missing...filling them out anyway. They'll be can count on it. (Just sayin'.) And doing some wrapping. Of course I'm only half done shopping, which may become a problem before too long, since there are mere days left. And the kids are on vacation as of today. Egads. Time is running out! Harried or not, I love Christmas. Sometimes I just forget it for a minute.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Countdown

Having a rough week so far. Christmas Panic setting in. Still trying to keep up with all the proper traditions but it's hard to feel super excited this year. It would be a good winter to experiment with human hibernation...wouldn't mind sleeping through the whole shebang, and thawing back out in May. No, I'm just in a slump today. I've always been really into Christmas. I love Vermont and how beautiful and stark this season is. Simply hard to remember all that when my bare feet hit the icy floor at 6AM in a house that's 52 degrees, and I've got to somehow entice two little boys out from under their covers in time for school. It was Justin's weekend with the kids and it was the longest I've ever been away from them in my life. Even though I went with them to visit Santa on Saturday, which broke it up some, I still felt restless and worried the rest of the weekend, missing my bubs. Funny in a way, because I looked so forward to a break all week, and then I was homesick for them the whole time. Went to a wonderful dinner party and saw some lovely art, met interesting people, mind was on my babies, not Napoleonic upholstery, or goat cheese and pomegranates, or debating what the Mandarin word for school bus translates as. That sounds totally snobby of me....or ANTI-snobby, which, really, is just as bad, sorry. I was in a pretty intolerant mood already, and then I also had a cold, which made me feel like a sniffling, snot-dripping piece of white trash...not a great combo, in Emily Land. When gushing women in Jimmy Choos say "And what do YOU do?" I want to say "Oh, I teach Zumba and spread pestilence." If only I was missing a front tooth, I could pull it off no problem. Well, anyway, I've got the carols blaring today, I'll feel better in no time. Just a few Rum Pa Pums later and I'm a new person already.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rue The Day

Ira, Ira, Ira. My posts include a lot of that kid. "Where was I?" Poor Eli will someday ask when the stories are recalled. "At school" or "Behaving yourself" will be my reply.

A conflict in babysitting left me taking the kids to work with me a couple of nights ago. Eli angelically sat down with some books and a sketch pad and a sandwich. Ira looked at a book for 30 seconds before flinging it aside in disgust, and moving on to other mischief, the devilish gleam in his eye bright enough that even my back row Zumba ladies probably feared for their lives. Rightly so.

First he tried to muffle the speakers by covering them with coats. Next he pressed his ear against them, giving himself some big-time hearing damage, I'm sure. I lugged him away by pulling on his ankles, mid-step in my booty shakin', and sliding him across the floor on his belly back to his little nest of books and snacks.... but, of course, the laughter from the audience egged him into repeating this performance as many times as he could, until I gave up on his hearing all together.

Next came the inevitable every-four-minute bathroom trips, on which Eli patiently accompanied him and zipped his pants back up, until eventually Eli came racing back with a well-known harried look on his face, and the news that Ira had locked all the stall doors and crawled out underneath. Whoops. Sorry janitors.

And THEN, the Bouncy Ball Incident. From the bottom of the snack bag appeared two miserable bouncy balls that found their way under the feet of my dancers time and time again. Not to mention the fact that Mary fell to the floor in a heap at one point because she rolled her ankle stepping on a miniature pretzel rod.

We finally left the gym with the alarm on the soda machine beeping, unidentified red goo all over our pants, and my water bottle still full to the brim, because normally between songs, I gulp it down instead of dragging children back from climbing inside lockers, stopping them from putting their thumbs over the drinking fountain stream, or chasing wayward bouncy balls.

Yesterday, thinking I had recovered, I decided Ira and I would do some Christmas shopping. Ira gets carsick, but usually only on long rides, one would think we could make it seven measly miles. We had just walked into Welch's Hardware Store when he threw up all over the Christmas aisle. Twice. Ira, myself, the floor, several velvet tree skirts, and one unfortunate saleslady will never be the same again.

Oh Lordy. Was I just saying what an awesome mother I am? I don't take that back exactly, just let me rephrase it...I'm a utter wreck, but if there's anyone out there with a four year old, they understand what I'm saying, and they're a wreck too. You can recognize mothers of four year boys by their familiar hunted expressions, their uncombed hair, sticky substances smeared on their clothes, pockets filled with repossessed sticks, rocks, clothespins, rubber bands, and really, really loud, annoying whistles. The Terrible Twos are a myth. A MYTH, I tell you. With Eli, it was the Frightful Fours, and hopefully I can live through it one more time. Fingers crossed. Keeping a sharp look out for pretzels and other hazards along the way.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Eye of the Beholder

Driving through Bethel a couple days ago, on the way back from getting groceries, Ira was chatting away as usual. He was oddly quiet for a minute before asking, out of the blue, "Mom, are you beautiful?" Without thinking, I snorted and said "Nope, definitely not." Then I felt bad because, well, why DON'T I think I'm pretty? Because my nose is big and my breasts are small? Because my hair doesn't match my eyebrows? Because I had two babies and show it? Because I don't look like those glamorous women that I'm told are gorgeous by magazines and movies? I guess so. But do I like that weird idea? No, of course not, it's sick...but here I am, accidentally passing it on to the next generation.

Damage control time. "Actually Ira, everybody's beautiful. Momma's just grouchy lately. You are very, very beautiful and you came from me and Daddy, so we must be beautiful too." (Best I could do on short notice. In Bethel.)

Made me think about it though, the reason the whole wide world goes along with this dumb theory of what is and isn't beautiful, is because... we JUST GO ALONG WITH IT. Duh. Let's not. It's quite simple. But apparently, with the way I feel about myself, I'm sadly one of the worst offenders.

See, I have a hideous self-esteem problem. Always have. Don't really know why, and lately, with the pressure NOT TO FAIL coming from so many angles, this problem has manifested into something very tricky. (And no, this isn't a passive aggressive way to get people to tell me how great I am. Of course I'm great, and blah, blah, blah, we're ALL great, that's not the point. The point is: I need NOT to need other people thinking that, I need to think I'm great all by myself.) For some reason, I have forever felt inferior in looks, talents and intelligence to everyone else...not sure if it's because I'm ultra sensitive to the fact that I didn't go to traditional college, that I don't have a successful career, that I grew up too poor to have the glossy hair, perfect teeth and trendy clothes others had, that I got picked on a lot when I first started public school in those crucial teenage years, maybe the fact that Justin was always the genius and I was always the idiot, or maybe because pride in one's self is sometimes treated as acting "too big fer yer britches" around here...whatever it was, I don't want my kids growing up crippled in the same way, always needing someone ELSE to tell them they're worth it. I'm working on my self confidence, trying to move away from that ridiculous need for pre-approval from others before I believe in myself. Because if I hang around waiting for it forever, well, maybe it ain't ever coming.

Example: when somebody disapproves of something I do, something I wear, something I say,(which is often, given we are talking about ME here) my first reaction is that they are right and I am wrong. I don't trust my own instincts about a situation. If a person is upset with me, I am instantly crushed and wonder what I did would never have occurred to me in the past to say "Screw you". Or to not exactly say "screw you", but be confident enough in myself to know that it's not ALWAYS my fault. Stick to my guns, so to speak. Instead of letting the world know I'm an easy target because I'll back down apologetically in any case.

Jen and I used to pick on Myra for catching her as a very little girl, looking in the steamy mirror after a bath, batting her cute eyelashes at herself, and quoting a cosmetics commercial from the time..."Don't hate me because I'm beautiful." Well, she was. And I was always rather jealous of both her beauty and her confidence to know it. I mean, it sure didn't hurt her to hear people say how adorable she was every minute, and perhaps it DID hurt me to hear boys say in high school that I wasn't pretty like my sister. But knowing is half the battle. She KNEW she was pretty, therefore, she WAS pretty. Lesson to be learned, right there.

Going through this split, and the anger-talk that goes with it, has been one of the biggest blows ever to my shaky self-esteem. To hear people on the "other side" are criticizing my choices, and me in general, is a rotten feeling, especially to someone who's always felt rather swayed by other's opinions. Constantly made me second guess myself. I hope that I'm finally becoming smart enough to know that no matter how bullied I may feel, I'm not doing anything wrong. I'm NOT crazy/stupid/morally unsound. I've got bigger things to worry about than opinions fueled by anger, not fact. Public opinion can go hang for once. I'm in a tough situation, doing the best I can. Look at my beautiful boys, I must be doing something right. And for the record, I'm a damn AWESOME mother, even if I'm not pretty. So there.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Working a lot in the last few days, it's the Christmas season portrait rush...just thought I'd post a few shots.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Went up to Unadilla on Friday to watch sheep shearing...they shear late in the fall to make lambing season easier. Apparently the lambs can nurse better if the wool isn't so thick by spring. Poor, little, bald sheep were wandering around in snowflakes by the time afternoon rolled around, but they have a cozy barn to get out of the weather, so they'll be fine. The boys were fascinated, Eli especially, with the process. The machines and tools and technique, the funny, elfin, wool booties the professional shearers wear. Ira, in true Ira fashion, was just into the sheep. I've never really seen it done before, which struck me as'd have thought I'd have seen it at the Barreda's or someplace else, we know so many people with sheep, but nope, I haven't. Such an art to it. I found it lovely to watch, the way the wool peeled back perfectly, stroke after stroke, leaving shimmering, uniform stripes on the sheep's bodies. Reminded me of some graceful dance...the shearers even stretched and did yoga poses beforehand. In filthy work clothes. Very interesting, all of it. Would love to try it sometime.

Anyhow, today's a busy one. Sunday is obviously NOT the day of rest at my house, darn it. I wish. I'm writing in between four portrait sessions, and after they finish, I'm watching Av in exchange for Jen watching the boys right now, so she can do a massage, then scheduled to clean the school this evening, so it's a long day, work-wise. Helped John with a dinner party last night that went super late, all neat, fun people and I enjoyed it very much, but I'm feeling pretty exhausted at the moment. Wondering when I'm going to find my groove. Will I ever? IS there even a groove to find for someone in my situation? My brain repeats "WhatamIforgetting?WhatamIforgetting?WhatamIforgetting?" all day long, every day. Starting to get rather nerveracking. I keep telling myself: "Let it go." "One day at a time." "Breathe." and "You're going to be OK." My calming mantras. Hoping that helps a tiny bit at least. One of the women at dinner last night, Sidney, talked to me at length about her divorce and it was one of the hardest talks I've had yet, somehow. I've only meet her once or twice before, and here she was, crying, and so was I, and it was just sad and awkward and nice and awful. It was uncomfortable since she was a virtual stranger, and oddly comfortable for that very same reason. She had no judgements about us already. Huh. I don't know why I wrote about that. Just kinda tired and writing whatever pops into my head, I guess.

Well, that's all folks. Off I go to grin and shout "Say cheese!" for another hour. Over and out.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Beautiful Day

It's been a couple week's worth of awful. Seriously, I don't know why things always seem to happen at once, but anything that could break, go wrong, or turn up missing around here did. I won't even attempt to list all the random are-you-KIDDING-me? stuff that happened, but yesterday I decided to try and take some nice Christmas pictures of the boys and it was actually a lovely day for once. We went up to Landgoes for lunch, because it's so pretty for photos, had a delicious dinner at Myra and Jim's, and then saw a funny, old, Buster Keaton silent movie at The Hop. A good day. I hope good days start to be the rule rather than the exception.