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October 29, 2007

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Heather @ Desperately Seeking Sanity

I'm having a good time with these. Not my best work... but a good ol' college try... :)

I sat down on the floor in the kitchen and the tears started to flow. “Why?” I asked out loud. “Why does this have to be so hard? This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.”

And it’s not, it’s not the way that it’s supposed to be… it being our current situation, which, after 6 years is getting a little old. I’m not supposed to be raising my children on my own, but yet, here I am, a single mother, with no hope of that changing on the horizon.

Today’s tears were sparked by probably the biggest mommy mistake I’ve made in the last 10 years. I overslept and forgot to get up and wish my son a happy birthday. He just walked out of here, obviously upset, to catch the bus. When I realized the error of my ways I tried to dash out of bed, but it was too late. He was gone.

Why can’t I be married to a wonderful man? One that takes an active interest in the kids, one that takes an active interest in me? Why can’t I find that man who will complete us as a family but more importantly, someone who will be here to give me a break?

And I have to tell you… if one more person comes up to me and asks me how I do it, I think I’ll rip their arm off and beat them with it. I do it because I have to; because I don’t have a choice in the matter. That’s all that motivates me. Those children motivate me.

Despite that motivation, I still falter. And today was a huge fall.

I’m tired. I’m oh so very tired. Between working a full time job and running a business part time to make ends meet, I’m functioning on very little energy.

I’m tired of working late to make money, or clean the house (that never really stays clean.) I’m tired of the mountains of laundry, the dishes that always seem to appear in the sink, just minutes after I’ve finished washing them.

I’m tired of trying to switch back and forth between the nurturer and the disciplinarian. I’m tired of wondering which battles I should enter and which ones I should let slide.

But more than anything, I’m tired of walking out into any situation in life and seeing the oh-so-perfect family. The husband who has a good job and supports the kids. The one that works all day and then comes home and goes to play catch in the yard with his son and who spends weekends working on the family home.

I’m tired of witnessing the mothers that are able to stay at home with their children; tired of seeing them out and about at the grocery store or at the park, having just arrived in their SUV or Minivan.

I’m tired of feeling pangs of jealously every time I see a family composed of mom, dad, and rugrats when I’m dining out or on the rare occasion that I’m able to take my children to the movies.

But more than all of that, I’m tired of feeling like others are judging me. To someone on the outside looking in, I fear that they see a mother who doesn’t have her act together; a mother that is barely hanging on; a mother that doesn’t do everything for her children.

Is my house immaculate? Far from it. Is my lawn in pristine condition? Far from it.

Are my children clean, fed, and loved? Absolutely.

In the grand scheme of life, I think I’m doing a pretty good job raising two kids with no assistance. Is it the way that it’s supposed to be? If I dwell on it long enough, I can come to the conclusion that yes, this is the way that it’s supposed to be.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11). This is what it all comes down to. God knows exactly where I’m supposed to be. He knows what is best for me right now and this is it. So I will serve Him. Because I know that this is in His plan.

And somehow, that takes all the jealousy, anger, hated, and sorrow that I feel for my current situation away. It makes me realize that those families, the salt to be rubbed into my wounds, aren’t perfect either. It calms me.

At least until I stumble again.

Jennifer Carol

“What? It’s 6:45 already? Okay, just five more minutes.” Jasmine turns off the petite, black alarm clock and goes back to sleep. Fifteen minutes later she opens her eyes, slowly awakening from her peaceful slumber. Jasmine turns her head and glaring in large red numbers she reads 7:00! “Oh no, not again! What is my problem?” Jasmine throws off the thick purple and blue comforter. The comforter is an unwanted reminder of a marriage that didn’t work. This was the one item she and her former husband actually agreed on. In fifteen years, that’s not such a great record.

Still reeling from the shock of oversleeping, yet again, she stumbles down the hall to the bathroom. Jasmine looks in the mirror and realizes she forgot to remove her makeup before going to bed. Dark circles of mascara and eyeliner smudge her bottom lids.

She’s happy to see that no pimples have taken up residence on her face this morning. “Hmm, I’m still not sure if I like the color,” she says. Dirty blonde, by nature she’s made it a habit to color her hair to match her childhood pictures from middle school. The last coloring expedition however wasn’t quite what she expected. Self highlighting turned into all over lightening which in turn caused her to call the help number on the coloring box in hopes of getting it close to a normal hair color. This was her first time working with low-lights. It was much easier than expected and turned out pretty decent for a first try. “No hat needed, not bad.” She thought.

Jasmine is a tall thin blonde woman who’s hair hangs down just past her the middle of her back. Growing it out that long was no easy feat for her. Her hair parts to one side and layers at the bottom. For three years she been without bangs in hopes of having more of a stylish cut. That’s a pretty big deal for someone who’s sported bangs since the 8th grade. Jasmine has fair, slightly tanned skin. This isn’t easy to obtain when you consider that her fair skin must burn several times before reaching the slightly brownish tint that gives her that sexy confidence she covets all winter long. Almost daily workouts keep Jasmine in great shape. “Well, one day the baby belly will go away completely for more than a couple of days. All I need to do is quit eating the snacks at work and stop drinking sodas. I’ll work on that tomorrow.”

Pink silky pajamas cover her tall thin frame, accentuating her feminine curves. Jasmine runs her fingers across the fabric and considers the seemless perfection of the perfect silky smooth lingerie. The fabric feels cold and smooth under her fingers. Up and over her head, she pulls the silk night gown until it ends up in a corner on the floor.

Jasmine pulls back the iridescent shower curtain that looks like it came straight out of a 70’s movie. Large, brightly colored sunflowers decorate the otherwise clear curtain. She reaches over to turn on the water. Hot first, then cold just as she does every day. She sticks her hand under the running water to check the temperature and makes the necessary adjustment. Jasmine likes it warm enough to fill the room with steam, almost sauna like. She pulls the lever for the shower and run her hands under the water before getting in. It feels like a warm reviving rain calling to her for attention. Left foot first, she steps into the shower. “Why can’t shower curtains clean themselves?” she thinks. Turning toward the tan, tile wall she closes her eyes and steps back. Stepping back into the running water is like melting away the stress of the morning. One moment, this moment, she has to herself.

Nancy T

You have to understand, even though my husband and I have two young boys; I had no idea what it was like for a male child to “bond” with an adult male. I had heard other mothers state “I’m just the woman who lives in the house once my husband comes home”. My boys are truly “Mamma Boys”. It took six months to convenience them that their father really could change the dead batteries in their toys!

Well that was about to change. I was finally going to experience what it means to be “just the woman who lives in the house”. My son, Andrew was to see a new doctor. The office was like any other doctor’s office. As you walk into the reception area you are greeted by a glass partitioned desk. Behind it sits two receptionists. You give them your child’s name and they in turn hand you forms to be completed. After you complete the forms you are told to pay the co-pay and then go sit in one of the basic tweed fabric chairs that are lined up against one wall and wait to be called.

The walls are a pale green. There are no prints on the walls. However, in one corner there is a very large fish tank with about 4 or 5 fish swimming aimlessly around. You notice them because there are two fish that stand out, one neon yellow and one electric blue. Andrew notices them too. He walks closer and takes a better look. He then realizes there is a clown fish and calls to me, “Mom, Nemo is in the tank”.

A couple of more minutes go by and the nurse appears in the doorway and calls my son’s name. We are shown to the exam room. It is painted the same color green as the reception area. The room is small in size but, very functional. On one wall sits the counter with the sink and the cabinets. Directly across is the examination table. On the opposite wall from the door are two wooden chairs. There are two posters on the walls. One explaining what asthma is the other discussing allergies.

The doctor walks in. “Hi, I am Dr. Silver, you must be Andrew.”

I’m not really sure I can fully explain the phenomena that took place before my eyes on that very first visit. Dr. Silver lifted Andrew onto the examining table and while doing so found his ticklish spot. My son LOVES to be tickled. The bond was instantly formed. Dr. Sliver is younger than most of the doctors my son has seen and very tall. He listens to what he has to say, makes eye contact with him and most importantly treats him with respect. From that moment on I became the chair I was sitting in as far as my son was concerned. Only the doctor spoke to me and listened to what I had to say.

Due to my sons illness there were many visits. Each visit something always happened. We had a tie tying lesson, after which a tie was given to him, many tickle sessions and discussions on “male topics”, sports, cars, being right and the importance of winning are a few that come to mind.

Eventually, my younger son, Dylan started joining us on these visits. He kept hearing about how “cool” doc was. And for a second time the “male bonding” phenomena took place. Now, I was just the woman in the chair and not heard by either child. In fact the bond is so strong between my younger child and the doctor that given the choice to stay home and play or accompany us to one Andrew’s appointments Dylan chose to go to the doctors every time.

The most memorable visit was the day after Dylan’s fifth birthday. The office visit starts as usual. The nurse shows us into the exam room. Then proceeds to ask the usual questions, Why are you here? What medications is he taking? Andrew is then taken for a breathing test by the nurse. At which point I am asked for the millionth time by Dylan, “Can I blow out the candles on the computer?” “No”, I explain, “You are not in the computer. You are not patience. Therefore, you cannot blow out the candles”. We go back to the examining room and soon Dr. Silver walks in.

Dylan runs up to him and gives him a hug. I then hear the doctor say, “Watch out for the genitalia.” In a less than a second my face is now beet red, my hands are covering it, all I want to do is to crawl under my chair and pretend I am not there. I mention to the doctor still looking away that he doesn’t understand medical terms, it would be best to say “private area”. With a smile and a nod of his head in my direction the doctor takes note of the terms and my beet red face.

He has lifted Andrew onto the table and yes, tickle time had started. After a minute the exam starts. It actually goes rather smoothly from that point on. I am wondering if I am going to get out of the office without any more incidents. Then Dr. Silver says, “You know we haven’t checked you blood pressure in awhile. We should do that.”

Andrew looks at him and asks, “Can you make it scary doc?”

Now, not being from a medical family I would think that a doctor would slap the cuff on the arm, pump the bulb and take the blood pressure. When it reads in the normal range would say something like “No, not today.” But no, it is not to be.

The doctor leans back on the counter edge with his arms crossed and contemplates the question. Then repeats the question and adds “No one has ever asked me that before.” I know I am in trouble.

He then leaves the exam room and goes to another work area. The chair I am sitting in is positioned so that I can see what he is doing. He is standing in front of a closet he has opened I hear him quietly repeat “make blood pressure scary”. I glance away for just a moment to make sure my children are still seated and in that moment the doctor comes back with an uncapped syringe over his head making those noises that a Freddy Krueger or Bella Lugosi might make in a horror movie, ER< ER< ER.!

The boys are startled and scream with delight and then start to laugh. When they finally have control Andrew asks if he can do it again. I tell them you can only have one surprise attack. The doctor caps the syringe and places it on the edge of the counter. Both boys dive for it, I am out of my chair faster than you can blink grabbing their shirts and pulling them back. The doctor is pushing the syringe to the back of the counter out of their reach. He then puts Andrew back on the table and takes his blood pressure. Even with the scare the blood pressure reads in the normal range. He looks at me and tells me he wants to see him in three months. He turns to the boys and tells them how good they were and they should go get their prizes from the prizes basket. Dylan yells “I’m getting twenty-five prizes from the basket”. I call out to him. ”No you’re not. You get one and you’re lucky to get that considering you are not even a patient”.

With that Dylan stops dead in his tracks, spins on his heels, looks up at the doctor who is right next to him and in his kindest, sweetest most polite voice, the one I never get, asks, “Oh Dr. Silver, may I please have two prizes from the prize basket?” The doctor looks down and sees those big brown cow eyes, with eye lashes to die for and says “Of course you may.” Dylan thanks the doctor and runs to pick out his prizes. At least he remembered his manners I say to myself. Doctor Silver looks at me and gives me a shrug and states,” I’m ease”. I look at him and explain, “They’re children and children can smell it five miles away”. I say good-bye.

Now all that is left to do is make the three month appointment and pry the boys away from the prize basket without having them as Dylan states “Switch their minds" too many times.


MJ

"Kyla wants an iPod for her birthday," sighed Faith as she wiped the grease spatters from the counter near the hulking industrial sized grill. The yeasty sweet smell of pancakes filled the air as she watched her friend and confidante flip the golden cakes onto a platter, slathering them with butter before placing them on Faith's cork topped tray. "That's a pretty pricey gift," replied Linda, pouring a second batch. "Do you think you can manage it?" Faith felt an emptiness in her stomach and the headache that always seemed to linger began to worsen. "It's all she wants, and for a 13 year old she doesn't give me a bit of trouble. I'll have to figure something out."

"Table 12 needs cleared, Faith. I have people waiting". Terry was the manager, and although he was a decent enough guy, his cloud of cheap cologne and overly styled hair was often more than Faith could take. She absently fished in the pocket of her apron for her tip purse as she approached her first newly empty table of the day. She lost herself in thought as she marveled at the mess left carelessly by so many customers. Did they think about who would clean up the mountain of empty creamers after their children knocked down the pyramids they made with the tiny plastic containers? She swept wisps of pink, blue and yellow paper packets into her chapped hand and wondered how there could be so many ways to sweeten a bitter swallow of coffee.

"Faith!" shouted Terry, a group of impatient looking elderly women standing behind him. She quickly remembered herself and took a deep breath. She began noisily stacking the empty plates, muttering to herself as she went. Storming off obviously, she returned with a squeaky manual vacuum, making as much frustrated noise as possible as she collected the sticky crumbs from under the table. As she vacuumed, Faith lifted her gaze and was relieved to notice that a woman at another one of her tables was watching her. The woman's young daughter was coloring feverishly on her children's menu, bright red crayon circling her choice between a grilled cheese or smiley face pancakes. Faith attempted to collect herself, but saw that the woman was still watching.

"Did that table leave without giving you a tip?" the woman asked. Her eyes were kind and she had an openness about her that Faith found disarming. Faith stared at the ground, finding it hard to meet the woman's gaze. "Happens more often than you might think," she said. "It's especially frustrating with a table like this - I worked really hard for them."

The woman said she was sorry to hear it. Faith managed a tired smile as she collected the vacuum and headed for the kitchen. From the safety of the open kitchen door, Faith looked over and saw the woman speaking seriously with her daughter, and she busied herself when they both turned toward the kitchen. A teachable moment, thought Faith. At least that's what she was hoping. She remembered the time that she and Kyla passed a beggar on the street after a rare trip to the ice skating rink. They were on their way to get hot chocolate and Faith anticipated its thaw on her icy hands as the man approached. Although she had enough money for only their treat, she gave the man her portion, explaining to Kyla that it is sometimes better to do for others. There would be more hot chocolate for her on another day. Faith hoped that somehow this other mother would bring her own kindness that day full circle, and that somehow her own transgressions would be forgiven.

Faith watched as the mother and daughter paid their check at the counter. Linda was covering for the cashier, out for another smoke break, and was grateful for a brief reprieve from the heat of the kitchen. Faith watched as the mother acquiesced to her daughter's pleading for a pack of fruit flavored gum, and felt nostalgic for the time when making her own daughter happy was so simple.

Faith was filling tiny syrup pitchers when Linda suddenly appeared, her cheeks red with excitement. "That woman just left you a ten dollar tip on her credit card - they barely spent that much on their whole meal! You're going to be able to buy that iPod in no time if you keep this up." Faith looked up at her friend with eyes tired from the business of living. She touched the tip purse in her apron pocket - the one that contained the five dollars from that first table. She begged a silent forgiveness, unsure of whom she was asking, and went off to continue to earn a gift for her daughter.

Michelle

In response to a big mommy mistake --

Justin ducked his head and darted through the kicthen holding his backpack strap tight against his back.

"Hi. How was school?" I asked.

"Fine," he answered without looking up, quickening his pace.

"Just fine?" I inquired, but in response I heard only the click of a doorknob securing a bedroom door. Chalking this behavior up to the normal fifth grader mystic, I continued making dinner.

Later that evening, as I sat at the kitchen table editing his spelling sentences for the thrid time, Justin ran sideways behind my chair. He tossed up an Ohio State stuffed football and caught it, resulting in his own wild applause and the chorus of the Ohio State fight song resounding jubilantly from the well received ball.

"Where did you get that?" I asked.

"I found it in my bottom drawer. Grammy got it for me awhle ago," he answered.

"Grammy didn't get that for you," I said.

"Okay, I got it from the treasure chest at school today. Miss Johnston let us pick if we turned in our work all week," Justin explained.

That sixth motherly sense inside me started tingling.

"Interesting. I'll have to ask her where she found those. I'd like to get one. Bring me your binder so I can write her a note," I said.

"No, uh, Mom, I uh, didn't get it from the treasure chest," Justin said.

As if I hadn't figured that out! "Where did it come from?" I demanded.

"From school," he answered.

"Where from school?" I continued.

"Just from school, Mom," he answered.

"Justin, does that football belong to you?" I asked, my heart pounding in my chest.

"Yes, Mom," he answered.

"Where did you get it?" I asked louder than before. No response.

I didn't raise a theif. This is not what he has been taught. How could he possibly have made such a bad choice? How will I fix this? He has to tell me the truth. He has to tell me where that football came from.

"Justin, I will ask every kid in your class if it belongs to them. I will call the principal and ask him if there have been any reports of missing footballs..." I told him, trying my best not to completely meltdown.

Justin burst into tears. "Mom, I didn't steal it. Honest. You have to believe me," he pleaded.

He turned away from me, went into his room and then reappeared. He held out a shiney silver gift bag and a small card with a cat wearing a Santa cap. "To Justin, From Arianne - Merry Christmas!"

The overwheliming guilt and grief disappeared in an instant. How could I have doubted him?!?

"Please don't tell Daddy," he said.

Gabrielle

Well...Your topic *Dancing without Music* my take on it.....

"Love's Dance"

Together we embrace,
our hearts beating as one
a rythmic sound that
fascinates and excites.
Your fingers upon my skin,
as though playing
a stratavarius
softly caressing.
Silently we dance
Swaying beneath
the stars
the only music is
our laughter and
our dreams
shared together
blended in perfect
harmony.
Your kiss upon my
forehead is like a
prelude to our song;
our life together
and together
we shall move as one
drumming away fear
basing it all upon hope
and desire.
As your eyes gaze
into mine
I am still left breathless
so little needs to be said
as you take my hand
and twirl me into our future.
Our steps are sometimes
clumsy but our timing
is always met
with love and devotion
and family.
And as you pull me closer
I melt into you
safe and warm
held in your arms
This is home; our future
An eternal circle that goes
round and round; entwining
No music is needed
for our dance
for our ears hear only
our heartbeats and our
feet know only our memories
And together, as one
we waltz our way
through a lifetime of love..

Gwendolen Gross

Great stuff this week!
Heather--oddly enough this is relatively rare as a (fictional at least) topic--good place to go. That penultimate paragraph holds a lot of potential for scenes, dialogues, even more stuff to say! Keep at it!

Wonderwoman--very interesting! I appreciate the way you've lingered on details! Now I'm curious to know what happens in all those moments she isn't alone!

Nancy T--I love this piece (thanks for posting it). I think you're onto somethin gpotentially even deeper with the male bonding/left out mother stuff. Great details and dialogue!

MJ WONDERFUL! I love the rhythm of current scent/dialogue/past. Great details--squeaky manual vacuum, slathering of butter. Also--nice sense of tention with what her daughter wants/her ability to provide AND parent well. Great stuff!

GG

Gwendolen Gross

Gabrielle--didn't mean to forget you! Don't take this the wrong way, but have you thought about why you break lines where you do? It might be interesting to experiment with longer lines for this piece, which is about lyrical motion, after all. Lovely!
GG

Gwendolen Gross

Michelle--so, so sorry! I didn't mean to neglect you either!
Welcome to the workshop! What a fantastic frame you have here--and you've got me thinking about topics (trusting your kid, trust in general, secrets and lies....rich stuff). Fantastic dialogue--really important to move things along in real time (as opposed to the most frequent simple past people use in fiction, not that we can't choose present or something else). There's nothing more motivational in the emotion department than a misunderstanding about truth, honest, and respect, especially for mothers. I WANT TO KNOW WHO ARIANNE IS, and why Justin doesn't want dad to know--is it just a crush? Does he like her, too? I'm so glad you joined us: GREAT WORK!
GG

jomodee (formerly Danee Jo)

Sorting it all out in my mind

What sort of mind is mine?

Thinking,

Acting,

Growing old.


It is all a repertoire of selfishness

Will selfishness overcome the repertoire?

Hoping,

Learning,

Changing daily.


A mind overcome with intelligence and confusion

When will intelligence prevail?

Introspecting,

Stagnating,

Living blind.


Creating color out of dismal skies,
Watching the earth spinning past my eyes.
Challenging myself to press forward on my quest.
Pockets of fog blur my vision.

Despair calls out to me but I run forward.
Never looking back always seeking truth…

Milaka

Gwen,
This is indeed a TAD late. I wrote it on paper and then just never typed it in. Here it is now!

July 4, 2001

Princess was not quite 18 months old. She toddled along before me, whisps of blond hair catching the slight breeze, big blue eyes taking in everything. There was so much to see! Clowns, jugglers, inflatable fun houses, dogs adorned in patriotic bandannas, stilt walkers dressed as Uncle Sam. She tasted her first funnel cake. She waited in line patiently to have a star burst painted on her cheek. Every few minutes she would stop, take my hand and lead me to another colorful scene.

Periodically we went back to the blanket where her cousins and Grandma were stationed. We'd sit for a while, watch people walk by, nibble popcorn and enjoy the warm sun.

Soon, it was dusk. The crowd settled in for the fireworks display. In the waning light, Princess pointed at all the glow necklaces and light up toys and smiled. Then came the first explosion. The sky lit up crimson. Her eyes widened. Her back straightened. She slowly but deliberately crawled into my lap. I wrapped my arms around her and felt her relax a bit. Then the next round of explosions. She jumped, but this time it only took a couple of seconds for her to relax. She looked at the sky and took it all in.

That moment is locked in my heart. I remember feeling the weight of her little body against me, her breath catching with every pop and bang. I remember the soft blanket and the smell of warm grass. I remember looking down at her beautiful little face. Her eyes searched every skyrocket to make sure that she caught every sparkle. But what I remember most is that every burst bathed her perfect cheeks in soft reds, blues and golds.

As I watched the fireworks reflected in her eyes, I realized that at that moment, there was truly nowhere else in the world I would rather be than right there - daughter on my lap and my husband by my side.

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