Neverending

In the midst of answering what seemed to be a simple, basic question for an online contest — “What have you finished lately?” — I turned to stone. Um. Sputter. The best I could come up with was “I guess I finished making dinner last night.” Does that count?

I took a few moments to be overwhelmed at the thought and guilty and negative towards myself. Loser. You start a million projects and have to-do lists a mile long. How often do you cross anything off?

But, then, I reminded myself of the concept I love so much that’s meming its way around the internet that essentially says, “Would you keep a friend who treats you the way you treat yourself? Who criticizes you the way you do? Then, stop it.”

I need to treat myself better. While most of the people in my life aren’t downright rude or skeptical or mean to me, I do have plenty of Negative Nellies that orbit my life. Not important people, mind you, but the ones I have been thrust into dealing with on a daily basis. The ones we often see more than our families; y’know, those people we’d REALLY like to spend 24/7 with.

And, y’know what? The ruder those folks are to me, the more silent treatments and raised eyebrows and snarkiness I receive…the kinder I am. It’s a sickness, I guess. I go out of my way to be bubbly and sweet, and, at times, fall over myself doing so. I know I’m trying to win their friendship, respect; trying to tell them “hey, don’t treat me that way, I’m nice!” But, I’m trying to break myself of this. If they deserve my kindness, they’ll receive it. I won’t reciprocate rudeness, but I won’t overindulge it with goofy grins and a spinelessly sweet attitude, either. I’m not one for “an eye for an eye”, but I won’t waste my energy if it won’t get me any place.

That being said, less negativity towards myself is warranted. I let my mind shuffle the aforementioned thought — finishing something — around for awhile. Sometimes over-thinking something only tortures us, but other times the more we think on something, the more we’re able to rationalize, minimize and accept it. I’ve recently realized that, much as with situations out of our control (the horrific ones like the Mohawk/Herkimer shootings, and the outlying but still affecting stuff like the Boston Marathon bombings), while they change our thoughts and definitely have an impact on our emotions, our brains are tossing back and forth sub-conscious (and even minutely conscious) ways of dealing with it. It may not be time that heals all wounds, but rather the human brain that works out a way to live with them. Where our bodies are amazing things that are able to heal a gash and rebuild tissue, our minds are significantly grander in their abilities to regenerate hope, love and the will to live.

What HAVE I finished? Diaper changes. Blog posts. Cat feedings. The (occasional) load of laundry. Grocery lists. Gasoline pumping. Bed making. Hair brushing. Door locking. A plethora of other seemingly insignificant things that, if we were to not achieve them, our lives would pile up on themselves and cease mattering. The cats sure as heck notice when they’re not fed. We definitely notice when we’re out of olive oil or clean underwear. Our lives consist of not just the huge life events and the weighty projects that drag on over months (and years). There are events, microscopic or mundane, that get sewn together to create our dailies.

Oh, yeah, we planned a wedding a few years ago. That was something we finished and felt incredible about achieving (heck, it was a wicked fun time!), but the marriage, the constant daily work of a marriage, is what we’re really achieving…hopefully with no real ending. There’s not always a finish line to the things that matter most. No “finishing” in marriage, kids, relationships….

I still would like to write a full-length novel. Maybe I’m just better suited to short stories.

A Note From My 16-Year-Old Self

I’ve read some incredibly inspiring “letters” from individuals to their teenage selves, in the vein of “if I’d known then what I know now…” When I look back, however, I tend to find more inspiration in the person I once was. So, I thought I’d do a little method acting (think of that) and try to place myself into the brain of my 16-year-old self and see what advice I might have to give…to myself.

So, you reached 30, huh? That blows my mind on so many levels. Here are some things I hope you’ve remembered along the way…or, if you haven’t, START remembering:

Don’t stop being weird. There was a time that we were hurt at the prospect of being considered strange. I still remember telling Mom in the car on the way to the farm that kids at school (we were in about 5th grade, remember) were calling me weird. It wasn’t in a bullying way, but I found that it bothered me and even hurt. I liked different music. I read different things. I watched irreverent TV shows and old black-and-white movies. I was sensitive but outspoken. I wasn’t quite a tomboy, but was far from a girlie girl. Today, as my 1998 self, I’m terribly proud of the fact that I’m still that person. As far as the tiny school bubble in which I live, I exist amicably with most everyone, and have been lucky enough to find acceptance. I’m hoping that you’re able to maintain who we are without apologies.

Stay friends with the people you truly trust. You know, the ones who don’t talk behind your back and make you nothing but paranoid. The ones who accept your weirdness. And try to remember to be a good friend back at ’em, ‘cuz they may stick with you for the long haul. Oh, and anyone who’s put up with your Monkees obsession…yeah, they deserve a place in some Hall of Fame some place.

Say what you feel, when it matters. I know we have a tendency to be loud-mouthed, opinionated and incredibly outspoken when we’re around people we’re comfortable with, but at the same time incredibly insecure and shy when we’re intimidated by larger-than-life personalities (like a certain teacher we all know) or unknown experiences. It’s okay to be shy, but don’t let that stand in your way of doing things. And DON’T let ass&%#@$ pile-drive you. ‘Cuz there’s always gonna be ass&%#@$.

Try new things. I even have a hard time with this one today, myself. Remember when we were sick for “Oliver!” auditions and you didn’t take the chance to try out? We were lucky when Jen moved and you got her part, but it didn’t feel very earned, did it? Nope. Just go forth and have frickin’ fun. We’ll only live once, and as cliche as that sounds, it’s damn true.

Don’t live life for anyone but yourself…er, us. Recently, I told Mom (remember, after church school on our way home?) that I thought I’d like to get better at guitar and maybe try seeing if I could make a go at a folksinger type of life (ie not necessarily go to college). She immediately put us down. Didn’t feel so good, did it? While it’s important to make her happy, at what point will you realize that you have to make YOU happy, too? I hope you’ve been successful with this one. It’s a biggie.

– In other words, do what you love. Whatever that may be.

Marry a nice guy who you can laugh with, and who you don’t mind taking care of when they get old/sick. And if you can’t find someone you can laugh with, or who can accept you and your weirdness, just keep looking. ‘Cuz the dating pool here in Mohawk is not the end of the line, thank God.

Keep busy! Play at least one sport, and try to do something creative, like, always. I personally think you should stick with tennis, especially since Katharine Hepburn is STILL doing it in her frickin’ 90s! Plus, you can be competitive without needing a full-blown team. Oh, I suppose I should also clarify — keep busy DOING FUN THINGS. Things that you enjoy doing. Don’t keep playing oboe if it’s not fun for you…and DON’T feel guilty if you stop. But, if you ever miss something, try it again and see if it’s still in your blood. It’s okay to do that, especially since these days it’s more of a chore to do homework and practice oboe, sax, piano and voice for SoloFest, on top of tennis and marching band. It might be more fun when it’s less pressure.

Long live the Monkees. And Dave Foley & KITH. And Jimmy Stewart. And Bruce Ward. And NEVER, EVER wear tapered-leg jeans again, if you can help it, even if they come back “in.” Always keep a pair of flared legs on hand. No more perms. Oh, and no matter how much we love Peter Tork…don’t do the bowl cut ever again. That is all.

Be a mom. Don’t ever let anyone make you question whether you want kids; you do. Not only have you always wanted them (hell, remember cracking the JC Penney catalog to the nursery section every time we got a new one, instead of the toys? Gave Mom a heart attack, alright! Heh heh.), but you were born to be a mom. Even if you don’t have everything else figured out, HAVE KIDS. For me. And be a cool mom. Strict, but cool.

Lessons learned. And apparently I’ve always had a thing for bullet points.

Crying Over Spilt Milk

I try hard — REALLY hard — not to blog when I’m upset, angry, or otherwise feeling negative. (Maybe I’d post more if I wasn’t so Irish-tempered! Ha. Totally kidding. Kind of.) But, I realized that my current frustration is something that some may either a) relate to or b) use as a tool to learn more about the world of breastfeeding. (Plus, as usual, I’ve tempered out a bit since I originally started writing this…so I’m a TAD less pissed.)

On average, I try to keep my cool when stupid stuff happens. Cats (Winston) dumping food EVERYWHERE. Cats (Winston) dragging opened Christmas gifts from the tree to their litter pan for a dip. Hads pouring copious amounts of bathwater all over me, the kitchen floor and throw rug. Husband using all the small glass storage containers which means I can’t take yogurt to school until he finishes those lunches. See? Stupid crap. None of it important. None of it making me want to disown anybody. Just daily silliness.

But when I got a text from the hubs (undoubtedly terrified to have to give me the news) telling me that a 5-6 oz. bag of milk had leaked and was, therefore, unusable, I felt like someone punched me. To make matters worse, it was a defect with the bag; I couldn’t even just be mad at myself. Being upset with an unknown machine in some unknown factory just makes me feel helpless and fearful that it could happen again, at any time.

When I’m upset, I yell. (Sorry, it’s what I do. My poor husband.) When I’m REALLY upset, I cry. So, I cried. On an average work day, I pump at 6am (at home, after feeding the baby his first of the day), then four more times at school throughout the day, then if I can sneak it in once at home before the “men” get home. I don’t pump for long; it takes 5-10 minutes out of my life each time. And I’m not complaining here (because Hadley is priority #1…in bold…and breastfeeding means A LOT), but it’s hard to continue one’s momentum of gettin’ sh-tuff done when you take time out like that. It’s a huge commitment.

Spilling one ounce is enough to make you gasp and yell and put the cat in time-out. (Yes. I’ve done this. Damn you, Winston!!!) Losing an ENTIRE serving of the stuff?? Can you say incendiary device?

In this case, we were REALLY lucky that the sitter had a couple of bags in an emergency store in the freezer. She still has one extra at her place, but otherwise we’ve got zero “extras.” I JUST keep up with his current needs. I am ecstatic on days that he decides to eat 3 rather than 4 (he’s on “solids”, too, so he’s not starving) just to be able to have ANY surplus. Don’t even get me started on my fear of getting into a car accident or having some other crazy emergency happen, knowing that I don’t have a surplus for him.

On one hand, I could be getting up at midnight and 2am to work on storing some more, but Hadley’s gotten into a routine of needing night feedings again (like, sometimes one, sometimes two), so I’d rather not pump in the event that I’ll be too “empty” for him. It’s a scary prospect. Plus, I lurve sleep.

Oh, and any little “extras” I can eke out go towards mixing with rice cereal, so there’s that, too. I do often pump after I’ve put him back to sleep on weekends (he eats around 5-6am but goes back to bed — the one time he’s generally easy to put back down), so while he and the hubs are snoring away, I’m pumping SOMETHING. Unfortunately, these are the days I most want to lay back down, and it’s kinda tough after the “excitement” of pumping to get back to sleep. Blerg.

It may seem uber-petty and probably complainy of me to get SO upset over something as silly as milk getting spilled and wasted, but as I look at it, breastfeeding will go one year (if we’re lucky; more than one year if we’re REALLY lucky). It’s an important time in both Hadley’s and my life. And, for the record, I’m not complaining about BFing or pumping; I’m complaining about the complete disappointment when you finally feel “on top of” learning this very new, very speed bump-riddled activity (no pun intended) only to have another REALLY STUPID speed bump thrown into the mix.

So, yes. Yes, I WILL cry over spilt milk. Then get over it and appreciate the moments I get to have him close by, knowing he’s getting what he needs, knowing that he has learned, alongside me, how to get the hang of this crazy thing, loving when he’s bored and running his fingers through my hair or when he’s finally past the “I NEED FOOD NOW” moment and briefly stops to grin like a fool.

Sigh.

It’s so worth the spilt milk.

Marching Band and Giving Thanks

The leaves have mostly fallen to meet a cold ground. The air is crisp, and from the moment that the scent of chimney fires reached my nose a month or so back, I knew it was the time of year to start giving thanks. In Upstate New York, this season can hit you in late summer, or flip flop between the occasional flurry and 60-degree days before finally settling in for a short burst of true autumnal behavior. I wouldn’t give up having four seasons for anything, but somehow autumn is my favorite — along with my husband’s. Why else would we get married in October, when I could’ve easily planned for a summertime event? It just didn’t feel right or true to who we are.

When I was younger, this season meant that our constitutions (honed and developed so keenly during the summer months to endure sweaty, faint-inducing hours practicing the strength behind perfect posture, playing and holding an instrument perfectly, rolling one’s feet, breathing at the perfect moments, and reaching a hundred pre-determined positions on the field) turned to being able to do all of the above in dark, muddy, beyond “chilly” conditions — and often in uncomfortable wool uniforms. Field band marching was more challenging to me even than running the mile each year — a huge pain in my butt, given my asthmatic fits. Yet, I loved it, and everyone in the band loved it, or else they wouldn’t have been there, putting up with the long night practices, screaming adults, and giving up beloved teenage Saturdays to accompany the football team at home and compete with other bands hours away until late in the evening. More than all the pain, yelling, laughter and incredible music (both on the field and on the bus), I remember and cherish the silence behind Fisher Elementary School.

Once we took the field and, later, when the final instrument silenced, there was a lot of waiting. Waiting for the director to give the drum major the signal to start. Waiting to punish us for a poor practice night. Waiting to teach us that sometimes, in life, you need patience more than you do talent. Waiting before finally sending us either to perform yet another run-through or, with a huge sigh of relief, home for the night. While waiting, it was inevitable that our eyes would glance upward to the stars. I’m grateful for the patience we learned, but also for the magnificent view, much like a globe of black construction paper and twinkling dots, that the field presented us. Crisp, perfect nights where all you could hear was the breathing of your band mates, who, of course, were viewing the same perfect scene. It was a gift that we never expected when signing up to be a part of the Mohawk Marching Mohicans or, in my case, being thrust by family duty¬† and honor to it (I don’t remember ever putting my name on a list). And I’m still grateful for it. I’m not sure that anyone we encounter who wasn’t a part of those very special, select years of marching can ever¬† really appreciate it. I know that it will be a shared secret that we hold; looking up at a picture-perfect, clear, star-riddled night only to smile slyly. The silent feeling that overcame the band as we watched a rare falling star noiselessly scrape across the darkness; no “ooo”s or “aaah”s, just knowing.

And, so, at this crisp, crunchy time of year, I am grateful for many things. Those old memories that, no matter what new memories arise, will always be a cherished gift in my heart. For the new memories of adulthood which constantly surprise me as “not what I expected” out of adulthood — and loving that they’re so very much better than those I imagined. Sure, I never met Peter Tork, but if I hadn’t been arm-in-arm with Dave at just the right moment, I wouldn’t have bumped into Paul McCartney (not that we’re comparing here!). I haven’t a single instrument in my house now, although I WILL, soon, someday, and I’m grateful that my future children will have an opportunity to widen their horizons with the integration of musical sensibility into their lives.

That I have the husband I never knew or expected would be so good and kind and supportive, I believe I will be forever thankful and wonder to myself, “Did my dad have a hand in this?” I always thought that he never left me anything, and was quite sour about it. But, at those moments where a budget is taunting me down with no sign of ending its choke-hold on our finances, or when, in the future, I’m staring down the barrel of unknown sadness or hardship, I’ll know that I was offered a lifelong gift that, with little doubt, was sent my way to treat me just as he’d have liked, and somehow the bad amends itself and my husband is still there to give me a “Thank God we’re through it” hug. Or, when I’m humbled by being asked to participate in a meaningful project that Dave, with unwavering faith and assurance in my ability, offers. I thank my father for Dave, and I thank his family and countless friends for making him as understanding and wonderful as he is.

We may not have everything we want; hardwood floors? Gutters? A new dining set? Tons of cashola? Happiness for every single friend and family member? No. Yet, I don’t remember a Thanksgiving that I’ve felt luckier, and I foresee a holiday season that rivals the joy that we felt 10/9/10. And, for that, I am utterly grateful.