September 1991 - July 1992
Age 33 & 34

" ... It's just that today there is a sweet feeling of everything being more or less
OK in my heart, and I'm too calm to rock any boats."


Saturday morning
September 14, 1991

Ray is working today. I heard his alarm go off this morning at 5:30 a.m., but he was in such a deep sleep that HE didn't hear it.  The girls and I were sleeping in the living room, and the sound of the alarm woke both Jamie and I.  She ran into the bedroom and shut it off, then she poked her dad in the back a couple of times and told him to "get up."  He was gone half an hour later.  I crawled into my big, warm bed next to my snoozing son and we all slept for another three hours.  Woke up again at 9 a.m. to sunny skies, a good mood and a long lazy Saturday stretching out ahead of us.  On days like this, anything seems possible  ...

...  Hello, new journal!

I am making a resolution, here and now: this journal is going to be a lot less heavy-handed and a lot more fun and anecdotal than the last one was.  This past year  --  from Sept. 1990 till now  --  has been one of the toughest and most emotionally-wrenching years of my life, and that last journal reflected that.  Today I feel as though some of the clouds are lifting.  Please God  ...  let good things be ahead for this family, finally  ...

(I'm standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes, watching my children playing in the morning sunshine.  Jamie and Kacie look so impossibly tall and long-legged, like young colts: Kyle so little and plump next to them, forever and always our 'baby.'  They are playing with the brightly colored plastic balls Ray bought them at Pay 'N Save last night  ...  trying to hit them back and forth across the clothesline in a makeshift game of volleyball.  I am seized suddenly with an irresistible urge to join them, so I leave my sink full of dirty dishes, and I dash outside to the backyard, shouting  "C'mon!  Who's gonna serve first?!"  They are surprised, then delighted, and for the next fifteen minutes we play an uproariously inept game of "bolly-ball" (as Kacie calls it).  Pete, our elderly next-door neighbor, looks on in amusement  ... )

Here are some of my hopes for the coming year  --  things I would like to see happen during the time covered in this journal:

  • We move into Grandma's house with a minimum of emotional and financial upheaval.
  • All three of the kids have a good year in school.  Jamie finds that special "best friend" she's always wanted; Kacie's reading and writing skills continue to improve; Kyle's year in kindergarten lays a solid foundation for the rest of his education.
  • The babysitting business stays regular and profitable; Cody becomes something less of a handful.
  • We have a MUCH better Christmas than last year!!  Doesn't have to be perfect, doesn't have to be extravagant; just better.
  • Acquisitions/repairs that would improve our quality of life: decent living room furniture, dual-cassette tape deck (for Mommy), VCR, new winter boots for everybody.



Monday morning
September 16, 1991

New babysitting schedule starts today: Mak, Danielle and Cody all get here at the same time in the morning, leave at the same time in the afternoon (7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.)   This pleases me  ...  no more odd hours and disruptions in the routine, I hope.

Warm and sunny: it's supposed to be up in the 80's all week.  One last blast of "summer" before autumn begins in earnest.   Kyle is already dressed for school  --  shorts and a T-shirt  --  and is kicking a ball around the back porch, singing softly to himself.  Today he will walk to school by himself for the very first time.  Since school began almost three weeks ago, he's either ridden to the classroom with Janet & Joey, or else Jamie has come home at lunchtime and walked him to the bus stop.  But today we're going to see how he does on his own.  I must admit that I'm a little nervous about it, but it's only a couple of blocks and he'll probably be just fine.

1:30 p.m.

Wow  --  just woke up from an INTENSE one-hour nap, and now I feel totally disoriented!  Kyle left for school at 12:15 and I watched him walk up the road until he was out of sight: then I was suddenly overcome with drowsiness and had to lay down on the couch for a while.  Mak, Danielle and Cody were all napping, so I have in to the urge to join them.  Must've been the busy weekend and the cold pill I took this morning.  Drinking leftover coffee now in an effort to jolt myself back to normal, but I still feel weirdly light-headed.

6:30 p.m.

Kids are eating dinner  --  spaghetti, salad, bread & butter  --  I am sitting here in my "office," eavesdropping on their conversation.  (Kacie:  "How old was Terry Solo when I was about, um, one?"  Kyle:  "Maybe she was FIFTY.")  This has been a long, hot, sweaty, lazy day, and the evening breeze coming through the open back door is delicious  ...

I ran five loads of laundry today, anyway, and got most of the house picked up.  So the day wasn't a total write-off, in spite of the unscheduled nap.



Tuesday morning
September 17, 1991

Kacie is ready for school  ...  a "vision" in black & white polka-dots, hair neatly brushed, lunch sack in hand.  

"You have a pb&j sandwich, half a cherry pie, some cucumbers and a little bag of chips," I tell her. "Will that be enough?"  (

Apparently not, because she grabs an apple out of the bowl on the kitchen table  --  "Man, these are SMALL!" she says  --  and drops it into her bag.)

The biggest problem Kacie and I have these days is the same problem we've always had: my impatience with her.  (Which makes it less "her" problem and more "mine," I suppose.)  We operate on different wavelengths most of the time.  She does things in a more leisurely, thoughtful way, while I expect results RIGHT NOW.  I hear myself snapping at her in impatience, and I cringe: why can't I just allow her to move at her own pace? 

Here is a "Kacie" example:  

It's time for the girls to leave for school, and Kacie's hair still hasn't been brushed.  

"Kacie!!" I shout. "Find a hairbrush and come here so I can do your hair!" She disappears into the bedroom while I sit and wait.  

Five minutes later  ...  I'm still waiting.  

"KAAAAAAAAAAAA-CIE!" I wail in frustration. "Come ON!!!!"   

She comes out of the bedroom and sits down in the chair next to me, looking confused.  "Where is your BRUSH?" I say, exasperated, and she leaps out of the chair.  

"Oh yah," she says. "I forgot." And she runs back into the bedroom while I sit, fuming.

Jamie thinks and "moves" more nearly at my frenetic speed, yet our relationship is no less prickly.  Lately I'm on her about everything, too:

Jamie washed her hair last night, and when I come out to my "office" this morning I find that she has thrown her bath towel across my desk and left it there overnight.  "Oh, this is nice," I say sarcastically, and I hand her the towel to be hung up in the bathroom. 

"SORRY," she says, rolling her eyes, and I walk away to fix breakfast.  Two minutes later I walk into the laundry room again and see that the towel  --  still perfectly clean, only slightly damp  --  has been tossed into a basket of dirty laundry. 

"Jamie!" I shout.  "This isn't exactly what I had in mind!"  And I throw the towel at her. 

"SORRY!" she says again, in that infuriatingly snide tone of voice she has recently affected  --  the tone that says "For the love of God, Mother, you are such a complete, hysterical nincompoop"  --  and I feel like turning her snotty behind over my KNEE  ...

Isn't motherhood delightful??  Ain't we havin' SOME FUN now  ...  ??

What terrifies me is the knowledge that this is only the beginning!  Jamie is clearly approaching puberty --  all the signs are there  --  and Kacie can't be too far behind.  They are still my beautiful, precious, dearly-beloved "ladies"  ...  my best little friends, comrades in beauty pageants & "All My Children," my sounding boards, my helpers, my allies  ...  but God help us all when they both hit adolescence  ...

...  One thing that makes this all so hard for me personally is the feeling I have that I'm flying by the seat of my pants.  When it comes to mothering pre-teen and teenage daughters, I not only have no experience  --  I also have no role model.  I had no "mom" during my own teen years.  It pains me to say anything bad about my mother because of the high regard I have for her now, but the truth is that I felt her absence keenly while I was going through puberty.  Grandma was there for most of my early childhood, but I was only fourteen when I moved out of her house and moved in with my dad.  I spent most of my teen years living alone with my bachelor father  ...  Mom's presence in my life was mostly incidental.  There was no female role model/authority figure telling me how to dress and wear makeup, what to eat, riding me about my schoolwork, helping me with boys and dating, providing an example of womanhood  --  an example that I could be drawing on now, as my own daughters approach those bumpy adolescent years.  There is no one to "blame" here  --  it's simply the way life turned out, and there isn't much I can do about it now  --  but I've always wondered what I missed, not having a mother around, and I can't help but imagine how much differently my life might have turned out if she'd been there.

Anyway, my point is that I'm mostly making up this mothering stuff as I go along, and it's scary.  I seem to have done OK so far, but the roughest years are still ahead.  At the most, I'd like to see Jamie and Kacie grow into well-adjusted, happy young women  who enjoy a close and loving relationship with their mother.   At the least, I'd like them to get through adolescence in one piece and hope they're still speaking to me afterwards  ...

Blurb here


Tired, headachey, grumpy.  Wishing, for the first time since he changed work schedules, that Ray was back on swingshift tonight.  He keeps badgering me, trying to draw me into conversation, and I just want to be left alone.  Or else he's outside shouting at the kids ("OUT!  OUT OF MY CAR!!") and the sound reverberates through my skull like a cannonball.

Made sausage and macaroni salad for dinner but don't feel like eating any of it.  A sore throat is beginning, and I just plain feel like crud.  Three more long days of babysitting ahead.



Wednesday morning
September 18, 1991

Sore throat persists, although the pain seems lodged mainly in one tiny spot below my jaw and nowhere else.  I slept OK  --  on the sofa, where I always sleep.  The sun is shining again this morning; another long day stretches out ahead.  Too early to tell what kind of mood I'm in, although I know right now that Cody is going to be a fussy handful.  Andrea dropped him off an hour and a half ago, and I can just tell by the gleam in his eyes that he's going to squeeze the juice right out of me today  ...

We love Cody around here.  He will be three months old in a couple of days.  He's a funny, fat, pale baby with enormous blue eyes and a shock of bright orange hair that I've jokingly described as looking like a bad toupee.  Temperamentally, he's pretty easygoing and happy most of the time, but he has problems eating sometimes and it's a major undertaking getting him to burp after a feeding; already this morning he's managed to 'urp' all over the front of my tank top.  My hope is that the next couple of months will pass quickly, that he'll get to the stage where he can sit up by himself and becomes a little easier to take care of.  At this point I literally have to watch him every minute while he's awake.   Nothing else ever gets done, as a result.  (Like me going to the bathroom, for instance.)  Still, it's not a totally awful way to make a living.  I'm making about forty bucks a day, and I get to stay at home: those are the benefits.  I'm here in the morning to get my kids ready for school, and I'm here in the afternoons when they come home.  That means a lot to me.  When Kyle leaves for school at 12:30, all three of the "little ones" (Danielle, Mak and Cody) usually nap for an hour or so, sometimes longer, so I do manage to carve out a tiny bit of time for myself.  As long as things stay regular, the days and hours remain the same and the parents I sit for don't drop any new bombshells on me (pregnancy, moving, being fired), I'll continue to do this for a living without (much) complaint.  It beats slinging burgers at Jack in the Box, anyway.

2:40 p.m.

Aha!  Now I know why I've been so tired and cranky these past couple of days  ...  my period is starting.  This comes as something of a relief: there was a slim chance I might've been preg again (I'll skip the revolting details, if you don't mind), but we got lucky, I guess.  Whew.

Just got off the phone from talking to my friend, Velma Ogden. Now here is an interesting woman. You have NO idea. Our friendship began accidentally, about a year ago.  Her daughter Angela and Kacie were in the same ballet class, and Velma called me one night  --  we'd never met  --  to complain that Kacie and Angela were goofing off before and after class, running up and down the hallways screaming and stuff.  Velma was really pleasant about it, but I thought Geez, this lady's got some nerve!  But I agreed that Kacie had no business running around like a banshee, and Velma and I came up with this idea to send schoolbooks with the girls next week.  They could sit and read while they were waiting for class instead of running around.  A few weeks later, Velma called to complain AGAIN about something Kacie had done  ...  I don't recall what this time, specifically, although I think it was something she'd said at school that had hurt Angela's feelings.  Again she was very nice about it, but I was still thinking This lady is a total pain in the ass.  The funny thing is, though, that  was enjoying our phone conversations!  I mean, I didn't enjoy her running to me with every little thing Kacie did or said to set Angela off, but the fact is that we talked about a lot of other things, too, and I began to see some warmth and humor there. For one thing, she was obviously very committed to her daughter.  For another, she listened to my side of things and was willing to give Kacie the benefit of the doubt.  We kept calling each other occasionally (still hadn't met face-to-face), and we developed an odd sort of "phone friendship" that went on for a few months.  When we finally met each other in person, it was instant friendship.  We're the same age, we have a lot of things in common  --  her first husband was a guy who grew up across the street from me  --  and we generally seem to view the world and childraising similarly.  Over the past few months, she has proven to be a valuable and generous friend  --  she remembers every occasion with a card or a gift, including Grandma's recent death and our wedding anniversary in August  --  she is always willing to listen when I have a problem  --  she even came over here one time last spring when we were having money problems (while I wasn't babysitting for a few weeks) and brought us four enormous bags of groceries.  When Grandma's will arrived in the mail, Velma was the one who came over and helped me decipher the legalese.  Little things like that.

There are still things we don't agree about.  Velma is from the South, originally, and is unselfconsciously prejudiced; she is particularly appalled by interracial marriage and mixed-race children (Jerome & André, for example) and I find that unattractive.  She's also a little stricter with Angela than I am with my girls.  But she's still a good friend, warts and all, and I feel lucky to have found her. I doubt her husband could say the same.



Thursday morning
September 19, 1991

Well, shit.  I thought my period was starting  ...  even went out and bought Tampax last night.  But so far it seems to have been a false alarm.  I'm not going to panic yet, but I wish the stupid thing would be over and done with already.  The uncertainty makes me nervous.

Jamie, Kacie and I went to Andrea's baby shower last night.  It was fun, but I didn't know anybody there except Andrea and her mom, and I felt a little awkward.  Situations like that always make me uneasy.  We stayed long enough to play a couple of silly party games (I won a prize for one game  --  you had to write funny captions beneath photos of babies  --  I won a ceramic "scent ring," which you put on top of a lightbulb to scent the room), eat some cake and watch Andrea open presents for Cody.  I never had a chance to shop for the party, so we just gave her a check for $15.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but then I saw the big pile of beautifully-wrapped gifts that everyone else had brought and I felt pretty stupid.  Oh well.  

Ray picked us up after the shower and we came home and watched the season opener of "Quantum Leap."  It was one of the best episodes I've ever seen, with Sam finally regaining his memory and coming home for a while, but it wasn't over until 11:00 and I'm tired this morning as a result (so what else is new).

11:30 a.m.

The day has taken a turn for the worse.  I wasn't supposed to have Josh OR Mak today until much later in the afternoon, but things got screwed up and now I not only have Mak, who is a weepy mess after an unpleasant doctor's appointment, but Josh was just sent here too because he was "acting up" in school.  So he's sitting on the sofa now in a sullen rage.  Great.

Josh is the most hostile, disruptive, infuriating little boy I've ever known.  He's what they call an "ADD child"  --  Attention Deficit Disorder  --  what they used to call "hyperactive."  Medication keeps it under control most of the time, but all the Ritalin in the world does nothing to soothe that angry little heart, beating inside of him.  He clearly despises me, and he despises my kids, and whenever he's here it's like a dark cloud is hanging over all of us.  I don't like writing things like this about the children in my care, because basically I'm a good babysitter and I try to see the positive things within every child I watch.  But Josh is just an impossible case.  It's gotten to the point where we don't even speak to each other half the time: he gets here in the afternoons after school, lets me know he's here, and then sits outside in the backyard for two hours until his dad comes to pick him up.  I long ago quit trying to talk to him or include him in things, because he won't let me.  He goes home and tells his parents that he 'hates' me, and that he hates coming here, but Karen tells me he's that way about everybody, basically, and that I shouldn't feel singled out.  Still, it makes babysitting an unpleasant chore, and that's too bad, because (as I've said before) this isn't a bad way to make a living, otherwise.



Friday morning
September 20, 1991

Ray was a real jerk last night.  I made a really nice dinner for everybody  --  fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, the works  --  and we'd all settled into a pleasantly laid-back evening of TV and conversation.  Then the toilet backed up.  From Ray's overblown reaction, you'd have thought the world had ended.  He was yelling at everybody, making this ridiculously theatrical show of mopping up the floor, throwing towels around, etc. etc.  I asked him why on earth he was making such a big deal out of it.  

"Because nobody seems to CARE!" he snapped.  

I said, "Well, YOU seem to be making enough of a fuss for everyone else combined." 

He stormed off to bed without saying another word to anyone.  The girls and I stayed up and watched TV for another hour, and then we all slept in the living room.  When I got up this morning I halfway expected to find a note of apology from him, but of course there wasn't any.  He is so exasperatingly infantile.

I guess what bothered me the most about last night wasn't the histrionics; it wasn't him slamming off to bed without apologizing.  It was the fact that he never said a word about the dinner!  Not even a "Gee this is good," or a simple "Thanks," even  ...  just a lot of ranting and raving about the mess, and about "the turds THIS BIG" he had to clean up.  (He should try babysitting a three month old.)

I hope he chokes on a chicken bone at lunch today.



Period started on Thursday, by the way.  It's finally beginning to dawn on me that I'm really not going to be having any more children, am I?  I've been saying as much for years now, since I was pregnant with Kyle even  --  that three children were "it" for Ray and me  --  but in the back of my mind there was always this little question mark  ...  this little "window of possibility," left cracked open.  I'm not saying that the window is completely closed, even now.  But I can hear the hinges creaking.  Every year that passes, the window closes a little more.  Before too much longer, it will be nailed shut  ...


Kyle (talking about Grandma Vert):  "When I see her in Heaven, maybe I'll be her Cookie Boy again."  (This one made me cry. It still does in 2008.)


Mom:  "Hey, what are you doin' on my lap again?"
Kyle:  "That's what little boys are SUPPOSED to do!"


September 23, 1991

Not even noon yet on a Monday morning, and already things are beginning to fray around the edges.  Jamie was just sent home sick from school, and Kyle is sounding pretty congested as well  --  I doubt that he'll go to kindergarten today.  I thought I was going to get a lot of housework done today (if you open the hall closet, you start an avalanche), but instead it looks like I'll be doing the Florence Nightingale thing.  Oh well.  

It's no wonder Jamie isn't feeling well  ...  she had the busiest weekend on record.  (So did Kacie, for that matter, but so far she doesn't seem to be feeling sick.)  Friday night Jay went to a church-sponsored slumber party; Saturday was Angela's birthday party; Saturday night both the girls spent the night at Tracy's; and yesterday they spent the day at the Puyallup Fair with Tracy and her Aunt Sandy. Talk about a whirlwind of activity!  No wonder she's feeling run-down and susceptible to this flu bug that's going around.  I've got her laying on the sofa now, watching a movie with Kyle.  (We rented a VCR yesterday and Velma loaned us some tapes, so we've been watching movies like crazy: last night we finally got to see "Edward Scissorhands," and right now they're watching "The Secret of NIMH.")

I was feeling pretty crummy myself on Saturday  --  sore throat and a headache, mostly  --  but it seems to have subsided a bit.  I'm still so TIRED all the time, though.  It's as though all of the sap has been drained right out of me.  If I don't take at least a one hour nap in the afternoons, I'm totally incapacitated for the rest of the day; and even with a nap, I still feel sluggish and out-of-sorts most of the time.  Is it anemia?  Or crummy eating habits?  Or too much caffeine in the a.m.?



Wednesday evening
September 25, 1991

HOT.  Autumn officially began two days ago, but you'd never know it by looking  ...  it feels more like the middle of summer.  I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.



Thursday noon
September 26, 1991

A little better  ...  mid 70's.  It's still warm, but at least I can run some laundry without overheating the whole damn house.  The only thing that really helps make this unexpected heatwave bearable is knowing that this has got to be "it"  ...  the autumn weather I love so much has got to be right around the corner now.  This morning the kids and I were talking about Hallowe'en.  It seemed odd to be discussing trick-or-treat costumes when we were all sitting around in shorts!



Friday morning
September 27, 1991

OK, here we go  ...  this is more like it.  Foggy and COLD.  Jamie actually wore a ski jacket to school this morning, the red one that she hates!  So it must be cold.

Andrea paid me $200 for babysitting yesterday, so I had Ray take the kids and I to Pay 'N Save in Burien so I could pick up some badly-needed new makeup.  Here's what I got:

  • Maybelline Finish Matte Liquid Makeup ("Soft Ivory") $4.15
  • Corn Silk Oil-Absorbent Pressed Powder ("Fair") $4.40
  • Cover Girl Classic Color Brush-On Blush ("Natural Glow") $4.19
  • Cover Girl Liquid Pencil Liner ("Onyx") $4.95
  • Aziza Color Series Eyeshadow ("Brown Series") $3.89

I also bought some cold medicine, nasal spray and cough drops; new toothbrushes for both of the girls; earrings for Jamie; and the new People magazine (with Regis & Kathie Lee on the cover).  It felt so good to just walk into the drugstore and toss things into my shopping basket, without worrying about how much anything cost.   (As it turns out, I ended up spending about $15 less than I expected to.)  After Pay 'N Save, Jamie and I ran into McDonald's and picked up dinner.  That cost twenty bucks, but it was worth it  ...  no cooking and no clean-up afterwards.

While we were at McDonald's, I ran into a girl I went to grade school and high school with, Beth Hetherington.  "God, you look exactly the SAME!" she said, although we haven't seen each other in 15 years.  Is that good  --  or bad?



Tuesday morning
October 1, 1991

Feeling really sad and low today (note in the margin says "PMS")  in spite of the fact that it's the first day of October  ...  ordinarily one of my favorite days of the year.  Jamie and I had a terrible fight last night, and my heart has been heavy ever since.  On top of that, Josh has been sent here from school again for being disruptive in class  ...  Andrea brought both of her kids here sick this morning  ...  it's Picture Day at school, and Kyle woke up with bubblegum plastered all over his face  ...  and I've got to go to Open House tonight.  I feel like it's all falling apart on me.  The house is a mess, I'm a mess, my whole fucking life is a mess.


A little later, and a little better.  At least Kyle got off to school in one piece (Janet picked him up) and the little kids have snoozed most of the afternoon: Josh is sitting outside at the picnic table, in self-imposed exile.  The fact is that it's the fight with Jamie that has really had me down today  ...  everything else is extraneous.  I don't even know how to describe what happened last night.  One minute we were enjoying a nice peaceful family evening, and the next minute it all blew up in my face.  

John, Lori & Tracy had showed up earlier to visit.  They were drinking beer and trying to get me to join in, but I didn't feel like it.  They finally left around 9:00, and I sat down with my dinner and "Murphy Brown" on TV, ready to relax.  

"Damn!" I said, after I'd settled on the couch with my dinner plate.  "I forgot my knife!"  

Kyle was engrossed in the TV, and Kacie was happily copying a drawing out of a library book; they didn't hear me at all.  Jamie heard me, though, and obligingly hopped up and ran to the kitchen to get the steak knife I'd left on the counter.  

I was just about to thank her for her thoughtfulness when all of a sudden she yanked the library book away from Kacie and started screaming that it was "hers."  I mean it  --  she was SCREAMING, stomping her feet, pitching a MAJOR fit because Kacie hadn't asked to borrow the book.  Naturally this had Kacie in tears. 

"Jamie!" I said.  "Please let Kacie borrow your book!"

"NO!!  SHE DIDN'T ASK!!!" Jamie shouted at me defiantly.

I grabbed the book out of her hands, swatted her across the rear end with it, and handed it back to Kacie.  

With that, Jamie came completely unglued  ...  screaming that she hated me, that she hated our family, etc. etc.  I've heard this stuff countless times before, and usually I don't let it get to me.  (My usual comeback is to smile sweetly and say "I hate you too, Pumpkin.")  But Jamie was totally out of control by that point.  I have never seen her so far gone.  Ray ordered her to apologize to me, and he started to spank her, but he was sloppy from too many beers with John and Lori, and she managed to slip out of his grasp and run to her room, still yelling her head off.  By this point I was in tears, too, and I remained upset for the rest of the evening.  Jamie never came back out of her room, and when I went in to check on her a couple of hours later she'd fallen into a sweaty, exhausted sleep.

This morning we said nothing at all to each other.  I kept expecting her to apologize, but she steadfastly refused.  My heart was aching as she left for school  ...  I wanted to tell her that she looked nice, that I hoped she'd have a good day, to remind her to "smile" for her picture  ...  but we parted in silence.



Wednesday morning
October 2, 1991

When Jamie got home from school yesterday, she was acting as though nothing was wrong  ...  as though our big fight had never happened.  I was torn.  Part of me wanted to go along with the charade, to hug her and kiss her and ask about her day, to just let the unpleasantness of the night before pass without comment.  It would have been so easy to just let the whole thing slide.  But an even bigger part of me wanted that apology  ...  not just to soothe my own hurt feelings, but because letting it go would only leave the door open for future blow-ups.  I don't want Jamie to get the idea that apologies are unnecessary.  There was a principle involved here: if you hurt someone's feelings, you apologize.  It's as simple (and as complicated) as that.  Well, anyway, she came home from school, and in her mind at least everything was fine. 

About 4:00, Janet called and asked if Jamie could play with Jessica.  

"No, I'm sorry," I said, making sure that Jamie could hear me. "She's been grounded."

"What did I DO??" Jamie wailed unhappily. 

"You still have not apologized to me for last night," I told her.

She flounced off to her room and slammed the door, and I sat down on the couch, crying again.  This time, I thought to myself, she can stay in that bedroom until she rots.  I was mad now  --  not just hurt, but MAD  --  so I stormed into her bedroom, where she was curled up on her bunk.  

"You just don't get it, do you?" I said to her, with tears streaming down my face.  "You really, really hurt me last night, Jamie."  I told her that I hadn't deserved to be yelled at, the way she'd yelled at me the night before  ...  that I deserved courtesy, respect, and  --  most of all  --  an apology.  The whole time I was talking, her eyes were wide as saucers.  I honestly don't think she realized how hurt I'd been.  It's not always easy to surprise her, but this time I think I managed to catch her totally off-guard!  Until that moment, I think she had considered herself the only person 'wronged' in this situation.  It hadn't even occurred to her that I might feel the same way.  And when she saw how upset I was, it got to her. Finally.  

A few minutes later she wrote me a note, asking for my forgiveness and wanting to know whether I still "cared" for her.  

"Jamie, I care about you more than I care about my own life," I said to her, and we hugged, and it was over.

Have we learned a lesson here?  Probably not.  I doubt that one resolved conflict will be enough to ensure smooth sailing from here on out.  I'll continue to fumble through this business of parenting, doors will continue to slam, feelings will continue to be hurt.  But I hope  --  I PRAY  --  that underneath it all, my little knothead of a daughter will always know that I love her.  I can be hurt, I can be mad as hell, but there's nothing Jamie could do in a million, billion years that would make me stop loving her.  

Well, anyway, once all of the unpleasantness was over, the rest of the evening was OK.  The girls and I went to Bow Lake for the Open House.  Got to meet their teachers, briefly  --  Jamie's teacher, Ms. Kido (a little older than I thought) and Kacie's teacher, Ms. Briggs (a little younger than I thought).  Kyle's Open House will be next week.  Stopped by the school library after meeting the teachers, bought some books for the kids and Ray as part of the annual "Book Fair" fundraiser.  Walked home afterwards.



October 4, 1991

Temporary lull  ...  all three of the little guys are napping, Kyle and the girls are in school  ...  I don't feel like doing housework any more today, so I'm just sitting here, thinking.  We're supposed to go over to John and Lori's tonight for dinner.  If truth be told, I'm not much in the mood for a party  --  I'm not much in the mood for anything  --  but we're committed.



October 9, 1991

Now it's nearly a week later, and I'm still "not much in the mood for anything"  ...  I seem to have run into another one of those black, listless depressions that appear out of nowhere every few months or so, and nothing anyone can say or do seems to help much.  Most of the time I just want to to sit and do nothing except watch TV for hours, read old Stephen King paperbacks, munch on leftovers and drink too much coffee.  I'm overwhelmed by too many people demanding things of me and too little help.  I guess you could call this one of my "unappreciated moods."  I'm constantly feeding people, cleaning up after people, taking care of people  ...  my own needs kind of get lost in the shuffle.  So I've just "shut down" for a while.

Poor little me.

Today was supposed to be different.  It's a beautiful autumn morning, for one thing  --  clear, cold and sunny, just the way I love it.  I haven't spotted any autumn leaves yet, but I know they're right around the corner.  I don't have Danielle or Cody today  --  Andrea's mom is home from her trip to Europe, so she'll keep the two of them on Wednesdays again  --  just having the baby out of my hair for one day is a major relief.  The only babysitting I have today, as a matter of fact, is Mak (who got here at 9:30) and then Josh after school.  This was the day that I was going to catch up on everything  ...  do the laundry, pick up the house, write in my journal.  I was going to bake blueberry muffins, read to Kyle, put up Hallowe'en decorations.  When Ray and the kids all got home this afternoon, the house was going to be tidy and beautiful and filled with the scent of baking and furniture polish.  I was going to be calm, rested and pleasant.

Instead, all I can do is sit here in the laundry room at my desk, drinking cup after cup of lukewarm coffee, staring at the overflowing laundry baskets, wondering when all of this great autumn energy is going to kick in  ...

I do have a minor breakthrough to report in the "Mother/Daughter Wars."  Yesterday afternoon was a circus around this place: we were due, at 6:00, to go to Kyle's kindergarten Open House, and yet I found myself at 5:25 still looking at a houseful of babysitting kids  ...  Kyle was sitting in the bathtub, yelling for someone to help him rinse the shampoo out of his hair  ...  Cody was fussing in the living room  ...  there were three bags of groceries sitting on the kitchen table waiting to be put away  ...  I still hadn't gotten dressed or brushed my hair  ... 

...  and there was Jamie, sitting on the couch chewing gum and looking at a catalog. I yelled at her to help me.  

"I'm watching CODY!" she said, snapping her gum at me.  

I totally lost patience with her, and told her to march her "snotty ass" into her room and stay there.  "And spit out that stupid gum!!" I screamed.  

She went into her room, slamming the door (of course) and yelling again about how much she hates me.  I got Kyle out of the tub, slung a wailing Cody over my shoulder and THREW the groceries into the cupboards and the fridge. 

Five minutes later the tempest blew over, and I went to Jamie's room to apologize.  Just as I opened the door and started to say "I'm sorry," she was opening it from her side, saying "I'm sorry" at the same instant I was!  It was actually very sweet and funny  ... more like the Jamie I know and love.

I think what it all boils down to  -- my latest depression, that is  --  is the lack of time for myself.  I know I whine about this same thing all the time  ...  "When will I ever have a few hours ALONE?"  ...  Ray gets really fed up with it, but that's because he doesn't understand the need.  He doesn't crave solitude, the way I do.  For me it's a basic need, like air and water.  I need at least one day a week, even if only for a few hours, when no one is asking me for ANYTHING.  Lately I've had no time at all for myself  ...  I am surrounded by people, literally, every waking hour.  And it's getting to me.  Something has to be done about this.


October 10, 1991

Better today.  I actually did manage to accomplish most of the stuff I'd planned for yesterday  ...  my energy level picked up after lunch, and by the time the kids got home form school, the house was clean and some of the Hallowe'en decorations were up.  There were even blueberry muffins sitting on the counter.  Today the baby is here, and he has miserable diarrhea to boot, but I'm in a better mood than I've been the past couple of days, and I guess I can deal with it.  (Not that I exactly have any choice  ... )

Yes, the lack of privacy and solitude are contributing to my general depression, but today I think there's more to it than that.  I'm also in terrible shape physically.  I'm so overweight, it's disgusting.  The last time I tried to diet was in June, before my trip to Idaho with Grandma, but as usual this turned out to be a total bust: I did the SlimFast routine for about a week and a half, but then I started worrying about money for the trip, and I slipped back into my old eating habits.  Now I'm fatter than ever, and I feel sick, tired and out-of-sorts all the time.  Again, something has to be done about this.



October 14, 1991

Silly weekend.  Friday night, Josh and Mak were here until very late.  Right before Karen came to pick them up, Josh hit Jamie across her temple with a baseball bat.  He could have killed her!  (And I could have killed HIM.)  Don't know how much longer I'm going to be able to tolerate him.  Anyway, once they left, things were OK: Ray and Jamie went out and rented a VCR and two good movies we hadn't seen yet, "Misery" and "Sleeping With The Enemy."  (It was particularly nice to have the VCR because TV was filled with the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill Senate hearings all weekend.)  

Saturday afternoon, John and Lori showed up unexpectedly and stayed for a long, long time  ...  too long, actually  ...  Ray and I were both tired, hungry and burned-out, and we kept hinting that it was "getting late," but they sat at the table drinking screwdrivers and arguing with each other about Tracy until almost 9:00.  Finally I put my arms around them both and said that I "loved them," but that Ray and I needed to eat dinner and go to bed.  They got the hint and left soon afterwards (20 minutes later I was sound asleep)  ...  I just hope they weren't offended.  Kacie went home with them to spend the night with Tracy; Tia spent the night here with Jamie.  

On Sunday we took Jamie, Tia and Kyle shopping with us in Burien.  I bought myself a dozen used paperbacks at Value Village, mostly thrillers (Peter Straub, John Saul, Dean Koontz, an old Stephen King) and we bought Kacie's new ballet shoes at Picway.  Sunday night I made a big dinner for everybody, chicken parmagiana and noodles; Ray went to sleep early, the kids and I stayed up to watch a stupid John Stamos movie ("Captive").


My dad's cousin Terry Vert, who is serving as executrix of Grandma's will, called me this morning to say that Ted wants all of "his" dishes and silver back.  Apparently a lot of the stuff that Grandma gave me before she died actually belong to Ted, including the silver tea service she gave me for my birthday last year, and he's all pissed off about it now.  It breaks my heart to part with these things  --  not so much because I'm attached to them as much as the fact that SHE gave them to me  --  but there isn't much I can do about it.  In the case of the tea service, for instance, I never really did figure out what to do with it, and I finally ended up storing it in a cupboard; but Grandma gave it to me, for my birthday  --  the last birthday present she ever gave me  --  and I would have treasured it forever for that reason alone.  But the fact of the matter is that it wasn't Grandma's to give in the first place, it belongs to Ted's family, and they deserve to have it back.  Same with the Noritake china she sent over here the week before she died  --  that's Ted's also, apparently, and I don't mind giving it back because I never felt it was "mine" in the first place.  But I DO mind giving back all the teacups and saucers and bowls and stuff that I KNOW belonged to Grandma.  Those were the things I was happy to receive, and which I planned to keep.  The reason I have to give them back, Terry says, is because Grandma willed them to my cousin L., and now L. is making a lot of noise from Texas about wanting them.  Terry asked me to box everything up  --  Ted's Noritake and silver in one box, L.'s teacups and stuff in another  --  and take them over to Ted's house this afternoon.  Ray will run them over for me when he gets home from work, I guess.  (I have no interest in seeing Ted myself, obviously.)  While I was packing up the teacups and saucers, I started writing L. a letter, to be included in the box when it's sent down to her  ...  something about how there are no hard feelings, about how I hope Grandma's dishes bring her "happy memories," etc.  ...  but it just seemed so false and insincere that I crumpled it up.  I'm going to be adult about this situation and return everything without complaint, because that's what Grandma would have expected from me.  But I'll be damned if I'll pretend to feel anything for Ted or L. besides indifference.

...  It goes deeper than simply having to "share" with L., or with Ted or anyone else  ...  it's an odd sort of possessiveness of Grandma's memory, I think, and of her love.  I'm ashamed of myself for feeling this way.  I don't remember feeling this way about her when she was alive  --  so proprietary, so jealous  --  it's only now that she's gone that I find myself trying to hang onto every single thing she ever gave me, as if holding onto THINGS keeps her closer to me.  I guess that I'm still working through my grief.  It feels like she's been gone a long time, sometimes, but in fact it's only been two months.



Wednesday morning
October 16, 1991

Wow.  After nearly fifty days of record high temperatures and no rainfall at all, we woke this morning to the first wild and windy storm of the season.  I feel weirdly elated, crackling with energy  ...  better than I've felt in ages.  Is it the weather?  Or the fact that my period is due in a few days, and this is always the high point of my cycle?  I don't know.  Probably a combination of both, plus the fact that the baby isn't here today, and when Kyle leaves for school (and I put Mak down for a nap) I'll be as close to "alone" as I ever get  ...

Ray took Ted & L.'s dishes over to the house on Monday evening  --  John went with him for moral support  --  Ray says that Ted was actually quite pleasant, almost happy to see him!   Strange.



Kyle:  "When you're a grown-up, you get to read the newspaper, drink coffee, and watch "Regis & Kaffy Lee.' "



Thursday morning
October 17, 1991

Not quite as "up" as I was yesterday, but then I didn't sleep all that great last night.  I've been having this same basic dream a lot lately, and it invariably leaves me feeling sad in the mornings:  I dream that I'm talking to someone I used to know, usually an old boyfriend or an acquaintance from high school, and I'm feeling really happy to see them at first  ...  but then Iook down at myself and realize, in horror, how fat and totally unattractive I've become.  (Last night it was Mark Hawley, my friend from high school Stage Band class; a couple of nights ago it was my first boyfriend, John Riley.)  When I wake up, I feel sad, helpless and angry.  How did I let myself go like this??  God.  I am so gross-looking.  It's not something I think about all the time, during the daytime anyway  ...  I never weigh myself, and I avoid mirrors like the plague, and I guess that makes it easier to delude myself into thinking "It's not that bad"  ...  but the dreams really cut to the heart of the matter, and the heart of the matter is this: I am desperately unhappy about my appearance, and about my life in general, but I'm feeling helpless to do anything about it.

("I know you've heard this before," I say to Ray as I empty the bag of groceries he brought home today  --  Oreos, Doritos, pop, candy bars, hot dog buns  --  "but next week I'm going back on the Slim Fast."  He doesn't argue, just nods and says OK.  He HAS heard this before.)


October 22, 1991

I was right about one thing: it was my period being "right around the corner" that prompted last week's brief and manic burst of energy  ...  I woke up Sunday morning and boom, there it was, three or four days early.  Usually I'm incredibly regular, so this came as a surprise.  This month I'm trying to track my physical and emotional ups and down on a makeshift chart I created, incidentally, to see if I can detect some sort of pattern.  It will be helpful if I can figure out ahead of time which days are going to be bumpy emotionally, which days I'm going to feel a lot of energy, which days I'm going to be a blob, etc. etc.  I have a sneaking suspicion that PMS has been a factor recently in my wildly erratic moods and weird physical discomforts.  It's something that I've never paid much attention to until now, mainly because it's never been a big problem until the past couple of years.  But something in my body chemistry appears to have changed just since I hit my 30's, and unless I want to go on snapping at my family and accomplishing next-to-nothing in my life, half of every month, I'd better figure out exactly what's going on.  So making this chart and keeping track of things for a few weeks is a start.  If nothing else, I can draw a big red "frowny face" on the calendar on the days I know I'm going to be a total witch, and my family can run and take cover  ...


November 16, 1991

Three and a half weeks later: I feel as though I've been "away" for a very long time.  About two weeks ago I came down with my annual autumn cold, which blossomed into my annual autumn bronchitis, and it's been a long road back  ...  just within the past few days that I've begin feeling halfway human again, and ready to put everything back together (my house, my family, my life)  ...  amazing how everything falls apart around here when I'm out of commission for a few days.  Is this what they mean by "job security"  ...  ??

Cold, rainy morning  ...  feels like a storm is brewing.  Ray was supposed to drive out to Bellevue and do some yardwork for his sister Sheryl today, but I can tell by the way he's piddling around with the woodstove and the newspaper that he's planning to wiggle out of it.  I guess I don't really care.  The weather is awful, and we seem to be getting along OK so far today, besides.  Weekends lately have been really awful around here, but in some ways that's just as much my fault as anybody's.  If I just go along and do my own thing today (minor housecleaning, personal projects) and don't let Ray and the kids get to me, it'll be fine.  I hope.  

(Ray just put a bottle of beer in the freezer  ... )



November 22, 1991

Actually, it was fine  ...  last weekend, I mean  ...  one of the most enjoyable weekends I've had in ages, Jamie's grumpy "boredom" and Ray's non-stop beer-drinking notwithstanding.  John and Lori came over for a fun evening of music and conversation, and after they left (with Jamie in tow, thank god), Ray and I sat up and partied till the wee hours  ...  something we don't do very often anymore.  The best part of the evening was a wild winter storm that hit the area, knocking out our power for over an hour!   We drank beer and talked by candlelight.  I actually felt close to Ray that evening, and it was nice.  I don't know if it was the wine, or the candlelight, or the sudden enforced intimacy  ...  probably a combination of all three  ...  but we connected for a few brief hours.

Of course, the worst part about having a terrific weekend is that it tends to make the following week seem long and dreary by comparison  ...  especially a week like this one has been.  This is Parent/Teacher Conference week at school, and that means that the kids have been home more than they've been in school: in Kyle's case, that means there's been no school at ALL.  (The girls have been coming home at noon all week, and kindergarten has been cancelled completely.)  Naturally, Kyle has been my faithful little shadow all week long.  For the most part it's been delightful  -- I love, love, LOVE my little son so much!  --  but there are moments, here and there, when I long for a little privacy and quiet.  Oh well.  If the biggest problem I ever had in life was the attention and unconditional love of my little boy, I'd have it made.

Kyle:  "I think God is cute."
Mom:  "I'll bet that makes His day."


Jamie:  "What do they mean by a 'Carson fire' ?"


Kacie (sarcastically):  "Oh, that's so IN-sterating."


November 23, 1991

Saturday morning again, and Ray has finally gone out to Bellevue to do that yardwork for Sheryl  .. a week late, but better late than never, I suppose.  Kyle is gone today, too: his church group is going on a field trip to the Seattle Aquarium.  He just left a few minutes ago and won't be back until later this afternoon.  The girls (Jamie, Kacie and Jessica, who spent the night last night) have sort of been driving me crazy all morning, looking for "something to do"  --  helping me with housework being out of the question, apparently  --  so I finally broke down and gave them some money to walk over to Trailer Town with.  Every weekend now I go through this same crap with Jamie  ...  she's bored, she's lonely, there's nothing to eat, there's nothing "fun" to do  ...  it drives me nuts.  My stock answer is "Hey  --  I'm not the Entertainment Committee around this house!"  --  meaning, Make your own fun.  Entertain yourself.  Find something, ANYTHING, to do.


Wednesday morning
November 27, 1991

The day before Thanksgiving 1991.  The girls are preparing to leave for school  ...  Jamie just emerged from her bedroom, looking extremely agitated and panting heavily.  "What's wrong?!?" I asked her in alarm.  I thought maybe she couldn't find her homework, or that her throat hurts  --  Tia has tonsilitis this week, and I am ever vigilant (and paranoid)  -- or something worse.

"My HAIR!" she wailed in disgust.  "I looks HOR-rible."

I asked her (trying to keep a straight face) why she didn't just come to me and ask for help.  "Cuz you're busy WRITING!" she said.  At that point I couldn't suppress a giggle because, in fact, her hair looks absolutely beautiful, as always, and because she was distressed about something so silly, and because I love her so much  ...

I'm going to be busy today, but I need to discipline myself about writing again, so I'm forcing myself to sit down with a cup of coffee before Kyle gets out of bed (no Cody or Danielle today) and  put a few words in my journal, before I start cleaning and baking.  We're having Thanksgiving here at home tomorrow: that's the good news.  Ray's folks are in Arizona this year, and we did the trip to Aberdeen last year (to Jerry & Jody's farm) and didn't feel like doing it again this year.  I have been privately elated about this for weeks. Thanksgiving at HOME!  No fuss, no bother, no long stressful drives anywhere, no sitting around a stiff formal table eating in front of a bunch of people.  Just the kids and Ray and I and a 22 lb. turkey, fresh off the Webber.  Heaven!  

The bad news is that Ray invited his sister Barbara and his brother Don Jr. and their respective "significant others" (neither of whom I've ever met: I hear that Don's new girlfriend, who is from Russia, doesn't even speak English!) to join us.  I've gotten over my initial feelings of panic and resentment over my nice, "no fuss no bother" Thanksgiving being turned into a major family EVENT.  But I'm still not exactly looking forward to it.  I like Ray's sister, and I get along OK with his brother.  I don't even really mind the idea of cleaning house and cooking dinner for company.  I'm just not crazy about the idea of feeling like I'm "on" all day tomorrow  ...  of having to make pleasant conversation and playing perfect little hostess for hours at a stretch.  I'd much rather schlep around in sweats all day, sipping cranberry juice and champagne, watching the parade on TV  ...  then finally sitting down with an enormous plate of food, with my feet up.  That's more the kind of Thansgiving I was looking forward to.  Martha Stewart I'm not!  Still, I sort of feel like Jamie and Kacie are watching me, waiting to see how I handle this situation.  Barbara too, for that matter.  Is Terri Polen up to the challenge?  Can she manage to feed and entertain nine people (including two total strangers) and still maintain her composure??  Can she get her house to sparkle, her children to dazzle with perfect manners, and her pumpkin pie to melt in your mouth  ...  ?!?

Well.  I'll settle for getting the cat pee smell out of the bathroom, all three of the kids in the tub before our guests show up, and enough Cool Whip to cover the burned edges on the frozen pumpkin pie  ...

Things We Are Thankful For
Thanksgiving 1991


1.  Thanks for all this food that we got today.
2.  Thanks for a nice house.
3.  For a Mom and Dad.


1.  Um  ...  I want a Game Boy -
(Mom interrupts  --  "No!  This is stuff we're THANKFUL for!")
1.  I'm thankful for my Mom and Dad.
2.  I'm thankful for Thanksgivin'.
3.  And I'm thankful for all the food we get.


1. I'm thankful for my kitties.
2.  I'm thankful for my family.
3.  I'm thankful for a nice church because the teachers are nice.


1.  I'm thankful for my new typewriter.
2.  I'm thankful for the trip to Idaho this year with Grandma, and for the lifetime of memories she left me.
3.  I'm thankful, above all else, to be the mother of the three most wonderful children in the world.



1.  Sofa and loveseat
2.  VCR
3.  Dual-cassette tape deck
4.  Ankle boots (for me)
5.  Tablecloth and matching chair pads
6.  Winter boots for all three kids
7.  Ski jackets for Jamie and Kacie
8.  Film developed/photo albums caught up
9.  New table lamp for living room


November 28, 1991
Thanksgiving 9:30 a.m.

Thanksgiving morning.  This will be only moment of relative calm and quiet today, probably.  Jamie got up and made scrambled eggs and toast for everybody a little while ago: they were delicious.  She is becoming quite an accomplished cook. 

Speaking of cooking, I got a jumpstart on today's feast yesterday  --  I bakes two pumpkin pies (froze one), mashed the potatoes, put two pans of stuffing together and laid out the vegetable trays  --  today all I had to do is put everything in the oven to warm up and make the gravy.



Dinner went pretty well.  

"Dinner went pretty well"  ... ??  That's all I wrote about it??  The truth is that dinner was a Grade-A DISASTER, start to finish.  I drank wine all afternoon, while I was cooking dinner, and by the time our guests arrived I was completely smashed.  I spent most of the evening trying to engage Don Jr.'s mail-order girlfriend in conversation about rock music, in spite of the fact that she spoke no English.  At one point I think I fell down in front of everybody.  And of course I was too drunk to actually eat anything, once dinner was served.   It was truly a Thanksgiving to remember  ...  just not in the way I might have hoped.



Friday morning
December 6, 1991

A week later, and the Christmas season is officially here.  I'm not sure I'm completely ready for it, but it's here nonetheless  ...

Last year was the worst Christmas of my life, and I am determined that this year will be better.  Just staying on top of things is the first step.  I'm almost done with my Christmas cards, for one thing, and a lot of the decorating is done.  (No tree till next weekend, though.)  I've got a pretty clear idea of what I want to buy everybody for presents, and so far the money looks OK.  We've already got Kacie and Kyle's "big" presents stashed up in the attic  -- rollerblades for Kacie, a Gameboy for Kyle  --  and next week we'll pick up Jamie's new bike.  I've got my supply of candles and holiday magazines aready  ...  Ray put up the outdoor lights the day after Thanksgiving, and they look great  ...  I finally managed to finish the Christmas collage for the front door  ...  and we even watched "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" on TV last week!  (A silly superstition of mine: it I miss watching "Rudolph," the holidays go awry.)  So a lot of the externals are taken care of.  Internally, there is still work to be done.  This is Step Two: my annual struggle to rise above the fatigue and worry and stress and feel some genuine Christmas spirit  ...  because if I don't feel it, no one else in this family will, either.

Sometimes I don't think it's completely fair that the responsibility for everyone's holiday happiness automatically falls on the woman in the family.  Why is MOM the official family joymonger?  All the work, all the preparation, all the clean-up  ...  the stress, the anxiety, the sleepless nights  ...  and on top of all that, I'm also responsible for keeping the household mood light and festive, for making sure that Daddy and the kids are having a good time, for keep it all pulled-together emotionally.  Who nominated MOM for the job, anyhow??

Well  ...  the truth of the matter is that I nominated myself, didn't I?  Nobody held a gun to my head and said "Hey, lady  -  make with the 'ho-ho-ho' stuff or else!"  Deep down inside, underneath all the blustering and complaining and bitching about how "unfair" it all is, Terri Polen secretly relishes the responsibility.  It's too much work, it's too exhausting, it drains me phyically and emotionally  ...  but I love it.  Underneath it all, I love it.  I just need to remind myself of that fact once in a while.  That's the secret for keeping the joy-levels up around here in the next few weeks: I need to remember that I CHOSE to do this, that I'm doing it for love and for fun, and that it's not a case of "Must Do" but, rather, "WANT To Do."



December 12, 1991

Getting caught up in the season today  ...  plans, lists, ideas whirling around in my head  ...  feels good.  Tomorrow is payday, and if all goes well (read this: if Ray doesn't make trouble), I should get most everything done soon and ahead of schedule.



December 18, 1991
Wednesday morning

Busy, busy, busy.  Today is my "no baby day"  --  no Cody, that is  --  so I'm trying like blazes to get caught up with everything today.  The house is in serious need of some attention; I'm only one-third of the way done with the T-shirts I'md decorating as gifts; and I still want to bake some cookies to go with the loaves of cranberry-orange bread and the candied orange peels I made last week.  I figure that if I can get as much done as possible by the weekend, I'll have a couple of days left before Christmas to just relax  ...  (she said hopefully)  ...

Ray and I went out shopping on Sunday (my 34th birthday, incidentally), and I pretty much finished getting the kids' shopping done.  Then on Monday morning, Janet took me around to the fabric & crafts stores and helped me pick out the materials for the T-shirts.  I'm making them for my mother-in-law, my mom, Valerie, Deb, Kelli, and one for the dice game we play on Christmas Eve.  I think they're going to be really pretty when I'm done.  We're starting to run a little low on money now, and there's still some shopping left to do, so I'm starting to feel a little bit anxious about that.  But this same thing happens every year, and we always seem to get through it OK, so I'm trying not to worry.  In most of the ways that count, this Christmas season is coming along ten times more smoothly than last year did.  I'm sick, of course  --  a terrible head cold and lingering cough  --  no Christmas season would be complete without it, I suppose, but I'm managed to work around the crud and get things done anyway.  The house is decorated, most of the shopping is done, and my level of personal Christmas spirit  --  while not breaking any world records  --  is certainly higher than in recent years.

(The only really sad thing about this Christmas season is that I'm missing my grandmothers.  Grandma Vert, especially, but also Grandma St. John: Christmas Eve just isn't the same without her.  I hope that wherever they are,  the two of them are crocheting afghans and listening to Christmas carols together  ... )

A word, quickly, about the "December birthdays"  ...  Jamie's and mine.  Her tenth birthday was last week, and as celebrations go this one was decidedly more low-key than in recent years.  I explained to her ahead of time that I didn't have the time, energy or money for a big birthday party (like last year's "movie party," or her slumber party the year before).  She was very mature and understanding about it, fortunately.  And we did end up having a fairly nice "family" celebration, anyway, with a cake (German chocolate) and her choice of dinner (chicken stir-fry) and plenty of presents.  Ray and I gave her an expensive Caboodle makeup and jewelry organizer, the kind she'd been asking for, and some earrings and makeup to go with it.  Velma gave her a "Babysitters Club" game, and her Grandma P. gave her a sweater and some purple pants that she's been wearing almost daily ever since.  (A few days later Dad & Valerie gave her a "Monopoly" game, which was the other thing she'd requested repeatedly).  So even though it wasn't a big expensive noisy celebration, she was happy and enjoyed herself and it was nice for all of us.  It was a sentimental occasion for ME, of course  --  my firstborn turning ten  --  I shed a few tears when no one was looking.  The years are just spinning by too quickly.



As a joint birthday gift for Jamie and I, Mom took us (along with Kacie) to see the Pacific Northwest Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" at the Seattle Opera House on Saturday afternoon.  That was a magical day!  The ballet was gorgeous, and we also had time to walk around the Center House and visit the "Winterfest" celebration.  A thoroughly pleasant day.  When we got home from the ballet, the kids and I decorated the Christmas tree (which Ray and Kyle had bought earlier in the day) while Ray made tacoes  ...  our family's traditional tree-trimming dinner.

My birthday was nice, too.  Before Ray and I shopped, we stopped off at B-Z's and had a glass of wine (me) and a beer (Ray).  That loosened me up a little and got us both into the spirit of things.  Pun not intended.  We left Jamie in charge of the house and of her brother and sister, and while we were gone they baked me a birthday cake and festooned the house with decorations.  I came home and the place was ablaze with lights and candles and music  ...  and love!  It was neat.  Ray and the kids sat in the living room and played Monopoly all evening, while I puttered around the kitchen cooking chicken-fried steak for my birthday dinner, listening to the Christmas tapes, drinking wine.  



December 27, 1991

Hi Journal  ...

It's two days after Christmas 1991.  Last night I began typing my annual Christmas letter to myself  --  a rundown of the highlights and lowlights of the season  --  when my "new" typewriter (Valerie's old electric, which she gave me last month) suddenly broke down in mid-sentence.  I was upset but not surprised: I have no luck with typewriters.  But the point is that it's left me stranded without a way to finish the letter, and so before the details of this Christmas just past become fuzzy and imprecise in my memory, I guess I'll jot them down in my journal.

I had one goal this season: to make Christmas 1991 a happier, healthier and more meaningful holiday than 1990 was, for my family and for myself.  And I think I was fairly successful.  It was still way too much work; I constantly found myself battling stress and exhaustion, and more than once I took it out on Ray and the kids.  Making all those T-shirts at the last minute, especially, turned me into a cranky witch.  But when Christmas finally rolled around and everything was DONE,  I was able to take a step back and look at thinks objectively, congratulating myself on a job well done.  Everything fell into place at the last minute, as it almost always does, and this family had a happy Christmas.  It wasn't perfect  --  it had its share of trauma and misshap and less-than-golden moments  --  but it was happy.  And I guess that's what counts.

I think the funniest moment of Christmas 1991 was when Jamie opened her "big" gift from Ray and I.  Funnily enough, I was the first one awake on Christmas morning.  I'd warned the kids (the night before) not to make any noise before 6:30 a.m., but when I woke up on Christmas morning and went out to the kitchen to check the time, it was already past 7:00 and I was the only one awake.  I put a new roll of film in my camera, plugged in the Christmas tree lights, turned on some soft holiday music on the stereo.  Then I went and stood by the doorway of the girls' room (Kyle was snuggled in with Jamie) and said "Good morning!  Merry Christmas!"  It took a moment or two to register, but then the three of them came fully awake and stumbled out of the bedroom, one by one, blinking and rubbing their eyes.  "Santa" had left some unwrapped presents under the tree --  a racetrack and some little cars for Kyle, the game of Life and some card games for Kacie, a pottery wheel and paint set for Jamie  --  and they poked around with those for a bit, then emptied their stockings.  We managed to get Ray out of bed soon afterwards, so we could open the rest of our family gifts.  The Food Bank gave all three of the kids some clothes and toys, which they opened first,  while Ray and I opened the gifts that the kids gave us.  I was touched by the care and thought they'd put into my gifts: Jamie bought me an expensive potpourri set, Kacie a beautiful little trinket box for the collection, and Kyle a tiny ceramic owl and a pair of earrings.  Of course I would have loved anything they'd chosen for me, but the fact that they picked things they knew I would love made it even more special.  Such sweet, wonderful kids.  Anyway, finally it was time to open their "big" gifts from Mom and Dad.  Kyle unwrapped the Game Boy cartridge we'd gotten him, looked at it blankly and said "But I don't have a Game Boy."  Which of course was rectified a moment later, when opened the Game Boy itself.  ("YES!!  YES!!!" he shouted.)  Then Kacie opened her knee pads (to go with the rollerblades we'd bought her).  She didn't know what they were, at first  --  she thought they were bedroom slippers  --  but she was properly ecstatic when the rollerblades appeared a moment later.  It was the one thing she'd wanted most this Christmas. 

And then, at last, it was Jamie's turn.  She was so sure she was getting a bike, and I saw a glimmer of disappointment in her eyes when she got out of bed and there was no bike parked under the tree.  But that was nothing compared to the look on her face when she opened her "present" from Ray and I  ...  a cardboard box filled with a broken stapler, a jar of dried beans and an old telephone!!  She looked at me and said "Huh?"  There was so much confusion and let-down on her face: for a split second, I actually felt sorry for her!  But at least I'd succeeded in completely throwing her off.  "Well," I said, "that's it for another Christmas!  Jamie, go out to the garage and get us a box to use for garbage."  She looked at me like I'd totally lost my mind.  Here I'd completely annihilated her Christmas, and now I'm asking for a garbage box??  She just sat there, staring at me with her mouth hanging open. 

"Out in the GARAGE," I said again.  "Go get a BOX."

It was like someone had thrown a switch inside her brain: all of a sudden, she knew.  She jumped off the couch and dashed out the back door and into the garage, where her beautiful new bike was waiting for her, and she let out a SCREAM that could probably be heard ten blocks away.   It was a fine moment, and well worth those two minutes of disappointment, as even she admitted afterward.  In fact, she told and re-told the story of the stapler-and-bean-soup "present" for days afterward, to any and all who would listen, and didn't seem at all embarrassed by how completely Mom had managed to fool her.

The rest of Christmas went pretty much as usual: Christmas Eve was spent with my family, Christmas Day with Ray's.  The kids all got enough clothes, toys, books, games and miscellaneous junk to last until next year, and I got a few nice things that I like  ...  jewelry and a photo album from Valerie, a diary from Mom, a little silver picture frame from Deb, a nightshirt and a long blue cardigan from Peg & Don, a small brass lamp in the Christmas Eve dice game.  Ray and I didn't exchange gifts again this year  --  too broke  --  but at least it was a mutual decision.  As usual, I hated all of the driving around, and secretly wished that we could just stay HOME  on Christmas Day.  But I managed to keep such mutinous thoughts to myself.  When we finally got home from Peg & Don's on Christmas evening, after the long drive from Bellevue, I let out an enormous sigh of relief.  Christmas was OVER!  It was fun, it was great for the kids, and I did enjoy myself.  But it was a helluva lot of work, and even though it makes me sound like the original Grinch, I'm glad and relieved that it's all over with.


Blurb (only surviving pics)


In 1992 I kept a small daily diary (a Christmas present from my mom) along with the regular journal.  I'm including the diary entries that don't directly duplicate the journal entries.

January 1, 1992

Diary Entry:

Happy 1992. Wiped out from last night's celebrating, but it was fun ... Lori and John are good friends.

Kyle is sick today -- fever around 101 most of the day -- Tylenol and juice were about all he could handle. 

Ray watched the Huskies trounce Michigan in the Rose Bowl. My sister stopped by early in the afternoon to pick up her birthday gifts (earrings, a box of chocolates); we had a nice visit.

Cooked a beef roast for dinner, mashed potatoes and gravy.

My Resolutions for 1992

  • To worry less about how our home looks, and more how the people in it are feeling.
  • To do some stuff just for "me" in '92. Lose weight? Quit smoking?
  • To be better about remembering friends' and family's birthdays and special occasions (not just Ray and the kids).
  • Remembering to return phone calls from Lori and other friends, even when I don't feel like it.

In 1992 I predict for the Polen family:

  • Resolution of the situation with Grandma's house; we either buy it and move in, or we sell my half.
  • A few major purchases: a new VCR and stereo, some decent living room furniture (I hope!!), new bike for Kyle, new mattress for our bed.
  • At least one wedding (Barbara?) and maybe a baby  ... ?  (Don Jr.?)



January 2, 1992

Now's it's January 1992. Cody is wailing in the playpen, a few feet away from me in the living room: mostly he's just exhausted and crabby from cutting teeth. Kacie is in the living room, coloring with her new crayons and watching "The Young & The Restless." Kyle, Josh, Mak and Danielle are all in Kyle's room, playing Nintendo.  Jamie spent the night at Tracy's and hasn't come home yet.

I took down the Christmas decorations two days ago, and today the tree is coming down.  The holidays are officially over with, and now it's 1992, the start of a brand-new year.  

We celebrated New Year's Eve with John & Lori: it was an evening of music, wine, games ("Outburst Jr."  --  Lori trounced me), TV, fireworks, champagne and fun with our very best friends: a fine welcome to the new year.  Of course, I paid the price the next day (yesterday) with a miserable hangover  ...  not an auspicious beginning to 1992  ...  but I'm back to normal today, and looking forward to the new year.  Hope it's happier than 1991 was.

Diary Entry:

Kyle's feeling a little better today.  Ray went back to work, I went back to babysitting; the kids still have four days till they go back to school  ...  sigh.

Kacie and I watched Pt. I of "Cleopatra" in the afternoon.  Jamie got home from John and Lori's around 4 p.m., then had her first Girl Scout meeting of '92 at 7 p.m.  Erin E. called and said she and the boys are coming over tomorrow.  Roast beef sandwiches for dinner.

January 3, 1992

Diary Entry:

Erin called this morning, cancelled our visit  --  she's having a new dishwasher installed  --  Kyle was very disappointed, but we've tentatively rescheduled for the 11th. 

Took the tree down, vacuumed up the mess.  Watched Pt. II of "Cleopatra" with the girls.  John and Lori over for a little while late in the afternoon.

After dinner, Ray, Kacie and Kyle went over to John & Lori's to watch "Terminator 2."  Jamie and I stayed home, enjoyed a quiet evening together  --  watched "The Dead Poets Society"  --  made Jay a shirt.

January 4, 1992

Diary Entry:

Got up around 10:00.  Jamie and I made breakfast for everybody (Kacie spent the night at Tracy's, wasn't home until afternoon).  

Nice low-key day, spent puttering around the house.  Jessica B. was here most of the day to play with Jamie, then she spent the night.  

Phone call from cousin Terry Vert  --  she's bringing over Gram's dishes and jewelry, later this week.  

Frozen pizza and salad for dinner.  Ray and the kids watched "White Fang"  --  I took a cold pill and went to bed early, got a great night's sleep for a change.

January 5, 1992

Diary Entry:

Feeling good.  Ray and I took the kids (including Jessica) to the movies to see "Hook"  --  Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts.  Everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Came home afterwards, had fried chicken for dinner (which I'd cooked earlier in the day)  --  the kids and I stayed up and watched a hilarious movie, "Three Fugitives" (Martin Short, Nick Nolte).

January 6, 1992

Diary Entry:

The kids went back to school today after two weeks of vacation  ...  yahoo!  Just the little guys (Danielle, Cody and Mak) for most of the day.  Talked to a woman from the "Friend to Friend" organization; thinking about joining with the girls.  We would be "adopting" a senior citizen, would visit them twice a month.  Might help ease some of my "Grandma -Loss."

Ray took the outdoor lights down.  Letter from Georgina Nielson (the daughter of a dear friend of Grandma Vert's).

January 7, 1992

Diary Entry:

Bitterly cold.  Will it snow at all this winter?  Hope so, now that the holidays are over. 

Busy: completely cleaned the girls' disgusting bedroom  --  a three-hour job.  Tons of laundry after that, naturally.  Made a pot of beef stew for dinner.  

Stayed up late listening to music and drinking wine in my "office." 

January 8, 1992

Diary Entry:

Felt cruddy all day, but at least the kids were in school and I had no Danielle & Cody  ...  took my sinus medication and snoozed most of the day.  Better by afternoon, got up and cleaned the kitchen, made burgers and fries for dinner.  Girls had dance class till 7 p.m., then all three kids to church ("Royal Rangers" for Kyle).

January 9, 1992

Diary Entry:

Average day, not much to tell.  Babysat the whole bunch, but they all went home by 3:30 today so it wasn't too bad.  Finished one of Mom's Rosamund Pilchers  --  "Another View"  --  not as good as "Under Gemini," but still a good read.  Making plans to start a diet next week  --  shopping lists, menus, etc.  --  Ray's going on it too, doctor's orders.

Good "L.A. Law" tonight; starting to like the "new" characters.

January 10, 1992

Diary Entry:

Miserably cold and rainy.  Babysitting, same old routine.  Nice "phone-chat" midday with Lori  ...  asked her if she'd consider joining Weight Watchers with me.  ("Maybe.")  Did another 14 tons of laundry all day  ...  where in the hell does it all come from, anyway??  

Ray came home in a lousy mood  --  the gout in his foot is turning him into a sick, grumpy old man.  

Karen stopped by at 10 p.m. to pay me.

January 11, 1992

Diary Entry:

Fun day.  Woke up feeling great, cleaned the whole house in preparation for Erin's visit  ...  then she never showed up, never even called!  Oh well.

Ray and Jamie went shopping, finally got my pictures (14 rolls!) back from the printers.  Also got the "Pretty Woman" soundtrack, listened to it all day.  Mom and Janet both stopped by to visit.

Late night fun with Ray.  Jessica B. spent the night.

January 12, 1992

Diary Entry:

Slow, lazy, quiet.  Jessie & Jamie cooked my favorite breakfast  --  twice-cooked potatoes, eggs and bacon all mixed together; we call it "Breakfast Scramble"  --  read the Sunday paper, played Monopoly with the girls, started another one of Mom's books, "The Stormy Petrel."  McDonald's for dinner.

Late at night the refrigerator started sputtering and smoking.  Had to drag a grumpy Ray out of bed, and then we had to call Greg (our landlord) to come over and look at it.  He made some temporary repairs, just to hold it overnight  --  he'll be back tomorrow to finish.

January 13, 1992

Diary Entry:

Velma called twice today, just to "chat"  ...  guess we're friends again?  Diet officially started today but it'll take me a day or two to settle into a rhythm.  Greg was over again this evening to fix the fridge: Ray barbecued steaks, which pretty much blew the diet.  Guess I'll start for real tomorrow.  (No, no, I REALLY MEAN it  ...  !)

January 14, 1992

Diary Entry:

Did great on the diet  --  SlimFast for breakfast and lunch, frozen Lean Cuisine and salad for dinner, air-popped popcorn and nonfat yogurt for snacks.  Please, please, please let me stick with it this time  ...

Kyle had a bad experience today: he tried to walk to school at noon, but construction at the end of our street blocked his way.  He returned home in tears, unable to get to his bus on time (so he just stayed home).  Phone call from Valerie; afternoon "Monopoly" with the girls; finished "The Stormy Petrel."

January 15, 1992

So, what would help make 1992 "happier" than 1991 was, anyway?  A few fantasy wishes:

  • I feel hungry only once a day  --  right before dinner  --  and then I am immediately satisfied after a nice, low-cal, low-fat meal.  My constant thoughts about food are replaced by incredible bursts of creative energy, and scientists discover that doing laundry burns calories more effectively than aerobics.

  • Ray developes an allergy to beer and learns to like "Murphy Brown."

  • The kids' bedrooms become self-cleaning.

  • Televised sports are outlawed, especially on the weekends.

  • Tad Martin returns to "All My Children," Jimmy Smits to "L.A. Law" and Jean Smart to "Designing Women."

  • Jamie stops hitting people, Kacie loses her baton, and Kyle 'freezes' at age five for an extra year or two.

 Diary Entry:

Another good diet day, no cheating at all.  I feel an inner core of determination this time.

Jamie came home at lunch and walked Kyle safely past the construction site so he made it to kindergarten.  Girls had their dances classes in the late afternoon, then church for all three, as usual.

Good TV  --  "Unsolved Mysteries," "Seinfeld," "Anything But Love."

January 16, 1992

Horrible nightmare last night. I dreamed that I was standing beside Grandma Vert's grave, trying to tell her something wonderful that had happened to me   --  something I felt would make her proud of me  --  when I suddenly heard a voice saying "You are weighting her with your tears."  I tripped and fell on top of the grave at that moment, only except of hard ground, it was soft loose dirt, and I fell so hard and so deep that I could feel the outlines of her coffin  ...   and I could hear her screaming inside.  It was the WORST DREAM I have ever had in my entire life, and not only because it was frightening and grisly  --  it was  --  but because of the feeling I had in the dream, that Grandma didn't want to listen to me anymore.  I felt that she wanted me to go away, to leave her alone, to quit thinking about her or trying to communicate with her.  I felt that she hated me.  

I woke from the dream in a cold sweat, thoroughly frightened and upset.  What in the world could have caused me to have such a dream??  Grandma was the sweetest, kindest person in the world, and she loved me dearly.  Why would I dream otherwise?  I just don't understand it.

It's hard for me to get past the idea that I disappointed Grandma  ...  that I never lived up to her high expectations of me.  I wish that I had managed to do something great with my life before she died: that I'd finished college, for instance, or found a career that utilized my talents, or even just married more wisely.  I feel as though I let her down, and that's something I'm going to have to live with for the rest of my life.

Diary Entry:

Strange to think that one year ago today, war broke out in the Persian Gulf  ...

Third good day on the diet.  Got a (pleasant) shock when I finally broke down and weighed myself for the first time in 2 or 3 years  ...  I thought I'd be around 185, instead I'm 165.   Still heavy, but not as horrible as I feared.  So I "only" need to lose thirty lbs. (instead of 50!) 

Bad experience with Josh tonight  --  he stole Kyle's GameBoy and took it home with him.  His mom caught him and made him bring it back and apologize.

January 17, 1992

A little better today.  The horror of that dream has faded somewhat, at least.  I look at Grandma's picture, pinned to the bulletin board in front of me, and her sweet, serene face smiles back at me.  This is not a person who could ever hate me!  Yes, maybe she felt some disappointment that I didn't become a teacher or a writer or a concert pianist.  Maybe she wished more for me.  But as I sit here this morning, drinking my coffee, looking at her lovely face  --  so full of warmth and caring and humor  --  I find it impossible to believe that she ever felt anything but the purest, most unconditional love for me  --  warts and all.  I remember how proudly she showed me off at the family reunion last summer.  She didn't introduce me to her elderly cousins and say "This is my granddaughter, the big fat zero."  She said "This is Terri Lynn, my granddaughter. She is a wonderful mother."  And she meant it.  In her eyes, at least, I was anything but a failure.

A moment later:

The most incredible thing just happened, just as I was sitting here writing about Grandma  ...  Aunt Mabel Beatty called me, unexpectedly, from Oregon.  She is the wonderful 88 year old dynamo who organized the reunion last year.  "I've been meaning to write to you, dear," she said in her sweet, quavery voice, "but I've been sick."  Then she went on to say that she's feeling better now, and has gone back to work on her book of family history, and she wanted to know if I would mind writing a page or two about Grandma.  That alone was enough to give me goosebumps  --  the cooincidence of her calling to ask me to write something at the precise moment that I WAS writing about Grandma, in my journal!  --  but there's more.  It gets even more incredible.  Aunt Mabel was talking about the last time she was in Seattle, three years ago or so, for Uncle Vaughn and Aunt Leona's 50th wedding anniversary party.  (I remember that party.  Jamie and I went to it together, along with Aunt Mabel, Grandma, and Grandma's neighbor Marian.  A few days beforehand, Grandma took me to Lamonts and bought me a new dress for the occasion  ...  the last dress she ever bought for me.  I still have it hanging in my closet.)  Anyway.  Aunt Mabel was saying, "I told your Grandma that day what a lovely relationship you seemed to have with your daughter, and your Grandma said 'Yes, Terri Lynn is a wonderful mother.' "

My throat began to tighten up as Aunt Mabel was saying this.  GOD!  It was so strange  ...  it was as though Grandma were speaking to me through Aunt Mabel.

"And then at the reunion last summer," Aunt Mabel went on, "she said the same thing  --  'Terri Lynn is a wonderful mother.'  She loved you very much, Terri Lynn."

At that point I simply lost it.  Can you imagine the flood of emotions I felt as I hung up the phone?  I can barely write about it now.  It's as if Grandma can see me, right now, this morning, and she could read all the things I've been writing, about feeling like I'd 'disappointed' her somehow, and she reached out to comfort and reassure me in the only tangible, earthly way she could.  It was like a big psychic hug from Grandma  --  from wherever she is  --  and it has left me feeling elated and rattled and sad and loved, all at the same time.

Thank you, Grandma.

(The serene brown eyes in the photo continue to gaze at me with love  ... )




Saturday morning
January 18, 1992

Still reeling from yesterday's brush with the "psychic."  Journal, I am completely serious:  I believe, with my whole heart, that what happened yesterday was not a cooincidence  --  it wasn't just "one of those things"  --  it was Grandma, communicating with me in as gentle and as loving a way as she could.  And it has changed me.

The funny thing is, I've been yearning for her to reach out to me since the day she died, and yet I've also been terrified by the prospect of that happening.  For the first couple of weeks after she passed away, it was hard for me to go to sleep at night because I was afraid she might "appear" to me  ...  that I might look into a corner of the darkened living room and see her standing there, or hear her voice behind me saying "Terri Lynn"  ...  and the idea of that happening scared me silly.  I mean, as much as I would love to have a chance to say "goodbye-for-now" to her  --  to have her tell me one more time that she loves me  --  it was nevertheless frightening to contemplate.  A lifetime of ghost movies and horror novels have had an effect on me, I guess.  During the daytime hours the idea of it came a little easier, and I would look and hope for a "sign" from her, some small psychic evidence that would help me feel she was near.  And once or twice it did feel as though she were hearing me, and that she was trying to make her presence felt, but it was never anything tangible.  Never anything as real as yesterday.  Two minutes after writing in my journal that Grandma had called me a "wonderful mother," I'm on the phone listening to Aunt Mabel repeat those very words!  It's just too Grandma-like  ...  too much in character.  Even the fact that it was Aunt Mabel who called and not someone else: no other voice would have had as much impact, for several reasons.  (The connection between the three of us at the reunion last year; the fact that I hear from Aunt Mabel so infrequently; even the similarities in their voices and speech patterns.  Once or twice during our conversation yesterday, I could have sworn it was Grandma speaking  --  she and Aunt Mabel sound so much alike.)  No one else on earth could have delivered the message as effectively as Aunt Mabel, and it is for that reason that I resolutely believe that grandma used her to speak through.  It was psychic communication in its most non-threatening form.  Any other way would have scared the pants off me, and Grandma knows that.

I don't mean to go on and on about this, but I feel so different about life as a result of this.  I feel changed.  Some of the joy has returned to my life  ...  some of the purpose.  Three days ago I was feeling as though it's too late now to do anything with my life, and now I suddenly feel like anything is possible.

Diary Entry:

Ray had to work today  --  somewhat rare for a Saturday  --  and Kyle went on a field trip to the Pacific Science Center with his Royal Rangers group.  So for most of the day it was just the girls and I.  Nice. 

Ray picked up four ribbons for my electronic typewriter; I spent most of the evening sipping wine, typing captions for the new photo album.  Janet brought Jessica over to spend the night  --  gave me half a Percodan for my toothache  --  watched "Fatal Attraction" on TV.

January 19, 1992

Diary Entry:

Slow, lazy day.  Period started in the morning, mild cramps, nothing serious. 

Made a big pot of chili for Ray and let it simmer all day.  Worked some more on the new photo album.

January 20, 1992

Diary Entry:

Terry Vert came by this morning and brought the rings and watches Grandma left me in her will  --  also several boxes of books, household stuff and the dishes and tea cups.  Spent a pleasant day finding "homes" for everything.

Jamie is sick  --  temp reached 103° at one point, she slept most of the day while Kyle and Kacie went over to Velma's to play.

January 21, 1992

Diary Entry:

Crazy day.  Jamie stayed home from school, temp. still above 100°.  Full babysitting  --  Mak here at 7 a.m., didn't go home until 6 p.m.!!  

Velma came by twice, once to show me a dress she made for Angela, once to take Kyle to school; Janet called a couple of times, very depressed, stopped by in the afternoon to give back some albums and tapes she'd borrowed;  Mom and Deb stopped by; Lori and John came over around dinnertime, stayed for an hour.

January 22, 1992

One more interesting little piece of Grandma-related news, and then I'll let the subject rest for a while.  Remember the teacups?  The ones Grandma sent over here right before she died?  I loved them because they were so special, and I was upset when I had to give them back to my cousin in Texas?  Well  ...  they're back, and they're MINE!  Terry brought them back two days ago, and they're here to stay.  "These rightfully belong to you," she told me.  She decided not to send them to my cousin L., because she felt that Grandma really wanted me to have them, and because she was afraid L. would probably just sell them.  (I'm not sure this would actually be the case, but maybe Terry knows something I don't.)  I've got them arranged now in a row on top of my kitchen cabinets, above the stove, and they're SO pretty.  They're very special to me, and I'll never part with them again.

Terry also brought me the rings and watches Grandma left me in her will.  I already had the diamond engagement ring Gram gave me last summer  --  I wear it above my own wedding band  --  but now I also have her other gold and diamond wedding band, two very old, plain gold bands, and two gold watches.  One of the watches is also very old  --  I'm not sure, but it might be the one she got when she graduated from nursing school in the 1920's  --  and another, newer Pulsar that fits me perfectly and runs like a dream.  There's also a man's gold wedding band (I don't know who it belonged to: Grandpa, maybe?), a pendant watch that Ted gave Grandma (I may sell that, just for spite) and a ring with an Alexandrite setting.

Diary Entry:

Ray only worked half a day today; came home at 10:30 a.m. and went to the Food Bank for me, then worked at Ray Chamberlin's for a couple of hours.  Jamie came home from school again today, still sick.  Housecleaning, laundry all day.  The diet still going well altho I feel a bit tense around dinnertime.  Ray very supportive of my efforts this time  --  makes a big difference.  "Quantum Leap."

Barbara called to say she's "engaged."

January 23, 1992

Diary Entry:

Cold, rainy.  Jamie stayed home in the morning, then suddenly decided she felt OK after all and went to school at 11 a.m.  Cody was a fussy handful all day, left my nerves jangled. 

Big fight with Jamie in the afternoon, lots of door-slamming, name-calling and tears on both sides  ...  we made up half an hour later.  (She wrote me a sweet note saying "Am I still your pussycat?")

January 24, 1992

Diary Entry:

Very energetic.  Cleaned the house, decorated for Valentine's Day, full babysitting.

Lori and Tracy came over after school (also Tia B., to play with Jamie); later in the evening, John showed up and we all sat and partied until late. Tracy and Tia both wound up spending the night.

Karen pd. me $100.

January 25, 1992

Diary Entry:

Sluggish, uneventful day spent napping, reading, watching TV.  Ray took Kyle out for awhile  ...  they played video games at Lewis & Clark, stopped for a snack.  Tia and Jamie had one of their usual spats  --  Tia went home in a huff  --  Tracy stayed until J&L picked her up late in the afternoon, then Kacie went to their apartment to spend the night.

Taco Time for dinner, tasted awful.  

January 26, 1992

Diary Entry:

Fun day!  Ray took Jamie, Kyle and I shopping this morning  --  spent $30 at Value Village (owls, picture frames, baskets) and another $30 at Pay 'n Save (misc. stuff). 

Then we went over to John & Lori's to watch the Super Bowl!  John BBQ'd some chicken for dinner, Lori made macaroni salad.  Drank a lot, listened to music, talked.  J&L gave me a huge (fake) plant for my house.

Home by 9:30.

January 27, 1992

Diary Entry:

Day-after-the-Super-Bowl hangover  ...  and a full babysitting day, to boot.  How I made it through alive, I'll never know!  Next year I think I'll spend Super Bowl Day at the MOVIES  ...

Velma stopped by: brought me flowers and 7-Up.  (She thinks I've got the flu: I didn't have the heart to tell her the truth.) 

Watched The American Music Awards  --  big winners were C&C Music Factory, Color Me Badd, Michael Bolton, Garth Brooks, Mariah Carey.  

January 28, 1992

Diary Entry:

A little better.  Andrea called first thing this morning, said she and Cody are both sick, so I didn't have a baby to deal with.  Cleaned the house (everything except the kids' awful bedrooms), caught up on laundry, started a good book ("Shining Through," Susan Isaacs). 

Ray went over to Shannon South tonight to talk to Curtis about a TV and stereo he's selling.  If everything goes right, we'll buy it on the 7th.

January 29, 1992

Diary Entry:

Rainy, but amazingly warm  --  59° at one point!  Guess we can forget about a nice big snowstorm this winter  ...

Another high-energy day.  Maybe it's the dieting that has me feeling so good.  Now if only I can stay away from wine on the weekends! 

Dance class and church for the kids tonight.  I cleaned Kyle's room, made a big "breakfast for dinner" for Ray and the kids, diet pizza for me.  Kacie and I stayed up late, watched the premiere of a great new show, "Nightmare Cafe."

January 30, 1992

Diary Entry:

Full babysitting.  (Danielle & Cody from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mak from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.)  Cody has a horrible diaper rash and is cutting more new teeth, so he was a crabby little butt!  (He thinks he runs things around this place.) 

Started work on my Valentines  --  using a patchwork quilt "theme" this year. 

Andrea paid me $135; I gave Ray some money and him pick up a few odds and ends of groceries.  Made "homemade Chinese" for dinner; Jamie to Girl Scouts, 7 p.m.; I stayed up late reading (my book is so good  ...)

January 31, 1992

Diary Entry:

Cody was so much worse today (diarrhea, diaper rash) that Andrea had to come get him early and take him to the doctor  --  she took Danielle, too  --  and Mak left early as well, so I was done babysitting by 2 p.m.  Nice!

Started a letter to Deanne in Massachusetts, read some of my book.

Jamie brought home her friend Kaleana; they played for a few hours, had dinner (frozen pizza), then Jamie went over to spend the night.  Kacie, Kyle and I sat out in my "office" this evening, making Valentines and listening to music.

February 1, 1992

Diary Entry:

The usual lazy Saturday.  Kyle called Joey Bontempo and invited him over to play and spend the night.  (Kacie and I made up a name for the two of them: "Chucky-Monkeys.") 

Made spaghetti for dinner.  Jamie called, asking permission to spend another night at Kaleana's  ...  I grudgingly said OK.  Frankly, I think there have been too many sleep-overs lately  ...  we need to cut down on them.

Barbara called  --  wedding date set for February 29.

February 2, 1992

Diary Entry:

I really wanted to enjoy this day and get a lot done, but a combination of Ray being drunk and obnoxious (he flipped off a couple of Mormons when they came to our door, called his parents and told them I've losty THIRTY pounds, and announced that he's going to "bill the water company" for Kyle's new rain boots) and me not feeling good made the day a disappointment.

Finished "Shining Through"  --  one of the best books I've ever read.

Jamie got home at 2 p.m., exhausted from her weekend at Kaleana's.  She napped all afternoon.  Joey B. was here till 3 or so.  I cooked a turkey hindquarter for dinner.

February 3, 1992

Diary Entry:

My week got off to a 'thud' this morning  ...  Ray called in "sick," took the day off from work.  It's tough having a houseful of kids AND Ray here, too.  Lately we are picking at each other all the time, he's drinking far too much, and I can barely stand to be in the same room with him anymore.  There's no talking to him about any of this because he doesn't see any problem.

February 4, 1992

Diary Entry:

Another less-than-wonderful day.  The IRS called, looking for Ray: when he got home he said it was OK, it was no big deal, but it still upset me.  Also, Lori called and said that Curtis is leaving town earlier than expected, so we probably won't be able to buy the TV and stereo from him. Very let-down about that.

Started a new Victoria Holt, "The Road to Paradise Island"  ...  pretty good.

Jamie played at Christina's after school.

Wednesday morning
February 5, 1992

Cold, foggy morning  ...  the house feels like a walk-in freezer.  We've been having unseasonably warm weather all week, though  --  it was 63 degrees a couple of days ago  --  so the fog will undoubtedly burn off later in the day.  In the meantime, all I can do is crank up the thermostat and make sure Kyle has plenty of blankets covering him.  (He's laying on the sofa, watching cartoons and talking to himself.)  

The girls just left for school  ...  I watched them jogging up the street in the fog, Jamie's picture-perfect ponytail bobbing up and down, Kacie's unbuttoned coat flapping.  Jamie is panicky this morning because it's a P.E. day, and she's afraid Mrs. Peters is going to make her run laps around the playground.  I guess this is a yearly thing, almost like an endurance test, and each year an extra lap is added to the test.  Kacie ran her laps yesterday, but naturally it was a piece of cake for her: she has that incredible stamina and metabolism (from Ray's side of the family).  Poor old Jamie, though, is more like her Mom  ...  exercise is torture.  She'd rather be curled up with a book.  I can sympathize completely.  I hated P.E. at her age, too.  I was lousy at practically every sport (except maybe volleyball), I could never keep up with the rest of the kids, and P.E. day was the lowlight of my entire week.  By the time I got to high school, I'd had enough.  I faked a letter from our family doctor, hinting at a fictitious medical problem, and managed to get myself out of P.E. for the entire three years of high school.  This morning Jamie begged me to help her get out of running laps.  Fine, I said.  I'll write you a note saying you've got a 10:00 dentist appointment  ...  as long as you come home for those two hours and clean your room.  She went to school!  Guess the idea of cleaning her bedroom is more horrifying than anything  ...  even running laps.

Diary Entry:

No baby here today, so I spent most of the afternoon working on the new framed arrangement for the living room wall; it looks pretty nice.
Janet and Lori called, just to say hi; John stopped by to drop off $10 he owed Ray.  Kids got Valentines and money in the mail from Pat & Doug.

Thursday 10:45 a.m.
February 6, 1992

I did something so perverse today  --  so un-Terri-like  --  that it has even me feeling shocked.  

I took a day off!!  

It's true, it's true!  I called Andrea last night and told her I had a "toothache" (which technically is the truth, since that broken molar hurts pretty much all the time) and said I didn't think I'd be up to watching her kids today.  She was so sweet and understanding about it  --  she even came by with something to help me sleep  --  that I felt a little guilty about being manipulative.  But what else could I have told her?  "If Cody comes over here tomorrow and makes that 'ba-ba-ba-ba-ba' noise for eight hours straight, I am going to go stark raving bonkers??"   I love Cody, I really truly do, but I just needed a middle-of-the-week break from his noise and his diapers and the general chaos he creates.  Can you understand that?

So I stayed up late watching TV with the girls, I took Andrea's sleeping pill and slept like a baby myself until almost 10:00 this morning (the girls apparently got themselves up and off to school, bless their dear little hearts, and Kyle quietly played Nintendo in his room until he heard me getting up), and now that Kyle is leaving for kindergarten, I've got a nice three-hour block of time ahead of me, totally kid-free.  A long hot shower  ...  soap operas on TV  ...  a little housework, if I feel like it.  Bliss.

February 7, 1992

Diary Entry:

Ray came home at 10:00 this morning, said the power had gone out at work and he was "off" for the rest of the weekend.  Imagine my pleasure.  He immediately cracked open a beer, then spent the rest of the day "bowling" with friends  ...  came home this evening dead drunk, ready to fight.  I fed him a chicken sandwich and finally managed to get him to fall asleep at 9:30.  The girls and I stayed up and watched the Miss USA pageant.

February 8, 1992

Diary Entry:

Fun day.  Ray took the kids and I to Fred Meyer in Burien (he dropped the girls and I off for 90 minutes, then came back to pick us up)  ...  I spent a hundred bucks on Valentines, shirt-making materials, three tapes for myself (Roxette, The Eurythmics, Michael Jackson), a Mariah Carey tape for Jamie, etc. 

Tonight Ray went out with John & Lori for a few hours, leaving me blissfully husband-free for the evening.  Painted a shirt for Lori, drank wine, listened to my new tapes.

February 9, 1992

Diary Entry:

Dead in the water.  Stayed on the sofa all day.  Only highlight of the day: watching one of my favorite movies, "She's Having A Baby" (Kevin Bacon, Elizabeth McGovern).

Ray drunk and disorderly by 6 p.m.  I tried hiding some of his malt liquor, just to keep him from getting too bad, but he caught on right away and said we were all "grounded."   What a horse's ass.

February 10, 1992

Diary Entry:

"Monday blahs."  Mom was supposed to come by this afternoon so I cleaned up the place (it was a disaster area from this past weekend), finished her Valentine stuff  ...  but then she didn't show.  Oh well.

Cooked several diet dinners for the coming week, froze them.  Full babysitting.

Ray drunk and grumpy tonight, as usual.

Life is blah.

February 11, 1982

I'm depressed.

I guess that's nothing new, especially in February  -  always a "low" month for me, emotionally - but this depression is so thick and invasive and tangible that it's like walking around in a cloud of noxious gas.  My days are filled with poopy diapers, dirty dishes, piles of laundry, unpleasant phone calls: my evenings are filled with Ray cracking open one beer after another, the girls fighting, Kyle whining, no time to myself.  I'm as low and as blah and as devoid of joy as an old dishrag.  I hate my marriage, I hate the stagnant condition of my life, and I hate myself.

And that's all she wrote.

Diary Entry:

Very depressed.  February is always a low month for emotionally: not much I can do except just try to get through it, I guess.

Finished making Valentines for my friends  ...  now all I have to do is the kids', sometime this week when they're in school.  

Peg called, asked me to measure the girls for bridesmaid dresses she's making.  Velma stopped by, loaned me a measuring tape.  Brenda took Ray and Kyle out tonight to be fitted for tuxes.

February 12, 1992

A hair better today.  Not a lot, but a little.  The house is a mess: I'm hoping to scrape up the energy to do something about it, because I know a clean house would make me feel better, but so far all I've managed to do today is glue some recipes into a cookbook, visit briefly with Velma (she dropped off my Avon), take a shower and drink coffee.

Diary Entry:

Still "down."  Threw all my energies into housecleaning  ...  made the house sparkle.  Velma stopped by again to drop off my Avon (a heart bracelet, some Musk perfume).  Mom came by late in the afternoon to pick up her quilt square and drop off Valentines.  

No church for the kids, but the girls had their dance lessons.  Made the kids' Valentines tonight.

February 13, 1992

Diary Entry:

Feeling crummy  ...  tired, upset stomach, crabby.  Totally blew my diet: ate breakfast and lunch instead of drinking Slim-Fast, snacked all afternoon.  Full babysitting, although everyone was gone by 3:00. 

Another nasty, unsigned letter in our mailbox from our neighbor across the street, threatening to report our cats to Animal Control  ...  I am totally pissed.

February 14, 1992

Diary Entry:

Had a nice Valentines Day today in spite of our stupid neighbor!  Cleaned and decorated the house, then threw a "Valentine Party" for the kids when they got home from school.  A merry afternoon!  

John, Lori and Tracy spent the evening.  Ray brought me roses, wine and a sweet card; J&L brought me more wine and a card.  Played Monopoly (John beat everybody), listened to music.  Fun.

Beautiful Things:
Some Beholders' Viewpoints

  • Kacie's freckles
  • Losing weight!
  • Good friends: Lori & John, Janet, Velma, Andrea
  • Jamie's big brown eyes
  • Kyle's cowlick!
Sweets for the Sweets:

  • Roses, wine and a card from Ray!
  • Ceramic ginger jar and gold necklace from Jamie! (Also a pretty card)
  • Lovingly-handmade necklace and card from Kacie!
  • Pretty card from Kyle!
  • Perfume from Mom!
  • Wine & a funny card from John & Lori!

February 15, 1992

Diary Entry:

Peg came by first thing this morning to measure the girls for their dresses: looks like they're going to be very pretty.  Next weekend she's taking them for haircuts and new shoes.

Mom came by again, too  --  brought me a bottle of perfume as a belated Valentines gift.

Sent a letter (hand-delivered by Ray) to our neighbor, threatening her with legal action if she doesn't stop putting notes in our mailbox.

February 16, 1992

Diary Entry:

Felt pretty good, got a lot done while the kids were at church and Ray was out shopping for a ceiling fan.  Jamie's friend Kaleana here to spend the night.

Ray BBQ'd chicken for dinner.

Had an accident tonight  --  stepped on a broken glass, sliced open my left toe very badly.

February 17, 1992

Diary Entry:

Woke up in PAIN  ...  my toe is blown up like a balloon, and so sore to the touch that I screamed if anyone even came near me!!  Cleaned it as best I could, and Andrea brought me a big bandage  ...  can't do much but sit on the couch.

School holiday.  Babysat Danielle and Cody from 10 to 3.  Ray went out and got McDonald's for dinner.

Ray and Marc (our neighbor) installed the new ceiling fan in the dining room.  Looks nice.

February 18, 1992

Diary Entry:

Kacie and Jamie both stayed home from school w/colds.

Today was the day our neighbor was supposedly going to call Animal Control.  All three of our cats have been locked in the house since Saturday, but so far we haven't heard a peep out of her since I sent her my letter.  Wish I knew what was going through that "mind" of hers.

Toe still hurts.

February 19, 1992

Diary Entry:

Academy Award nominations announced this morning.  (My picks for March 30th: Warren Beatty, Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, Jack Palance, "Bugsy.") 

Still no trouble from our neighbor, although Brina managed to escape out the kitchen window this afternoon and it drove the male cats in the neighborhood crazy until well into the night  ...  I was out stomping around the freezing, wet backyard (with my sore toe) until 2 a.m., throwing buckets of water at noisy cats.  This whole thing has me tied up in knots.

February 20, 1992

Still struggling through the February blahs.  We're in the middle of a "war" with one of our neighbors, over our cats, and this has only added to my anxiety.  This is the same whacko who drunkenly lurches across the street, every Fourth of July, and threatens to call the police about our (perfectly legal) fireworks.  So I know this latest tirade has less to do with the cats than with her personal dislike of us.  Still, she has caused me a full week of headaches, and I'm sick of it.

Diary Entry:

Long, LONG day of babysitting.  Worked on the rice bags for Barbara's wedding, but ran out of pink ribbon: called Peg, she says she'll bring some more on Saturday when she picks up the kids.  (All three kids are spending Saturday night at their grandparents'.)

February 21, 1992

It's still February.  It's been February for about three years now, and apparently it's going to continue to be February until sometime in 1996  ...  Which at the time seemed thousands of years in the future.

Diary Entry:

Good day.  John & Lori came by first thing this morning  ...  John, Jamie and I took Sabrina to the Highline Veterinary Hospital in Burien to have her spayed, will pick her up on Monday afternoon.

Cleaned house, babysat, laundry.

Unexpected visit from Maryann (Christopher's mom) and her new baby, Melissa.  I get the impression that she expects me to babysit for her when she goes back to work in a few weeks  ...  not sure I want to.

Quiet evening.  Frozen pizza for dinner.  Kristi Yamaguchi won the Olympic Gold Medal in figure skating.

February 22, 1992

Diary Entry:

Another really good day.  Peg was here at 8:30 to pick up the kids  --  they'll be back sometime tomorrow  --  and Ray worked, so I had the house all to myself for most of the day!  Cleaned every room in the house (even the kids' rooms); the place looks GREAT.

Took a walk to Trailer Town at noon, bought some pads (period started), hairspray and a bottle of wine.

Spent the evening over at John & Lori's, watched "Silence of the Lambs"  ...  fun.  Ray and I up late.

February 23, 1992

Diary Entry:

Peg brought the kids home shortly after noon  ...  I was glad to see them.  The girls both got their hair cut, but Kyle didn't yet  --  need to get him to the barber before the wedding.

February 24, 1992

Diary Entry:

Rotten cold. Took half-doses of cold medicine all day but it still left me feeling wiped-out all day  ...  napped whenever Cody napped. 

Disturbing phone calls from my father-in-law (why is Kacie so 'unhappy'?) and from Jamie's teacher (attitude problems). 

Ray and Jamie went and picked Sabrina up from the vet's.

Made tacos for dinner.  Took a full dose of medicine and crapped out EARLY.

February 25, 1992

Diary Entry:

Velma came by this morning and picked up my dress for the wedding: she's hemming it for me, about 3" all the way around.  Hope I can get a new belt for it and maybe some shoes before Saturday.

Warm and clear  --  in the 60's  --  feels like spring.  Just wish I felt better (physically and emotionally). 

The "babysitting kids" were all gone by 4:30.

Grammy Awards on TV tonight, watched two and a half hours of it (out of four hours).  Big winners  --  Michael Bolton (blecch), Bonnie Raitt again, Natalie Cole, Marc Cohn as Best New Artist.

February 26, 1992

Diary Entry:

Janet called this morning; funny conversation about our rotten kids. :) She's coming over to cut my hair for the wedding, tomorrow or Friday.

Head cold has now evolved into a chest cold, hacking cough.

Early dismissal from school  --  all the kids here by 1:00.

Velma brought my dress back and I was SHOCKED to discover she'd whacked EIGHT INCHES off!!!  Totally distraught, but it's too late now so I won't say anything  ...  that would just hurt her feelings. 

No church for the kids tonight.

February 27, 1992

Diary Entry:

Jamie picked up her Girl Scout cookies tonight. Andrea paid me $200 for babysitting.

Letter in the mail from Douglas Moreland, Grandma's attorney, regarding disposition of her personal property; says I will be signing the deed to my half of the house "shortly."  My half is appraised at $85,000.

February 28, 1992

Diary Entry:

Janet never showed up to cut my hair: totally pissed!!  She called this afternoon with some lame excuse (Joe got a new job and they were "celebrating.")  I hate it when she lets me down.

Ray and the kids left for Bellevue at 3:00 for the wedding rehearsal and dinner afterwards at Sheryl's  ...  I stayed home and enjoyed a quiet, relaxing evening home alone.  Karen stopped by, dropped off $25 for babysitting.  Ray and the kids home at 10:00.

February 29, 1992

Diary Entry:

The big day.  Ray ran me down to Target this morning (belt for dress, pantyhose) and Volume Shoes in Burien (dark blue pumps).  Janet came by at noon and took a quick two inches off my hair.

We left for Bellevue at 2:30  --  spent some time at the in-laws', visiting with Patty and John  --  got to the church around 5:30. 

The wedding was lovely.  Of course the highlight for me was watching Jamie, Kacie & Kyle coming down the aisle.  (Kyle was so cute in his little tux!!)  Reception afterwards at The Holiday Inn.  Barbara and Ray seem very happy.

Home by 11:00.



The kids at their aunt's wedding
February 29, 1992

March 1, 1992

Diary Entry:

Wonderfully laid-back day  ...  glad that the wedding and all the frantic preparations are over with.

Ray went over to my mom's to do some yardwork for her; I spent the day doing laundry, fixing spaghetti sauce for dinner, napping in the afternoon.

March 2, 1992

Diary Entry:

Felt considerably more light-hearted and energetic than in recent weeks.  Velma and Lori both called, just to talk; Janet stopped by unexpectedly to visit for an hour, cried on my shoulder about her marriage. (I can totally relate.) Laundry, babysitting.  Made a big potato salad, fried chicken and homemade biscuits.  Ray worked at my mom's again after work, got home around 6:30. 

All our favorite Monday night TV  --  "Fresh Prince of Bel Air," "Blossom," "Murphy Brown," "Designing Women" and "Northern Exposure," which is probably my favorite at the moment. 

March 3, 1992

Diary Entry:

Cold and rainy this morning  ...  Kyle woke up with a head cold, sent him to school anyway because he had no fever.  Kids got out of school at 2:00, some kind of teachers' meeting.  This was "Girls Day"  --  the third day of the third month  --  Jamie, Kacie and I exchanged handmade gifts.  Stayed up late and watched a great movie, "Grave Secrets."

March 4, 1992

Diary Entry:

Sinuses are all backed up again, just when I was beginning to feel a little "better."  Could it be an allergy?  (Dust? Woodstove? Cats? Pollen?)  Kyle and I both miserable, but again he went to school because his temp. is normal.  No baby here today.  Caught up on paperwork in my "office," picked at a little housework, listened to talk radio on KING 1090, my new passion.  Girls went to dance class, Kacie & Kyle to church  --  Jamie stayed home to work on cookie orders.  Asleep early.

March 5, 1992

Diary Entry:

Weighed myself today (nervously)  ...  down to 155!  Means I've lost 10 lbs. since starting the diet seven weeks ago.  Gives me the motivation to continue.

Cody stood alone for about five seconds today: won't be long until he starts walking.  Laundry, talk radio, made Jell-O "Jigglers" for the kids  ...  such a thrilling life I lead. 

Started a new John Saul, "Comes The Blind Fury."  Jamie to Girl Scouts tonight.

March 6, 1992

A few weeks later, and I finally seem to be finding my way out of that cloud of "noxious gas"  ...

February is over.  That fact alone raises my spirits.  It's also Friday, and a payday for both Ray and I, to boot.  So I almost couldn't fail to feel more light-hearted and optimistic today.  February wasn't a complete bomb of a month, I must admit: Valentine's Day, which I adore, was a lot of fun this year.  (I threw an after-school "party" for my kids, Tracy and the "babysitting kids," and then John and Lori came over and partied with us that night).  And last week Ray's sister Barbara got married in a beautiful formal wedding that included all three of our munchkins in the bridal party.  Jamie and Kacie were junior bridesmaids, and Kyle was ring bearer.  So there were some definite highlights last month.  I also made some progress on my new diet (which started Jan. 14)  --  I've lost ten pounds so far, my clothes are fitting a little better, and my face has lost some of that ghastly puffiness.  I think February just hits me funny every year because it's winter, and money is tight, and it's easy to feel like there isn't much to look forward to.  I still feel that way, off and on  ...  stuck in a rut, without anything specific to look forward to (a vacation, a fun holiday, etc.)  ...  but the worst of it seems to be over for this year.

It's a cold, foggy morning, and I'm sitting here in my "office" with my coffee, listening to KING-AM talk radio  ...  my latest passion.  A few weeks ago there was an article in the newspaper about talk radio shows, particularly local ones, and it intrigued me.  So I turned one on, and I've been listening ever since.  It helps me feel a little more "tuned in" to the outside world, even when I don't completely understand the topics being discussed (politics, especially).

Kyle's had a rotten cold this week.  Even now, sitting here in the laundry room, I can hear him sniffling and wheezing out in the living room as he plays Nintendo.  Last night we were all watching The Cosby Show at 8:00 (Channel 13 wouldn't come in, so we had to bypass The Simpsons) when he abruptly stood up, kissed me goodnight and stumbled off to bed without prompting  ...  that's how tired and crummy he felt.  I'm continuing to dose him with Dimetapp at regular intervals, praying that this doesn't blossom into one of those godawful ear infections (like he got last year, right about this time).  Nothing makes me feel more ineffectual and helpless than when Kyle is sick and there's nothing I can do to help him.  A cold I can deal with: an ear infection is beyond my capacity.

One thing about Kyle that has surprised me this year has been his ambivalence toward school.  This is not to say that he doesn't enjoy it, because he does  ...  he can hardly wait to leave for kindergarten each day  ...  but he never, ever talks about it!  You have to practically drag the details out of him every day.  ("How was school today?"  "Fine."  "What did you do?"  "Nuthin'.")  I guess I expected him to be more enthusiastic about the whole thing, the way Jamie was  ...  I thought he would burst through the door every afternoon, brimming over with "Mr. Gallagher said this" and "Mr. Gallagher said that."  Instead, he just accepts it all as stoically and unquestioningly as he accepts everything else in his life.  Oh well.  I'm not complaining, exactly  ...  he's doing very well in school, so far, and that's the important thing.  I simply expected him to be more pumped-up about it all, the way he is about Nintendo or the kitties or playing with Joey  ...

Kacie and I have been at odds lately, and I'm not sure why, beyond the fact that she's nearly nine  ...  nine being such a powderkeg of an age, as I learned with Jay.  If I'm yelling at a kid around here these days, four times out of five it's Kacie.  The thing that deives me craziest about her is her absent-mindedness.  Well  ...  maybe that's not the right term for it.  It's not so much that she's absentminded as much as the fact that she's thinking in ten directions at once, and getting her to focus on one thing (putting her laundry away, doing her homework, remembering to take her lunch to school) requires so many reminders.  I have to admit that I'm intrigued by the way her mind works.  She is so driven all the time  ...  so filled with energy and ideas.  What must that feel like??  The way she thinks and the way I think are so different  ...  perhaps that's at the root of our conflict.  I just get so impatient with her, and I yell at her without thinking, and then I feel guilty about it because I'm doing nothing to build up her already fragile self-esteem.  What gives me comfort is the fact that she's finally learning to fight back, a little.  The new thing is stomping her feet when she's angry with me.  I'll say, "Dammit, Kacie, put on some sweatpants under that T-shirt!" (at bedtime), and she'll STOMP STOMP STOMP off to her bedroom, muttering at me under her breath.  And the funny thing is, I'm GLAD that she's stomping and muttering!  I'm glad that she's asserting herself.   The fact is that I would rather have her rebel a little, have her fight back, than merely fold up and weep, the way she used to.  I'm glad to see her developing some backbone.  I still wish I could curb my tendency to lash out at her without thinking, and I wish she weren't so forgetful and careless at times, but at least she's learning to express her feelings in a more productive way.

Something happened last weekend that perfectly illustrates what I'm talking about.  It was Suday morning, the day after Barbara's wedding.  Peg made both of the girls beautiful ivory silk dresses for the wedding.  They're easily the nicest dresses they've ever owned, and the fact that they were handmade by their grandmother makes them even more precious.  They'll probably wear them as Easter dresses this spring, and eventually I'll end up putting them into the camphor chest  --  the DRESSES, I mean, not the GIRLS!  --  to keep forever.  Anyway, Sunday morning Kacie asked if she could wear her bridesmaid's dress to Sunday School, to show her teachers.  I thought about it and decided it would probably be OK, as long as she was VERY CAREFUL.  She promised that yes, she would be extremely careful.  And I have to admit that she looked very sweet, walking down the street to church with her little brother.  (Kyle, incidentally, wanted to wear his rented tuxedo to church, but I said no!  Although I did allow him to wear the shoes.)  A couple of hours later, while I was starting to do some laundry, I heard a terrible commotion out in the living room.  Jamie ran into the laundry room shouting, "Mom!  Mrs. Dewksbury's here!!"  (Marie Dewksbury, the mom of Jamie's school friend Christina: we're not exactly 'friends,' but we've spoken a few times.)  I walked into the living room, and there stood Mrs. Dewksbury and a neary-hysterical Kacie.  The story that emerged, through the hysterics, was this: Kacie had decided, at the last minute, that she and Kyle wouldn't go to their regular church (Angle Lake Neighborhood Church), but instead they walked around the block to the other church (which I don't even know the name of) to attend Sunday School classes there.  As if this weren't bad enough, Kacie decided to participate in a painting project at this other church, and accidentally brushed up against the table where Mrs. D was painting  ...  winding up with RED PAINT all over the front of her bridesmaid dress!!!   Mrs. Dewksbury was apologizing all over the place, offering to pay the dry cleaning bill, offering to replace the dress, etc. etc.   Kacie was sobbing so uncontrollably that I could understand a word she was saying, at first.  ("I'm SORRY!" she sobbed.  "I'm SORRY!  I'm SORRY!  I'm SORRY!")   I managed to calmly thank Mrs. Dewksbury, and didn't actually get mad until after she'd left.  But then I totally blew.  I ordered Kacie into her bedroom, screaming at her about her carelessness ("Why in the HELL were you over at that other church??  Why were you PAINTING in that DRESS??  What were you THINKING?!?!")  I stayed in a total rage for about half an hour while Kacie sat in her room, sobbing.  I couldn't control myself at all: I just felt so frustrated by her lack of good sense.  She knew she had no business going to that other church (with Kyle in tow) without asking permission first.  She knew she had no business painting in that dress.  What in the world was going on in that head of hers??  I was utterly flabbergasted by her carelessness.

And then, of course, I immediately started feeling bad about yelling at her. She was already devastated about her dress, and yet there I was, heaping extra abuse on her.  When I'd calmed down a little, I went into her room, looked at her swollen red little face, and talked to her as calmly as I could.  I explained that the main thing I was angry about wasn't the dress  ...  it was her going to the other church without checking with me.  "I need to know where you ARE!" I said, and she seemed to understand what I was saying.  I admitted that yes, I was also upset about the paint stains on the dress, and that I couldn't understand why she would think it was OK to paint while she was wearing it, but that I understood that it was an accident.  Then I had her sit at the kitchen table and write I will try to be more careful and to think about things 25 times.  ("You should have her write it 100 times," Jamie offered helpfully.)  By the time she was finished, we were both more or less back to normal.  Ray took the dress to a dry cleaner's about an hour later.   (Note written in margin of notebook: "June 3, 1992, dress still isn't back.")   Ray and I both agreed that Mrs. Dewksbury shouldn't be obligated to pick up the tab for the cleaning; instead, Ray asked Kacie to smash a huge box of empty aluminum cans, enough to pay for the $8 cleaning bill, which she did the next day.  I just wish that I hadn't yelled in the first place, I guess  ...  that I'd taken the calm approach all along.  I can yell at Jamie or Kyle and know that ten minutes later they will have recovered.  But the rules are different where Kacie is concerned.  The harsh word stays with her much longer.  But then again, I also wish that she hadn't been so careless in the first place.  How do we change the basic structure of our natures??  We don't, I guess.  Kacie will continue to leap before she looks, and I'll continue to yell before I think, and that's just the way it's going to be.  I just hope that she knows that underneath it all, my love for her is strong and unwavering.  I long ago abandoned the notion of being a perfect mother, but nothing will ever change the pure and unconditional love I feel for my Kacie.

Diary Entry:

Good mood  ...  a combination of "Friday" and "payday," two favorite things!  Spent some time writing in my journal, started a rough draft of my "Memories of Grandmother" piece for Aunt Mabel.  Framed some new pieces of kids' artwork, hung them around the kitchen sink.  Babysat Emily after school, along with all the usual kids.

John, Lori and Tracy over tonight for a few hours  --  Janet also came by, joined the "party"  --  Karen  dropped by to pay me.  Tracy spent the night.

March 7, 1992

Diary Entry:

Interesting phone call from Aunt Leona (she was married to Grandma Vert's younger half-brother)  --  she wants to buy Grandma's Alexandrite ring from me.  I don't have any idea what it's worth, but I'll have it appraised next week.  Who knows  ...  might provide us a nice unexpected windfall.

John and Lori came by to pick up Tracy this afternoon; Ray took Jamie and Kyle to the bowling alley.  Wendy's for dinner.

March 8, 1992

Diary Entry:

Took Jamie to Safeway for her on-site cookie sale, noon to 2 p.m. (Kacie came w/us)  --  sold quite a few boxes.

March 9, 1992

Diary Entry:

Mom's friend Bruce  --  a professional gemologist  --  came over and appraised the ring for me.  Although it's synthetic Alexandrite, he still values the ring at $695.  Mom advises that I not take "any less than $500" from Aunt Leona.  Now I just wait and see what happens.

No Danielle today  --  she's sick  --  Jeosh was sent here from school for misbehaving.

Sent Ray out for groceries tonight.  Bed early.

March 10, 1992

Diary Entry:

Thought I might hear from Aunt Leona or her daughter Irene today (about the ring) but so far, nothing.  I'm feeling "torn" about this whole situation: part of me just wants to let her have the ring for some token amount, to be nice  ...  the other part of me keeps thinking about what I could do with $500 (a fortune to us in 1992)  ...  what should I do?

Beautiful, spring-like weather, but still bitterly cold at night.  Daffodils blooming in the backyard.

March 11, 1992

Diary Entry:

Basic day, not much to tell.  Housework, kids, laundry, diet.  (Scale says 150!)

March 12, 1992

Diary Entry:

Oh my god.  Hit this morning by the STEAMROLLER FLU  ...  violent nausea and diarrhea that wrenched me out of bed at 6 a.m. and continued all day, along with a 102° fever, chills and muscle aches.  Velma brought me some medicine and ginger ale, but it was all I could do to babysit and get through the day alive.  Went to bed at 3:30 p.m. (when Danielle and Cody went home) and stayed there for the rest of the day and evening.

Had to miss Kyle's very first school program tonight, which broke my heart.  GOD DAMN FLU.

P.S.  Naturally, Irene called this evening and wanted to bring Aunt Leona over!  I had to tell her I was "too sick"  ...  she'll call back in a day or two.


March 13, 1992

Diary Entry:

A little better (nausea/diarrhea have let up) but still weak and shaky.  Kids had the day off from school, which was fortunate because by this afternoon Kyle and Kacie were running tidy little fevers.  Kept them both confined to the house all day.  No Danielle and Cody  --  they're off to Disneyland for five days.  Quiet day, basically.

Ray home around 6:30, sent him out for pizza.

March 14, 1992

Diary Entry:

Much better, although Kacie and Kyle are both still sick  --  especially Kacie  --  her fever was very high and she slept most of the day.

Jamie and I took a walk this afternoon, visited two neighborhood garage sales.  Bought clothes for the kids, two big poster frames for me.  Mom and Velma both stopped by to pick up Girl Scout cookies.  

Spoke to Irene  ...  she says Aunt Leona was "planning" to give me $500 for the ring all along!  Excited!!!!

March 15, 1992

Diary Entry:

Now it's Jamie's turn to be sick, and she's got it the worst of all three kids  ...  vomiting and diarrhea, high fever.  She stayed in bed all day.

I cooked corn beef and cabbage for an early St. Patrick's Day celebration.

March 16, 1992

Diary Entry:

Cold, rainy.  Kept Jamie home from school, but by afternoon she felt well enough to attend her first softball practice.  Ray stayed home too (I have no idea why: sigh)  --  he went over to Ray Chamberlin's and cut firewood most of the afternoon, so at least he was out of my hair.

Homemade "Egg McMuffins" for dinner.

March 17, 1992

Diary Entry:

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Fairly nice day  ...  got a lot of work done.  Jamie went back to school.  Baked a cake from scratch, tinted it green, for the kids' after-school snack.  Read a wonderful book, "Yesterday's Doll."  Tried a new steak and onions recipe for dinner  --  it was great  --  champagne and "green beer" to celebrate St. Paddy's  ...

This stuff is from the St. Patricks' Day page in the diary:

Today's will-be-green-soon weather:  Cold, cloudy and rainy  ...

'All that glisters' 'all that shines out
With hope and cheer, even with a golden glow
Is yet not gold.  Rather, our pot o' gold
At the end of the rainbow is filled with
These things listed here below.

  • The kids and I recovering from our awful bout w/flu
  • Looking forward to getting the $500 from Aunt Leona
  • Corned beef and cabbage on Sunday night  ...  delicious!
  • My three little leprechauns: Jamie, Kacie and Kyle.

Seventeen Kinds of Green:

  • Our yard, lush from the rain.
  • The last box of mint Girl Scout cookies, sitting on the kitchen table.
  • Kacie's green sweater and pants.
  • My houseplants.
  • Jamie's green T-shirt.
  • The money I'm expecting from Aunt Leona!
  • Broccoli for dinner tonight.
  • A green paper butterfly, pinned to my bulletin board.
  • My polo shirt today.
  • Green candles on the kitchen table.
  • Frosting on the after-school cake.
  • The new pen Ray brought me from work.
  • Bells hanging from a green ribbon on the back door.
  • Green potholder in the kitchen.
  • Kacie's eyes in the summer.
  • Dried herbs hanging in the kitchen window.
  • The color of spring  ...  a time of new beginnings  ...

March 18, 1992

Diary Entry:

Danielle and Cody back today after their Disneyland trip.  Felt tired and sluggish today after last night's "celebrating," didn't get much done.  My dad stopped by to get his cookies, paid $5.00.  Long "phone chat" with Velma.

Big news: Irene and her brother Kurt came by tonight to pick up the ring  ...  Irene paid me $500 in CASH!!!  I'm so excited, but I've hidden it away, won't tell Ray till this weekend.

March 19, 1992

Diary Entry:

So much for "not telling Ray till the weekend"  ...  I ended up calling him at SP and suggesting a "shopping spree" after work.  

When my babysitting people left for the day, Jamie babysat Kacie and Kyle (pd. her $5) while Ray and I went out and spent the money!  We bought a VCR for the family, a dual-cassette tape deck for me, a new living room lamp, stuff for the dining room, Kacie's birthday gifts.  FUN!!

March 20, 1992

Diary Entry:

Hooked up the VCR first thing this morning: it works like a dream.  Recorded "All My Children"  --  good episode, someone murdered Will!  --  feels great to have a VCR again!

Kacie went swimming with Bernadette and her family this evening, Jamie went to Emily's birthday/slumber party.  I worked on "birthday letters" (made out of colored cardboard) to hang in the kitchen tomorrow.  Wendy's for dinner.

March 21, 1992

Diary Entry:

Kacie's big day  ...  nine years old! 

Peg and Don here at 11:30, picked up all three kids for lunch at McDonald's  -- while they were gone I baked Kacie's cake, cleaned and decorated the house.  Barbara and Rick (the newlyweds) stopped by; also my mom, Velma, John and Lori.

Kacie had four friends spend the night  --  Tracy, Angela, Brianna P. and Bernadette.  Lots of noise, fun. 

Kyle spent the night at Joey's.  



March 22, 1992

Diary Entry:

Up early  ...  Kacie and her friends woke everybody up.  Most of her guests were gone by noon or so; Tracy stayed till mid-afternoon.

I spent the day watching movies (borrowed from Velma)  --  "Pacific Heights," "Ghost," "Dances With Wolves."

Ray BBQ'd hamburgers for dinner, we all watched "Terminator 2."

March 23, 1992

Diary Entry:

Very warm and sunny: spring has sprung.

Velma called  ...  letter from Kathy Bergeron in California  ...  no Cody & Danielle.  Cleaned house, made chicken-fried steak for dinner, did a ton of laundry.  

Broke: worried about the phone bill.  

A little premenstrual "blah," nothing serious.  Jamie to softball practice, 5:30 to 6:30: I owe her coach $25.

Tuesday morning 9:30 a.m.
March 24, 1992

Two and a half weeks later. Coffee in my "office," still haven't showered, slow easy morning (no Cody & Danielle today). Cloudy and cool, although we're expected to reach the mid-60's later this afternoon. I can hear a lawnmower running somewhere nearby, even though it's only 9:30 in the morning. Spring has sprung.

Kyle is sitting in the living room, munching on English muffins and watching "Beetlejuice" on the new VCR we bought last week.  I came into an unexpected windfall this month, when Aunt Leona paid me $500 cash for the Alexandrite ring Grandma left me in her will.  We used the money to buy a VCR for the family, and a few other things for the house  --  a pretty new table lamp for the living room, chair pads and a tablecloth for the dining room table, other odds & ends  --  plus I finally got myself a new dual-cassette tape deck ($100 at Silo).  It felt so wonderful to just walk into the store and buy what we wanted.  Of course we're broke again now, and the phone company is making noise about our long-overdue bill, and Ray is tense and grumpy about everything  ...  but it was worth it.  I can't help but feel that Grandma would've wanted us to use the money the way we did, for things we wanted rather than things we "needed."  At least, I hope that's what she would have wanted.

Kacie's 9th birthday this past weekend was nice.  I told her, "No party this year"  --  we couldn't afford it  --  but she wound up having four friends spend the night (Saturday) so it was like a party anyway.  Lots of noise, presents, junk food and attention!

Diary Entry:

Period started this afternoon.  Mild cramps this time.  Still no Danielle & Cody  --  they'll be back tomorrow.  Got a lot of work done by this afternoon, then spent the rest of the day playing with my new tape player, worked on the new "Momstuff" tapes. 

Cold wine in the p.m., long silly phone call to Lori.  Up too late.

March 25, 1992

Diary Entry:

Velma came by this morning (with Jonathan) to visit for an hr. or so  ...  brought over Angela's baby pictures, we sat and looked at them.

Danielle & Cody back today.  Early Dismissal for the school kids, everyone here by 1:00.  The house looks like one big unmade bed but no one has the "oomph" to do anything about it, least of all me.

Omelettes for dinner  --  kids to dance and church  --  asleep by 9:30.

March 26, 1992

Diary Entry:

Velma over again this morning, to show me some new patterns she bought and to drop off some painkillers (for my toothache, which is pretty much constant these days).   Full babysitting  ...  Cody is WALKING now, by the way!  ...  I have my hands full.  Made a batch of chili for the freezer, hamburger soup for tonight's supper.  Andrea paid me  --  probably the only $ we'll see till next week.  So rich last week, so broke this week  ...

March 27, 1992

"My feet stink like a skunk."  Kyle Polen

Bright, sunny day.  I'm in my usual Friday good mood.  Today is "Pajama Day" at Bow Lake School; Kacie wore a bathrobe over her shorts and T-shirt, and after some major cajoling on my part, Jamie grudgingly pulled a sleep-tee over her clothes and stuck a couple of pink rollers in her hair.  (I told her, "You can't be afraid to look silly once in a while.")  Looking forward to the weekend, even though we continue to be very low on money  ...  I think we can manage to have fun anyway.  Tomorrow night Ray and John are going to a basketball game, leaving Lori and I to fend for ourselves  ...  a rare occurrence.

Diary Entry:

"Pajama Day" at Bow Lake  ...  the girls wore their p.j.s (and Jamie wore pink rollers in her hair) over their regular clothes.  Kyle didn't want to participate.  Hot, sunny day.  Andrea brought me over an extra $25 tonight (Ray doesn't know) to cover Jamie's softball dues. 

Lady across the street is making noise about our cats again  ...  took pictures of Spud & Domi in her yard.

Tia spent the night; Kyle spent the night at Joey's.

March 28, 1992

Tonight with Lori was lots of fun.  John dropped her off in the middle of the afternoon and she stayed until 10:30 or so.  John hates it when Lori does anything without him, especially (for some reason) when it's with me, so like I said this was a rare occurrence  ...  we felt like two giggly school girls getting away with skipping class.  I cooked us a nice dinner, oven-BBQ'd chicken and au gratin potatoes   ...  we split an enormous jug of cheap cold rose  ...  we watched rented movies ("The Accidental Tourist")  ...  we made a silly tape of old 70's music   ...  we talked about our sex lives  ...  we laughed a lot.  It was great.

Boys home by 11.

March 29, 1992

Diary Entry:

Watched "Silence of the Lambs" this morning with Jamie.  I'd seen it once before (Feb. 22) at Lori's, but the truth is we were drinking and gabbing so much that night that I didn't actually "see" the movie at all  ...  for all intents and purposes, this was my first viewing  ...  and all I can say is WOW  ...

Cooked a pot roast for dinner (but no "nice chianti"  ...)

March 30, 1992

Diary Entry:

No Cody, Danielle or Jess today  ...  nice start to my week.  Laundry, cleaned the kitchen.  Getting the "itch" to do a thorough spring cleaning SOON.  Jamie to softball practice, 5-6 p.m.

BIG NIGHT  ...  the Academy Awards!  Billy Crystal hilarious, as usual.  Best moment: Anthony Hopkins' win as Best Actor for "Silence of the Lambs," which also won for Best Actress (Jodie Foster), Director, Screenplay and Film.

March 31, 1992

Diary Entry:

Another relatively easy day, babysitting-wise  ...  Danielle and Cody are at home with David (Danielle has an ear infection), so just Mak all day, Josh for two hrs. after school.  Got a ton of housework done; dragged the summer clothes down from the attic.  Minor disagreement with Janet,  but we settled it.  ("We mend easy," she says.)

Enormous ugly fight with Ray tonight, over money, as usual.  Tired of being put through an emotional wringer every time I need to "ask" for a fucking check  ...  the ultimate humiliation.

April 1, 1992

Diary Entry:

Kids had their class pictures taken today (that's what I needed the checks for).  Danielle & Cody are back, kept me busy all day: Cody is walking constantly now.  Hot & sunny again  ...  put on some shorts for the first time this season.  I look better than I did two months ago, starting to get some unsolicited compliments, but still a long way to go.

Kids to dance class and church.

April 2, 1992

Diary Entry:

Very hot today  --  76°  --  but suddenly in late afternoon it turned cold and WINDY.  Weird!

Feeling some vague stirrings of discontent with my life  ...  a yearning to get back out into the world.  Feeling confined, overlooked and unappreciated.  Kids aren't helping out much around the house: how do we remedy this?

Jamie to Girl Scouts tonight  ...  Ray was very late getting home, but I'd forgotten he had a "dinner meeting" at work.  Watched TV with Kacie, enjoyed the windstorm.

April 3, 1992

Diary Entry:

Basic day  ...  housework, babysitting, laundry.  Made a fuss over Danielle; this is her third birthday, sent some small gifts home with her.  Emily here for awhile after school.

Mellow evening.  Frozen pizza, went to bed early and read while Ray & Kyle watched a terrible Stephen King movie, "Graveyard Shift."  Jamie spent the night at Kaleana's  --  she's all excited because Paula Abdul is coming to Seattle on May 1st  --  will try to get her a ticket tomorrow.

April 4, 1992

Diary Entry:

Fun day.  Kaleana's mom called early a.m., offered to pick up tickets to the Paula Abdul concert, I'll pay her back  --  so Jamie's going!  Whew.

Ray took me to Burien, bought typewriter ribbons and paper at my office supply store.  Spent most of the afternoon/evening working on my latest typing project.

April 5, 1992

Diary Entry:

Mom called me very early this morning (first day of Daylight Savings Time, incidentally)  --  she fell off a stool yesterday, while trying to install mini-blinds, and broke her foot!  She's totally incapacitated, needed Ray and I (and Kacie and Kyle) to come over and help her with some things around the house.

April 6, 1992

Diary Entry:

The first day of Spring Vacation  ...  a "vacation" for everyone but ME, of course.  All my kids are home this week, plus the babysitting kids too  ...  I'll be a gibbering idiot by Friday.

Mom called; she got her cast put on today.  Ray went over to her house after work, did some yardwork for her. 

Did a little more on my typing project tonight.

April 7, 1992

Diary Entry:

VERY stressful day.  Someone opened up a ballpoint pen in Kyle's room this morning and smeared ink on EVERYTHING (walls, furniture, bedding, the Nintendo).  No one would "confess" so I yelled at everybody! 

Kacie began her greeting card sales, Jamie played with Emily for awhile this afternoon, Kyle hung out with Josh and Mak all day.

Read a great book  --  "Red Dragon," Thomas Harris.

April 8, 1992

Diary Entry:

Another stressful day  --  all seven kids here, plus Erin showed up unexpectedly this afternoon with her three boys  --  it was a zoo. 

Talked to Terry Vert; she says that Gram's house is now officially 1/2 mine.  

Barbara called to let us know that Peg has been hospitalized near Port Angeles with kidney stones; Ray and I called her tonight long-distance.  She sounds tired and sick. 

Worried about everything.

April 9, 1992

Diary Entry:

Sleepy, quiet day.  The kids built forts out in the backyard or played Nintendo most of the day; I napped with Cody, off and on.  

Barbara called to let us know Peg's been transported to Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland  --  then tonight she called again to say that it looks like cancer.  Ray is devastated, so are the girls.  We won't know much more until after her surgery on Saturday.

Pizza Hut for dinner.

April 10, 1992

Diary Entry:

Barbara called several times to update us: Peg's surgery is scheduled for noon tomorrow, at which point we'll know whether the cancer has spread or not.  Ray is trying to remain optimistic, and so am I. 

Full babysitting, four loads of laundry  ...  helped keep my mind off things.

Patty flew up from Tucson this afternoon  --  she and Barbara stopped by and picked up Ray, took him out to Kirkland to visit their mom.  He was home by 9:30.  Quiet evening with my kids, watched "Silver Bullet."

April 11, 1992
Saturday morning

Haven't been writing much lately, have I?  And on days like this (it's another two weeks later) when there is a lot to tell, I regret the lapse, because it means back-tracking  ...  sigh  ...

I have just come through one of those lovely "Weeks In Hell" (as I fondly refer to them) that always seem to occur around this time of year  ...  otherwise known as "Spring Break."  A nice vacation for everyone but me.  The worst part, of course, was having horrible Josh here every day, all day.  I'm very worried about the influence he's having on Kyle.  (At this point I doubt that I'm going to babysit him this summer.  I haven't decided how or when to break the news to his parents.)  My own kids were fine most of the time, but Josh was a constant source of stress, Cody was an irrepressible handful, and my workload quadrupled (along with my blood pressure).  It's over now  --  or at least it will be, come Monday morning when the kids go back to school  --  but I'm still feeling the aftershocks.

Other things have happened this week that I need to mention, and I'm afraid that it's practically all bad news.  My mom fell off a stepladder last weekend and broke her foot, leaving her completely incapacitated.  Ray and the kids and I went over last Sunday to help her out, before she'd had the cast put on.  Ray did some work around her yard and hauled her garbage, and I brought her some books and tapes and a container of homemade chili.  Just when we'd finished worrying about my mom, though, disaster struck the family again  ...  Peg was diagnosed with kidney cancer.  She and Don Sr. were off on one of their spontaneous R.V. trips, this time somewhere around Port Angeles, I think, when she had to be hospitalized with (what they believed at the time to be) kidney stones.  A day or so later they transported her by ambulance to Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland, and it was soon after that that we learned the diagnosis was cancer.  I walked into the kitchen Thursday evening and found Ray crying.  He'd just gotten off the phone with his dad, and he handed me a hastily-scribbled note that said "My mom has kidney cancer."  This has hit him  --  and the girls  --  very hard.  Peg has surgery today  --  in about an hour, as a matter of fact  --  but we won't know anything conclusive until next week.  In the meantime, all our thoughts, prayers and love are with her.

Diary Entry:

Nothing much  ...  sat around and thought about Peg all day, hoped her surgery went OK.  Got some housework and laundry done in the morning, then Ray bought me a bottle of wine and I spent the rest of the evening typing, listening to music, relaxing.

April 12, 1992

Diary Entry:

Jamie went rock-climbing with her Girl Scout troop this morning, was gone most of the day.  Ray took Kacie & Kyle "out" for a couple of hours, so I had some brief blissful time to myself.  Watched "Doc Hollywood"  --  not as good as I'd hoped, but OK.

BBQ'd steak, thunderstorms.

April 13, 1992

Diary Entry:

Kids went back to school.  No Danielle and Cody, so I had a day more or less to myself (Mak played quietly in Kyle's room).  Velma stopped by to bring me a "cheer up" gift, a hair bow she made for me.

Jay played her first softball game tonight, they won 13-5; she brought in two runs, more than anyone else!

No news about Peg, although the grapevine informs us that Sheryl is mad at Ray and I for not going out there this weekend.

April 14, 1992

Diary Entry:

Jamie went on a field trip to the zoo today with her class.

April 15, 1992

Diary Entry:

Felt a lot of energy today, for a change  ...  on a whim, cleaned the girls' bedroom (they were very surprised) and the front bathroom.  Josh got here unexpectedly early, at 1:00  --  it was an early release day for him, but no one warned me.  VERY tired of babysitting for them.

WONDERFUL news this afternoon  ...  Peg's kidney tumor is non-cancerous!!  Don Sr. called me at 3:00 with the news.  Ray and I both very happy.

Dance class.  Jay stayed home from church but Kacie & Kyle went.

April 16, 1992

Diary Entry:

Horrible day.  Both Danielle and Mak had diarrhea all afternoon  ...  totally disgusting.  I'm feeling really stressed this week and I'm not sure why, unless it's just a delayed reaction to last week  ...?  Sat around and did practically nothing except read the book I borrowed from Mom, "Needful Things" by Stephen King.  

Both girls went to Girl Scouts tonight  --  sent an application and $4.00 registration fee with Kacie so she's "official" again.

April 17, 1992

Diary Entry:

A little better.  Ray had the day off from work  --  he and Kyle went to the Food Bank for me, helped fill the cupboards a bit.  It's payday for both of us but there are so many bills this time that we'll be broke by tomorrow.

Josh & Mak's dad was in a car accident this morning, so Mak left at 1:00 and Josh wasn't here at all. 

Kids colored Easter eggs tonight; I finished reading "Needful Things."

April 18, 1992

Diary Entry:

Typical Saturday.  Cleaned house, laundry in the a.m.  ...  Ray went over to my mom's and mowed her yard, the kids and I blew eggs and painted them.  Talked to my friends on the phone  --  patched things up with Janet, wound up loaning her $20 for Jessica's birthday.  

Sloppy joes, wine, movies on the VCR with the kids.

April 19, 1992
Easter Sunday

Diary Entry:

A very nice (if low-key) Easter Sunday 1992.  The kids were up at 8:30 to open their Easter baskets  --  this year the baskets contained very little candy but made up for that with cartoon videos, bunnies and coloring books.  (Thanks, Easter Bunny  ...)   I made a fabulous breakfast for the family  --  Eggs Benedict and hash browns. 

Ray went over and picked up Mom, brought her to our house (in her wheelchair) to spend the day and have Easter dinner with us.  He BBQ'd ribs, I made asparagus and baked potatoes.  (Lots of food today!)  Mom brought photo albums of the Torgrimson side of the family, had fun looking at those. 

Quiet evening, reading with the girls, no TV.  Nice.

April 20, 1992

Diary Entry:

Ray's 37th birthday.  (No babysitting  ...  delightful!!)  Baked a German chocolate cake for the birthday boy, made him a card and tucked $20.00 into it.  He came home early (1:30), seemed to be in good spirits.  At 5:00 we all piled into the car and drove to Shorewood Elementary in White Center, watched Jamie's softball game.  Although they lost, Jamie played VERY well.

Dinner afterwards at Denny's, came home and had cake.

April 21, 1992

Diary Entry:

"Blah" day, not a lot to tell.  Kacie and I seem to be clashing all the time anymore  ...  one argument after the other.  Hoping it's just the "third grade terrors" and nothing permanent.  Seems to me I went through this same crap w/Jamie last year.

Velma's 34th birthday: she stopped by to pick up a birthday card I'd made for her.

April 22, 1992

"...  Write your remembrances down because, the stars say, you'll want to remember this day."  (Portion of my horoscope for 4/22/92)

Updates, Bits & Pieces:

  • Peg sailed through her surgery with flying colors, and four days later we were unspeakably relieved to learn that the diagnos was not cancer, after all.   According to my father-in-law, it was a rare form of kidney tumor.  She was released from the hospital two days ago and is recovering at home now.  Needless to say, Ray and the girls are overjoyed.  So am I.  I have only just recently begun to realize how much Peg means to me.  It's an affection that has been hard-won but runs very deep today.

  • The deed to Grandma's house is now legally 50% in my name.  That's all I know for now.  We're waiting to see if Ted and/or his lawyer approaches me with an offer to buy out my half, and if they do, I've pretty much decided to opt for the money rather than the house itself.  (I won't do ANYTHING without consulting as many knowledgeable, unbiased relatives/friends/resources as possible: the idea of screwing up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity scares the shit out of me, and I plan to proceed with caution.)  For now, though, we sit tight, keep our mouths shut and WAIT.

Diary Entry:

Busy day, lots of energy.  Thoroughly cleaned Kyle's room  --  even scrubbed his closet and his floor, looks nice.  Just wish it would STAY that way for awhile.  Velma came by for awhile this morning  --  quick visit.  Made potato salad (with leftover Easter eggs) and oven-fried chicken for dinner.  Jamie had her softball team pictures taken at 6 p.m., had to miss dance class  --  all three kids to church at 7 p.m.  

Tired and grouchy.  (Period?)

April 23, 1992

Diary Entry:

Busy again  ...  babysitting, housework, worked on a couple of new tapes ("Sixties" and "Momstuff: Mellow As Hell").  My stepmom stopped by in the afternoon  --  I gave her the G.S. camp registration forms so Dad can send them in for me.

John, Lori & Tracy over tonight for a couple of hours  ...  Ray and John went out for a couple of belated birthday drinks, Lori and I stayed at my house, listened to music, gabbed.  Fun.

April 24, 1992

Diary Entry:

Ray had another day off again  ...  Jamie brought Kaleana home after school, she spent the night.  Nice little girl.  

Watched all four hours of "It," frozen pizza for dinner.

April 25, 1992

Diary Entry:

Sunny, beautiful day.  Karen knocked on the door at 7:30 this morning to pick up Mak's nebulizer and pay me $30.  Made Eggs Benedict again for breakfast: the girls all went rollerskating at 10:30 with Prims.

Period started  --  very heavy this time, I feel sort of wiped-out as a result.

April 26, 1992

Diary Entry:

Mellow, uneventful day.  Watched the rented movies today again, this time w/the kids  ...  "Dead Again" was great the second time around.

April 27, 1992

Diary Entry:

Mak only here for a few hours today  --  went to a party at noon.  No Danielle and Cody. 

Jamie had a softball game at 5:30, I begged off  --  stayed home and enjoyed a couple of delicious hours alone, working on cookbooks.  Took my last codeine for toothache  --  mellow.

April 28, 1992

I don't understand what's the matter with me lately.  It takes forever to get me started in the mornings, and then when I do get moving, everything seems so repetetive and pointless, it drives me crazy.  Laundry?  There'll just be another mountain of it waiting for me tomorrow.  Same thing with dishes, dusting, mopping floors, fixing meals  ...  it's all just a lot of ridiculous busy work that never gets "done."  And babysitting  --  lately, I hate it.  I mean I really HATE it.  Mak has pooped all over Kyle's bedroom floor twice this month, Josh is impossibly sullen and destructive, and even Danielle & Cody are getting on my nerves.  I don't even care about the money anymore, because I never even SEE any of it: it goes directly to Ray for bills.  So, just like everything else in my life, babysitting is a lot of drudgery with little or no reward.

Is that the trouble  ...  no "reward"?  Part of me feels like it is.  I don't even mean financial reward, or big thank-you's from Ray and the kids for laundry well-done, or even a good night's sleep after a productive day.  The sort of "reward" I crave, and miss like hell, and cannot seem to elicit no matter how hard I try, is that old sense of well-being and pleasure in what I do.  Feeling good in the mornings, when the coffee is brewing and the kids are eating breakfast and there are things to do.  Cooking a great meal from scratch.  Folding the family's laundry, warm and fresh from the dryer, and loving the smells of detergent and fabric softener.  Enjoying the way the house looks on quiet spring afternoons.  Lately, none of these things seem to give me any pleasure anymore.  I'm still going through the motions.  Still cooking, still cleaning, still keeping the place running on schedule.  But that's pretty much all it is  --  going through the motions.  Automatic.  Underneath it all I feel no pride, no pleasure.  No reward.  Nothing but flat, gray, empty-empty-empty  ...

Some days are more tolerable than others, of course.  The fog lifts once in a while, and I feel a glimmer of the old Happy Homemaker Terri return.  One morning in twenty I wake up feeling energetic and motivated.  I burst through my day like a lit firecracker, cleaning kids' bedrooms and hanging pictures on  walls and trying out new cookie recipes until I collapse into an exhausted but satisfied heap.  On days like that, it all seems to have a point to it.  I have a purpose for being.  I don't need accolades, I don't need applause.  A nice unsolicited "thank you" once in a while is great, but I don't even need that as much as I need the one reward only I can give to myself  ...  the reward of simply feeling joy in what I do.  And when that's missing, as it is most of the time these days, then anything and everything I do  --  from cleaning house, to babysitting, to even being a mom some days  --  is just so much pointless drudgery.

What scares me so much is how deep this goes.  This is not just about laundry and vacuuming.  It's not about cleaning up after other peoples' children when they vomit on my furniture.  It has invaded every other facet of my life recently, everything from talking to my friends on the phone, to writing in my journal, to simply listening to music, for Pete's sake.  Nothing gives me pleasure, or at least not the way it should.  I just feel like shutting myself off from everything and everybody, because what is the point, really?  My friends only call when their lives stink and they crave my shoulder.  The journal is a waste of time and energy because I'm just writing the same crap over and over again.  Music says nothing to me anymore: it only brings back memories of things I'll never feel again.  I want to pull the curtains closed and turn off the phone and hide until all of this blows over, except that a big part of me is terrified that it will NEVER blow over.  Am I ever going to feel connected to things again?

Sometimes I think that if it weren't for the kids, my tenuous hold on being a normal person would completely dissolve.  They are my life's anchor  ...  the only genuine source of joy and motivation in my life at the moment.  And yes, I realize that this isn't necessarily a good thing.  There is something inherently tragic in relying on someone else for your happiness and self-worth.  But what can I tell you?  Everybody needs to have someone, don't they?  For me, it's the kids.  I've been a rotten mother lately  --  distracted, snappish, self-involved, ready to blow at a moment's notice  --  and yet these three wonderful little people love me ANYWAY.  Go figure.  Do they sense the turmoil their mother has felt lately?  I don't know how they could possibly miss it, in spite of my best efforts to keep my unhappiness to myself.  They must know that something is wrong with Mom, and they must be worried about me, and yet they don't complain or pry or tiptoe around me.  What they do is simply love me  --  unconditionally  --  and continue to be themselves  ...  noisy, disruptive, silly, funny, energetic, demanding and wonderful.  The distraction value alone is therapeutic.  How can I sit around feeling depressed when Kacie and Kyle are in a death grip, fighting over the last Cherry 7-Up popsicle?  Who has time to nurse agoraphobia when Jamie's softball game starts in half an hour (and she's batting the first inning)?  At least with the kids I feel committed  --  and connected  --  to something that matters.  Without that kind of tether, I really would be floating aimlessly through life right now  ...

I just wish  ...  oh, I don't know.  I just wish that I could get some of the joy back in my life.  For myself, and for the kids.  They deserve better than what I've been able to give them lately: a mother who hides behind closed curtains because life has disappointed her.  *I* deserve better, for that matter.

Diary Entry:

Spent a long time writing in my journal today  --  trying to uncover the reason for my recent (long-term) depression  --  think I just need a vacation from housework and kids  ...

Cooked chicken parmagiana early in the day (for dinner for Ray & I)  --  the kids had spaghetti (Kyle calls it "bissgetti").  Sent invitations to school for Kyle's next week.

April 29, 1992

Raining.  Flowers are in bloom, and the yard is so lush and green and vivid this morning, I can hardly bear to look at it.  It's almost too beautiful: I know that if I scrutinize it too closely, I may see the bikes left laying in the middle of the lawn, or Kacie's soaking-wet tennis shoes in the driveway, or the bugs crawling on the gorgeous purple flowers over by the fence.  Better to just close the curtains and not look at it at all, I guess, than let ugly reality intrude on my vision.

The girls were cute walking to school this morning.  All of a sudden they've decided to start wearing their hair in braids  ...  not Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz" braids, but one big braid going down the back.  (They'd rather die than wear the other kind.)  Anyway, Kacie said to me after breakfast, "Mom, will you French-braid my hair?"  French-braiding  --  like wrapping presents  --  is one of those skills that I would like to be really good at  --  one of those skills I feel I SHOULD be really good at  --  but I'm not.  I don't know if it's because my fingers are too short and stubby, or if it's one of those left brain/right brain kinds of things that make it impossible for me to master, but whatever it is, I stink on ice.  OK?  Besides that, Kacie managed to get toothpaste in her hair this morning, so it was all sticky and matted.  I tried to French-braid it, but it wouldn't cooperate, so finally we just wound up putting one regular (American?) braid down her back.  Then Jamie wanted the same thing.  Lately, Jamie has discovered hot showers  --  she wants to take one every day, practically  --  if she gets up early enough in the morning, and if I don't have the baby here (so I can shower later in the day), she grabs one before breakfast.  This was an up-early/no-Cody morning, so when she sat down in front of me and handed me the brush, her hair was soaking wet and smelled like Flex shampoo.  The difference in texture between her hair and Kacie's, incidentally, is remarkable.  With Jamie's hair, it felt like I was working with yards and yards of very heavy, luxurious rope: with Kacie it's more like delicate, light-as-a-feather spun silk.   I managed to pull all of Jamie's wet, heavy hair into one long braid hanging down the back  --  like Kacie's  --  and it was cute watching the two of them walking down the street, side by side, identical braids falling down the backs of their jackets  ...

...  there's no real point to this anecdote, I guess, except that I feel kind of guilty and embarrassed about yesterday's self-indulgent, crybaby journal entry, and I feel I owe it to you to be determinedly more anecdotal today, to make up for it.  As is usually the case the day after I write something as grim and self-pitying as I wrote yesterday, re-reading it is painful.  I have to physically restrain myself from ripping those pages out, because I don't want anybody reading them and realizing what a self-engrossed dope I can be.  Yes, I'm depressed.  Yes, I'm having some trouble feeling good about my life right now.  But "flat gray empty-empty-empty"  ...  ??  Gag me.

I think the only thing that's REALLY wrong with me at the moment is a very normal, very predictable case of job burn-out.  Who wouldn't get tired of washing dishes and changing diapers after ten years?  I've reached a point where I want more for myself  --  and for my life  --  and what is so mysterious about that?  I can either sit in this house day after day, snapping at the kids and writing a lot of pointless drivel in my journal, feeling sorry for poor little me  ...  or else I can wake up and do something about it.  It seems as though I go through this same thing every couple of years or so: I'm going along just fine, enjoying a temporarily quiet point in my life, and suddenly I wake up one morning and crave change.  Every three years or so, I need a major shake-up.  The last time, I supposed, was when I made the big push to move into this house  ...  all the anxiety over moving and money, the big changes it brought to our lives, etc. etc. etc.  I felt very "alive" then  --  scared and overwhelmed and anxious, but ALIVE  --  and when it was all over and we'd successfully managed to get the house and get settled in, I felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment and peace.  But now it's two and a half years later, and Terri craves another "change fix."  The thing is, of course, I won't go out and pursue any kind of change.  I'll sit here in this house, with the curtains drawn and the phone turned off, and I'll wait for the change to come to ME.  That's the way it's always been  ...  that's the way it will probably always be.

Diary Entry:

Terrible rioting and race-related violence in L.A. today, a result of the Rodney King verdict (four police officers were acquitted)  --  lots of coverage on TV.   

Wrote some more in my journal: things seem a little less bleak than they did yesterday.  

Worked on tapes, mostly the "Momstuff" things.  Girls to dance class, all three kids to church.  Cold wine, phone conversations w/friends, music, late.

April 30, 1992

Diary Entry:

Slow, sleepy day.  Danielle & Cody here until very late (6:30).  Napped, watched TV.  Jamie brought Jessica Bontempo home after school  --  they cleaned up the kitchen for me  --  watched an old tape of "The Princess Bride."  

Girls to G.S. tonight  --  Kyle and I watched the final "Cosby Show."  Frozen pizza.

May 1, 1992

This is a big day for Jamie  ...  tonight she and Kaleana (and an adult friend of Kaleana's family) are going to the Paula Abdul concert at the Tacoma Dome!  Jamie was so excited this morning, she could barely sit still long enough to eat her breakfast.  This concert is the culmination of three years' unwavering devotion  ...  a dream come true for Jay.  It's costing me nearly fifty bucks to send her to the show ($28.50 for the ticket, another $20 for spending money), but I didn't hesitate for a moment.  How many times do you get the chance to see your idol in person?  Especially when you're ten years old?

May 2, 1992

Diary Entry:

Jamie called very early this morning (8 a.m.), said the concert was "wonderful."  She spent the day at Kaleana's, didn't get home until late in the afternoon.  Ray went over and worked at my mom's; Kyle and Kacie played outside (hot and sunny) most of the day.  I mopped floors, cleaned up the laundry room.

Movies tonight  --  "The Super" (kind of dumb).  Dinner was BBQ'd ham sandwiches.  Ray bought Kyle's birthday bike.

May 3, 1992

Diary Entry:

Jamie and I got up fairly early, watched "Young Guns" so she could get a good luck at Emilio Estevez (who married Paula Abdul on Thursday)  --  then she was off to softball practice.

Terrible stomach ache and headache all afternoon; Ray just let me snooze.  Felt better early in the evening.  Ray BBQ'd some good little steaks, I fixed baked potatoes, Indian Salad and corn on the cob to go with.

May 4, 1992

Diary Entry:

Very big day: Kyle's sixth birthday! 

Blisteringly hot day: got up before 7 a.m. to bake Kyle's cake, clean the kitchen and the house before it heated up.  After school, five of Kyle's friends from school came over for cake and play -- Aaron Egbert, Aaron Phillips, Chaz Tremblay, Christopher Kairuz and Joey Bontempo.  Lots of noise, presents, mess. Gave Kyle his new bike -- it's a twenty-incher, VERY big for him but should be OK. 

John and Lori stopped by with a gift, so did my mom.  Jay softball game.

blurb (no bday pics, not the same boys probably)

May 5, 1992

Diary Entry:

Recovering from yesterday's "celebration"  ...  very hot again today, not much energy  ...  house is a disaster area, but I'm too wiped out to care.  The only constructive thing I managed to do was prepare an enormous taco and Spanish rice dinner for everyone, in honor of Cinco de Mayo.

Tried to stay up and watch "Coming To America," but couldn't make it all the way through.

May 6, 1992

Diary Entry:

House in total chaos: Monday's birthday party mess, last night's taco mess.  Wanted to jump in and get an early start on everything, but unexpected company (Velma & Jonathan, then Valerie) prevented me from getting much done until Kyle left for school after noon. 

Hot AGAIN. Cleaned house, two loads of laundry, made orange chicken for dinner in the electric skillet so I wouldn't heat up the house.

Dance class, church.

Stayed up and read "The Library Policeman" (second time)from Stephen King's "Four Past Midnight."

May 7, 1992

Diary Entry:

Danielle & Cody here for the first time all week.  A little cooler than it's been in several days.  Dad & Valerie came by at 1:00, dropped off belated presents for Kacie (short overalls) and Kyle (bike helmet, bike horn).  Shocked by how much weight Dad has lost, how thin and old he looks.

Discovered a wonderful new/old Clapton album ("Behind The Sun") I've owned for five years but never played all the way through before  --  it's filled with great songs  --  I love when that happens!

Andrea paid $130.

Girls to G.S., Ray worked next door at Betty & Don's.

Friday again
May 8, 1992

The Paula Abdul concert went very well last week  ...  even the newspaper review was good.  I was kind of worried about sending Jamie to Tacoma with people I don't know very well, primarily because last week was the week the country went crazy over the Rodney King verdict  --  unprecedented racial tension and violence in all of the big cities  --  but nothing appears to have spoiled Jamie's special evening.  She came home the next day wearing her concert T-shirt, full of stories about the show.  Paula had gotten married the day before the concert (to actor Emilio Estevez), and I teased Jamie, saying things like "Is it Paula ESTEVEZ now?" and "I'll bet she had a smile on HER face!"  But Jamie took it all good-naturedly.

Diary Entry:

Fairly good day.  Velma came by in the a.m., picked up some boxes for moving.  Ray brought me a package of blank tapes so I could tape my Reilly & Maloney Greatest Hits as a makeshift Mother's Day gift for Mom.  (I've also made her a card with a bunch of different memory anecdotes about our relationship in it.) 

Kaleana spent the night with Jamie. 

Disturbing visit this evening from Karen  --  minor quibble over $  --  she's looking for a new daycare for Josh.

Wine, "Batman" with Ray. 

May 9, 1992

Diary Entry:

Watched "Thelma & Louise" this morning  ...  terrific movie, sad ending.  

Kaleana and Jamie had some sort of disagreement after lunch, Kaleana left in a huff.  

Had a "mini nervous breakdown" this afternoon when I walked into the girls' room and discovered a three-foot pile of dirty clothes and towels  ...  very upset for about an hour.  Ray doesn't understand.

May 10, 1992

Diary Entry:

Happy Mother's Day  ...  my eleventh!  Kids gave me beautiful hand-drawn cards, lots of hugs and kisses.  I'm a lucky lady.

Mom came over at 12:30, then she and the kids and Ray and I drove out to Bellevue to have dinner with the in-laws at Sue's house.  Ham, au gratin potatoes. 

Home by 6 p.m.  --  Ray went to the store and bought a couple of bottles of champagne for Mothers Day.  Stayed up and watched a Saturday Night Live Mother's Day special.

May 11, 1992

Diary Entry:

Reading Gail Sheehy's "Passages."  It seems to be helping me a great deal.  My restlessness and depression don't seem to be as groundless  ...  it's actually very normal for my age and situation.

Felt physically awful from last night's champagne.  Tried going to Jamie's softball game at 5:30, but my head and my stomach were pounding and I had to come home.

Mac & cheese w/ham for an easy supper.

May 12, 1992

Something is definitely happening to me, but now at least I seem to understand what it is.  Since my "flat gray empty-empty-empty" journal entry of two weeks ago  --  and my day-after denial and rationalization, which I'm now even more embarrassed about than I was the original sentiment  --  things have escalated internally.  

On Saturday afternoon (May 9th) I walked into the girls' bedroom, took one look at the enormous pile of dirty clothes and damp towels laying on their floor, and promptly burst into tears.  Jamie was the only one home at the time, and she watched in horror as I screamed, cried, threw towels around, and finally stood at the kitchen sink, sobbing uncontrollably.  I felt like all internal controls had snapped off at once.  On the face of it, I tried rationalizing: I had a hangover, I was tired, I was at the mid-point of my menstrual cycle (lately, a tricky time for me), I don't get enough help around the house.  Etc.  But all of that is just surface stuff.  The real "stuff" is deeply internal, and  --  I've just learned, within the past day or two  --  so completely normal, predictable and negotiable, if I handle it right, that there may be some light at the end of the tunnel after all  ...  if I don't fuck it up  ... 

This is not to say that my crisis is any less painful, uncomfortable and debilitating.  Right now it is at the center of everything. But the point is that two weeks ago I thought I was losing my mind, and today I know that I'm merely going through a passage  ...

Yes, I'm reading Gail Sheehy.  Finally.  It's kind of funny how it happened: Sunday night I was standing on a stool, rummaging through the stacks of old paperbacks in the bedroom closet, looking for Ann Rule's "The Stranger Beside Me."  (A little light reading for Mother's Day, ha.)  But for some reason I wound up dragging out my beat-up, coverless old copy of "Passages" instead, which I'd basically never gotten around to reading.  Until now.  For the past two days it has consumed me, or I've consumed it, or something. It isn't the answer to everything, of course  ...  it's only a first step.  Mostly all it's doing for me so far is convincing me that I'm not going insane, and shedding some light on why I feel the way I do.  Here are some things that speak to me right now (paraphrased, somewhat):

"When asked 'Why are you feeling low?,' most will displace the inner message onto a 'marker event'  ...  probably less than 10% would say, 'There is some unknown disturbance within me, and even though it's painful, I feel I have to stay with it and ride it out.' "

I see myself doing both of these things.  Gail Sheehy talks about "marker events" as being the concrete happenings of our lives (marriage, childbirth, deaths of loved ones, graduations, etc.)  The don't necessarily indicate the beginning or ending of a "passage," but sometimes they may precipitate one, at least in our own minds, or force us to confront feelings that had been there for a while anyway.  Grandma's death last year was a marker event for me, and it would be easy  --  or it would have been easy, two weeks ago  --  for me to displace my recent unhappiness and desire for change onto that particular marker event.  In fact, I came close, a few days ago, to sitting here and writing in this jounral about her death being "at the root" of my depression, because I honestly thought it was.  And maybe it does have something to do with it.  But I also know now that I am at precisely the age (34) and the point in my life where the next passage is practically inevitable. In other words: THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE HAPPENING.  It was happening before I started to read the book.  I'm not losing my mind!!  (Maybe it sounds like it right now, but actually I'm just excited about my "epiphany," and feeling for the first time in a very long time that I may be on the right track.)  The point is that I'm among those 10% who are willing to say there is an "unknown disturbance" at work within me right now, and I AM going to ride it out.  I hope.

"I have reached some sort of meridian in my life. I had better take a survey, re-examine where I have been, and re-evaluate how I am going to spend my resources from now on.  Why am I doing all this?  What do I really believe in?  I have only so much time to find my own truth."

I chose The Caregiver role for my life  --  for my identity  --  although now I feel like I have to go back and discern the hows and whys of my choice.  This is a lot of murky water that I don't feel like navigating right at this moment, and I'm still working my way slowly and carefully through that chapter in the book  ... but what speaks to me right now  --  what scares HELL out of me, actually  --  is realizing that I may have goofed big time when I assumed that Mommyhood was forever.  The idea of "disassembling my identity and building a new one" is profoundly scary.  But what's even scarier is Gail Sheehy's dire warning for those who don't:

"If one has refused to budge through the midlife transition, the sense of staleness will calcify into resignation.  One by one, the safety and supports will be withdrawn from the person who is standing still."

This is what scares me the most, I think  ...  what has ALWAYS scared me the most  ...  feeling "resigned."  It scares me even more than the idea of tearing myself apart and putting myself back together.  It scares me more than the kids growing up and not needing me anymore.  It scares me more than knowing that I am not destined for greatness or for true love.  Waking up ten years from now and finding myself in the exact same fucking situation  --  cut off from the world, married to someone I don't love, unsure of myself, feeling no joy in what I do  --  and, on top of it all, resigned to it  --  that's what scares me the most.

Obviously there's a lot of work to be done here: a lot of thinking, a lot of anger to be resolved, a lot of reading and learning and praying and crying and goofy journal entries.  I'm not going to get it all done in one day, any more than I'm ever going to "finish" the laundry.  And in the meantime there's still all of the day-to-day shit to deal with  ...  Jamie just got sent home from school sick, Kyle is bouncing a rubber ball in the dining room and it just missed the ceiling fan by an inch, the house is a mess, babysitting is a constant pain in the butt, my marriage is a joke.  It's tough to try and sort out all the internal stuff and balance the externals, too.  There's still a part of me that thinks I'm being self-indulgent.  ("What are you doing sitting around writing in your journal when there's LAUNDRY to be done?")  And God knows there have been plenty of other times in my life when I've felt just inchews away from a major breakthrough of some sort or another, only to have it peter out a day or two later.  It's so easy to sit here and yammer on and on about "disassembling myself" and "re-examining" and "re-evaluating"  ...  to talk about going back to school, taking better care of myself, moving back out into the world  ...  it's quite another thing to take any of this stuff off the written page and apply it, especially when I start getting bogged down with the day-to-day.  I am going to have to put up the fight of my life to keep this from happening.  Please, God: give me the backbone.  I'd say, "Send me a mentor," but the truth is that the fight is mine alone. 

Whaddya say, Terri?  You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk  ...  ?

 Diary Entry:

Jamie came home from school this morning, complaining of a "stomach ache"  ...  I think she's just exhausted from a couple of busy days.  She spent most of the day snoozing on the sofa while I cleaned house around her.  Made spaghetti & meatballs, laundry, basic housecleaning.  Velma wanted me to go look at the new house she and her husband are moving into, but I was pooped and begged off, using Jamie's "illness" as an excuse.

May 13, 1992

Diary Entry:

Today was Josh's last official day here with us: Karen has made new daycare arrangements for him, so we're finally free of his sullen and disruptive presence after a year of hell.  Worried a little about how this may affect us financially, but otherwise relieved.  (Will continue to watch Mak for another week or so, I think  ...  ?) 

Dance class, church. 

Ray bought me some wine (to "celebrate") and I had fun, working on the new "Favorites" tapes.  Mom called tonight, wants us to go see "Far & Away," the new Tom Cruise movie.

May 14, 1992

Diary Entry:

Nothing day  ...  napped, watched TV, played with Cody.  He is such a sweet baby: we all love him a lot, especially Ray.  Cody gets so excited in the afternoons when Ray gets home from work. 

Babysitting over by 5:30.  Cooked frozen pizza and salad for dinner.  Girls went to G.S.; Kyle and I watched The Simpsons, then a re-broadcast of the very first "Beverly Hills 90210."

May 15, 1992

Diary Entry:

Sunny, warm.  Got a lot done.  Sure feels different around here without Josh in the afternoons  ...  my nerves aren't quite as frayed.

Jamie went to Megan C.'s slumber/birthday party tonight; sent Ray out for Taco Time (my treat) for Kyle, Kacie and I.  Ray and Kyle stayed up to watch "Terminator 2" (AGAIN  ...  zzzzz), Kacie and I read in bed together, fell asleep by 10:30.

May 16, 1992

Diary Entry:

Hot.  Ray took the kids and I to Burien  --  I wanted to investigate a new used-records place in Burien, "Soundwaves."  It's not as good as the old place I used to go to, but better than nothing: picked up $58 worth of stuff.  Best finds: John Lennon's "Imagine," "Blue Jays" by Justin Hayward and John Lodge. 

Kids ran in the sprinkler all afternoon, maybe for the last time?  (Water restrictions start on Monday.)  Joey B. spent the night here with Kyle, Angela with Kacie; Jamie went to Tia's.

May 17, 1992

Diary Entry:

Woke up feeling horrible, of course  ...  not just hungover but also sore throat, headache AND toothache.  Complete physical wreck.

Mom stopped by to drop off a bottle of ibuprofen for the toothache; John and Lori came by later, visited for about an hour.

Ray was in a shitty mood tonight, on top of everything else: threw a tantrum when I reminded him that he'd promised to BBQ steak for dinner.  Finally he stormed out the door (with MY money), bought some crappy little tip steaks, then all but threw them at us.  He's a big, self-centered, drunken, deaf, stupid, insensitive lout and I loathe him.  

May 18, 1992

Diary Entry:

Crap.  Crap, crap, CRAP.  For the second time this year I am flat on my back in bed with a major bug  ...  this time it feels like strep throat.  Fever up to 104, but my throat is so sore and tight I can barely get an aspirin (or anything else) down.  Babysitting was hellish, but worst of all was having to miss Jamie and Kacie's dance recital tonight.  Fortunately they repeat the recital on Wednesday, so I can still go if I'm feeling better.  Tonight Ray, Kyle, Peg, Don and my mom went so the girls had plenty of "audience" even without me.  Still felt bad, tho.

May 19, 1992

Diary Entry:

Ray finally  --  reluctantly  --  took me to the Riverton Hospital E.R. this evening after Mak went home (and after I'd spent another full day on the couch).  I was right: it's strep throat.  They put me on amoxycillin, gave me a little codeine for tonight.  I should be better soon.

Kyle's school field trip today, by the way  --  Space Needle and Pacific Science Center.)

May 20, 1992

Diary Entry:

Hallelujah!  Woke up feeling human for the first time in days.  Still a little pain in my throat and a headache if I don't take aspirin every 4 hrs. on schedule, but otherwise MUCH better.  Got caught up on laundry, kitchen, diary and phone calls.

Ray drove the girls and I to the dance recital at 7:00  --  it was lovely, I especially enjoyed sitting by myself  --  the girls were wonderful. 

Home by 9:30, had a hamburger and potato salad for a late supper, season finale of "Quantum Leap."

May 21, 1992

I'm still plugging away at all this stuff, internally anyway.  It's a little over a week later and I'm just recovering from a bout of strep throat, so I haven't gotten much of anything done for a few days.  I got sick last weekend, and by Tuesday I was in agony  --  headache, sore throat and fever  --  so much so that Ray finally, grudgingly took me to the Emergency Room (reeking of beer  --  him! not me!  --  I was very embarrassed) so a doctor could look at me.  They took a throat culture and ran a blood test and the whole business, prescribed an antibiotic and a little codeine for the worst of the headache, and today I feel 99% better.  I actually caught myself humming this morning, as I was making my coffee.  I suppose that there's nothing like a few days of feeling like crap to make you appreciate good health.  I can't help but wonder if stress and depression contributed to my getting sick, though.  Did I inadvertently bring this on myself?  And if so, how do I prevent it from happening again? 

1.  Why am I doing all of this?

By "all of this," I suppose Sheehy means my life, my work, my choices.  On the face of it I'm maintaining a home and a family because it's what I chose to do.  It's an obligation, not necessarily because society dictates that it is, but because I feel that I got myself into this (having kids, moving into a house), and I'm responsible for following through.  I can't just walk away from it. "Good" mothers don't just throw in the towel when the going gets tough.

(Now we could probably get into some interesting stuff about why, if this is so, my own mother "walked away" and left her kids when the "going got tough," and whether or not that made her a "bad" mother, and whether this is at the root of my own feverish attempts to be the best damn mother on the face of the planet  ...  I like to think that I've worked all this out already, that I've forgiven her and come to understand why she did what she did.  And maybe I have.  But maybe I haven't.  But this isn't what I want to talk about, at least not right now.  It's too involved and it runs too deep and it'll take me away from the real subject at hand, which is why I'm doing what I'm doing.)

Actually, when I stop and think about it, I don't REALLY want to be the best damn mother on the face of the planet.  Most of the time, "good enough" is good enough: some days, "vertical and breathing" suits me just fine.  This is not an area where I generally feel a lot of pressure.  My kids seem to be growing up quite nicely, whether because of me or in spite of me, I'm not sure (only half-kidding here)  ...  they're well-adjusted, they're healthy, they're intelligent and polite and personable and have minds of their own.  I asked the girls the other day, "Are you having happy childhoods?"  My tone was playful, but the question was serious.  Both Jamie and Kacie replied that yes, they're happy children  ("I'm a woman," Kacie said: she always says this), and that satisfied me more or less completely.  Of course, I worry sometimes that I'm not like most other moms I know.  How do I describe the way things are around here?  My perception of our lifestyle is probably skewed.  I perceive myself as the sort of free-wheeling, permissive  --  no, "relaxed"  --  slightly Bohemian Mom I always secretly craved when I was a kid growing up under Grandma's lovingly rigid thumb.  At least, that's how I like to see myself.  A product of my beloved 60's.  No hard and fast rules (beyond the obvious, at least: look both ways, clean up your own mess, no cartwheels in the living room when Mom's playing an album).  I have trouble making anything stick, like punishments or lists of rules or "chore charts" (although I do try, once in a while).  But the truth is that I generally prefer to be arbitrary.  It's not as chafing.  Bare feet, jeans, meals eaten in front of the TV, no real bedtimes, free speech encouraged (to a point), discipline when warranted, lots of social activities for the kids, freedom to dress and wear their hair as they please (although, again, to a point), freedom to listen to the music and watch the TV shows of their choice.  Freedom to go to a Paula Abdul concert at age ten!  Sometimes I think I let my kids do all of the things I was never allowed to do so I can sit back and vicariously enjoy it.

Of course I hear Grandma's voice in a lot of this  ...  her voice from the 60's, from my childhood, before she loosened up and became more relaxed about things  ...  and it says that what I actually am is lazy, permissive, and guilty of neglect.  It says that what I OUGHT to be doing is getting those kids to bed at an early hour every night, making them work around the house more, cracking down on homework, eating dinner at the table together every night.  I should be brushing Jamie and Kacie's hair into neat, severe little ponytails every morning before school  ...  and as for those CLOTHES they're wearing  ...  !  (For some reason the voice is much harder on me where the girls are concerned.)  It is at these times that I put up yet another new "chore chart," or lash out at the kids about their dirty bedrooms, or feel a sudden urge to oversee every inch of Kacie's homework.  It is at these times, also, that I feel most guilty and inadequate as a mother.  I'm not laying blame on Grandma for anything, let me hasten to add: the voice may SOUND like hers, but it's actually my own voice, what Sheehy calls my "Inner Custodian."  More about that another time.  For right now, I'll just say that where parenting is concerned, I usually do things as differently from my own childhood as possible  --  and my Inner Custodian gives me a LOT of shit about it.  If I ignore it, it goes away after awhile, and the chore chart goes unheeded and I just hand out jobs as needed, and we're all a lot happier that way.  If I don't ignore it, I feel wounded by failure, I retreat into myself, I make life unpleasant for everyone  ...  especially myself.

When I say I don't think I'm like other mothers, though, I'm not just talking about lack of structure, or the freedoms I allow, or the way I dress.  It's not about "good" or "bad" mothering.  It's more about the way I relate to my children, I think  ...  about the way I talk to them, behave around them.  There is very little that my kids don't know about my life: I don't hide much from them.  Some of the more unsavory things from my past, maybe, but that's about it.  I'm frank about the way I'm feeling.  I speak my mind.  Sometimes they don't like hearing what I have to say, but they'll never be able to accuse me of being secretive or false with them.  I feel free to be silly around them, too  ...  to sing goofy songs, or to dance like an idiot, or to lay on the floor with them and watch TV.  We share similar tastes in music and TV; we laugh about a lot of the same things.  It's not so much that I'm trying to be a "pal" to them  ...  I just am, naturally, and I feel inordinately  close to them and a part of their lives as a result.  I don't expect this to last forever.  Or at least I realize that there will be starts and stops all along the way, especially with the girls.  I'm not going to go trailing after them to the Prom.  Our "closeness" will have a lot to do with how old they are, what's going on in their lives, what's going on in my life, how much independence they require at any given point.  Baby birds leaving the nest and all that.  OK.  I'm certain I'll be able to handle the ebb and flow.  As a matter of fact, Mother Nature  --  or this midlife crisis of mine  --  or SOMETHING seems to be doing some of the work for me recently.  Lately, just within the past couple months or so, I've noticed a change in the way I feel about my kids  ...  a general internal "loosening."  It's not that I love them any less: I love them more every day.  But I don't seem to be as obsessive/compulsive about them, now that they're getting older  ...  there isn't that frantic need to know where they are and what they're doing, every single minute of the day.  I can't really explain this except to say that my love for them, which is constant and unconditional, nonetheless is not so overpowering that everything else is eclipsed.  The only analogy I can think of here is the little red tricycle in the rain.  Do you remember?  Jamie was very young, maybe two or three, and she went to spend the night at Peg and Don's.  It was one of our earliest separations, and I took it HARD: every time I looked out the window I saw her little red tricycle sitting forlornly in the rain, and it was excruciatingly painful.  I've never been so lonely for someone in my life, before or since.  But now it's different  ...  I can miss her, or I can miss Kacie or Kyle when they've gone somewhere, and it isn't that total heart-crunching sense of desolation.  There are even times now (don't let The Grandma Voice hear this) when I enjoy them being gone. All of this by way of saying that we can be close and be apart at the same time. This is something relatively new, and I like it.

I also feel certain that the groundwork has been laid, and that we'll always eventually return to the easy closeness we've felt since they were born.  We'll have our ups and downs, our riffs and squabbles, our separations (physical and emotional)  ...  but always we'll come back to what we have right now.  And if all of this is because of the kind of mother I am, all the better: I can take credit for a job well done, "Inner Custodian" notwithstanding.

But I seem to have strayed very far from the original question, which was why I do what I do.  it's an entire week later now (Thursday, May 28th) and all I've talked about is the parenting stuff.  I guess that's because being a mother has been THE most important facet of my life for the past ten years: not an unimportant consideration.  I think that it all boils down to the fact that I've made it so important  --  have given it such priority  --  because it's something I'm good at and have enjoyed.  OK.  Time to think about why I do the rest of the things I do  ...

The housecleaning.  That's about control, probably  --  needing to feel in control of something.  If not my life, then my kitchen floor.  My main problem is that my standards are impossibly high.  When the place isn't perfect, I feel disconnected, helpless and depressed.

The babysitting.  That's about money, pure and simple.  Nothing else.

The weekly wine-and-cigarette binges.  An attempt to artifically recreate the emotional highs and lows I used to feel naturally?
Diary Entry:

Feeling good.  Being sick for a few days certainly causes you to appreciate health!  Flew around the house, caught up on as much as possible without exhausting myself  ...  made a tape for my mom, wrote a letter to Jennifer James, cooked and froze a meatloaf.  Karen called, asked if I could watch Mak for another three weeks  --  no problem. 

Ray BBQd chicken for dinner, everyone in a good mood for a change.

Mrs. B.

May 22, 1992

Diary Entry:

Still feeling wonderful when I got out of bed this morning at 6 a.m.  Tracy was sent here from school at 11 a.m., complaining she "didn't feel well"  --  John and Lori are in Yakima all day attending John's uncle's funeral, so she had to come here.  

Made a new "Let's Dance" tape, started a "Car Tape" for Ray. 

Jamie went over and spent the night at Kaleana's; Tracy spent the night here.  Frozen pizza, wine, old movie ("Dreamscape").

May 23, 1992

Diary Entry:

Hot.  Ray took Kyle over to Shannon South to swim and visit with John & Lori.  I opted to stay home, enjoyed some rare solitude.  Kacie went rock climbing with her Girl Scout troop at Camp Long, Jamie spent most of the day at Kaleana's.  I made a crockpot of chili, cornbread. 

Kyle had a terrible accident at the apartments  --  fell off the swings and split his mouth open.

May 24, 1992

Diary Entry:

Long, HOT, lazy day  ...  or at least it started out that way.  I'd just settled in with my typewriter and some wine coolers when Lori called, invited us over to watch the MTV Top 100 Video Countdown.  Kids got to swim in the pool.  Stayed too long and drank too much.

Tracy came home with us and spent the night.

May 25, 1992

Diary Entry:

Memorial Day 1992.  Kids and Ray home, of course  --  no Mak  --  but Danielle & Cody were here for several hours (@ overtime rate of $5/hr!)  

J&L came by in the afternoon to pick up Tracy.  

Made fajitas and Spanish rice for dinner.  Wonderfully cool and cloudy, even a little rain: a relief after this past weekend.

May 26, 1992

Diary Entry:

Trying to work up the courage to call Grandma's lawyer, Mr. Moreland, and ask him to represent me in negotiations with Ted(about the house)  ...  I've decided I'd like to ask Ted to buy me out.  May use the $ to go back to school, buy a car, have breast reduction surgery  ...  but I'd better not count my chickens, right?

Frozen meatloaf, baked potatoes, "Rescue 911," "Rosanne."

May 27, 1992

Diary Entry:

Cloudy and cool again, warmer in the afternoon.  Kids got out of school early (1:00)  --  there was some kind of mix-up with Angela and Velma, Angela wound up walking home with my kids by mistake.  Sent the girls over to Shannon South on their bikes to pick up some things I left over there on Sunday.

Still haven't scraped up the nerve to call the lawyer.

Club sandwiches, "Paper Moon" this evening. 

May 28, 1992

I need to talk about something else at this point, something that's happening in my life this week.  It's about Grandma's house, and some decisions I've reached regarding my half of it.  These are decisions that could very well affect the rest of my life  --  and the lives of my family  --  so even though this is likely to bog down in stretches, bear with me.  I'll try to be as clear and concise as I can.

This morning I mailed what could be the most important letter I've ever written.  Then again, maybe nothing will come of it at all.  But either way, I've taken a crucial first step and I feel as though there's no turning back now.  It's a letter to Grandma's attorney, Mr. Moreland, asking if he will represent me in negotiations with Ted's estate.  I explained to Mr. Moreland that I have no money to pay him with right now, but if he will help me sell my half of the house (preferably by letting Ted buy me out), I can pay him out of the proceeds.  I've made a decision: I don't want the house.  I want the money.  I want the money so badly, I can taste it  ...  But anyway, the letter.  I'd been trying to scrape up the nerve to call Mr. Moreland for almost a week, but could never seem to bring myself to do it.  Maybe writing a letter instead if a more roundabout (read that: cowardly) way of doing thigns, but at least it's done, it's MAILED, and now I sit back and wait to see what chain of events I have triggered.

When Grandma first offered to leave me her half of the house last summer, I remember my initial feeling was that no matter what, I wanted that house.  There was simply no other thought in my mind.  I closed my eyes and I could picture myself sitting beneath those enormous willow trees on a warm summer evening  ...  I could see my dishes displayed in the oak cabinets  ...  could see my children in those rooms, laughing and happy.  It was what Grandma wanted, too.  But so much has happened since then: the proposed third airport runway being built just two blocks away, the declining property values, Ted's inexplicable hostility  ...  and this internal crisis of mine, whatever the hell it is  ...  nothing is the same as it was last summer.  And now I've reached a point in my heart where I need to weigh my options.  This is a window of opportunity I may very likely never have again.  Would Grandma see it that way too, given the circumstances?  Would she understand why I want the money?

I think it's remarkably fortuitous that my internal crisis is coming at a time when I may actually be able to DO something about it.  Or at least it will be if things work out.  Random good luck?  Or God-given opportunity?

You tell me.

I'm not even going to talk about what I would do with the money, if I should happen to get it, because that would come perilously close to 'counting my chickens'  ...  a jinx if I've ever heard of one.  For the moment, then, I'll just say this: I would use it to change my life.
Diary Entry:

Well, I did it  ...  sort of.  Instead of calling him, I wrote him a letter  --  and MAILED it.  Now all I can do is wait, but at least I've taken that first step.  

Cold and rainy again, full babysitting.  Started a good new book, "Whispers" by Dean Koontz.  Cleaned and rearranged my "office," looks really nice; planted my summer herbs.

Kacie to G.S.  --  Jamie didn't want to go.  "Simpsons," "90210," spaghetti.

May 29, 1992

Diary Entry:

Emily here after school to work on the Science Fair project with Jamie.

Ray and the kids went to the Bow Lake School Carnival this evening: won one of the raffle prizes, a basket full of discount coupons.

May 30, 1992

Diary Entry:

Felt like crap, physically and emotionally.  Ray worked today, thankfully  ...  gave me a break from his lousy attitude.  Sent Kacie & Kyle to Trailer Town, had them pick up some pop and cat food.  Jamie is down with a slight fever and "headache."

Mom called, invited me to the movies tomorrow.

May 31, 1992

Diary Entry:

"Mixed" day.  Mom came by at noon and picked me up for the 1:00 showing of "Far & Away," Renton Cinema.  The movie was wonderful, and so was the air-conditioned theater on this HOT day  ...  coming home was a taste of hell.  Ray was horrible  --  he announced that I "ruined his whole weekend" --  had me in tears within 10 minutes of coming home.  Later he apologized, said he was "sick and grumpy"  --  went out and got a pizza for dinner  --  but I am SO SICK of his attitude. 

June 1, 1992

Having a ridiculously hard time getting myself moving this morning.  It's a Monday  --  full babysitting today (Mak, Danielle and Cody), plus Jamie is home sick with a 103° fever  --  and our house looks like it's spent the entire weekend on spin cycle.  Just looking at it all has me feeling overwhelmed and tired.  Absolutely no sense of "control" at the moment.

Diary Entry:

Jamie home sick, 103° fever.  I hated to keep her home again because she's already missed so much school this year, but the fever just doesn't seem to want to go away.  Even so, I let her go play her final softball game of the season this evening  ...  they won, 18-12  ...  it would have broken her © to miss it.

Ray BBQ'd ribs for a late (delicious) dinner.  Temporary peace in the household.

June 2, 1992

Diary Entry:

Jamie stayed home again today, still has a high fever.  Worked on her Science Fair project most of the afternoon, a study of how plants grow.  (Emily Johnson is her partner.)  Kacie is also working on a project, about the solar system.  Both girls have put time and thought into their projects, and I'm proud of them both.

Full babysitting, cleaned the front bathroom.  BBQ'd hamburgers for dinner.

June 3, 1992

Still having trouble getting myself in gear.  Still no word from the lawyer.  Think the two may be related?  Irritated with Ray, who is sticking his nose squarely into my financial business  Last night it was "When are 'we' going to go see 'our' lawyer?"  Sensing some real difficulties ahead.  He is already talking about the "truck" he's going to buy with "our" money, when the truth of the matter is that I see this money  --  if and when it ever actually materializes  --  as being my means of escaping a life and a marriage I've outgrown.  The day he realizes what I'm up to is going to be a terrible day for all of us.

You know, I've been re-reading some of the stuff I've been writing lately, and I don't think I ever really addressed the question of "Why am I doing this?"  I veered off into all kinds of related/unrelated stuff about parenting and about my relationship with the  kids, which was helpful and interesting but pretty much beside the point  Today it all seems very simple and obvious.  I do what I do  --  hiding away in this house, avoiding the real world  --  because it's safe and familiar.  It's non-threatening.  I don't have to worry about things like drivers licenses and bank accounts and dealing with strangers  ...  with job-hunting and paychecks and traffic jams.  My world is insulated, predictable, and above all else, safe.  It's been this way for eleven years, with only one brief (but glorious) break in the routine, back when Ray and I separated for a while in 1986, and the truth is that most of these eleven years, "safe" has been plenty good enough for me.  Jennifer James describes it like this:

"You may choose not to hear your spirit.  You may prefer to build a life within the compound, to avoid the risk.  It is possible to find happiness within a familiar box, a life of comfort and control  ... "

And that's what I've been doing for these past eleven years: living in the compound.  Taking as few risks as possible, probably because deep down inside I don't believe I'm smart enough, or capable enough, or talented enough to make it out in the real world.  I've always felt that I'm less worthy a person than other people.  I still feel that way.  And THAT, my friend, is "why I do what I do"  ...

Not a shortage of self-esteem: a flat-out absence of it.

Diary Entry:

Deeply tired  ...  a fatigue of body and spirit.  Worried about the lawyer  --  still no word from him  --  have I made a fool of myself here?

Lots of last-minute Science Fair preparations: tomorrow is the big day.

Kacie went to a pizza party with her church club; Jamie took Kyle to church club.

Thursday morning
June 4, 1992

Uggh.  I just found a big green caterpillar nestled in my potted marjoram  ...  looks like he's been nibbling on my basil all night, too.  My herbs are my 'babies,' and this disgusting interloper was a rude shock.  Think I need a mug of coffee and a cigarette to calm down  ...

...  There.  A little better.  The girls just left for school (today is Science Fair Day) and Kyle, Danielle, Cody and Mak are sitting in the living room watching the morning cartoons.  I guess I haven't mentioned that we are no longer watching Josh every day, as of three weeks ago.  (We've still got Mak, although I'm not sure for how much longer: possibly until the end of June.)  It's been really nice, too.  Kyle misses Josh  --  he looked up to him as a surrogate big brother  --  but the truth is that Kyle is so busy right now during these last two weeks of school, with field trips and special activities and church stuff,  that he hasn't had a chance to miss Josh as much as he might have otherwise.  The real test of course will be when school lets out for the summer next week  ...  then he'll probably whine about not having anyone to play with.  But speaking purely for myself, Josh's absence is more a relief than anything else.

Diary Entry:

Science Fair day!  The girls left for school this morning in a flurry of excitement.

Spent most of the day cleaning Kyle's room, doing laundry.

Kacie won a second place ribbon for her solar system project; was very proud of herself; Jamie unfortunately got third place because Emily "choked" during the judge's interview  --  Jamie is furious with her.  Walked over to the fair at 7:30, took pictures of the girls' exhibits, they both looked great.  

McDonald's for dinner, my treat.

Spring 1992

It started with a question about papier-mâché, almost a month ago.

Kacie approached me one weekend and asked if I knew how to work with papier-mâché. I was busy and said I would "check into it later." Secretly, I assumed this was just another one of Kacie's here-today, abandoned-tomorrow ideas. Now I am ashamed of myself for brushing her off like that, but if I'd known where all of this was going to lead, I might have handled it very differently. Then again, had I gotten involved early on, the whole thing might not have turned out as delightfully as it did.

But I dance ahead of myself.

Eventually it began to filter into my brain that the school was having a Science Fair, and that both of my daughters wanted to enter an exhibit. (Separately -- of course.) In my own defense I must explain that these final few weeks of school are a flurry of activity ... field trips, Girls Scouts, dance recitals, softball, church, birthday parties, ad nauseum. Our days are a constant juggling act. So it's understandable, perhaps, that the first few times the Science Fair was mentioned, it escaped my notice. Kacie did seem to suddenly be very interested in the solar system: I noticed library books on the subject laying on her bedroom floor, and she began reciting the names of the planets to me while I cooked dinner.

"Do you know how the planets got their names?" she asked me one evening, and we had an interesting discussion about mythology and early astronomy. Eventually I put two and two together and understood that Kacie wanted to mount an exhibit about the solar system for the Science Fair. Even then, I was vaguely patronizing: "That's nice, Sweetheart," was pretty much the extent of my response.

At this point Jamie hadn't come up with a project of her own yet. Once or twice I found her leafing through reference books or stacks of old Highlights magazines, looking for ideas.

The day that the big sheets of cardboard came home from school with the girls was the day I realized how serious they were about entering the Science Fair. Jamie had finally settled on a topic: "Plants And How They Grow." She also had a partner, Emily. Kacie steadfastly clung to her solar system idea, and was working by herself. The sheets of cardboard - three feet high, four feet wide - were backdrops for their exhibits, to be decorated in any manner they wished. On the next hot and sunny Saturday, Kacie spread her backdrop out in the back yard and painted it a vivid, eye-popping purple. Then she painted four big hearts with arrows piercing each, and at the top she painted the words "Qustons" (questions), "How were the planets names?" and "How many wrings dose Satern have?" She worked diligently on her backdrop for most of the weekend; in the evenings she was covered with purple paint from head to toe, but almost maniacally happy.

In the meantime, a row of neatly-labeled flower pots appeared in my laundry room window, sporting labels that read "Talk nicly 15 min. every day" and "Listen to rock music 15 min. every day," etc. Jamie and Emily had decided to grow several identical marigold plants under different conditions and then compare the results. It was typically Jamie: organized, ambitious and creative. Emily came home with Jamie after school and they worked on their backdrop together, which - like the rest of their project - was neat and organized. Jamie was definitely in charge, Emily the meek and subservient partner. The seeds in the laundry room began to sprout, right on schedule. There were occasional feverish telephone conversations about the project, and in the afternoons I could hear Paula Abdul music wafting from Jamie's room, played for the marigold whose fate it was to listen to "rock music 15 min. every day." Jamie's Science Fair project was moving along like clockwork, and she was smugly certain a blue ribbon was in her future.

Kacie's purple backdrop, meanwhile, lay untouched and forgotten in the back yard for several days while she worked on constructing "planets" for her display. The papier-mâché was a fiasco. I had, by this point, adopted a strict hands-off policy about the whole thing. Reports were filtering in about parents who had virtually take over their kids' Science Fair projects, and I pontificated about the "injustice" of this. "How fair is that to the kids who do all the work themselves?" I sputtered indignantly. Kacie, unfazed by my reluctance to get involved, stoically plodded along, trying out new methods of "planet construction." She was certain that she, too, was destined for a blue ribbon.

And then disaster struck. The unfortunate purple backdrop was left unattended one night when it rained, and the next day - it was gone. It was assumed that Dad had hauled it off to the garbage, impatient with what he perceived to be an abandoned mess. That, I figured, was the end of the solar system. Kacie didn't say much about it. I decided that she must not have cared very much, one way or the other. There was no angry outburst, no tears. I chalked the whole thing up to experience and figured Kacie had, too.

What I hadn't counted on was Kacie's tenacity ... the remarkable resiliency of her spirit. This is one kid who takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'. Once an idea is planted in that sweet freckled head of hers, nothing can stop her.

Two days remained until the Science Fair. Emily came over after school again, and she and Jamie put the finishing touches on their backdrop. The marigolds were all lush and healthy (which seemed, somehow, to undermine the hypothesis of their experiment -- but I resisted pointing this out), and the girls arranged them neatly in my redwood planter. They rehearsed their answers for the judges' interview. Jamie was getting a little tense by now, and she drilled Emily mercilessly. This project was her "baby," and she was determined it go off without a hitch. I made my token suggestion about the backdrop, gently correcting one misspelled word: Jamie took the criticism graciously. She was still sure she was going to win first place, but she was a little nervous now. I reassured her as best I could, reminding her that the point of the Science Fair was to have fun and to learn something. She agreed, but I could tell that deep down inside winning still meant everything here.

I went into the laundry room to take clothes out of the dryer, and glancing out the window I caught sight of Kacie in the garage. She was hunched over the garage floor, feverishly taping several pieces of corrugated together with duct tape. "Oh my God!" I said, astonished. "She's still working on the science project!" At the eleventh hour, yet.

Jamie joined me at the window and nodded. "She's been working on it for a few days," she said. I was flabbergasted.

Just then Ray came home from work. Kacie looked up at him and smiled. "Wanna see my Science Fair project?" she asked him, hopefully.

But Ray, exhausted and distracted, didn't hear her. "What are you doing with my duct tape?" he snarled at her. All the joy and hope drained from her eyes; her shoulders sagged, and my heart did a queasy little flip-flop in my chest. Kacie feebly started to explain what she was doing, but Ray clearly wasn't listening ... he was all over her about the tape, the mess, the intrusion into "his" garage. Kacie burst into tears. 

"No one cares about my project!" she sobbed, and my heart shattered. Here she was, making a brave last-minute attempt at a comeback, and all she got was criticism and harsh words.

"Kacie, *I* want to see your project!" I shouted from the laundry room, and I flew out to the garage. Instantly, she was herself again, all life and energy. Chattering a mile a minute, she set up her backdrop and began arranging her display for me. My heart sank. It was such a sad-looking little thing ... the pieces of cardboard she'd taped together were torn along the top, and the backdrop leaned to one side. She had crumpled up balls of tissue paper to make the planets, and they hung in a bunchy row from a string: "Satern" threatened to fall off at any moment. Compared to Jamie's neat careful plant exhibit, Kacie's solar system seemed a little ... shabby. I was suddenly terrified that she would be the laughing stock of the Science Fair. And yet, Kacie stood there with an expression of such dignity and quiet pride that I swallowed my doubts. I hugged her and said, "You've done a fantastic job."

And then a funny thing happened. At that moment I saw the display through Kacie's eyes, and it suddenly didn't seem shabby at all ... it seemed to symbolize determination, and resourcefulness. It had a charm all its own. No one would be able to doubt for a minute that Kacie did all the work herself! I prayed that whoever was doing the judging at the Science Fair would recognize the value of that.

The day of the Science Fair dawned clear and warm. Emily showed up after breakfast to help Jamie carry the plants and the backdrop to school, and they walked down the street, exuding brisk self-confidence. Kacie struggled along behind them, lugging her backdrop: every few minutes she had to stop, set it down, and regroup. One of the tissue paper planets fell off and rolled into the middle of the street: she picked it up and stuffed it into her pocket, then turned and waved at me with a determinedly cheerful smile. I stood at the window, watching her valiant struggle, and I shot a quick prayer to God: "Please be gentle with her heart today."

For the rest of the day my thoughts were never far from the Science Fair. I knew the judging was scheduled for early in the day, so we'd know the results when they got home from school. I wondered how I was going to handle this. Would Jamie be a gracious winner? Would Kacie handle her disappointment well? How would I congratulate one and console the other? I made an extra-special after school snack, quesadillas and strawberry Kool-Aid, and as the clock moved closer to 3:30 I sat quietly in the living room, preparing for the turmoil ahead.

The kids came in with their usual burst of noise and exuberance, but to my astonishment it was Jamie who stalked through the living room with a tear-stained face and went wordlessly to her room, slamming the door behind her.

Kacie joyously announced, "Guess what? I got SECOND PLACE!" I felt a little like Alice, gone through the looking glass. Kacie was utterly radiant, and I hugged her with genuine pride. But I was still confused. 

With Jamie out of earshot, I whispered to Kacie, "What happened to her?"

"Oh, she got Third Place because Emily messed up," Kacie said. There wasn't the slightest trace of smugness in her voice, no gloating over her sister's misfortune. Jamie stewed alone in her bedroom for a while, and then she came out and flounced onto the sofa. "It's not FAIR!" she wailed, tears filling her eyes. Apparently everything had gone like clockwork until the interview, at which point the hapless Emily choked. In spite of repeated rehearsals of what they would say to the judges (carefully scripted by Jamie), Emily panicked and deviated from the prepared answers. They lost several crucial points as a result. 

"I hope you didn't make her feel bad," I said, but the look in Jamie's eyes made it clear that Emily was toast. 

I let her pout about it for a while longer, but by evening she'd cheered up a little. I reminded her, in my best wise-and-wonderful-Mom voice, that anyone who looked at her exhibit couldn't fail to appreciate the time and work she'd put into it. And I meant it. Once she managed to get over some of her disappointment, I think she knew it, too.

That evening we walked over to the school and attended the Science Fair. The gymnasium was hot, noisy and crowded, and it reeked of sulfur - the result of six separate "volcano" exhibits. Armed with my camera, Kyle trailing along behind me, we walked up and down the rows of science projects. Here was Jamie and Emily's, with its neat row of potted marigolds and the white Third Place ribbon. I took a picture with Jamie sitting in front of her exhibit, smiling bravely. Then we continued going up and down the rows. A lot of the exhibits should just as well have had signs on them saying "ENTERED BY SO-AND-SO'S DAD" ... they were so sophisticated and professional looking, it was obvious that the parents had done all the work. Finally, somewhere in the middle of the third aisle, I spotted it: "KACIE'S OUT OF THIS WORLD EXHIBIT." It was still leaning to one side, and "Satern" still wanted to fall off, but now the exhibit bore a stunning red ribbon. Kacie fussed over it for a moment, straightening the crooked backdrop, before I took a picture. 

"Sweetie, it's beautiful just the way it is," I said. And I meant it. Kacie had set out to do something, and she'd done it in spite of obstacles and set-backs. She is one remarkable kid.



June 5, 1992

Diary Entry:

OK day.  Agreed to watch Joss for a few hours this afternoon: he was actually fairly well-behaved, no real problems.

Wrote a long (8 page) journal entry about the Science Fair, how funny the way it turned out.

My sister called  --  she and Tim are bringing over some living room furniture for us tomorrow, including a couch, love seat and bookcase.

Kaleana here to spend the night.  Frozen pizza and wine.

June 6, 1992

Diary Entry:

Hungover.  Out of bed early, though  --  moved out the old couch and love seat, then waited all day for Deb and her boyfriend to show up with the new stuff.  It was almost 4:00 before they finally showed up   --  Ray and the kids had gone swimming at Shannon South by then.  The couch and love seat smell bad but look OK.

By late afternoon things just sort of disintegrated around here.  Lori and I had our first real fight when she called and yelled at me about something stupid   ...  then Ray was drunk and complaining about the dinner I'd made (pepperoni grinders and pasta salad).

June 7, 1992

Diary Entry:

Called Lori nearly first thing today, apologized for yesterday's fight: she's the best friend I've ever had, and I love her dearly. 

Ray took Kyle, Jamie and I to Burien for a quick shopping trip at a thrift store.  Bought Kyle three prs. of shorts, a shirt and a book for Jay, three books for me.  Spent the rest of the day arranging the new living room furniture (it looks GREAT!!), sipping screwdrivers.  BBQ'd steak for dinner.

June 8, 1992

Diary Entry:

Slow, sleepy day.  Full babysitting.  This is the last week of school  ...  next week will be a zoo.

Kyle went on a field trip to the fire station with his class; Jay went home with Jessica, home by dinner.  French dip sandwiches, potato pancakes for Ray and the kids.

Started one of my new books, "Over The Edge" by Jonathan Kellerman. 

Tuesday afternoon
June 9, 1992

A quick word, scribble between lunch dishes and laundry  ...

Still no word from the lawyer, and it's been nearly two weeks now.  I've stopped jumping every time the phone rings.  What's going on, do you suppose?  Some sort of legal/psychological tactic?  (Or is that TOO paranoid?)  I feel very fish out of water here.  I suppose that what I ought to do is follow up my letter with a phone call to his office, but the truth is that the idea of calling him scares me silly.  What would I say?  How would I say it?  Geez, I miss Grandma.  I miss being able to pick up the phone and asking her for her opinion.  Of course, if she were still alive I wouldn't even BE in this situation.  It's all such a mess, and I don't have anybody to turn to for advice.  Dad and I aren't speaking (because Ray never went over last month to pick up the freezer), and I've sort of worn out my welcome with Cousin Terry, I think  ...  she is always warm and supportive on the phone, but I don't want to annoy her with a lot of pesky phone calls about every little thing.   Mom is great, too, but for once in my life I'd like her to see me as capable and decisive: able to handle things on my own.  And Ray is so out to lunch about this whole house thing  --  so fixated on money, money, MONEY  --  that none of the rest of it matters to him.  (My anxieties over doing "the right thing"  ...  my desire to use the money to better our lives  ...  etc.)  I'm feeling very confused and very alone.  Grandma  ...  wherever you are, couldn't you give me the tiniest bit of a 'sign,' the way you did a few months ago??

Other stuff: this is the last week of school.  I can't believe how quickly this school year went by.  I'm not really looking forward to this summer, either   ...  between the government water restrictions and the anticipated super-hot weather, it's going to be long, hot and DRY.  The kids will probably drive me crazy.  I want to send Jamie & Kacie to camp this summer, and they were all excited about it for a while, but I mailed in the applications too late and they couldn't get in: a real disappointment for all of us.  I don't know what we're going to do for entertainment around here.  Probably sit around twiddling our thumbs and counting our flea bites  ...

One piece of fairly good news, and then I've got to get back to the laundry.  We finally got some decent living room furniture this past weekend!  Ken, my former stepdad, has given up his apartment  --  as a matter of fact he's moving back in with Mom, but that's another story  --  and his misfortune became our good fortune because we inherited his sofa and loveseat.  They're not brand-new, of course (they definitely need a good cleaning), but compared to what they're replacing, they're SHOW PIECES.  I was beginning to think I'd be stuck with those orange & brown monstrosities forever.  We also got another nice bookcase, which I've set against the west wall in the living room.  It holds all the photo albums, video tapes, and various knick knacks.  The effect is quite lovely.  Finally, a living room I can feel proud of. 

Diary Entry:

Housecleaning, full babysitting.  Fun phone chats with Lori and Velma.  Laundry  --  tried out the 'new' dryer Ray installed on Sunday.  

Jamie went to see "Encino Man" with her teacher after school; Kacie and I went to Kyle's kindergarten graduation at Bow Lake.  A very big night for my son!  The ceremony was very sweet, marred briefly by a fists-and-obscenities fight between two drunken dads, otherwise a nice occasion. 

June 10, 1992

I had a terrible dream this morning about Kyle.  He and I were exploring an attic in my grandma's house (the house I grew up in, on 134th).  "Look, Kyle!" I said, "I've found a hidden room!"  There was a small room off to one side that I'd never seen before; it contained a bed and a lot of neatly-stacked boxes, and there was a tiny window set high on one wall.  I was thrilled with the discovery.  "Now Jamie can have a room of her own!" I exclaimed happily, and I turned around to look at Kyle.  He was opening a door I hadn't noticed earlier.  To my horror, I saw that the door opened onto nothing  --  no balcony, no railing  --  and before I could stop him, he'd tumbled out the door and was falling to the ground below.  At first I thought we were only a story or two above the ground, but when I looked out the door I saw that we were MILES above.  I could see Kyle below me, screaming as he fell through the air.  "Oh God, Kylie!" I screamed.  "I'll be right down!"  But I knew he would die as soon as he hit the ground, and there was nothing I could do to save him.  My only thought was that I wanted to get down there and hold him in my arms as he died, so he wouldn't be alone  ...

GOD.  It gives me shivers, just writing about it.  It was the worst dream I've had in months.  Fortunately I woke up before he finished "falling," and I was incredibly relieved to find out I'd been dreaming, but I was so upset that I immediately went in and layed down beside him, just to be near him.

I think the dream was prompted by something that happened last night.  Bow Lake had its first-ever kindergarten graduation, and Kacie and I went and watched proudly as Kyle accepted his 'diploma' from Mr. Gallagher.  It was very cute  ...   all those sweet little kindergarteners in their hand-made mortar boards, marching up one by one to the stage  ....  I had my usual camera in hand (and lump in throat)!   It would have been perfect, in fact, had it not been for an unpleasant interruption midway through the ceremony.  Mr. Gallagher and Mrs. Wagner were about halfway through the list of names when suddenly this big, angry black guy burst through the open gymnasium door, walked up to another man sitting in the audience, and began shouting obscenities at him.  From the stage, Mrs. Wagner told the man that this was a private function and asked him to leave, but he ignored her and continued with his wild-eyed ranting.  Finally, several burly young father-types managed to haul him out of the gym and lock the doors behind him.  Mrs. Wagner quietly slipped off the stage and went to the office to call the police, and Mr. Gallagher (with amazing cool) managed to distract and reassure the children, many of whom were visibly upset.  But some of the sweetness of the occasion had been spoiled.  I was scared, at first, and then I was angry.  What a rotten thing for someone to do!  I'm still upset about it.  Anyway, once order had been restored and the rest of the diplomas handed out (including Kylie's), cake and coffee were served.  I felt a little uneasy about hanging around for too long  --  what if this crazy asshole comes back with a gun?  --  so I hurried Kyle and Kacie through a piece of cake, shook hands with Mr. Gallagher, and hustled my children home to safety. 

Kyle didn't say much about it as we walked home, and I finally realized that he'd missed most of the commotion.  I was glad.  This was such an important occasion for him, and it would have been a shame if that nutcase had spoiled it for him.  Apparently the incident bothered ME more than I thought, though, because my horrible dream seems to reflect fear for his safety, doesn't it?  Kyle stepping off into the unknown, and me being unable to "save" him.  I've thought about it all day today.  It's such a big, scary world out there, and he is such a little boy.  Kindergarten is nearly over.  What do the coming years hold in store for my son?  I simply can't bear the thought of anybody hurting him, of anything bad happening to him, yet I am powerless to prevent it.  Last night symbolized this perfectly: even at his kindergarten graduation, bad things can happen, and all Mom can do is sit three rows away and watch, helplessly  ...

Sometimes the weight of parenthood is so heavy, I don't know if I can bear it. 

Diary Entry:

Jamie had her softball awards banquet at Round Table Pizza in Renton  --  brought home a beautiful trophy.


June 11, 1992

Diary Entry:

My "last day of freedom" (before the kids begin summer vacation)  ...  enjoyed it as much as possible with Mak, Danielle and Cody here  ...  while they napped in the p.m., I read, munched on bagels & cream cheese, caught up on the soaps.

Friday 10 a.m.
June 12, 1992

Well, here it is, folks  ...  my final hour and a half of freedom before summer vacation kicks in!  Kyle just left for a final one-hour session of kindergarten, and then the madness begins.  Am I ready for this??

11 a.m.

Wow!  You'll never believe what just happened.  I was out in the living room trying to hurriedly make a "last day of school" mix tape for the kids (lots of songs about teachers and summer), when suddenly there was an enormous explosion that rocked the whole house, and all of the electricity on the entire block blinked out!  A second explosion followed about fifteen seconds later.  Now I can hear my neighbors standing around in the street, jabbering excitedly at each other, and sirens wailing in the distance.  We've blown transformers before, but never this close  --  or this LOUD.  It was shocking!  I wonder if the power went off at the school, too?  (It did.)  What a way to end the school year  ...  !

Oh well.  I wanted an hour of "peace and quiet."  Gotta be careful what you wish for, don't you?

12:20 p.m.

They're here.  (The power's back on, too.)  It was actually quite funny when they got home  ...  I stood at the front window and pretended that I was sobbing hysterically as they walked up the street, which got them giggling.  Then I ran and hid in a bedroom closet.  They came in yelling and screaming:  "MOM!  I'm HUNGRY!  MOM, KACIE HIT ME!  MOM!  MOM!!  MOM!!!"  (They were pretending to be brats.  Not much of a stretch, hahaha.)  Finally they found where I was hiding and dragged me out, and we sat at the kitchen table and looked at report cards.  Now they're settled in the living room, happily munching on hamburgers and potato chips, watching "All My Children."  And thus begins our summer  ... 

Diary Entry:

Last day of school!  (Kyle only had one hour of kindergarten, 10:15 to 11:30.)   The power went out while the kids were at school (transformer blew), but was back on by the time they got home.  Report cards were all good.

Ray took me out for a while this evening, shopping at Fred Meyer  --  bought some vitamins at the Nutrition Store, a new pair of Levi's ($38!!) and a shirt.  Drinks at BZs.

June 13, 1992

Diary Entry:

Cold and rainy.  Kids walked over to Shannon South at noon for Tracy's birthday party; I joined them an hour later.  Stayed most of the day, sipping wine and talking to people.  John drove us home around 6:00.  (Ray worked all day, didn't get home until 7:30.)

Janet came by tonight, cut my hair, made us strawberry margaritas.  Joey spent the night.  Taco Time for a late dinner.

June 14, 1992

Diary Entry:

Ray worked again today, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.  ...  gave us a delightfully peaceful, quiet Sunday.  Joey stayed most of the day to play with Kyle; Janet picked him up in the afternoon. 

Phone call from Terry Vert  --  she has an appointment with Mr. Moreland on Tuesday, will ask him about my letter.  Mom called too, just to say hi. 

Finished my book  --  it wasn't that great, too much incomprehensible medical jargon. 

Not much in the way of groceries, just fixed odds and ends for supper.  Ray home at 7:30.  TV until 10 p.m., fell into deep sleep.

June 15, 1992

Diary Entry:

Danielle, Cody, Mak and Josh all here before 8 a.m.  ...  summer "vacation" begins.  Cody has a funny rash on his face  --  his Grandma came and took him to the doctor at 10:30 and came back an hour later; luckily, it isn't chicken pox!

Got quite a lot done in spite of all the kids: laundry, fried some chicken for dinner.  New book  --  "Lady" by Thomas Tyron  --  pretty good.  Dumb movie on TV tonight, "Darkman."

Domino still hasn't come home  --  kids are worried.

Tuesday morning
June 16, 1992

A few days later.  This will probably be the toughest week of the whole summer  ... not only do I have all three of my kids at home, plus Danielle and a nerve-wracking Cody Bear (who will turn one on Saturday, incidentally), but this is my final week with Mak  ...  and Josh.  Technically, we finished watching Josh over a month ago, but due to circumstances beyond anybody's control he is back for one last week.  On Friday, Karen and I close our account for good, I hope.  I'm worried about how this may affect us financially, but some things transcend money  ...  getting through the summer with my nerves intact, for one  ...

The kids are upset and worried because one of our kitties seems to have run away.  "Domino" (the black and white kitty) took off last week, and we haven't seen him since.  True to form, Jamie is taking it the hardest.  Last night we were watching late TV (a truly dumb movie called "Darkman") when she suddenly got this sad, far-away look on her face.  I knew she was thinking about Domi, and I tried to reassure her that he's a strong, clever cat and that wherever he is, he's "probably fine."  But she wouldn't be comforted.  This morning, in fact, she's making "LOST CAT" signs to put up around the neighborhood.

Diary Entry:

Full babysitting, same routine.  Jamie and Kacie put up "Lost Kitty" signs all around the area, but I have a sad feeling Domi's gone for good.

Cold wine in the p.m.

Disappointing news tonight  --  talked to Terry, looks like Ted isn't interested in buying me out any time soon.

June 17, 1992

Diary Entry:

Blah day, nothing much to tell.  One day "break" from Cody & Danielle, which was nice.  Napped, read my book, spent time with Jamie: Kacie went over and played with Tracy.  The girls are planning a garage sale for next week  ...  also, they've found a church camp near Lake Stevens that they'd like to go to, will cost about $160.  Hope we can find a way to swing it.

Velma came by today for a visit.

Hot dogs for dinner.

June 18, 1992

Diary Entry:

Woke up at 5 a.m., couldn't get back to sleep so I got up, made myself a little breakfast, enjoyed some peace and quiet.  Of course that meant I was dragging by noon  ...

June 19, 1992

Diary Entry:

Josh & Mak's last day for us (for real this time!)  ...  also Danielle & Cody here, so lots of noise.  Very hot.  Made potato salad early in the morning, broiled some extra chicken. 

Incredibly weird phone call at 5 p.m. from "Lill," Ted's housekeeper.  They're offering me $30,000 for my half of the house.  I told them that I'd have to "talk to my lawyer," but no way would I settle for such a laughable amount. 

John and Lori came over, fun evening of BBQ, music, drinks, conversation.  Tracy and Jessica B. spent the night.

June 20, 1992

Diary Entry:

Ray worked today, 7:30 to 3:30. 

Phone call this morning from Terry, who advises me not to accept Ted's stupid offer  ...  she's going to talk to Mr. Moreland again next week for me.

Horribly hot.  The kids went over to the apartments to swim, all three came home sunburned.  Ray took me shopping at Fisher Drugs to buy Cody some birthday gifts, but then when we got home I felt too shitty to go to his party  --  the kids went without me.  Ray got us Wendy's for dinner.

June 21, 1992

Diary Entry:

Happy Fathers Day.  The kids and I served Ray a nice breakfast, the kids gave him the Fathers Day stuff they'd made for him.

Got VERY hot this afternoon  --  spent most of the day in the (relatively) cooler garage, drank a couple of screwdrivers.

Called my dad to wish him a HFD.  He was cold and aloof; I hung up in tears.

June 22, 1992

Diary Entry:

Hot  ...  reached  92°  by mid-afternoon.  All I could manage to do was lay in front of the fan with a plant-mister, trying to stay cool. 

Andrea stopped by in the evening with a brand-new swimming pool for the kids.

BBQ'd steak, Indian salad, microwave noodles for dinner.

June 23, 1992

Diary Entry:

Another sickeningly hot day: 95° by mid-afternoon.  My plants are drooping and so am I.  

My kids and Danielle enjoyed the new swimming pool most of the day, while Cody and I staked out spots in front of the fan.  Later in the evening I went out and sat in the pool with the kids  ...  didn't care WHAT the neighbors might think!!

June 24, 1992

Diary Entry:

Still suffering  ...  92° again today even though they'd predicted "cooler" temps today. Nauseous, demoralized, utterly lacking in energy: tried putting on a little makeup, just to cheer myself up, but discovered to my disgust that the heat has practically melted all the cosmetics in my drawer.  This has GOT TO STOP!! 

Ray worked late again, kids went to church so I was alone for awhile.

Thursday 9 a.m.
June 25, 1992

Over a week later, and a few things to report.  

We are in the middle of a record-breaking heatwave, first of all  ...  temps in the mid 90's every day since last weekend.  Today is supposed to be ten degrees cooler than yesterday  --  meaning "only" 85° instead of 95  -- but I'm not going to complain, as long as it cools down enough for me to catch up on a few things around here.  I've done nothing but sit in front of the fan, spraying myself with a plant-mister and sipping ice water, for five days running.  It's left me feeling fat, sloppy, sweaty and completely demoralized, and I'm sick of it.  Just let me get some laundry done and put on a little makeup, and I might feel better  ...

Fortunately for the kids, Andrea stopped by unexpectedly on Monday evening with a brand-new kiddie pool for everyone to use this summer.  Jamie set it up the next morning, right next to the swingset, and they've practically lived in it ever since.  (I even went out and sat in it for a while on Tuesday afternoon, when the temps were at their most sizzling.)  So they've had a fun way to cool off.  They've also built their annual summer fort (out of picnic table benches and an old shower curtain), and that's where they've slept for the past three nights.  It looks like one of those makeshift shacks you might see in Hobo Town, but the summer fort has become something of a tradition around here and I don't really care what it looks like, as long as it gives them SOMETHING TO DO  ...

I've found an alternative to Girl Scout camp for Jamie & Kacie.  It's a church camp near Lake Stevens, from July 20-24, and it will only cost $161 to send them both.  "Only"?  That's a laugh.  The truth of the matter is that $161 seems like an ENORMOUS amount of money to me at the moment.  It's only now beginning to dawn on me, I think, how much I'm going to miss the income that babysitting Mak and Josh generated.  Ray is working a  lot of overtime but we're still lagging behind on our bills.  I have to send in the camp money before next Monday, but asking Ray about it is proving to be tougher than I'd anticipated.  I was planning to ask him last night, as a matter of fact, but then he came home at 8:00 (after four hours of overtime) and right away the car broke down in our driveway, and then he sat at the table shaking his head over the $200 phone bill, andit never seemed to be the right time to bring up the camp money.  I'll try again tonight.  Frankly, it makes me furious to be in this position  ...  having to "ask" him for camp tuition, knowing that no matter how or when I spring it on him, he'll be surly and argumentative about it  ...

But I want the girls to have their camp.  I still feel so bad about Girl Scout camp falling through, and they're already so excited (again) about the Lake Stevens camp  ...  I think I'd be willing to completely prostitute myself to Ray in order to make it happen for them.

And then there is finally some news about the house money.  Last Friday, Ted had his "housekeeper" (for want of a better word: she's the woman who moved in and took over after Grandma died) call and make me an offer to buy my half of the house for  --  are you ready for this?  --  $30,000.  Bearing in mind that my half-interest is valued at $85,000.  My first instinct, as always, was to call Cousin Terry and get her opinion.  I really do feel as though I must be driving her up the wall with my constant phone calls and questions, but she insists that she doesn't mind a bit, that she "loves" hearing from me, and I guess she means it.  Anyway, her first response when I told her about Ted's offer was to burst out laughing!  (Is it any wonder I love this lady so?)  The next morning she called me back and said, "Terri Lynn, I told Jim about your phone call last night, while we were going to dinner, and he nearly drove the car off the road."  The point being that I'm not alone in thinking the offer ridiculous. 

Diary Entry:

Typed a letter to Ted (one of my politely-menacing specialties), saying that I'll take no less than $85,000 for my half of the house.  Read it over the phone to Terry and Dad, both approved.  (Dad, incidentally, was MUCH nicer on the phone than he was on Sunday.)

June 26, 1992

Diary Entry:

Finally  --  blessed relief from the heat.  Woke to cloudy skies!!   Very tired, heavy period, bad cramps, hungover.  Jamie gone most of the day, Joey B. here to play with Kyle.  Danielle and Cody here, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Mailed the letter to Ted.

Ray home around 6 p.m., in a better mood than usual  ...  paid some bills, gave everybody an "allowance" (even me), got Wendy's for dinner.

June 27, 1992

Continuing this a couple of days later  ...  Saturday morning.  Ray is working today, and the kids and I are flying around, getting the place picked up.  Ray told the girls last night that if they clean up the backyard and the garage, he "might" consider writing a check for their camp tuition when he gets home tonight.  So Jamie was tromping around the backyard at 9:30 this morning, picking up candy wrappers and stray socks and Ninja Turtles and dirty towels.  Kacie is still out in the garage working  --  I can hear her sweeping and listening to the radio.  (Disaster struck a moment ago:  Kyle ran into the garage to ask Kacie a question, and he accidentally knocked over a jelly glass that had been left on the garage floor.  All I heard was the sound of glass shattering, followed by Kacie's sharp intake of breath.  "Ohhhhh, KYLE!" she hissed, and Kyle burst into tears.  I asked what had happened, and he flew into my arms, sobbing that it was an accident.  "Well, of course it was," I said calmly, hugging him.  The mess got cleaned up, and now Kyle is happily bouncing his basketball in the driveway.)

Out of fairness to Ray, I must admit that he was considerably more reasonable about the camp money than I'd expected him to be.  As a matter of fact, he was wonderful last night  ...  I'm still reeling from it.  I think he was pleased with his paycheck (all that o.t.) and feeling generous, because he gave everybody money  --  even me  --  and then he sat at the kitchen table paying a big stack of bills.  Afterwards he went out and bought Wendy's for our dinner, without even complaining about the expense.  The extraordinary thing is that I didn't bring up the subject of the girls' camp, HE did.  I've been tied up in knots about this for days, anticipating the worst.  So this comes as such a relief, I can hardly stand it.

Anyway, back to the subject of the house money.  What I wound up doing this week was writing a letter to Ted  --  one of my politely menacing specialties  --  saying, essentially, that although I appreciate his interest in buying me out, I've been "advised" that it would not be in the best interests of myself or my family to accept anything less than the appraised value of my half interest.  I suggested that he have his lawyer contact me, and that I hope the issue can be resolved 'quickly and amicably.'  Har.

Diary Entry:

Very energetic.  Ray worked today, and so did I  --  cleaned house like a maniac, was still cleaning when he got home at 5:00.

June 28, 1992

Diary Entry:

Another really nice day, emotionally.  Ray went out and bought a ton of groceries; nice to have food in the house again!  Then this afternoon he took the kids and I down to Target  --  I got shoes for the girls, some makeup for me, a new badminton set for the family. 

Ray BBQ'd a roast, I made mashed potatoes and gravy.  Drank a couple of gin and tonics, watched "The Empire Strikes Back" with the kids. Ray wrote a check for the girls to go to camp, will mail it tomorrow.


June 29, 1992

Diary Entry:

Horrible news, first thing this morning  --  Andrea quit her job.  I am in shock.  What the hell will we do for money??  (Mailed the girls' camp check this morning  --  $161.)  

Kept myself busy all day, cleaning house and trying to decide how to break the news to Ray  ...  then I chickened out and didn't tell him at all!!  We ate dinner, watched a rented movie ("Cape Fear")  --  Jay's new friend Nicole here to spend the night  --  inside I am terrified.

Tuesday morning
June 30, 1992

Life has dealt me another blow.  (What a surprise, huh?)  I'd just spent a week worrying about the girls' camp tuition  --  which, incidentally, we mailed this week  --  and now, BOOM, something new to flatten me emotionally: Andrea called yesterday morning to inform me that she's quit her job.  The way she describes it, it was one of those "quit or be fired" situations.  She'd missed too many days, the boss called her onto the carpet and threatened her with 30 days' probation, and she quit, just like that.  She was obviously very upset, and I suppose I could have said someting comforting, but the truth is that I was incredibly angry with her.  I still am.  "You said we were committed through the summer," I said to her coldly, and she said, "At the time, I thought we were."  But that's not good enough.  It just isn't.  This is the second or third time, in two and a half years, that she's done something like this.  WHAT IN THE HELL AM I GOING TO DO???

And here's the worst part  ...  I still haven't broken the news to Ray.  Just like last week, when I was trying to scrape up the nerve to ask him about the camp money.  I wanted to tell him yesterday, but I couldn't do it.  When he got home from work, John and Lori were here for a quick visit, and he'd just put new tires on his car and he was all happy about that, and I knew he'd come completely unglued if I told him I'd lost my babysitting job.  Now I'm going to have to call him at work and tell him, and I know it's going to be bad, bad, bad.

Left a message at his work, asking him to call during his next break.  ("I can page him," the receptionist offered helpfully, but I said no, I'd prefer she not.  Still stalling  ...)


Well  ...  it wasn't that bad.  It wasn't good, but it wasn't bad.  I told him that Andrea had quit her job, and he just said something like "Oh, OK."  Impossible to tell whether he was upset or not.  I was so surprised by his non-reaction that I said, "Well, I'M upset about it," but he just said "OK" again, and said that we'd talk about it when he gets home.

I honestly don't know what to do at this point. I thought things were going to be tough financially with Josh and Mak gone, but that's nothing compared to this.  I suppose the worst part is not having any money of "my own."

Diary Entry:

Will I ever understand men?  Probably not.  Call Ray at work this a.m., told him about Andrea, and all he said was "Oh  --  OK."  When he got home this evening he was warm, understanding and supportive.  Is this the dawning of a new era or what??

Nicole here all day, also Joey B. to play with Kyle.  Still cloudy and mild; nice weather.  Made spaghetti for dinner, a meatloaf for the freezer.  Jamie went home with Nicole to spend the night.

July 1, 1992

Ray was so incredibly understanding and supportive when he got home last night that my mood has done a complete turn-around today.  He said, "We'll be OK (money-wise) for a few weeks, and by then something will have turned up."  I could barely believe what I was hearing.  Lately he has been so great  ...  I wish it could always be like this.  I suppose that once I get my inheritance, the money arguments will start up again  ...  but for right now I'm determined to enjoy the prevailing peaceful atmosphere  ...  not to mention my involuntary 'vacation' from babysitting  ...

...  And herein lies my guilty secret: the idea of some time off from watching other peoples' children is thrilling!  It's not a 'vacation' in the true sense  --  I've still got Jamie, Kacie and Kyle to contend with, there is still laundry and cooking and all the other stuff that never really goes away  --  but I'm still feeling this amazing sense of freedom this morning.  No poopy diapers!  No hiding in the laundry toom to smoke a quick sneaky cigarette!  No preparing lunch for the masses!  It's exhilarating.  Who knows?  Maybe it was just what I needed.

The mood around here today is festive and light-hearted.  Jamie isn't here  --  she spent the night at her new friend Nicole's house last night  --  but Kacie, Kyle and I are having fun.  This is Spud's first "birthday," for one thing.  One year ago today, Sabrina had her litter of kittens in the girls' bedroom closet.  (I still smile when I remember Jamie's frantic reaction when she realized what was going on.)  Accordingly, the kids have decided to throw him a birthday party today.

Diary Entry:

Busy, energetic.  Kacie and Kyle celebrated Spuddy's "first birthday" with a goofy little party in the garage.  Jamie gone all day  --  spent the night AGAIN at Nicole's.  John and Lori stopped by in the afternoon, paid me $10 she owed me. 

Ray drove over to his brother's and picked up the tent, pitched it in the backyard for the kids to play in.  Tracy spent the night.

Fight with Ray tonight, something stupid.

July 2, 1992

Diary Entry:

Andrea stopped by this morning to pay me $100 for last week's babysitting; I ran out to the car to say hello to Danielle & Cody, who I've missed very much this week.  Lori and her nieces, Mandy and Lacey, walked over to pick up Tracy around noon; Kacie and Kyle walked back with them to the apartments to swim.  Alone for a few hours this afternoon   ...  nice.

Jamie went to see "Batman Returns" with Nicole, finally came home around 6:00.

Ray and I made up, no big deal.

Note: Found out later that Tammy Ward died today.  You may recall that I'd regularly babysat her son ("Little Terry") a few years earlier.  Tammy and her husband were very good to us during those early years in the apartments --  they're the ones who took the girls on the camping trip to Greenwater  --  and I'll never forget her kindness.  She was a nice lady and a good friend.

July 3, 1992

Diary Entry:

Ray home from work today.  Cody and Danielle here, 10 .m. to 5 p.m.  --  it was so good to see them!!  Andrea paid me $20 when she picked them up; that will be our fireworks money tomorrow.

Ray took the kids over to the apartments to swim for a couple of hours; I stayed home, drank a few wine coolers, worked on a tape.  When they got home around 7:30, we watched "E.T." and barbecued hamburgers for dinner.

July 4, 1992

Diary Entry:

Happy Fourth of July.  Got up early (pouring-down rain all day), cooked a nice breakfast for everybody, cleaned the house.  Jamie went to see "House Sitter" with the Bontempos.

John, Lori and Tracy came over at 3:30 and spent the evening with us  ...  drinks, music, conversation, fireworks, fun.

July 5, 1992

Diary Entry:

Slow, sleepy day  ...  recovering from last night's "fun."  Ray set up the new badminton net in the front yard, so the kids will have something new to play with this summer.  Kacie and Kyle went to a BBQ this evening over at the church  --  I made a big stir-fry for Ray, Jamie and I.  Asleep early.

July 6, 1992

Diary Entry:

Beginning to seriously worry now about the money situation.  Last week felt like a spontaneous "vacation"  ...  this week reality is setting in.  I MUST find a way to bring in some income soon.

Still cool and cloudy, a little rain this afternoon.  Watched all four hours of a PBS miniseries I'd taped, "Rebecca."  Housecleaning, laundry, phone calls, badminton with the kids and Ray.  BLTs for the kids and Ray, leftover stir-fry for me.

Preoccupied and quiet tonight. 

July 7, 1992

Beginning to seriously worry about the money situation.  Last week felt like a spontaneous "vacation," but this week reality is setting in.  Right now we have food in the house, and our bills are nearly caught up  ...  but what will we do next week when Ray's paycheck runs out and there's no money coming in from Andrea?

Shit.  I was hoping this would be an uncomplicated, pleasant summer, for a change.  Last summer Grandma Vert was dying, and the summer before that it was Grandma St. John.  I was counting on this summer being smooth and easy, no crushing emotional blows, just a lot of time spent with my family  ...  and now here I am, rationing groceries and scrounging spare change from the bottom of my purse again.  I'm down to one cigarette for the rest of the day, which I'm hoarding like the Hope Diamond.  This isn't the way I wanted this summer to be at all.

Ray is still amazingly unfazed by all of this.  I just don't get it.  He keeps saying things like, "Well, I guess I'll just let you enjoy your vacation."  Where is all the ranting and raving I've come to expect?  This kinder, gentler Ray is downright spooky.  I'd almost suspect he was up to something if I felt he were capable of that sort of manipulation.  But he isn't, so I must simply assume that he's just being uncharacteristically understanding. 

Diary Entry:

Running out of things to DO.  The house has rarely been so clean (except, of course, for the kids' rooms!), the laundry is caught up, dinner is ready every day by noon  ...  without any babysitting I feel horribly at loose ends.  Badminton, soap operas, phone calls  ... the same old stuff. 

Ray's still in a good mood, at least.

July 8, 1992

Diary Entry:

My mom came and picked up the kids at 1:00 for lunch at McDonald's and swimsuit shopping (for the girls).  I cleaned Kyle's room (only the girls' room left!), weeded out some stuff for the garage sale we're having next week.  Made some big signs for the sale this afternoon.  

ayn brought me a bottle of wine  --  I drank a few glasses, had a long fun phone conversation with Lori.  Manwich for dinner.  Girls slept out in the tent.

July 9, 1992

Diary Entry:

Took a break from manic housecleaning today  ...  Lori came by in the afternoon, brought me some tapes  ("Bang a Gong," "Driver's Seat").  Lovely letter from Aunt Mabel  ...  she gently chided me for not writing my chapter yet (for the family history book she's writing).  Must do that SOON.

Ray got his hair all cut off into a crew cut, looks so funny!!

July 10, 1992

Whew  ...  taking a break from cleaning the girls' bedroom.  Barbara and her husband are bringing over Barbara's old bedroom set this weekend (dresser, vanity & nightstand), and I'm trying to clear things out in preparation.  I thought this would be a two hour job, at most, but now it's looking like an all-day job.

Diary Entry:

The girls' room today  ...  ugh.  It took three hours and four boxes' worth of garbage, but I got it done.  Ray's sister Barbara is supposed to bring over her old bedroom set this weekend, by the way, so I moved the bookcase out of the girls' room and into Kyle's to clear space for the new stuff. 

Tia and Joey B. here to play for a few hours.  Ray not home until after 6:30  --  so cold and rainy today that he actually built a FIRE!   Wendy's for dinner; re-read Sue Miller's "The Good Mother."

July 11, 1992

Diary Entry:

To quote Elton John: "The bitch is back."  Our dumbshit neighbor across the street called Animal Control about our cats, so A.C. paid us a visit this morning.  They said she's putting a "trap" in her front yard.  Personally, I think she's just getting back at us for the Fourth of July.

Karen S. stopped by for a quick visit.  John and Lori here for most of the afternoon  --  funny game of badminton.

July 12, 1992

Diary Entry:

Quiet day, lots of good movies: "The Hand That Rocks The Cradle," (a rental, was very good), "Play It Again, Sam," "The Buddy Holly Story."  Kids and Ray went over to the apts. to swim for a couple of hours: I stayed home and made an enormous chicken-fried steak dinner, then found I couldn't eat any of it because my stomach was too upset.  Ray went out and bought me some medicine for it, and by bedtime I felt better.

Kids and I stayed up and watched a TV movie, "A Cry In The Wild: The Taking of Peggy Ann" (Megan Follows, David Soul).

Monday noon
July 13, 1992

Recovering from a nice but exhausting weekend.  Ray called in sick this morning, which kind of starts my week off with a thud.  It's so hard to get anything done with him underfoot, and my kitchen is a sea of dirty dishes from last night's chicken fried steak.  But I am bravely trying to work my way around him and the kids.  Next week the girls will be at camp, and Kyle is spending a few days with Peg and Don out in Bellevue, so I will be blissfully alone.  Looking forward to that.  In the meantime, though, we have a garage sale coming up in four days, and I still have to pack for the kids, so this week is going to be crazed.  Just trying to keep my head above water, and next week's peace and quiet will be my reward.

Money-wise, we're still hanging in there.  Ray was paid on Friday (not as great a check as last time, but OK), and he did a big grocery shopping for me.  With planning and restraint, I should be able to stretch things out for a while.  With the kids all gone next week, it'll only be me and Ray to feed, anyway.  I have "Babysitting Available" signs up all over town, and now all I can do is sit back and wait for a nibble.  The worst part of this whole situation  --  the thing that bothers me the most  --  is not having any money of my own.  It is so demeaning, having to ask Ray for five dollars.  I've had my own income for nearly six years, and now, suddenly I don't, and I hate it, hate it, HATE it.

Still no word from anyone about Grandma's house.  This is simply adding to my frustration, although I suppose it's just as well that the money isn't coming right now  ...  we'd probably just piddle it away on bills and living expenses.  I just wish there were some way to find out what Ted thought of my letter.

Diary Entry:

Ray stayed home from work today, no particular reason  ...  I tried to work my way around him.  Took almost all day to clean up the kitchen and catch up on laundry.  Our garage sale is in four days; the kids leave in  a week.  Lori called, just to chat.

Letter from Mr. Moreland, but nothing pertaining to me or to the house.

Leftover steak for dinner (in sandwiches), watched a dumb movie ("Revenge of the Nerds Pt. 3"), Star Trek:NG.

July 14, 1992

Kacie and Kyle have a new thing they like to do every morning  ...  they hop on their bikes and ride them as fast as they can, around and around the house, until they're completely exhausted.  Sitting here at my desk, I can hear them whizzing past the open laundry room door every couple of minutes, laughing and shouting.  (Jamie, of course, is draped across the living room sofa watching her beloved "Price Is Right"; her idea of exercise is going outside to get the mail.)  Another cloudy, muggy morning.  Except for that one week of scorching temps last month, this has been a mild summer so far, weather-wise.  We've had the tent put up in the backyard for two weeks now, and the kids have only slept in it once, I think  ...  it just gets too COLD at night.  Most of our nights, in fact, are spent the way we spent last night: Ray goes to bed around 9:30, and the kids and I settle into the living room with all of the lights turned off and watch TV until late.  Then I fall asleep on the sofa and the kids stretch out on the loveseat or on the floor in sleeping bags.  It's actually very nice.  We wake up in the mornings around 8 a.m., when the children at the private school behind our house start making noise.  I turn on the very early news, open the doors and start the fans, make a pot of coffee (which the girls and I share)  ...  the kids fix their own breakfasts, usually cereal and toast (or a poached egg for Kacie, which she loves)  ...  it's a sweet, friendly little routine that we all enjoy.

My pet peeves this summer:

  • Kids running in and out and leaving doors open
  • Constant requests for snacks and drinks
  • Teenage neighbors with mega-loud car stereos (we call them "The Boogie Brothers")
  • Joey B.'s bizarre phone calls to Kyle
  • Dirty towels
  • No money of my own
  • Stinky cat box in the laundry room 


Not especially looking forward to the garage sale later this week.  Originally, the agreement was that the kids would do most of the work, but so far it's fallen squarely on my shoulders.  I've gone through every cupboard, closet and drawer in our house, weeded through (and cleaned) both awful kids' bedrooms, dragged stuff down from the attic  ...  labelled, organized, made signs, called people for donations  ...  Jamie has helped, peripherally at least, but I still feel like I've done most of the grunt work.  And when this stupid garage sale finally rolls around on Friday, I suppose it'll be me who winds up sweating in the hot driveway, counting out change and watching total strangers pawing through our possessions  ...

Oh well.  Whose brilliant idea WAS this, anyway?  (Mine.)  And if the kids actually wind up making a profit, it will all be worth it.  The girls need money to take to Camp Cedar Springs next week, for the snack shack, and if they don't make it this weekend at our garage sale, I'll be forced to ask someone for a loan. 

Diary Entry:

Velma called today  --  first time I've heard from her in ages  --  she wants Kacie to come over and spend the night on Friday.  Did a lot of work for the upcoming garage sale, then sat around reading old Rolling Stones magazines all afternoon.  BORED.  Is this a calm before the storm?  Should I be enjoying this??  Wish I could  ...

Ray yelled at me tonight about dinner (frozen Banquet chicken), had me in tears.  Asshole.

Late TV with the girls, good ST:NG.

Wednesday 11 a.m.
July 15, 1992

This journal is winding down, I see  ...  but, like everything else in my life at the moment, I'm trying to make it stretch as far as possible because I don't have the money to replace it (and I despise the idea of asking Ray to buy one for me, knowing how much he hates my journals)  ...

I'm really trying to make the groceries last, for one thing, so last night I cooked some frozen fried chicken we got from the Food Bank a week or so ago.  The kids like it (or at least they EAT it), so I figured Ray would, too.  I warmed up some leftover mashed potatoes and gravy to go with it, and there was fresh coleslaw I'd prepared the day before.  As meals go, it was nothing to sing about, but I was secretly rather pleased with my resourcefulness.  So when Ray tossed it to one side and made himself a sandwich ("I bought $140 worth of food, and I'm not gonna eat no FOOD BANK CHICKEN," he snarled at me), I burst into tears.  The kids were shocked, and they immediately clustered around me on the sofa, trying to comfort me.  Later, Ray mellowed a little and apologized, and I promised to make him a "decent" dinner tonight to make up for it (like a good little wifey)  ...  but the thing is, I wasn't as upset by his reaction to the dinner and I was his attitude.  It felt as though he were spitting on my efforts to economize, to make things stretch.  I'm not bringing in any money right now, and trying to be resourceful and thrifty is virtually the only contribution I can make.  So when he tossed my dinner aside, it was like a slap in the face.  He might just as well come out and said "Your petty efforts are meaningless."  And I resent that like hell.

Of course, a lot of the problem is my own sensitivity to the current money situation.  Ordinarily I probably would have just said "Fine  --  you don't want the chicken  --  what can I fix for you instead?," and it wouldn't have turned into this major emotional issue.  But I took it personally because I feel so useless right now.  This will all change eventually, I'm sure  --  the rational part of me knows that  --  but in the meantime, any mention of my joblessness, any reminders that I have no money of my own (running out of pages in this journal, watering down my makeup to make it last longer, having no money to send with the girls to camp next week)  ...  any criticism of my "economizing"  ...  well, it hits a nerve.

I find it somewhat frustrating  --  and annoying  --  that two months ago I was complaining about babysitting for a living.  ("I hate it," I whined in this journal.  "I mean I really HATE it.")  And now I'd give my eye teeth just to have one steady customer.  It's like, MAKE UP YOUR MIND, TERRI!!  (I actually degraded myself, about a week ago, by calling Karen and hinting around about having Josh and Mak come back  ...  I cringe at the memory, but desperate times call for desperate measures.)  It's so ridiculous.  I complain about what I have, and then I complain even louder when it's gone.

There's something else  ...  I am almost agonizingly BORED.  It's a feeling that has been building for some time now, but yesterday it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I'd cleaned the house, I'd done the laundry, I'd done as much about the garage sale as I could, I'd planned and cooked the ill-fated frozen chicken dinner  ...  and then all of a sudden there was just nothing left to DO.  I wound up sitting on the sofa, reading a stack of old Rolling Stones I'd found in the attic, until Ray got home from work.  The whole time I was thinking "Geez, this is it  ...  this is as low as it gets."  After awhile I didn't even have the energy to read anymore: I just layed on the bed and stared at the ceiling.  The weird thing about all of this is that it isn't boredom in the classic sense.  When it comes right down to it, I can always find something to occupy my time.  This is more a boredom of spirit, I think  ...  an aimlessness, a feeling of having no structure to my days.  At least when I was babysitting there was a routine to things.  I had to get up at a certain time in the mornings.  Cody needed his nap at a certain hour, Josh needed his medication at a certain time, the parents came to pick up their kids at a certain time.  Now the only thing I really have to plan my days around are mealtimes  ...  or else what's on TV.  Not exactly the stuff of which rich, fulfilling lives are made.

In a way, it's too bad that I can't just sit back and enjoy this involuntary vacation.  It sounds so good in theory: lots of time with my kids, no rigid schedules, no other peoples' kids driving me nuts.  If it weren't for the money situation, and for the boredom, it would probably be heavenly.  It's to bad I can never be satisfied with the way things are, isn't it? 

Diary Entry:

Getting hot again.  Made a big pot of hamburger soup, let it simmer in the crockpot all day so it wouldn't heat up the kitchen.  Spent some time writing in my journal about the money situation and about how bored I am. 

Ray brought home some wine, I spent the evening sipping on that, talking to people on the phone, listening to music in my office.

July 16, 1992

Diary Entry:

Good news/bad news  ...  I am "employed" again!  The bad news is that it's Josh and Mak!  Karen called this afternoon and asked if they can come back, starting tomorrow, and with our money situation the way it is, I said OK. 

Also  --  our garage sale has been postponed until next week, because we're  not allowed to post signs anywhere and we'll need time to advertise in the newspaper.  So we'll have it when the kids get home.

Jessica B. here to spend the night; Janet loaned us a movie, "The Butcher's Wife."

Friday 11 a.m.
July 17, 1992

I guess it's true what they say: you should be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.

I was wishing for "just one steady customer," and so what happens?  Karen calls me late in the afternoon and asks if Josh and Mak can come back!  I shit you not.  I was fixing dinner when she called, and I knew the instant I heard her voice why she was calling.  Apparently things didn't work out at the new daycare  --   Josh hit another child over the head with a shovel, and Karen was asked not to bring him back  --  and so they've returned to our house, beginning today.  Also, I have Danielle and Cody here today while Andrea is out running errands, so we have a VERY full house indeed.  Compared to the past few (relatively) quiet days, the place feels like a zoo  ...  and believe it or not, I'm glad!

The garage sale has been postponed, incidentally.  Yesterday, Jamie and Jessica went out and attempted to put up our "Yard Sale" signs around the neighborhood, but they were stopped by a City of SeaTac police officer who told them it's no longer legal to post signs.  Since that was the only way we'd planned to advertise, it put a real crimp in things.  I told the kids that if they'll wait and have the sale after they get home from camp, I'll pay to run an ad in the newspaper.  That way we'll be sure to have a decent turn-out.  They were disappointed, especially after all the work they'd put into it this week, but all things considered it's just as well we're not having it today  ...  there are just too many kids here, for one thing.  And it's mind-fuckingly hot today, on top of everything else.  I am physically miserable. 

Diary Entry:

God.  After a couple weeks of relative peace and quiet, today was a ZOO!!  Not only were Josh & Mak back today, but I also had Danielle & Cody for six hrs. and Jessica B. was here most of the day.  CHAOS ...  NOISE  ...  MONEY!!!

Horribly hot and stuffy, didn't get a lot done besides watching kids.  Andrea paid me $45 wonderful dollars  ... so nice to have money of my own again, even though it all goes for the girls.

Ray rented "The Addams Family."  Made tacos for dinner at his request, but I couldn't eat much. 

July 18, 1992

Well, here we are, Journal  ...  the last entry.  I've "stretched" this thing out as much as I can, but today seems a logical point at which to close things.

It's a hot Saturday morning.  Ray is working today: the kids and I have been up since shortly before 7 a.m., trying to get as much done before it gets too hot as possible, although at the moment we're taking a break.  Kacie and Kyle are re-watching last night's rental movie, "The Addams Family"; Jamie is out in the backyard, filling up the swimming pool for later today.  (She has a new electric-green swimsuit this summer, and it startles me every time I see her in it:  there are new curves this year that weren't there before, and she is gorgeously tanned.  Who IS this lovely, nymphlike creature  ...  ?)  I've cleaned the kitchen, mopped the floor and run a load of laundry, and now I've stopped for a cigarette and a glass of ice water in my office, the little electric fan clipped to my desk.

I feel pretty good today  ...  relieved about the babysitting, for one thing.  I would be lying if I said I wasn't uneasy about having Josh and Mak come back, considering the trouble we've had in the past; it's not my ideal babysitting option.  I would have been a LOT happier to have Danielle and Cody come back.  Still, there are some things I simply have no control over, and my brief frightening brush with unemployment this summer convinced me that I can't be picky.  At this point I just want to make enough money to buy school clothes for the kids next month, and to keep us going until something better comes along.  So I'll just grit my teeth and bear it, I guess.

I never did finish the little 'self-analysis' project I started a couple of months back, but to tell you the truth, a lot of the intensity of need and emotion has subsided, for the time being anyway.  Whether or not I wanted my "involuntary vacation," this past month or so, it seems to have done me some good: I feel slightly calmer about things.  I'm still certain that there are changes ahead.  I'm still certain that changes are necessary. There just isn't that frantic sense of needing to change everything RIGHT NOW.  Of course there's always the possibility that I'm sinking back into complacency  ...  that I allowed the impulse to come and go without acting on it, and now "the sense of resignation" that Gail Sheehy warned me about is setting in  ...  I hope not, though.  I'll try to work on it some more in the next journal.  It's just that, today, there is a sweet feeling of everything being more or less OK in my heart, and I'm too calm to rock any boats.

It's been an interesting ten months.  No major tragedies, no big shake-ups.  Peg getting sick was as close as we came to that.  I've continued to mourn Grandma, but after a while memories and peacefulness take the edge off the heart.  When I think of her now, there isn't that wrenching 'heart-squeeze' of loss  ...  just love, gratitude, memories.  I wish we had gotten the house business settled.  Frankly, I'm amazed that it's nearly a year later and things are still as uncertain as they were when she died.  Maybe next journal.  The kids are healthy, well-adjusted and growing up beautifully: a continual source of joy.  No broken bones, anyhow!  "Domino" never did come home, and that was another big heartbreak for the three of them, but thank god nothing worse happened to them the past ten months.

I guess I've tied up most of the loose ends, so now I'll close with these wishes for the next journal:

  • That I'm as consistent about writing in the next journal as I've been these past couple of weeks!


  • That we do finally manage to get the house stuff settled, once and for all.

next        previous        home        archives        want to throw a rock?    

© secraterri 1998-2008
all rights reversed reserved!
comments/questions/spelling corrections HERE
~ nil bastardum carborundum ~