July 1992 - November 1992
Age 34

"On nights when all five of us are together under the same roof, and it's cold and rainy outside but warm and cozy inside, I feel as though everything is right with the world.  Nothing else seems to matter  ...  not money worries, not a messy house, not even the idea that 'romance' is permanently missing from my life  ...  as a matter of fact, these things seem kind of silly and inconsequential.  The only thing that genuinely matters is that my family is together, safe and healthy, and my children are still young, and it's 1992 and time could come to a standstill right now and I wouldn't mind a bit."


July 20, 1992

I am alone!

Kyle left yesterday morning to spend a few days with Peg and Don out in Bellevue; and then I have just come back from taking the girls over to the church, where they caught the van to Camp Cedar Springs.  All three will probably be gone until the end of the week.  Of course, this brief moment of silence and solitude is only temporary  ...  in two hours, Cody and Danielle will be here, and later in the week I've got Josh and Mak coming  ...  but for right now I am overwhelmed by the peace, the quiet, the lovely EMPTINESS of this house.  No kids screaming at each other.  No half-eaten peanut butter sandwiches left sitting in the fridge.  No slamming doors, no repeated requests for snacks, no arguments over who gets to sleep on the loveseat.  Just me and the kitties and "The Price Is Right" and a pot of coffee.  

Lovely, lovely, lovely.

I felt a tiny lump in my throat as I hugged the girls and walked home alone, I must admit.  There are some things you never completely get used to: saying goodbye to my children is one of them.  Kyle called me last night from his grandparents' house, and his sweet little voice tore through my heart like an electrical current.  It will never be easy for me to be separated from them, not even temporarily.  I am hopelessly, idiotically, permanently attached to my kids, and no 'goodbye' will ever be completely painless, I'm afraid.

I've just come through a bumpy time, emotionally and financially, but as this journal begins on this overcast and humid July morning, I am seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.  The babysitting business is heating up again, and for the first time in several weeks I feel some optimism.  I can't know what the next 160 pages of this journal hold in store for my family and me, but with luck  --  and faith, and hard work  --  maybe it will be good things.

Diary Entry:

The girls left for camp today: I walked them over to the church at 8:30 and saw them onto the van. 

Danielle & Cody here today from 10:00 to 5:45, helped fill the void left by all three of my kids being gone, but by evening I was feeling sad and quiet.  Ray tried to help but I snapped at him to "leave me alone!" 

Broke, depressed, lonely for my kids.

Kyle called tonight, but I was too upset to say much to him.

July 21, 1992

OK, I'll admit it  ...  I had some problem last night with the kids being gone.  Ray came home from work and found me curled up on the sofa, staring out the window.  I don't know  --  I just didn't feel like talking.  He kept trying to engage me in conversation, and I finally snapped at him to "Leave me ALONE, please!"  ("Fuck you!" he snapped back, and he stalked off the garage for the rest of the evening.)  Later Kyle called, and that's when Ray finally seemed to realize what was wrong.  "Oh," he said, "you miss your babies."  I still felt withdrawn and distant, still didn't feel much like talking, but at least he knew why.  He went to bed at 9:30, leaving me alone to watch TV ("Murphy Brown," "Grapevine," "Northern Exposure").  I fell asleep a little after 11:00 and slept straight through until 7:00 this morning, when I got up.

Lori was supposed to come over and spend the afternoon (we were planning to watch "City Slickers" together), but she called a while ago and said she'd been up all night with food poisoning.  She and John had steaks that he'd brought home from The Red Lion, and they figure it was either the steaks that were bad or else the unrefrigerated teriyaki sauce they'd put on them.  She sounded like shit, anyway, and I told her to forget about coming over, we can do it tomorrow.  The truth is that I was delighted by the prospect on one entire day all to myself.  Tomorrow Josh and Mak are coming back, so today was really the only day that I could be alone.  I stripped the girls' beds and washed their sheets and comforters, and then I picked up Kyle's room.  I watched my soaps and ate leftovers out of the fridge and took a nap.  And that, folks, was pretty much 'it' for my day.

Now Ray is home, and I feel exactly the same way I felt yesterday when he got home  ...  as though I want to stay as far away from him as possible.  I don't know why I feel like this, and I know that his feelings are hurt, but I don't care.  I just wish he would go away.  I feel very uncomfortable being home alone with him.  Kind of makes me wonder what our "golden years" will be like, when the kids are all grown and off on their own.

Diary Entry:

Better today.  At least it's cool, cloudy and nice this week, not opressively hot.  No babysitting  ...  one whole day to myself.  Lori was supposed to come over and spend the afternoon, but she called to say she's got food poisoning.  Mailed a letter to the girls, talked to Kyle on the phone tonight  --  he's still having fun.  Very plain burgers for dinner.  Read until late ("Coming Attractions," Fannie Flagg.)

Wednesday 5:15
July 22, 1992

Josh and Mak just left (their dad is growing a beard again  ...  ugggh), and I've had a glass of wine, and I'm in a much better mood.

I got letters from both of the girls today!!  That did a lot to improve my mood.  Here is Kacie's letter:

"Dear mom, dad

right now I'm in my bed.  I just got up.  Were going to have a Western day.  Oh and I boght some thing for you and Kyle dad.  I met 2 new people and the food is ohka it's only my 2 day and it feel's like home.  Well I don't want to spoil to much good by

I love you"

Jamie's letter was in the form of a greeting card.  The front (decorated with blue "frowny face" stickers) reads:

"Miss You alot
But  ... "

Then you open it, and the inside (with an orange happy face sticker) says:

"... Camp is GREAT!

Dear M, D & K,
Hello!  How are you?  I'm fine.  We had a great service today.  And for lunch we had hamburgers.  I bought a tee-shirt and a hat.  Better go now!  I will write you again!

The really funny thing about this is that Tracy got a letter from Kacie today, too, except that Tracy isn't home this week so Lori opened the letter and read it to me over the phone.  Kacie was complaining about everything!!!  She said that she was stuck in a cabin with a bunch of people she doesn't know; even worse, according to Kacie, she's expected to SHOWER with these strangers.  A fate worse than death, in her mind.  She described the camp as not even being "like a real camp"  ...  she said it's more like a big "daycare."  And the food she described in OUR letter as being "ohka" is "rubber hamburgers" in the letter to Tracy.  So go figure kids  ...

Lori made it over today, by the way, and I finally, finally got to see "City Slickers."  I'd promised her months ago that I wouldn't watch it with anyone but her  ...  a tough promise to keep, since Ray kept offering to rent it, and Velma offered to loan me her copy  ...  but it was a good movie, oddly more affecting than I'd expected, and it was fun watching it with my best friend.

Diary Entry:

Josh and Mak here today.  They played happily in Kyle's room all day.

Letters from both of the girls!! 

Lori finally over, we watched "City Slickers"  --  good movie.

Ray brought me some wine, I drank a couple of glasses but it didn't feel right  --  we wound up getting into a horrible screaming fight over Grandma's money.

July 23, 1992

Diary Entry:

The only halfway-decent day I've had all week, and I wasn't even feeling all that great!  Tired, cramps (period due any minute), nagging headache  ...  still, I took a shower and drank some coffee and felt much better by afternoon. 

Josh & Mak happily played Nintendo all day because the weather was so crummy.  I clipped coupons, cooked another pizza for our lunch, read my old favorite "Mr. & Mrs. Bo Jo Jones."  Letter from Jamie, postcard from Mom, talked to Kyle on the phone.

Ray brought Ivar's fish & chips for our dinner.

July 24, 1992

A couple of days later, and my ladies are coming home this afternoon!!!  I'm so excited, it's ridiculous!  Their bedroom is immaculately clean, and I put a vase of fresh-picked roses on their vanity table this morning.  Last night I sent Ray out to buy a few small "welcome home" gifts for them  -- hairspray and mousse, nail polish remover, a teen magazine for each of them  -- these are arranged on the vanity with the roses, along with some Avon goodies I got in the mail yesterday, the new Avon catalogs and a postcard from their Grandma Beeson.  I've laid in a supply of chips, cookies and Pepsi for them, and I've taped all their favorite TV shows: "The Price Is Right," "Saved By The Bell," "Beverly Hills 90210," "The Young & The Restless"  (but just the stuff with Ryan and Victoria) and "All My Children.")   Now I sit and wait for Jamie to call from the church and say they're home.

Diary Entry:

Put the finishing touches on the girls' room this morning  ...  a vase of fresh-cut roses on their vanity, beds made, laundry put away. 

Jamie called at 2:30, and the boys and I walked over to the church to pick her and Kacie up.  They both ran to me, screaming!!  So good to have them home.  They loved Camp Cedar Springs, definitely want to go back next year.

Happy surprise tonight  --  Kyle came home too!!  The folks brought him home at 7:30  --  bought him a lot of new school clothes, by the way.

Wendy's for dinner.  Karen came by and paid me.  Happy.

July 25, 1992

Diary Entry:

So nice to wake up this morning and have everyone home!!  Of course the house is a mess already, the kids are killing each other, the noise is deafening  ...  ah, maternal bliss!

Jay and I watched "City Slickers"  --  she loved it, especially "Norman."

Might be babysitting for a new lady with a 3 yr. old daughter: put together a daycare résumé for her.

Ray rented "Hook," bought us pizza at Pizza Hut, but no one made it all the way through the movie.

Sunday afternoon
July 26, 1992

Well, here I am alone again  ...  temporarily, this time, and by choice  ...  Ray and the kids just left for a swim at Shannon South, and I've elected to stay behind and enjoy a little peace and quiet.  As thrilled as I am to finally have all of the kids home this weekend, I still need an hour or so to put dinner together and pick up the house a little and 'recover' from their homecoming  ...   !

Jamie called at 2:30 Friday afternoon.  "We're back!" she announced.  "Can you come get us?"  So Josh and Mak and I trudged over to the church to help them carry their stuff.  Kacie saw me first, and she ran over with a big happy grin and hugged me tight.  Then Jamie, who was standing in the church doorway, shouted "MOMMY!" and literally hurled herself into my arms, wrapping those long legs of hers around my waist (and nearly knocking us both down in the process).  It was funny and unexpected and very sweet.  After we got all the sleeping bags and suitcases lugged home, the girls ran around the house in a flurry of excitement  ...  hugging the kitties, exclaiming over their clean bedroom and the "welcome home" goodies, asking for all the latest news.  It was a happy afternoon.

Camp, apparently, was an unqualified success  ...  much to my relief.  Secretly I had nursed the fear that Camp Cedar Springs would prove to be a poor substitute for Camp River Ranch, which is where I tried to send them originally.  I was afraid that a church camp might be too overtly religious for Jamie  ...  not enough swimming & outdoor activities for Kacie  ...  etc. etc.  But the first thing they said  --  BOTH of them   --  was "We LOVE Cedar Springs!," and that they definitely want to go back next summer.  So I was pleased.  I teased Kacie a little bit about the discrepancies in her account of camp food and camp life in general (between the letter she wrote me and the one she wrote to Tracy).  She said, "Oh, MOM  ...  "

Anyway, they got on the phone right away, calling their friends and their grandparents and generally alerting the world to their return, and then we spent the rest of the afternoon pleasantly, watching the TV tape and talking.  

Late in the afternoon I received a happy surprise: Kyle called me, and in that chirpy little voice of his he announced "I'm coming home, Mommy!"  Peg and Don brought him home at 7:30 that evening.  He bounced into the house wearing a new neon-yellow Batman T-shirt, carrying his Game Boy. ("Grandma and Grandpa bought me Super Mario Land!" he shouted excitedly, and then he proceeded to sit and play it for the rest of the evening, even while Peg and Don were trying to coax a goodbye hug & kiss out of him.)  I think he was glad to be home.  With the girls I had no doubt, but with Kyle, it was harder to tell: the only family member who rated a genuinely affectionate greeting from him was Spud, the kitty!  But I didn't mind.  I was just deliriously happy to have all three of my baby chicks back in the nest, safe and sound.

Diary Entry:

Getting warmer again: bracing myself for a hot week ahead.  Kacie went to church; Ray took Jamie, Kyle and I to Pay 'n Save, (where I) bought some makeup, magazines, skin care stuff.  John stopped by for a quick visit.  

Jamie and Kacie went to Angle Lake with the Bontempo girls, Joey B. came here to visit  --  then Ray took all three of our kids and Joey swimming at Shannon South, while I stayed home for some "alone-time."

Monday morning
July 27, 1992

Good grief  --  you should see this house!  It looks like we suffered a major earthquake over the weekend.  Which, in a way, I suppose we did  ...  the KIDS are home!  Laundry up to the ceiling already  ... not a single clean towel in the entire house  ...  candy wrappers and magazines strewn across the living room ...  small brown footprints tracked across the kitchen floor.  Am I complaining?  Not on your life!  There are some mornings when I love waking up to a mess, because it means that my children are home, and that I'll have plenty to do that day.  This is one of those mornings.  I was actually out of bed before Ray this morning, as a matter of fact  --  at 6:15  --  feeling rested and recharged and ready for a day of work and fun.  By the time Ray got up, I'd already put the coffee on and was outside in the backyard, cutting flowers in my pajamas.  I think he thought I was a little nutty, but it got my day off to a nice start, walking around in the clear morning air.  It's 9:30 now, and already I've cleaned up last night's dinner mess, showered and put on my makeup.  Now all that's left to do is the entire rest of the house  ...

The thing that amazed me the most about the kids being home is how quickly the fighting started up again!  As soon as Peg and Don dropped Kyle off on Friday night, actually, they started fighting over the Game Boy.  They fought over who got to sleep on the loveseat.  They fought about candy, about phone calls, about TV.  By yesterday afternoon things got so ugly between Kacie and Kyle that I wound up sending them to their rooms.  Of course this made me feel horrible, it being their first weekend home and all, but they were driving me insane with their ceaseless, mindless squabbling.  The other thing that surprised me was how quickly they managed to trash their bedrooms, not to mention the rest of the house  ...  I'd spent so much time last week getting everything just the way I like it, and within MINUTES it was back to chaos.  Oh well.  Life per normal.

Diary Entry:

Monday.  Getting back into the swing of things, kid-wise  ...  all three of mine plus Josh & Mak. Mom and Deb stopped by for a little while this morning (Mom got home from her trip to Mississippi and New Orleans last night), brought us gifts  --  a Civil War hat for Kyle, paper dolls for the girls, stationery for me. 

Jamie went to Nicole's to spend the night.  Finished "So Big," Edna Ferber  --  EXCELLENT.

July 28, 1992

Diary Entry:

Andrea called first thing this morning, asked me to watch the kids for a couple of hrs.  (Danielle got her hair cut SHORT!  Very cute.)  Jamie gone all day, spent the night at Nicole's again.  

After work Ray took Kacie, Kyle and I over to the apartments to celebrate Lori's 30th birthday.  Had a good time.  I gave her a birthday bag full of goodies, a funny card.  Toasted her with champagne.

Home around 9:30, fixed a quick soup and sandwich supper.

July 29, 1992

Diary Entry:

Hot  --  and due to get hotter as the week progresses.  Moving verrrry slowly today.  "Heavy babysitting"  --  Danielle & Cody here most of the day  --  Andrea paid me $20.  Potato salad, sandwiches for dinner.

Ray took the kids swimming at the apartments late this afternoon, left me home alone for an hour or so.

Thursday 7:30 a.m.
July 30, 1992

A quick scribble, early in the morning.  Due to get up into the 90's today, so I'm doing laundry now, hoping to beat the heat.  Would also like to pick up the house enough for it to look 'presentable'  ....  it still looks like a swamp  ...  I'd love to just kick back this afternoon in front of the fan and enjoy a clean house & a good book.  Josh and Mak are here already, playing quietly in Kyle's room: all three of mine are still snoozing (Jay in her bed, Kacie on the loveseat, Kyle on the living room floor in a sleeping bag).  I never sleep late anymore.  Even on mornings when I have no babysitting or otherwise don't NEED to get up early, I still find myself wandering around the kitchen at 6:30 or 7 a.m., sometimes even earlier.  It is the most peaceful time of the day for me anymore.

Lori's birthday was on Tuesday  --  her 30th!  --  and we went over to her place that night to celebrate with her and John.  It turned out to be an especially nice evening.  Sometimes when we go over to John and Lori's it turns into a screaming match between the two of them, with Ray and I the uncomfortable 'audience'  ...  other times, I drink a little too much and make a fool out of myself (tripping over bicycles on the patio, knocking my wine over, saying things I regret later).  So I never really know what to expect when we're invited over there.  Fortunately, this was one of those occasions where we're all in good moods and no one gets carried away and I come home feeling fine.  We stopped at Fisher Drugs on our way over to their apartment and bought some last-minute birthday stuff for Lori.  I got her:

  • A cartoon book about being "another year older."
  • A pin that says "I may be a cruel and heartless bitch, but I'm good at it."
  • A coffee mug that says "You're one in a million."
  • Potpourri.
  • A funny notepad that reads "Her Own Boss: When I Talk, I Listen."
  • A funny birthday card.

I stuffed all these things into a nice birthday bag, covered with a sheet of black tissue paper (to commemorate her turning 30!), and Ray picked up a six-pack of her favorite beer.  When we got to their apartment John had champagne ready, and we all drank a toast to the birthday girl.  Ray took the kids into the pool for a while, and Lori and I sat at the kitchen table, chatting and listening to music.  It was a hot summer evening, but their apartment was nice and cool.  I was drinking wine, but at least I didn't overdo it.  ("Look!" I said merrily, as we were leaving at 9:30.  "I can walk all by myself!")  I had a thoroughly good time, anyway  ...  one of the nicest evenings I've had so far this summer.

Diary Entry:

Reached 90° but I managed it pretty well: got up early and had most of my work done by noon.  House looks nice.  Josh was sort of a pill today  --  Karen asked me to give him a little extra medication and it helped.  Ray and the kids went swimming again, I stayed home and made dinner (chili), read the paper.  Kacie stayed the night at Tracy's.  Jay and I stayed up until midnight, watching the Olympics (gymnastics and swimming).

July 31, 1992

This has seemed like a very long week indeed.  It started out fine, but as the days have progressed it's gotten hotter, and Josh has become more agitated, and my nerves have started to unravel.  Josh is supposed to take one of his pills in the mornings before he gets to my house, but I don't think he's been taking them at all.  He is completely WILD this morning.  (I asked him about it and he said yes, he took his medication this morning  ...  but I think he's fibbing.)  I'm really, really trying to make a 'go' of our latest babysitting arrangement, and up until the past couple of days I thought maybe Josh and I had found a way to get along with each other.  As long as he takes his pills and follows my rules, we don't have a lot of problems.  Maybe these last few days are due more to the heat than anything else  ...  I know it gets to ME after awhile.  I guess I'll give him the benefit of the doubt  --  and an extra pill at lunchtime, with his mother's blessing  --  and pray that this day passes quickly  ... 

Diary Entry:

Very hot again, but due to cool off tomorrow.  Cody here most of the day while Andrea took Danielle to watch the hydros. 

John & Lori stopped by unexpectedly this afternoon, driving a new car!  John's mom helped them buy it.  They left Tracy here to spend the night  --  she and the girls slept outside in the garage.

August 1, 1992

Diary Entry:

Physically wrecked.  Sore throat, headache, nausea, upset stomach: shouldn't have mixed beer & wine last night, idiot!  Doesn't matter that I didn't drink a lot  ...  the combination is lethal in ANY amount.  

Ray went over and worked at my mom's, she paid him $50 (half of which is a loan).  Speaking of Mom, she came by to show me her trip pictures, brought me a gorgeous heart-shaped wreath for my living room, loaned me the newest Stephen King ("Gerald's Game"). 

Nicole here to spend the night  --  broiled burgers for dinner, Olympics on TV.

August 2, 1992

(Friday) passed.  Unfortunately, I made a huge mistake that night by drinking a few of Ray's beers  --  I almost never drink beer anymore, I can't stand the taste  --  and then I drank some wine on top of that.  It doesn't matter that I didn't drink very much of either: the combination is toxic for me, in any amount.  I was violently sick most of Friday night and all day yesterday.  My mother stopped by for a visit, to show me her vacation pictures (from New Orleans), and it was awful because I felt like I was just holding on by a thread.  I hate having her see me in that condition, but Lord knows it wasn't the first time (and it probably won't be the last).  

Anyway, I'm a hair better today.  It's wonderfully cool and cloudy, it's Sunday so no babysitting, I got a decent night's sleep (in my own bed, no less: Ray and Kyle slept on the sleeper-sofa, out in the garage), and I have plenty to do today to keep me busy.  I guess I'll live.

Kacie got up early and went to Sunday School, as usual. Jamie's friend Nicole spent the night last night, and now they've gone to Trailer Town on their bikes to get their daily fix of candy and junk food. Kyle is wandering around the house in his p.j.'s, looking for something to do. I can tell that this is going to be one of "those" days (no Josh and Mak to play with) where he follows me around and asks me questions all day. (Can I call Joey? Can I go over and play at the daycare? Can Kacie and me go to Trailer Town?) He's been trying to pick a fight with Jamie and Nicole all morning; Jamie, of course has amused herself by taunting and baiting him until he's worked into a frenzy, and then when he flies at her in fury, kicking and punching, she's all innocence and indignation. ("What did I do?") A sibling game as old as the hills ... 


Well, I was right: he is my constant and faithful shadow today. When I was putting a load of laundry into the washer, he perched himself on the edge of the machine and helped me drop dirty towels and socks into the swirling, soapy water. ("When will Jerome and Andre come and spend the night?" he asked wistfully.) Then when I went into the kitchen to put together a fruit crisp for tonight's dinner (using the very last of Grandma's canned peaches, by the way), he dragged a stool over to the sink and "washed" the dishes. Now he's squirting window cleaner on the kitchen cabinets and polishing them with a towel, humming to himself as he works ... a sweet little boy in cut-off sweats and messy hair. My Kyle. I love the way he looks in the summer. He spends so much time outdoors (his new thing is running around with no shirt on, like Marc, our neighbor across the street) that he just turns a deep golden brown with no effort at all (unlike his sisters, who work on it deliberately). The sun also turns his hair this beautiful golden blond color that I adore, and sprinkles his nose and cheeks with big, cinnamon brown freckles. He looks healthy and "All American" and utterly adorable. 

In freezer: 

1 pkg. round steak (small) 
5 chicken breasts 
1 pkg. kielbasa (small) 
1/2 lb. bacon 
1 pkg. (3) porkchops 
8 link sausages 
1 pkg. hot dogs 
Ray's yucky fish fillet 
Container of frozen spaghetti sauce 
4 TV dinners (2 turkey, 2 beef noodle) 


5 eggs 
1/2 pkg. sliced roast beef 
9 slices processed cheese 
1/2 bag potatoes 
1 lg. zucchini 
3/4 bag carrots 

Monday: Coleslaw and BLTs? 
Tuesday: Sliced round steak and noodles, zucchini & carrots
Wednesday: Spaghetti (noodles???) 

Diary Entry:

Back amongst the living.  Cool, cloudy, a little sun in the afternoon.  Cleaned up the kitchen, ran three loads of laundry, made pineapple chicken for dinner.  

Read all afternoon  --  finished both "Gerald's Game" and my old favorite "Diary of a Mad Housewife."  

Jamie went to spend the night at Nicole's (AGAIN).  Ray went to bed early: Kacie and I stayed up and watched "Murder She Wrote" and a movie I taped a few days ago, "The Morning After."

Monday 11:30 a.m.
August 3, 1992

Trying to stretch the groceries, as you can see. The only really unfortunate thing about babysitting for Karen again is that her paydays -- so now, consequently, MY paydays -- fall on the same day as Ray's. So we don't get money coming in every single week, the way we did when I was watching Andrea's kids. Now it's every two weeks, period. That leaves us pretty short by the beginning of the second week, no matter how carefully I try to budget and plan. Grocery-wise, it's pretty slim pickings. I just made a coleslaw and put it in the fridge for tonight's dinner, and I guess I'll make BLT's to go with it, but in the meantime I don't have the faintest idea what to make the kids for lunch. At least Jamie isn't here -- she's over at Nicole's, AGAIN -- I think she'd probably live at Nicole's house if we'd let her. So that only leaves Kacie, Kyle, Josh and Mak to feed. Top Ramen? Macaroni and cheese? Whatever I fix, they're damn well going to eat it (she says grimly) ... 

Food preparation (and consumption, and clean-up afterwards) is one of the few predictable, routine aspects of my life this summer. The cog upon which the wheel turns. Makes for really scintillating journal entries, doesn't it?? 

I read an amusing short story by Daphne du Maurier this week, called "The Blue Lenses." It's about a woman who has been blind for several months, and suddenly her eyesight is restored after an operation, except that everyone she sees -- the doctors and nurses, even her husband -- has an animal's head instead of a normal human head. The type of animal head they're wearing seems to reflect something of their character: friendly doctors are terriers and Aberdeens, the nurse who is secretly having an affair with the woman's husband is a snake, the husband is a vulture. At the end of the story she undergoes another operation, and this time everyone looks normal again, except that when the woman looks into a mirror, SHE is the one who has an animal head. ("The eyes that stared back at her were doe's eyes, wary before sacrifice, and the timid deer's head was meek, already bowed."

It was one of those stories that stay with you for a long time. I told Kacie about it this morning, and the idea of it amused her. 

"What kind of animal head would I have?" she asked. 

I had to think about it for a minute. My nickname for her has always been "Mouse," but that doesn't really seem to fit ... it seems too tame for Kacie. Then I thought about the Olympics this past weekend, and how fascinated Kacie has been with the gymnastic competitions. The morning after we watched Shannon Miller win her silver medal, Kacie spread a sleeping bag out onto the backyard lawn and ceaselessly, tirelessly practiced cartwheels and handsprings. She has a natural grace and ability that seems to come from somewhere deep inside of her ... from her very soul. 

I thought about that, and about her constant cheerful chatter, and I decided: "You'd be a monkey. Not one of those big, ugly monkeys who sit around all day, but one of those cute little monkeys who swing back and forth in the trees all day." 

She thought about that for a minute, as though trying to decide whether or not she liked the idea, and then she nodded in pleased agreement. 

Kyle, we decided, would be a terrier puppy, or maybe a boxer: something small and stocky and harmless, the bark worse than the bite, full of his own imagined ferocity. Jamie would be a deer ... not the meek and sacrificial doe of the du Maurier story, but a fawn, still a little clumsy and unsteady on its own long legs, but beginning to acquire a grace and beauty. 

Ray has been a little harder to imagine. "A bear?" Kacie suggested. Maybe. Maybe an old sleepy bear, ambling about the woods, looking for food and a scratchy tree to rub his back against and a nice dark cave to hibernate in. I thought about making him into a bull -- he's a Taurus, after all, and he can be every bit as stubborn and bull-headed as the sign suggests -- but after thinking it over, I decided Kacie was absolutely right. He's a bear, definitely. 

Which left me. Kacie was horrified by my first suggestion: "I'd probably be a pig," I said. I was thinking of my appetites -- all of my appetites, not just the one for food -- the way I overdo everything and anything, how a little never seems to be enough. 

"NO!" Kacie said, frowning. "That's not right at all!" 

Naturally I was pleased (and relieved) to have her come to my defense like that, even though I wasn't actually fishing for anything: it was just the first thing that had popped into my mind. My next suggestion seemed a bit more apt ... "How about a guinea pig?" I said. "Or a mother hamster?" I was thinking about a little rodent-like creature, scurrying around in her cage all day, rearranging the sawdust: a parallel to my own continuous housecleaning and re-decorating and fussing over every minute detail of my house. Pointlessly busy, completely content in the cage, never wanting to venture out into the real world.  That really seemed like me, don't you think?  

But Kacie didn't like that one, either.  "I think you'd be a lion," she said decisively.  

I was surprised, and I asked her why a lion? 

"Because you're hard-working, and you protect your family  ...  and you're wise," she explained.  And after a minute or so of mulling that one over, I was pleased.  A lion.  A lioness, actually  --  fiercely protective of her young, proud, fearless, territorial.  Not exactly the image I would have chosen for myself, but than again maybe Kacie sees something I don't (or can't).

So there we are: a bear and a lioness, a monkey, an adolescent fawn and a terrier pup.  Quite the interesting menagerie, wouldn't you say? 

Diary Entry:

Just another manic Monday  ...  kids, housework, laundry, meals, TV.  Best time of the day: early mornings, before the kids are awake and the babysitting kids have arrived.  Temporary quiet and solitude.  Worst: mid-afternoon, nothing to do, kids are all agitated.  Insanity.

Jamie spending another night at Nicole's.  Coleslaw, BLT's for dinner; CBS re-runs all evening.  Semi-comatose.

August 4, 1992

Diary Entry:

Nice chatty phone calls from Velma (who I haven't heard from in ages) and Lori; made my day.  Reading a Daphne du Maurier anthology of short fiction  --  very different, but good.  Cool & cloudy, so I baked some cinnamon cookies. 

Jamie brought Nicole home with her to spend the night  --  she's a nice girl, but she won't eat anything I fix for her.  Porkchops for Ray, chicken for me, TV dinners for kids.

Life is dull. 

August 5, 1992

Diary Entry:

Still not much going on.  Mailed a letter to Kathy B., talked to my dad on the phone, read more of the du Maurier, wrote in my journal.   Zzzz.  And see, to me this sounds like a perfectly pleasant little day. We're never satisfied, are we?

Josh and Mak left early.  Ray painted the dining room windowsill, then took the kids swimming for two hours: Kacie stayed behind (at Tracy's) to spend the night.   Drank a little wine but quit early.

Didn't sleep much  --  fleas, leg cramps.

August 6, 1992

Weirdly cold and RAINY today!  Feels more like the middle of March than the middle of August.  The kids are eating corn dogs and tomato soup: I am battling to stay awake.  Haven't slept worth a shit in two days, and I feel like my tail is dragging.  (A combination of fleas, leg cramps and wine before dinner kept me awake most of the night last night: it was 4:30 a.m. before I finally dropped off.)  No coffee today, either  --  I accidentally broke the carafe for the coffeemaker yesterday while I was washing dishes.  Tea is a barely acceptable substitute, but it's all I've got  ...

Janet popped in unexpectedly a while ago, asking for directions to the Food Bank.  Guess they're as broke as we are.  The Food Bank, unfortunately, isn't open today, so I gave her a few things out of my cupboard  --  some Top Ramen, a box of macaroni and cheese, a box of Animal Crackers, some milk.  She made a big deal out of it, hugging me as she left, but the truth is that I love doing stuff like that.  I can't forget how kind people have been to us over the years, when our cupboards have been bare  ...  it feels good to repay the favor.  (It also reassures me that other people are worse-off than we are.) 

Diary Entry:

Cold and rainy.  I was supposed to watch Danielle & Cody today, but Andrea called and cancelled, said Danielle was sick.  

Had to call Ray's boss at work and ask that his paycheck be released one day early: felt like an idiot doing it, but Ray asked me to.  

Tia here to play with Jamie this afternoon, then Jamie went home with her and spent the night.  Wrote some letters, goofed around in my office until late.

August 7, 1992

Diary Entry:

Dad and Valerie stopped by briefly this morning, picked up some mail for Dad that had been sent here in error.  Janet came by, borrowed two of Grandma's canning jars: she was supposed to come back and cut my hair but never did.  Jamie gone all day.

Karen paid me $200 tonight.  Ray went out and got Wendy's for dinner.  Asleep early.

Saturday morning
August 8, 1992

Two days later, and still drinking tea  ...

Sunny and quiet.  I've been up for an hour, but the rest of my family stubbornly refuses to wake up.  (Which is actually fine with me.)  I read the Saturday newspaper, took a shower and fixed my double-strength tea, and now I'm sitting here in my little laundry room "office," listening to the radio and planning our day.  I got paid last night  --  two hundred wonderful, beautiful dollars!  --  and I have the 'itch' to spend some of it today.  Should we go to Pay 'N Save and get school supplies for the kids?   Should I go to Value Village and spend a blissful hour sorting through used paperbacks?  Or both??

I finally got a good night's sleep last night, which may be one reason why I feel halfway human this morning.  

(Kyle just wandered out here to the laundry room, carrying his Game Boy and still wearing yesterday's sweatpants.  His hair is a fuzzy mess, and there's dried ketchup all over his face.  "I can see that Josh and Mak aren't here today," he said, hugging me.  

"That's because it's Saturday," I reminded him.  "Go find some cartoons on TV, if you want to.")

Anyway  ...  I was starting to think I was going to battle insomnia forever, so getting nine and a half solid hours of sleep was a blessing.  I'm supposed to call Janet this morning ("As soon as you wake up," she told me last night) so she can come over and cut my hair.  I think this time I'm going to take the plunge and ask her to cut it very short, maybe shoulder length.  It's so lank and dead-looking, the way it is now, and I feel ripe for change.  I'm also thinking about picking up some hair color at Pay 'N Save, just to cover the streaks of gray that have been appearing around my hairline lately  ...  they make me look so tired and old.  It's been a while since I've done anything purely for myself like this, and it feels strange!  I used to be so vain, so consumed with my appearance: lately I've looked like some old Russian peasant woman, weary from a long day in the potato fields.  I usually manage to get some makeup on before noon, and that helps a little, but it doesn't do much to camouflage the lines around my face (or, ironically, the middle-aged acne that resists all efforts to be eradicated), or the tiredness that has become more or less my permanent expression.  My hair is usually pulled back into a limp and messy ponytail after my morning shower and ignored for the rest of the day.  As for my wardrobe  ...  ugh.  I hate to even comment on that.  I have one decent pair of Levi's, but I save those for special occasions and I usually either wear my incredibly ugly cut-offs, a pair of Ray's sweatpants or my other pair of bleach-stained Levi's, the ones that won't stay buttoned.  With that I'll wear a big floppy men's shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, or else one of Ray's work shirts.  I bought myself one decent shirt for summer  --  a purple tank top  --  but it shrank in the wash and got bleach splattered across the front of it, and I wound up giving it to the girls.  And on top of all this, of course, is the fact that I'm overweight.  I swear to god, my breasts must weigh twenty pounds apiece: I look like I'm carrying two bowling balls around in my bra.)  I managed to lose some weight for Barbara's wedding last February, and I was beginning to look pretty good, but the minute I started receiving unsolicited compliments on my weight loss, BOOM, it was back to greasy breakfasts and late-night eating binges.  It's as though I can't handle the attention, a fact that I still don't understand but seem powerless to change  ...

At any rate, today  --  the hair.  Maybe after I get it cut and color it, I'll feel less the Russian peasant woman and more Terri-like.  We'll see.

6 p.m.

Well, I did it.  Janet lopped off a good three inches, all the way around, and that instantly made things look better.  ("Are you sure? Are you sure?" she kept asking me, as if those three inches were irrevocable.)  Then I bought a box of Nice & Easy (Shade #116, Medium Brown) and did that in about an hour.  The change is very subtle but nice: the gray is gone, anyhow, and my hair feels thicker and glossier.  I like it.

Wishing for a friend of ours to call  -- someone we haven't seen in ages  --  so far he hasn't returned our page, but maybe soon?  Would really be nice to have some fun tonight.  In the meantime, I'm sipping wine and ginger ale and getting ready to cook dinner --  baked potatoes, kielbasa and green beans  --  the very bottom of the freezer.  Hope we get some groceries TOMORROW. 

Diary Entry:

Good day.  Janet came over this morning and cut my hair  --  just about shoulder length  --  then Ray took the kids and I to Pay 'n Save, where I bought some hair color.  My hair looks great, really picks up my mood.  Also got the kids most of their school supplies  --  notebooks, paper, pens, etc.  (and a Super Mario lunchbox for Kyle).

Ray and I stayed up late.  NOBODY SPENT THE NIGHT!!  AMAZING!

Our House

I remember one fall evening almost three years ago, shortly after we'd moved into this house.  I was sitting in the dining room, looking through the narrow kitchen all the way back to the laundry room.  The lights were off and the kitchen was dark.  The house was very quiet.  Sitting there in the quiet and the dark, looking at the outlines of my new kitchen, I was seized suddenly by the most incredible feeling  ...  a sense of utter familiarity, almost like déjà vu.  All of a sudden I KNEW this kitchen.  I KNEW this house.  We'd only lived here for a few days  --  we hadn't even finished unpacking yet, we were at that weird disoriented stage where finding the bathroom in the middle of the night is still an adventure  --  and yet it seemed at that moment that I knew every nook and cranny of that kitchen, every wall, every doorway  ...  knew it in the way that someone who had lived here for many years would know it. It was an odd feeling, a "goosebumpy" feeling, like hearing some long-forgotten song from childhood and discovering that you still know every word.  It wasn't unpleasant or frightening  --  it was actually very comforting and nice.  

Since that time I've realized that it was probably due to some vague architectural simularities (real or imagined) to the house I grew up in, or maybe some other place I've lived but only half-remember.  But that feeling of instant familiarity has stayed with me the past three years.  I've felt as though this house and I know each other, "fit" each other, LIKE each other.  Does that sound inane?  Maybe it does.  Houses don't have feelings one way or the other about their inhabitants

Or do they?

There are things about the house I don't like, of course.  The electrical wiring is a little iffy sometimes, and I'm always worried about that.  (When the TV and the oven are on at the same time, the picture on the TV screen becomes very crackly and full of static; when the microwave, the coffeemaker and the toaster are running simultaneously, all three are likely to shut down completely.)  The bedrooms are too small, and I'm sick of the teddy bear wallpaper in the girls' room.  And I can't stand our bedroom, which was a garage once upon a time, before someone remodelled it.  We don't have a proper bedroom door, and there's very little privacy.  

My biggest complaint, though, is the kitchen.  It's pretty and it's functional, but it's so damnably NARROW.  When the refrigerator door is open, for instance, no one can walk through.  

But these are minor irritations, really.  The living room is just the right size, and I love the woodstove and the one wood-panelled wall.  The dining room is a little on the boxy side, but it accomodates my wicker table and chairs (which we bought from Janet); and even though I don't like not having a real bedroom door, the master bedroom IS roomy and cool in the summer (except on the very hottest days), plus there is the luxury of having a second bathroom in there.  I love the built-in shelves in the kids' closets.  I love having a hall linen closet  ...  something I missed while we were living at Shannon South.  I even love  --  and I somehow believe this helped influence me to want the house in the first place  --  the wallpaper and the curtains and paint colors that the landlords chose before we moved in.  It's all shades of blue, lots of tiny flowers, not too much 'ruffle-and-flounce'  ...  very country-looking, very clean and pretty.  I probably would have picked these exact same colors/patterns myself, given a choice, but the fact that they were already here and waiting for me, with no fuss or muss on MY part, was irresistable!  The first time I walked through the kitchen, those blue curtains and tiny print flowers seemed to shout at me "Here we are!  Just waiting for YOU, Terri!"

But the pièce de résistance, of course  --  my favorite part of the entire house, the final irresistable lure that made me fall in love with the place  -- is the laundry room.  The first evening that Debby and Greg walked us through the house (long before we signed on the dotted line), I was so excited that a lot of the place was a blur.  (When I came back a week later I was surprised to discovert that I'd forgotten the layout already: I thought the bathroom was where Kyle's room is, and vice versa.)  The one room in the house that made a profound, indelible impression was the very last room we walked through.  By the time we'd reached the kitchen I was already worked up into an agony of longing, excitement and despair (How in the world could we AFFORD all of this??), but when Deb strolled through the laundry room with me on her heels, the blood in my veins turned to molten lava.  

I had just walked into Shangri-La.  

It wasn't how large and clean and well-lit the laundry room was.  It wasn't even the idea of having a washer and dryer at our disposal, after three years of pumping quarters into industrial machines at Shannon South.  It was Deb, waving in a general, offhand way at one corner of the laundry room and saying "Sometimes I use this corner as a home office." 

Right then and there, our fate as a family was decided. 

Sure, we were going to have to pay double the rent.  Sure, it was a lot of work and responsibility, moving from a crappy little apartment to a house with a yard.  Sure, the kids would miss their friends at Shannon South, and sure, I was about to turn our lives inside out and upside down   ...

...  but we were talking about an OFFICE.  Something that, until then, had been so far beyond my wildest dreams, it may as well have been in another universe.  An OFFICE, with a huge spacious desk, built-in shelves and cabinets, plenty of space for books and bulletin boards and typewriters.  A place to write in my journal, type letters to my penpals, drink my coffee, think, plan, dream.  A place of my own.  The moment I saw the laundry room/office, I knew I was home.  It took a while longer to convince the rest of my family, but for me, walking into that laundry room was an epiphany.  We went back to the apartment, and I began packing that very night.

It was kind of funny.  After living in a cramped, moldy, run-down apartment for three years, the new house seemed almost impossibly grand and palatial to me.  One of my earliest thoughts was, "This is the nicest place I've ever lived in."  Maybe it was all the fresh paint, the luxurious (and spotless) new carpeting, the brand-new curtains and cabinets and kitchen countertops.  Maybe it was the way it all looked the first time I saw it, with all of Deb & Greg's nice furniture still in it.  My second thought was "God  ...  our furniture is going to look AWFUL in here."  And the truth is that for the first year or so, it did look pretty bad.  We had an old dumpy couch and loveseat that I'd bought while we were living in the apartment, a horrible orange and brown velvet print.  When I saw it sitting in our clean beautiful new living room for the first time, my heart sank: if possible, it looked even dumpier and dingier than it had in the apartment.  There was also an enormous ugly coffeetable that I'd gotten for free (someone left it sitting in the clubhouse at Shannon South) and a hideous brown table lamp the size of a small beer barrel.  The only things in the living room that I actually liked were the stereo stand Ray had built many years earlier, Grandma Vert's camphor chest (which we use as a TV stand) and the huge bookcases Ray had rescued from a storage company dumpster.  I hooked up the stereo, put my books and knick knacks into the bookcases, hung my framed family photos, set out the few plants I had.  It made things seem more familiar, more "homey."  But it still (to my critical eye) looked more Salvation Army than Better Homes and Gardens.  The dining room was another disaster.  Our "dinette set" consisted of a cheap wobbly table, ten years old, and three ugly mismatched chairs, all with cracked vinyl backs.  The kids' bedrooms were nearly bare: the girls had to share one lumpy twin mattress, laying flat on the floor (no frame, no headboard), while Kyle's "bed" was the matching boxspring, also laying on the floor.  And they each had one beat-up dresser, leftovers from my teen years. The master bedroom was furnished with my 10 year old queen mattress and box spring set (which  --  you guessed it  --  lay flat on the floor) and Ray's broken-down old dresser.  A dismal state of affairs, indeed.  I did what I could to disguise our horrid furniture and make the place presentable, but it often seemed a losing battle.

Things changed gradually.  A month or so after we moved in, Ray's parents gave us their old bedroom set  --  a beautiful oak dresser and chest of drawers, with two matching nightstands and a headboard for the bed.  We mounted the mattress and box springs onto a creaky but functional bed frame Ray got from somebody at work, and Ray's old dresser went into the girls' room.  Our bedroom, at least, looked magnificent.  Then Kyle got a "real" bed  --  an old bed Ray had used as a kid.  The first summer we lived here, Ray built the girls an enormous set of bunkbeds, which nearly took up all the floorspace in their room but which at least got them off the floor.  For the first time ever, the entire P. family had decent beds.  Luxury!

The next summer, my friend Janet sold us her dining room table and chairs for $100.  They're a tan wicker, very Casa Blanca, and they brightened things up considerably.  (The old table was unceremoniously chopped up for firewood.)  Eventually I bought new chair pads for the chairs and a pretty tablecloth and placemats, all in shades of mint green and dusty rose.  When Grandma St. John passed away, I inherited her collection of owls (porcelain, glass, wood, etc.) and these were put on display on the shelf above the dining room window.  I bought some framed prints at a thrift store, and those were hung on the dining room wall.  When Grandma Vert passed away, her Singer sewing machine became a makeshift dining room display table.  (Eventually I hope to acquire a wicker etagierre, to match the table and chairs.)   John and Lori gave me a huge fake plant  --  it looks more like a tree, actually  --  and that sits in one corner of the dining room.  And Ray put in a new ceiling fan this year, oak and brass with smoked-glass accents.  The effect, like I said, is very Casa Blanca, every unconventional and piecemeal, but nice.

The last room to change  --  the toughest, and the most recent  --  is the living room.  As a matter of fact it's only been within the past couple of months that I've been able to invite people in without cringing.  The orange-and-brown  monstrosities are history, thank god: they were replaced by my ex-stepdad's off-white, nubby-textured sofa and loveseat about a month ago.  At the same time, we got one of my mom's old oak bookcases.  I worried, at first, that two bookcases in one room would be too much, but now I wouldn't part with either one.   One bookcase  --  the one we brought with us when we moved in  --  is principally books (hardcover and paperback) and a few select family photos; the other bookcase is more pure display space.  Lately I've been getting into the popular "country" look quite heavily, and I guess the living room reflects this more than any other room in the house.  It's an ongoing process of change and experimentation, constantly evolving, but at the moment there are a lot of dried flowers, baskets, antique brass, candles, lace.  My beloved Maxfield Parrish prints hang framed above the TV.  Grandma Vert's antique porcelain doll ("Hessy") sits atop the newer bookcase; the quilt Grandma made me is draped across the loveseat.  Two straw wreaths, both from my mother  ...  a crocheted wall hanging with a bird motif  ...  a 100 yr. old crocheted apron, hanging from the stereo  ...  bunches of dried flowers, also hanging from the stereo.  The barrel-sized table lamp is gone, replaced by two brass floor lamps and one pretty new white table lamp I bought at Target.  We still have the ugly coffeetable, but I inherited Grandma's cherished maple end-tables and they sit on either side of the sofa.  (They're a bitch to keep clean, but they're a part of my childhood so I would never replace them.)   The living room will probably look completely different, two months from now  --  maybe even two WEEKS from now!  --  since I will never be finished tinkering with the decor.  But like that Mother Hamster, rearranging the sawdust in her cage, "ornamenting" my home is so deeply a part of who and what I am, I never tire of it.

Over the three years we've lived here, the house has naturally lost some of that new and "palatial" feeling.  This has as much to do with persepctive as with everyday wear and tear, I think.  You live in a place for a while and you begin to see it the way it really is.  Fresh paint and new carpeting aside, it didn't take long for me to take the blinders off and realize that even though it is a very nice little house, Buckingham Palace it ain't.  This actually was a helpful realization: I quit feeling so terrified of every little carpet stain, every nail hole in the wall.  Of course I've tried to maintain it as best I can, but the fact is that five people live in this house  --  including three extremely rambunctious children  --  and "stuff" happens.  There is a bleach stain the size of a Jeno's pizza on the living room carpet (cleverly concealed by an area rug).  A burn mark on one kitchen counter tells the story of an overheated toaster that simply blew a fuse one morning.  The kitchen linoleum is scraped in one spot: I don't recall how that happened.  We've had plumbing problems almost from the moment we moved in, primarily in the front bathroom.  And if I had a dollar for every nail hole in the wall  ... 

August 9, 1992

Diary Entry:

Lazy Sunday.  Ray went out and did a major grocery-shopping (took Jamie and Kyle with him), then took the kids swimming this afternoon.  Pizza Hut for dinner.

Monday morning
August 10, 1992

Up early, and BUSY  ...  the hot weather is coming back this week, and in preparation I'm cooking some meals to put in the freezer  ...  a big pan of lasagna, a beef pot pie, maybe one other dish if I can think of something easy.  Ray finally did the grocery shopping yesterday, and it's so great to have FOOD in the house again.  (Still drinking tea, though.  Dammit!)  Josh and Mak are here with rotten summer colds  ...  we'll all have it by the end of the week, I'm sure  ...  but for right now I feel very good, very energized.  It's weird, having the kitchen smell of frying beef and onions at 8:30 on a Monday morning, but later this week when it's miserably hot, I'll be glad I got it done.

Something I should mention.  Saturday night, while I was sitting here in my office working on a scrapbook and listening to music, I was shocked and dismayed to run across Grandma Vert's obituary and realize that the anniversary of her death had come and gone without my noticing it.  For some reason, I'd had it in my head that the date was August 17th  --  I was planning to observe the occasion with music and meditation  --  but it was actually three days ago, on August 7th.  Last Friday!!  How in the world could I, of all people, have missed a date like that?  I'm still beating myself up for that one.  (Me, the idiot who still remembers the birthdates of boyfriends I dated twenty years ago, can't even keep track of something so deeply important  ... ?)

But here's what's really odd about this.  Guess what I spent part of last Friday doing?  I was putting the finishing touches on a tape I call "Special Momstuff," which is basically a montage of music that reminds me of Grandma ("Mrs. Steele's Song," Kitaro's "Sky Dreams"  -- I always imagine her soaring to Heaven when I hear that one  --  "Everything I Own," etc.) or otherwise touches me in some special way.  I was planning to spend August 17th listening to that tape and looking at old photo albums and trying to communicate with Grandma spiritually.  (Not a seance or anything like that: I mean, THINKING about her, sending her thoughts of love and thanks, etc.)  Is it possible that I knew, at least on a subconscious level, that Friday was the day?  And that maybe I "forgot" on purpose because it was too hurtful?  Part of me would like to accept that as an explanation, because it lets me off the hook.  But the other part of me is furious with myself. 

Diary Entry:

Getting hot again.  Got out of bed early, spent the morning cooking meals for the next couple of days (beef pot pie, lasagna, carrot salad).  Josh & Mak both here with terrible summer colds, dammit.  Lori and Velma both called to "chat"; Janet called and asked if she could send Joey over here, but my hands were full already and I had to say no.  Ray took the kids swimming.  Mom and Ken dropped by for a quick visit, brought me a replacement carafe.

Tuesday 8:30 a.m.
August 11, 1992

Uh-oh  ...  here it comes.  The weather report on my radio this morning says it's going to be up in the 90's by this afternoon. I'm already doing laundry and fixing meals, because something tells me I'll be semi-comatose by noon.  Mom came by yesterday and brought me a replacement carafe for my coffeemaker, but of course it figures  --  now that I can drink coffee again, it's going to be too frigging HOT for it  ...

I'm still bothered about missing last week's important "anniversary," but last night as I was falling asleep I thought of a way to make restitution.  Aunt Mabel has been after me for months to make a contributiojn to the family history book she's writing, and I'm going to make a serious effort this week to get it done.   At this point, I'm not sure what I'm going to write about  ...  maybe something about growing up with Grandma, all the travelling we used to do when I was a kid?  I could tie that in with the Idaho trip last year, and with the sense of family history she instilled in me.  A proper tribute to Grandma.  Maybe then I'll be able to get past this feeling that I "forgot" about her  ...

Velma is coming over in 20 minutes, just to visit, so I've been running around picking up the house, slapping on some makeup, making iced tea.  Sometimes  --  I must be truthful  --  her "visits" are more ordeal than pleasure.  She's a good and faithful friend, but it's a lot of WORK getting along with her  ...  much more so than, say, getting along with Lori.  Maybe it's because Velma is so much more sensitive than my other friends.  I'm always afraid of offending her.  There is also the fact that Velma is one of those people who KNOWS EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYTHING, and it drives me crazy.  No matter what we're talking about  --  allergies, getting stains out of carpeting, cooking salmon, movies  --  she's right there with all kinds of unsolicited opinion and advice.  I don't mind a little advice now and then  --  when it's warranted  --  but I resent having it served to me every single time I open my mouth  ...

Me:  "I just put Kacie's hair into the nicest French braid."

Velma:  "You know what you OUGHT to do, don't you?  You should put it into a French twist instead." 

Diary Entry:

HOT.  Made pigs in a blanket, first thing this morning. but that was pretty much all the cooking I could stomach.  

Velma came by to visit at 11:00, stayed for an hour  --  when she left, she took Jamie and Kacie with her to spend the night.  Ray took Kyle swimming.

SUMMER 1992 is  ...

  • Camp Cedar Springs ...
  • The Summer Olympics in Barcelona, and Shannon Miller  ...
  • Tea in the microwave ...
  • KING-AM Talk Radio  ...
  • Bill Clinton and Al Gore  ...
  • Babysitter's Club books  ...
  • Swimming at Shannon South in the afternoons  ...
  • Ray's zucchinis and tomatoes  ...
  • Kacie practicing gymnastics in the backyard (until she split her head open!)  ...
  • "Boogley-Boog" (my annoying new nickname for Kyle)  ...
  • Hurricane Andrew  ...
  • Woody Allen and Mia Farrow's custody battle  ...
  • "Tiny Toon Adventures," "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Gilligan's Island" reruns  ...


Summer 1992
The Popsicle Sisters (above), and Kyle hanging with his best bud Spud (below)

August 12, 1992

Diary Entry:

Weirdly eventful day. 

Too hot again, for one thing.  I spent a lot of the day working on a short story (book?) for the girls, a fantasy/mystery set at a summer camp.  Velma brought the girls home at noon, brought Happy Meals for all the kids. Angela stayed behind to spend the night. 

I stepped on a bee as Velma was leaving  ...  it stung the bottom of my left foot. 

But the WORST thing happened tonight  ...  Kacie cracked the top of her head open at Shannon South pool, had to go to the hospital and get seven stitches.  MY POOR BABY!!!!!!!

August 13, 1992

Yesterday was one of those nightmare days we all have once in a while. You know the kind I mean: you get out of bed in the morning feeling perfectly fine, ready to tackle anything, but by the end of the day it feels like you're the one who's been tackled  ...

For some reason I can't explain, I woke up yesterday morning in the mood to write a children's book.  I'm serious.  The idea just sort of came to me out of nowhere  ...  a fantasy/mystery, set at summer camp, featuring two little girls about Jay & Kacie's age.  So I sat down and just started to write.  The girls had spent the night before at Velma's, so I only had Kyle and the S. boys here to contend with.  For most of the morning I scribbled the first five or six pages in relative peace.  I was really reaching my stride by 11 a.m., but just then Velma and the girls (and Velma's kids) showed up and interrupted things.  I wasn't in the mood for another one of her long, protracted visits  --  I'd endured one just the previous day!  --  and I was hoping she would just drop off the girls and leave.  I know that sounds horribly rude, but I was in this rare creative mood and I didn't want to stop.  Unfortunately, she came in carrying seven Happy Meals from McDonald's  --  one for everybody, including Josh and Mak  --  and insisted that they all eat together, outside at the picnic table.  She didn't leave until they were finished, over an hour later, and when she went home she left Angela here to spend the night.  I managed to write a couple more pages, but by then it was starting to get miserably hot.  

Oh!  I almost forgot to mention something that happened just as Velma was leaving.  I was walking her out to her truck, and she said (as she says every single time she's here), "Jonathan, aren't you gonna give Terri a HUG?"  Jonathan is a sweet, bashful little boy, about four years old, and I like him well enough, but I don't think either he or I enjoy hugging on command like this.  But what can you do?  So I bent over and gave him this perfunctory little hug  ...  and just then I stepped on a bee with my bare foot!!   Naturally I got stung, and it hurt like blazes, but at least it gave me a great excuse to say "Goodbye!" and hobble into the house without any further conversation (or any further hugs).  I put my foot on ice for a while, and it felt better fairly soon afterward.  

Anyway, like I said, it started getting VERY hot by mid-afternoon.  The clouds lay heavy and low, and it kept the heat compressed all around us  ...  it was awful.  I sat in front of the fan with a glass of ice water, trying to stay cool, but it was miserable.  When Ray got home from work, he took all of the kids  --  Angela included  --  over to Shannon South to swim in the pool for a couple of hours. Lately this has become a regular "thing"  ...  at least, during this hot weather.  Ray takes the kids over to the apartment for a swim, and I stay home to fix dinner and enjoy a little time to myself.  John and Lori are always nagging me to come over with Ray and the kids, but the truth is that I hate going ANYWHERE when it's hot like this  ...  the only place I feel comfortable is in my own little house, sititng in front of the electric fan, wearing as little as possible!  And those two hours of peace and quiet are emotional balm: I hate to part with that.

Anyway, most of the time they swim uneventfully for those two hours, and when they come home they're refreshed and hungry and the rest of the evening goes smoothly for everybody.  This time, though, I knew something was wrong even before the car pulled into the driveway.  Don't ask me how I knew: just call it a mother's premonition of disaster.  ("Please don't let it be Angela," I prayed  ...  knowing that Velma would never forgive me in a million years if something happened to her precious baby.)  And of course I was right  --  disaster had struck.  Jamie ran into the kitchen and said, "Has Lori called you yet??"  

Oh Lord.  The last time Jamie asked me that was when Kyle flipped off the bars on the Shannon South playground and split his lip open.

"No," I said.  "What happened?"

Just then Kacie came in with a bloody towel pressed against the top of her head, sobbing, with Angela and Kyle clustered around her.  There was blood all over her face, her swimsuit, her arms. 

"Kacie hit her head against the side of the pool and cracked her head open!" Jamie said, anxiously. 

Apparently Kacie had been doing cartwheels off the edge of the pool, only the last time she did it, she landed too close to the side and hit her head against the rim of the pool.  I sat her down and tried to see where she was hurt  --  and how badly  --  but her hair was such a matted, bloody mess that it took awhile to clear it away from the wound.  It was a beaut: a gaping, bleeding gash at least two inches long and half an inch deep.  I've seen a lot of "owies" in my ten and a half years of motherhood, and this one definitely took the prize.  Kacie was terribly upset  --  she was afraid she was in trouble, for one thing ("Dad was yelling at her," Jamie told me)  --  and she was obviously in a lot of pain.  I tried to calm and reassure her immediately, and we got a clean towel and had her continue applying pressure to the wound while I called the hospital for advice.  The nurse advised us to bring her to the emergency room right away.  I cleaned off her face and helped her get into a pair of shorts, and then Ray took her to the hospital.  (Grudgingly, of course.)

A sad fact of our lives: Ray is utterly useless in an emergency.  Later, when I talked to John and Lori about the accident, they said they couldn't get over the way Ray was (to quote John) "piss-farting around."  While Kacie was standing there practically bleeding to death, Ray was putting on his shoes  ...  sucking on another goddamned can of beer  ...  diving into the pool to gather up all the swim toys  ...  etc. etc. etc.  I felt like KILLING him when I heard this.  John was yelling at him to "take Kacie to the emergency room RIGHT NOW!", but Ray was plodding along, drunkenly taking his own sweet time.   Even when they got home, he kept trying to convince me that she wasn't hurt all that badly, and that she probably wouldn't even need stitches.  The plain fact of the matter is that he didn't want to take her to the hospital.  He's the same every single time something like this happens: if there's any way to get out of a hospital run, he'll find it.  It took every ounce of self-control I had to keep from screaming at him, but I was trying to keep Kacie calm so I just said "The nurse says she HAS to go."  Finally he seemed to accept the inevitable, and he even managed to tell Kacie it was OK, he wasn't mad at her.  ("He called me 'clumsy' when it happened," she told me later.  The ass.)  Fortunately, I'm good in a crisis.  I can fall apart over a messy kid's room or a broken plate or a burned casserole, but when it really counts, I'm usually the one with the cool head.  I'm not tooting my own horn here: it's just the way it is.  I'm still proud of myself whenever I remember how calm and reassuring I was about the whole thing.  It definitely helped Kacie relax.  Her biggest fear (besides the idea of stitches, which she'd never gotten before) as she left for the hospital was that they might shave off some of her hair!  Hearing her say that, I somehow knew she was going to be just fine   ...

Two hours and seven stitches later (not to mention two HOSPITALS later  --  Riverton was "packed," Ray said, so they sent them over to Highline), our little injury victim came home to much fanfare.  While she was gone, Jamie and Kyle and Angela all made her "Sorry you got hurt" cards.  I made her a bed on the loveseat and served her dinner on a tray, and we all took turns bringing her fresh ice packs and glasses of juice and extra pillows.  "I don't know why everybody's making such a big fuss over me!" she said, but it was obvious that she relished the attention.

It's two days later now, and her wound is still a little swollen and tender to the touch, but she'll be fine.  Unfortunately this means that her gymnastics career has come to a screeching halt  ...  temporarily, anyway.  My little bird has had her wings clipped. 

Diary Entry:

Kacie had to stay very "quiet" today  --  no swimming, no bikes, no gymnastics  --  she was unhappy but I knew it was for the best. 

Angela went home at 11:00.  Babysat Danielle & Cody for six hours, Andrea paid me $16.  Letter from Kathy B.  --  dare I tell her I am an ardent Clinton supporter?

Ray and the kids went swimming, Kacie was allowed to get only her feet wet!

Still TOO HOT.

August 14, 1992

Diary Entry:

A little bit cooler today.  Made "runzas" (bread-dough sandwiches) early in the morning, also some coleslaw.  Caught up on laundry, kitchen-cleaning. 

Jamie went bowling with the Bontempos, then Jessica came home with her to spend the night.  Ray and the kids to the pool  --  Kacie allowed to swim but no jumping.

Started reading "The Stone Bull," Phyllis Whitney.

August 15, 1992

Diary Entry:

85° today  ...  not too unbearable.  Fried some chicken in the morning for dinner.   Ray drank beer and watched football all day  --  he won $50 on the Seahawks game tonight.  Finished my book, watched a movie I'd taped ("Moonstruck"), tried to write to Kathy (still not sure what to say to her). 

Ray's Grandma called tonight  --  she and Dorene won't be coming up after all.

Ray a jerk tonight, we all just sort of ignored him.

Sunday morning early (7:30)
August 16, 1992

Summer feels like it's beginning to wind down  ...

The kids and I have a fun day planned: my mother is coming to pick us up at 10:00 and we're all going to Northwest Trek, a wildlife park near Eatonville.  We've never been there before but it sounds like it's more fun than the zoo, even: "a narrated tram tour takes you through 435 acres of unspoiled beauty" (this is from the brochure) "where bison, elk, moose, deer, caribou, bighorn sheep and pronghorn roam freely."  Then there are other animal exhibits you can walk to, "nature discovery activities," and a Northwest Trek museum.  Naturally I'm not exactly looking forward to walking around in the heat, but just this once I'm going to keep my mouth shut and sweat in uncomplaining silence.  Except for an occasional shopping trip or a visit to John & Lori's, I've done nothing "special" with my kids during this summer vacation, and this is it, folks.  I'll be Mother of the Year  --  for one afternoon, anyway  --  even if it KILLS me  ...

Ray got totally wasted yesterday, drinking beer and watching football all day.  By evening he was weaving.  (Literally!  He was standing in the kitchen talking to his grandmother on the phone, and I watched him swaying back and forth like a tree in the wind: I thought he'd fall over any minute.)  This morning when I got up, he'd left a barely-legible note for me on top of our Northwest Trek tickets.  It said, "Thanks a lot for inviting Dad.  Make me feel real good."  The funny thing is, when I got out of my shower a few minutes ago, the note was gone!  Guess he had a change of heart about leaving it.  He never would have gone with us to Northwest Trek anyway, even if my mom HAD invited him: it would be too hard, trying to sneak a six-pack of Rainier onto the tram.

Gotta go get ready!  Bye! 

The Tots in Ashford, WA
August 1992

August 17, 1992

Diary Entry:

Woke up with a rotten chest cold  ...  first time I've been sick since strep throat last May.  Hot, sticky, uncomfortable: didn't accomplish much.  Kids fought with each other all day long.  Velma called, no news. 

Gave everybody leftovers for dinner, watched TV until about 11:00.

August 18, 1992

Sunday was fun  --  more fun than I'd expected it to be, as a matter of fact  --  but it was also long, hot and tiring.  Northwest Trek is a terrific place: I like it much better than Woodland Park Zoo.  We arrived just in time to catch the noon tram excursion, a long rambling trip through wooded mountain slopes.  Most of the animals we saw from the tram were some distance away, but we did get fairly close to a group of goats (including three babies) and a herd of bison.  

After the tram ride, we walked around and looked at the rest of the animal exhibits, had lunch in the cafe, then wandered around in the gift shop.  (Mom bought me a "NW Trek" refrigerator magnet, and I picked up three postcards.)  

By the time we'd finished seeing everything there was to see it was only 3:00, so Mom decided to drive up to the town of Ashford, near Mt. Rainier.  She was very mysterious about the whole thing  ...  she just said that there was something in Ashford she wanted us to see, including a mountain lake she said was "absolutely gorgeous" and a place in town that would provide some great "photo opportunities."  It was a wonderfully scenic drive: the kids and I especially loved Mt. Rainier, which loomed so close and clear you could almost reach out and touch it.  Unfortunately, the drought this past year had dried up Mom's "gorgeous" mountain lake  --  it was nothing but a shallow pool of muddy water  --  and the artist's colony in Ashford (which she'd hoped would provide the photo opps) had gone out of business, probably as a result of the lake drying up.  (No lake = no tourists.)  I could tell that Mom was disappointed about it, but the truth is that I was out of money by then anyway, and I hate window-shopping.  Besides, I still got some great shots of the kids posing with the life-sized wooden statues and miniature buildings in Ashford.  (One good shot of Kyle emerging from a fake outhouse!)  And we stopped and bought the kids some ice cream on the way home, so they were happy.  

When we finally got home, late in the afternoon, Ray took them swimming at Shannon South so they could cool off and relax  ...  I stayed home alone and read the entire Sunday paper, front to back, in complete peace and quiet.  Heaven. 

Diary Entry:

Still feeling like crud, but forced myself to get up and move around.  A lot cooler, at least.

Reading another Phyllis Whitney, "Domino."

Some thoughts:

My mom keeps talking about dying.  It's very subtle, mind you  ...  if you weren't paying attention, you probably wouldn't notice.  But I'VE noticed.  Grandma Vert used to do this same thing all the time: she would call me out of the blue and say things like, "Terri Lynn, when I die I want you to have my sewing machine," or "I'm not going to be around much longer, so I want you to come over and look through my books."  Mind you, this was years before she actually got sick and died, so it's understandable that I developed a certain blasé attitude toward the whole business.  Am I more sensitive to the subtle?  Or have I just learned that someone who is talking about dying usually has a reason for doing so  ...  ?

Before she left on her trip to New Orleans last month, Mom called and said, "Just in case something happens to me, I want you to know about the will I've made."  And she started telling me about how she's leaving money to Debi and family heirlooms (mostly photos) to me.  Then this weekend, when we were driving through Puyallup, she said (out of the blue), "Boy, when I go, you're going to inherit a TON of scrapbooks."  (I don't even recall what precipated that last remark.) 

August 19, 1992

Diary Entry:

My cold has migrated from my chest into my head  ...  feels like my sinuses are filled with concrete.  

My mother-in-law called, wants to come get the girls tomorrow and keep them till Sunday.  Made a bit pot of Swiss steak and vegetables.  Ray took the kids swimming after work. 

Took some cold medicine and konked out early.

August 20, 1992

Diary Entry:

The in-laws came and got the girls at noon.  Ray said "You miss your girls, don't you?", and I said "No way!!"  Lately it's been like living with the Hatfields & the McCoys, the way they feud with each other every waking moment.

My cold is still awful  --  painful hacking cough, blocked sinuses.

Ray took Kyle swimming, then I just threw a frozen pizza into the oven and called it 'dinner.' 


August 21, 1992

The girls left yesterday for a four-day visit at Peg and Don's, where I'm sure they're being coddled and fussed over and shopped-for to their little Material-Girl-hearts' content  ...

Every year for the past three years or so, my in-laws have taken the kids out and bought them school clothes.  This is a source of conflicting emotions for me: guilt, relief, gratitude, irritaiton.  Ray, of course, thinks the whole thing is just swell.  And the kids certainly aren't complaining.  Am I the only one who finds this the slightest bit embarrassing  ...  ?  How long do we go on being considered the poor relations, anyway?  Still in need of the occasional hand-out, grateful for cast-off furniture, thrilled when they buy our kids school clothes and Nintendos and bicycles  ...  ?

Oh well.  It wouldn't be worth the uproar and hurt feelings I would surely cause if I said anything about this to anyone.  The truth is, of course, that I really do appreciate their help.  School clothes for three kids  --  that's a real financial crunch, especially for a family like ours on a limited budget.  So I'll just put up and shut up.  I just wish we didn't "need" their help quite so much  ... 

August 21, 1992

Diary Entry:

But I'm not.  ("Well," that is.)  The cold just keeps gettting worse & worse.  Today I had to take cough medicine all day long, just to keep my head attached to the rest of my body, and it left me feeling weirdly spacey. 

Josh brought the movie "Hook"  --  watched it with the boys, made popcorn.  Jess Sr. paid me $250 when he picked up the boys. 

Ray went out and got Wendy's for Kyle and I.

August 22, 1992

Saturday morning now.  Quiet, cloudy, nice.  I just fixed Kyle an enormous plate of waffles and bacon, and he's sitting in front of the TV watching "Beetlejuice" and eating his breakfast.  Ray's still in bed, but I expect he'll come lumbering out here momentarily.  I just pray that this weekend doesn't turn into the kind of beer-football-&-whine fest that last weekend was  ...  lately, that old feeling has been creeping up on me again, the feeling that I can't stand to be in the same room with the man, and on the weekends there is NO escaping him.

Tomorrow we have to drive out to Bellevue so I can attend my sister-in-law's baby shower.  If it were anyone but Barbara, I'd be looking for an excuse not to go: my horrible cold, a fake babysitting commitment, a toothache, ANYTHING.  I despise these kind of cutesy-poo female gatherings.  They make me incredibly uncomfortable.  But Barbara has always been special, and this is her first baby and all, so there's no way to get out of it.  Particularly since the in-laws are spending tons of money on my daughters this weekend!  (Yes.  There's another reason why I'm bothered by the school clothes thing  --  it makes me feel "obligated" for weeks afterward.  For the next four or five family gatherings, we will be expected to BE THERE, period.)  Anyway, I've already got part of Barbara's gift ready  --  a baby bathtub that Velma bought for somebody, only to discover they already had one.  To make myself feel a little less chintzy, I'm going to buy a few things to put in it  ...  some baby toiletries, maybe, and a rubber ducky  ...  something to make it a bit more personal.  When Ray gets up and gets moving, I'll have him take me to Pay 'N Save to buy the stuff I need. 

Diary Entry:

Nice day.  Feeling a little better; still have a runny cose and cough, though.  Ray took me shopping  --  went to Value Village, bought myself a bunch of shirts and sweaters, some good paperbacks, a few things for the house  --  also went to Pay 'n Save, picked up the rest of the things I need for the baby shower tomorrow. 

Ray watched football tonight.  I drank a little wine, talked to Lori, had fun with Kyle.

August 23, 1992

Diary Entry:

Another nice day.  Kyle, Ray and I drove to Bellevue at noon so I could attend Barbara's baby shower.  Got to visit with my girls all afternoon!  (They're staying at their grandparents' until Tuesday.)  The shower was really nice  --  I won some bath oil in a funny game.  Barbara is due any time, thinks the baby is a boy.

Ray went out and got Chinese food for our dinner  --  an early "anniversary" celebration.

Asleep by 9:00.

Monday morning
August 24, 1992

Once again, I wound up having more fun than I'd expected to, this past weekend.  Barbara's baby shower was very nice!  (What is it with me, anyway?  Why do I have to  view every social invitation with skepticism and reticence?)  It was great seeing everybody, I was only moderately uncomfortable (and that was only at first), and I had a really GOOD TIME.  Even Ray and I seemed to get along great yesterday  ...  the long ride to Bellevue, usually an ordeal, was more like a pleasant drive in the country  ...  it was a beautiful sunny day, not too hot, and we listened to a tape of old 60's music as we drove along  ...  it was one of those occasions where it felt good to be alive.

The shower was held in the clubhouse of Barbara's apartment complex.  Barbara still doesn't look very pregnant, in spite of the fact that she's due this week!  --  she looks about six months along!  --  and she seems so calm and relaxed, you could hardly tell that this is her first baby.  (Peg confided in me, at one point, that Barbara is really very excited and a little nervous.  I guess she just conceals it well.)   One of the nicest parts of the shower, for me, was seeing Jamie and Kacie.  They've only been gone for a few days, of course, but I kissed and hugged them as though we'd been apart for months!   We watched Barbara open her gifts, enjoyed some refreshments and cake, and played a funny party game: everyone had to wear a safety pin pinned to the front of your shirt, and any time you caught somebody with their legs crossed, you got to take their safety pin away from them.  At the end of the shower, the person with the most safety pins was declared the winner.  I was the first person to catch somebody  --  my sister-in-law, Sheryl.  Jamie and Kacie spent the entire shower eyeballing the other guests like little hawks, waiting for someone to cross her legs.  Technically Kacie won  --  I think she had four safety pins  --  but they gave the prize to me because I was the adult guest with the most pins.  This made Kacie cry, of course  ...  losing graciously is still beyond her.  I felt really bad about it and started to hand the prize to her, so she could at least open it for me, but Peg said "No!" and insisted that it should be mine.  In retrospect, I suppose she was right.  This is just one of those things Kacie is going to have to learn to deal with.  Anyway, the prize was a bottle of honey-almond bath oil, and I promised Kacie that we would share it when we got home.  That seemed to appease her a little.

The girls are staying in Bellevue an extra couple of days  --  they'll be home sometime tomorrow.  After the shower, we went back to Peg and Don's to visit for a while, and the girls showed me their new school clothes.  (From the looks of things, they'll be set for the first week or two, at least.)  They also each got a nice new backpack, so again that's one less thing for me to worry about.

Ray and I had decided to stop on our way home and eat dinner at a Chinese restaurant, as a sort of "early anniversary celebration," but Kyle konked out in the backseat of the car and we decided to get take-out instead and eat it at home.  It was great  -- sesame chicken, sub gum chow mein, egg rolls, sweet & sour, the works.  Mmmm!  We only have Chinese about once a year, so it was a real treat.

Saturday was fun too, I want to mention.  We did go to Pay 'N Save so I could get some extra stuff for Barbara's shower gift, but I also spent a blissful hour browsing around Value Village.  My original thought was to find a pretty shirt or sweater to wear to the shower, to go with my "one decent pair of Levi's."  I wound up going crazy: three pullover sweaters (including a sleeveless red one that I wore yesterday), two blouses and two pullover tees.  Everything fits and looks great, and I'm just in heaven.  What a boost for my pitiful wardrobe!  I also bought a bunch of baskets (one of my newest decorating passions: I'm going to display them in the living room), some paperbacks (including four Stephen Kings and a Dean Koontz) and three owls to add to my collection.  Naturally I felt guilty about spending so much money on myself, but what the hell. 

Diary Entry:

The last week of summer vacation.  Still hacking and wheezing all over the place, but determined not to let it slow me down  --  I've got a LOT to do this week.

Kyle's driving me crazy  ...  he's been so hyper the past few days.

Finished the wall next to the bookcase (an arrangement of framed pictures), hung new baskets in the kitchen.  Mailed $17 to the Avon lady.

Leftover Chinese for dinner.  Ray grocery-shopped tonight.  Reading "The Gunslinger," S. King.

Tuesday morning
August 25, 1992

Terrible hurricane tearing through the South the past couple of days.  Yesterday it decimated Miami, and right at this moment it's headed straight for New Orleans (which is where my mom was vacationing, just a month ago!)  The news reports keep showing all these bewildered Miami residents standing in their ruined homes  --  roofs missing, windows shattered, furniture gone  --  and it sends a shiver down my spine. Ten years ago I was obsessively worried about nuclear war.  This was when we were living in Kirkland, when the girls were babies: I used to have nightmares about it all the time.  Now that the Cold War is over, I worry about natural disasters  ...  earthquakes, mostly  ...  and about fire.  So many ways for a family to lose everything they own  ...  so many things for ME to obsess about!  Worrying is definitely the worst part about being an adult.

The girls will be home in a couple of hours: I talked to Jamie, briefly, a couple of minutes ago and she said they'd be leaving Bellevue around noon.  This "homecoming" will be decidedly more low-key than when they came home from camp, I'm afraid!  No vases of fresh-picked roses in their bedroom, no piles of welcome home gifts.  I'm cleaning out the fridge and the kitchen cupboards this morning, and the kitchen looks like Hurricane Andrew detoured through HERE on its way to Lousiana  ...

School starts on Tuesday, by the way, and no one seems very excited about it  ...  not even me.  I'm going to miss having the girls around for company!  I love our summer mornings, drinking coffee and watching "The Price Is Right" and "The Young & The Restless" and "All My Children" together  ...  it's going to seem awfully quiet around here without them.  I don't know what I'm going to do with myself this fall. 

I really thought I would be doing something different with my life this fall.  If I had gotten my long-delayed house money by now, for instance, I might have been going back to school myself.  Or at least I might have been able to buy myself the little car I'm dreaming about, and could be taking some baby steps back out into the world.  As it is, I have no plans.

Diary Entry:

My ladies are home! Peg and Barbara brought them home around noon, and I was VERY happy to see them.

Worked really hard today  --  lots of energy  --  cleaned out the fridge, pantry and food cupboards, did a lot of laundry.  Ray worked two hours o.t.   I made a steak and pepper skillet for dinner, not very good.  

The girls and I stayed up late and watched the Miss Teen USA pageant (Jamie's pick, Miss Iowa, won).

August 26, 1992

But then again, who's to say that even if I had gotten my money by now, I wouldn't still find some excuse NOT to take those baby steps back out into the world  ...  ?  I mean, isn't the money just an excuse, as it is?  If I genuinely wanted to be doing something different, I could probably find a way  --  money or no money.  I could apply for financial aid.  I could take the bus.  I could at least have some definite plans made.  Instead, I'm going into fall with my usual aimless, flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants attitude: waiting for my life to come to me, instead of the other way around.  Waiting for the next big life change to knock on my door, and if it doesn't knock this year, well, there's always NEXT year  ...

Kacie's stitches are out and her head is healing quite nicely.  I took them out myself, the day she got home from her grandparents'.  (She put the sutures into a little plastic bag, to keep!  When Jamie made some comment about how "disgusting" it was, I primly reminded her of the grimey, disgusting casts from her broken arms, which she kept in her closet for a year.)  Now Kacie is back to practicing gymnastics in the backyard all day long.  I watch her while I stand by the kitchen window, washing the dishes  ...  cartwheel after perfect cartwheel, hair flying, face aglow.  You know something?  She is really GOOD.  She has a natural talent for this stuff. 

Diary Entry:

Moving a hair slower today.  Worried about money  --  ten long days till our next payday and we're broke already!  (Wish I could line up one more babysitting job for this fall.  Please, Lord  ...  ?)

Jamie took off with Jessie and Tia this afternoon, wound up spending the night at Nicole's.  Ray took Kacie and Kyle swimming.

Chicken patty sandwiches for dinner.

Finished "The Gunslinger," started "The Drawing of the Three."

August 27, 1992

Diary Entry:

Back to feeling energetic, in spite of the fact that my cold is STILL hanging on  ...  once I catch one of these things, it seems to hang on forever.  Scrubbed the kitchen and laundry room floors, baked a loaf of bread for fun, made pastrami & cheese runzas for dinner.  

Ray brought home some wine for me, then took the kids swimming while I enjoyed some alone-time.  Stayed up and watched TV with the kids until late.

August 28, 1992

Diary Entry:

Danielle and Cody were here most of the day --  Cody is recovering from pneumonia but still has plenty of energy!  --  Andrea paid me $20.

WONDERFUL surprise in the mail  --  a check from Puget Power for $188!!!  (A refund of our security deposit.)   The timing couldn't have been better.  Ray took it to the bank after work, bought us Pizza Hut for dinner to celebrate.

Kids found out who their teachers will be for the upcoming school year.

Jessica B. here to spend the night.

Saturday morning 9:20 a.m.
August 29, 1992

A few days later  ...  the final weekend before school starts.  Jessica B. spent the night last night, and the kids are all laying on the living room floor in sleeping bags, watching the Saturday morning cartoons.  I've been up for an hour or so, already getting a headstart on the weekend laundry.  I believe that it's supposed to get hot today, and if that's the case I'd like to have all the "grunt work" done by noon so I can kick back and enjoy myself this afternoon  --  even if that only means sitting in front of the fan with "The Drawing of the Three" (I'm near the end, and it's even better the second time) and sipping cold wine.  I don't expect this to be a big, high falutin' celebration of a day, in spite of the fact that it's our eleventh wedding anniversary  ...  but a moderate amount of fun would be nice.  :)

Ray is working today, incidentally.  I don't have a card or gift for him yet, but I plan to pull something together later.  (I babysat for Andrea yesterday, so I've got twenty bucks in my pocket.)  Actually, it's been pretty amazing, the past 24 hours.  We were approaching the weekend totally broke, and I'd been in a funk about that for most of the week  ...  the kids still need some school supplies, I'm out of laundry detergent, lunch materials for next week are nonexistant  ...  and, of course, it's our anniversary weekend.  The thought of having no money at all was very depressing.  Even more so than usual.  So I was delighted when Andrea called and asked me to watch Danielle and Cody yesterday.  Twenty bucks is better than nothing, right?  But then when the mail came yesterday afternoon, I got the surprise of my life: Puget Power sent us a check (a refund of our security deposit from two years ago) for $188.60!!!  When I opened the envelope and saw that check, I let out a yell that could have been heard around the world.  The timing was just so incredibly fortuitous.  I called Ray at work and let him know about it (so he could cash it before the bank closed) and he was as surprised and pleased as I was.  To celebrate, he went out and bought Pizza Hut for dinner  --  I'd been planning on fixing last-ditch scrambled eggs!  --  and today I think he's probably actually going to use some of the money to buy me a REAL anniversary gift!  (He didn't.)  If so, it'll be one of the few times I've ever gotten more than a hastily-signed card and a bouquet of supermarket carnations  ...

More about our anniversary later.  I have some things I'd like to write about the state of our marriage, and memories of past anniversaries, but that will have to wait for a bit.  I still haven't even taken a shower yet today, and I've got enough detergent to do one more laundry load, and the kids need breakfast.  

I will say one thing quickly, though  --  but not about Ray and I  --  the kids found out yesterday who their teachers will be for the coming school year.  Miracle of miracles: everybody got the teacher they wanted.  Jamie has Mrs. B. (formerly Miss Hackett), Kacie has Ms. Kido, and Kyle has Mrs. McCall.  Unfortunately, Joey isn't in Kyle's class --  that's a little disappointing  --  and Tracy isn't in Kacie's class, for the second year in a row.  But everything else was good news. Jamie's friend Nicole is in her class, as is Tia B., and she's pleased about that.  For the first time in a long time, Jamie seems to be looking forward to the school year.  She's decided that she's going to try and run for school vice-president this year, and I hope she makes it.  She's exuding a new self confidence and poise that I find extremely heartening.  Her "signature style" for this school year, she's decided, will be lots of jangly bracelets on both arms, very long (beautiful) hair, and no shoelaces in her tennies.  Last night she asked if she could shave her legs, and after a long discussion about proper safety measures I said OK.  I also said that she could wear a tiny bit of very discreet makeup, not on a regular basis but on special occasions.  I realize that some people may consider this poor judgement on my part  --  that I'm "pushing" her to grow up too quickly  --  but I have a theory about this, and that's if I forbid these things or make a big deal over them in any way, she's going to do them ANYWAY  ...  secretly, and badly.  At least this way I have a hand in it.  Besides, Jamie has always been a little more mature for her age than other girls, and I think she can handle it.  I think that by acknowledging her ability to be responsible about things (like grooming), I'm reinforcing that maturity, making it stronger.  I'm saying, "Look, I know you'll use good sense where these things are concerned."  And she will.  I have every confidence in that.

Some Thoughts:

  • My wedding day  ...  eleven years ago today.  Like today, it was a Saturday: like today, Ray had to work.  Unlike today, I spent most of the day alone, preparing for my wedding in solitude.  I remember that I was nervous, and that I couldn't get my hair to do what I wanted it to do, and that I desperately wished that I had a phone so I could call somebody  --  my mom, my sister-in-law Judy, ANYBODY  --  for some words of comfort and encouragement.  But I was very much on my own that day, and it wasn't all bad  ...  it gave me time to think and calm myself and mentally gear-up for what lay ahead.  By the time my Dad showed up later in the afternoon to drive me to the church I felt as ready as was possible for me to be, and I suppose it was all that time alone that did it.

  • I hated my wedding dress.  I still do.  It was cheap and flimsy and a terrible color on me  --  it made me look pale and sick.  It also made me look VERY heavy.  I look at my wedding photos sometimes and I'm seized with this urge to go back in time and yell at my 23-year-old self to "Wear a GIRDLE, forcryingoutloud!"  That would've helped a little, at least, especially from the rear.  At that point I still wasn't used to the idea of being overweight. Being pregnant had nothing to do with it, since I wasn't even "showing" yet  ...  in my mind I was still a slim attractive teenager, and looking in the mirror and discovering otherwise was a cruel shock.  (Not that it's gotten any easier in the intervening eleven years.  But every bride wants to look her best, and the fact that I didn't was hard to accept.)

  • On the other hand, Ray looked great.  His mother and I picked out his clothes: nice charcoal gray slacks, a light blue dress shirt, and a wonderful gray corduroy sports jacket, with a tie to match.  It was dressy enough to be suitable, but casual enough to please him.  His hair was still very long  --  almost shoulder-length  --  but it looked nice, I thought.  He was very handsome that day.

  • Looking back, it's very easy for me to point out all the things I didn't like about my wedding.  Our one-year-old nephew screamed throughout the entire ceremony, and the fact that no one did a blessed thing to shut him up still amazes, puzzles and infuriates me.  There was no music at my wedding  ...  not even one blue-haired little old lady sitting in the corner, playing the organ.  Just dead uncomfortable silence.  (At least, until The Monster Nephew started screaming.)  Neither of my Vert grandparents came to my wedding.  There were none of the silly, lovely traditions at our wedding or at the "reception" afterwards  --  no tossing the bridal bouquet, no groom removing the bride's garter amid much ribald giggling, no procession up the aisle, no rice, no tin cans tied to the back of our car.  And during the wedding ceremony, Ray steadfastly refused to look at me: he stared straight ahead through the whole thing.  (So much for my romantic notion of having my groom gaze tenderly and tearfully into my eyes  ... )

  • It's much harder to come up with things I DID like about that day, and that makes me a little sad.  The church was pretty  ...  candle-lit, and filled with flowers.  There were a lot of warmly supportive friends and family members present.  The gathering at Peg and Don's afterward was a lot of fun.  So the thing wasn't a total bust.  I will probably never get over the fact that I didn't have the kind of wedding every little girl dreams about, but this is a private sorrow, one that I don't talk about very often, and one that I have to deal with.  Not everything in life turns out the way you hope it will.
Diary Entry:

Very nice day  ...  our 11th wedding anniversary.  Ray had to work most of the day  --  came home this afternoon with a card and a bottle of champagne.  The kids gave us a card, too, and some gifts they'd made themselves.  John and Lori came over and spent part of the evening with us.

August 30, 1992

Diary Entry:

Ray and I both felt unaccountably awful today, even though we really didn't 'do' much last night  ...  tired and sick. Hello? Safeway champagne? We were going to BBQ spareribs and chicken, but ended up with Pizza Hut (again) because neither one of us felt like cooking.  He did manage to do some grocery-shopping, and he took Jamie to buy the rest of the school supplies the kids need.

Read 2/3 of Dean Koontz's "The Bad Place."

Monday morning
August 31, 1992

The weekend is over; our anniversary is now a (pleasant) memory; and, after today, summer vacation will be over as well.  ("So QUICK?" Kyle said, astonished, when he realized that vacation is over.  He's just beginning to get some inkling about how fast time can pass.)  The girls are enjoying their last chance to watch "The Price Is Right," and Kyle is enjoying one final long day of play with Josh and Mak.  Although no one is overtly glum today, neither are they exactly jumping up and down for joy at the prospect of going back to school tomorrow.  It's so strange.  I used to ADORE the first day of school when I was their age: I could barely sleep the night before, I was so excited.  To me, it was as thrilling as Christmas.  And yet, here are my kids, acting as though they're marching off to the Siberian labor camps ...


I must amend that.  By the middle of the afternoon, Kacie had begun bouncing around the house, a perpetual motion machine of nervous energy.  When I asked her what in the world had gotten into her all of a sudden, she said, "I'm just so EXCITED about school tomorrow!"  Hurray Kacie. 

Diary Entry:

This was the last day of summer vacation, and also the last day we'll have Josh here for a while  --  his new school hours will be different and he won't be coming here in the afternoons, just Mak.  Got the kids ready for tomorrow.

Ray BBQ'd chicken and ribs.  I finished "The Bad Place," Dean Koontz.  Period started.

Lots of trouble sleeping tonight  --  noisy neighbors, smoking refrigerator.

Tuesday morning 9 a.m.
September 1, 1992

Well, here we are, folks  ...  the school year has officially begun, and now Mommy is beginning HER much-deserved vacation  ...  :)

I've just returned from walking the kids over to the school, and the house feels so funny and quiet.  Mak is here, of course, but he's playing so unobtrusively in Kyle's room  --  deliriously happy to have all the Matchbox cars to himself  --  that I hardly know he's here.  I don't know whether I'm happy or sad  ...  lonely or exhilarated by the relative solitude.  It hasn't sunk in yet, I suppose.  After a few hours, the silence may start getting on my nerves.  Who knows?  But for right now, I'm just going to sit here and allow the calm to wash over me like a spring rain  ...  all this lovely, lovely calm  ...

I must tell you, first of all, that last night I got the WORST night's sleep on record, and it had nothing to do with the night-before-school excitement I used to feel as a kid.  My period started late yesterday afternoon, for one thing, and by evening I had terrible cramps and a stomach ache that just wouldn't quit.  We turned the TV off and everyone went to bed at 9:30.  I was in the last few chapters of a thrilling Dean Koontz novel ("The Bad Place"), though, so I stayed up another hour or so and finished that.  The ending was weird and spooky, and when I finally turned the lights off I couldn't get myself to fall asleep.  That was about 11 p.m.  

Just as I was finally starting to drift off, our neighbors across the street (Marc and a couple of his latest roommates) decided to work on cars in their driveway, directly across from our house.  Not only were they making a lot of noise, idling engines and clanking tools and shouting at each other, they also turned on an ENORMOUS spotlight in the driveway, which shone directly into our house and illuminated everything.  I tried to ignore it (by squeezing my eyes shut as tightly as possible and concentrating on deep breathing), but it was just too annoying.  

Finally, at quarter to midnight, I had to go in and wake Ray up and ask him to go across the street and talk to Marc.  Naturally, he was not thrilled to be woken up in the middle of the night, but he grudgingly threw on some shorts and a T-shirt and went across the street. ("I told them that I can sleep through anything, but the rest of my family can't," he said when he came back.)  A few minutes later the spotlight finally got turned off and the noise died down, so I layed back down on the sofa and thought "Finally I'll get some sleep."

Wrong.  About half an hour later, I started to smell something burning in the kitchen!  Actually, what it smelled like was burning electrical wires.  I could also hear a crackling, popping sound.  It was coming from beneath the refrigerator, and when I turned on the light to investigate, I could see little puffs of smoke actually billowing out from beneath the fridge.  This has happened before  --  it has something to do with water leaking into the electrical wiring  --  we've even had the landlord come over and look at it, but it keeps recurring.  Anyway, I was scared to death.  I sat on the couch and listened to the crackle and pop for about half an hour, and then I did the only thing I could do  ...  I went in and woke Ray up again.  If he wasn't thrilled to be woken up at midnight, imagine his delight at being woken up again at 1:20 a.m.!!  Not a pleasant moment for either one of us.  When I told him about the refrigerator, he grumbled and muttered and stomped off to the kitchen.  He poked around under the fridge for a couple of minutes, and then we mopped up as much of the excess water as we could with bath towels.  (Naturally the fridge stopped sputtering and spewing smoke the whole time Ray was looking at it.  I'm sure he thought I was imagining the whole thing.  And then when he went back to bed, it started up again.)  

At any rate, after all of this, it was nearly impossible for me to get any sleep at all.  When it was time to get the kids up this morning, I felt half-dead.  It's taken a shower, a pot of black coffee and a couple of beans to get me back to normal.

Fortunately, the kids were up without any problems and managed to get themselves ready for school in record time.  Kacie may be the only one who admits to being excited, but I suspect that all three of them felt some anticipation this morning because they were all ready to leave by 8 a.m.  (School starts at 8:40!)  We did a lot of the preparation last night, anyway  --  baths, lunches made, school clothes and supplies laid out, apples picked and polished for the new teachers  --  so this morning all they had to do was eat breakfast (Rice Krispies, English muffins, o.j.) and get dressed. Jamie wore a new black dress that her grandfolks bought her  --  very simple and classic  --  with black socks and her shiny new patent leather oxfords.  Kacie wore a new two-piece outfit, a flowered short-sleeved jacket top with matching skort.  Kyle had on new jeans and a red-print T-shirt, plus his new tennis shoes.  They all looked terrific.  

We walked to the school and got Kyle situated in his classroom first.  He gave Mrs. McCall the apple he'd picked for her, but he was very quiet and (I think) a little overwhelmed by everything.  When I left him, he had put his notebook and school supplies into his desk and was sitting here, holding onto his new lunchbox.  He had toothpaste and orange juice all over his mouth, but I didn't want to embarrass him by cleaning it off in front of all his classmates, so I just kissed him goodbye and told him I'd see him after school.  Jamie and Kacie are old hands at this stuff, and they settled into their classrooms without any fuss.  

I walked home alone, and now here I am, polishing off the last of the coffee and contemplating the serenity  ...

...  The phone keeps ringing.  First it was Janet, then my mother, then Velma, all wanting to touch base and compare notes.  (Ah!  And just now Lori called, too.  She said that she peeked into Kyle's room to see if I was still there, and that he looked stiff and scared and that his eyes seemed "very round."  This gives me a little pang in my heart.  Please relax and have fun, Kylie  ...)


Well, yes, it does feel a little lonely around here, and I'm looking forward to having them come home and tell me all about their day  ...  but I have managed to get a LOT of work done today, without distraction, and that's been nice.  I definitely think I'm going to have to find something to do this fall, though.  Cleaning house is fine, as far as that goes.  And I can organize all the closets and drawers, finished all of my half-completed writing and photo projects, update my cookbooks, work on mix tapes.  All that would be great.  But  ...  what will I do THEN?

Diary Entry:

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!  Got everyone up at 7:30, dressed and ready to go by 8:00.  Walked the kids to school, got them all settled into new classrooms.

Lots of phone calls, all morning.  (Velma, Janet, Mom, Lori.) 

Barbara had her baby tonight  --  a six pound baby boy.

Wednesday morning
September 2, 1992

Big news: Barbara had her baby last night, a six pound boy!  Sheryl called me twice from the hospital  --  once when Barbara was in labor, and then again after the baby was born, sometime around 10:30 p.m.  --  and then Barbara called herself, very early this morning. ("He looks like his Daddy," she said happily.)  I must admit to a slight twinge of envy when I heard the rapture in her voice!  I remember that wonderful glow you feel, the morning after giving birth. It's the sweetest feeling you can imagine.  I'm very happy for Barbara, though, and we're all looking forward to meeting our brand-new nephew/cousin as soon as we can.

The first day of school seems to have gone well for the kids.  Kyle was upset because his teacher asked him not to bring his Trapper/Keeper to school anymore  --  she wants her class to use a standard three-ring binder instead  --  but I assured him that it was nothing personal, it was simply his teacher's preference, and I gave him money to buy a new notebook.  I had to drag the details of the rest of the day out of him, of course  ....  Did he like having recess?  ("Yes.")  Did he enjoy eating lunch in the cafeteria? ("Yes.")  Who did he sit by?  ("Marcel.")  He was far more interested in playing ball with Mak than sitting with me talking about school, but during the course of the afternoon and evening I managed to drag enough information out of him to determine that he'd had a successful first day.  

Kacie, on the other hand, was totally on fire when she got home!  Ms. Kido has an incentives system in her classroom called "Kido Bucks."  You earn Kido Bucks by doing extra credit reading and homework projects, and you can use them to "buy" all kinds of prizes, everything from school supplies to small toys.  Kacie watched Jamie earning Kido Bucks last year when she had Ms. Kido, and now it's Kacie's turn!  (I believe that THIS is the reason Kacie wanted this particular teacher so badly.)  She did three extra credit projects and read for 45 minutes last night, gloating the whole time about all the Kido Bucks she was earning, all the stuff she was going to "buy."  I'd be happier if she were doing it for the sheer love of learning, of course  --  har  --  but anything that gets her to do schoolwork with such enthusiasm is fine by me.  I just hope it lasts beyond the honeymoon stage.

Jamie seemed pleased with her first day of fifth grade, although the only real comment she made was "Tomorrow I'm going to wear deodorant EVERYWHERE."  Her classroom faces west and they catch all that sweltering afternoon sun.  She also seemed pleased that she's seated next to her friend, Nicole, and mentioned something about playing with Tia at recess. The last time that Tia and Jamie were in a class together, two years ago, was probably the worst school year of Jamie's life.  So I'm cautiously optimistic to hear that they're getting along a little better now  ...  it's probably a combination of the fact that Tia has mellowed and Jamie has matured.  I have a feeling that this will be a very good year for my Puss. 

Diary Entry:

My days are so long and quiet, now that the kids are at school and it's only Mak and I all day  ...  I'm enjoying it this week, but I know that pretty soon I'll run out of things to occupy my time.  I need a change in my life.

Worked on the kids' Memory Book, researching new entries, adding photos.  When that's done, I'll finish the autobiography.

Ray worked until 8:00  --  I drank some champagne & o.j., made some phone calls.

September 3, 1992

Diary Entry:

Got the kids off to school, then went back to sleep until past noon.  (Feeling rotten from last night's champagne and late TV.)  Got moving this afternoon, though  ...  cleaned the kitchen, made Ray some pork chops, read some old journals from 1974.  Feeling a little "blue"  --  wondering if there's anything good ahead of me anymore.

Jamie spent the night at Nicole's.  Wild rainstorm this evening.

Friday 8:30 a.m.
September 4, 1992

Cold, rainy morning  ...  just took my shower and poured the first cup of coffee.  The kids are home today (and for the next three days after that), which seems a little ridiculous to me  --  three days of school, followed immediately  by four days off?!??  Right now they're all watching cartoons in the living room, except for Jay (who spent the night at Nicole's and won't be home until late this afternoon).  I'm sitting here in the laundry room with the door open behind me, enjoying the lovely sound of rain, the feeling of cool air on bare feet  ...  almost feels like autumn today.

I've had a lot on my mind the past couple of days.  Whether or not I'll be able to write anything meaningful about it, I don't know  ...  it's nothing specific, more of an over-all feeling of sad quiet resignation  ...  that feeling I get, sometimes, that all of the exciting fun times in my life are over with.  I spent a long time yesterday reading old journals from my junior year in high school.  Once in a while I just find myself in a nostalgic mood, and I drag out a few of the old journals and spend some time in the past.  A lot of the time this is fun: it's entertaining to read about people and places and events I'd nearly forgotten, and I get a kick out of what a silly dope I was as a teenager.  (The boy I like hasn't called me all day, and I'm in despair.  The phone rings, I jump out of my skin  ...  "I looked at it, holding my breath, barely daring to hope.  'Please Lord,' I prayed silently  ...  'Hello?'  ...  but it was Grandma.  My heart broke into about ten thousand little pieces, my brain started to dissolve, all hope in me died a flaming death.")  But this time, reading the 1974 journals didn't amuse me, the way they do sometimes: this time, they broke my heart.

If I try to explain why, I'm going to sound like an idiot.  After all, I'm 34 years old now, not seventeen, and the plain fact of the matter is that love and romance just aren't a part of my life anymore.  A lot of the time I'm able to live with that.  I get so engrossed in the day-to-day details of my life  --  kids, laundry, money worries, family stuff  --  that romance is the furthest thing from my mind.  It's hard to be thinking hearts and flowers when you're disinfecting the toilet  ...  y'know?  A lot of the time I'm able to convince myself that it doesn't matter to me anymore, that I've gotten past all that.  But then something happens to jog the memory a little  ...  a wedding anniversary that doesn't turn out quite the way I'd hoped.  An Oprah Winfrey show about reuniting long-lost loves.  A pile of old high school journals, detailing a series of sweet, long-ago romances.  All of a sudden there I am, looking into the mirror at this overweight 34-year-old person, and the realization that love has passed me by is overwhelmingly sad  ...

I miss being in love.  I miss FALLING in love, especially   ...  the thrill of discovery, the initial awkwardness, the sweet feeling of new "connection," even the anguish and uncertainty.  I miss feeling these things, dammit!!!

In the past ten years, I've been in love twice.  Well, actually  ...  two and a half times.  (Explanation forthcoming.)  And neither time was with the person I married!  Isn't that sad?  In my journals over the past ten or eleven years, I've made no secret of the fact that I didn't marry for love  --  a fact that absolutely astonishes me now.  For someone to whom love and romance were everything  --  EVERYTHING  --  in high school and college and my early 20's, the fact that I would marry someone I didn't love is amazing.  In the beginning, of course, I said that I loved Ray.  I needed to justify the marriage, so I talked myself into loving him.  In the journals from late 1980 and 1981, when I met and married Ray, I do a lot of talking about how much "in love" we are, how glad I am to have found him, how happy I am.  But the plain sad fact of the matter is that I married him for two reasons, neither of them having a thing to do with love.  One was because he 'rescued' me at a point in my life when I needed rescuing.  Two was because I wanted to have children right away, and he was the first guy to come along who didn't poo-poo the idea out of hand.  I married him because I was pregnant, because he was my baby's father, and because it seemed the appropriate thing to do.  And for a long time  --  for the first couple of years, anyway  --  I was able to convince myself that I'd done a good thing, that I'd made an intelligent decision, that we were all going to be happy.  I was able to ignore the glaring differences between us, the complete lack of "connection" on any level  ....  the fact that we had virtually nothing in common  ...  the fact that I couldn't TALK to him.  It just didn't seem that important.  I was happy, having my babies and cleaning my house and living out my dreams of home and family, and if it ever occurred to me that something crucial was lacking in my marriage, I wrote it off as being a trade-off: babies vs. communication, stability vs. passion.  

And Ray wasn't completely horrible, after all.  He was a sweet, loyal, basically decent person.  He still is.  We've had some good times.  I could have done a lot worse, I suppose.

But after a couple of years of deluding myself, there were certain truths that couldn't be ignored any longer.  He drank too much.  He was irresponsible with money.  He spent all his time at the tavern, leaving me at home with two babies, no phone, no car, no money  ...  sometimes for entire weekends at a time.  When he WAS home, there was no communication between us: things that mattered to me didn't matter to him, and vice versa.  Sex was an unpleasant chore and nothing else.  I was lonely beyond belief.  Sometimes when I recall those lonely Kirkland years, I wonder how I survived them at all.  That was the point at which I realized I'd married a person I didn't truly love, and it was a heartbreaking realization.  But so much had already been invested in the marriage  --  time, emotions, children  --  that I knew I was stuck.  

I still feel that way a lot of the time.

Don't get me wrong.  I do love him.  You don't spend eleven years with a person, have three children with him, without feeling something.  I love him in the comfortable, familiar way you love someone you've spent a lot of years with.  But I am not, and never HAVE been, "in love" with Ray.  And that's just the way it is.  These things have never been a part of our relationship: romance, connection, passion, emotional intimacy, true committment.  And as the years go by, these are the things that I long for, grieve for, despair of ever feeling again for somebody, and that's what breaks my heart now  ...

The "two and a half times" I fell in love in the past ten years?  They're hard to explain, and they make me feel guilty sometimes when I think about them, but they happened and there's no sense in denying it. 

In 1984, when I was at my loneliest, I fell in love with one of Ray's friends from work, Mike. He was older than us  ...  a Viet Nam vet with a tortured, intelligent soul I found very appealing.  He'd come over to the house on weekends and party with us, or we'd run into him at the tavern, and he and I would talk for hours.  He knew how I felt about him but he never took advantage of it (much to my frustration at the time)  ....  in fact, he did everything he could to discourage me  ...  but I carried a quiet torch for him for almost two years, until the feelings eventually ran out of steam.  Looking back, I realize that it was just a fantasy with me  ...  a way of filling up some of the empty place in my life  ...  and never something that was actually meant to be.  But for those two years  --  thinking about him, listening to music that reminded me of him ("Wild Man," Reilley & Maloney), nervously looking forward to seeing him on weekends  --  all that stuff was very sweet, very pleasant.  It made me feel alive.  Even when it was painful (when I understood that the feelings would never be returned), at least I felt ALIVE.

Then -- in 1986  --  the Big One hit.  Tony.  God, I still feel a twinge when I write his name.  I fell in love with Tony (another one of Ray's friends, naturally), and I fell hard.  With him, it was emotional, physical, spiritual, EVERYTHING.  And this time my feelings were returned  ...  at least partially.  It was brief and clandestine and badly timed and incredibly intense while it lasted, and I'll always be grateful that it happened, painful though it was when it ended (mutually).  It was like one last taste of passion and romance for someone starving for it.  Yes, I feel guilty about what we did.  I justify it sometimes by remembering that it happened at a time when Ray was at his irresponsible worst, but even so I still don't take it lightly.  But it happened, it was undeniably wonderful/terrible while it lasted, and it remains a sweet memory.  Agonizing over the morality of it is wasted effort.

The "half" time  ...  ?  This one is the toughest to explain.  To this day I still have mixed feelings about it  --  regret, mainly, because it may very well have been my last chance at happiness and I blew it.  

Ray and I were officially separated, the kids and I were living in the apartment, and I met Kerry through a newspaper personals column.  There was an instant connection between us: he was easily the smartest, funniest, most emotionally evolved man I had ever met, and we could have had something really wonderful, I think.  The problem was that we conducted our romance through letters and phone calls, and even though we were halfway in love before we ever met in person, I felt an absolute lack of physical chemistry when we finally DID meet.  (I was crushed to discover that he was short and balding.  If he'd been tall and gorgeous, we would probably be married right now.  Seriously!)  But dopey Terri couldn't reconcile her disappointment that the live-and-in-person Kerry didn't match the fantasy Kerry she'd pictured in his wonderful letters and two-hour phone calls.  Never mind the fact that in every way that truly mattered, he was perfect for me  ...  the chemistry just wasn't there.  So I blew him off.  He continued calling and writing for weeks, but I'd made up my mind, and that was that.  The last time he called and asked me out to dinner, I said "Please don't call me anymore."  I can still hear the hurt in his voice.  I think about him sometimes now, wondering "What if  ...?"  (What if I'd been mature enough to realize that true love isn't always six feet tall with a full head of hair?)  But what's done is done, and all you can do is hope that the next time, you use your head instead of your glands  ...

...   But you see, that's where the problem lies.  Will there ever BE a "next time" for me?  There's a sad, resigned little voice inside my heart that says there won't be.  It says, These things are all done with  --  finished  --  and the sooner you accept the fact, the better it will be.  No more falling in love. No more romance.  No hope of ever finding that one, special, meant to be "connection."  Just years and years of an automatic, passionless marriage.

I'll never divorce Ray.  I know that now.  I had a chance to break free and start a new life six years ago, and I chose to stay with the familiar rather than gamble on the unknown.  Typical for me.  I know that I'll never divorce him, the same way I know I'll never lose weight, never go back to college, never publish a best-seller.  I just don' have what it takes  --  courage, self-esteem, determination.  Ray and I will be married until one of us dies, and that's just the way it is, folks.  I couldn't take the risk.  I couldn't destroy my children's lives.  I couldn't break Ray's heart.  I've chosen my destiny, and now I live with the consequences.

Just writing about all these things has helped, at least.  In a few days the sad feeling will pass, and I'll be back to normal  ...  (until the next time I read an old journal, or hear a song that reminds me of someone, or see a teenage couple holding hands, or  ... )   I mean, I don't walk around thinking about these things all the time.  Most of the time it's the furthest thing from my mind.  It's just that every once in a while I'm gripped by these feelings  --  the longing for love, the sense that it's all behind me  --  and it hurts for a few days, but then it goes away again.  I go back to being my normal, content self.  I'm sure this is what will happen this time, too.  For now, though, I've put the old journals back in the closet, where they belong.  Maybe I shouldn't even try reading them again  ....  they seem to stir up more pain than nostalgia, and I'm not sure if it's worth it.  Not if it just leaves me feeling sad and lonely and "finished." 

Diary Entry:

Kids had the day off from school today.  Cold, rainy  ...  lots of noise and arguments.  Jamie gone all day, spent the night again at Nicole's.  Jesse here.

Karen paid me tonight, $200.

September 5, 1992

Diary Entry:

Ray worked today, 7:30 - 3:30.  Quiet day, not much to report.  Jamie came home from Nicole's very upset  --  they had a fight about something.

Took the family out to dinner at The Omni tonight.

Daddy: Salad, Top sirloin and shrimp, baked potato, corn, Rainier beer

Mom: Salad, teriyaki sirloin, baked potato, corn, Coca Cola

Girls: Chicken strips & French fries

Kyle: Grilled cheese sandwich & fries, Sprite

Sunday morning
September 6, 1992

A couple of days later, and feeling a little stupid about all those things I wrote on Friday.  I sound so pathetic.  Naturally, the feelings have subsided and I am more or less back to my "normal content self" today  ...  at least, I don't feel as sad about all of it today.  I'm having a reasonably pleasant weekend, and that's helping.  Ray worked all day yesterday  --  I always like it when he works on Saturdays and isn't "under foot" all day  --  and today he's out in Kirkland, doing some work for his parents at our old house.  He'll probably work there tomorrow, too.  (They're fixing the place up so they can rent it out to new tenants eventually.  They've offered to pay Ray good $ for his help; he wants to use it to buy us a second TV.)  Last night, on a whim, I decided to treat everybody to dinner out.  We went to The Omni, a little neighborhood restaurant, and it was nice  --  I had teriyaki sirloin, Ray had steak and shrimp, the kids all ordered from the children's menu.  It's always nice when I don't have to cook so it was worth the $30 it cost me.

After we got home from dinner, Ray went back out to B-Z's tavern to watch a football game; the kids and I enjoyed a pleasant evening of TV and conversation.  They dragged out their "Special Boxes"  --  the big cardboard boxes full of school papers, greeting cards, artwork, etc. etc. that I've collected for them  --  and spent a happy hour or so, digging through all of their treasures.  It always makes me feel good when they visibly appreciate the efforts I've gone to to preserve memories for them  ...  when they look through their Special Boxes, for instance, or when they're clamoring for me to read from The Memory Book.  (This is a project I've been working on, off and on, for a few years now: a three-ring binder of typewritten journal entries, taken from the years when they were little  ...  funny things they've done and said, landmark events, etc.  The Memory Book lives on here.  Preserving this kind of family history has always been important to me, and it's nice to know finally that I've been doing it for a good reason all these years, that they appreciate it and enjoy it.

Kacie and Kyle are at Sunday School, so it's just Jamie and I this morning.  She is such good company  ...  even when we're just sitting in the same room together reading, not saying anything  ...   She still is!

Diary Entry:

Ray is working out in Kirkland today and tomorrow, helping his folks renovate the rental house  --  he left before we got up, wasn't home until late in the afternoon.

Kids and I walked over to Trailer Town, just for fun  --  I bought some wine and some dinner materials.   Made a meatball casserole, talked to Lori for two hours on the phone, goofed around in my office.  Tia B. here to spend the night; Janet stopped by for a quick visit.

Watched two good rented movies we'd never seen before, "Wayne's World" (VERY funny) and "My Girl" (very SAD).

September 7, 1992
Monday - Labor Day

Diary Entry:

No school today (Labor Day).  Ray worked out in Kirkland again today, so for the third day in a row it was just the kids and I.  Watched the rental movies again, layed around enjoying a lazy day. 

My mom stopped by unexpectedly with a box of clothes for me  --  lots of great stuff.

Ray home at 7:00, went out and got fast food for us (Wendy's AND Pizza Hut).

Tuesday morning
September 8, 1992

Whew  --  the kids went back to school today.  The house is a shambles, laundry piled to the ceiling, no food in the house, my nerves are shot: that's what a four-day weekend with my children will do.  It's ironic, I know  ...  a week or two ago I was crying about them going back to school after summer vacation, about how "quiet" and "lonely" the house seemed  ...  now I'm sighing with relief because they're gone again!  ...

Lately Kyle has two all-consuming passions: Legos and batteries.  At any given moment he's got one or the other in his hands.  This morning both are spread all over the house.  It's making me NUTS.  And last night Kacie suddenly got it into her head that she wanted to make a scale replica of our neighborhood (as a project for more Kido bucks, naturally!), and so there are little pieces of paper and masking tape all over the place.  Sigh.  The kitchen is a mess, the living room is a mess, all three bedrooms are a mess.  It's deeply discouraging.  What makes it all the worse is that I agreed to watch Danielle and Cody today  --  they'll be here in an hour  --  so the chances of me actually getting anything done around here are nil.  

Help help help. 

Diary Entry:

House is a disaster area from our four-day weekend  ...  glad the kids went back to school!!   Had Danielle & Cody here most of the day, but still managed to get a lot done. 

Kacie accidentally knocked a shelf off the wall, broke a couple of my porcelain owls  --  I got very mad at her  --  Ray had her do some work in the garage as punishment.

September 9, 1992

It wasn't that bad  ...  watching the little guys AND trying to clean up, I mean.  Cody was an impossibly handful for an hour or so  --  climbing on EVERYTHING  --  but then he fell asleep on the sofa with a bottle of juice and snoozed most of the afternoon.  And Danielle, who at age 3-1/2 is vastly more assertive and verbal than 4-year-old Mak, totally commandeered the toys and everything else in Kyle's room, entertaining herself (and Mak) for most of the day.  I at least got the laundry and the kitchen done, and then when the kiddies went home I restored my living room to order.

Kacie and Kyle got into big trouble yesterday.  I was sitting in my bedroom, trying to straighten out my dresser drawers, and they were running back and forth through the house, screaming like Banshees.  Once or twice I hollered at them to "Settle down!!" but my warnings were generally ignored, as usual.  
They were getting progressively rowdier and rowdier, when suddenly I heard this horrible CRASH from the kitchen, followed by Kacie's horrified gasp.  I came running out to see what happened and discovered that she had knocked down my knick-knack shelf (which holds some of the porcelain owls) from the dining room wall.  The shelf was in splinters, and two of the little owls  --  one from Grandma St. John's collection, once that one of the kids gave me for Christmas 1991  --  were smashed to pieces.  I was furious.  I started swearing at both of them at the top of my lungs while I swept up the broken pieces.  "Get out of my sight!" I ordered them.  Kyle ran to his room and slammed the door shut, and Kacie, sobbing hysterically, ran outside to the garage.  

A little while later, Ray got home from work.  He took one look at my angry expression (and at the broken owls on the dining room table), and he knew what kind of afternoon I'd had!  After a while he went outside and found Kacie, and he put her to work smashing aluminum cans and picking up garbage.  I was fixing dinner by then  --  still mad, but beginning to calm down a little bit  --  I could hear Kacie outside, still weeping and sniffling as though her heart was broken.  I'm not a total ogre, OK?  I was sad about the broken owls, and I was mad at the kids for ignoring my warnings to settle down.  But it was an accident.  Just one of those things that happen.  And, in the long run, Kacie's feelings matter one hell of a lot more to me than ten thousand porcelain owls.  By this time Kyle had already come out of his room and climbed up onto my lap ("Mom. Can I tell you what happened?"), but Kacie was still in exile.  I went out to the garage to find her.  

One look at her tear-swollen little face completely did me in.  I took her in my arms and hugged her, and her whole body sort of went limp against me, as though I were relieving her of a terrible weight.  "I had a right to be angry, don't you think?" I said, and she just nodded and snuffled into my chest as I hugged her.  "But I'm sorry I swore at you," I continued, "and I'm not mad anymore Forgive me?"  And that was pretty much that.

(Note: a month or two later, Kacie used all of her precious Kido bucks to buy me a little glass duck, to make up for the broken owls.)

This morning I nailed the shelf back together, and I've moved it to a different part of the dining room where it's less likely to get bumped.  (I was just asking for trouble anyway, hanging it in such a vulnerable spot to begin with.  It was just a matter of time.)  The owls are broken beyond repair, and I'm sad about that, but I'm just going to let it go.

And where was Miss Jamie P. when all of this was going on?  Where she ALWAYS is anymore  --  in her room.  Lately her room has become her sanctuary, and she spends more and more time there  ....  usually on her top bunk with one or both of the kitties, reading and listening to the radio.  It's very touching for me to see: it reminds me so much of myself at her age.  My room was always the most important place in the world to me.  If anything bothers me about the situation, in fact, it's simply the fact that Jamie can't have a bedroom to herself.  Although she doesn't complain (a lot) about having to share the room with Kacie, she's still the kind of kid who deserves and needs a room of her own, especially since they're such an Odd Couple when it comes to keeping the room clean  ...  Kacie is Oscar Madison to Jamie's Felix Unger, and it drives Jamie crazy.  For the time being, though, poor old Jamie is stuck sharing a room with her sister, and that's all there is to it.  I wish I could say that someday we'll live in a house with enough bedrooms for everybody to have their own (hey  --  *I* have to share a bedroom too, remember), but the truth is that when I look into this family's future, it is as murky and uncertain as the future has always seemed to me.  I have no idea where we'll be in six months, let alone years from now.  So for now Miss Jamie P. must content herself with a room for two  ...  

Diary Entry:

Couldn't get off the PHONE all morning  --  Lori called 3 times, Velma called twice.  

September 10, 1992

Diary Entry:

Basically dead all day.  Got into a horrible fight with the girls before they left for school  --  over something stupid  --   my overblown reaction was completely inappropriate, and I felt bad about it all day.

Friday 11 a.m.
September 11, 1992

All of a sudden I'm in a really lousy mood this morning, and I can't quite figure out why  ...

I want to bite somebody's head off.  I want to throw something.  I want to scream at the top of my lungs, and then I want to close my mouth and literally not say a word to anybody for the rest of the day.  I want to walk away from this pigsty of a house, and then I want to come back and clean it from top to bottom. 

What in the world is the MATTER with me today??

Wednesday night I did something really stupid, and then yesterday I did something really awful, and today I'm completely mixed up inside.  I'm not going to give you any details  --  sorry  --  suffice it to say that wine and motherhood aren't the greatest mix in the universe.  The kids have forgiven me.  The tougher job is forgiving myself. 

Diary Entry:

Valerie called first thing this morning, upset because she had to have her cat ("Sammy") put to sleep yesterday.  At first I was annoyed to hear her voice because she'd obviously been drinking, but once I found out why she was calling I softened.  Her pets are like her babies.

Otherwise blah day.  Babysat Danielle and Cody for a few hrs., clipped some recipes, watched an afternoon movie ("The Trip To Bountiful"). 

Ray went out and got KFC for dinner, I paid for half.

Saturday morning
September 12, 1992

The worst of the bad mood seems to have passed.  (Just like Hurricane Iniki, which ravaged Kauai last night.  What is it with hurricanes lately, anyway?)  The really odd thing is that Ray was in the same mood when he got home last night  ...  complaining about this, moaning about that, muttering at us all under his breath  ...  for most of the evening he holed himself up in the garage, drinking beer and watching football  ...  when he finally staggered off to bed at 11:00, he apologized.  "I just feel like biting somebody," he said.  (That's so close to what I wrote in this journal yesterday, it startled me!  Was it something in the air, or WHAT?)

This morning I was in the kitchen fixing breakfast.  "Mom!" Kacie exploded, "I said I only want HALF an English muffin!"  (To go with the ham and the poached egg I'd cooked for her.)

"Geez, I'm really sorry," I said, pretending that my feelings were crushed.  "I'm a lousy mom."

"Are you kidding??" Kacie said.  "Some kids would DIE for a Mom like you!"

Thank you, Kacie.  :) 

1:00 p.m.

Just spent my entire morning cleaning Kyle's bedroom  ...  what a disgusting, back-breaking job.  It hadn't been done in a couple of months, and it needed it.  I'll certainly be glad when Kyle is old enough to do it himself.  (I wonder: which of his sisters will he take after?  Oscar or Felix?   But until that wondrous day arrives, I'm the only one with enough patience to get down on my hands and knees and sort through the mountains of Legos, Matchbox cars, broken crayons, weird little bits and pieces of paper  ... 

Diary Entry:

Ray didn't work today  --  first Saturday in ages that he's been home. 

I went in first thing and cleaned Kyle's horrible bedroom: took three hours.  Also cleaned the laundry room and my desk, mopped floors.

Mom stopped by again.

September 13, 1992

Diary Entry:

Nice day.  Didn't expect it to be, but it was!  Went out to the in-laws' to celebrate Barbara's birthday.

At the in-laws'
September 1992

Monday morning
September 14, 1992 (arf, arf)

I'm not sure, but I think that Monday may be turning into my favorite day of the week  ...  Ray is back to work, the kids are back in school, and with the exception of Mak later in the day, I am alone.  As long as no one calls and tries to engage me in a long phone conversation (Lori, Velma, Janet, Valerie)  ...  and as long as Andrea doesn't call and ask me to watch her kids  ...  I should be able to get some things done today, including a page or two written in my journal.  This was an interesting weekend, and I'd like to share some of it with you.

After cleaning Kyle's room on Saturday morning, I still had energy to spare, so I ran four loads of laundry, gave the laundry room and my desk a thorough going-over, and mopped all the floors.  Jamie took off to go book-shopping with Janet and her girls; in exchange, I wound up with Joey here most of the afternoon.  He and Kyle and Kacie immediately got into one of their ear-splitting, hair-pulling fights out in the front yard ("Kyle threw a KNIFE at me!" Kacie howled  ...  THAT got my attention right away.  It was only after I dragged all three of them into the house and questioned them that I learned that Kacie had tied up her little brother in a sheet and left him trapped inside of it.  HONESTLY.)  Anyway, I made them all sit on the sofa for the rest of the afternoon, until Janet got here to pick up Joey.  Lately the fighting (especially between Kacie and Kyle) has escalated to the point where I don't know how to handle it.  Every single afternoon they start in with this crap, and I'm totally frustrated.  Do they hate each other so much?!  It's as though they can't even be in the same room together anymore, not even for a minute  ...  Kacie will say something to tease her brother, Kyle gets madder and madder, Kacie teases him some more, Kyle swears at her, Kacie laughs at him, Kyle reacts by punching or kicking, Kacie responds with same  ...  next thing I know, they're chasing each other through the house screaming bloody murder, and either someone gets really hurt or something gets broken (like my owls last week) and I wind up screeching at BOTH of them.  I've actually considered making it a rule that they're not allowed to be in the same room together between 4 and 6 p.m. every day  --  for some reason, those are The Volatile Hours  --  but how practical is that, really?  Not very.  But something definitely needs to be done about this situation, because I just can't live with it anymore.

At any rate, things did calm down by Saturday evening, thank god.  It was storming outside, very cold, so Ray built a fire in the woodstove (one of the first of the season: I guess summer is over!), and Jamie made popcorn and everybody watched "Ghostbusters."  I enjoyed a pleasant evening in my office, working on a scrapbook for Barbara's baby and talking to Lori on the phone.  (I had some wine, but nothing like last Wednesday night: I had important committments the next day and could NOT afford another two-day hangover.)  On nights like that  --  when all five of us are together under the same roof, and it's cold and rainy outside but warm and cozy inside  --  I feel as though everything is right with the world.  Nothing else seems to matter  ...  not money worries, not a messy house, not even the idea that "romance" is permanently missing from my life  ...  as a matter of fact, these things seem kind of silly and inconsequential.  The only thing that genuinely matters is that my family is together, safe and healthy, and my children are still young, and it's 1992 and time could come to a standstill right now and I wouldn't mind a bit  ...

Anyway, the thing I really wanted to talk about was Sunday.  Originally Ray was supposed to work out at the Kirkland house with his father again, but the plans changed at the last minute  ...  Sunday was Barbara's 22nd birthday, and the folks decided to invite everyone over for a family barbecue to celebrate. 

Diary Entry:

Monday is becoming one of my favorite days of the week  ...  Ray goes back to work, the kids go back to school  ...  the house is MINE again!

September 15, 1992

Interrupted  --  now it's the next morning, and GOD it's cold!!  (I went out to the garage awhile ago to find Ray's hammer  --  I was in bare feet, out of habit  -- and I thought I'd lose my toes to frostbite!!)  Marvelously alone again, although today even Mak won't be here  --  he's spending the day with his aunt.  The phone rings persistently every ten minutes or so but I'm blithely ignoring it.  At 9:30 in the morning, the only people who call me are my girlfriends or my step-mother, and if I sit down and talk to them right now, it'll blow the entire rhythm of my morning.  (There it goes AGAIN  ... )  I want to just putz around my house today, doing a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and not say a single word to anybody if I can possibly help it.

Anyway, back to what I was writing about last Sunday.  I was going to add that the family get-togethers have become fewer and further-between, these past couple of years.  Back in the days when we lived in Kirkland  --  when the girls were babies  --  they were practically a weekly occurrence.  Or at least once or twice a month.  But now that we live farther away, and all of Peg & Don's children are grown and married with families of their own, it's a very rare thing to find the whole bunch of us gathered under one roof anymore.

In order to appreciate what I have to say about this particular family get-together, you must understand how difficult such occasions were for me in the past.  In the first five or six years that Ray and I were together, I dreaded them.  I hated them PASSIONATELY, in fact.  I resented like hell having to pack up the babies and the diaper bags and the whole business, and then having to spend the entire day making uncomfortable polite chit-chat with people who (I was convinced) didn't like me very much to begin with.  I never felt like I "belonged."  The women would be clustered together in the kitchen  --  Peg, Sheryl, Judy, Patty (when she was in town)  --  and I would sit off to one side, listening to their conversation and feeling completely isolated from them.  I would usually try to stick close to Ray, but he (having no idea how terrified and uncomfortable I felt) would get up and go off to another part of the house to watch a football game, or he would go outside to help his Dad barbecue, and I'd wind up sitting alone in the living room, feeling (and looking) like an idiot.  Or I would use my babies as a social "shield"  --  busying myself with their diapers and bottles, always making sure I had at least one of them sitting on my lap  --  just because it made me feel less "alone" in this roomful of people  ...  more "connected" to this family.  But of course the babies eventually  became toddlers, and would no longer willingly sit on Mama's lap for any length of time, and there I'd be, sitting alone again  ...

It's not that I was treated unkindly.  Most of the time the folks went out of their way to try and involve me in conversations and put me at ease.  Judy was my best friend at the time, so I always felt like I had one ally, even though I envied her natural ease around our in-laws  ...  she could always talk to them so comfortably.  Next to her, I felt like a lump.  And the rest of them, if not overtly friendly (especially Sheryl), were at least cordial.  The problem was strictly me.  I just couldn't shake the feeling of being a stranger in their midst, and for that reason most of these family dinners were a little taste of hell on earth for me.

When did it change?  I honestly don't know.  I sit here and think about how different it is now, and there is no one specific incident that comes to mind  ...  nothing I can pinpoint that explains when it stopped being "hell" and started being "family."  I suppose some of it happened when Ray and I reconciled five years ago, when he got his new job and our lives got back on track.  (My father-in-law brings that up all the time, especially when it's just he and I talking: how "proud" he is of Ray and I, how much we've "grown up."  I suppose that maybe I've earned his respect, at least a little.)  Some of it may have to do with the kids, too  ...  they bind us together in a way that conversational ease and good manners could never do.  They give us common ground.  I don't know.  Maybe I've just grown up more than I think I have.  Whatever the reasons, though, the past few times that we've all been together  --  especially this past Sunday  --  I felt some amazing emotions, things I NEVER thought I would feel.  Ease.  Warmth.  Familiarity.  Seniority!  (With Judy long gone, I am now the "senior" child-in-law  ...  !)  Friendship.  Affection, especially for my mother-in-law and for my niece and nephews.  I don't sit alone anymore.  I don't feel uncomfortable talking to my father-in-law, or to Sheryl and Jeff, even  ...  I no longer feel like the odd person out.  It seems as natural as breathing to get my mother-in-law a cup of coffee, to hug Sheryl's kids, to help pick up the dirty dishes after dinner, to kiss the in-laws goodbye.  I'm still not the most scintillating conversationalist in the room, but it doesn't cause me the anxiety it used to  ...

At any rate, the hightlight of Sunday's visit for me  --  aside from realizing that I "belong," finally  --  was meeting our new nephew (Barbara's son) for the very first time!  He is the second-cutest baby boy I've ever seen.  (After MY son, of course.)  I held him for a long, long time, and it was pure sensory delight for me  ...  his warm weightiness in my arms, the little cooing noises he made, his wonderful "new baby" smell.

11:15 a.m.

Ha ha.  Guess what happens when you "blithely ignore" a ringing telephone  ...  ?  They come and knock on your door because they're "worried" about you!!!  I opened the door, and there stood Velma and her son. 

My heart just sank.  

"I tried calling and calling," she said, "and when there was no answer I thought I'd better check on you."  Naturally I had to invite her in; I made some feeble excuse about 'forgetting' to turn the phone on this morning, and that seemed to placate her.  She's one of those people who would never in a million years understand Terri's Rule ("Just because a phone is ringing doesn't mean you have to ANSWER it").  If I told her I just plain wasn't answering the phone because I didn't want to talk to anybody, she'd be all hurt and huffy.  Why does it have to be so much WORK, being her friend  ...  ?

Diary Entry:

Good day  --  energetic  --  got a lot done.  Very cold this morning, feels like fall. 

Mak spent the day with his aunt so I had no babysitting at all.  Velma showed up unexpectedly  ...  visited for an hour. 

Walked to Trailer Town this afternoon (felt good to be outside), bought myself some wine and ginger ale.  Ray in a good mood when he got home.

Janet called, asked me a huge favor  --  I had to type a 3 pg. résumé for her husband  --  when I was done they didn't even say 'thank you' !

September 16, 1992

Diary Entry:

Exhausted.  After the kids left for school I went back to bed and slept until afternoon. Forced myself to get up and move around before the kids got home from school.  Made tacos for dinner, ran some laundry. 

Lori and Tracy stopped by for an unexpected visit this evening.  Kyle and Kacie to church, Jay stayed home.


Thursday morning
September 17, 1992

And now here it is, two days later, and guess who just phones to say she's "on the way over"  ...  ?   DAMN it.  I am getting so fucking tired of unexpected company.  Last night it was Lori, who arrived unannounced just as we were sitting down to dinner; the night before that it was Janet, who asked me to type a job résumé for her husband (a two-hour job for which I was neither thanked nor compensated).  Even my own mother has popped in on me twice in the past week and a half, without warning.  And now I am in for another one of Velma's excruciating "visits."  Shit on a stick.

Oh well.  You'll have to excuse my negative, anti-social frame of mind  ...  it's my PMS week, and I view every unexpected visit as an intrusion lately.  I mean, I've NEVER liked unexpected company, but it's ten times more unpleasant when I feel bloated and grumpy.  Listening to me, you'd think I hate my friends, especially Velma, and that's just not true  ...  I love my friends. I love HAVING friends.  I went for almost ten years without a single close girlfriend (except for my sister-in-law Judy, and that was more family connection than true friendship), and it's a state of being that I'd never want to endure again.  I just wish that everyone would back off for a few days and let me work through my bad mood in peace  ...  Velma with her ceaseless smug advice, Lori with her jabber-jabber-jabber, Janet with her relentless perkiness  ...  ARRGH.

Diary Entry:

Grumpy, but trying not to take it out on anybody.  Velma was here AGAIN  ...  she brought over some fabric samples, offered to recover my sofa pillows.  This was something I wanted to do myself, but I don't have the heart to tell her so.

September 18, 1992

OK.  Here is a perfect example of why I find Velma so irritating.  Two days ago when she was here and I was desperately casting about for something to talk about, I mentioned that I was thinking about re-covering some of my old, dingy sofa pillows.  My mother-in-law has re-done hers  --  I saw them last weekend  --  that's what gave me the idea.  She re-covered them in the most beautiful, bright colored fabrics  ...  it looked great.  So I said to Velma, "I'm going to go to a fabric store this weekend and pick out some bright pretty material, maybe something with flowers, and cover my pillows with it."  Naturally she had to immediately start telling me how to go about it  ...  how to sew the covers, what kind of material to use, even what COLOR to use.  ("I'd pick bright yellow!" she said.  Ugggh.)  I'm so used to her unsolicited advice by now that I just said "Yes, great, thanks," and resisted the impulse to tell her that she was driving me crazy.  


So now she comes over yesterday, only this time she's got this enormous swatch of fabric with her  ...  a paisley print in very dark, muted colors  ...  and she announces that this is what SHE is going to cover my pillows with!!  I was completely speechless!!  I will admit that it's a pretty material  -- I could see it for a bedspread, maybe, or a tablecloth  --  but it's not at all what I had in mind for my pillows.  The next thing I know, though, she's measuring the pillows, and talking about how she's going to "trim" them with lace and buttons, and meanwhile I'm just sitting there, shocked  ...  and then this morning she called at 8:30 to tell me that she's "finished cutting out the fabric."  

Did I say this yesterday?  Yes I did, but I'll say it again anyway:  ARRGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You want to know the really amazing part?  I'm going to let her do it.  I'm going to just sit back and let her cover my pillows in a fabric I didn't pick out and don't especially care for.  Why?  Because I don't want to hurt her feelings, I suppose  ...  because she takes such obvious pleasure in doing things for me.  It's like all that awful homemade jam and applesauce she's forever bringing over: we don't like it, we don't eat it  --  I just dump it out and give her back the empty jars  --  but she's always so proud of it, and so pleased with herself for sharing it with us --  that I don't have the heart to say "Enough already."  Or the time she hemmed my best dress for Barbara's wedding last February.  Instead of taking off the two inches I'd requested, she whacked eight inches off the hem.  It totally ruined the lines of the dress, and I doubt that I'll ever wear it again  --  plus it was the last dress Grandma Vert ever bought for me  --  but I just didn't have the heart to tell her how mad I was because SHE was so happy with her work.  And now it's the sofa pillows.  I'm sure they'll look perfectly fine  --  they'll probably even be pretty  --  but I'm going to resent them for the rest of my life because of the way I allowed her to railroad me.  Help. 

A Minute Later:

Of course, there's a darker, less noble reason for letting Velma go ahead and do my pillows  ...  I'm getting it done for FREE!  Hell yeah. Free ugly pillows!

The kids have all gone to the Puyallup Fair today with their school, by the way.  Such excitement when they left this morning!!  They'll be home at the regular time, though, and I'm looking forward to hearing all about it.  I've got Danielle and Cody here for the day, and right now they're playing with Mak in the living room.  Hopefully Cody Bear isn't pulling the batteries out of the remote again.  (I've snuck out here to the laundry room to grab a quick cigarette and a 1:00 cup of coffee.) 

Diary Entry:

Danielle & Cody here for a few hours.  My kids (and the entire Bow Lake student body) went on a day-long field trip to the Puyallup Fair, then Jamie went home with Nicole, spent the night  ...  suppose we won't see her for the rest of the weekend.

Fun night with Ray, up late.

September 19, 1992

Diary Entry:

Nothing much.  Jamie spent another day and night at Nicole's.  I avoided most phone calls  --  just didn't feel like talking to anybody.

September 20, 1992

Diary Entry:

Finally finished "The Dark Half" (S. King)  --  took me much longer than usual to get into it, I don't know why  --  have now started the third book in the Gunslinger/Dark Tower series, "The Waste Lands."

Jamie still gone  --  went to the fair with Nicole  --  didn't get home until late tonight.

Ray grocery-shopped this afternoon, then BBQ'd good steaks for dinner.

September 21, 1992

Diary Entry:

Feeling a bad mood coming on  ...  this will be my PMS week, so fortunately the mood is mostly hormonal.  Ray is treating me like a kid again, and I hate it  ...  Jamie holes herself up in her room ALL THE TIME  ...  Kacie is constantly turning cartwheels in the living room  ...  Kyle is an aggressive, impossible handful.  

And me?  I'm the Wicked Witch of Polenville.

September 22, 1992

Diary Entry:

The bad mood is here.  Found myself weeping over the most ridiculous things, all day long  ...  a sad song on TV, a grouchy word from Ray, an un-funny "joke" from Jamie  ...  couldn't seem to turn off the tears.  

Baked some chocolate chip cookies, made a homemade pizza for dinner.  John stopped by for awhile this evening, visited with Ray and I.

Wednesday morning
September 23, 1992

Checking in, a few days later.

Fall is officially here.  It arrived yesterday at 2:43 p.m., and to celebrate I got out all the "autumn decorations"  ...  the dried corn, the orange candles, the Halloween stuff.  Ta-da.

I've had two really shitty night's sleep in a row; awful stomach-aches punctuated by weird dreams, mostly.  Night before last, I dreamed about both of my grandmothers.  In the first dream, my old boyfriend Scott and the kids and I took Grandma St. John camping at Lake Limerick; in  the second dream, I was in the old Terry Trailer with Grandma and Grandpa Vert, except that the trailer had been in a fire or something because it was all burned out inside.  That dream, in particular, left me feeling sad all day yesterday, and I found myself weeping over the slightest things  ...  a sad part of the book I'm reading, Ray's grumpy mood when he got home from work, a comment Jamie made, a song on the "Wonder Years" re-run  ....  it was ridiculous!!  Last night I dreamed that I had a baby, a son we named Jeremy Douglas.  I was so happy about having this new baby, but then I looked at him and realized that he wasn't a newborn at all  --  he was about three or four years old already  --  and I felt somehow "cheated" by that  ...

...  Anyway, I'm making a heroic effort this morning to shake off the strange dreams and get myself moving. I have a modest amount of housework to do, the second half of a great book ("The Waste Lands" by Stephen King, the third installment of his Dark Tower series) and some taped TV shows to watch this afternoon, so I can keep myself occupied. 

It's raining this morning  ...  a lovely, autumn-like sound and feeling.  Why does autumn always make me want to make an enormous pot of soup and organize all the kitchen drawers?  What is it about this particular season that pushes so many emotional buttons  --  nostalgia, optimism, regret, peace, agitation, comfort, uncertainty  ...  ?  More than any other time of the year, fall makes me think about my childhood  --  and my future.  I think maybe that's why the trailer dream got to me so much yesterday: and why, later in the evening, Joni Mitchell's "Circle Game" completely did me in.  They were reminders of things past.

Diary Entry:

A little better.  Josh was suspended from school for one day, so he has to spend it here   ...  he and Mak played in Kyle's room most of the time because it was pouring down RAIN. 

Worked on a tape ("Favorites Two"), drank some wine.  John and Lori stopped by briefly, but Lori was in a really rotten mood, barely said two words to me.  Kacie and Kyle to church.

September 24, 1992

Diary Entry:

Dark, stormy day (again).  Slept an extra couple of hours after the kids went to school  --  felt good.  Roasted some chicken, made stuffing to go with it.  

Velma and Lori both called  --  Lori apologized for last night  --  said she wasn't mad at me, but at John.  

Did  a little work on my cookbook, watched TV  --  basically lazy.

Friday 10 a.m.
September 25, 1992

 There is a mountain of laundry on the floor at my feet this morning  ...  you should see it.  How this family manages to go through so many clothes and towels in just a few short days is a genuine mystery.  I'll be doing laundry all day, probably  ...  and washing dishes, since the kitchen is a revolting mess as well.  I must be the water company's best customer.

Things are a little better today, emotionally.  Some of the "hormonal yuck" has levelled off, anyway  --  the weepiness, the fatigue, the awful black fog of despair.  Now I'll have a couple of normal days, followed by two or three days (the days immediately preceding my period) of almost manic physical and emotional energy.  Month after month it goes this way, with very little variation.  You know what's amazing about this, though?  I've been menstruating for 21 years now (god, that makes me feel old), and yet it's only been within the past couple of years that I've become aware of these inevitable patterns of ups and downs.  I suppose it's possible that they didn't actually begin until I hit my 30's, but it seems far more likely that I simply wasn't paying attention until now.  I've read a lot of articles about PMS; some of them say that it's just a myth, but I really don't think so.  It's just too predictable and consistent, at least with me.  It's like clockwork.  I'm only amazed that it took me so long to figure it out.

2 p.m.

Still doing laundry  --  two more loads to go, at least.  Sigh. 

Diary Entry:

Ran laundry for NINE HOURS today.  Where in the world does it all come from?!  Managed to get the rest of the house looking fairly decent too.  Busy weekend ahead, might not be time for housework.

Mak left early  --  Ray home, late afternoon  --  took the kids and I to Target so I could buy some badly-needed makeup, hair color, presents for Angela's party tomorrow.

Sloppy joes for dinner.  Bed EARLY.

Saturday 9:30 a.m.
September 26, 1992

Well, so much for my "clockwork" theory  ...  my period hit this morning, two days early!  I guess that means that yesterday was my "manic energy day," and I didn't even know it.  Oh well.

Wild and windy morning.  The kids and I are going to Angela's birthday party at noon  --  I'll write something about it when I get home.

4:30 p.m.

Home  ...  and god, what an afternoon.  Velma came and picked us up at noon, and we just now got back: four and a half hours at Velma's house, listening to Angela complain about her birthday presents, complain about the guests who didn't show up, complain about the guests who DID show up  ...

...  I swear, I'm not going to do any Velma-bashing today.  She worked really hard on this party, and she was wonderfully sweet to the kids and I.  I complain about her too much as it is.  Sometimes I think I don't even deserve to have her as a friend.  

Diary Entry:

Period hit this morning, two days early. 

Today was Angela's 10th birthday party.  Velma came and picked up the kids and I at noon, we stayed at her place until late afternoon  ...  the kids had fun.

Jamie spent the night at Nicole's  --  Ray and Kyle watched "The Terminator"  --  Kacie and I spent the evening in my office, listening to music and working on projects.

September 27, 1992

Diary Entry:

Ray went out to work at the Kirkland house this morning but only stayed for a few hours  --  came home and watched the Seahawks game on TV.  Joey B. came over to play with Kyle, but the two of them fought like cats and dogs; Kacie rode bikes with Bernadette and Tracy; Jamie gone all day.  Colored my hair, made a big chicken-fried steak for dinner. 

The girls and I watched the first half of a mystery movie ("Obsessed," Shannon Doherty and William Devane), taped the rest to watch tomorrow.

September 28, 1992

Monday morning again, and feeling much better than I did a week ago.  Still have my period, and it's very heavy this month, but at least I don't have that dark cloud of gloom hanging over my head today.  

(Of course, it's still early  ... )

We had a pretty good weekend  --  nothing to shout about, but pleasant.  Lately Kacie and I have been spending a lot of time together, and  find her to be a cheerful, interesting little companion.  I love the age she's at now.  Jamie generally wants to spend her weekends as far away from home (and from me) as possible  --  she spent Saturday at Nicole's again, and was gone all day yesterday  --  so Kacie and I find ourselves thrown together a lot more.  Saturday night she and I sat out in my office, listening to music and working on projects together  ...  it was nice.  She's such a sweet little girl, so open-hearted and full of life.  I can say in all honesty that I've never known anyone quite like her. 

Diary Entry:

Indian Summer  ...  very beautiful weather.  Tore into the housework and laundry, sorted some of the girls' old clothes to give to my niece (Stephanie was supposed to come by and pick the clothes up, but she never showed up), did a little work on an old photo album.

The girls and I watched the second half of "Obsessed" after school.

September 29, 1992

Another Indian Summer morning  ...  beautiful, sunny, cool now but due to climb into the 70's later this afternoon. 

Diary Entry:

Very hot today  --  somewhere in the 80's, I think  --  one last blast of summer before autumn begins in earnest, I guess. 

Got on a radio talk show this morning (KING-AM) for the first time ever  --  topic was "Roommates From Hell."  

September 30, 1992

Diary Entry:

Slow, sleepy day.  Stomach ache.  Ignored the housework and just took it easy all day.  VERY hot again, up in the high 70's.

October 1, 1992

Life goes on, per normal.  It's been VERY hot all week  --  one last blast of summer before autumn begins in earnest, I guess.  I had already begun to pack up the summer clothes for storage in the attic, but it looks like I jumped the gun.  I can't believe I'm sitting here on the first day of October in SHORTS!

Couple of things on my mind this week.  A few nights ago I had a dream about an old boyfriend (Jerry) and it's prompted all those stoopid "loss of romance" feelings again, dammit.  For a lot of reasons that I don't really want to go into right now, dreams about that particular relationship always stay with me longer than any others.  (It was an intensely complicated relationship, for one thing.  It was also one romance that I really, REALLY wish had worked out differently, for another.  So I still have a lot of unresolved feelings there.)  At any rate, emotional residue from the dream has been hanging around my head and heart all week.  I'm determined not to sit around in a funk, though  --  the way I did when this stuff hit me last month  --  and I've tried to channel some of this nostalgic/emotional energy into other things, like losing some weight (What if I ran into him at the grocery store? Would I want him  --  or anyone else  --  to see me looking the way I do?)  I've also decided to do some work on my memoirs this fall, finally, in hopes that it will help resolve some of these things that keep derailing me emotionally.  Not only the relationship with Jerry, but other things  --  my marriage, losing Grandma Vert, problems with my dad  --  things that I've never fully come to terms with and which may be holding me back now.  I always feel a little stupid when I talk about my memoirs.  My life has been remarkably unremarkable: what business do I have, writing an autobiography?  And who in the hell would ever want to read it, anyway?  It seems somehow presumptuous of me, I guess  ...  a little on the self-absorbed side.  And yet, it still feels like something I need to do.  Maybe it's a way of validating my life and my memories.  Maybe the kids will enjoy reading it someday, or my grandchildren if I have any.  (Speaking strictly for myself, I would dearly LOVE to discover that my grandmother had written her memoirs  ...  it would be like finding buried treasure!)  Or maybe someday something will happen to me and I won't be able to remember anything at all about my childhood  --  Alzheimer's, for instance, or a stroke  --  this way, at least, some of the memories will be preserved.  At any rate, I'm going to do some work on the autobiograpy this fall and see if I can put some of these feelings to rest, once and for all.  I wrote a slap-dash version of it about ten years ago, but I did it in a hurry and it's woefully incomplete and sloppy.

October 2, 1992

No, I mean it  ...  I've got to channel some of this emotional STUFF, and I've got to do it soon.  Last night I sank into the most incredibly depressed, witchy mood  --  snapping at everybody, especially Ray  --  by bedtime no one in this entire family was speaking to me!!  Honest to god, I don't know what's happening to me lately.  I'm spending so much time with my nose in the past, I'm completely missing the present.

October 3, 1992

Diary Entry:

Ray took Jamie and I shopping this morning  --  Kacie stayed home and "babysat" Kyle  --  we went to Foster's Office Supply ($27 worth of typewriter ribbons) and Pay 'n Save.  (Ran into my mom there!) 

Ray went out and watched the Huskies game at B-Z's, I spent the afternoon working on the kids' Memory Book, drinking wine.  Stayed up late.

October 4, 1992

Diary Entry:

Nearly broke again, two days after payday  ...  worried about how we'll get through the next two weeks.  Called Velma and asked if I could postpone paying her the $30 I owe her for wrapping paper; she said OK, but I could tell she wasn't too happy about it.  

The house is a mess but I didn't do a thing today except cook dinner (chicken patties on buns). 

Girls and I stayed up late and watched a Suzanne Somers movie, "Exclusive."

October 5, 1992

Diary Entry:

Woke up with a sore throat and headache  ...  my annual reaction to the woodstove. 

Restored the house to order, did a lot of cooking and a TON of laundry.

Tuesday morning
October 6, 1992

A brief scribble  ...  Danielle and Cody Bear are here today (for the first time in a couple of weeks), and I need to keep an eye on them.  At the moment, they're out in the living room watching "Sesame Street."  (It seems really STRANGE to be hearing the voices of Bert & Ernie, Oscar, Elmo et al, coming from the living room again!!  --  my own kids outgrew that show a couple of years ago.)  Andrea is spending her day at the Unemployment Office, and afterwards is applying for a job at the new Mervyn's at Southcenter.  She hasn't said anything officially about going back to work  --  or about whether she'll be re-hiring me as a babysitter  --  but intuition tells me it's a possibility.  Lord knows we could use the money, especially with the holidays looming ahead.  

Anyway, I've got a busy babysitting day ahead of me, and then a busy evening as well  --  tonight is Open House at the kids' school.  I've been fighting insomnia again lately, and I hope that all this activity today will help me finally get some SLEEP tonight.

I went out this weekend and bought over thirty dollars' worth of typing equipment  --  ribbons and paper  --  but then instead of tackling the autobiography project, as planned, I switched gears and worked on the kids' "Memory Book" instead.  (This is a collection of journal entries, from 1981 to the present  ...  mostly amusing anecdotes about the kids as they've grown.)  It helped diffuse some of this ridiculous, sophomoric mooning and moping I've been doing lately  ...  I feel much better now.  I still plan to rework the memoirs sometime soon, but for right now I'm going to concentrate on the here & now and get the Memory Book finished before anything else. 

Diary Entry:

Danielle and Cody here today, thank god  ...  we really need the $.  Danielle was very quiet  --  mostly we just and watched TV together.

Tonight was Open House at Bow Lake.  Visited the kids' classrooms, spoke to their teachers.  Book Fair in the library  --  let each of the kids pick out $5.00 worth of books, posters.

October 7, 1992

Well, it didn't work  ...  my plan to get a decent night's sleep, that is.  In spite of all the housework and babysitting yesterday, and then going to the Open House in the evening, I still got barely more than three hours' of sleep.  I turned off the TV at 10:10 and immediately fell into a deep, satisfying snooze  ...  for half an hour!  Then for the next four or five hours I lay on the sofa, tossing and turning, watching the clock.  Ray had built a fire in the woodstove while the kids and I were over at the school, and it turned the living room into an OVEN  ...  I ended up pulling off my sweats, throwing my blanket onto the floor and turning on the fan to try and cool off, but it didn't help much.  Sometime around 3:30 a.m. I finally drifted off, but even that wasn't restful sleep: I had a long, complicated dream about the cast of "The Young & The Restless" and I making a movie together.  (?)  Awake again shortly after 6 a.m., when Ray was stomping around the house getting ready for work, I finally decided "Hell with it" and just got up.  I'll definitely be running on reserves today, fueled by coffee and diet pills (which are undoubtedly the reason why I'm not sleeping in the first place).  Oh well  ...

Diary Entry:

Made an enormous batch of shish kebobs for tonight's dinner, cleaned out my bedroom closet, typed a contribution for Aunt Mabel's book, worked on the kids' Memory Book.  

Called the radio again, talked to Rick Miller this time (about the silly Barbie/math controversy).  

Drank some wine, typed, called my Dad and wished him a Happy Birthday.

October 8, 1992

Diary Entry:

Happy news today  --  our Jamie was elected school Secretary/Treasurer today!  (She ran against Tia, of all people  ...)  I'm so proud of her!  Not only that, but both she and Kyle received "Super Beaver" awards for this month.

Quiet day for me  ...  made a big pot of chicken soup, watched a good afternoon movie ("For Keeps"), sorted through old magazines.  Quiet evening, also.

October 9, 1992

Shit.  Shit, shit, shit.  Now I have the delightful task of calling Velma and telling her I can't pay her the $30 I owe her.  Should be lotsa, lotsa FUN  ...

A Minute Later:

Well, OK  ...  it wasn't that bad.  I gave her a lame song and dance about our checking account being "fouled up," and how we owe the water company a bunch of money by 5 p.m. or we'll be cut off, and by the end of the conversation she was actually consling me. Do I feel guilty about manipulating her like that?  Yes, a little.  (The sofa pillows are probably going to bother me today: every time I see them, I'll remember what a good friend she is, and my conscience will bug me.)  But the fact is that I WILL pay her in the next few days  --  I have no intention of stiffing her completely. (The money is for some Christmas wrapping paper I ordered from Angela, by the way: her school's fund-raising program.)  I just needed to stall for a few days, that's all.

The Open House on Tuesday night went OK.  The new principal (Dr. B) doesn't have the charisma or sense of authority that Mrs. Wagner had  --  the kids tell me that EVERYBODY misses Mrs. Wagner  --  and we had to sit through a mind-numbingly-boring slide presentation on the school bond issue before visiting the children's classrooms, but otherwise it was a pleasant evening.  As usual, I ran into a lot of people I know, and it felt good to be out of the house for a little while.  Jamie's new teacher (Mrs. B) seems very nice, and she had some good things to say about the way Jamie participates in class.  Of course, I already knew Ms. Kido and Mrs. McCall (Kacie and Kyle's teachers, respectively), but it was nice to renew our acquaintance.  Mrs. McCall, especially, seems very fond of Kyle.  (As a matter of fact she called me at home a couple of days later to tell me how much she enjoys having him in her class, and also to let me know that he'd won the Beaver Award for the month of September!)  I didn't get much of a chance to talk to Kacie's teacher  --  I'm anxious to find out how she is doing in this very challenging class --  but Parent/Teacher Conferences are coming up pretty soon so I'll have a chance to speak with Ms. Kido then.

A nice thing happened yesterday: Jamie was elected school Secretary/Treasurer in a school election ceremony!  Her first personal victory!  (Funnily enough, her "competition" was none other than Tia  ...  who, rumor has it, is furious that Jamie beat her.) 

Diary Entry:

The kids have the day off from school (Teachers Workshop)  --  that means that we had Josh here for the entire day -- he forced his little brother to eat a toadstool.) Two very unpleasant phone conversations with Velma (about money) also upset me. 

Jamie went to spend the night at Kaleana's  ...  Tracy came here to sleep over.  Broiled hamburgers for dinner.

October 10, 1992

Things are beginning to pile up on me again.  This shit with Velma, for one thing, has turned ugly  ...  she called me again yesterday afternoon and said that her husband is getting all pissed off at me (and at her) because I haven't paid them yet. To tell you the truth, I wish I'd never ordered any of that fucking wrapping paper in the first place.  If she calls me today, I'm going to tell her to forget the whole thing, and if that's the end of our "friendship," then so be it.  Being friends with Velma is just too damn much work  ...  a constant juggling act of keeping her feelings from being hurt.  I've always got to be so careful to say the "right" things, to take her  unsolicited advice without complaint, to be cheerful and polite around her even when I don't really feel that way, to constantly show my undying GRATITUDE for EVERY LITTLE 'FAVOR'  ...  it's exhausting.  And frankly it's just not worth it.  Why can't my friendship with Velma be more like the one I have with Lori?  Comfortable, honest, easy, no ridiculously overblown expectations? If one of us is feeling grumpy or hungover or just plain doesn't feel like talking on the phone, we SAY so, and there are no hurt feelings on either side.  Simple favors don't have to be repaid in blood: we do nice things for each other because we want to, not because we expect anything in return.  If all of my friendships were like the one I have with Lori, what an uncomplicated world it would be  ...

Trying to have a nice Saturday, anyway, in spite of the crap with Velma (and in spite of the fact that we are dead broke).  Ray is working, Jamie is at Kaleana's; it's just Kyle, Kacie, Tracy (who spent the night) and me.  It's a sunny, cool autumn morning and I'm feeling energetic in spite of another crappy night's sleep.  (Our wacko neighbors, the ones who always give us shit about our cats, had a huge drunken party last night which erupted into a violent free-for-all out on their lawn at 1:30 a.m.) 

Diary Entry:

Ray worked today.  Jamie gone all day, spent another night at Kaleana's.  Tracy stayed here and played with Kacie until late afternoon.

Typed, drank some wine.

October 11, 1992

Diary Entry:

Nice, quiet day.  Ray, Kacie and Kyle went out to Bellevue to eat salmon at the folks' house; Jamie and I begged off.  She went to see "The Mighty Ducks" with Kaleana, I stayed home and napped.

Still worried and upset about the Velma situation.  I'll have to call her tomorrow and try to straighten things out.

October 12, 1992

Diary Entry:

Jamie stayed home sick today, complaining of "nausea"  ...  she and I sat around watching TV all day, and I got very little done, but it was pleasant anyway.

Velma called: things seem to be OK between us, and I'll finally be able to pay her tomorrow (whew). 

Fried some chicken drumsticks for dinner.  Good Monday night TV.

Tuesday 10 a.m.
October 13, 1992

A few days later  ...  a cold, soggy morning.  Lots to do today. I took a two-day hiatus from hnousework (Sunday because I was burned out; Monday because Jamie stayed home sick, and she and I sat around watching TV all day!)  So today is a "catching up" day.  Dishes, laundry, vacuuming, the whole nine yards.

I hate to admit this  --  I hate to even write this  --  but I spent the entire weekend worrying about Velma.  Every time the phone rang, I jumped: would it be her, calling to give me hell about that stupid thirty bucks?!  It totally ruined the weekend for me.  More than once I considered taking the bull by the horns and calling HER, just to get the confrontation over with once and for all, but I'd get as far as picking up the phone and then I'd freeze solid.  I was furious with myself for being so gutless, of course.  Why couldn't I take the high road, just this once??  Instead, I moped around and avoided the phone and worked myself into a nice little frenzy of worry  ...

...  and the thing is, Velma never called, all weekend, and when she finally DID call  --  yesterday  --  she was as pleasant and nice as could be, never even mentioning the money until I brought it up!  And today I actually have her money (Ray left me a check) and the whole thing is history.  (She'll be here to pick it up in about an hour.)  So all of the worrying I've been doing this past week was utterly pointless.  When will I ever learn  ... ?

Now I am determined not to write another word about Velma  --  complaining or otherwise  --  for as long as possible.  I feel like I've already wasted too much time and ink in this journal, moaning about the ups and downs of our strange friendship  ....  I'd rather be writing about my children!  Ten years from now I probably won't even remember her last name, let alone want to read page after page about her.  

There's an interesting thought, by the way  ...  where will this family be in ten years?  It'll be the year 2002.  Ray and I will be in our forties; the girls will be out of high school, Kyle will be in his junior (or senior) year  ...  where will we be?  What will be going on in our lives?  What triumphs and losses will we have lived through?  I answer this question here.

Diary Entry:

Velma came by first thing this morning, and I finally paid her for the wrapping paper.  What a sense of relief!!  She brought us some more jam and applesauce, stayed to visit for a little while.

October 14, 1992

Diary Entry:

Bone-tired all day long.  Lately I'm not sleeping well at all, and it's becoming a real problem.

Long phone conversation with Lori, another "depressed" phone call from Janet.  Made bean soup for the freezer, Swiss steak for dinner.  Typed a few more pages for the kids' book: am up to mid-1989 now.

Jamie had her first dance class tonight (Kacie doesn't want to take it this year), Kyle and Kacie went to church.

October 15, 1992

Diary Entry:

Finally got a decent night's sleep last night  ...  woke up feeling good.

October 16, 1992

Diary Entry:

Cold and rainy  ...  I kept the fire going in the woodstove all day, and it gave the house a very cozy, "autumn-like" atmosphere. 

Janet and Jessica stopped by this afternoon  --  I gave Janet her belated gifts.  Jamie went home with Nicole after school, spent the night.  Taco Time for dinner. 

Ray stayed up very late; I couldn't sleep because of all his noise.

October 17, 1992

Saturday.  Glorious, wonderful SATURDAY  ...

Ray ran around and stayed up until the wee hours last night, making noise and turning lights on and off, while I valiantly layed in bed trying to get some sleep.  I think it was 2:30 a.m. or so before he finally settled down.  I'm annoyed with him this morning as a result (not to mention deeply tired), but it won't do me any good to complain about it  ...  besides, I need him to drive me to Burien this morning (typewriter ribbons at my office supply store, plus a Pay 'n Save stop) so I'd best not start off on the wrong foot with him. I'll get my revenge at a later date.

It's nearly 10:30 now and he's still laying in bed.  I've showered, dried and set my hair, put on my war paint, washed the dishes, straightened up the bathroom and folded the clean laundry  ...  now I'm just sitting here, smoking a cigarette and listening to the radio.  The early morning rain has given way to unexpected sunshine: it might be a nice day. 

Diary Entry:

Did a little shopping this morning  --  more typewriter ribbons at the office supply place, skincare stuff at Pay 'n Save (which is now Payless, by the way).  Worked on a reply to Deanne's letter, most of the afternoon.  

Ray went out and watched his game, came home drunk and grumpy  --  he called Jamie at Nicole's and "ordered" her to come home.

October 19, 1992

It was. (A nice day on Saturday, I mean.)  It was also a fairly nice weekend, except for one incident on Saturday night.  Jamie had ended up spending both Friday and Saturday nights at her friend Nicole's house, in spite of the fact that I'm trying to cut back on these marathon sleepovers.  Lately they've been occurring every weekend.   What usually happens is this: Jamie goes home after school on Friday with one of her friends  --  Nicole most of the time, but weekend before last it was Kaleana  --  and she spends Friday night there.  "Just ONE NIGHT," I'll tell her, and I mean it when I say it.  But then she calls me late Saturday afternoon, after I've had a couple of glasses of wine and I am feeling benevolent, and she says "Can I pleeease spend one more night?"  And I find it very difficult to refuse her.  This means, of course, that it's my fault for not being consistent, and I AM going to try harder in the future.  But this weekend she got away with it again.  Anyway, Ray came home on Saturday night after spending several hours at B-Z's, watching the Huskies and drinking beer.  He was drunk, tired and grumpy, and when he found out that Jamie was still over at Nicole's, he blew a gasket.  "I want her ass home RIGHT NOW!" he bellowed.  I told him I thought he was being unreasonable, and that he had no business countermanding a decision of mine.  That sent him into a total rage.  Finally I said "Fine, if you want her home so badly, YOU call her at Nicole's and tell her so."  I must explain that I never for a moment expected he would actually call her  ...  but he did.  He ranted and raved at her over the phone, reducing her to tears  --  I can just imagine what Nicole's parents must have been thinking, listening to her side of it  --  and she actually hung up on him after a couple of minutes!  A real low point in their relationship, let me tell you.  I finally managed to get Ray to calm down; I explained to him that Mrs. S. was planning to take the girls shopping at the mall the next morning, so Jamie could buy her tap shoes, and that was the only reason I'd OK'd the second night.  He still wasn't happy about the idea, and Jamie hanging up on him really bothered him, but he eventually seemed to see reason and he quit making a big stink about it.  I fed him some dinner and he mercifully passed out soon afterwards, and when Jamie finally came home the next day, nothing more was said about it.

I think a big part of the problem, in situations like this, is that Ray feels like he has no real authority around here.  The truth is  --  he doesn't.  In matters of discipline and decision-making (where the kids are concerned), I have pretty much always been the final word.  I don't know whether that's because I've been more involved with them on a day-to-day basis, right from the start, or if it's because I perceive myself as having the more dominant personality.  I suspect it's a little of both. Whatever the reason, though, it's me that the kids come to with problems and requests  ...  it's me who sets the rules and doles out the punishments  ...  and when Ray occasionally tries to step in and take over, it's usually a disaster.

Diary Entry:

The strangest thing happened today  ...  the phone didn't ring ONCE all day!!  I had to keep checking to make sure it was plugged in. (It was.) 

The BAD news is that I expected two people to stop by today  --  Janet to cut my hair, Stephanie to pick up the clothes for Karen  --  and neither one of them showed up OR called.

Corned beef and cabbage for dinner.

October 20, 1992

Now it's Tuesday (October 20), a wild and windy morning, and Kyle is home sick.  He's thrown up three times since he woke up, and I suspect that he's running a fever, although I don't have a thermometer.  Right now he's laying in my bed watching TV, and he's as pale and listless and limp as a dishrag.  My poor baby.

The worst part about Kyle being sick is that's he so bewildered by it all.  "I can't figure out what's makin' me BARF so much," he said, and he was genuinely puzzled  ...  as though he thinks it was something he did that made him sick.  I keep trying to explain that it's just a flu bug, probably, and that everybody gets it once in a while, but I can tell by the look in his eyes that he's still troubled by it all. 

Diary Entry:

Kyle threw up in my bed, first thing this morning: kept him home from school.  Poor little guy  --  being sick really confuses and upsets him. 

I cleaned the front bathroom thoroughly, straightened out the hall closet.

October 21, 1992

Cue swelling theme music:


This is the voyage of the Momship "FedUpWithTheMess."  Her all-day mission: to explore strange, laundry-infested bedrooms  ...  to seek out moldy apple cores and naked Barbie dolls  ...  to boldly go where NO MOM HAS BEEN IN THREE MONTHS  ...  

10 a.m.

God.  I've been in there sorting dirty clothes for an hour and I'm pooped already.  The last time I cleaned the girls' room was last July, when they were at camp; now I remember WHY I don't do this very often  ...

One sad note about today's cleaning: I'm packing up all the Barbie stuff and sending it upstairs to the attic.  My sophisticated daughters seem to have finally outgrown Barbie & Friends.  I never see them playing with their Barbie toys anymore  --  they sold the Townhouse to Danielle last summer  --  it is the end of yet another era.

'Bye, Barbie  ...

11 a.m.

Another "coffee break"  ...  another hour of intensive cleaning.  I'm on my third garbage box, and I haven't even gotten around to the vanity, the closet or the bunkbeds yet!  Most disgusting "find" so far: the clump of bird feathers under the bed.  Most irritating "find" so far: a bunch of outdated computer slips from Kacie's teacher, which I'm supposed to have signed and returned to school two weeks ago.  Most amusing "find" so far: there haven't BEEN any  ...

1:00 p.m.

Done.  Exhausted.

I must amend one thing. The "most digusting find" wasn't the clump of bird feathers, after all  ...  it was the bird's HEAD, which I discovered fifteen minutes later.

Diary Entry:

Kyle stayed home again today, although he does seem to be feeling better.

I went in and completely cleaned the girls' bedroom, top to bottom: took most of the day.  (Most disgusting "find"   --  a dead bird's head, under Kacie's bunk.)

Jamie to dance class, Kacie and Kyle to church.  Hamburger Helper  --  Jamie cooked it.  A little wine and typing this evening.

Period started, two days early again.

October 22, 1992

Diary Entry:

Bill Clinton in Seattle this morning, gave a speech at The Pike Place Market, I watched it on TV  --  very moving and inspiring.  (Ray likes Ross Perot!)

Worked on my cookbook.  Girls went to their G.S. meeting, Kyle and I baked some cookies.

October 23, 1992

A couple of days later (TGIF!), and now it's Jamie's turn to be sick.  She went to Girl Scouts last night looking a little pekid, but when she got home she looked positively ghastly  ...  her face was chalky white and there were huge dark circles under her eyes.  This morning her temperature is 101 and she can't keep anything down, so I kept her home.  Right now she's exactly where Kyle was 72 hours ago  --  laying in my bed watching TV.  She's a much more quiet and uncomplaining patient than her brother, however!  You'd hardly even know she's here  ...

Unseasonably warm and sunny today  --  supposed to get up into the upper 60's by afternoon.  I've been cleaning like a maniac all week (period started yesterday: my "manic energy days" seem to be overlapping my "weepy" days this time), and today I'm considering going in and doing the only room that's still a mess: Kyle's bedroom.  Then the entire house would pretty much be in order.

There are a couple of things I've been meaning to write about for some time, but haven't gotten around to.  This is an election year, first of all, and although I haven't written a word about it in this journal, I've found myself very caught up in the Presidential election this year, basically for the first time in my life.  I started out the year with no hard and fast opinions, one way or the other, but as I've watched the campaigns progress and have listened to and read as much about the issues and the candidates as possible, I've come to the conclusion that Bill Clinton is the hope of this country's future. Governor Clinton was in Seattle yesterday, speaking at the Pike Place Market.  I watched the speech on TV yesterday morning, and found it incredibly thrilling  ...  I actually got goosebumps, listening to him!  He is sincere, dynamic, articulate and passionate, his ideas are fresh and innovative, and he genuinely seems to care about the middle class, about education, about the economy and jobs, and about health care.  He hasn't resorted to the mud-slinging and the dirty campaign tactics the Republicans have used this year.  And I was particularly impressed by the way he handled himself during the televised debates: he kept his cool (and his sense of humor), he knew what he was talking about, and he was completely presidential in every way.  I hope with my whole heart that he wins.

I even like his running mate, Senator Al Gore.  Compared to Dan Quayle, whom I LOATHE, Sen. Gore seems like a person who could step in and take over the Presidency, if he had to, and handle the job competently.  Quayle is such a blithering, hysterical boob that it scares me to death to think of our country in his hands.

I admire and respect President Bush (I admire and respect Mrs. Bush even more!), but he seems out of step and overly defensive.  And I definitely can't support the Republican platform, with its hard line on abortion and gay rights. (The other "candidate," Ross Perot  --  who, unfortunately, Ray likes!  --  is a joke.  I can't believe that anyone is taking him seriously.)

Anyway, that's my opinion in a nutshell.  The election is slightly more than a week away, and at this point I really do think Clinton is going to win.  There's a last-minute flurry of political ads on TV and radio this week, and it's interesting how President Bush has suddenly switched from boasting about his "record" and his abilities, to all-out Clinton-bashing.  It might be funny if it weren't so pathetic.

Diary Entry:

Well  ...  today it's Jamie's turn.  She didn't feel well last night, and this morning she was 101° and nauseous so I kept her home. 

I cleaned Kyle's room, did a lot of laundry.  Janet came by this afternoon and trimmed my hair, 2" all the way around.  Drank some wine, typed a letter to Kathy.   Ray and the kids watched "Ghoulies II."

Stephanie came by to pick up Karen's clothes.

October 24, 1992

Diary Entry:

Cold and rainy.  Ray went over and mowed my mom's lawn, then went to the tavern to watch football (with my blessing).

Typed a little this afternoon, but then I started feeling really bad  --  my whole body felt like it had been run over by a truck  --  layed on the couch for the rest of the evening.

October 25, 1992

Diary Entry:

Feeling really crummy  ...  joints, muscles, head and neck are sore, throat is scratchy.  We set our clocks back an hour today and the time change has got us all goofed-up.

Ray worked out in Kirkland most of the day.  I made another big chicken-fried steak dinner.  Watched Hallowe'en cartoons with the family, enjoyed a fire, went to bed early.

October 26, 1992

Now it's Monday, October 26th (Happy Birthday Asshole, wherever you are) and I am blissfully alone for the first time in days.  Well  ...  not alone-alone, because Mak is here, but as usual he is playing quietly in Kyle's room and he is so unobtrusive that it almost feels like I'm alone.  We'll have lunch together and watch TV this afternoon, as usual.  But the kids are in school and Ray is at work, and the next six and a half hours are all mine  ...  and that's plenty good enough.

I've re-read all the stuff I wrote about the Presidential race, and I'm a little embarrassed by my gushing schoolgirl praise of Clinton  ...  I sound more like a star-struck fan than someone who has undergone a genuine political awakening  ...  but you must bear in mind how new all of this stuff is to me. Years of apathy aren't replaced by articulate insights overnight!  I know how I FEEL about this stuff: it's just difficult to express it in a way that makes me sound halfway intelligent.  Maybe Governor Clinton will be elected, only instead of leading this country into a prosperous and peaceful future, he screws up royally and we end up worse off than before. (This is what the Republicans are predicting will happen.)  Will I be embarrassed, then, that I supported Clinton?  Will I ever want to come back and rip these pages out of my journal, so my children and grandchildren will never know what a gullible dummy I was?!?  Maybe a little.  (I'm STILL fighting the urge to go back and rip out those "loss of romance" pages from the beginning of this journal.  The only thing that keeps me from doing it is the vow I made, never to censor myself again.)  But the one thing I won't be embarrassed about, when I remember the 1992 Presidential Election, is the fact that I actually woke up and paid some attention.  For the first time in my life, I had an opinion that wasn't borrowed from the newspapers or my mother oe anything else: an opinion of my own.  Right or wrong, ignorant or informed, at least it's mine.

The other thing that I wanted to mention last Friday is very sad.  Two weeks ago, a three-year-old girl who lived down the street from us  --  her name was Jenny  --  was killed in a tragic accident at her home.  Her mother was carrying her down the stairs in their house, and they tripped and fell.  I never knew her or her family, but for days after I first heard about the accident I just  couldn't get it out of my mind.  Our landlord, Deb, told me that her daughter goes to the same daycare that Jenny went to.  Apparently Emily took the little girl's death very hard, so Deb allowed her to go to the funeral.  It was held at Saltwater Park, the place Jenny loved most; they sang Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" and released pink balloons into the sky in her memory.  That just tore me up inside when Deb told me about it.  How in the world could her mother and father survive such a loss??  That's the thing that has haunted me the most, I think  ...  wondering how her parents are handling it.  I almost wanted to send them a card or a note or something, expressing my sympathy, but I'm a total stranger to them and I guess it would be intrusive.  Besides that  --  what could I say that would possibly be of any comfort to these people?  "I know how you feel"?  I don't.  How could I?  I can't even IMAGINE how they feel.

Anyway, this has been weighing heavily on my mind for two weeks now, and I felt I needed to write something about it.  As always, whenever I hear about a tragedy like this, I've held my own children closer to my heart than ever, thanking God that they are here and that they are healthy, and praying that I NEVER feel the kind of pain that Jenny's parents are feeling  ...

Diary Entry:

Rare high-energy Monday.  Wrote a letter to Valerie first thing this morning, apologized for missing her birthday yesterday.  Got phone calls from all three of my gal friends (Lori, Janet and Velma).

Chicken parmagiana and noodles for dinner.  Dark by 5:00 tonight!  Ray not home until 6:30.

October 27, 1992

Diary Entry:

Stomach ache all day  --  made it hard to get a lot done, so I worked on "quiet projects" (cookbook, watched a movie I'd taped last night, "In The Deep Woods"  --  Rosanna Arquette, Anthony Perkins).  Made dinner early in the day, pigs in a blanket and Rice-a-Roni.

The kids carved their pumpkins tonight.  Watched "Quantum Leap" and "Roseanne."  Asleep by 10:00. 

Wednesday 9 a.m.
October 28, 1992

Danielle and Cody are due here any minute, so I'm sneaking one quick cigarette and a minute of journal time before they get here.  The kids carved their pumpkins last night, and I don't know whether it's my imagination or not but this morning I smell pumpkin everywhere  ...  on my hands, in the kitchen, on the sofa pillows.  (I'm also finding pumpkin seeds all over the place!)  We cleared space on the dining room floor, and I helped them cut the pumpkins open  --  the most dangerous part of the whole operation  --  and then I let them have it.

Now I'm worrying about Hallowe'en costumes for Jamie and Kyle.  Hallowe'en is on Saturday this year, and payday isn't until Friday.  When will we manage to get to a store?  Kacie has decided to be Wednesday Addams (from The Addams Family): that should be a fairly simple costume to put together, out of things we've already got around the house.  (Incidentally, I can't imagine a character as completely DIFFERENT from Kacie's true personality.  What an excellent choice for trick-or-treat.) 

Diary Entry:

Danielle and Cody here today while Andrea continues her job search.  Hope she finds something soon, because now Karen is looking for a "new daycare situation"  --  something closer to their home and to Josh's school.  Depressed about that, worried about money for the holidays.

Made runzas for dinner, canned soup.  Jamie to dance class, all three kids to church.

October 29, 1992

You know  ...  my life just never ceases to amaze me.  The random way that things seem to happen, I mean, and the way they always seem to happen when I'm not paying attention.  I've been going along for the past couple of weeks, thinking about the upcoming holidays  --  trying to get an early start on Christmas, for a change  --  and I was actually stupid enough to tempt The Fates by thinking "This year, money won't be a problem."  I was planning to use my babysitting money in November to do some early gift shopping, which presumably would leave us in great shape for Christmas.  

Silly, silly me.  When will I ever learn?  The very minute I start feeling smug and secure, that's when something new happens to knock the wind out of my sails.  

This time  --  well, hell, it's ALWAYS the same thing  --  it's the fucking babysitting again.  Karen called last night to announced that they're "looking into a new daycare."  No preamble, no warning: just a flat announcement.  It's nothing about me personally (I don't think)  --  they simply need to find a place for Josh to go after school, closer to where they live, and they don't want to be paying for two separate sitters.  I mean, I can understand that.  I'm not mad.  It's just that, as usual, the timing stinks.  Apparently this will be effective next week, which means that tomorrow will be Mak's last day here.  SHIT.

I was completely bummed after her phone call last night.  Ray said the same thing he always says  --  "It'll be OK"   --  and even Jamie was doing her part to be supportive ("It always seems like you find a new babysitting job," she said sweetly.)  And that's true.  Andrea is out looking for work, for one thing.  She still hasn't said anything about whether or not she's going to want me to babysit for her again if she does find a job: I suppose the smart thing to do would be to call her today and come right out and ASK. At least then I'd know for sure.  I guess that's what's making it so hard for me to ask her  --  what scares me  --  is that she'll say no, they won't be needing me after all. Then what??

Then I'll have to face the fact that babysitting is over.  After six years of watching other peoples' children  --  of alternately loving it and hating it (mostly the latter, I'll admit)  --  I'll have to call it a day and find something else to do.  And that scares the very living daylights out of me  ...

But I'm not going to dwell on that right now.  It seems like I'm constantly writing about the same three or four problems, over and over again.  The babysitting, the marriage, am-I-pregnant-or-not, money worries.  It's tiresome to write about, and must be even more so to read.  This situation will resolve itself, as it always does.  And just think: even if I'm not able to begin my Christmas SHOPPING early this year, at least I'm beginning my Christmas WORRYING early  ...  !!   :(

I have a more immediate and pressing worry today, anyway  --  Hallowe'en costumes.  It's now less than two days away.  Last night I mentioned it to Ray, and he got all pissed off.  "This is the first I've heard about it!' he snapped at me. 

Diary Entry:

Janet stopped by this morning on her way to a job interview  ...  she's all excited.   I was in a good mood today in spite of the daycare shit.  Cleaned house  --  it looks GREAT.

October 30, 1992

Diary Entry:

Tired.  Janet came by this morning and dropped off a plastic wash tub for Velma to borrow; Velma came and got it at noon.  Spent most of the morning on the sofa, but then got myself up and moving.  Josh was here all day  --  also, Emily came home with the girls  --  I made them all a nice after-school snack (nachos, brownies and cocoa).

Girls went to a G.S. Hallowe'en party tonight.  Ray got us Wendy's for dinner.

October 31, 1992

Hallowe'en morning  ...  just out of the shower, and toally pissed at Jamie.  GOD.  What is it with Jamie and Hallowe'en, anyway??  For the second year in a row, she's in tears because she doesn't like her costume and is threatening not to go trick-or-treating.  Last year she wanted to be a "baby," as I recall, only at the last minute she decided it looked "stupid" and she shut herself in her room, refusing to come out.  Eventually she relented and came with us, but she was sullen and unhappy most of the evening.  This year, the problem has been getting to a store to buy her anything.  I came up with a great idea for Kyle  --  I made him a karate kid outfit out of an old white jacket of my Mom's and a pair of the girl's white sweatpants  --  and he loves it, so he was taken care of.  Jamie, on the other hand, still had nothing to wear.  She threw together a makeshift gypsy costume, just to wear to yesterday's school Hallowe'en party (and to a Girl Scout party last night), but when I suggested this morning that she go ahead and be a gypsy again tonight  --  I even offered to pay her ten bucks if she would just settle for the gypsy costume without a fuss!  --  that's when the trouble started.  Her Pouty Face made its first appearance of the day, and she started to whine.  

"But my HAIR won't stay curly, and no one even KNOWS what I AM!" she said, and tears began welling up in her eyes.

I woke up to pouring down rain and a deep, painful chest cold this morning, and I was in no mood to listen to anybody whine. "Fine!' I snapped at her in irritation, throwing the ten dollar bill on top of the fridge and stalking out of the room.  (Ray is working today, by the way, so there was no way I could take her shopping anywhere.)  She sat down in the living room and started to cry, and I stomped around the house for a few minutes, trying to clear my head and come up with a plan.  

Finally, inspiration struck.  My mom is supposed to go shopping this morning  --  she said she planned to stop by here later and bring the kids a Hallowe'en goody  --  so I called and asked her if she'd mind if Jay tagged along with her.  The happy ending to this little tale is that she'll be here at noon to pick Jamie up.  I got paid last night (probably my last "big" payday for a long, long time: sniff), so I'll give her $25.  Hopefully she'll find something she likes, and that will be the end of the Hallowe'en nightmare for another year.

Jamie isn't even going out with us tonight, by the way.  For the first time in her life, she'll be trick-or-treating without me  ...  she's going with a gang of her friends (Nicole in particular), with Nicole's mom as chaperone.  Afterwards, she'll probably spend the night at Nicole's.  I'm a little sad about this, of course, but I recognize a rite of passage when I see one  ...

Kacie, Kyle and I will be going out with Velma and her kids sometime around 5:00.  At first I hated the idea, but now that I look at the buckets of rain coming down, I'm thankful that we'll be driving around rather than walking.  We should be home early  --  7:00 or 7:30  --  and then we're invited to go over to John & Lori's.  Frankly, I don't know whether or not we'll make the second stop: it'll depend on how I feel when I get home from trick-or-treating with Velma.  I'm not actually sick, yet  ...  I've just got that heavy, scratchy feeling in my chest and a dry cough that means my annual Autumn Yuck is coming.  I just don't know if I'm going to feel up to tromping around the Shannon South complex in the rain with Lori.  We'll see what happens.

In the meantime, happy Hallowe'en.  I'm trying really hard to work myself into a good mood, in spite of the rain and Jamie's emotional flare-ups and Kacie & Kyle's irrepressible high spirits.  The house looks nice  --  very festive, very "Hallowe'eny"  --  and now I'm working on my makeup and hair.  Gotta run. 

Diary Entry:

Busy, busy day  ...  Hallowe'en!

Ray worked this a.m.  --  kids and I up early, cleaning house and getting ready for tonight. Peg and Don here to visit at noon, brought treats for the kids.  My mom took Jamie shopping for a costume, got her a great "Minnie Mouse" outfit.  Kyle is a Karate Kid, Kacie is Wednesday Addams.

Went trick-or-treating with Velma at 5:00, home by 6:30  --  then went over to John & Lori's for more fun  --  after that, Ray and I stayed up late.

Weather at the witching hour:  Cold and rainy  ...  as usual.

Things That Aren't So Scary After All!

  • Trick-or-treating for the second year in a row with VELMA  ...
  • This year's Presidential election  ...
  • The thought of turning 35 in two months  ...

Treats We Had Ready:

A big bowl of assorted candies (Brach's, Vernell's, Kit-Kats).   Ray passed out candy while Kacie, Kyle and I went trick-or-treating with Velma and her children (Jamie went with her friend Nicole).

Children Who Came By:

  • Neighborhood children
  • Velma's kids, Angela and Jonathan
  • Jamie's friend, Nicole Schwartzmann
  • Tracy Pinkney (who spent the night with us)

November 1, 1992

Diary Entry:

Uh oh.  Woke up this morning, started to yell at the kids to quiet down  ...  and nothing came out of my mouth.  Laryngitis!  Combined with a hangover.  Bed all day.

November 2, 1992

Diary Entry:

This was, without a doubt, one of the WORST days I've had in months.  The laryngitis persists, for one thing: all I wanted to do today was sleep and recover in peace, but unfortunately Ray decided to stay home (he had ME call in for him  ...  never mind the fact that I had no voice!!)  ...  he went to the Food Bank, did some groceries, and drank beer steadily all day.  By 8 p.m. he was completely plotzed and blew up at the kids and I over nothing  --  had everyone in hysterics  --  threw his dinner out the window, ordered Jamie to "move out"  --  what a guy.

November 3, 1992

Hallowe'en was fine.  As a matter of fact, it was great this year!  It's been the days immediately following Hallowe'en that have been hell on earth  ... 

Diary Entry:

One of the things that Asshole was all pissed off about was the mess the house was in.  I've been SICK the past few days, but he just doesn't get it, does he?  So I forced myself to get up and clean today, just to prove to him that I don't (quote) "sit around on my butt all day."  He stayed home again, incidentally.  He's not sick so I don't know why he's taking this time off  ...  just to drive me insane, I guess.

ELECTION TODAY  ...  BILL CLINTON WON!  Mike Lowry elected Governor, Patty Murray to U.S. Senate.

Shake & Bake chicken, "Cocoon."

November 4, 1992

Diary Entry:

Ray, thank god, went back to work today  ...  he apologized to Jamie and I yesterday ("I've gotta lot of things on my MIND") and he's been fairly pleasant since Monday night's disgusting performance, but I was still glad to get rid of him finally.   Moved a little slower than yesterday.  Still feeling rotten; bad cough kept me awake all night.

Kids got their school pictures taken today.


November 5, 1992

Diary Entry:

Another sleepless night last night (awake from 12:30 to 4:30 a.m., coughing)  ...  I don't know how much longer this can go on.

Did the usual stuff  --  housework, cooking (baked a chocolate cake, made sloppy joes).  Watched a good movie this afternoon, "Mystic Pizza."  Jamie and I both read her library book (she read it after school, I read it while she was at her G.S. meeting) called "A Summer To Die"  --  had us both in tears!

November 6, 1992

As a matter of fact, things have been SO bad this week that I haven't even felt like writing in my journal, as you can see. 

Diary Entry:

Today was Mak's last day with us (again)  ...  he brought "Beauty & The Beast," watched it with the kids when they got home from school.

Called Linda at Kacie's church, asked if anyone in the congregation has a winter coat Kacie can use.

November 8, 1992

It's a little past seven on a cold, rainy Sunday morning, and I've already been up for an hour: I woke up at 6 a.m. with a wet, hacking cough, and decided to just stay up and enjoy a little "alone time."  (Oops  --  amend that.  Kacie just wandered out here to the laundry room, where I'm sitting with my coffee and my radio.  "It's only 7:14!" she said in amazement.)

I was sick all last week.  The morning after Hallowe'en (a week ago) I woke up and started to yell at the kids to quiet down  ...  but when I opened my mouth, nothing came out.  I had laryngitis!  For two days I was (literally) speechless.  Later in the week it turned into a miserable cough that kept me awake all night, every night for three or four nights running.  And now the whole thing has deteriorated into one of my famous sloppy wet colds, which will probably hang on for the rest of the winter now.  The holidays just wouldn't be the holidays without me honking into a Kleenex every five minutes, would they?

Hallowe'en turned out just fine.  Mom and Jamie found a wonderful Minnie Mouse costume on sale somewhere.  When they got it home, it turned out that the "ears" were missing, but miraculously  --  I still can't get over this  --  my mother just happened to have a set of mouse ears (and a pin-on "tail") at her house, left over from some Hallowe'en office party past, and she quickly drove home and picked them up and brought them over for Jay to use.  (I mean, how many people do you know who "just happen" to have a pair of mouse ears when you need them???  We don't usually have that kind of luck, OK?)  

Anyway, when we'd finished putting her together, Jay looked great.  By the time she left to go trick-or-treating with Nicole, she was babbling happily.  "This is gonna be the best Hallowe'en I ever had!" she said.  "I've got a cool costume, I'm going out with my friends  ... "   At that point she shot me a slightly guilty look.  Was I upset that she wasn't trick-or-treating with the family this year?  I assured her that I was OK with the idea, that I just wanted her to have FUN, and she seemed relieved.  Later she told me that they had a great time, and I was genuinely glad for her.

Kacie, Kyle and I went out with Velma and her kids at 6:00, and it was OK.  Mostly we just drove around the Angle Lake neighborhood and let the kids hit the houses that were lit up.  Angela, as always, was insufferable.  She whines purely for the effect  ...  just to hear herself whine, I guess  ...  not because anything is ever really wrong, but because she imagines it makes her sound cool or cute or something.  I can't bear to be in the same room  --  let alone in the same CAR  --  with her for any longer than an hour, because the urge to tell her to shut the fuck up becomes overwhelming after a while.  So I was glad that we only had to trick-or-treat with them for forty-five minutes or so, and then Velma brought us home.  And we did end up going to John & Lori's afterwards, incidentally: it was fun.  The kids got to trick-or-treat some more, around the apartment complex, and Lori and I had a chance to visit.  So I was glad we went.

It was the next morning when everything started to go wrong. The laryngitis was only part of it, although being sick and feeling as crappy as I did made it harder to tolerate everything else.  I'm not going to go into any lengthy, detailed accounting here.  Suffice it to say that Ray is worried about money, he's drinking too much (even for him, and that's really saying something), and he's been taking his bad mood out on everyone  ...  especially me.  Twice this past week (once on Monday night, then again last night) he's gotten completely plotzed and has exploded into irrational rage.  To some extent last night I was able to diffuse his anger before it got out of control, but Monday night he went totally over the edge.  At one point I got so mad at his stupid, drunken bleating that I threw a bowl of spaghetti sauce at him.  Jamie got dragged into it, somehow, and she and Ray stood there in the kitchen shouting about how much they 'hate' each other  ...  a real Kodak moment, can't you imagine.  Through all of his ranting and raving, two general themes gradually emerged:

1.  I am a shiftless, lazy slob who contributes absolutely nothing, monetarily or otherwise, to this family: I spend my days sitting around on my butt, writing in my journal and typing letters to my pen pals.

2.  Our children are spoiled rotten and it's all MY fault because (Ray theorizes) I "didn't grow up in a house with kids in it."  (Oh really?  What were my brother and I?  Mushrooms?)  And if I don't start "putting the hammer down around here," HE will.

Naturally, an hour later he was putting his arms around me and apologizing with the usual lame excuses ("I've just got a lot on my mind").  Quite frankly, though, I'm still mad, nearly a week later, about some of the things he said.  I'm sick and tired, for one thing, of the "sitting around on my butt" remarks.  True, he only says stuff like that when he's snockered, but the very fact that it continues to come up at all indicates that deep down inside it's how he really feels.  I don't think he has any idea how hard I work around this house.  Do I ever hear a compliment when the place looks particularly nice, like it did Hallowe'en weekend?  Hell no.  It's only when the dirty dishes pile up (as they did on Monday night, when I was SICK, for Pete's sake) that he even notices anything about the way the house looks, good or bad.  And I'm tired of it.

The "writing in my journal" thing bothers me, too.  What is it about these journals that threatens him so much?  They've always been a favorite target of his.  Over the years, he's made it clear that he considers them a frivolous waste of time: the very point of journal-writing completely escapes him.  The man doesn't have an introspective bone in his body.  Is he jealous about the amount of time I spend writing?  No  ...  that's ludicrous, even for him.  Is he afraid that I'm writing things about him that cast him in a less-than-favorable light?  That someday our children or grandchildren will read these journals and only get my side of things? I don't know, I really don't.  The only perspective I have is my own, after all.  I'm not writing these journals for anyone specific, and I'm not purposely targeting Ray as the "villain" in my accounts. 

Finally  ...  about the kids being "spoiled"  ...

...  as much as I would like to say that this is also untrue, I'm afraid that there's more than a grain of truth in that one  --  at least, where helping around the house is involved.  The fact is, the kids DON'T help out much.  They hardly do any housework at all, and yeah, that's my fault.  I'm inconsistent about getting them to do it, and I admit it.  Part of that is because I want their childhoods to be fun and carefree: part of that is because I'm such a perfectionist, I don't feel that anyone does the job as well as I do!  I realize that I'm not doing them any favors, and that if I expect them to become capable, responsible adults someday, I'd better start teaching them about things like helping out and working together and taking responsibility.  It kills me to admit that Ray may be right about this, but I guess he is.

Diary Entry:

Uneventful Sunday.  I got up ridiculously early  --  6 a.m.!  --  because I couldn't sleep.  Made breakfast (pancakes & bacon) for everybody.  Kacie went to church, Jamie and Nicole spent most of the day together.  Velma came by, brought me my Xmas wrapping paper. 

Violent storm this afternoon  --  hail, lightning.

Ray borrowed $10 from John, bought taco materials for dinner.

November 9, 1992

Diary Entry:

No babysitting  ...  what an odd feeling!  Kacie stayed home from school, said she's got a "sore throat," but she seems to have plenty of energy anyway.  We watched TV, enjoyed some alone time together  ...  didn't do much else.

Ray got an upsetting hospital bill in the mail, and for awhile it looked like it might turn into another money argument  ...  fortunately we talked it through, decided that I'm going  (entry ends abruptly)

November 10, 1992

Diary Entry:

Kacie went back to school so I was "Home Alone"  ...  if it weren't for the fact that I'm worried about $, it would've been a pleasant treat.  Cleaned my bedroom and bathroom, roasted some chicken for dinner, clipped recipes, watched a movie.

Jamie went home with Nicole, spent the night there.  Janet came over tonight and cut Ray's hair.

November 11, 1992

Diary Entry:

No school for the kids today  --  Veteran's Day.  Cold, rainy.  Kept a fire going all day  --  nice.  Danielle and Cody here, 10-3: told Andrea I "hope she goes back to work SOON."  Christmas and money worries are consuming me.  Now Ray wants me to call Terry V. and ask for a loan against the house money  ...  don't know if I have the nerve.

Drank some wine, worked on tapes.  No dance class.  Kacie and Kyle to church.

November 12, 1992

Diary Entry:

Slow, sleepy day  ...  let the housework and laundry slide.  Janet stopped by briefly, went to the store for me and bought me some 7-Up.

November 14, 1992

Diary Entry:

Woke up SICK.  Heavy, horrible bronchial cold, way down in my chest and everywhere else  ...  feel like I could die.  Spent the whole day sleeping on the sofa, doped up with cold medicine.

November 15, 1992

Diary Entry:

Still sick  ...  spent another day on the couch.  I know I must sound like the laziest person in the universe, but this is the worst cold I've had in years.

November 16, 1992

Diary Entry:

Still sick  ...  must be bronchitis.  Never knew so much snot could come out of one person.  (Delightful, aren't I??)  With Ray and the kids gone all day, I gave myself permission to spend one more day on the couch.  I look horrible, the house looks horrible, but I don't give a damn.

Made burgers and fries for dinner, but barely touched it myself.

November 17, 1992

Diary Entry:

Well, I did it  ...  I called Ted's lawyer today  and made our offer of $57,000.00.  He was very nice on the phone, of course, but I can't help remembering all the things I've heard about him being a "shyster"  ...  said he'll call me back by Friday, will let me know what Ted says.  Now we just sit and wait, I guess.  Cautiously optimistic.

Still hacking and wheezing.  Think it's turning into sinusitis, damn.

November 18, 1992

Diary Entry:

Almost in spite of myself, I feel hopeful and optimistic about the money   ...   my mood today was light and festive.

Kids home early every day this week (Conferences).  Watched first half of "Far & Away," borrowed from Velma.  Jay to dance, kids to church.   Collaged the cover of my Christmas notebook.

Nasty fight with Janet tonight. 

November 19, 1992
Thursday morning

Yesterday morning, as I stood at the kitchen sink, I looked out the window and was startled to see a rainbow.  A RAINBOW in NOVEMBER?!  For days we've had nothing but rainstorms and muddy gray skies  ...  the world has seemed relentlessly winterlike, within my heart and without.  So to suddenly find myself looking at something so bright and full of hope was jarring.  It was almost like a little sign, meant for my eyes alone  ...  God? Grandma?  ...  telling me to Hold on, something good is just around the corner.  I was so incredibly moved  --  I didn't know whether to laugh or cry!  --  that I ran and got my camera and took a picture of it, just so that someday I can look at it and remind myself that it really happened  ...

Journal, I am terrified to write about this, but I have to.  Something has happened this week that may have far-reaching implications, not just for me but for my entire family, and even though I'm afraid that putting it on paper will jinx it, somehow, I've got to write about it.  If I don't, I'll explode.

The money situation is really bad.  Utility bills, hospital bills, a threatening letter from the IRS this week  ...  it's all begun to pile up.  Ray and I have been at each other's throats for weeks, and the tension around this house has been so thick & palpable, you could cut it with a (butter) knife.  Just getting myself out of bed in the mornings has been an effort, and the strain of worry has taken its toll on me physically  ...  I'm battling with bronchitis and sinusitis, and I haven't been able to sleep at night for so long, I've forgotten what that feels like.  The kids have picked up on all the tension, of course, and they've been at each other like cats & dogs.  The specter of Christmas, looming ahead, just makes it worse.  How do you tell your children that Santa is broke this year??  I worry about this same thing every year, of course, and most of the time the holidays turn out just fine.  But this year  --  with me out of a babysitting job and the mountain of bills growing higher every day  --  it really did seem as though Christmas '92 would have to be an afterthought.

There's also been the ongoing struggle within me  ...  that feeling of time slipping away, and me having nothing to show for it.  My self-esteem has fallen to an all-time low.  I'd begun believe the things Ray said about me  ...  that I'm lazy, that I'm contributing nothing, that I'm making everybody miserable, that I'm a crummy mother.  (He denies that he really meant any of it, of course, but when you already believe such things about yourself  --  even a little bit  --  hearing someone else say them just reinforces it in your mind.)

The last straw, for me personally, was getting notices from the school nurse informing me that both Jamie and Kacie need glasses, and knowing that there is no way in the universe we could possibly afford such a thing.  That's when it really hit home with me.  For a long time I've been able to close my eyes and convince myself that we were getting along just 'fine.'  Sure, we don't have as much as a lot of people, but then again we've got a lot MORE than others: a roof over our heads, food in the kitchen, blah blah blah.  The girls went to summer camp, didn't they?  We've finally got decent furniture, don't we?  Things could be so much worse, I told myself.  But now I was hit with the cold, hard truth: we AREN'T doing right by our children, in spite of outward appearances.  The glasses are one thing.  The dentist is another: Kyle and Kacie have NEVER EVEN SEEN ONE, do you realize that?  And they only see a doctor in an emergency.  Right now all three of them need winter boots, and Kacie was so urgently in need of a decent winter coat that I had to call the church and ask if anyone had a hand-me-down they could spare.  And it isn't just "things," either  ...  it's having a mom who never participates in anything or offers to volunteer for anything because she's afraid to leave the house.  It's having a family that rarely goes out and does anything tlogether because we're too broke.  It's not having a safe car for all five of us to drive anywhere in.  It's having parents who barely speak to each other.  It's me, turning off TV commercials about Christmas because I'm so frightened that we won't be having any this year  ...

...  Well.  Something in me finally snapped.  For months I've been yammering on and on about how, if we could only get the money from my half of Grandma's house, things would be so great.  I could get a car, go to computer school, get a good job.  Ray could replace our death-trap of a car with the truck he's always wanted.  We could go on our first (and only) family vacation.  I could have the breast reduction surgery that has always been so important (and so unattainable) to me.  Our lives would completely turn around.

So I finally did something about it.

This is the part I'm afraid to write about, for fear of ruining it somehow.  I'm superstitious about things like that  ...  it seems too much like "counting your chickens," if you know what I mean.  But I've already gone this far, so I may as well give you the rest of it.  On Tuesday morning, I screwed up every ounce of courage in my entire body and made a call to Ted's lawyer, Mr. C.  Actually, I called first thing in the morning but it took him nearly all day  --  3 p.m.  --  to call me back.  (I was a nervous wreck all day, as you can probably imagine.)  To tell you the truth, I still can't believe that I did it!!  It's far and away the most courageous thing that this lump of inertia has done in ages, and even if nothing comes of it (notice that I'm deliberately trying to downplay our chances), at the very least I can say that I got up off my moribund butt and DID something about our situation.  At any rate, the gist of the conversation was this: I asked Mr. C. to relay to Ted the information that I'll accept $57,500 for my half of the house  --  that's about $30,000 less than it's worth  --  ON THE CONDITION that we settle this immediately.  "I don't want this to drag on any longer than necessary," I told the lawyer.  Mr. C. was very nice and encouraging and promised to get back to me by Friday (tomorrow).  In the meantime, of course, there's nothing to do but wait, and hope, and pray like mad.  Ray and I are both cautiously optimistic, but it's hard to get too worked up about it until we know for sure.  We've talked a little bit about what we would do with the money.  After taxes, investing some of it and paying off our bills, we'll still have enough left to fulfill some of our fondest dreams  ...  the surgery for me*, a truck for Ray and a small (used) car for me, computer school, a few carefully-selected "toys" that we've always wanted (a video camera? a decent typewriter? a home computer?)   ...  and, of course, Christmas.  God.  Christmas would be wonderful  --  not only because we could afford to buy gifts for people, but because it would be the first completely worry-free Christmas of my adult life.  What an incredible treat that wouldbe.  After the holidays, after the surgery, after 10 weeks of BCTI (Business Computer Training Institute), I would be able to go out and get a job  ...  a REAL job, making real money.  I can't even begin to imagine how much the quality of our lives would improve.  It's all just too wonderful to contemplate.

 * Here's a perfect example of how little attention Ray has paid to me over the years.  I've been talking FOREVER about having this surgery done, and yet when I mentioned it to him on Wednesday night, he looked shocked and said "You're kidding."

Diary Entry:

Period started today, and emotionally I went into a bit of a nosedive.  Still no word from the lawyer, altho I didn't expect that there would be.

Had to go to the school at noon for Parent/Teacher Conferences.  The kids are all doing fairly well, no major problems.

Kids and I watched the second half of "Far & Away."  Sandwiches, French fries for dinner.  Girls went to their G.S. meeting.

Friday morning
November 20, 1992

...  But "contemplating" it I am, and have been unable to think of much else all week.  Last night I hit a 'slump'  --  a sudden wave of fear and depression that came out of nowhere  --  what if Ted turns down our offer?  Would he be that small-minded, do you think?  Oh please, Lord  ...  let this be more than a pipe dream.

This, of course, is the day that Mr. C. said he'd get back to me.  It's 9 a.m. now, and I'm determined to stay as busy as possible all day and not dwell on silent telephones and unpaid bills.  If anything happens, I'll let you know.

Saturday morning
November 21, 1992

Well  ...  the news isn't good.  It isn't BAD, either  ...  it's just not the news I wanted to hear.  This reminds me of when we were trying to rent this house: one day we'd be flying so high, certain that we'd get the place, and the next day I'd be crashing on the rocks below because we'd hit another glitch.  On Wednesday (the day of the rainbow) I was flying high  ...  I was actually calling doctors' offices requesting information about breast reduction surgery and making of lists of things we would do with the money.  (Maybe that's the problem: I was counting those chickens.)  And then yesterday I hit the rocks.  Today I'm somewhere in between.  I'm struggling to remain patient, to remain optimistic, but I can tell it's going to be an uphill battle.

We're expecting a major storm this afternoon  ...  winds up to 50 mph, they're predicting.  I'm concerned about the power going out, so I'm trying to prepare for it, just in case it happens: I'm making a pot of chicken soup (which can be warmed on top of the woodstove, if need be) and taking stock of candles, batteries, etc.  Frankly, I would LOVE it if we have a black-out.  It would be the most entertaining thing that's happened around here in a long time.  I can just see us tonight, sitting around the woodstove, watching the storm, drinking hot cocoa (also made on the woodstove)  ...  it would be lovely.  Of course it won't actually happen, since nothing ever turns out the way I want it to, but it makes a nice little fantasy  ...

Mr. C. (Ted's lawyer) has "left town" for two months.  Isn't that nice??  Isn't that absolutely the way things always go??  I just about died when I called his office yesterday and they told me.  He represents "the opposition," of course, but I still have this absurd feeling of having been abandoned. He'd promised to call me back, after all.  I was furious!  Later in the day, someone from his office did call and say that he'd left a message for me.  This is the good/bad news.  He has relayed my offer to "Ted and Lila" (Lila is the Housekeeper From Hell who has moved in and taken over  ...  a gold-digging witch, from everything I hear), and they're going to "think it over" and get back to me.  So in other words the ball is once again in Ted's court  ...  or, more accurately, in LILA'S court, since she apparently is calling all the shots where Ted's finances are concerned.  Damn it.  DAMN IT.  Lila and I do not have a pleasant history.  The two or three times we've spoken on the phone, I could practically feel the waves of dislike coming through the wire.  For my part, I despise the way she moved into MY grandmother's HOME and appointed herself "lady of the house" before Grandma had barely been gone a few months.  It's cheap and disrespectful.  Finally, there is the snotty letter I wrote to her and Ted a few months ago, when they made their first laughable offer to buy me out for $30,000.  I basically told them to take their offer and shove it. I'm sure that didn't endear me any to the two of them.  Knowing that she now holds my fate in her greedy hands infuritates me beyond belief.  They're probably sitting over there right now, just waiting for me to call and throw myself at their mercy.  Well  ...  I'm not going to do it.  Not this weekend, anyway.  I'm going to tough this one out a while longer and wait for them to call ME. 

Diary Entry:

Ray went to B-Z's and watched the Apple Cup (UW vs. Washington State), was gone for most of the day.  I cleaned house, drank some wine, worked on projects, called people on the phone.

November 22, 1992

Diary Entry:

Blah, blah blah.  Feel like total shit: this cold and cough will NOT go away.

Called my mom, asked to borrow $3.00 for kids' lunches this week.  She brought it over, also brought me two beautiful coats.

Monday morning
November 23, 1992

Diary Entry:

Remember that Tom Petty song that goes "The waiting is the hardest part"  ...  ?  That's the way we feel now, waiting to hear from Ted.  We're so broke it hurts.  Got the phone bill today and it's nearly $300  ...  the newspaper has been cut off  ...  groceries are dangerously low.  Still trying to be optimistic, though!

Ran four loads of laundry, made pigs in a blanket for dinner.

Journal Entry:

Hi Journal  ...  this will be my final entry for this journal.  I'm really pleased with the consistent way I've been writing these past four months, and hope I can continue the habit in the next journal.  Something tells me that these next few weeks are going to eventful, and I'm going to need the comfort and energy I get from regular journal-writing.

Monday morning  ...  coming off a broke, sick weekend, but for no reason I can pinpoint I'm back to feeling optimistic about the money situation.  God knows how long it will last  --  probably until I hit the next bump in the road  --  but for the moment, at least, I'm thinking positively.  Maybe my horoscope has something to do with it.  Check it out:

"A new moon in your birthsign on Tuesday denotes that it's almost time to put ideas and projects that have been 'in the pipeline' all year into operation.  In fact, you should now be thinking about the period around December 2, when Mercury finally turns to direct motion, as a starting date."

How's that for a great horoscope??  It's from this week's TV Guide: Lori dictated it to me over the phone this morning, and I've been reading and re-reading it all day.  Of course, part of me knows that horoscopes are "iffy," at best  ...  but ANY light at the tunnel is welcome at this point  ...

I hope that the next journal sees us realizing some of our dreams, finally.  


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