2/27/14

Back in the Adderall Saddle Again: Dealing with Adult ADHD



I've been blasted for my support of ADD meds. I was unfriended by someone on the facebook for it. I've had marathon discussions (debates) with dear friends on the subject. I've been accused of breaking my child, taking away his personality and my favorite, of being a drug pusher.

I can take it.

My one child who has been diagnosed with ADHD began medication in first grade. This was after preschool teachers and a kindergarten teacher and then, finally, his first grade teacher brought up the possibility that he had ADHD. I ignored them at first. Blew it off. Chalked his behavior up to skipped naps (as if he'd taken one since he was 2), too much sugary cereal and the fact that he was "just a kid acting like a kid".

But, we had him seen by a doctor. We filled out questionnaires, his teacher filled them out, I read every book on the subject. We (I say "we" because I was married back then and it was a mutual decision) decided to give the meds a try.

And they worked. Like a boss.

The kid who was constantly being reprimanded for not being able to keep his hands to himself, for blurting out whatever was on his mind, for not being able to focus longer than a minute on anything that didn't immediately grab his interest, for being "that kid" in the classroom...he changed.

He was able to sit for longer periods of time. He stopped hitting kids. He stopped interrupting his teachers and his parents and his friends. He picked up a Harry Potter book and began reading it. AND FINISHED IT. His handwriting improved drastically, we discovered he was good at math because, for the first time ever, he sat down and was able to focus on the worksheets in front of him.

It was a miracle, for him. And for us, as parents. And I'm sure for his teacher (who cried with me at his next conference, by the way...God I loved her! Hats off to you, Mrs. Hall)

But this isn't about my son and Adderall and ADHD. It's about me, and Adderall and my ADHD.

You see, while he was being diagnosed, I was too. It hit me late one night, as I was reading my ADD bible, "Driven to Distraction". I elbowed my sleeping husband and said "Holy shit. I HAVE IT TOO!". Reading the symptoms list was like reading something titled "All About Jenny!". My life flashed before my eyes like an old timey slideshow. All the punishments in school, the frustrated parents, the lost or unfinished homework. The messy rooms and the tardiness and the inability to see a project from start to finish...all of it.

I sought out a doctor who dealt with adult ADHD and had a diagnosis, and a prescription, within the week.

In our family, we joke that Adderall brings out the gardener in us. The first time my son took the meds, he grabbed a rake and methodically raked the entire front yard. Me? I transplanted about 30 hostas. There's an adjustment time with ADD meds, not long but it does take a couple of days for your body (and brain) to get used to it. To get used to the quiet inside your mind, get used to that initial rush you feel when the drugs hit your brain and the fog starts dissipating, the whirring blades of thought begin to calm down. I think by doing something physically repetitive, we were allowing our brains time to become familiar with the feeling of not being on fast forward.

But more than the landscaping, what the drug did in my brain was life changing. For the first time, ever, my thoughts slowed down. I didn't feel the unstoppable urge to interrupt friends as they were talking. I could start a project, and finish it. And I didn't start 20 more in the middle of it, either.

I found patience where before, I'd had none. I listened to my kids instead of jumping ahead and trying to guess what was next.

I yelled less. I no longer said the sometimes-biting things that used to pop out of my mouth before I realized what I was saying.

My house was tidier. The laundry got done. Meals were planned and not the panicky, rushed last-minute affairs they'd been. I didn't need an entire pot of coffee in the mornings (for those of us with ADD, the caffeine actually slows things down). I didn't need those two glasses of wine at night to help muffle the noise.

My time belonged to me again. I didn't lose chunks of it here and there, shaking myself out of a fugue and wondering, "Where the hell did that last hour go?". 

For the first time in my life, I could think clearly. I could have a thought, an actual thought! And not have to search for it in a pick-up-sticks jumble of words and sentences and feelings in my brain.

I mourned my "lost" childhood and education. After seeing how it had helped my son, and feeling how it had helped me as an adult, I couldn't help but think about what a difference it may have made for me, all those years ago. Would math have been easier? Would my grades have reflected my intelligence instead of my attention span? Would I have been kept in the Gifted and Talented program instead of being told "Oops. We made a mistake! Sorry. Back to the average pool you go, grasshopper."

Would I have finished college?

I'll never know. I do think it would have made my life better, that's for sure. You see, ADD doesn't travel alone. It usually brings some friends to the party, the most common ones are anxiety, depression and low self esteem.

It's kind of like the chicken/egg thing: which came first? Did the ADD and all the social/personal ramifications of having it cause the others, or are they all just another random gift from our genetic makeup? Certainly years of being told by parents and teachers and friends that there's something "not right" with you, of always being the kid scolded and punished, of finding yourself frustrated at your inability to just finish that goddamned book or paper or job does a number on you.

Those other maladies hit me, too. They intensified after my husband left. He walked out, and took his sweet healthcare benefits with him. I found out that the cost of Adderall without insurance was almost as much as a mortgage payment (I kid you not...at one point it was over $400 for a month's worth sans insurance). 

I quickly realized that keeping my scattered thoughts in straight and orderly lines took a backseat to keeping my kids fed. And thus ended my love affair with Adderall.

Until now.

I've put up a good front. I've pretended to have my shit together. And for a while, it worked. Oh, don't get me wrong. It still takes an act of God for me to finish reading a book. Piles of stuff still sit, unattended but thought about on a regular basis (usually in the form of, 'ooh I need to go through that one of these days!'). But I manage to get to work, go grocery shopping, get the bills paid and keep the kids fed, clothed and warm. I'm functioning.

But I've been unraveling. Like a wayward thread being pulled ever-so-slowly, my life and my poor old flaky brain have been coming undone. It's starting to become a hindrance. For a long time I was able to live with the 8 lane highway coursing through my cerebrum 24/7. I self-medicated again, with the pot of coffee in the morning and the cocktails on Fridays and Saturdays (and sometimes Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

Now it's become too much. I have a lot on the line. Finding a new job while still working 40 hours a week at the one I'm going to lose, trying to finish my book, dealing with the ups and downs that go hand in hand with raising four kids on my own. Everything, all of this life stuff, it's taking a toll. My ADD is rearing its ugly head and so are the others: the self doubt, the depression, the anxiety (oh my sweet lord, the anxiety).

So I'm doing what I should have done a long time ago. What I should have done the minute I got my new job with the fabulous benefits.

I'm going back on Adderall. I made the call this afternoon, and I see the doctor early next week. And I'm positively giddy about it.

Now, before I settle into bed and start to read the same paragraph over and over in the book I'm currently trying to read (The Bloggess/Jenny Lawson's book "Let's Pretend This Never Happened"), I want to stress this:

I'm not a big fan of pharmaceuticals. I studied each vaccination my babies got, and objected to a couple of them because I didn't like what I'd read. I frown upon antibiotics unless they are absolutely the last resort. My kids are all taller than me and could probably flip me over like a cheese omelet but they still know that they need to check with me before dipping into our ibuprofen/cold and flu meds stash. I'm not a pill popper! In fact, I probably fall more on the anti-medication side of things.

But I think that sometimes, they work. Sometimes they fix what needs to be fixed. I am nearsighted, therefore I wear corrective lenses. I'm wired wrong in my head, therefore I need to take something to help reconnect things. Is this the perfect solution? The best one? The right one? Maybe. Maybe not.

It is, however, the perfect, best and right one for me.

I'm looking forward to the quiet.
















2/22/14

Cry Me A River: Confessions of an Easy Weeper

If you know me at all, whether it's in real life, or just from hanging out here, you know I am a weeper. A crier. I CRY. At the drop of a hat.

I cry happy tears, sad tears, joyous tears, frustrated tears, relieved tears. You name a tear, and I've cried it. I have spent countless midnight Christmas Eve church services hiding behind a program because the songs move me so deeply that I start sobbing, like deep hitching sobs. While sitting in a pew. With other people.

I cry over songs on the radio. My kids insist on listening to our local "cool" station, KDWB in the car. Therefore, I know all the lyrics to, and sing along with, a plethora of angsty feels songs that are so not directed towards women my age. I sing along to "Say Something" by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera and when they get to the line, "And I am feeling so small...It was over my head...I know nothing at all" the signs on the road get all blurry due to the excess water in my eyes.

The commercial about the Olympic athletes and their moms? TORTURE. I picture me and every one of my non-athletic kids, and I think my tears are a combination of guilt over not having more Sports Kids and and sappy relief over the fact that I made some pretty good memories with them while we figured out that they weren't future Olympians. Molly was signed up for t-ball when she was about 4. She hit the ball, and started running. First base! Going for second! Rounding to third..and kept on running, straight to me and the blanket I was sitting on along the third base line. Her first and last t-ball game and we laugh about it to this day. Sniffle.

The song "Fix You" by Coldplay is a trigger. I need some time alone after hearing that one. Time alone with a towel to mop up the mess running down my face.

Tell me your birth story and I'll show you my ugly cry face. Tell me your adoption story and it's even uglier. At the last hockey tournament this year, I sat in the hotel lobby sharing wine and baby stories with a few other hockey moms. The "standard" birth tales got me in the gut, but when one mom regaled us with not only the story of her son's adoption but about his life leading up to the adoption? Gah. I blamed my uncontrolled blubbering on the wine.

I've banned myself from ever watching The Learning Channel's "A Baby Story" in the best interests of everyone, everywhere.

This facebook page is a no-no if I'm out in public. Or if I am wearing any eye makeup.

One of the biggest downfalls of being an EW (easy weeper) is being blindsided by an attack of the tears. Case in point, the following conversation I had at the dentist office just this past week:

Cathy, the receptionist: "Jenny, that William sure is a nice boy."
Me: "Oh thank you. He really is a sweet kid."
Cathy: "All of your kids are so polite and kind. You've done a really good job with them. You wouldn't believe some of the behavior we see in here."
Me: "Thank you! I don't know if it's because of me, though. They were pretty awesome right from the start."
Cathy: "You're a single mom, right?"
Me: "Yep."
Cathy: "Wow. Four kids? How long have you been doing this on your own?"
Me: "Hmm...it's been about 7 years now."
Cathy: "Do they spend much time with dad?"
Me: "They used to spend every other weekend with him. And a couple weeknights. But that hasn't happened for at least 4 years. He helps with rides sometimes. And they hung out with him at Christmas for a few hours."
Cathy, shaking her head, "Well, I want you to know that you're doing a really great job with your kids."
Me: "Oh my God. I'm sorry...can I get some tissues?"

I was full-on crying. In the waiting room of our dental office. Luckily the only other person waiting was an elderly gentleman who was polite enough to just smile into the copy of National Geographic he was reading.

When the kids at school hold my face in their hands and say "I love you, Miss Jenny" I oftentimes get something in my eye that requires immediate attention. Same goes when I feel a tiny hand spontaneously grab mine as we're walking down the hall. Or when I watch one of them figuring out how to write a certain letter, or sound out a word in a book. Excuse me for a sec, I can't type anymore. I'll be right back....

When I think about Molly leaving for school this fall I break down. When I look at pictures of the kids, random snapshots of them doing random things (the car wash in the driveway, with the Little Tikes cars and wagons all lined up, little Charlie and little Molly standing there, all serious and soapy? OOOOMMMMGGGG.



The passage of time leaves me verklempt. Thoughts of the future, so exciting and scary, does it too. Pretty much every video featuring dogs and/or babies and/or soldiers returning home is like a shot in the heart.

AND SARAH MCLACHLAN, PLEASE STOP. Please. No more.

I used to be embarrassed about this affliction, this inability to hold my emotions at bay until a later moment, a more private moment. It made me feel flawed and weak. But then someone said something to me, and it made me feel better.

"You cry really easily, don't you?" she said, with a kind smile on her face. Go figure, at the time, I was dabbing at some tears.

I smiled back and said something like, "Yes! I can't help it. I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry" she said. "It's a really endearing quality. You don't hide your feelings like a lot of people do."

And you know what? She has a point. Our world seems to be growing colder and meaner and more impersonal every day. Maybe being an Easy Weeper really is an okay thing. A good thing, even.

I know there are more Easy Weepers out there. I've met some of you, and the solidarity one feels when wiping tears away with friends is all kinds of empowering. Moving, even.

So for those of you who have a good cry at the ready 24/7, be proud. Embrace your sensitive selves, and know you're in good company.

P.S. Make sure you have Kleenex in your purse at all times. Trust me.




2/20/14

Danskos Be Trippin'



I love my Dansko clogs. Many of my friends love them. They are immensely popular shoes.

Heidi Freaking Klum loves her Danskos (photo: People.com)

They are the beloved, sensible footwear choice of many. Housewives, hipsters, chefs, nurses, teachers and, as noted above, super famous models/television personalities (Tina Fey and Jennifer Garner are also fans, so there ya go).

Are they comfortable? HELLS YEAH. All kinds of comfy. I remember the first time I stepped into these clompy clouds of love: I felt taller, longer, leaner. I also felt kind of Scandinavian.

Are they affordable? NAH. The average price for a pair of Dansko shoes is $120.00. Back when I had disposable income I treated myself to a few pairs. I've lucked out and found a few cute ones at thrift stores (I actually heard angels singing when I found a pair of patent Professionals at Value Village for $7.99), and I have been on the receiving end of generous hand-me-downs from my friends Gail and Whitney (Whitney, I'm still rocking the red suede pair you gave me 6 years ago). The thing is, they wear like iron and if you take care of them (which basically means avoid fire and hot lava) they will last for years.

Are they sexy? ANYTHING BUT. My ex husband used to refer to them as "those big black shoe things you wear". I think they are the modern equivalent of little Dutch boy-type wooden clogs. The opposite of strappy and slinky, these clodhoppers let you clunk through parking lots, grocery story aisles and school hallways with stomping confidence. You want hoofs? YOU GOT 'EM.

I went through an animal print phase. And Dansko was there.

Think of Danskos as the Volvo station wagon of the shoe world. Boxy, utilitarian, yes. However, they are well made and their owners are usually smart, practical people who know that quality costs a bit more. Plus Dansko and Volvo both end with the letter O.

But. There's a secret about Danskos. A secret that you won't find on their website, a secret the salespeople you buy them from won't tell you:

DANSKOS WANT TO HURT YOU.

Mine have tried, twice. The first time was so awful and embarrassing that I like to talk about it as often as possible. It was about 7 years ago. I was almost divorced, and still on friendly terms with my soon-to-be ex-husband. I was walking outside to chat with him as he waited in the driveway one fine day, wearing my Danskos, of course. Cleared the top step of the tiny concrete stairway at the front door, and on the second step, I did what is known in certain circles as "The Dansko Roll". I fell off my Dansko. The left one. My foot rolled, I heard a crunch, and I fell down the remaining two steps. No worries though! I got up, Mary Katherine Gallagher "SUPERSTAR" fashion, and limped over to say hi to the father of my children.

I'M FINE!


After he left, I surveyed the damage. Already swelling, my left ankle had the mottled appearance of a zombie in the first stages of zombie-ism. Kind of purple. It hurt something fierce, but here's the deal: I HAD A DATE THAT NIGHT.

A date with Curiously Cheap George. And I wasn't about to let a painful, puffy ankle stop me from going. So I stuffed that sausage into cute black boots, and walked as little as possible as we were entertained by an AC/DC cover band that evening. Here's where I am going to be a 17 year old boy and add "my giant ankle wasn't the only sausage that got stuffed that night". /end immaturity. I think I cried a little during the lovemaking, which Curiously Cheap George probably thought was me being all emotionally vulnerable and tender but in reality was because he kept bumping my ankle with his shoulder. (I'll let you do the mental imagery on that one).

And yet, I continued to wear my Danskos.

Over the years, I had many close calls. Several near-rolls, an untold number of trips and stumbles. One of my best friends broke her ankle while wearing Danskos, and several more friends have collected twisted ankles and bruised feet along with their own Passive Aggressive Dansko horror stories.

And yet, we continue to wear Danskos.

This past weekend, I was in Bitchy Cleaning Mode. That's where I clean the house while muttering about my lazy kids and about how I am sending the worst roommates, ever, out into the universe.

So I was bitching and muttering as I took two big bags of recycling outside. Down some snowy steps. IN MY DANSKOS (the lovely ones in the first picture above). I was mid-mutter when BOOM. ROLL. My left foot slid, unnaturally, to the side and yours truly slid, naturally, to the bottom of the steps. I got up, winced my way to the recycling bin and limped back inside to see how bad this roll had been.

I iced it immediately, finally finding a use for that bag of edamame beans from Trader Joe's that's been languishing in the freezer. Did a fine job of convincing myself that "Meh...it's not so bad." I consulted with a couple doctor friends, and also decided that nothing says TIME FOR A MARTINI like a sore foot.

But I'm at that age. That certain age where you can no longer jump up and "walk it off". As the day wore on I knew I'd done something to my foot, something that all the edamame, elevation and vodka in the world can't fix.

The next morning, my homie Danielle dragged me to the local hot spot for orthopedic injuries (after I shaved my flowing ankle hair and used a cheese grater on my heels, because February+Minnesota). After several x-rays and having my bruised but smooth appendage handled by a handsome doctor, this is what I'm wearing now:

Diagnosis: BAD SPRAIN. Which, it turns out, can be worse than a break. Yay!


I was telling a co-worker all about the events of the weekend. She cast a glance at my unwieldy stormtrooper/RoboCop foot and remarked, "So I suppose you won't be wearing Danskos anymore?"

"Um, yeah" I replied. "I'm totally going to be wearing them again." She walked away, chuckling, the clomps of her well-worn Danskos echoing softly in the hallway.

Hobble me once, shame on you, Dansko. Hobble me twice? Shame on me.

At least I'll be comfortable until the next tumble.







2/15/14

The Ghost of Emails Past

It was in a box of things from our old house. William found it in the back of his closet. "Mom..." he startled me. I was in the kitchen, searching high and low for something gluten free that would taste just like spongy warm French bread (and having zero luck).

"Mom. I found this in my closet. What is it?" He held out a notebook, one of those report cover things, with the clear plastic pages you fill with papers. This one had a picture in the front pocket, a generic floral picture with the word MEMORIES handwritten across the front.



Ahh. I knew what that was. It was a family history that was written up by my ex-husband's grandmother. It told the tale of his long-ago ancestors and their journey from Norway to the United States. A really cool thing, actually, with lots of old family photos, too. For a second I thought we should maybe give it to Big Daddy, and then I thought, no. This is my children's history. They can keep it.

William began looking through it, turning the pages slowly, seeing black and white faces of long-ago children who shared some of his same DNA. He paused at one page, and pulled something out.

"Uh, Mom...I think this is yours..." he said, and passed me a piece of paper.

Oh my. I recalled folding that piece of paper and slipping it behind the picture, a lifetime ago. Or maybe it was only 7 years ago.

It was an email. I had printed it, and stuck it behind a picture of three chubby-faced Norwegian toddlers and then forgotten about it. Well, maybe "forgotten" is the wrong word. Like the sheet of paper it was printed on, I'd tucked the memory of this particular email behind other things in my mind. And there it had slept until William found it. Woke it up.

It was an email from my ex-husband, composed just six months before the divorce was finalized. He'd written it after we'd attended a wedding, arriving apart but spending a good deal of the evening together, with all four of the kids. Apparently, it had triggered some feelings in his heart, which prompted him to write this brief but telling note to me on a Monday night in June 2006.

It was an apology. The only apology he's ever offered. And reading it brought tears to my eyes, just as it did when I read it all those years ago, in a different house, in a different life.

I'm not current on the laws about emails and blogs, and I do have a sense of decency, so I won't share the actual email. I'll give him that much because I may be a lot of things, but a monster I'm not. But I will share this: it's the kind of email that revealed things, exposed the regret and doubt and ultimately, the resignation that things were damaged beyond repair. The kind of email that would have probably scared the bejeezus out of his then-girlfriend, now-wife. I know it would scare me to discover my significant other had these kinds of thoughts...not only had them but expressed them, in writing, to the person he'd once shared a life with.

It was painful to read. It hurt when I'd read it back then, and it hurt reading it in 2014.

But this time, it also made me feel something better than hurt. Something positive, and ultimately, something healing.

Because in this email, my ex-husband was giving me validation. He confirmed what I'd known all along: I was the brave one in our marriage. I was the one who fought for it. I was the one who had done the right thing.

Some days, that's all it takes to make you feel better. To allow you to keep going, to give you that push, that nudge, to carry on despite bumps in the road.

I needed to read that email, needed to see it again. I needed to be reminded of my strength and what I've overcome and how much courage I had. Courage I still have.

It was one line in that email that did it for me. No, it wasn't the number of times he said "sorry" (five). It wasn't his admission that he'd turned to the wrong person when he first started having doubts about our marriage. It wasn't even the part where he said that as he watched me, smiling and talking to his family at the wedding, he realized how much he'd messed things up.

It was six words. Six little words...

"I chickened out-- you never did."

I'm glad William found that book in the back of his closet. I needed reminding. With the stress and worry and anxiety that's once again infiltrated my life, it was important for me to see those words, no matter that they were written by my ex-husband several years ago.

I'd like to think that I slipped that folded note into that book, that particular book, for a reason. Maybe I knew I'd need to read it again, some day in the future. Maybe it was because I needed a physical, touchable piece of my own history, something I could hold in my hands and read with my eyes instead of just feeling it in my heart or reliving it in my mind.

I put it in a book titled "Memories". Because that's what it is now.





2/13/14

The Target Plate Saga

The other night I went to Target with Molly and William. Molly needed candy for some Valentine thing at school  (she's a senior in high school...shouldn't this be done?) and I needed to find some fish shaped snack for the valentines I'd printed off some artsy fartsy crafty website. "Out of all the fish in the ocean, I'm glad we ended up in the same school" or something like that. I wanted to get Swedish fish and put a few in a little bag for each kid, but my own children talked me out of that. "Don't give them candy, Mom" Molly said with what sounded a little like incredulous condescension. "Yeah, Mom" William chimed in, "don't be that teacher."

I wondered, "What teacher? Are there weird teachers who give out candy? Why is that weird? I would have loved that teacher!" But I've come to the realization that my kids know what they're talking about so I found Goldfish crackers made out of graham with vanilla cupcake sprinkles. That'll do, Jenny, I said to myself. That'll do.

We were walking towards the checkouts when I stopped at a long clearance shelf full of fancy dinnerware and serving pieces by Target's fancy brand, THRESHOLD. I picked up a plate that was particularly pretty and said to the kids, "I love this plate! Look, they're only $3.98 each." I counted out how many pieces there were. Six dinner plates. Four salad plates. Three cute little bowls.

It was a lovely pattern. Very Anthropologie looking. Kind of. I imagined myself serving up dinner on these plates, the children looking down at the pattern being revealed with every morsel eaten and thinking to themselves, "Mom sure knows how to pick a plate, doesn't she?". They reminded me of the perfect dream kitchen that lives in my head, the one that's kind of like Meryl Streep's kitchen in "It's Complicated". The kitchen I'll build when I "make it", the one where the kids will bring their boyfriends and girlfriends and spouses and I'll be the charming, successful spinster mother-in-law who wears a lot of linen and tunics and can whip up a delicious dinner on the fly...

"Mom, we don't need new dishes." Back to planet Earth, via my daughter's voice of reason. She stood there, next to the cart, and then took the plate out of my hand. "Let's go" she said.

I picked up the plate from where she had replaced it on the shelf. Again, I counted how many pieces there were. The six plates was fine, I thought. There's five of us. That's really all we need. But the others were a problem. I'd have to hunt them down at different Targets. I began processing which Target would be the closest, which one would most likely have my pretty faux Anthro plates.

"Seriously Mom. Stop it. We have lots of plates." This time it was William.

So I listened to my kids. And we left, plateless.

I couldn't stop thinking about the plates. On my break the next day, I went home as I usually do. I work a split shift, so I have two hours free from 10-12 every day. I like to check in with Walter. Sometimes we go for a walk. Some days I finish the laundry I'd started that morning, sometimes I sit on my ass and play Ruzzle for a while (and seriously, folks, out of all of you only 2 play Ruzzle? PLEASE PLAY WITH ME!).

That day, I thought about plates. I thought about my pretty Target plates. I did the math ($3.98 x 6 = $24 ish something, what a deal!). I went online and scoured the Target website for my plates. They weren't there.

I decided that I was going to go get the plates. I wanted them! They were pretty! I started to worry that someone else had bought them. I needed those plates. I felt a wanting I haven't felt in a long time, an urgency.

I had one arm in my coat when I heard my daughter's voice echoing in my head:

"We don't need new plates."

I sighed. Took my arm out, set the coat down. I walked over to the tall cupboard where my haphazard collection of dinnerware resides.

The pretend Fiesta dishes I bought at a thrift store at least a decade ago, an entire set for $12.00. Aside from a couple of casualties, they've survived life with four kids and a mom who slams things to make a point. My wedding china is in there too, creamy ivory mixed in with the pale green, yellow and blue.

Molly is right. We don't need the pretty Targanthropologie dishes. I wanted them, yes. So bad. For some reason, it felt as if new dishes would make me feel better. Less insecure, less worried. When some women get stressed, they like to buy shoes and purses. I like kitchenware.

I talked myself down by imagining how much work it would involve, bringing new plates into this house. "You'd have to move some of these other plates" I said to myself. I imagined getting newspaper and wrapping the china back up and putting it in boxes. Ugh. "You're right" I said back to myself.

Some day, I'll get you, my pretty plates. And the little bowls, too. But we're good for now.




2/9/14

Life and Paper Towels



The guy from Human Resources blathered on about job reductions and contractual obligations and restructuring. I sat kind of side saddle on the uncomfortable conference room chair, hands folded on the table. I studied his well-manscaped face, wondered why his neck looked so hairy while his cheeks and chin were baby-butt smooth. Is that a new thing, a wooly neck? I wondered, as he shuffled papers and pushed a highlighted seniority list in my direction.

This was the meeting in which I was told my job was going to be given to someone else. It took about 10 minutes and I didn't cry. In fact, I did the opposite. I played the role of jovial clown, like the Carol Burnett of the soon-to-be unemployed. I surveyed the seniority list and made a joke about it being a hit list, which he laughed at although it was a kind of uncomfortable chuckle, now that I think about it.

The woman who hired me, the head of our entire preschool organization, a woman I've known since Charlie and I attended our first Early Childhood Education class 16 years ago, was there too. She didn't say much, just nodded along with Wooly Neck and looked at me with her eyes opened wide like she was watching something suspenseful on t.v.. I think she expected a melodrama from me. My propensity to wear my heart on my sleeve is well known, and my ability to start weeping at the drop of a hat is no secret.
.
But like I said, there were no tears. I held it together and did the old bootstrap, tough-as-nails act. I swear I heard some Tubthumping in my head as I stood up, shook Wooly Neck's hand and hugged my supervisor. I get knocked down, but I get up again, you're never gonna keep me down. I went back to my classroom where the kids were still on their cots, most napping but a few holding their stuffed lovies up in the air, mouthing animated conversations in the dark.

I got this job, my first official full-time, benefits and sick days job, in August. Six months ago. The long-awaited past due child support from my ex kicked in exactly six months before that. One year. We've had one year of "normal", the kids and I, one year where we've had enough income to survive. One year of being able to exhale between paychecks, one year of being able to sock a little away into an actual savings account. One year of being able to say yes to the kids when they've needed something not absolutely necessary, of not having to beg for help at Christmas time. One year of being able to feed my family all on my own.

It's been a good year.

I officially lose my job on August 15th. I have six months to figure this out, to try and find something else, some other job that will overlook my lack of education, my traumatic financial past, my age. I keep telling myself that this isn't the worst obstacle I've encountered, that I've always landed on my feet.

I keep telling myself that it will be okay.

But the tears finally showed up. They showed up in Costco, of all places, that place I both love and loathe. A few days after THE MEETING I was there, picking up a few things. I was in the paper towel aisle and saw that finally, the Kirkland gods had created select-a-size paper towels. This has been a spot of contention for me, you see, especially in this, the year I've been able to afford paper towels. I couldn't understand why Costco paper towels weren't select-a-size! What a waste, I'd think to myself as I used a full sheet of paper towel to clean up a mess that only required half, or less. How much does it matter that they're the best deal in town if you're wasting untold inches of paper towel with every use?

So there I stood, in front of the select-a-size paper towels, and felt the tears welling up. Oh, the irony! I was finally getting my paper towels. And also, losing my job. Joy and pain. (okay so maybe I'm exaggerating the joy part but really, not that much)

Of course I bought them. Because if life and all of its ups and downs can't be select-a-size, at least my paper towels are.

In all seriousness, my little family is going to be okay. I know we will. Life has been too good for us this past year. Charlie is taking 18 credits this semester, working part time and has a girlfriend I absolutely love (she gave me YOGA PANTS for Christmas, along with a note that I saved because it was so beautiful). Molly was just accepted into the same college I attended. She's promised me that she will not drop out to become a flight attendant like I did. I also made her promise to have fun, because that's what you're supposed to do when you go away to school. Henry my social butterfly child keeps our basement jumping with hordes of his friends, leaving Taco Bell wrappers and socks and Mountain Dew cans in their wake (and he sometimes cleans it!). William and I have had more fun with all of his hockey stuff this year than ever before, partly because I've been able to afford hotel rooms at the tournaments for the first time (and hockey moms tend to have a lot of fun at those tournaments, folks).

We are, all of us, healthy and happy. I plan on keeping this happy stuff going, no matter what it takes.

This is not the end of the world. It sucks, it's unfair, and to be honest I did sort of look at that seniority list with an assassin's eye. I don't love these panic attacks in the middle of the night. But it's not the worst thing ever. Mama's all right. The kids are all right. We're warm and have enough to eat.

And I have a dozen rolls of select-a-size paper towels. So for now, all is good.








2/5/14

Oh noes. Someone on Tumblr Hates Me


A friend sent me a link to what I believe is the very first open letter addressed specifically to ME. And what makes this special is...IT'S A HATE LETTER.

I receive a couple dozen messages/emails every week. Almost all of them are from women who have found my blog looking for support and help with divorce and single parenting. And I love them. Each and every one. I try to answer each one, although with my puppy-like attention span and work and ALL THESE KIDS I sometimes forget. But I do read all of them.

But hate? I have never been on the receiving end of hate. Unless you count my very first Twitter fight last month, which was oddly invigorating and shameful all at once. I'll discuss that one later (yeah, I took screen shots and everything. I devolved that evening.).

Of course this was in response to the article I kind of wish I'd never written, the 7 Things You Totes Need to Stop Saying piece. I mean, I know it was a joke and thankfully most of you knew it was a joke, but apparently there is a small slice of the population that doesn't understand how these jokey things work. And apparently this slice of the population squats on Tumblr. Which I will never understand, so I guess that kind of levels the playing field. As long as we all stay on our side of the internet, things will be fine, right? I'm over here with the mom-types, sharing crockpot recipes, discussing suspicious moles and talking about which house on Modern Family we'd most like to live in (my vote would be for the Dunphy's, of course). The angst-ridden riot-grrrrl banshees can stay over there with their kittehs and Dr Who memes and keep talking exactly however they want. Because at the end of the day, nobody cares. Including me.

I should mention at this time that had we been given the chance to be BFFs, these women would probably choke on their soy/extra espresso depth charges to learn that I adore Dr Who, Sherlock, Buffy and Star Wars. Yes, I'm a closeted fangirl myself although pressing issues such as raising four kids on my own, my impending unemployment and a horrifying resurgence of my adult ADHD occupy most of my time, I try to keep up with that stuff. Shocking, huh? (BTW...are you as pissed about the remake of Robocop as I am? It's not Robocop without Kurtwood Smith and Nancy Allen, grrrr!)

Here's my reply. Sorry it's late!

Dear Roane:

I am 47 years old. I'm glad we now know how old we both are. I was excited to hear that someone had invited me to perform intercourse on myself! It's been a while since anything intercoursey has happened to me so you can imagine how this got my bells ringing. This is the first time anyone has suggested that my ear be on the receiving end of a f*ck, and although I'm flattered by the request I'm going to have to say no thank you. I usually don't draw outside the lines when it comes to all things eff-related, so I'm going to let my ears be for now. Thanks again for the suggestion.

The thing about being over 30 and using the internet is that most of us are over 30 and are well aware of what to take seriously and what to take not-so-seriously. All the listicles and "Top Ten Ways To..." blog posts are not directed at you (unless they are, like your letter to me, specifically addressed to you). They are thought bubbles floating in cyberspace. I continue to find these shrill, defiant responses to my article as some of the funniest things I've come across in a long time. I used to imagine all of you sitting in coffee shops or on futon couches, angry spittle dangling off of your lip rings as you so zealously defend your right to keep saying feels and I know right and whatever else you think I told you was now off limits.

But lately, I've been getting a vision of 30-something women with Braveheart facepaint, clutching their kittehs to their chests, their "Team Cumberbatch" t-shirts soaked with sweat that reeks of indignation and wounded feels.

Kitteh clutchers. That's what I dub thee.

So fuck* you. Only not in the ear. Pick a different orifice. I will continue to write about whatever the hell I want. And no apologies if someone takes it the wrong way.

No love right back at ya,

Jennifer Ball, aged 47 and a quarter






And now I'm done discussing all things totes-related. Thank God, amirite?


*for the record, I dislike using the word fuck. I feel as though women like Roane and other people who toss it out as casually as "like" have ruined it. There is no power behind it anymore, and that makes me sad. Because when used wisely, it's a pretty good word. 


2/3/14

Well, this sucks.




What made this guy so remarkable? Why did the news of his death hit me, and so many others of my generation, so hard?

I was in my car, picking up a kid from a sleepover when my friend Gail sent me a message. "Google Philip Hoffman" she wrote. And then she added, "Fuck."

Eff, indeed. A celebrity succumbing to their demon of choice isn't exactly a shocker anymore. But this one hurts. This one feels personal.

He was my age, almost exactly. I remember the first movie of his I saw, "Scent of a Woman", where he played an entitled asshole prep school student. I loathed him immediately. And then found myself adoring him, looking for his unforgettable mug in other films.

He was the schleppy every-guy, the face of all those boys I'd end up chatting with after their Alpha-male friends and my beautiful friends hooked up after closing time.

The thinking-girl's heartthrob.

He played sweet gay men and evil villains and disheveled flakes, and played each of those roles to the hilt. No holds barred. He stole every scene he was in. Have you seen Along Came Polly? One of those movies that I'd deny liking in certain company, but one that I'll sit down and watch every time it comes on just to see him. The word "shart" is used with great frequency in this household thanks to PSH.

The coverage of his death is sickening. It makes me yearn for the days when celeb's accidental deaths were cloaked in mystery and secrets. We don't need to know what he was wearing, where they found him. What he was doing. That's not our business.

Of course, now that we do know, maybe it will open doors for discussion about addiction, drugs, depression. Maybe it will just go down as another sad accident, another smart and creative person gone too soon. The tweets will die down, the articles and blog posts will cease. He'll be honored at award ceremonies, "STARS WE LOST IN 2014", people will stand up and applaud while pictures of him flash by on big screens.

He'll be missed, though. By his fans, yes. By his family, oh my God, yes. He'll be missed by old people and young people and people in the middle. My 16 year old, Henry, said, "Imagine how many more things he could have done, Mom" as we were discussing the news yesterday. We talked about drugs, talked about what makes people do them. We talked about how wealth and fame and supposed creature-comforts are no guarantee of a happy heart.

We talked about how he looked like someone you'd bump into on the street, someone you'd make small talk with while waiting in line at the coffee shop or the bookstore. How he didn't come across as a Bradley Cooper or a Leonardo DiCaprio but somehow he was 1000 times more magnetic than men like them.

Henry wrapped up our conversation with this:

"Well, this sucks."

Yup. It sure does.

Rest in Peace, PSH.
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