I’ll Eat When The Cheer Is Complete

At the beginning of this long holiday weekend, I was all I’m gonna turn a corner in my life. We’re gonna bring in some Christmas cheer and I’m gonna stop watching scary movies that prevent me from sleeping and I’m gonna get gift shopping done early sos I can kick back and enjoy watching this yule log of a year burn, baby, burn. Or something like that.

To kick off the holiday season right, but also so I could move on with my life, my husband and I watched our last 3 hours of The Haunting of Hill House right after the kids went to bed on Thanksgiving. Tis the season!! This show scared us so badly that we were dragging out the time between watching each episode and I just needed to rip this bandaid off right quick. Overall, I did enjoy the season even though I felt like it stole a few days from my life and they are now residing in the Red Room with everyone else.

The next day I asked my husband if he wanted to watch this one random movie I got from the library and he said foolishly said sure. I picked it up and showed it to him, and I have a disease, you guys. True to form, I had chosen a zombie flick because it had the word pandemic on it. It was called Alone, and it came out this year – how did I manage to miss this?! The movie was just okay, and it involved an interesting take on the classic zombie genre. Because my nerves were still fried from Hill House, I jumped way more than I should have, but I persevered, my friends. I don’t expect my family and friends to associate with a quitter.

So today – today – was for sure the day. We were gonna create some motherfucking cheer, goddamnit. We got up and had pancakes, which never fail to make my kids happy. We attended a surprise birthday car parade which was lovely and joyful. To continue the cheerful momentum, I hesitantly asked my husband not to freak out, but that I wanted to decorate for Christmas aaaaaand – gasp – play Christmas music. This, this is simply not done in our house. My husband has this thing where he won’t celebrate a holiday until the first of the month of said holiday. Lately, I’ve been asking him ever so sweetly to stop CRUSHING MY JOY when we see Christmas lights go up in the neighborhood or hear sleighbells on the television. Today, he graciously allowed me to usher in some gaiety after I shouted at him that THIS WAS ALL THE HOPE WE HAD LEFT.

I started getting the bins out and my kids actually helped put up some decorations. I left the fake, lit garlands I usually wrap around the banisters until last. I was getting a little peckish but I was determined to finish the job and so I pranced over and decided to plug them in – just to make sure they worked, you know, as a formality – before I strung them up. First one lit up the room. Excellent. The second – crap. Suddenly, my empty stomach felt cavernous. The dull, annoying headache I’d had pounded up my brainstem and beat me behind the eyes. Oh yeah, was it that time of the month too? WHY THE FUCK NOT?!

Not to be deterred in the slightest, I proceeded to expertly wiggle and jiggle each and every bulb, all while muttering devil-words under my breath. My husband could sense a change in the atmosphere in the house, and gingerly suggested I take a break and get something to eat. I’LL EAT WHEN THE CHEER IS COMPLETE was my rabid response.

Knowing my limits as a rational human being, I screamed at allowed my husband to take over to troubleshoot the light issue. Then, for reasons still unknown to me, I decided that only fools eat food or take breaks, and I proceeded to organize the liquor cabinet. This only enraged me more when I: 1) couldn’t reach the back of the cabinet and had to ask for help, and 2) couldn’t open a jar of 10 year old homemade booze that we’d never drink and had to ask for help, and 3) banged my head so hard on the open cabinet door that I had to stand there for a good 30 seconds to let the pain pass. Sigh.

After I Marie Kondo-ed the booze (it all sparked joy, save for the 10 year old Baileys that had chunks floating in it, may you rest in peace), I had enough good sense to make and eat some noodles. By that time, my husband had exhausted all options with the lights and he promptly ordered some new ones on the internet because he loves me and he effectively saved Christmas!!


Day 28

Controlled Danger-Fun

You know how boundaries are on a spectrum, right. On one side it’s rigid, and way over here on the other side it’s chaotic. I was raised firmly planted on the rigid side of the spectrum, and it shows. Dinner was at 6pm, every day, never failed. The laundry was done on Saturday morning, every Saturday morning. You call your parents on Sundays. Put simply, we had clear, predictable routines, expectations, and consequences for violating those expectations. As a kid, I didn’t think anything of it. I assumed it was normal. For the most part, I liked it. I’m a person who likes to know what’s coming next, and whether that’s because of the way I was raised or happily coinciding with the way I was raised has yet to be seen. Perhaps it’s both.

Put another way, I’m a person who likes to be in control. Control, structure, predictability all feel viscerally comforting to me. I crave them like I crave my morning coffee. Feeling out of control, at the very least makes me feel cranky or irritable, and at worst makes me feel anxious and downright panicky.

I do things everyday to maintain my feelings of control over my little bubble. I make my bed. I choose what I put into and onto my body. I make lists and cross them off. I pick up clutter- constantly. I organize the fridge, the junk drawer, my kids’ toys. I plan. I think of everything that could go wrong with that plan and then plan for that, too. It’s a careful balance to make sure that I’m staying productive and healthy and not going overboard trying to make every little thing exactly how I want it. Some days are better than others.

They have a weird relationship, anxiety and control. They’re both illusions, to an extent. I don’t have control over very much in this world, and so there’s very little that is healthy and productive to feel anxiety about. Go figure. In an effort to squelch anxiety by trying to control everything, it often backfires and creates even more anxiety. Ugh.

So. What may sound counter-intuitive in my quest to try and control (or, as a healthier reframing word choice: calm) my anxiety is my charming habit to do stuff that I know makes me anxious. I still drink coffee because I likes it and I wants to. I still stay up late because I likes it and I wants to. And I still watch scary movies because my anxiety will not control my choices and I will not live in fear…all the time.

I make calculated choices and I have to decide what risks and consequences I’m willing to take. As a risk-averse person in general, I don’t like doing big, dangerous things where I don’t feel enough in control. Skydiving and bungee jumping are out, but rollercoasters are in! The perfect amount of fear/excitement and control/safety.

Scary movies also fall into this just right category. Surprising no one, I like the psychological thrillers that burrow under my skin and keep me up at night. Sure, they make my blood pressure rise but I get to make choices from beginning to end. Which creepy show do we watch? How often? Let’s take a pee break right now. Right now! PAUSE IT! Okay, now I need to turn on the lights. I don’t know why we started with the lights off because that was a shitty idea. At this point I’m going to talk my way through this scene so I can stay in the moment and not get sucked i-WHY IS SHE NOT LEAVING THIS HOUSE?! HASN’T SHE BEEN THROUGH ENOUGH? Where is her sense of self-preservation?! RUUUUUUN! Aaaaand oh look this blanket jumped right in front of my eyes before the Bent Neck Lady scrapes down the fucking hall again; all I hear is scraping, hissing, and screaming so I’ll let my imagination take it from here and assume they’re defeating the evil spirits and getting the hell outta dodge because who in their right minds would go back to bed after seeing a floating specter turn a kitten inside out and not tell their parents?! Fucking psychopaths, THAT’S WHO!

This is my idea of controlled danger-fun, dear readers. Who needs to jump out of a plane when all you need to do is watch children be tortured by evil spirits in the comfort of your own home? I tell myself it’s instances like these, and people like me, for which Xanax was invented.


Day 13

You can look now

Today, I was able to shut the world out for several hours in the best way – I read my book semi-uninterrupted.

I say semi because I have small children. People with small children, or who once had small children and maintain an accurate memory (read: not the kind of biased memory that leads you to grow old and senile and shout ENJOY EVERY MOMENT! at moms in the grocery store) know exactly what I mean. For those who have never had the intense pleasure, I’ll briefly elaborate: interruptions ranged from forced verbal admiration of random lego pieces pressed together to wiping butts to trouble shooting the online math platform to an obligatory distance high-five for getting 100% on the online math assessment. All in a day’s work.

What am I reading? Funny you should ask. Those who know me, or who have read this blog for long enough know that I have a terribly unhealthy habit of choosing varying levels of traumatic entertainment media, now being no exception. And actually, now is a classic combination of some poor choices mixed with some bad timing. See, for October I thought it would be fun to choose a spooky book to read because I enjoy Halloween more than most human contact and I was concerned that Covid would steal away my joy. In an attempt to capture some additional spooky Halloween spirit, I chose Bird Box by Josh Malerman. It was a great choice for several reasons: 1) There was no wait at the library, and 2) I had already seen the movie sooooo how scary could it be, really?

In the middle of reading the book, I was not-so-gently reminded just how vulnerable my nervous system has become since 1) giving birth to and parenting two small children, and 2) the anxiety rollercoaster ride of Covid quarantine, among other things. The book struck close to home because it’s a mom trying to survive with one daughter and one son (I have those things), and she’s doing it while wearing a face covering and trying to stay away from dangerous people and entities unknown. Add those real-world similarities to the forgotten fact that BOOKS ARE LEAGUES SCARIER THAN MOVIES and I was toast. I usually read books at night, in bed, with the red filter of my headlamp. For this book I had to turn on the light.

Fast forward to now. Because I don’t know how to quit you, I decided the sequel to Bird Box would be an excellent idea. And I’m not sure how it happened, (read: I’m lying and I know exactly what happened) but my friends started chatting about the Haunting of Hill House and I thought my husband had watched it and he’d only seen the first episode and was willing to see more. I was intrigued, and in my pre-motherhood days I enjoyed a ghostly horror flick from time to time but DEAR LORD (no spoilers, please, dear readers). I think we’re averaging 1.5 episodes per week because my nerves can’t take any more than that. And watch is a loose term, because the way I’m getting through these is by cuddling with my emotional support husband, with a blanket, and oh look it’s a scary part up comes the blanket over my eyes! And then my husband narrates what’s happening so I’m still included in the action.

Me: OMG! What’s happening now?!

Husband: She sees a hand.

Me: What?! What’s it doing?

Husband: Moving. It looks dead.

Me: Just a hand?! Is there more?

Husband: Now she’s scared, she’s backing away. She’s gonna escape up the ladder.

Me: Are you sure?!

Husband: No wait. More than a hand. It’s got her…it just pulled her tongue out through her anus…..aaaand now she’s dead. You can look now.

—-

Teamwork!

We’ll finish the series eventually, at the cost of my remaining sanity.

And so my motivation to sit and read for an extended period of time today was threefold: 1) I enjoy reading for long periods of time, 2) I wanted to shut out any and all election news and take a frickin break, and 3) For the love of all that is holy I need to finish this book because I can’t be reading a scary book AND be watching a scary series at the same time because my. nerves. can’t. take. it. but failure is not an option and I refuse to just up and quit. So there you have it.

Also, I didn’t intend for this blog post to become one of many lists, but now you see how my mind works so you’re welcome.


Day 5

Come Play With Me

With Covid floating around in the air and threatening to jump into our face holes, we’ve had to get really creative about how we have fun, amirite?!

And if you know me or have read this blog for any reasonable length of time, you know that Halloween and creepy shit is the only thing that personally makes the slow, steady descent into winter oblivion worth staying conscious for. Adding Covid into the mix this year requires even more creepy and dark humor.

I started decorating my house – inside and out – for Halloween early this year. Let’s just say I was inspired by the orange smoky death cloud that hung over the greater Portland (Oregon) area for a good chunk of September. We were stuck inside and it looked like The Road outside so I figured celebrating the day the dead returns to the earth was a good call. Maybe they [the dead] could give us some pro tips on how to suffer in style.

I picked up an apocalyptic DVD bundle at the library and took advantage of the extra couch time. I revisited The Road and Hunger Games. I watched 1984 and Clockwork Orange for the first time and now I think I’m all set to hide under my bed and sip my Xanax milkshakes until the Supreme Court decides if it’s okay that Americans can experience safety and joy ever again.

I’m struggling now to remember how it came up, but a few of my mama friends and I text pretty much daily while hiding from our children. We were discussing Halloween and what freaked us out (I think?) when my friend mentioned she had a creepy doll stashed in the back of her closet that gave her the heebie-jeebies. Her mom had picked it up at a garage sale with care, love, and my friend’s daughter in mind, but I’m guessing my friend didn’t want her daughter to get sucked into The Upside-down so into the closet it went. “Isn’t this how most horror movies start?” you ask. And you’d be right.

We (and by we, I mean me) made a few jokes about haha, wouldn’t it be funny to scare some mom-friends by leaving the doll on their porch in a bloody mess and then running away? And then my friends texted back a tentative suuuuuure and changed the subject.

I then started texting only my doll-having friend to see just how willing she was to use the doll in this way. It will be hilarious! I said. It’s the perfect socially-distant creepy fun! I said. LET ME HAVE THIS. I screamed. At long last, she sent me a pic of the doll and I swiped right, my friends. This was happening.

My friend didn’t want to completely fuck up her doll so we compromised and I made a creepy sign with red paint to accompany her. We also wanted to scare the crap out of our victim friend without making a huge bloody mess on her porch, because we enjoy maintaining friendships.

Not to be outdone, the afternoon before we were scheduled to scare our mutual mama-friend, my doll-having friend dropped off the possessed plaything on my porch without telling me and then texted with: knock, knock. For one quick second after I opened my door, she scared the poop out of me.

Touche, my friend. Touche. The messers become the messees!

And so sweet, little Gwenivere (more on this later) came to live at my house for an afternoon. You guys, I had never seen a doll quite as uniquely creepy as she was. Her facial expression was very dead-in-the-eyes meets resting bitchface. When I picked her up, which I don’t recommend, she was surprisingly heavy in an unsettling way. She slumped over when set down. And the worst, by far, was that she fucking smelled. I can’t even describe it, but I’m going to try. It was a scent that used to be sweet, or was trying to be sweet, but missed the mark. It was like super, off-the-charts sweet that had gone sour with age, under a layer of mothballs. And the scent clung to everything it came in contact with. Sadly, I realized this after it was too late.

I set the doll at the bottom of my stairs for the afternoon and she scared my husband and me no less than 10 times. My daughter wanted to keep her. NO! I shouted, SHE’S NOT FOR YOU AND SHE’S LEAVING TONIGHT. Before I grabbed the doll to go scare my friend, my daughter came up and whispered in my ear that she had kissed the doll goodbye. Dear lord, I really wished she hadn’t. She [my little girl] smelled like rancid Koolaid mothballs.

During our magical afternoon together, the name Gwenivere for my little guest just came to me, out of the blue. My husband later informed me that it was the name of the ill-fated van from Onward, which we had watched the previous night, but I prefer to believe otherwise. On a whim, I decided to look up the meaning of the name, just to see if it fit.

Gender: female. Origin: Welsh. Meaning: white ghost, phantom.

Fuck.

My doll-having friend picked me up and we drove the short distance to our other mama-friend’s house. It was dark and windy and raining. In other words, perfect. Gwennie stunk up the car with her evil wrath but man it was worth it. We successfully deposited her and her bloody sign on their doorstep without the dog barking (until we rapped on the door), and then we ran behind a parked car to watch and giggle.

The initial response was underwhelming, but what turned out to be hilarious (from my point of view, anyway) was that my friend’s two daughters instantly loved Gwenivere and wanted to keep her. We were texted a pic of her girls cuddling with the smelly, possessed demon and I was laughing so hard that tears were streaming down onto my mask.

Needless to say, the fun won’t stop here. I think Gwennie and her sinister stank needs to be introduced to all of my friends. She has so much more love to give.

Happy Halloween, y’all.

Rage. fear. desperation.

My little girl was almost hit by a car today. Almost.

We were on our way home, crossing a busy street. My son was on his bike, my daughter on her scooter and I was on foot. We looked left, we looked right. No cars. We were in a crosswalk. We did everything right.

To the right of the crosswalk is a traffic circle, and I saw a car whip around and it wasn’t slowing down. By this time, I was halfway across, my son was behind me, and my daughter was ahead of me.

I screamed, STOP, [HER NAME], STOP!!!

My girl started to slow down and I lurched forward, groping for her, even though she was still out of reach. I later told my husband that we’d both have been hit if the driver hadn’t slammed on her brakes.

If there was ever a time when I felt like a crazed, full-blown Mama Bear, this was it.

JESUS CHRIST!! I screamed at the car.

SLOW DOWN!!! I bellowed as I threw my arms wide in rage, fear, and desperation. I’m sure my eyes were red and smoke puffed out of my ears. Certainly, adrenaline was pumping through my system.

The driver gave a gesture that I interpreted as apologetic, but it all happened so fast. I just wanted to get back home where we’re safe.

This is several hours later, and I’m still trying to shake the rage. fear. desperation.

A similar incident happened a few months ago, but I was able to shake that one off much sooner. The differences: we weren’t in a pandemic, and I didn’t feel so constantly vulnerable, thinking about health and loved ones and safety and loss. That time, I was close enough to her that I grabbed her hood and yanked her back. Even if the car had continued to run the stop sign, I had successfully pulled her out of the way. Lastly, everyone was moving slower: me, my daughter, the car. It was far less scary, in a far less scary time.

Also a contributing factor: I’m currently experimenting with different cold brew ratios/recipes/techniques and dear baby jesus, I think I made this last batch way too freaking strong. Today I’ve been jittery and strung out. My husband says I’ve been talking a mile a minute today, buthowisthatpossibleIdon’tknowwhatyou’retalkingabout.

Not to mention that I’ve had two nightmares in the past week, one of which was technically a nightmare within a fucking nightmare (so I guess that makes it three nightmares in all). I shit you not, I had a nightmare and in the dream I went to sleep, had yet another nightmare, “woke up,” BUT WAS STILL IN A NIGHTMARE. When I woke up for realsies, you’d better believe it took me a hot minute to be quite certain that I was conscious and the world before me was indeed real. I think it’s high time I made myself a totem, BECAUSE HOW DO I KNOW I’M NOT BEING INCEPTED?! Leo?! JGL???

As a surprise to absolutely no one, I’m also knee-deep in a violent dystopian novel. My choices amaze even myself.

Soooooooo there you have it. Too much, too often I feel like the world is burning and I have a front row seat. I can feel the warm glow on my face and I can see the ash falling from the sky.

Everyone, just please do me a favor and SLOW DOWN when you drive. Check the crosswalks. Then check them again. Thanks.

And go easy on the cold brew.

 

The Silver Lining

This post picks up where my last one left off, last Friday the 13th.

The next day, we woke up to snow. We couldn’t believe it. All winter, we’d been hoping for snow, wishing for some, and nothing. Until schools close and the world starts shutting down. It started snowing again during the day, and they were the biggest, fluffiest flakes I had ever seen.

THIS IS THE SILVER LINING! THIS IS PERFECT! I yelled as my family and I gawked out the window. My kids scrambled to put on shoes (no jackets) and ran out into our yard to play. Still wearing my pajamas, I put on a jacket, hat, and snow boots and decided to sneak out the front door to stand still in the (relative) quiet.

Several neighbors were outside also enjoying the weather, including my next door neighbor with their young son. Earlier, we saw our neighbors across the street letting their two retrievers frolic and play in their front yard. They looked like they were having the time of their lives.

“They should have their dogs on leashes.” my son dutifully said. He’s heard me complain in private and chastise people in person for not having dogs on leashes. It’s not safe for all involved, and I’m proud that my son now knows this.

“You’re right. They should be on leashes.” I replied.


I stood on the sidewalk and looked up. The fat flakes were falling so slowly that I could pick one out and position myself so I could catch it in my mouth.

I heard a shout from across the street and I looked up just in time to witness one of the gorgeous dogs get hit broadsided by an oncoming truck. It all happened in slow motion and all at once.

My other next door neighbor burst out of his house and started screaming. Apparently he had been watching from inside. He yelled at the owner something about how the dog should have been on a leash and pick him up, get him to the vet, RIGHT NOW. I also heard a voice whimpering oh no, oh no, oh no and realized it was mine. The owner ushered the still upright and walking dog into their house and closed the door. The truck was long gone; it never even slowed down.

Realizing there was nothing I could do, I turned around and made eye contact with my neighbor and his son. Oh god, I hope he didn’t see, I thought, and not knowing what else to do I turned and walked into my house and burst into tears.

I kept peeking out my window because I wanted to make sure they were going to get the dog emergency care. I saw a man come out and empty out the trunk of a car. The next time I peeked, the car was gone.

Over the weekend I kept watching for the car, and it didn’t come back until 48 hours later. I am both desperate and terrified to know how the dog is – too terrified to go and outright ask.

Needless to say, that event definitely spoiled my day and probably my entire weekend. I took a ridiculously long shower, trying to wash off the trauma. As a trauma therapist, I’ve heard every disturbing narrative you could imagine and many you can’t, but I’ve never actually seen something so traumatic. I also can’t tolerate violence toward animals, real or fabricated.

I spent the rest of the day manically cleaning my house. None of us went anywhere that day.

Since then, we’ve essentially been sheltering in place. On Sunday I saw on Facebook that our local library was closing the next day, so I ran out and checked out a buttload of books and DVDs to hopefully last us for a long time. My husband called in sick on Monday and then went to work on Tuesday only to pack all of his office supplies into his car so he could continue working from home. Besides walks around the neighborhood, grocery shopping, the dentist, and one trip to the pediatrician because my kids continue to be sick, we’ve been hanging out at home, just trying to hang on and get well.

I’m pretty terrified. I’ve said it feels like we’re waiting for an invisible tidal wave to hit us and the anticipation is crushing me. I’ve had to shake off the ridiculous expectations that suddenly mothers are supposed to homeschool their kids like we don’t have enough shit piled on our backs. Not only are mine still ill, but they are confused and frustrated and do not take well to their mom trying to get them to do fucking worksheets. To hell with all that. We’ve been taking temperatures daily, we’ve been watching a lot of movies, and we’ve been taking walks, reading books, writing letters to grandparents, and doing art. On our walks, I’ve been carrying chalk and writing positive messages around the neighborhood. Once the rains come and wash them away, I’ll go out and do it again. Not sure if I’m doing that for myself or for others, but I guess that doesn’t really matter.

I’ve been meaning to compile a list of the positive side effects we’ve been experiencing as a result of all this chaos.

  • We get to sleep in
  • We don’t have to worry about being on time for shit
  • All the hilarious memes and videos and late night shows being broadcast from celebrities’ couches
  • I don’t have to make school lunches every night
  • My husband is home during the day
  • My house is going to be spotless by the time this is all over
  • Our carbon footprint has been drastically reduced! Both on a local and global level; how exciting is that?! Perhaps this experience will drive lasting change.

Now go wash your hands and stop touching your face.

 

 

No Spoilers, Please

I find that, as I get older, and especially once I became a mom, my tolerance for scary media has plummeted.

I’m more anxious, the world is a scarier place, and momma needs her some sleep.

And yet.

Enter Stranger Things, that one Netflix show all the kids are talking about. I’m only 4 episodes in, and already I’m scared out of my mind.

About a week ago, a light in our kitchen started flickering from time to time. That didn’t bother me until we started Stranger Thinging it. CHANGE IT. CHANGE IT YESTERDAY.

Oh , and thanks a lot for ruining Christmas lights for me. Jesus H Christ.

I’ll leave you with this haiku expressing my random thoughts on the matter:

Eighties nostalgia/

I can’t take the creepiness/

Quitter I am not.

 


NaBloPoMo Day 5

 

The Apartment Next Door

Recently our next door neighbors in the apartment complex moved out, and about a week after that we saw somebody new moving furniture in.  We weren’t sure that our new neighbors are actually living next door yet because we haven’t run into them, but two nights ago I figured I had my answer.

Our bedroom wall is shared with these neighbors, and it’s actually the same wall that our heads are right up against as we sleep. That night I woke up with a start and looked at the clock.  1:45 am.  I laid there and listened and I heard nothing, so I rolled over and went back to sleep with the mental note to talk to Brian about switching our bedroom and office, since the office doesn’t share walls with any other tenants.  I was concerned that our apparently noisy new neighbors were going to continue to interrupt my sleep.

Just moments before I looked at the clock, I heard a little boy whimpering and crying for his mom.  After a bit I then heard him ask a question about “what was under there,” and heard his mom mumble something through the wall.  Sounded like a kid getting scared in the middle of the night after moving into a new, strange place.

In the morning, after I slammed my hand onto the snooze button for the second time, I asked Brian if he heard the little boy.

“What little boy?”  He asked.

“…you know, he was crying last night in the apartment next door.  They must have a kid.  You didn’t wake up?”

“Nope.  And I don’t think anyone is living next door.”

“But I heard them!”

“…have you seen them?”

(in my small voice) “…nooo.”

And we still haven’t seen anyone come in or out of the apartment next door.