Garbage day

We were supposed to leave for Florida today.

Today we found out that our music trip to Europe for this summer has been cancelled as well. I was going to go on the trip with my mom and daughter Arabella.

I suppose it’s just as well because I don’t know if we can afford to go any longer anyway.

I just want to take my 2020 calendar and toss it in the fire. I wrote too many things into it in pen that will no longer happen. Every time I look at it I will be reminded of that.

With everything going on, I don’t think my daughter wants to be a foreign exchange student anymore. She was planning on staying with Estelle’s family. But Estelle and Arabella haven’t been getting along that great. The honeymoon is over and now they are like real siblings. I don’t think Estelle wants her at her house anymore anyway.

Yet we will continue on with our foreign exchange students. Although I have a new worry. What if one of their family members die at home while they are stuck here? It is stressful having four teenagers in the house and sometimes I just want to send them home.

I am feeling really bummed out by the change of plans. I’ve always lived by structure and routine. Now everything I thought was certain is uncertain.

The gym closed so today I dug out one of my old exercise videos. In the process I found out that my DVD player no longer works. Maybe it conked out in the 1990’s. Who knows? Then I got the video to work on my computer but messed up my TV. My 45 minute workout turned out double than that. In the meantime, Estelle fell asleep on her exercise mat.

Then I thought to dig out a puzzle. It seems like half the pieces are missing to make the edge. I might have to throw that out too. What a way to clean the house. If this never happened, I might still think these things worked into the next decade or two.

I’m afraid I might lose track of time. The garbage truck never came yesterday. Did I have the day wrong? How will I remember without my schedule?

Ah yes, today. Today is the day we were supposed to leave to go to Florida. It is still written in with pen on my calendar.

I miss the life I planned

Today was a sad day. We cancelled our trip to Florida.

There has been a lot of feelings going around our house lately from sadness, anger, and anxiety.

We are preparing to spend the next two months at home.

Our foreign exchange students are having an especially hard time because they are not at home. The separation from their families has been heartbreaking for them at times. Both students have shed tears of sadness and fear.

Some of the foreign exchange programs are sending their students back home. But as of right now, ours is not. My daughter is uncertain about whether or not she wants to be a foreign exchange student next year.

What isn’t uncertain at this time?

Prom has been cancelled. My daughter’s college graduation has also been cancelled. Thankfully she lives off campus because otherwise we don’t have extra room at our house for her to move back home.

One of the host parents of a foreign exchange student said she could no longer handle the responsibility of caring for a child that is not hers. They decided out of fear to abruptly stop hosting. Now the child does not have a home.

The foreign exchange students are panicking. Will they be sent home? What will they be sent home to? Will they have to stay longer? Their whole experience is off the rails now.

Our foreign exchange student from France, Estelle, has parents who are not together. They disagree about what should be done. Her dad wants her to come home, her mom wants her to stay.

Now I long for the days when I had to convince my kids to get out of bed to go to school.

This is the beginning of the new normal.

All of the restaurants and bars closed in Wisconsin. I never thought I would see the day the bars would close on St. Patrick’s Day. The churches will be closed on Easter. They closed the mall today. We can no longer order items on Amazon.

I’m trying to get everything done before I can’t do it anymore.

Today I got fingerprinted for the census job. I tried to make an appointment immediately after I got the link but apparently the link was not active right away. I called their 1 800 number and got a recorded message. I figured I needed to get in ASAP because I didn’t want to call that number again.

I plucked my eyebrows and shaved my legs. I even painted my nails. This will be the last time I leave the house in awhile. Normally I wouldn’t shave to get fingerprinted. I mean, it is too cold to wear shorts.

Yesterday I ran outside. I won’t lie, it was cold. I had to be careful too because the roads were icy in spots and I nearly fell. I really miss the gym. I even miss my stalker. I miss the guy that sweats on the machines around him. I miss the lady my age who runs and smiles at me. I imagine we are friends although we never spoke.

I miss the life I had planned. This is my new life now.

On a good note, I should not have an excuse not to write everyday.

Stay safe!

Gratitude week 11

Wow, what a tough week to have gratitude…

1. My daughter Angel is feeling better after having a fever. She called the doctor’s office and they weren’t concerned about her having corona virus. My mom and I decided to just go on with life and attend the bridal shower today. However, we were told they didn’t want us there although my aunt with lung issues works at the hospital and her future DIL flew across the country to be there. Everyone there had the potential to be exposed which created hurt feelings from my mom.

2. Everyone in the family is currently healthy.

3. And more compliments on my hair.

4. My daughter Angel was offered and started a new job in her field. She will be graduating in 2 months.

5. I had a wonderful week with my daughter over her spring break. With her new job she insisted on taking me out to eat and paid for my lunch. I feel gratitude she is good with money and has a new job that will pay her bills.

6. I was offered a job with the census today.

7. I’m grateful for my husband and children.

8. I am grateful to be able to make fairly good decisions while under a lot of stress. We still have not decided whether or not to go to Florida on our planned vacation this week. I try not to let fear dictate my life, however still have the need to make realistic plans under the circumstances. The good thing is we developed a plan I am more comfortable with if we go. Angel will stay at our house while we are gone with our son Alex. I trust my adult children will be able to take care of things while we are away.

9. If we end up being stuck in our house for a month, it is a great place to be.

10. I am grateful to belong to an awesome church.

Transforming performing

Every day I put a fake smile on my face. I’m probably not fooling anyone.

I sometimes wonder if it’s the reason my children like to perform. When I hear them play or sing something changes in me. I smile, a real smile. They know where they can find the real me, the happy me.

It was always a dream of mine I am living through them.

I wanted to play and sing too. I wrote music then. I wrote the lyrics, played a simple tune on the piano, and sang along. It angered my dad. He told me to stop that banging on the piano and caterwauling. So I stopped forever.

I wasn’t allowed to make mistakes, you see. I was expected to be perfect the first time I tried something or not to try at all. I was an embarrassment if I was not perfect. Even my choir teacher told me that I sucked the first time I ran through a song for solo and ensemble. I wasn’t allowed to go. I wasn’t good enough.

The first time I ever sang a solo in front of people I was so terrified my voice choked out a little croak. I didn’t know then that it was normal to have stage fright. I thought I was horrible. No one ever encouraged me.

For a very long time, I gave up the dream. I didn’t audition for jazz choir or even choir in college although I wanted to more than anything. Music was a stifled passion. I was convinced I sucked which is so sad to me right now.

Watching my children perform opens the door to true joy. They are what I could’ve been. For awhile, I’m able to put the fake smile aside. My eyes shine and my heart smiles at them with everything I have. Their performing is transforming to me.

It is never too late to rekindle a dream.

Gratitude week 6

  1. People are still complimenting my hair. I receive the most compliments after a sweaty workout or when I have unbrushed hat hair. What!!?!
  2.  My son had a dentist appointment this week. As an adult, I passed along the reminder I received on my phone. I DID NOT tell him when to get up or where he needed to go (thinking he would know and I would be the annoying mother hen if I did so). He ended up getting lost and was going to be late. I called the dentist office as a courtesy…my son got lost and will be a few minutes late. The lady who answered was really snippy with me and said he needed to reschedule. This freaked me out because I worry a lot about my kids being late. Thankfully, when he got there about 10 minutes late they still took him for his appointment. Despite all of my worry, everything ended up turning out fine.
  3.  My daughter Angel came home from college for a visit and spent the night on Friday. I haven’t seen her since Christmas Day.
  4.  The big fight between Arabella and Estelle is over. There is relative harmony in my house right now. There was even a brief moment this weekend where all five of my kids were talking and laughing together.
  5.  I am grateful to have a husband who is following his dreams. He is taking classes this weekend and starting a new career. I am really excited for him and proud of all his accomplishments. He really motivates those around him. It’s never too late to try something new.
  6.  I was grateful to watch Arabella and Clara perform at solo and ensemble this past weekend. I love to watch my kids perform.
  7.  I felt grateful to go on a date with my husband before he left. I was able to order a pizza with goat’s cheese and afterwards ordered dairy-free ice cream. The food was unbelievably good for being vegan/dairy-free. The ice cream was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Plus it was nice to go on a date alone with my husband. It’s been awhile.
  8.  I found a dress for my daughter’s college graduation. In a few months, my oldest will be a college graduate. I am excited for her future. She already has a job lined up and might be moving back to the area within the next year.
  9.  I am thankful to live close to the store. As I was making supper Friday night, I noticed one of the ingredients was rotten. I opened an unexpired canned good that was moldy inside. Thankfully I was able to zip to the store and back without having to eat too late.
  10.  I am thankful for my organization skills. I like to plan ahead and leave early. Although my mom and kids gave me some crap about it this weekend, things don’t always go as planned. I like to plan for that. You never know if you are going to get into an accident, hit a deer, or a random meteorite might hit the Earth (JK). The solo and ensemble event was at a school I was not familiar with. It took awhile to find a parking spot. There weren’t many signs directing us to the right sites. Then last minute, both of my daughter’s events were moved up to an earlier time. I got us there with less than 10 minutes to spare. You’re welcome! It takes a lot of organization to effectively manage a large family.

Gratitude week 4

  1. I am thankful for the beauty of the freshly fallen snow and the opportunity to go snowshoeing for the first time. It is good to have active winter hobbies.
  2. I am grateful that my husband is a genius at budgeting and finance. He is great at managing the household financially and that is one less thing I have to worry about. Plus while we were at the bank, my husband brought me over a sucker when he took a cookie since I couldn’t have one. I am thankful for the little things, not being forgotten.
  3. I’m grateful that my husband and brother Luke when on a men’s retreat together this weekend. I hope it was a time of spiritual renewal so they can have more faith to keep walking the narrow path during tough times. I am thankful they were able to do something together.
  4. Instead of isolating myself when my husband was gone, I reached out to a friend I haven’t seen in about a year to go cross-country skiing.
  5. I am thankful no one else in our house got sick after my daughter was sick and missed several days of school this past week.
  6. I love to read self-help type books on various topics. The last book I read, although helpful, was very dry and hard to get through. I’m grateful I finished the book this past week after taking several months to read it. I started reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz which is very good.
  7. I am grateful to have another light week and weekend coming up.
  8. I am grateful for the busyness of having 4 teenagers in my house. In a few months I won’t have any teens in my house.
  9. I am grateful that Arabella’s credits as a foreign exchange student next year in France will count towards graduation when she comes back home.
  10. I am grateful to have friends and ‘family’ around the world that I hope to visit someday.

If the dress fits…

As if the weekend shopping in Chicago wasn’t torture enough, the girls and I went shopping again a few days later.

We didn’t intend to go prom dress shopping that day. Back when Angel was a junior in high school, the going rate for a prom dress was $600. We decided to go to a bridal/prom store just to get some ideas. Thankfully (due to internet competition) the going rate for a prom dress is half as much as it was a few years back.

Estelle, our foreign exchange student from France, fell in love with a dress on the mannequin. It shimmered white like freshly fallen snow. Once she put it on, she didn’t want to take it off. It was the second dress for Clara, our foreign exchange student from Germany. However, my daughter Arabella tried on dress after dress until the sky grew dark and the cows came home in Wisconsin.

Last year right after Arabella’s 16th birthday she decided to go on a diet. She was over 250 lbs. Since then she lost around 45 lbs. Sadly none of the weight fell off her chest with a cup size halfway through the alphabet. None of the dresses fit her body shape. It’s been a problem since middle school. I was really concerned she might not find a prom dress in a dress store full of options.

Arabella found a dress she liked. The store took her measurements and said they may be able to special order it in her size. I was concerned that the dress, although pretty, would not fit her right even in her size. By this time the other girls had their dresses purchased and were in bags. The clerk looked up the dress she wanted to order and said it wouldn’t be delivered until April, the week of prom. Apparently shopping three months in advance is not enough.

At this time Arabella was close to tears. The clerk kept bringing out more and more dresses, big sizes that were 20+. I’m so sorry for you bigger girls out there. The dresses were hideous. Seriously, who wants to go to prom looking like a zoo animal?

Then Arabella found ‘the dress’. It looked like something Cinderella would wear to the ball. It was shimmery light blue, size 16. I was worried she would be crushed if the dress didn’t fit her. She was already close to tears. Thankfully it fit and she looked like a princess in it.

One last thing the prom store does is make sure that no other students from the same school wear the same dress. Before leaving I had to make sure the dress she loved was still available. The clerk said even if it wasn’t available, she could buy it. The clerk felt bad dress shopping was so difficult because of her body shape. The other girls had an easy time because they have an average body type. I never appreciated being average as much as I do now.

Later that evening Arabella begged me to allow her to get reduction surgery. She hates her body and how she looks. For this, I feel sad. Body image is hard enough for a teenage girl as it is. Reduction surgery is a major surgery and at this point I don’t think I want her to go ahead with it until she is an adult unless she is having serious back problems. Parenting can be hard when you don’t know what you are doing.

 

I never wanted the dress

Last week the girls and I went prom dress shopping. I didn’t expect it to trigger emotions in me, but it did. I am so easily triggered now it seems.

My mom and I never went prom dress shopping together. One day she just brought home a prom dress for me. It was the ugliest light pinkest thing you ever did (or in this case, you didn’t) see. I hated it, but wore it anyway.

That evening at prom a “friend” told me another girl wore the same dress last year and that my boyfriend was planning on breaking up with me. I should have never went out with this guy in the first place. He was a complete jerk. During study hall, he would sit at a table in the library with his friends instead of me. I guess that wasn’t a big deal. But sometimes he sat at the table with a girl “friend” he flirted with constantly. She was way out of his league and had an obsession with polka dots. After that I hated everything polka dots when I should’ve hated him.

But anyway, sometimes when your dad doesn’t care about you or who you are dating you pick guys that are emotionally distant like your dad. The night of prom started out rough. Now I can’t totally blame it on the dress. Or maybe some would. My boyfriend’s step-dad really liked my dress and grabbed my ass when no one was looking. The whole night was a nightmare.

Then after prom, my boyfriend and I were headed to a party but got into a huge fight instead over the rumor he was going to break up with me. It was raining and we were pulled over at the side of the road arguing. Several people stopped to see if we were okay. It happened so many times that my boyfriend just told the concerned citizens we were fighting.

Why don’t normal things ever happen to me??

But anyway, the dress. I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t pick the dress out. I didn’t even like it. I felt guilty for wanting something else, so I just wore it. My mom did spend a lot of money on it.

I felt that way a lot as a teen, though. I didn’t have any choice, although it seemed like I did. When my autistic brother Matt was home bound, my mom pulled my younger brothers out of school as well. I was entering 8th grade when this happened. She told me I had a choice between homeschooling and going to school. What I heard was…are you going to choose your family or your friends? I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I had to pick family.

Instead of spending my last year of middle school with my friends, I stayed home in isolation. Then I spent my first two years of high school at home as well. The chasm widened between my friends and I, my peers and I. For three years I rarely left the house. I became a recluse. My mom became my best friend. My mom was jealous if I had other friends beside her. It’s still the same today.

When I turned 18, you might think I would’ve left home as fast as I could. But I didn’t even consider it as an option. How could I leave behind my best friend when she needed me? But I don’t have any regrets. Do you know why?? Because I never lived. I was never allowed to be a child, a teenager. I had to be an adult when I was a child. I had to emotionally support my mother. I had to take care of my violent autistic brother.

Mom didn’t want me to play the piccolo, so I played a flute instead. I wanted to take singing lessons, but got piano lessons instead. When mom didn’t like my boyfriend, she set me up on a surprise date with an ex-boyfriend she did like.

When I wasn’t perfect, I was punished. I couldn’t be perfect, but I could be manipulated and controlled. I could be guilted into doing things I didn’t want to do. I hated not having any control over my life. My mom even read my diary. She was mad at me for the things I wrote in it. I never felt accepted for who I really am and for the decisions I made.

Part of it was my fault. I thought it was selfish to live my own life. I never stood up for myself. I never said I didn’t like the dress. I never said I wanted to go to school. I just wanted to be independent and live my own life.

I wanted to play piccolo. I wanted to be a singer. I wanted to choose my own clothes. I wanted to choose my own boyfriends.

I have a hard time as an adult making decisions and having choices. I sometimes still feel selfish doing what I want to do. But if I learned anything from this experience, it is to let my adult children live. Let them have their regrets. Their lives are not mine to control. But I will give unsolicited motherly advice.

A weekend in Chicago

We decided to take our foreign exchange students for their first trip out of the frozen tundra. My husband had a conference in Chicago. We thought we would kill two birds with one stone. Now that I think about it, boy is that a strange expression.

Unfortunately, I had to break the bad news that although we were heading south it wouldn’t be any warmer. We took off after school on Friday. We were planning to stop halfway for supper, but decided to keep going after I saw the big blob of heavy precipitation on the radar. The temps were hovering around the freezing point.

The sooner we could get there the better. This caused some hangry arguments from our daughter. Tears were shed. In fact, all three girls cried before we even got to Chicago for various reasons. That’s life with teenage girls.

We got to Chicago in a torrential downpour during rush hour. Meanwhile, I frantically tried to scrounge up some green for the tolls. They don’t just nickel and dime you anymore. We checked into the hotel Fieldhouse Jones then found a place to eat. Our daughter said her culinary arts teacher raved over a restaurant which we were glad was close to the hotel. We ate an average meal there and left to see a sign that they didn’t pass their health inspection to find out later the restaurant was nothing special, just a chain. Thanks a lot!

That night the hotel didn’t have any open parking spots, so Paul had to drive around several blocks to find an open spot in the rain after dropping us off. I felt like we were visiting Gotham city.

I let the girls pick what they wanted to do in Chicago. The girls were interested in seeing Mean Girls, but the cheapest tickets started at $150. We all thought it was too pricey so we didn’t go. I suggested the aquarium to deaf ears. Estelle wanted to search for something called the bean. Then they wanted to shop until they dropped. Me personally, I would’ve preferred to drop shopping.

We set out late the next morning. Our first stop was the Hard Rock Café for an early lunch. While I was there, I started feeling very light headed. My body started to freak out like it tends to do when I break out of my normal routine. I thought maybe I was dehydrated and started to guzzle down globs of gross chlorinated city water. But after that I felt better.

Then we set off in the rain to find the elusive bean. We circled around the city blocks only to circle around again for another time. Skyscrapers sometimes mess with maps on country folks phones. I created my own detour when we got to a sketchy area I didn’t want to walk down. It seemed unsafe. I didn’t want my nightmare of the girls getting murdered to come true. I felt nervous worrying about their safety because I didn’t even know where I was. With all of the trafficking and crime, you can never be too safe with young girls unfamiliar with our culture. It was a big responsibility.

We finally made it to the bean which was like a huge mirror in the shape of a bean. (See pictures below). We walked and walked some more and shopped. It was a cold, windy, snowy, rainy type of day. By late afternoon we put on 6 miles. It was getting dark and the prospect of walking back to our hotel in the dark was not very positive. The girls wanted to take an Uber back. Again thoughts of murder crossed my mind. An Uber or walking back on the dark rainy streets?

We took an Uber back. Our driver was great. He was a philosophizing theologian. We had an extremely deep conversation about life which was right up my alley. Later that evening Paul, the girls, and I went out for Chicago deep dish pizza. Since I am dairy free, I ordered mine with vegan cheese. It wasn’t the greatest. Vegan cheese looks and tastes like glue when it melts. My husband still makes the best pizza. Sorry Chicago. Everyone else was happy.

Then the next morning we headed out, but not before Paul and I played a close game of air hockey at the hotel. I was very impressed with the hotel. The décor was very unique. Plus we were able to get an affordable two bedroom room. One on the rooms had two sets of bunk beds. The other room had a double bed with an outside wall a couple feet from the El. I thought I would be up all night with the noise, but it wasn’t bad. That says a lot from an insomniac who can’t sleep well in her sleep number bed set to her comfort in her perfectly dark, quiet, and cool bedroom at home.

We thought we were going to have to drive home through a snow storm, but thankfully it never showed up. It’s hard to believe that our time with our foreign exchange students is half over. In a few months I will go from having four teenagers in my house to zero. Our son will be turning 20 the same month Clara and Estelle leave. Then our daughter Arabella is applying to be a foreign exchange student in France living at Estelle’s house. I’m trying to enjoy every moment I can because in the blink of an eye it will be over.

I’ll close with a couple pictures…

 

Gratitude week 2

  1. We spent the weekend in Chicago and didn’t get murdered. The girls and I went to Chicago with Paul. He attended a conference and we went shopping. I had a nightmare before we left that the girls got murdered. I was a little nervous being the “chaperone” of my daughter and our two foreign exchange students. I was afraid because they do not understand our culture and might not know what is safe. All the people that we met were wonderful. We walked 6 miles then took an Uber back to the hotel and didn’t get murdered. I don’t know what I was so worried about. Ah, I am too much country mouse.
  2. We were supposed to get a major snowstorm on the way back from Chicago. Instead we only got a dusting of snow which made the drive a lot better than we were expecting. Gotta love when the weather forecasters are wrong!
  3. I met with my therapist who read my book over Christmas break. She said it was a Christmas present to herself (which is good I told her, since I didn’t get her anything). She thought it was so wonderful she wanted to read it again. She thought I should go deeper with my writing. I am grateful that so far two out of three readers were very happy with my book. I am meeting with my third test reader tomorrow.
  4. I decided to get an even shorter haircut this week. I also am growing out my blonde hair color and letting it go grey. I think it doesn’t look the greatest. However, I got complimented by two strangers on my hair this weekend after wearing a hat on it most of the day. Bizarre. Two people raved over my unbrushed hat hair. Then another stranger complimented me on my new glasses.
  5. I am grateful my son was in a really good mood all week. Although now that I think about it, maybe it was because we were all leaving for the weekend and he had the house to himself. I also found a really cool shirt for him that he loves.
  6. I am grateful to find a beer that I am not allergic to. Also, I am grateful for goat and vegan cheese so I can enjoy macaroni and cheese and pizza. Although we had good Chicago style pizza, I am grateful that my husband makes the best pizza around that I can eat.
  7. Although I love to travel, I am grateful to be sleeping in my own bed tonight with fresh clean sheets.
  8. I am grateful we stayed at a really unique hotel called Fieldhouse Jones in Chicago. The decor was amazing, all antique sports stuff. Our bedroom wall was about 10 feet from the L which was cool. Paul and I played a game of air hockey in the hotel basement this morning. Although he beat me by one point, it’s been a long time since we had fun together.
  9. Although there were periods of rain and snow, I am thankful it wasn’t too cold to walk around Chicago.
  10. I am grateful that I don’t have a lot of plans for the rest of the month and can finally have some down time.