Rock em Sock em Shin Splints

I try very hard to keep a balance of activities for all the kids. I learned this from my parents, though the time frame between children is different and they didn’t have 4 of them, 2 of them twins.
As a result, I volunteered to do a 5K for my oldest on Saturday. It sounds so innocuous, that number. 5K. It is only when you get to the starting line, surrounded by people, having avoided a lick of training or otherwise powerful exercise, at it sinks in you are going to have to traverse 3.1 miles. Now, I have lost a little bit of weight in the last few months, 15 pounds or so, but it isn’t through exercise and focus. It is because my day begins around 6am, sometimes earlier, and doesn’t end until sometime after 11. Often, I don’t sit down in a chair until after 10pm. I move around, walk, cook, even walk a mile or more most days frowork in order to get into better shape.
But 3 miles, when your daughter is running and you have only walked, is mammoth. Abbi surpassed me early, texting me through the course and telling me when she passes mile 1, mile 2 and then the finish.
I made it, of course, but not quickly. What really surprised me was the odd conglomeration of people. Many women showed up with neatly groomed hair, their makeup done up, dressed in designer pink and purple jogging suits at were better suited for clubbing than for running. It was a great cause, the end of sex trafficking of young girls, but I could hardly believe the people surrounding me.
Still, by 9am we had run the entire race, showered and moved on to events of the day. I cleaned, went the store, and headed to get my other 3 kids from their aunt’s house.
Abbi was spending the night at a friend’s. The reason being it was homecoming at school, and she had no date. It is here I miss Andrea so terribly. I had no idea how to deal with the issues of a young girl who feels so dejected. At best, I was terrible at dealing with the dating world. The few dates I had as a kid were likely disastrous at best. The later girlfriends were short relationships. I had very poor self confidence and was not particularly sure things would ever go well.
So for Andrea to even show interest in me was confounding. Here was this beautiful blonde woman, with eyes the color of the sky after a storm, asking me after an evening with friends seeing the band Rush when we were going out together again? We did, sitting up all night talking, falling asleep on the couch in each other’s arms. That was all, nothing salacious or nefarious. It was her, sparking my confidence, helping me realize I could ask her out and knowing we could have a lot of fun and still fall in love.
She was the force of nature that could help Abbi understand what it was like. For now, the best type of advice is that I just cannot make all the kids happy all the time. I would have to let her figure it out, working through the life of a high school kid on her own.
So she did it. No angry, pouting bouts of depression. She spent the night with friends.
So back to the even handed activities. Where Abbi took me to a run, the other three were obsessed with the movie Real Steel. Here we were, at the end of the day, my shins screaming at me because I ran farther than I have for several years, walking up to a two hour equivalent of a celluloid Rock-em Sock-em Robots. It made their night. It also drove home the fact that sometimes it isn’t a big, major event or massive philosophical metaphor by dad. Sometimes the best thing you can do is exercise and watch a couple robots beat the snot out of each other.
There is a metaphor for life there. I just can’t figure out what it is until the ibuprofen kicks in so I can walk across the room.

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Autumn Leaves, UFO’s and Pancakes

Aliens on Vacation

Fall is school, and therefore school projects.  The kids had already read their books and picked out the projects for the “visual book report” they were to do.  Most kids pick a hangar and draw some pictures.  Mine . . . well, they had to get creative.  One son picked a book called “Noah Barleywater Runs Away”, (http://www.johnboyne.com/ is the author’s website) focused on apple trees and a mystery in the woods.  So obviously we had to make a tree and post the note cards on apple branches attached to the turning leaves.

The other: “Aliens on Vacation”. (http://www.cletebarrettsmith.com/ for that author) Naturally, we had to make a UFO.

I both adore and despise the store Michaels.  I adore the fact that I can get most the art materials I need.  I loathe the fact that I HAVE to go there and pay through the nose for something that I could make on my own if I’d thought of it a week before the due date instead of the day before, like we inevitably were.

So we used a tree branch, fake leaves and fake apples for one; Silver Krylon, upside down Lazy Susan platters and glow bracelets for another.

This well before I had to put together the next day’s stuff.  Weekends were always made for us to put the breakfasts and dinners together for the week.

Why?  I HATE mornings.  Can’t wake up, never could.  But my mom always made us breakfast.  Even if it was Cream of Wheat she was up and made it, so I do it too.  6am, or earlier, I’m up.  My method to ease the pain is advanced cooking.  This week’s breakfasts?  Pancakes.  I was up until Midnight, cooking, cooling and sealing in Ziplocks, but we had buttermilk pancakes warmed in the toaster for days!

The apple tree project reminded me of Andrea.  She always had amazing ideas.  I had to implement them a lot of the time, but that’s what a good partnership is.

Fall is our time of year.  A good friend told me not long ago that this was our season, we really pulled out the stops in the Fall.  Our house was always decorated, the smell of pumpkin spices and ruddy colored candles and decorations filling the houses where we lived.

That wasn’t what I loved.  I always loved it for selfish reasons.  The season always brought about a crisp bite to the air that cleaned out the pollen and haze of summer and made the colors bright.  That, and we got to bundle up and be close.

Andrea was gorgeous.  There’s no disputing that, and I should have been thanking my stars that she put up with someone like me.  In the fall she always was just so wonderful.  Early on she’d have some sort of t-shirt with a pair of soft overalls, or a big brown sweater that you swore looked like corduroy but was really soft as silk.

And it was the time of year to just be close.  There was something irresistible about reaching out and just holding her: the contact; the feel of her cheek or the tickle of her hair on my nose.  This was the time of year I wanted nothing more than to grab her and just never let go.

Now, overalls are coming back, but not like I remember Andrea wearing.  There’s something very alone about being in the cool morning air in the house and knowing you’re waking up to that same chill to see the vacancy on the pillow next to you.

That, and her birthday was the day before Halloween.

I always messed up her birthday.  I can’t think of more than a handful that went well.  My job, you see, is in television news, and the biggest, most important ratings period every year is November.  The start of that ratings calendar was almost always the Thursday before her birthday.  We’d done this for years, but she never could forgive the industry’s pull that kept me at work until the evening hours.  We got in so many arguments, and I saw so much horrible disappointment in her face every year.

I’d kill to try and fix those.  It seemed such a big deal then.  Now, I live with disappointing her knowing I couldn’t get it right.  You can tell me all you want how much she knew I loved her, I live with this pattern of dysfunction forever now, with no way to make it up.

She brightened up the house.  I loved having her there to whisk through, pushing the boundaries of what we had to decorate any hovel in which we lived.  Now we’ve reached our first Fall in our new life.  We will celebrate the seasons, but without her it won’t burn quite so brightly.

Noah Barleywater Project

And so it begins . . .

This is the inaugural post of my new journey.  The idea came from a saying I put on the wall with some photos of my kids.

“Home.  Where our story begins.”  That statement couldn’t be more true in our situation.

The best way to describe our lives now IS the beginning of a new story.  Like every good book, every tale that holds your interest, there is this sort of ambiguous beginning.  You meet the characters at some point in their lives, but inevitably you end up with glimpses into the backstory that got the protagonists where they are.

So let me catch you up, if you’re just clicking here.

On March 26th, 2011, my wife passed away.  To say it was unexpected falls entirely short of the mark, but no phrase would actually hit the bullseye.  Complications from pneumonia were the official cause, though there were other factors I won’t detail in this post that contributed to her passing.

What makes this such a tragic and life-changing event, beyond the horrific loss of my love, partner and best friend, is the string of events that swirled around the weeks of her passing.  She died on our 18th anniversary, at 8:30am.  Within a few weeks, we had to leave our home.  The combination of losing 1 income and an unforgiving bank forced us to look for a place to lease within just a few weeks of her passing.  Two weeks after returning to work, my boss informed me she was demoting me and cutting my salary by 1/3.  She said I should thank her, it would give me more time to deal with my kids and less stress.  Nevermind that living in California with the lost of tens of thousands of dollars in salary made it impossible for me to live.

So how is this a beginning, when it looks like the end?!  Well, that is the beginning of the story, and the point of this first post.

I found a house to lease, from a property management company who went to bat for me with a home owner who took a risk on someone who lost half their income and had questionable credit.

I got a better job.  Not just better, they created a position for me, in an economy when new jobs are hard to find.  And the new job is with people who appreciate my input, want my opinions, value my work and understand that I am now a single father of 4 children and they have to come first.

From this point on you will get an indication, hopefully from daily posts, of my new family’s struggle to walk this new road.  It’s not a simple story.  It’s not an easy one.  You may feel at times like you’ve walked into a bad episode of “Lost” with flashbacks, emotion, and horrific pain.  Still, I hope it doesn’t turn you off.

This isn’t an attempt to tell people how to survive loss, nor is it a guidebook on how to be a parent.  Like others before me, I’m making this up as I go along.  By the same token, I’ll accept comments, but please understand this is an outlet for me.  I’m not asking for advice, just typing my thoughts and probably venting a lot of frustration.

So look forward to observations, frustrations, probably a lot of music, pictures and whatever else comes into the blender that our lives were thrust into.

Our Story Begins…

Family Photo
A precursor to my family
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The new start, a new road, where our story begins.

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