Jeans and Dreams

Most days, I’m a very reliable person. Stable and predictable.

But the day after my mom died I found myself in the front seat of my car in a Kohl’s parking lot trying to change my pants.

I went into the store to buy a dress for the wake and with the intent of replacing the current triple XL sweatpants I was currently wearing, so not sure why I parked toward the front.

It was questionable weather the pants would even fit, I refuse to buy anything other than a size 12, but they just looked so small to me. I didn’t have time to try them on and surprise I didn’t strain something. These cropped ankle rolled pants were a liability, should I dare exhale causing a button to become dislodged and speed toward an unsuspecting eyeball.

A month later and it’s not gotten any better since I’ve actually washed them. And it’s not that I’ve gotten any fatter. I’m down a couple pounds due to grief-induced lack of appetite. Another member of The Club said it’s normal.

Today the situation worsened when I decided to casually go for a bike ride. I’ve always admired people that ride bikes without having to change into workout clothes. But, I just realized, they’re not wearing jeans. This is khaki territory.

The jeans went from form fitting to outright constricting. Also, I can’t casually ride a bike. I’m either careening on a downward slope at a precarious speed, subject to accident or injury at the slightest mis-placed twig or higher-than-average sidewalk crack, or standing on the peddles climbing an incline. This was a workout for the pants. I was hoping the denim would start to give a little but it held steadfast.

On the bright side, I’m on track with my weight loss goal for the year. I really didn’t feel well early last week and Tuesday I wanted to stay home because I had the blues along with an upset stomach and a headache. But I was meeting with an admissions adviser after work and didn’t feel like staying home all day to go out later and I didn’t want to re-schedule the appointment. Not feeling that great definitely tempered my enthusiasm for the meeting which is a good thing, because Friday when I was setting it up, I was way overly excited.  I was annoyingly happy.

Come Tuesday and I’m contemplating how different my life was only 3 Tuesdays ago. Now I’m sitting in traffic, then I was sitting at the end of a hospital bed while a nurse tried to offer me water or anything else I could think of. I sat on the edge of a reality I still can’t comprehend. Obviously grad school is the next step.

I’m applying for the Master of Social Work program. My bother looks at me like I’m eating a sardine sandwich and liking it. I submitted my resume and personal statement and asked my work for letters of recommendation. I have my UIC transcripts requested and just need to send in the ones from Moraine. And wait.

Which I’m totally good at.  Super fine with ambiguity. No biggie.

Oh and yesterday, I gave up all my writing hopes and dreams and stuck to my diet, although it was probably a little carb heavy.

I gave away all my writing books. Because I never read them. I love reading and enjoy writing, but reading about writing is not my thing. But I loved having those books and the idea of them. But if grad school happens, I need to clear away mental clutter. I probably won’t write  a best seller, but I’ll go ahead and call myself an American Essayist, haha.

Once again, the glorious moment has arrived where I get to take off these pants for the day. I’ll even put them in the wash. Cause you know, I’m feeling optimistic.

Yours always,

Christina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I, Surrender

It’s been over a week since I’ve had a legit vegetable.

Not in a burger, on a pizza, taco or nachos.

A carrot would be scrumptious.

I agree that you shouldn’t go shopping while you’re hungry. But you most definitely should go shopping after you’ve eaten an Italian beef with fries and Cheetos for dinner.

The self-loathing is highly motivational and I only hope I can eat this spinach and oranges fast enough to cut off the impending thigh spread from these last couple weeks.

I’ve gained 4 pounds.

When I was off work for 2 weeks, I was thinking, “I need a project.” Then, I went back to work and realized being normal is now a project.

I went for a walk this morning. To address said issue of weight gain and for fear that not leaving the house is going to put me in a funk.

“Did you hear what happened to Christina? She gained a bunch of weight and never took her kids outside. Kind of a shite mum, eh?”I watch a lot of British shows, so naturally these guys are English punks. Tons of them in Woodridge. TONS.

When I was out in the fresh air, and thinking about dinner, I kept asking myself, what do I want, you know to eat. I don’t want anything to eat. I actually have no appetite, which I find depressing in and of itself. But what I really want is for my mom to be back, to have ambition and for stupid things not to be so hard.

Not stupid as in they have no value, but just stuff that was a “no-brainer” for me. Like leaving the house. Josh was suggesting we all go out and I wasn’t super feeling it. And I thought to myself, “Poor thing, lives with a depressive!” How boring. I was not interesting today. I wanted to sit and stare at the TV all day and have no original thoughts. I made myself take Reed to the park and that’s where I thought about getting back into working out or signing up for a walking half marathon. Then I bought the vegetables at 830 at night when I was going to return movies and buy coffee creamer for tomorrow morning. I get bursts of energy at inappropriate times of the day. Or maybe I was just avoiding the hassle of bath time. Most definitely that. Yesterday, I thought to myself, the struggle is real, I am on the struggle bus! But I don’t want to fight, I don’t want to struggle, so I surrender.

In Jen Sincero’s book, You are a Badass she articulates the idea of surrender so well with a metaphor. Two people are having a party. One invites you with, “Hey I’m having a party, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. Hope you can come, no pressure!” The other invites you with, “Hey, I’m having a party, it’s going to be a lot of fun, but I really need you to be there, and if you can’t I’m not even going to bother having it. “I’d legit have the second person not even have a party cause that’s way too much pressure, right? Like even if I go, the success of the entire party revolves around me. Ugh.

And I realize that’s what I’ve been doing to the good things in my life. YOU BETTER SHOW UP OR THIS IS ALL GOING TO SUCK!!!!!!! You hear me forces in the universe, my energy is GOOD! Hello! Meanwhile, I’m white knuckling my way through the day.  Yeah, no. That is a not good energy. That is not FAITH, existing in doubt, stepping out nervously. Stranglehold.

This framework really holds up for me with regard to work and What Do I Want To Do With My Life, I’m already doing it. Live, love, laugh, all of that. I’m still working out how it applies to food and managing my emotions while grieving this loss. I know it’s still early, but I’d be lying if I said I was okay with taking some time off from being healthy, even though it’s really hard right now. I posted how good I was doing about a month ago and life was like HOLD MY BEER. I was doing okay really, until this week. Even had left overs from Panda Express. That literally has never happened. I think this week was just mentally exhausting. Never have I been so content to do so little. Work, come home, hang with the fam, eat and sleep like I’ve been awake for days. Then constantly wake up all night.

I just miss her and despite all my understanding, I just feel like I’m not ready for this. I just keep thinking. This is huge. This is so huge. And I’m so small. So weak, mortal and feeble. It’s no wonder I was in bed all day. I am crushed. My spirit is decimated. It just hurts and I wasn’t ready.

It’s hard to be in two places at once. To grieve, and to live. Because grief isn’t just about falling apart, for me it’s sometimes watching 5 hours of TV and not leaving the house all day. I guess I like the idea of surrender but I have no idea what that looks like here. Which was the entire point of this blog! Or maybe I just liked the title- thought it sounded promising and hoped it would work out. OH! Surrender is not knowing how it’s going to work out, but having faith that it will. Yeah, that would make a good saying on a white washed wood plank with light pink lettering and flowers. #patentpending

So that’s the first lesson I am going to work on.

Second assignment eat some vegetables. I only have one size pants and they’re not getting any looser.

Yours,

Christina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Mom Was Such a Bad Ass

It’s hard to know what anyone else really thought of my mom, because I only knew her as well, my mom. But I think on the outside she seemed like a mild mannered polite church-going woman, rule-following woman. And she was.

But she had cojones.

She stood up to gang bangers, bikers and thieves. She may have been afraid or timid, but she didn’t let anyone walk on her kids.

She was not a victim of circumstance.

Her children were not statistics.

I remember how she told me her necklaced was snatched off her neck on a CTA bus and this one time her wallet was stolen. She stood and demanded it back explaining, to the entire bus that she didn’t care about the money, but the wallet had sentimental value. It slid across the floor to her from the unknown pick-pocket.

Apparently one day some bikers were sitting in my kid chair outside and my mom didn’t appreciate so she told them to beat it and they threatened to beat up my brother. I don’t remember if this scared her but it didn’t deter her from standing up for herself and our family.

I went to the store once and a bunch of gang bangers  started congregating  on the corner. So she did the most logical thing and stood on the corner with a stick! Like a Beatin’ Stick. The stick you keep by the side of your bed. It wasn’t an usual scene to me. The gang bangers or my mom on the corner. As an adult, and a mom, I’m like f*** yeah. That’s some real helicopter parenting up in here!

Oh yeah, and I was a latch key kid and took the bus/train downtown by myself every Friday to meet her in the Loop for pizza.

The end of our life in the city happened on an ordinary day when my mom called the police on some gang bangers throwing bottles at cars and they threatened to kill her. He was talking to someone on the sidewalk and my mom and I were in the window and I swear he was staring straight at her. It was frightening. That weekend I went off to Bible camp and came home to a new life in the suburbs!

My mom was working downtown when 911 happened and because she was a supervisor she had to stay and secure things, while they evacuated the high rises. She had her social number written on her arm, just in case, public transit was a mess, but she didn’t complain. She was a hard worker, dedicated not just to her job, but to doing what she knew was the right things, in any circumstance. Even if the bank is bunch of crooks! Amen sister.

My mom didn’t drive. I think the city was too crazy and frazzled her nerves. I can’t say I blame her. Every morning, we’d be at the bus stop and on cold days she would bundle me in her coat. It was like our thing. For various reasons, I knew it wasn’t always easy but my mom had hustle before it was cool.

I say her kids weren’t statistics because I remember hearing a commercial about fatherless children and how we’re more likely to use drugs and drop out of school. And I remember thinking that because of my mom, that wasn’t me or my brother.

And that’s what makes my mom such a badass. Because of her I went to private school all my life, went on to college, have a good relationship, great kids, a career, become a home-owner. She was also pleased that I had a car, probably because she figured it made life easier, so I’ll add car owner 🙂

Of course it’s me who did the work, but I wouldn’t be me without her.

I read this great line and of course I can’t find it now, but it was something about my mother is my original country, the place that I am from. It was a poem. Death makes me more introspective and the more I think about the more I feel like I am going back to that place now that she is gone. And since I’m a mother myself, I am also the place my children come from. I am going home and being home at the same time. It just makes me so much aware and fills me with such awe, love and appreciation for all the gifts I’ve received from home, the place I am from, my mother.

 

Back to Life; Back to Reality

It’s been 10 days since my mom died. That sentence makes my palms sweaty.

Today is my last day of “vacation”, it’s been three weeks since I’ve been to work. I took a week of vacation for Spring break, went back for a day and a half, had 3 days of bereavement leave, then took a week off sick.

Those first 3 days were super busy but I didn’t really didn’t know what to with myself this week, from Tuesday to today. I loafed around and ate bad food, which my stomach always protested, cleaned, read books (of course). I was a little social but not much.  Received in-person condolences without crying, ( I got teary-eyed once) which was my main motivation for going out. To test my resolve.  I don’t want to break down at work the first day.

The whole thing is surreal but getting to the routine will cement the fact that no, this is not a dream and it breaks my heart all over again . I guess it helped to take off this week, but I don’t know. Not like I’m over it, obviously. Just delaying the inevitable.

Anyway. I’m percolating lots of ideas. I think one of the stages of grief should be Doing A Million Things. Maybe that’s under Denial. And I feel that I should document them, so in a year, I could be like what was I thinking, haha.

I definitely want to start writing more. Which I always write about

Get another dog

Buy a new car.

Paint every room in the house. Actually look at paint samples for Josh to paint.

Give Reed a “dog room.” He loves dogs now. He points at laughs at them in public like a heckler, it’s hilarious.

Give Caleb a Pokemon room. He’s loves Pokemon and this is a new idea from him wanting a “Japanese” room.

Become a social worker, because I feel it’s a good intersection of other things I’ve wanted to do; ESL teacher, GED teacher, GED/ESL teacher to people in prisons. There’s a LOT of bureaucracy with this one. I talked to a woman who did this, and basically it’s better suited as a volunteer thing, but you need a masters in ED to teach people.  Parole officer – there’s an age cap, so I wouldn’t make it. The common thread is helping people, interacting with people, problem solving and professional development.

No need to poo poo my ideas. I will admit I am going FULL OPRAH to LIVE MY BEST LIFE NOW! but I’m not a hasty person. I’m very calculating and think for the long term.

Which is usually what stops me from doing anything and playing it safe. But I’m in a weird place and ready to take on new ideas, even something as small as (gasp) getting rid of my filthy sectional that I despise.

This quote perfectly sums it up.

From Lincoln in the Bardo by George Sanders.

“Because I love him and am in the habit of loving him and that love must take the form of fussing and worrying and doing.”

I don’t have anything to worry or fuss about and so I must do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crucible (n) a severe test

Not sure how much longer I can lay in bed ugly crying into my pillow. I don’t feel like reading, so maybe some writing will be a relief.

I updated my profile picture on Facebook to a pic of Sharon and I with her friend Ashley at the run for Rwanda a couple years ago. It’s arresting to see all the photos of us together when I scroll through the album. It still doesn’t make sense.

Grief. I like to think of all these metaphors for how this feels. It’s helpful because most of the time I am so completely crushed that I can’t feel anything. Tonight I came up with the imagery of when you jump into the deep end of a pool. You bravely descend to the bottom and confidently extend upward once you feel that familiar scratchy concrete beneath your feet.  No panic, you get to the top faster than you sank down and break the surface. Breathe.

Grief. It’s a feeling and it’s these episodes. It’s plunging into sadness and coming up again. Breathe. The feeling is a pause, a breathe that won’t exhale.

Sometimes I am very brave. Like when I ran into one of Sharon’s friends and my voice didn’t even crack when we talked about our loss. They were verklempt; I was stoic. Most likely because I had just had one of these episodes the night before. Hour long crying jag, and pouring through old photos online. I had nothing left to give the next day, but still brave.

I’m reminded tonight that it’s still on my to-do list to go and sit with a group of equally sad people and be sad together. It’s important for me to socialize my grief. Hence writing a very gloomy blog post at mid night.

So, remember when I quit coffee? Of course not, because who cares what anyone writes on Facebook. But I lasted 32 days, decaf on the weekends after the first week. Those headaches were epic! I got off it to get better sleep and back on it because life was sad otherwise. And I think my afternoon Dunkin run is part of why I’m up right now. Excess caffeine and rumination do not do a mind good.

In other less depressing news, I’m reading a new self help book. I used to read self help because I thought I sucked, but now I just really enjoy the genre. And it helps me sucks less, so win win!

It’s called You Are A Badass.  I just finished the chapter about understanding what your stories are and what you get out of them. For example, my story is I’m not a writer because I procrastinate too much and don’t write enough. True enough. The payout is that then I never put myself out there and get my feelings hurt. Well, obviously,  a lot of that changed this year. Because a.) I realized how short life is and what can hurt me more, than I’m already hurting anyway? 2.) I’ve been inspired by how other people are sharing online, being vulnerable and learning new things. I had some success and some feedback that made me want to crawl under a rock, dig a hole under that rock, burrow to the center of the earth and never come out. I don’t have a thick skin, perhaps it can callous. My writing life is a pendulum that goes from elation (bylines!) to lamentable (rejection!)

I’ve gotten more comfortable with the highs and lows of this experience. It’s new for me because I like things to be static and predictable but that’s just not my life right now. It’s  been two hours since I opened my laptop. I was drenched in tears but I found the scratchy surface beneath my feet.

To quote Nahko and Medicine For the People :

“Sometimes I’m broken
Sometimes I’m mended
On the road
I can cope to get up and do it all over again ”

Breathe.

 

 

 

 

College

I did everything wrong when starting my college career. For one, I didn’t shop around. I literally went to the closest schools that I could afford, worked part time and took public transportation. I stood at a bus stop at a time when there’s nothing else to do but stare into the distance. At work, customers would always say, “I saw you at the bus stop!” Which made me feel super weird because I just pictured myself standing there like a dumb ass.

I also didn’t prepare. I literally just went and assume I would get accepted because I could pay. Or maybe, looking back now, I fulfilled a quota. Who knows. But I didn’t study for the SAT and it never occurred to me to re-take it. That test was expensive! I made a feeble attempt at checking out a study guide from the library before the exam, and shockingly they were all gone.

I got in to my schools. I did my best and I got out. Looking back I realize, and it’s hard for me to admit, because I love education and higher learning, but school was hard for me. Why was I such a horrible procrastinator to the point of stomach-cramping anxiety? Why did I party when I should have been hitting the books? And WHY did I stay up all night drinking coffee before a day full of classes from 8-4? Sabotage much? I fueled my body with absolute crap, alcohol, cigarettes and staying up late. And I think going to school as an adult would be hard. Looking back I was kind of a dumpster fire. Maybe THAT’S why school was hard.

I’m currently reading How to Raise an Adult Break Free From the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haimes, former Stanford Dean.  I  knew that college was a whole thing, but I didn’t realize that college admissions is an outright profit driven industry and that schools have to play along.  I literally couldn’t afford to play the game. One example of this is the SAT test. Better score means getting into a better school. But there is a direct correlation between wealth and acceptance in that families with more money can afford tutors and to re-take the test. I’m not even mad about that, honestly. People can spend their money as they choose, but Haimes goes into lengthy anecdotes about the ill effects this has on students and their education.

It’s very eye opening and makes me critical of the institution. According to my Google search, the average American expects to pay off their student loan debt in their 40s and the average American that has student loan debt is carrying a balance of $33K. ( I paid mine off about 5 years ago, woo!) I just wonder how sustainable this model is. Most people I work with went to college and some even have masters degrees, or went to a school I didn’t even feel worthy of applying to. Literally. Which is kind of sad on my part, but then again, dumpster fire. (I think the cost also had something to do with it. Again, my whole basis on picking schools, like shopping for socks at Kmart.)

I have a sneaking suspicion this isn’t exactly what we signed up for. Which is okay.  Because my other criticism is that we go to these schools with NO CLUE on how any of this is going to play out in the job market. WHY did I spend $18K for an education on a field without ever cracking open the Occupational Outlook Handbook? Because I had no idea what that was. Sounds smart!

I’ve always defended college, because I thought I was defending education. But, as I’ve proven to myself in the past 14 years,  life is a continual path of learning, growth and personal and professional development. This is what I want to show my kids, whether or not they go to college. Learning doesn’t end when school does.

I feel privileged that I’ve had the opportunities to learn and serve the cause that I’m most passion about, which is literacy.  In 2005 I was a trustee on the board for a public library. I’ve been a volunteer for the Costco reading program and two years ago I was an ESL tutor with Literacy DuPage.

Two years ago I also became a Certified Supply Chain Professional and my current position is managing millions of dollars of inventory for the second largest retailer in the world. I’ve been doing this for ten years.

I’m still passionate about writing, reading, serving and my community. I added to my professional development by joining Toastmasters and achieved Advanced Communicator Bronze education level and received Toastmaster of the Year in my Woodridge Club.

Then I started my own writing business and actually got clients!

Not bad for a B student!

Never stop growing.

 

 

 

 

 

I threw out the quinoa and made cookies

20180324_171623.jpgI like to wake up to a nice clean house, but the lead time for getting my sh*t together is about 3 hours. It’s 8:30 now, and at 5:30 I was too busy trying to find a cookie recipe that didn’t involve going to the store. The dishes are done but our bedroom is an array of kids’ clothes, toys, dishes and my projects.

I’m doing this thing where I let Caleb do stuff, like make his snacks, drinks and help with stuff around the house. It’s weird how quickly they can do stuff for themselves and I didn’t get the memo until like 6 months ago. I do way too much stuff for my kid. I was in the bathroom today when Caleb told me I had to come downstairs and see the “emergency.” I told him to take a picture of it. Ah, modern parenting. There’s half a gallon of milk on the floor. One of my parenting credos is that my kids won’t live in a house where they’re afraid to spill stuff cause we’re going to freak out about it. I throw some used bath towels down the stairs any by the time I come down, the milk is gone.

It’s a little tiring but it’ll be worth it when the dishwasher is loading itself and loads of laundry magically make their way upstairs 🙂 a girl can dream, haha.

I did actually throw away some quinoa. It’s been a couple days and I’m just super tired of it right now. And since my goal of getting a new cookbook and going food shopping after the Easter egg hunt didn’t come to fruition, it was a frozen veggie burrito and some left over Skinny Pop for dinner. I’m sure I’ll overwhelm myself at some point this week looking for homemade veggie pizzas on Pinterest. Can’t wait!

Tomorrow is Sharon’s birthday. I know a LOT of people are missing her, but I don’t know how to talk to them about them about it. Like it’s this super horrible thing we all share, but don’t share it at the same time. I truly don’t blame anybody, but it would make me feel less alone about it if we did. Not that I’m trying to. Cause I don’t have the guts. I don’t want to make people sad or uncomfortable or just pissed off. I know that’s illogical. So I’m a shit friend and have no plans. Boo.

It still takes my breath away that she’s gone. The disbelief is fading and it’s weird to say, but it’s even more painful now. The missing is worse and it sucks to feel so lost and to not know what to do with the part of myself that was her. My texts got deleted but I still read our emails and her blogs so that helps.

Anyway. Happy early birthday lady. I know you hated the attention, so haha.

Love,

Lady.