November 23, 1992
Hello, new Journal!
Jamie bought me this notebook at school [for 15 cents] a few weeks ago, and I've had it stashed away so I could use it as a journal when the old one ran out. It's a cold and cloudy November afternoon, and I'm sitting here at my desk in the laundry room, doing laundry and listening to Rick Miller on the radio. The house smells like laundry detergent, little pigs in a blanket [dinner] and cat pee ... an intriguing combination! I worked hard all day today, cleaning house and cooking, and now I'm rewarding myself with two glasses of wine and ginger ale and my favorite radio talk show.
Our lives are "on hold" at the moment. Last week I made Ted [my former step-grandfather] an offer to let him buy out my half of the house, and now we're just sitting here, waiting for his response. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, my family's future now rests in his hands, and the waiting is excruciating. Still, I'm determined to remain optimistic. I just feel that this will work out -- we will see this money, and soon -- and when we do, everything about our lives will change for the better. I really mean that. Good things are just around the corner for this family, and for me personally, and all we have to do is remain patient and tread carefully and let it happen as it will.
In the meantime, "broke" is the order of the day in P.Ville, I'm afraid. Yesterday I had to call my mom and ask to borrow three bucks for the kids' school lunches this weeks. [She gave me $8.00.] I'm back to making groceries "stretch," watering down the shampoo, turning lights off, scrimping on makeup and cleaning supplies ... anything to save a little money. [I have no babysitting customers anymore: it's been two week since we said "goodbye" to Mak, and Andrea doesn't seem to be looking for work anytime soon, so the daycare business seems finally to have run its course. It was inevitable, but to be perfectly honest, I'm glad that it's over! I babysat for six years, and that's enough: time to move on to something else. It's just tough, right now, trying to get by on Ray's paycheck alone.] The only thing that makes all of this bearable is knowing there's a windfall waiting right around the corner. I mean, it's not a fortune or anything, but it's certainly more money than this family has ever seen. It's as close to a fortune as I'm ever likely to see, that's for sure, and if I plan ahead and spend/invest it carefully, it WILL change our lives. I try to keep this thought in mind as I surreptitiously add powdered milk to the 2% in the fridge ... as I cram two loads' worth of laundry into one load, to conserve detergent ... as I make Ray another cheap bologna sandwich for his work lunch ...
Tuesday Morning 10:00
November 24, 1992
The phone is ringing, but I'm ignoring it ... at this time of the morning it could only be Lori or Thelma, and I'm not in the mood to "chat" with either one of them yet today. It occurs to me that this period in my life may be the last stretch of peaceful, quiet, "alone-time" I'll enjoy for a long time. No babysitting, the kids are in school, Ray is working ... I love it. I can pick at the housework, work on my cookbooks, watch junk TV, bake, talk to friends on the phone [when I'm in the mood!], read, catch a quick nap, write in my journal, or merely sit on the sofa and look out the window and daydream. After ten continuous years of having small children under foot all day -- my own kids, and various combinations of other peoples' kids -- it's incredibly blissful to spend so much time alone. So I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts. Once we get the money and I start school [and after that, when I get a job], I'll probably look back and remember this time as "golden." Lord knows what my life will be like then ... probably a constant exhausting round of classes, homework, housework, and trying to get everything done. At that point the idea of a little "alone-time" will seem like an impossible dream.
Freezing cold when we got out of bed this morning: the ground was covered with frost, and I made the kids bundle up before they left for school. Our morning routine usually goes something like this: I wake up [on the sofa] sometime around 7:15. Now that Mak is no longer arriving on our doorstep at 7:30 every morning - and since I don't have an alarm clock -- I have to rely on my own "internal clock" to wake me on time, but I haven't over slept once this school year -- I always wake up at the same time, even [annoyingly] on the weekends. I turn on "Good Morning America" and start my coffee. The first Tot awake varies from day to day: sometimes it's Kacie, waking up on the living room love seat, where she sleeps most nights; sometimes it's Kyle, stumbling groggily out of my bedroom [ditto]; other times it's Princess Jamie emerging from her room. Everyone gets dressed while I fix breakfast. [This morning it was waffles for Kyle and Jamie, two fried eggs and a piece of toast for Kacie.] There is always an argument or two over hairbrushes, headbands, clothing choices [Kyle hates wearing jeans, for some reason, and we always have to argue about that], bathroom time ... I scramble around looking for lunch money, Kyle's peechee, permission slips, Reading Raffles, hats, library books ... finally, by 8:15, all three are fed, dressed, coiffed and ready, more or less. Kacie almost always tells me "goodbye": the other two, whenever they remember it. I sit at the living room window and watch them walk down the street. [They never walk together -- Kyle shoots ahead of his sisters, the girls keep their distance from each other.] Once they're gone, I lock the doors, drink two cups of coffee and finish watching "GMA," take my shower, and plunge into the day's work while listening to "Regis and Kathie Lee." And thus begins the day.
November 25, 1992
I mailed a letter to Ted yesterday, reiterating my offer and politely asking that he let me know "right away" if we have a deal or not. [I put it more eloquently than that, of course, but that was the gist of it.] It seemed like a good idea at the time, it really did, but today I'm having second thoughts. Does it make me sound high-handed -- or desperate?! What if the only thing I've succeeded in doing is annoying him? Then what??
I'll tell you something, Journal ... I'm going to be SO GLAD when all of this is over with, and not just for the money, either ... it's also because Ted will finally be out of my life for good. In the ten years I've known him, the best I've ever been able to manage is a sort of reserved tolerance toward him. There has never been any warmth or affection between us, that's for sure. I remember the first time I met him. I was so surprised when Grandma told me she was getting married again -- Grandpa had only been gone for a few months -- but I was happy for her, I really was, and I was proud of her for getting on with her life. So it was a shock meeting Ted! I don't know what I was expecting. Someone more like Grandpa, I suppose -- warm, gregarious, funny -- and instead, here was this little wizened old gnome, as reserved as Grandpa was outgoing, as stingy as Grandpa was generous. I know that's not fair: Grandpa was a tough act to follow, and it was Grandma's decision, after all. But I never got over that initial impression, even though I tried. [I still gag whenever I remember how I instructed the kids to call him "Grandpa Ted" ... uggh.] I'll continue to feign deference and respect until this money situation is taken care of, and then I don't want to even THINK about him, ever again.
My world -- and my hopes -- have crashed and burned. That disgusting old fuckhead said "no." I just got off the phone with him, and he was rude, cold and utterly hateful. I am totally crushed.
More later, if I can manage it. I'm too upset right now to do much more than cry.
Ray's home now, on the phone with a bill collector. [He asked me "What's wrong?" and I just shrugged and said, "Ted said no." Ray didn't say anything at all -- just went to the phone, made his call.]
Oh -- turns out he didn't even hear me. Great. After his phone call he came back out here to the laundry room and said, "What's wrong, you don't feel good?" I said, "Ray, I TOLD you -- Ted turned down my offer." That floored him. I'm still crying, can't see through the blur of tears. Will try to write something tomorrow.
November 26, 1992
One month from right now, it'll be the day after Christmas. Part of me wishes we could be there right now, today, this moment -- that we could just skip over the next four weeks and have the holidays over and done with. I have a very sad, sick feeling that this is going to be another "hollow Christmas" for me ... keeping up pretense for the kids' sake [or at least trying to], but feeling dead inside. In the space of 24 hours I've gone from this idiotically optimistic woman making making lists of things I wanted to buy my family for Christmas, decorating my bulletin board, clipping Christmas cookie recipes, to what I am this morning ... swollen-eyed [from tears], silent, and almost unbearably sad...
It's Thanksgiving. In four hours we're going to drive out to Bellevue and have dinner with Ray's folks. How I'm going to manage to pull it all together and maintain my composure all afternoon is a mystery to me, but I suppose I'll manage it. As always, I'm in charge of the joy-levels around this house: if I'm down in the dumps, Ray and the kids feel it and everyone winds up miserable. [This can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how I look at it... it's a heavy burden to bear, but on the other hand it also is a motivation ... I know I HAVE to snap out of my gloom or I'll spoil Thanksgiving for everyone.] Fortunately, the kids are staying at Peg and Don's for the whole weekend. I'm going to be lonely as hell for them, but at least they'll escape from the oppressive atmosphere around here and I'll have some time to pull myself together before they get home on Sunday. I hope.
The worst part of this whole situation -- aside from my own aching disappointment -- is that it happened now, so close to Christmas. I'm sure it would've been just as disappointing to have Ted refuse my offer in, say, March, or July ... but the fact that it comes now, right before the holidays, makes it so much harder to bear. Just once, I wanted to enjoy a Christmas free of money worries. I wanted to wake up in the mornings and not be drenched in sweat from another night of anxious dreams; I wanted to make Christmas 1992 a happy, bountiful, wonderful memory for my children. And now I know that can't happen, not only because we're adrift in a sea of unpaid bills and can barely afford groceries, let alone gifts for the kids, but because I know I won't be feeling a shred of holiday spirit now. I'll fake it, as best I can. I'll play the Christmas tapes, and we'll have a tree and put up all the old familiar decorations, and we'll watch Christmas cartoons on TV. There will be presents under the tree, even if they're only the gifts we get from the Food Bank. We'll visit all the relatives on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and the kids will get plenty of stuff from their grandparents. [We'll figure out a way to make some cheap cookies for gifts, but other than that I doubt we'll be doing much for other people.] But inside, I'm not going to feel anything resembling holiday spirit. I'll be worried about money every minute of December 1992, and I know Ray will be, too. We'll probably argue about it constantly. He's going to drink too much, to counter his worry, and it's going to turn him mean and sour. I'm going to look around for new babysitting clients and probably wind up back in a "job" [home daycare] that I've grown to loathe, and it's going to make me hate myself. Or else I'll go out and get a job slinging burgers for four bucks an hour, and I'll hate myself even more. I'll forego all of the things I love the most about the holidays -- the Christmas magazines, candles, sending Christmas cards -- but the sacrifice will make me feel bitter inside. When the kids look back on Christmas 1992, especially the girls, the memory will be a sad one. Instead of recalling it as a time of innocence and delight, they'll recall a time of arguments and hangovers and unrealized dreams. And that's what breaks my heart. That's what totally, completely breaks my heart.
November 27, 1992
My life sucks.
Yesterday was the saddest, most depressing Thanksgiving I've ever had. Dinner was fine, visiting with the family was fine ... that part of it was bearable. It was the deep-down sadness that spoiled the day for me -- the feeling that no matter what I think or do or say, no matter how hard I work or how hard I pray, nothing ever, EVER goes right for us. I tried talking to Ray's dad about the house/Ted/money situation, and his advice was comically useless ["Why don't you call up Ted and ask him to meet you for lunch...?"]. I guess I was hoping he could help us out, either with a loan or at least with some advice I could use, but when that didn't happen, I just folded up inside. I realize now that there's nothing left to do but wait for Ted to die and the house to be sold -- period. I won't see a dime of my inheritance until that happens, and that's just the way it is.
Anyway, back to Thanksgiving. Leaving the kids behind was horrible: I had tears in my eyes before we'd even pulled out of the in-laws' driveway. I know that, all things considered, it's for the best ... I need time to heal and recoup and work through this depression, and it'll be easier all around [and better for them] if we're apart for a few days. But that didn't make walking into this cold, empty house any easier.
Ray and I actually had a pleasant evening last night -- right up until bedtime, that is. We watched "E.T." on TV, I had some wine, I made my favorite sandwich in the world for a snack [leftover turkey and stuffing with cranberries and mayo] ... it should have been really nice, but as soon as the movie was over, everything unravelled. I was tired from the wine and the cold medicine I'd taken, and I slipped into bed, anticipating a good night's sleep. Unfortunately, Ray was drunk by then and began badgering me for sex, and when I wouldn't comply, he started slamming doors and calling me filthy names. Something in me just snapped. I flew out of bed in a rage and started hitting him, throwing things at him, yelling that I "hated" him. He slammed me against the wall and pounded me as hard as he could; I hit him across the face and kicked him in the groin. By the time all of our rage was spent, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. We both realized that we were being ridiculous, I think , and that we weren't actually mad at each other -- it was the stress and depression, in both of us, finally being vented. We apologized and went to sleep [Ray on the couch, me in the bed, alone. As I was drifting off to sleep I felt him come in the room, cover me with a blanket and whisper "I love you" to me.] This morning we apologized again. We both feel pretty stupid today, I think. It was a scene straight out of "The War of the Roses" last night, and I can't even explain why or how it happened. It just happened. For all I know, it'll happen again [Ed. note: It didn't] the closer we get to Christmas. Ray and I don't ever seem able to "settle" anything. We can declare a temporary truce from time to time, but then the next huge unpaid bill comes in the mail, or the microwave breaks, or one of us has too much to drink, and BOOM: we're at war again. I can't imagine it getting better any time soon, not with Christmas looming ahead...
Time to be pragmatic. Time to think about what I can do to help us out, since the house money isn't an option. I've made some new "Child Care Available" signs. Ray posted one today at the Trailer Town store, and I've made another one for Tom's Grocery. I told Ray that I'll put in applications next week at some of the fast food places around the area. And -- this is the one that breaks my heart, but I don't want him to know it -- I especially don't want the kids to know -- I'm selling the ring and the pendant watch that Grandma gave me. More about this tomorrow. It's late now, and I'm tired, and I've got a terrible headache.
Saturday 9 a.m.
Nov. 28, 1992
The next morning, and feeling better [if only because Ray bought us some good cold medicine last night and I finally got a decent night's sleep]. The problems are still here, and the worries, but they're muted slightly. Ray just left for a day's work out at his parents' place: I told him to give the kids hugs and kisses from me. I miss them, but it's not as terrible as I was afraid it would be; actually, I'm looking forward to getting a lot of stuff done today, with nobody around to distract me. I've already been busy this morning, picking up garbage and dirty clothes from the kids' bedrooms. I wasn't really planning to clean their bedrooms this weekend, but now that I've started, I might work on it off and on today. The idea of having an entire clean house appeals to me. Restoring order around here, if only in a housework sense, always seems to calm me. It might be just what I need.
Last night was definitely an improvement over Thursday night. Ray and I both had headaches and rotten colds last night, so we just cooked a frozen pizza, watched a little TV and went to sleep early. [No needling me about sex, either. That was a relief.]
John's mom bought my diamond ring and pendant watch today for $100. I was the one who first suggested selling them, so I have no one to blame but myself if it "stings" a little. The watch was pretty, but Ted gave it to Grandma so I have no sentimental attachment to it. Quite the reverse, in fact. The ring is another story. I know I'm going to regret selling that, but I don't know what else to do: we need the money for the phone bill and for Jamie's birthday. It hurts to sell it because Grandma gave it to me personally, on that last afternoon we spent together right before she died: she slipped it off her own finger and placed it in my hand as I was leaving that day. Technically I guess that makes it the last "gift" she ever gave me. I was so proud of that ring, and the girls loved it, too. I don't even want to tell them I've sold it -- they'd be heartbroken. [They'll find out eventually, of course, and when they do I just hope they'll be able to understand why I did it.] Anyway, it's done, and it's no use moping around about it. We do what we have to do.
November 30, 1992
The kids are home: they got back late yesterday afternoon. [Ray brought them home.] I was so glad to see them!! This has been a tough, miserable weekend, and having them gone just made it tougher. I get exasperated with the constant bickering and the mess and the noise and everything else that goes along with kids, but the truth is that I wouldn't trade it -- or them -- for anything in the world. Kyle seemed a little quieter than usual when he got home yesterday, and I noticed that he kept sitting next to me on the sofa, as close as possible, and leaning his head on my chest. At first I thought it was just because he'd missed me, but when I hugged him, he winced in pain. "My neck hurts!" he said, pointing to the spot just below his right ear. Uh-oh, I thought ... that sounds like swollen glands. I took his temperature and it was 101. All he felt like eating for dinner [I'd made some baked chicken and au gratin potatoes] was a dish of applesauce and some toast, and by early evening he was already falling asleep on the loveseat. So today he's home from school, and unless a miracle occurs, I think we're probably headed for another damned ear infection. He's in a good mood -- he's watching "The Price is Right" and making Garfield Christmas cards for the family -- and I'm praying that I cam somehow head off a serious infection -- but it's too early to tell.
Anyway, it's nice to have the kids home, even though my nice clean house is already trashed and Kyle is sick. Nothing feels "right" when they're gone.
I'm still working through this depression. Mostly I'm trying to figure out some way to make a little extra money for Christmas. Wish someone would call about the babysitting ads. Ray gets paid today [Friday, technically, was payday, but because of the Thanksgiving holiday, paychecks were deferred until today]. After bills and groceries, I don't expect there'll be much left. I'd like to ask him for thirty or forty dollars -- I could get Jamie's birthday stuff and maybe some craft materials for Christmas gifts -- but he'll probably shrug and say "I can't." If he'd let me, I know I could handle the money and the shopping for the holidays and bring Christmas in for $200. I have some great, inexpensive craft ideas and recipes, and Janet has offered to help me with the gifts I want to make [hand-decorated trinket boxes] ... she also knows about some stores in the area that have stuff for a dollar and under, where I could pick up extra kid-gifts and stocking stuffers ... I know I could pull it off. But will he let me try? I doubt it. He'll probably dismiss the whole idea.
Oh well. I'm really going to TRY and make this a decent Christmas in spite of the money situation. I owe it to the kids. They're growing up so fast, and there's only a handful of these childhood Christmases left for us ... I can't afford to waste one, no matter how glum the circumstances. I've already started decorating the house, and that helps. There are some projects we can do together that will cost little or nothing -- cutting out snowflakes for the front window, stringing popcorn, making ornaments.
Dec. 2, 1992
Just a quick scribble. The house is a mess again, and I've got lots to do today [thank goodness]. Kyle went back to school today, after spending two days here at home. I'm not 100% certain, but I think we may have avoided the Big Earache. I really hope so, because a trip to the doctor right now, unfortunately, is a luxury we can't afford.
I never got around to asking Ray for the money. He was already grumbling about how we only have "forty bucks for groceries," and making snide comments about some of the stuff on my grocery list [raisins, bread dough]. I know better than to add fuel to the fire. So now I'm launching "Plan B." When the girls got home from Peg and Don's on Sunday, they lugged in this enormous bag of fabric remnants that their grandmother gave them -- all kinds of wonderful quilted prints -- and it started me thinking. The girls love to sew, and I love craft projects. If we put our heads together and use a little ingenuity [instead of cash], I think we can make some nice Christmas gifts ... photo mattes, placemats, tree ornaments, whatever ... for all of the grandparents, aunts and uncles on our list. I'm very psyched about this. I called my mom and Thelma today and asked if they could donate any odds and ends of crafts materials for us to use, and they were both very enthusiastic. They're going to put together "care packages" of stuff for us to use and bring them over later in the week. In the meantime, I'm going to comb through the Christmas books for ideas. This is the first real glimmer of holiday enthusiasm I've felt so far this year, and I hope I can make it last.
Dec. 3, 1992
The girls [along with the other 4th, 5th and 6th grade classes] are singing Christmas carols at the airport today. Jamie was curiously unenthusiastic about it this morning. "Is that what you're wearing?" I asked her, when she showed up at the breakfast table in an old red sweatshirt -- a hand-me-down from my mom. [I thought it was what she'd slept in!] "Yeah, it's no big deal," she said off-handedly, and I just shrugged and let it go. Kacie, on the other hand, was decked out in her best party dress. She and Kyle sat at the table singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" all through breakfast. I'm noticing that Jamie, far more than the other two, is directly influenced by my level of holiday spirit, and I'm going to have to be really careful about that this year. She senses when I'm depressed or worried about money or whatever, and it puts her into a distinct funk. Conversely, when I'm excited about something -- the crafts projects, for example -- she bounces back. Kacie and Kyle are aware of our financial problems, of course, but not on the same level as Jamie is. She picks up on everything ... a worried glance between Ray and I, a phone conversation, an unpaid bill left laying on the counter ... and it eats away at her. She's only eleven years old, dammit -- far too young to be shouldering so much of this, especially at this time of the year!! And that breaks my heart.
Damn that old fart, Ted. I blame him [irrationally, I suppose] for most of the problems we're having right now. Why couldn't he have been generous, just this once in his life?? Why in the world is he so vindictive and mean-spirited?? Ted makes Ebeneezer Scrooge look like a philanthropist.
My mother totally blew my mind about half an hour ago. I was sitting out here in the laundry room having a cigarette -- I was pooped from taping Christmas cards up all over the house, the way I do every year -- when the doorbell rang. My first thought was, "Oh Lord ... that's Thelma." She's the only one who ever shows up unannounced. But it wasn't ... it was Mom, and she'd brought over a wonderful surprise -- two HUGE boxes of miscellaneous craft supplies!! Everything from ribbons, to dried flowers, to paint and glue, to you-name-it. I've got it spread all over the kitchen table right now, and I can't wait for the girls to come home and see it!! They'll be just as blown away as I am.
As she was leaving, Mom looked at me and said, "If you need anything," [meaning, help with Christmas], "Let me know." I think that cheered me as much as the craft supplies. Maybe this won't be a complete stinkeroo of a Christmas, after all.
Spuddy just dragged a bird into the house, and I had to spend a frenzied five minute chasing him around with a broom, trying to get him to carry it back outside. I was yelling my head off, whacking him with the broom ... it was horrible. Spuddy is very much the pampered "family baby." No one even raises their voices to him, let alone hits him, and he was in a total panic. Finally he dropped the bird [feathers everywhere] and ran off. I went over behind the couch to pick up the bird and throw it in the garbage, and that's when I discovered, to my dismay, that it was still alive ... barely. For one wild crazy moment I considered trying to nurse it back to health, but the poor thing was too far gone. [Damned CAT.] So instead I gently put it in the garbage, wrapped in a towel, to die in peace. Sniff.
Friday 11:30 a.m.
Dec. 4, 1992
Danielle and Cody are here today. I'm not sure why Andrea needed me to babysit ... frankly, I think she just took pity on me and brought them over so I could make a little money ... she knows how broke we are. It's actually nice to hear the sounds of little voices around the house today, anyway. Sweet little guys.
The place is starting to look very festive! Putting up the Christmas cards really brightened things up. Everyone who has seen them has complimented me on them. Today I'm decorating the dining room and the kitchen, although the majority of the decorations are in the living room, where they can be seen by visitors. [This year I also -- finally -- "collaged" the covers of the Christmas Books, and cataloged and reworked the Christmas tapes.] All of this not only helps lift our spirits, it also helps me feel "on top of things." One sad note: I don't think I'll be sending out Christmas cards this year. The cost of postage is too prohibitive. I may change my mind and buy one box, later, to give to friends and family ... I don't know.
December 5, 1992
Feeling slightly cruddy today, but fighting it. I stayed up a little too late last night, and probably drank two more glasses of wine than I should have, and I'm paying for it now.
Ray's working today: that's the good news, not only because he's out of my hair on a Saturday but also because the extra money will be great next payday. John and Lori are supposed to take us to a pet store today and let Jamie pick out a hamster.
Monday 9 a.m.
Dec. 7, 1992
Monday morning now. Nice surprise when we got out of bed today: it was snowing! Not a whole lot, mind you, and what there is is already beginning to turn sloppy ... still, it provided me with two brief moments of pure bliss this morning:
- Sitting on the sofa with the girls, 6:30 a.m., still dark outside except for the luminescence of the snow ... fire crackling in the woodstove, hot coffee, house decorated for Christmas, knowing I had a long, lovely day [alone] ahead of me.
- Watching the kids leave for school, and suddenly Kyle turning around to look at me as he walked down the street -- the look on his face was completely JOYOUS.
As planned, we went to the pet store on Saturday so Jay could pick out her "birthday hamster." Unfortunately the only hamsters they had were big, sluggish things, not at all what we had in mind. One of the little mice in the cage below the hamsters caught Jamie's eye, though -- a little white and black guy who stood up on his rear legs and looked right at us, nose twitching, as if to say "Hey! How about me?" -- and that was it. Jamie was in love. The new mousey [as yet still unnamed] kept the kids entertained all weekend. [Spud is never far from Mousey's cage, either ... ]
What else did we do this weekend...? Tia spent the night Saturday: she and Jamie have decided to mend fences, I guess. Tia is such a "high-maintenance kid" [frenetic, noisy, requiring constant attention and stimulation] that it wears me out every time she's here, but I'm so pleased that Jamie has fixed things between the two of them that I didn't care. We made "snowflakes" for the front window on Saturday night, and Ray put up one string of lights outside ... it looks terrific.
An amusing thing happened to me a few days ago, by the way. It's a perfect example of how I often look at things without really seeing them. I was washing dishes when I noticed an attractive tree in the backyard, very bushy and green with a lot of small red berries. "Gee," I said, "If I cut some of that, it would almost look like holly."
"Mom," Jamie said to me in exasperation, "That IS holly!"
Good grief. Where have I been for the past three years???? I've got an honest-to-goodness HOLLY TREE in my backyard, right under my very nose, and I never even saw it. Here I've been using this awful, tacky plastic stuff, and the real thing is right in front of me. What an idiot!
Dec. 8, 1992
Cody Bear and Danielle here today. Rainy, cold -- all the snow is gone [for now?]. Feeling better than I have in a few days ... slept like a log last night, woke up feeling revitalized. Some of the "little problems" are smoothing themselves out. For instance, this week is the "Santa Secret Shop" at the kids' school --
Ed. note: Can't remember now how we resolved this but the gist of it is that we came up with the $ for the kids.
Wednesday 10 a.m.
December 9, 1992
Today is my daughter's eleventh birthday. God ... where has the time gone?? I feel like breaking into a misty-eyed chorus of "Sunrise, Sunset."
Baking her cake right now -- devils' food with pecan frosting, per her request. I've only got one heart-shaped cake pan so I'm having to bake the layers one at a time, but it's pleasant work and I don't really mind. I woke her [and the rest of the neighborhood] at 7:25 a.m. with an ear-blistering tape of "Happy Birthday" -- the Beatles' version! -- it really got the day off to a wild start. That's sort of become a tradition in our house. I've also put up the "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" letters in the dining room archway, made her a special b'day card ["A Daughter's Birthday Book"] and wrapped a few small presents for her to open ... some hair bows, a book of coupons I made her, and a Christmas book. Ray is going to pick up her "real" presents after work -- a phone for her room and a couple of other small things. She knows that we couldn't afford much this year, and I'm very proud of the uncomplaining way she handled it. Anyway, the kids get out of school early today [12:40] and she's bringing Nicole home with her to spend the afternoon and have dinner with us. [Jay's birthday dinner, also per her request: chicken patty sandwiches and tater tots.] My sister is supposed to come by sometime this afternoon to bring Jamie a gift, but we won't be seeing the grandparents until Saturday. [My mom popped in last weekend with a gift... a pretty new sweater.]
All of a sudden I'm horribly depressed and I don't know why.
Well ... that's not true. I do know why. It's a combination of things, actually. It's the week before my period, for one thing, and I've got major PMS. A snotty bill collector called a couple of hours ago, for another thing, and it reminded me of how basically fucked we are for money. I can go along for awhile, thinking things are OK, but then I get a slap in the face -- like a nasty collection agency calling -- and I'm back to feeling anxious and sad. Finally, my sister stopped by on her way to work, looking slim and healthy ["Did I tell you I quit smoking three months ago?" she said sweetly] and beautifully-dressed and confident, and all of a sudden I felt fat and sweaty and sloppy, the way I always feel after one of her "visits." [To make it worse, she gave me a Christmas card ... a photo-card of her and her rich doctor boyfriend, signed "Deb and Tim." Arrggh. God, I hate her.]
Oh well - time to get back to the birthday festivities.
Dec. 11, 1992
It's been an interesting week ...
At some point, I'd probably better go back and explain that comment I made on Wednesday about "hating" my sister. Very touchy subject at the moment ... lots of good, juicy feelings of guilt, envy, resentment, love/hate to explore ... but not right now. If I get off on that subject right now, nothing else will get done [or written] today. So I'll save it for a "slow" journal day.
Woke up to snow again yesterday morning, only this time it was serious ... school was delayed two hours at first, and then later in the morning it was cancelled outright. Needless to say, it was party-time in P.Ville! [At least, as far as the kids were concerned!] I kept a blazing fire going all day; the kids tromped in and out all morning long [until it got too cold and slushy]; and it was a festive day all around. The really hilarious thing about all of this is that yesterday was the day I was scheduled to go over to the school and work in the Santa's Secret Shop from 9 a.m. to noon. I committed to doing this over a week ago, never dreaming that the day I signed up for was the one day school would be cancelled!! Frankly, I was relieved -- I was burned out from Jamie's birthday celebration the night before, the house was a mess, and I really hadn't relished the idea of walking over to the school early in the morning. So it was a relief to get out of it, particularly since I wasn't the one making the decision to cancel.
Today a lot of the snow is still on the ground, in patches, but it's raining and the roads are basically clear so school was on time this morning. I yelled at Jamie before she left today ... she took my good calculator to school without permission and left it there, and I just about took her head off. She was very upset when she left the house, not only because I yelled at her but because I withdrew permission for her to go home with Nicole and spend the night at her house -- something she's been looking forward to all week. I don't know why I got so mad. Her cavalier attitude toward my personal belongings is part of it, I suppose. She's constantly "borrowing" my stuff and then neglecting to return anything, and it drives me crazy. But I also think I was unhappy with the whole idea of her being gone tonight: Ray wants to get our Christmas tree tonight after work, and I hate the thought of her not being here for such a special family occasion. I'm depressed enough about the holidays as it is ... I honestly feel like I'm just hanging on by a slender emotional thread ... and even though I know that if she's here tonight she'll be pouty and deliberately uncooperative [in "protest"], I still wish she would join us. No: I wish that she would WANT to join us. I wish that being here to decorate the tree with her family was more important than another overnight at Nicole's. I know that she's growing up, and that she needs to break away and have some independence and all of that, and a lot of the time I try to accommodate that need. [Trick or treating last Hallowe'en, for example.] But dammit, this is the Christmas tree...!!!]
Oh well. Such is my life. I'm a big sappy sentimental fool when it comes to the Christmas tree: that will never change. Soon enough there will come a time -- when the kids are all grown and on their own -- that I find myself decorating the tree alone. Is it so selfish or so wrong-headed of me to want these remaining Christmases, with the kids as kids, to be spent together ...?
Saturday 10 a.m.
Dec. 12, 1992
We compromised. Jamie was here for the tree-decorating last night ... but so was Nicole, who spent the night at our house instead of the other way around. Problem solved.
As it turned out, I was the only one who did any real work on the tree, anyway. I couldn't believe it. In the past I've practically had to beat them off with a stick, at least until I got the lights and the garland on ... they would be crowding around me, eager to start hanging the heaviest porcelain ornaments on the flimsiest bottom branches ... it was always a struggle to hold them back until I got the tricky stuff onto the tree. But last night they all but ignored it! [They sat in my room playing Monopoly and watching a re-run of "The Wonder Years" instead!] Oh well. The tree is here [and beautiful], the kids are here, and that's all I really care about anyway.
I tried talking to Ray about Christmas shopping [for the kids] last night, but as I expected, it deteriorated into an argument that reduced me to tears. I'd spent the past couple of days drawing up a careful, frugal shopping list for the three of them, and I figured that payday was as good a day as any to hit him with it. But I was wrong, as usual. The truth is, it doesn't matter when I approach him with something like this ... he always reacts the same way. He shrugs and rolls his eyes and says "I don't know" ... meaning, I don't know if we can afford to spit, let alone buy Christmas presents ... it's a dance we go through every fucking Christmas, and it's irritating, infuriating and humiliating. This year it's made all the worse because I'm not earning any money of my own, and because I came so close to fixing everything [by getting the house money] but failed. This year I have to depend on Ray for every cent. Never mind the fact that I'm feverishly making gifts for people this year instead of asking to buy them. [The matted pictures and the decorated baskets are coming along nicely; next week I'll start the potholders, placemats and -- maybe -- trinket boxes.] Never mind that I have single-handedly turned this house into a lovely holiday showplace. Never mind that I'm making decent meals, night after night, out of the slimmest of groceries. And never mind the fact that I'm asking nothing for myself ... not for my birthday next week, not for Christmas. I'm still made to feel like there's something wrong with me asking about Christmas shopping ... as though I'm out of line here. And I resent it like hell.
Ray apologized, of course, once he saw how upset I was. [I was crying so hard that I completely missed the last 15 minutes of "Rudolph."] He said, "We'll talk about it tomorrow, OK?" He's working today, incidentally, and the kids have all gone to McDonald's with Peg and Don, so I'm alone for a little while.
Monday 11:00 am
December 14, 1992
Alone again: kids at school, Ray at work, no babysitting [of course]. I've even turned off the phone so I won't be interrupted by annoying phone calls. Pouring-down rain: the kids will be little drowned rats when they get home this afternoon. The house is a mess. Tell me something: why is it that I spend so damned much time cleaning this place up, and yet it always looks like one big unmade bed?? I don't get it. Of course, the worst of the mess is right here in the laundry room ... Mommy's "Christmas Chaos," I guess you could call it. Scraps of fabric and ribbon, bottles of glue, stacks of paper, unpainted ornaments, wicker baskets, dirty laundry, empty boxes everywhere. I'm moving so slow this morning that I doubt I'll even be able to make a dent in the clutter.
On Saturday night, Mom took me to to a choral concert a the new Highline Performing Arts Center in Burien. I'd had a very long day already [entertaining in-laws and my Dad and Valerie], I'd been drinking wine on and off all day, and I was in a lousy mood on top of everything else. [Ray and I fought AGAIN about Christmas money about half an hour before Mom showed up.] At one point, I even considered calling Mom and telling her I was "sick", just so I wouldn't have to go to the concert ... that's how sure I was that I was going to have a lousy time. The thought of listening to a lot of happy Christmas music seemed very unappealing, given my state of mind. So the fact that it was a wonderful evening came as a big surprise! The music was so uplifting -- I cried buckets during my favorite, "Oh Holy Night"!! -- that it put me into a warm and fuzzy holiday mood that has persisted the past couple of days. I'd forgotten how thrilling live music can be [orchestra and chorus]. By the time it was over, I was sorry to see it end.
After the concert, Mom took me to Fred Meyer and bought $40 worth of stocking stuffers for the kids -- a VERY big help. We picked out candy, small toys, card games, stickers, hair doo-dads for the girls, etc. etc. Then we drove around for a little while and looked at Christmas lights. It was almost 11:00 before I got home. Kyle got up and let me in; Ray and Kacie were sound asleep. The house was dark except for the twinkling Christmas tree lights and a blazing fire in the woodstove ... it was a lovely, heartening way to come home.
It's noon now, and I'm finally managing to get some stuff done, mostly in the kitchen. I've cleaned up last night's roast beef dinner mess, made a pan of roast beef hash out of the leftovers, to put in the freezer for another day, and taken out some frozen stir-fry to make stuffed potatoes with. Now I have a pan of cheese puffs baking in the oven, a new recipe I'd been anxious to try. The rest of the house is still a mess, but I'll get around to it eventually.
December 15, 1992
Happy Birthday to me.
I'm not thirty-three.
I'm an "old" thirty-five.
But at least I'm alive. [Sort of.]
Yes folks, the big day has arrived ... the day we've waited for all year ... a day of celebration, love, remembrance and family harmony ... it's ... it's ...
... National Q-Tip Safety Awareness Day!!!!
OK, OK ... it's my birthday. B.F.D. Birthdays stopped being any fun sometime in my mid-20's, I think, and until the kids are old enough to send me on a cruise or buy me a new car, it will probably remain one of my least-favorite days of the year.
TOMORROW'S HOROSCOPE [Dec. 15]: The name of the game is organization. It will be easier if you take a class in time management. The trouble is, you might not think you have the time. Money may be tight through the end of the year. Around February, things look very good in the romance department. In March or April, do some planning. A slight change could improve your prospects. In late May or June, if you've been good, you could see a dream coming true. Don't be afraid of hard work this year, either.
Jamie tried to wake me up with the Beatles' birthday song this morning, but the turntable was goofed up and I ended up with about 5 seconds of "Helter Skelter" [on 45 rpm instead of 33] instead. "Breakfast in bed" was two lukewarm waffles drowning in syrup and a cup of coffee strong enough to take the top off my head. During the past few days I've already gotten b.day presents from my parents [from Mom, a video called "Eric Clapton Unplugged" and two Christmas magazines; from Dad, some office supplies] and from the in-laws [a purple sweater]. Yesterday I went snooping around in the garage and found Ray's gifts to me: a 10-pack of blank cassette tapes and a couple of Christmas candles. The kids have some little things for me to open later, too, and Debi is supposed to come by sometime this afternoon. So are John and Lori, I think. I'm making one of my personal favorites for dinner, sloppy joes and au gratin potatoes. I don't even mind cooking my own birthday meal -- it's like I'm always telling the kids -- I'm the best cook I know! I'd rather eat my own cooking any day.
Debi just left. She brought me a bottle of my favorite perfume [Tabu] and a pair of nice wool gloves with a matching earmuff. We sat and talked for almost an hour, and the thing is ... I enjoyed it. It wasn't at all like last week. We talked about things that are going on in our lives ... I told her about our financial woes, and about trying to sell my half of the house; she confided that she and Tim might not be able to have children. I felt more comfortable and easy around her than I have in a long, long, time.
IF DECEMBER 15 IS YOUR BIRTHDAY: You are musical - you have unusual voice, appreciate drama, are loyal to family. You are accused at times of splurging on art objects, luxury items. Taurus, Libra, Scorpio persons play roles in your life. Social activities accelerate during December, holiday festivities will suite you just fine. In 1993, you'll undergo process of tearing down for ultimate purpose of rebuilding on more solid structure. You will not be limited by distance, language barriers. April most memorable!!
Wednesday 11:30 a.m.
Dec. 16, 1992
Hi there. The day after my birthday ... a teensy bit hungover, but nothing unmanageable. We had fun last night. I was disappointed that John and Lori didn't stay -- they dropped off my gift [Leonard Maltin's "1993 Movie Guide"] and then they left -- but the kids and Ray were wonderful to me. Kacie made me a "Pillow Person" and gave me a blue highlighter pen and a new pencil; Jamie gave me a little porcelain angel; all three of the kids gave me a nice card. I was wrong about one of Ray's gifts, by the way -- it's a 12 pack of tapes, not a 10 pack! [I realize that this sounds like an odd gift, but I honestly can't think of anything I'd like better. When the holidays are over, I'm going to have a lot of fun making new tapes.] He also gave me two taper candles and two pillars, in Christmas colors/scents.
Friday 9:30 a.m.
Dec. 18, 1992
One of those mornings where I feel like I've been "gone" for a long time and am only now returning, only to find the house a shambles and nothing done. Yesterday everything finally caught up with me -- stress, lack of sleep, too much wine too many days in a row, worry -- and I was more or less bedridden for the whole day. Late in the afternoon I did manage to pick up the living room a little and make some dinner [hamburger soup, breadsticks], but mostly I just let everything else slide. Ray was in a horrible, surly mood ["Why don't you call Debby and Greg and tell them we'll be late with the rent?" he snarled at me], but I felt so sick and so preoccupied with my own misery that it barely registered. I just ignored him. He seems bound and determined to squash any attempts at holiday merriment around here. I STILL haven't the faintest idea when or if we're going to shop for the kids, and I'm terrified to ask because I know he'll just blow up at me again. This has been going on for so many years that I know I probably ought to just shrug it off and assume that things will turn out OK in the end. They usually do, after all. It's just so hard to keep the household mood light and festive for my children when my husband is going around, undermining my efforts.
Anyway, the place is a mess, I haven't done any shopping yet, and I'm only about one-sixth done with the presents I'm making. I did end up sending out some last-minute Christmas cards this week: I started feeling guilty about Ray's grandmothers, the other Arizona family members, even a couple of people from my own side of the family [Aunt Mabel, Jim and Terry], so Ray ran out and bought a box of the ugliest cards I've ever seen in my life and I hurriedly sent them out. But aside from that, nothing much has gotten done yet. This is the kids' last day of school before Christmas vacation, too, so I feel even more frantically the need to get everything done today. "Everything" ... ? Well. I'd settle for cleaning the house and getting some lists made.
Saturday, late morning
Still plugging away at all of this. Finished the last picture frame for my mom, made tree ornaments for her [with pictures of me, Dick and Deb in them] and for Dad and Valerie, and finished typing a poem for the Christmas book I'm making for Christmas Eve. Still so much to do, though ... potholders, tapes for Mom and Dad, handmade cards for the grandparents... covering the Christmas book ...
Monday 11 a.m.
Dec. 21, 1992
God. Christmas is four days away. Feeling slightly panicked: will I get everything done in time?! I've abandoned the idea of making a Christmas Book for Mom, at least ... maybe next year. [Now I've decided to bake some muffins and make flavored coffee for a few people.]
Ray and I finally shopped for the kids, at least!! We went yesterday, after Mom and Jamie and I got home from Kacie's Sunday School program. Jamie "babysat" her brother and sister while Ray and I ran around Burien for a couple of hours. Naturally, I didn't get everything I need ... I still need another small gift for Kacie, and I don't have anything yet for Ben or for Barbara's baby ... but at least I made a dent in the shopping. Ray bought Kyle a game for the Nintendo, "Super Mario Brothers 3." That alone cost almost fifty bucks. [Ouch!] That's be his gift from Mom and Dad: from "Santa" he'll get a Walkman. I'm really nervous about the gifts I bought for the girls. Kacie wanted a jewelry-making kit called "Easy To Do", but I couldn't find that -- so I endeed up getting a different type/brand of jewelry maker, the kind where you pour plastic into metal molds and "bake" it in a little oven. That's her "Santa" gift. From Ray and I, I picked out a nice little musical jewelry box, but it doesn't really seem like "enough." For Jamie, I got a nice hairdryer [since she's always borrowing mine] and a curling iron from Ray and I. I know she'll be pleased with that ... it's her "Santa gift" that I'm worried about. I walked into Fred Meyer with absolutely no idea what to get her from Santa. Nothing in the Toy Dept. seemed "right," so I went over to the arts and crafts section and found an artist's set [paints, oil crayons, pencils]. I also grabbed a big table of watercolor paper and a small sketch diary. Will she like it? I honestly don't know. What if she's horribly disappointed? I'll be crushed.
Wrapped their gifts last night while Mom took them out to see the Christmas light displays [ice cream at Dairy Queen afterwards]. Now it really looks like Christmas around here, with a decent pile of gifts under the tree. [Ray also put up the new lights outside last night.] Naturally, the kids are totally wired. "I'm gonna go CRAZY!" Kacie giggled this morning, as she danced around the tree. [Please, God, let her like her jewelry maker and her jewelry box.] Even Jamie, normally so composed and ladylike, crawls around under the tree every hour or so, poking and prodding at the presents: I've caught her at it several times. As for Kyle ... well, in a move that could only be described as "inspired" -- or maybe that's "desperate"! -- I gave him one of his gifts early: a fresh pack of batteries for his Game Boy.
Dec. 23, 1992
The countdown continues [as do the kids' high spirits]. Danielle and Cody are here today. I've been up since 6:30, putting the finishing touches on gifts and baking three kinds of muffins. John and Lori came by awhile ago and dropped off gifts for all of us ... dammit! We'd agreed not to exchange presents this year [or so I'd thought]! Oh well. Andrea gave us a gift too: a tin of cookies. I feel rotten physically -- my November cough is back with a vengeance, and I've got the beginnings of a sore throat and a headache -- and yet it's hard to be grumpy when so many people are being so good to us.
I'm finding it much easier to be grumpy now ...
The girls are engaged in an ear-splitting sibling war as they try to clean their room ... I feel horrible -- that sick, headachy-behind-the-eyes feeling I get before the flu hits ... and I still have a shitload of stuff to do tonight, tomorrow, the next day.
I totally forgot about the salad dressing. You know the one I mean ... Gram St. John's special Christmas Eve salad dressing, that wonderful sweet/spicy stuff that tastes like nothing else on earth. Now that Grandma is gone, I've volunteered to make it every year. And this year I forgot! Shit!!
Thursday 10 a.m.
Dec. 24, 1992
... but that's OK, because I did manage to get it made, after all. Ray ran out and got the ingredients I needed last night, and after letting it sit in the fridge overnight [as per Gram's very precise directions], I mixed it with mayo a few minutes ago and will spoon it into containers shortly. Feeling a slight twinge of guilt because I didn't use the exact brand of ketchup Gram always insisted on -- I only had Hunt's, not Heinz -- and because I used ground cloves instead of whole ones. Will it taste the same? Will the family notice the difference?
Will I ever quit worrying about EVERYTHING??
Merry Christmas Eve, anyway. Ray is working this morning, which leaves me free to clean house and get the kids ready to go in peace. I didn't sleep at all last night -- hacking cough, Jamie's noisy mouse -- but I'm determined to stay "up" and cheerful today, no matter what.
You should see the tree ... there is a very respectable pile of presents underneath it now! The Food Bank people came by yesterday and dropped off some wrapped gifts for the kids [and some odds and ends of groceries], and that really makes it look bountiful. I was hoping we wouldn't have to use the Food Bank again this year, of course. This it the third or fourth year in a row that we've relied on them to fill in the gaps for us. I swear that someday, when we're in better shape financially, I'm going to try to repay their kindness somehow ... we'll help out another struggling family, maybe.
Anyway, our plans tonight are the same as always: the usual visits to Dad and Valerie's, then to Mom's. We'll probably get home around 10:00. Ray and I will do our Santa thing and try to get some sleep, and the kids will get us all up early in the morning. [Actually, I'm usually the first one awake. I turn Christmas music on the stereo, put the coffee on and wake the kids up.] Then all heck breaks loose!! Gifts ... breakfast ... showers ... a quick clean-up of the living room ... then it's off to Bellevue for the day. Whew.
Merry Christmas, Journal.
December 26th, 1992
Well, we've "arrived." Remember one month ago, when I said I wished it were the day after Christmas -- that I just wanted to "skip over" the four weeks leading up to Christmas and have it all over with? I predicted that it would be a "hollow" holiday ... sad, broke, meaningless ... and I just wanted to get the whole thing behind me. Well, here it is -- the day after Christmas -- and how do I feel about it now?
Relieved, of course. I'm always relieved, at least a little, when the holidays are done. My workload doesn't decrease any -- in the past 24 hrs., my house has gone from a tidy, pristine "Christmas showplace" to a landfill!! -- but my stress levels sure do. I'm remarkably serene today, in spite of the horrors that await me in the living room once Ray and the kids finish watching cartoons. I'm even a little sad that it's over! It wasn't the slightest bit "hollow," I am glad to say. I was surprised and pleased by how well everything came together at the last minute, and by the warmth and generosity I encountered everywhere we went. It was a gentle Christmas, one filled with music and kids and unexpectedly funny moments. And I'm so, so glad. Last night I told the kids that I want them to remember Christmas 1992 as being "one of the good ones" ... and I think that maybe they will.
The first real surprise awaited me on Christmas Eve at Dad and Valerie's. It wasn't any of the gifts they gave us, although there were some nice surprises in that regard. [A Walkman for Jamie ... two movies for Kacie, "Fern Gully" and "Beauty and the Beast" ... and a bottle of my favorite Irish Cream from Dad.] It was, rather, the mood my father was in. Most of the year Dad is barely civil to me, especially on the phone ... he's always tired, grouchy, sick and grumpy ... sometimes I wonder if he even loves me anymore, I swear. I know that it's just his nature, that it isn't anything I've done or haven't done, but it hurts nonetheless. So finding Dad in such a gentle, warm mood on Christmas Eve was a very special "gift." At one point, as I was sitting next to him and we were watching the kids tear into presents, he reached over and wordlessly took my hand in his. At first I thought he was trying to hand me something, or to get my attention, but he wasn't -- it was simply a gesture of affection! At another point he leaned over and said to me, "I'm so glad you're here tonight." I looked at my father, sitting there in those silly red Santa p.j.'s with the Santa hat on his head, hair gone completely gray, older and thinner than I've ever seen him ... and I felt a sudden, intense rush of tenderness and love for him. Suddenly he was my "Daddy" again. It was a moment I'll never forget. As we drove away, an hour or so later, he stood in the window waving goodbye to all of us. "God, I hate to leave him like this!" I said to Ray. There was just something so sad about the way he stood there in the window, watching us leave. But there were other places to go and people to see, so I swallowed the tennis ball in my throat and off we went to my mother's house. But honestly, I never will forget the sight of him watching us from the window...
This was the 36th Christmas Eve I've spent at Grandma St. John's house [now my mother's house]. Well, actually, there were two Christmas Eves when we moved the festivities elsewhere -- once in 1977, when [for reasons unknown] Mom and Grandma decided to hold it at Mom's house on 176th; and then again in 1990, right after Gram died, we had it in Federal Way. But it's always been the same group of people basically, with a few additions and subtractions along the way. And it's always been pretty much the same, celebration-wise, although most of us don't drink on Christmas Eve anymore. [I abstain out of deference to Mom.] It's a raucous, funny, wonderful evening of family togetherness ... lots of food, noise, kids, presents, gossip and hugs. I have always loved it.
Mom seemed unusually testy this year, I must say. I don't know why. The girls couldn't understand why Grandma kept barking at them about wearing shoes in the living room, poking around under the tree, letting the cat out, etc. etc. I just told them that Grandma "has a lot on her mind" and left it at that. The rest of the evening was fine. The kids all got wonderful sweaters from my Mom, winter boots from Ann, books and toys from everyone else. I got a gorgeous blue and white sweater from Mom -- it's nice and LONG so it covers my big butt! -- with matching blue leggings and a blue turtleneck. It's the nicest outfit I've had in a long time, and I love it. Debi gave me a set of three little photo albums that I like a lot, and a "Book of Days" for 1993 that I plan to use as next year's diary. The most fun of all, though, was the annual dice game. Usually I have terrible luck at this game, but for some reason, this year I kicked some major butt!! [A lovely holiday sentiment, huh??] I won a men's T-shirt for Ray, some bath stuff, a date book, and -- my favorite -- an enormous basket of food that Aunt Ann contributed to the game. I fell in love with it the moment I opened it, not only because it also included two nice little skillet/frying pans ... something we need desperately. And for the second year in a row, Ray won a lamp. This year's "model" is a beautiful little lead-crystal boudoir lamp.
Anyway, we had fun at Mom's. It was 10:00 before we left finally ... the kids were exhausted, I was losing my voice, and I knew I still had a lot to do when we got home.
Was interrupted ... will continue now.
Anyway [again] -- we got home about 10:30 or so on Christmas Eve -- hauled all of our presents into the house and arranged them under the tree. The kids fixed a snack for Santa and Jamie wrote him a nice letter. [No, she doesn't actually believe anymore, but she's been wonderful about helping to keep the magic alive for the younger two.] Then they all went off to bed -- Kyle slept with Jamie, as he did last year -- mainly so she could make sure he stayed "put" while I did my surreptitious Santa thing. I layed down on the sofa for about an hour or so, until I was sure the kids were asleep, and then I stuffed the stockings and put the Santa gifts under the tree. [Jamie's art supplies ... Kacie's jewelry maker and some lip gloss ... Kyle's Walkman, a basketball and a small football.] I tried to go back to sleep after that, but my cough is still bothering me and I spent most of the night flitting in and out of a twilight sleep. Sometime around 4:30 a.m., a very sleepy Jamie wandered out into the living room. I told her to lay down on the loveseat and go back to sleep, and we both snoozed for a couple of hours. By 7 a.m. we were both awake again, and shortly after that, we woke Kacie and Kyle up.
Kyle was hilarious. For one thing, he wasn't fully awake ... he stumbled out to the living room in a bleary-eyed stupor, took one look at his new Walkman and said "JAMMIN'!", and then grabbed an enormous present from under the tree and shoved it at Kacie. It took a minute or two to convince him that we weren't opening gifts yet! [Not until Daddy got out of bed.] Finally he seemed to wake up enough to understand what we were telling him, and he contented himself with emptying his stocking and playing with his Walkman.
As usual, getting Ray out of bed was a struggle. After several attempts to wake him up had failed, I told the kids to go into his room with their new noisemakers [whistles, kazoos, etc.] and let 'em rip. THAT got him up! We opened gifts for the next half hour. Miracle of miracles, the kids loved everything we gave them! Even the "Santa gifts" that I'd been so worried about. I was so relieved. Jamie gave me some papier mache boxes to add to my collection and a porcelain angel bell; Kacie gave me a porcelain box [also for the collection] with a kitty face on it; and Kyle gave me a bud vase. John and Lori's gift to me was a potpourri burner and two bags of potpourri, which I love. The living room quickly became a sea of wrapping paper. I cleaned up a little -- just enough to enable us to walk through the room! -- and got everybody dressed, and at noon we left for the in-laws' house in Bellevue. Dinner was great, the kids got wonderful new winter coats and raincoats from Peg and Don, and the entire afternoon was pleasant, albeit LONG. By 4:00 we were all exhausted and ready to go home. All the running around, two days in a row, really takes its toll on us.
My favorite moment on Christmas was in the evening, after we'd come home: Ray and the kids and I all watched "A Christmas Carol" together, the version I love [with George C. Scott]. Candles were burning, the tree lights were twinkling, we were munching on popcorn ... the five of us were all together ... it was the perfect ending to the day.
My Dream Last Night
I decided to make peace with Ted and Lil, so I went over to the house and struck up a pleasant conversation with them, about old movies, the holidays, etc. It seemed to go well, and I was pleased. Then I came home, and a little while later there was a knock on my door. When I opened it, Lil was standing there holding a platter, on which lay two or three pounds of fresh ground beef. "We want you to have this," Lil said, smiling. I was about to take the platter from her when I suddenly heard a voice ... it may have been Grandma's, it may have been Terry's ... and it said "No, Terri Lynn! Don't you take that -- there's a whole roast beef for you, if you wait until it's weighed and sliced!!" End of dream.
[Don't have to be Freud to figure this one out...!]
Dec. 29, 1992
Quick scribble. The Skittings boys are here all week. They're driving me nuts, of course, but I'm looking forward to having a little money of my own on Thursday. It would be great to go out and buy myself a few goodies -- a new bra, a couple of photo albums, some badly-needed makeup, a decent calendar for 1993 -- it's been so long since I spent any money on myself.
Dec. 30, 1992
Full house today. Besides Jess and Mak, we also have Danielle and Cody today. Pandemonium! Noise! Snow! [A little bit.]
Thinking about New Year's resolutions today. Here were mine for last year:
"1. To worry less about how our home looks and more how the people in it are feeling.
2. To do some stuff just for "me." Lose weight? Quit smoking?
3. To be better about remembering my friends' and family's b. days and special occasions [not just Ray and the kids]."
Did I keep them? Yes and no. I'm still fat and I'm still smoking. I still obsess about how the house looks. Maybe my resolutions for '93 should be more specific and on a much smaller scale.
Dec. 31, 1992
Ray woke me up when he was leaving for work this morning, sometime after 6 a.m. ... not intentionally, I don't mean, but because of all the noise he was making in the bathroom. After he left, I briefly considered getting up and starting my day. Tonight is New Years' Eve, and there are a lot of things I'd like to accomplish today. [I took the Christmas tree down yesterday -- singlehandedly -- and now I'm anxious to get my house back to "normal." Jamie complained that the house looks too "bare" now, but secretly I love how clean and uncluttered it looks.] In the end, though, I went back to sleep for another hour, until Jess and Mak got here. It was an intense hour of sleep, crammed full of dreams -- I was teaching Kyle how to play the piano in one dream -- when I woke up again, I was momentarily confused and groggy, but a good shower and hot coffee quickly revived me. I am in a wonderful mood. I don't have the faintest idea what we'll be doing tonight to celebrate New Year's Eve, but I suspect I'm going to have a good time ...
OK, here are some of the "small-scale" resolutions I've come up with since yesterday. They are more like objectives, really, than your typical New Year's Resolutions ... a list of some of the things I'd like to do/finish/experience in 1993. Ready? Here goes:
Terri's Objectives for 1993
1. Learn how to make authentic Chinese almond chicken.
2. Finish my "Mom's Scrapbook," the kids' memory book and my autobiography.
3. Start another avocado plant.
4. Catch up on the photo albums.
5. Clean out the attic.
6. Transfer the old cassette tapes [of the kids as babies and the tapes Grandma gave me] to new tape.
7. Get to Value Village at least once [for books] and the used record store at least once [for albums].
January 3, 1993
"I suspect I'm going to have a good time"...?? Now there's an amusing understatement. Yes, I had a good time on New Year's Eve ... too good, probably, since it's taken me all of three days to recover from it. [Still not sure I have, completely! I'll let you know tomorrow when the kids go back to school.]
Monday 10 a.m.
January 4, 1993
God, the house seems so quiet this morning, with the kids back to school after sixteen days of vacation [and Ray back to work]! A little while ago I turned off the TV, right in the middle of my beloved "Regis and Kathie Lee", and revelled in the absolute peace and quiet. I always feel this way after one of the childrens' extended vacations: astonished by the silence, glad for the time alone, and yet oddly sad that the vacation is over ...
Yes, I'm "back to normal" now. It took me three full days to recover from New Year's Eve, I'm afraid ... not an auspicious beginning to a new year, but not an unfamiliar one, either. We spent this New Year's Eve almost exactly as we did last year -- partying with John and Lori -- and as I recall, it took a few days to "recover" last year, too. The hangover isn't even the worst part, either. That's bad -- don't get me wrong. The diarrhea, the headaches, the overall feeling of having been run down by a steamroller ... none of that is any fun at all. What's even worse for me, though, after a big night of "fun and partying," is the flat, empty, "blah" feeling I have to endure for days afterward. It's like, "Fun's over -- now it's back to the same old crap." It takes just as much time and effort -- maybe even more -- to get rid of the residual depression as it does the physical hangover. And that's what makes it so difficult.
I'm going into this new year with no great expectations. None of that "fresh new start" bullshit, anyway. If good things happen to us in 1993, I'll be glad, of course. But I'm not getting my hopes up unrealistically high. I'm going to just take each day as it comes along and hope that my family stays afloat, financially and emotionally and health-wise ... all the ways that count. We're beginning 1993 with me unemployed and Ray putting pressure on me to do something about it. Last night he actually suggested that I get on the bus and go out and get a fast-food job. I don't suppose I need to tell you what that does to my morale ... not to mention my ego, such as it is. It's not the idea of going out and getting a job. It's not even the idea of working at something as demeaning and low-paying as a fast food job [although I HATE, HATE, HATE the thought of it]. It's Ray's attitude ... his lofty, superior-than-thou stance on the whole thing. It's his grim preoccupation with money. It's his feeling that if I'm not bringing in money one way or the other, I'm contributing nothing to the family. It's his lack of respect for me personally: he has a way of making me feel like such a nothing. But this is all, actually, a very old song ... something I've written about many times before. I don't know how [or if] 1993 will change the situation ... we'll just have to wait and see, I guess.
On a personal level -- beyond the getting a job stuff, I mean -- I'm not making any resolutions to lose 25 lbs. or quit smoking or be a better mom. I'm not expecting to get the house money or go back to school or get something published finally. I deliberately have no expectations at all. I know that sounds just awful, as though I'm completely throwing in the towel on my life, and I don't know ... maybe I am. I just don't think I could withstand another huge disappointment. Not getting that house money just about did me in, emotionally. I was able to set it aside for the holidays, but now that they're over, I'm back to feeling sad and angry about not getting it, and about all the dreams and plans that went up in smoke when Ted turned me down. Right now, today, this minute, I honestly don't believe I'm ever really going to see my inheritance, and wishing and planning for it is nothing but a big fat waste of time. I sound really sorry for myself, don't I? Maybe I'd better quit writing. Apparently I'm not as "back to normal" as I thought I was. Later.
January 6, 1993
Still struggling toward normalcy. After I finished writing on Monday, I sort of fell apart, I'm afraid. I drank a few beers, which was an enormous mistake ... I was slightly pickled by the time Ray got home from work, and thus didn't recognize the warning signs of his own bad mood ... by the time I saw it coming, it was already here, and then of course it was too late. At one point I hid my coat and my boots and my purse [with $4.00 in it, borrowed from my kids] in the girls' bedroom, ready to walk out the door if his verbal assaults turned physical. Fortunately that never happened -- we all just went to bed. The bad news is that my mother called right in the middle of the fracas, and in my "depressed pickle" state I blurted out what a mess everything is right now. I'm sure she could tell I'd been drinking, which fills me with shame, not to mention my disgust with myself for having gone "running to Mommy" ... so much for convincing her that I'm an adult, capable of handling my own problems. The past two days I've been terrified that she'll call or show up unannounced, and I'm not sure I'm ready to face her again.
Now Ray wants to take me down to the Red Lion this afternoon so I can fill out a job application. He thinks that maybe I could get on in Housekeeping, cleaning rooms, or even as a dishwasher in the kitchen. How's THAT for a rewarding career?? [At least it's something I know about.] I don't know if he was serious or not, but just in case, I've gone ahead and set my hair and put on some makeup. If he wants to take me, fine -- I'll go. I may even put in an application at Jack in the Box, across the street from the Red Lion. I'll even manage an outwardly positive attitude. But inside I'll be crying ... or maybe screaming.
January 7, 1993
No Red Lion. He didn't say a word about it when he got home yesterday, although he was in another distant, crappy mood. By bedtime he was griping about everything, primarily my cooking! [He dumped out the rice I'd fixed to go with the stir-fry, and very theatrically replaced it with a baked potato, cooked in the micro-wave ... then he tore apart the sandwich I'd made for his lunch, claiming that it was "burned to hell" -- I'd melted the cheese on it, for a second, in the microwave.] For awhile I sat on the sofa, fighting back tears. I can't seem to do anything right anymore, as far as he's concerned. But then I got angry. Who the hell does he think he is?? And what gives him the right to treat me so rudely all the time?? Just because I'm not bringing in a paycheck -- does not negate my contribution to this household!!!!!!!!!!!! And I am getting sick and tired of waiting for him to acknowledge that!!!! Anyway, I stamped into the bedroom, where His Majesty was laying down reading the comics, and I let him have it. "If you don't like the way I fix your lunch and your dinner, then you start fixing them yourself!" was the gist of my message. "You don't have to be so damn RUDE about it all the time!"
I guess I'd caught him by surprise because he just sort of layed there with his mouth hanging open, not saying anything. I stomped back out, and I could hear him start to sputter and fume, but I deliberately shut out anything he was saying [by concentrating on the TV] so I wouldn't get any angrier. In my view, I'd had "the last word" ... I'd given him back his "slug" [Jennifer James' adroit euphemism for hurtful criticism], instead of swallowing it and allowing it to make me sick ... and it felt good.
Of course, today it's back to the same old shit: cleaning house from top to bottom, hoping he'll notice. Putting on makeup and curling my hair, hoping he'll comment on it. Defrosting chicken for a special dinner, hoping he'll like it. Washing the bedding [for a bed I never sleep in], hoping he'll be surprised. Doing everything I can think of -- dancing as fast as I can -- hoping for a little validation, a little appreciation. And knowing that it's an exercise in futility, since the only times the man is pleased with me are when I'm naked in bed or handing over money to him.
Anyhoo. Things are OK between Mom and I, at least. She stopped by last night to give Ray a check for some work he'd done, and while he was out of the room we managed a few minutes' conversation. It's clear that she's very worried about me. "You need to get out of this HOUSE!" she said. "You need to find a way to build some self-esteem." Which, of course, really is the central issue here. [Although my husband would never see it that way: the "central issue" with him is, was, and always will be M.O.N.E.Y.] I'm just glad that Mom hasn't given up on me.
There's no doubt about it: this is a family in crisis ... perhaps our biggest crisis yet. The worst part is the kids, and wondering what all of this is doing to them. What kind of twisted messages are they getting about marriage -- love -- sex -- family -- respect -- commitment -- money ...? The girls are privy to a lot of what's going on. They're as supportive of me as they can be, and I'm grateful for that, but they are, after all, only kids. How fair is it of me to lean on them the way I do? Should I be trying to conceal my pain from them? And when does "leaning" becoming "depending" ...?
Even my sweet little Kyle is affected. Last night he said, "Mom! What about my book order??" He wanted to order a book from the school book club. With tears in my eyes I said "Sweetie, I don't have any money." He wasn't upset about it, I don't think ... but I was. It just about killed me to tell him "no."
Friday 9:45 am
Jan. 8, 1993
A light frosting of snow on the ground this morning ... more predicted for later. That would be nice: a major snowfall, enough to completely snow us in for a few days. Just me, and my kids, and Ray ...
... on the other hand, maybe it WOULDN'T be so great ...
Saturday 9:15 am
January 9, 1993
I am so tired of this blue pen, I could SCREAM ... but, like most everything in my life right now, I'm trying to make it last because I can't afford a new one. Is that or is that not the most pathetic thing you've ever heard?
Gearing up for a busy day in the hamster cage. Just took a shower and am now slugging down coffee: momentarily I'm going to take the last couple of beans I have in the world and clean both kids' bedrooms. Ray and Jamie are both gone this morning -- Ray is at work, and of course you KNOW where Jamie is. [Nicole's house, her home away from home.] That'll make it easier to get some things done, anyway.
Yesterday was payday. Ray has been terrified all week that the state was going to slap another heavy garnishment on his paycheck -- he says that's why he's been such a butt, an excuse I only half-buy -- but such is apparently not the case. [Whew.] Still, we're as good as broke ... once the bills are paid and a few groceries are bought, there won't be anything left over. But what's new.
Time to make like a good Mommy Hamster. Later.
January 11, 1993
Ray and Kyle both home sick today ... oh boy. Trying to work around them, but with Ray laying like a lump in bed and Kyle camped out in front of the infernal Nintendo, it isn't easy.
Jan. 12, 1993
Be careful what you complain about: things could easily get worse. Today it's Ray, Kyle and Kacie, home with the flu.
Horrible Rita Rudner on "Regis and Kathie Lee" at the moment -- I can's STAND her -- so I came out to the laundry room to write in my journal. Funny thing is, I have nothing to say.
Jan. 15, 1993
And then it was my turn ...
Wednesday morning I woke up to find the flu sitting on my head. For the past couple of days I've been completely bed-ridden, along with Kacie, my faithful companion. [Ray and Kyle bounced back from it immediately: Jamie, so far, has escaped it completely.] All day Wednesday and all day yesterday, the two of us layed in the darkened living room -- me on the sofa, Kacie on the loveseat -- and slept. Today I'm back on my feet, but VERY wobbly still.
Heard some interesting news on Tuesday night from Terry V. ... it seems that Ted has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Jan. 18, 1993
It took all week last week [plus Saturday and Sunday] for Kacie and I to get over the flu, and even so I still feel tired and "bruised" from it. Every year my bronchial infections get worse. Already this winter I've had two major bouts with it.
Jamie was gone all weekend -- the Schwartzmans took her to Vashon Island, and she didn't get home until late yesterday afternoon. The kids are all home from school today because of Martin Luther King Jr. Day [Ray, thank God, does not have the day off].
Thursday 11 a.m.
January 21, 1993
I really am finding it difficult to get back into the habit of journal-writing since the new year began, and I don't know why, really ... money worries, tension between Ray and I, constant bouts with colds and bronchitis ... that sad persistent feeling that there's "nothing to say" ... a little bit of everything?
My flu has gone to bronchitis again, dammit. All of us are walking around with hacking coughs and runny noses this week, but as usual I have it the worst of anybody. Every night I wake up around midnight, coughing until tears are streaming down my face -- it HURTS so much -- and since I'm afraid of waking everybody up [especially Kacie, who sleeps on the loveseat next to me every night], I usually wind up sitting in Kyle's empty, ice-cold bedroom, reading a Dean Koontz novel and chugging Robitussin until the urge to sleep returns. In the mornings, I'm a groggy mess. The house looks like a pig-sty today but I'm no closer to getting anything done than I was when the kids left for school three hours ago. I found Ray's secret stash of beans out in the garage a few days ago, so a little while ago I went out and snuck a couple, praying that he doesn't notice. If they wake me up enough to get some things written and a minimum of housework done, it'll be a chance worth taking.
Yesterday was an unexpectedly weird day. First of all, it was Inauguration Day; William Jefferson Clinton was sworn in as the 42nd President of the United States. This entire week has been one long Inauguration celebration, with galas and parties and news reports and fashion critiques and political discussions everywhere you turn. I watched the swearing-in ceremony yesterday morning, and of course I found it very moving. I wish I could be as optimistic about the year ahead, speaking on a purely personal level, as the rest of the country seems to be now that President Clinton [first time I've ever written that!!] is in office. But we'll see what happens.
Anyway, while I was watching the Inauguration on TV, we were suddenly hit by an incredibly powerful wind-storm that seemingly came out of nowhere and wreaked utter havoc all morning. Actually, it started at the precise moment that the kids left for school, around 8:20 a.m. [I watched them struggling down the street and prayed that none of them would blow away ...] It lasted for three or four hours, knocking power out all over the state, closing schools and businesses, sending trees crashing through roofs, etc. etc. We got lucky -- the power never went off here at home -- but Janet lost hers, and Ray and Mom both called from work to say they'd lost electricity at their places of business. As a matter of fact, people kept calling me all day, wanting to know if I was OK ... even my Dad! ... it was really very touching. I was fine. I got a fire going in the woodstove, and then I sat on the couch bundled up in an afghan and watched the news reports on TV all afternoon [coverage was pretty evenly divided between the Inauguration and the storm]. By noon, the worst of it was over, and today you'd hardly know there's been a storm at all -- at least, looking around our place. I imagine there must be fallen trees and other storm-related messes elsewhere. But we seem to have escaped the worst of it.
Still depressed, underneath it all. I wish I could at least scare up a babysitting job ... anything to bring in a little money of my own. Ray is still handing out the slugs at every turn. Last night I was cooking dinner, and I was reminding him to leave some milk money for the kids -- that's 35 cents apiece -- and he said "How much money have YOU got?" Knowing full well, mind you, that I haven't a cent to my name: this was just a way of getting in a hurtful little "dig." I said, "Gee, thanks for reminding me," and I let it go. Then this morning I found my grocery list sitting on my desk and he'd written a snotty little comment ["NEED MONEY"] on it. For Pete's sake -- what am I supposed to do? -- NOT ask for groceries? -- not ever need anything? This was just a small list of things we're out of, not even actually intended for his eyes ... just me keeping track, so I could make a decent shopping list this weekend ... why does he have to do things like this? And why do I let it get to me so?
But there's something else on my mind today.
Jamie is going through adolescence, I am astonished [and somewhat saddened!] to say. I realized it this week. She's been "pulling away" for months now -- I've seen it happening -- but two things happened this week that really brought it home for me. The first thing was last weekend, when she got home from Vashon Island. I was sitting on the sofa when she came strolling out of her bedroom Sunday evening. She was wearing a white T-shirt she'd borrowed from Nicole and a pair of black leggings -- a fairly standard outfit for her -- and her hair was very long and straight and devoid of hairspray and ornamentation. Suddenly, I was aware of how tall and slender she's become! For the past couple of years or so, she's been carrying a lot of "baby pudge" around her middle and in her face, which of course is not uncommon for her age. It's an awkward phase we all go through. Whether or not she's been aware of it, I don't know ... she'd get upset if somebody teased her about her "big butt," that sibling-bashing stuff that kids get into ... but whether she felt awkward or unhappy or whatever, I don't know because we've never talked about it. And at this point it's water under the bridge, anyway, since she strolled out of her room that evening and I realized that most of the pudge has quite suddenly melted away. She is downright sleek! "Gosh, you look like you've lost some weight," I told her, and she just sort of shrugged it off, but I could tell that she was pleased. I don't know why I haven't noticed it before. You live so close to someone, you don't see these things happening, I guess. Maybe it was because she'd been gone for a couple of days.
At any rate, the other thing that happened is that I spent a lot of time listening to old cassette tapes of the kids as babies and toddlers -- mostly Jamie -- and it made me realize that she doesn't follow me around and talk to me all the time anymore, like she did when she was little. And that made me sad. I miss her!! She's still here, of course ... but then again she isn't. The funny little girl who used to follow me around and jabber-jabber-jabber at me has vanished, and in her place is this sleek, lovely, somewhat secretive and aloof young lady who would prefer a root canal to a conversation with her mother.
I actually had to make a deal with her: I won't expect her to hug and kiss me goodbye in the mornings as she's leaving for school [an embarrassing "chore" as far as she's concerned], as long as she gives me a kiss goodnight. You take what you can get, I guess.
Jan. 26, 1993
Not much to tell. Went to Canada for the day on Friday with my dad and Valerie ... just for something to "do". [Dad wanted to buy some of those A.C.C. tablets that you can get without a prescription in B.C.; I came along for the ride]. It was a nice, day-long outing ... we stopped and had fish and chips in Aldergrove, B.C. ... made it back to Seattle by 4:30 that afternoon. The rest of the weekend was OK. Ray worked on Saturday, and on Sunday he took Kacie and Kyle out to Bellevue to visit with his folks for awhile, so basically we didn't see to much of each other all weekend. He's eased up slightly on me, by the way, about getting a job; I think maybe the news about Ted [having cancer] has something to do with it. We're still seriously broke, and every day a new bill comes in the mail -- yesterday, a $200.00 phone bill -- but maybe he's beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Ted can't live much longer. He's 99 yrs. old, for Pete's sake! I hate to sound like I'm looking forward to his death, but can you really blame me? All I've ever wanted is the money that rightfully belongs to me ... my inheritance from Grandma ... and he has done everything he can to prevent that from happening. So excuse me if I'm not shedding any crocodile tears for the man now.
Anyway. In retrospect, I will probably recall this period in my life as being one of the quietest and most uneventful times I've ever known. I've waited all my life for a time like this -- one long solitary day after another -- and now that it's here, I hardly know what to do with myself!! The kids leave for school at 8:20 a.m., and boom ... here I am. I clean the house. I switch pictures around on the walls. I watch the soaps. [Tad is beginning to get his memory back.] I talk to my friends on the phone. I drink a lot of coffee, and once or twice a week I spend the afternoon sipping wine and making tapes. I cook elaborate dinners. I do laundry. I read. It's all very relaxing, very private ... a dream come true for a solitary soul like myself. Why, then, aren't I enjoying myself? Why is each day a little longer than the one before it, a little tougher to get through ..? Why do I feel so darned rudderless, and so guilty? Why can't I just relax and enjoy this time??
January 29, 1992
Wish I had a decent pen, dammit. [Wish I had some mascara, and a bar of good face soap, and another bra so I wouldn't have to wash the black one every night, and a JOB, and a CAR, and ... and ... and ...]
Apparently I'm not the only one who's going through a profound funk at the moment. I have been inundated by phone calls all week long from my friends, and we all seem to be riding in the same leaky boat. Thelma called again this morning at 9:00 [thereby breaking a cardinal rule: Thou shalt not call Terri during "Live W/Regis and Kathie Lee"!!], and she was in tears. "Have you got the time to give me some emotional support??" she sobbed. My heart sank. I wanted to say "Hell, no!!" and slam the phone down in her face. But of course I didn't. Turns out she's upset because she used to work with a local woman whose body was found this week, stuffed into the trunk of her car. Geez ... what are you supposed to say to something like that? Thelma is convinced that the woman's husband had something to do with the murder. I made a lot of sympathetic noises, and suggested she talk to the police [fervently wishing, the whole time, that I'd never answered the phone]. That seemed to cheer her up a little, and the conversation meandered off to her favorite phone topics: her amazingly beautiful, perfect, gifted children [?!], her problems with her 20 yr. old nephew who lives with her, and her new "job." [She volunteers at Angela's school now a few hours a week, but to listen to her, you'd think she'd been elected Superintendent. "Now I know how it feels to be a teacher!" she complained happily.] I listened politely for as long as I could stomach it, and then I made my excuses and got off the phone. The truth is that being Thelma's friend stopped being any fun so long ago, I can barely remember what drew me to her in the first place. It's not the bragging, or the incessant complaining, or even the unsolicited advice she's forever handing out ... it's the fact that she shows so little interest in anyone's life but her own. She never, ever asks, "What's new with you?" It's all Thelma, Thelma, Thelma ... and it's extremely boring, boring, boring ...
Anyway. Lori called four times yesterday -- money problems and John problems, mostly. Andrea called last night -- marital problems. And Janet has called several times this week -- Joe problems, looking-for-work problems. What am I, all of a sudden? The Crisis clinic?? My own life is such a mess at the moment. Who in their right mind would expect answers from a woman who's too paralyzed with inertia to walk down the street to the mailbox ...??
Jamie is going home with Nicole today after school. This is in spite of my private resolution to cut down on the number of nights she spends away from home. Ray doesn't like it ... I don't like it ... but dammit, it seems so much easier to just cave in and let her go than to look at her bored, pouty face all weekend!! She started pestering me about it on Tuesday. "Can I go home with Nicole on Friday?" she asked me, oh-so-sweetly. [Mind you, the translation here is "Can I go home with Nicole after school, and then call and ask to spend the night on Friday, and then call on Saturday and ask to spend the night again, and actually not come home until late Sunday afternoon??"] I gave her my standard response: "That depends on the amount of help and cooperation I get around here this week." OK. Fine. I ended up writing her a permission slip to ride the bus with Nicole today, of course. A few minutes ago I looked around the house, and what do I see? Her room is a mess. There's a pile of dirty clothes stashed behind her door. Dirty glasses and bowls all over her bed. Wet crumpled washcloths all over the bathroom. The litter box is clean, but that's only because I forced her to do it this morning before school. [You should have seen the dirty looks I got for THAT.] In other words - I caved in again.
Jan. 31, 1993
Super Bowl Sunday. [I think it's Dallas vs. Buffalo, but I'm not sure ... neither do I care.]
Very sad news from Tucson last night: our brother-in-law, John, had a heart attack and died. Ray was devastated by the news, and there is a lingering air of sadness around our house today. The family is trying to find Peg and Don, who are traveling somewhere in California, but so far no one has been able to track them down. I suppose that they'll head right for Arizona when they get the news: so much for their "vacation."
John was a really nice man. I mean that sincerely. He was one of those rare people who genuinely seemed to like everybody, and you couldn't help but return the feeling, even if [like me] you didn't know him very well. I probably only saw him half a dozen times in the past twelve years, when he and Pam would come up for a visit, but even so, I really liked him. He was a big, warm, smiling man with a booming laugh and a wicked sense of humor. We'll miss him.
Feb. 1, 1993
Monday morning, and here I am, alone again [naturally] ...
I'm very nervous today. A couple of days ago we got a horrific bill in the mail from Puget Power [for $234, due "now"] and I still haven't shown it to Ray: he'll see it when he gets home from work this afternoon. I already know he'll explode when he sees it, and words can't adequately express my terror.
He wants to fly down to Tucson for John's funeral this week, by the way, although I don't know how on earth we could manage such a thing. The last time he went down there -- three years ago, when Grandpa Harry died -- Barbara paid his airfare, but these days she's as broke as we are. So I don't know how he'll be able to swing it this time. That, combined with the power bill [and last week's phone bill] are going to put him in a rotten mood tonight. Damn.
Goodbye, Journal. It's been nice knowing you ...
Well, it's not as bad as I thought it would be, but it ain't great, either.
I just popped dinner into the oven [an enormous chicken, pork chop and vegetable casserole] and have snuck out here to my office for a glass of wine and a cigarette. He came in about 20 minutes ago, while I was stirring something at the stove. He smiled and started to say hello, but immediately saw the bill sitting by the phone. I couldn't even meet his gaze ... I just muttered, "It's bad news" and cringed when he opened it. He stalked off to the living room after he read it and I haven't heard a word out of him since.
I've been thinking about this all day, of course. I framed some old sheet music to hang in the living room ["Mother Hamster"], read most of a great book ["Breathing Lessons" by Anne Tyler], watched Dixie catch a glimpse of Tad on the bridge [All My Children], ignored the phone the one and only time it rang all day [1:00], had a salad for lunch ... and thought about Ray and the power bill, every minute, underneath it all.
When in the name of heaven is all of this stuff gonna turn around?? Ever?
Tuesday late afternoon
Feb. 2, 1993
Get used to this bright pink writing: I'm now down to this for a pen. Sorry about that. :[
Ray's outside, chopping firewood with a vengeance. We're speaking to each other, in a very polite, controlled sort of way, but we're both preoccupied with individual worries. He and I have decided to give in and ask Ted, one more time, to buy me out ... for the pitiful $30,000.00 he offered us in November. I view this as surrender: Ray seems to see it as salvation. Either way, it's the only thing I can think of to do. We simply cannot go on this way any longer, trying to get by on Ray's paycheck alone. I need to work. In order to do that, I need a car and some job training -- period. We need to pay our bills and get out from under before we're ruined completely. Right now we're at a pivotal point in our lives ... it can go one way or the other. We'll either get our shit together and get me back out into the work world, or we'll be sitting on a street corner somewhere, broke and homeless. This is the moment. It's now or never.
I'm a mess. This morning I was so tired I couldn't even drag my ass off the couch long enough to fix breakfast for my kids and see them off to school properly ... they did everything themselves, while I watched them, bleary-eyed; and once they were gone I went back to sleep and didn't wake up until noon. It was 1:30 in the afternoon before I managed to get into the shower, get dressed and get moving. I was so ashamed of myself. What in the world is going on with me? I wasn't hungover, I wasn't sick ... I was just ... TIRED. Fortunately, by the time the kids and Ray got home I'd pulled myself together [I even put on some makeup and cleaned the house, all within one hour or so] so no one would suspect I'd spent the day laying on the sofa, sleeping till noon and then watching soaps and eating buttered rolls...
SNAP OUT OF IT, TERRI!!!
Thursday Feb. 4, 1993
Did the exact same thing the next day [Wednesday]. I wasn't off the couch and moving until 12:30!! To tell you the truth, this is starting to scare me a little. I feel absolutely no direction. When I get up -- whether at noon or [like today, finally] at 7:30 -- a little voice inside my head says, "Why bother?" There doesn't seem to be any reason to move. Housework? The place will be a mess again by evening. Laundry? Don't make me laugh: no one considers laundry a reason for living. The kids? Well, yes. That's one motivation, if only out of guilt. What kind of mother doesn't even get up and get her children off to school? [My kind of mother, apparently.] Anyway, I did get up today, and I have to say I do feel better. The sun is shining, and there's a touch of spring in the air. I've tentatively begun straightening out a couple of closets, making a grocery list, doing a load of laundry ... it doesn't feel too bad.
I haven't called or written to Ted yet. What in the world am I supposed to say? "Sorry to hear you're terminally ill ... can I have my money before you kick off?" Or how about this: "Sorry I was so rude last time we talked ..."
Monday Monday [bah-DAH, bah-dah-dah-dah...]
Feb. 8, 1993
Basically uneventful weekend. I made homemade fish and chips for dinner last night, and the mess waiting for me this morning was staggering. Grease everywhere. The rest of the house isn't much better. I've unplugged the phone and am determined to put a real dent in things by this afternoon.
Feb. 12, 1993
Yesterday morning I made myself a nice little breakfast -- some hashbrowns, a couple of those Brown 'n Serve sausages I like, toast, and [even though I'm trying to hoard them so they last], one fried egg. All of this washed down with three cups of good strong coffee. I felt wonderful after I finished eating: nourished, warm, full. Then I came out here to my office with a final cup of coffee, lit a cigarette, took a couple of puffs ... and promptly threw up the entire meal. The cigarette made me suddenly, violently nauseous.
I have so much on my mind this morning. I think I slept maybe three or four hours, tops ... I kept having these weird, twisted dreams that I was trying to catch the bus up on 42nd Avenue, but Ray kept stopping me. Then we were having a savage, knock-down drag-out fight in somebody's kitchen: I was beating him over the head with a soup ladle. I was exhausted when I woke up this morning, but I did manage to get up and make sure the kids got breakfast and left for school on time. They wanted to hear all about the concert I went to last night. [My mother and I went and saw the Grassroots and Blood, Sweat and Tears at the Tacoma Dome: more about that later.] Now everybody's gone and I'm alone: I just finished reading Thomas Harris' "Silence of the Lambs." ["Why are you reading THAT when you've already seen the movie??" both the girls asked me.] I've had some coffee and smoked a cautious cigarette -- no nausea this time, thank God -- and I'm trying to get as much housework done as possible, not because I'm feeling particularly ambitious but because there's a chance Puget Power may cut off our electricity today. Yes, things are that bad. Moneywise, anyway. [I was really hoping to catch some babysitting time from Andrea this week, just so I'd have a little pocket money -- Valentine's Day is on Sunday -- but no such luck.] We have food in the freezer and the cupboards, enough to get by, but no spending money. And no money for bills. If the power company shuts us off, we'll have to stay shut-off for a while, I'm afraid.
I broke down and sent the asshole another letter on Wednesday. It shames me to admit it: I feel that I've sold out, somehow. But under the circumstances, what else can I do? Of course, now comes the part I hate the most ... the waiting. It's like last November all over again, only this time I feel none of that bravado and certainty that everything will turn out fine. Quite the opposite, in fact. I'm not even sure that they'll respond to my offer at all, and if they do, I'll be amazed.
The concert last night. It was ... diverting! Mom picked me up at 5:30 and we grabbed a quick dinner at the Omni before the show. I had the teriyaki steak sandwich with fries and a salad, and it was a genuine pleasure to eat someone else's cooking for a change! We got to the Tacoma Dome in plenty of time to find a decent place to sit ... or so we thought. Unfortunately, the people in front of us -- two couples, somewhere around my age, mid-thirties -- were drunk and noisy, especially one obnoxious bozo who felt compelled to loudly [and ignorantly] lambast everything about the show, from the lighting, to the audience, to the band itself. Mom and I looked at each other like, "Oh, great!", but when the first band came on and started to play and the people in front of us were still yelling and laughing, Mom'd had enough. She leaned over them, put her hands on their shoulders and said -- politely but firmly -- "If you want to talk, why don't you go out to the parking lot?!" The pompous one said, "Hey, this is a concert, lady -- have fun." But they did quiet down a little after that, and during the intermission they disappeared altogether, so that was that.
Here is what was really odd: of the two bands performing, The Grassroots were the ones I wanted to see the most, and yet I enjoyed the other band -- Blood, Sweat & Tears -- a lot more. The Grassroots played a lot of old songs that I loved when I Was a kid.
Crying. Ray came home an hour ago in another cold, stormy mood. During the course of an hour he spoke exactly three words to me: "No babysitting today?" Finally I fled to the kitchen, started making sandwiches for the kids' supper. He grabbed his keys and said "Well, I guess I'll go to the bank and take out my last twenty bucks -- you need anything?" Meekly I requested a couple of the things we need most, since he'd asked, and he rolled his eyes and went slamming out of here, as though I'd asked him to pick up a big screen TV and a Cadillac ...
Oh please. THIS HAS GOT TO STOP. Couldn't someone up there in Heaven please intervene on my behalf and send some good fortune our way??
Feb. 14, 1993
My weekend in hell continues. Tomorrow is a holiday, incidentally [thanks a LOT, George and Abe] so everyone will still be here ... I won't even get my usual Monday to recover from all the tension and mess that build up over the weekend. Shit on toast.
Happy Valentines Day. We've been up for hours already: I was having a peculiar dream about Michael Jackson taking me to the Senior Prom [please explain THAT one, Doctor] when suddenly I woke up to find Kyle peering into my face, saying "Happy Valentines Day, Mom." I growled at him that if he "really wanted me to have a Happy Valentines, he'd let me sleep," but that sounded witchy even to my cynical ears and I got up and hugged him. Thank God I had the presence of mind to pick up some little gifts for the kids last weekend, while we still had money: stencils for Kyle, an inflatable heart pillow for Kacie, a sparkly pen for Jay, and a chocolate sucker for all three of them. Nothing as grand as last year [I remember I spent over $100.00 on Valentines' stuff at Fred Meyer ... sigh.] But at least it's something. I also hand-made them each a Valentine -- a tradition of mine. Kacie made me a little sachet and a kitchen decoration, and the other two each made me beautiful cards. [Actually, Kyle made ma about a dozen cards this year at school. He'd bring them home every day, each one earnestly proclaiming his love for "MOM."]
As for Ray ... he left for Safeway a couple of minutes ago, and I suppose he'll bring me a bottle of wine as a Valentine's gift. [The gift that keeps on giving.] The fact that he got of bed in a fairly decent mood is gift enough, frankly.]
Feb. 15, 1993
Tuesday morning, everyone's finally gone back to work/school ... thank Heavens!!! One more day of the five of us jammed together under one roof and we might have become a headline in this morning's paper. ["INSANE HOMEMAKER MURDERS HER FAMILY; 'ALL I WANTED WAS TO GET MY HOUSE BACK,' MOM TEARFULLY EXPLAINS..."]
Ray walked around looking like one of the Living Dead all weekend, all mopey and sour and unshaven. It was all I could do to keep from slapping him. I realize that he's worried, but good grief ...
Well, guess what, boys and girls ...?? The old fart finally came through! We're not home free yet -- there's still a lot of red tape and paperwork and legal crap to muddle through -- but the Housekeeper from Hell called me 45 minutes ago to announce that Ted has "accepted" our offer. Within the next few days, hopefully, this whole repulsive mess will be resolved, once and for all.
Ray doesn't know yet. I've left him a message at work, but he probably thinks I'm calling to say Puget Power cut us off. Won't he be surprised ... hee hee hee.
Feeling curiously flat and numb about the whole thing. Wonder why? Maybe because I can't shake the feeling that I'm doing this
Just got off the phone with Mr. Moreland, Grandma's attorney. I called him to get his advice about procedure. He was very nice -- but very disapproving. "Oh, TERRI!" he said, when he heard what I was selling for. It was clear he thought I was nuts. That's when my facade of calm and cool crumbled like yesterday's biscuit ... all of a sudden I found myself blubbering and grovelling and "explaining" like a fool. Pride? Dignity? Right out the window. Before I could stop myself, I was telling him about my being out of work for the past three months, and how we're about to lose our electricity and phone, and about the kids needing glasses and dental work ... blah blah blah, ad infinitum ... I must've sounded pathetic. He was kind and understanding and told me to sit tight while he made some phone calls to Ted's lawyers, and promised he'd get back to me in a day or two. But I still hung up feeling deeply shamed. It is an emotion I am beginning to know very well, ever since this whole house business began. Maybe that's part of the reason I'm anxious for it to be over and done with.
I can't talk to Ray about most of this, because he just doesn't see things the way I do. Never has and never will. For him, it's the money ... period. For me, it's so much more than that. I mean, it'll be great to catch up on the fucking bills, and replace our dungheap of a car, and maybe buy a few things we've really wanted [a typewriter? cable TV? a camcorder?] If I tried to convince you that the prospect doesn't completely thrill me, I'd be a liar. But Ray doesn't see the rest of it ... or, if he does, he doesn't give it as much importance as I do. For the past year and a half I have been battering the most severe emotional crisis of my life -- that sounds melodramatic, I know and I'm sorry, but it's true -- maybe it's sort of a "pre-midlife crisis." All I know is that I've been trying to figure out what to do with my life, trying to find a way to change the quality of my life [and my family's], and just recently I've been feeling as though I'm losing the battle. I seem to be losing all ambition and hope and drive -- not that I ever had much of it to begin with!! -- and turning into someone I despise ... a fat, lazy, self-absorbed, ambitionless blob-in-a-bathrobe. My days are a meaningless round of soap operas, leftovers, dark rooms, unplugged phones, arguments with Ray and the kids, laundry, housework ... I'm ragged with worry all the time ... I'm eating too much, sleeping too much, drinking too much ... most of the time I just want to hide myself away in this hamster-cage of a house, with the curtains closed and the phone turned off, ignoring the world. I have nothing to look forward to, no real goals, no real joy. What kind of life is this??
And now comes this incredible window of opportunity, like a rainbow in November. Now, suddenly, is a chance to do something to improve the quality of life in P.Ville. Why in the world can't anyone else see it that way?? Yes, I know that I'm not getting as much money as I could, were I to hold out another year or two. Ray's parents, my dad, the lawyer, Terry V., Thelma ... they all say "Wait! Wait!!" Why can't anyone understand that this is the moment for me ... the moment when motivation and opportunity are blessedly, magically synchronized, and may never be again, and procrastinating even another month or two may make all the difference between a life of resigned despair and a life of achievement and joy ...?
There I go again, sounding melodramatic, but frankly I don't give a damn. This is just too important. The bottom line is that I'm going to have to quit apologizing for wanting to do things my way, and just do them. It would be nice if I didn't have to feel I'm swimming against the current -- Little Terri Lynn thrives on approval, after all -- but this is one time when
Feb. 18, 1993
Thursday morning. Sunny but ice-cold -- there is a chance we may even get some snow tonight or tomorrow. Jamie is home "sick," although I suspect her malady may be mostly a case of "Tia-itis." [Tia and Nicole are ganging up on her at school, she says.] It's nice to have a little company while I wait for a phone call from the lawyer, though. [Please, Lord, let it be today ... let it all be resolved today. This waiting and wondering is turning me into a nervous wreck ...]
I amend that. Mr. Moreland just called, and we talked for almost 15 minutes. I'm shaking like a leaf, but at least I managed to sound more rational [and less pathetic] this time. He tried again, more vigorously, to dissuade me, but I remained unshakeable. [Figuratively speaking, anyway: My knees are another story!] It's clear he still thinks I'm an idiot -- which I regret, because somehow I think he is a person whose respect I'd like to have -- but at least he sees now that I'm an idiot with a mission. He sees that I've given this a lot of thought, that this isn't just some half-baked impulse, that we are truly in need. Hopefully he sees that I'm doing this for my family. "I won't look back and regret this decision," I told him with great conviction.
I just hope that's true.
Ray's going to be all distressed and pissed-off when he hears about this, I suppose ... he thinks we should've had the check yesterday, and doesn't understand why it's taking "so long." The other day he actually had the gall to suggest that I ask Mr. Moreland for a loan!!!! ["Oh for Pete's sake!" I snapped at him in disgust. "Have a little pride, a little DIGNITY."] I'm bearing the brunt of his impatience and the world's disapproval and my own lingering doubts, and the strain is getting to me. Last night I got so mad at Jamie, over something trivial, that I slapped her face: a few minutes before that, I shouted at Kacie because she criticized a song I was listening to. ["Kacie, God dammit, that's PAUL SIMON!!"] This is not good parenting, folks. This is a lady under some serious strain. Add mopey/dopey Ray to the mix this afternoon, asking if I'd "heard anything?" and then retreating into Advanced Zombie mode when I tell him no money yet, and I can just imagine what a pleasant place P.Ville will be tonight...
One thought I must interject here: a fear, actually. A tiny, niggling fear. Whose money will this be, once it's here? Why did yesterday's bank statement come addressed to Ray only -- why isn't my name on the account anymore?? Is he going to expect me to fork it over, let him put it in an account with only his name on it, and then dole it out, dollar by dollar, as he sees fit ...?
A few years ago, I think I would have been justified in suspecting his motives. But I honestly expect him to be quasi-human about this. He knows that I want to go to school, he knows that I want to buy a car. Those are priorities we share, I think. The only thing he's actually asked for, once the money gets here, is that we pay off our bills.
Doing my leaf imitation again [as in, "shaking like a"...]
Just had my second lawyer phone call of the day - this time, Mr. Moreland's associate, Mr. Miner. The upshot is that he's coming here to the house tomorrow at 1:30 to "discuss the situation." Too nervous and too busy [tonight is Kyle's school music program] to write anything right now -- tomorrow, w/o fail.
Friday 10:30 a.m.
Feb. 19, 1993
Slept two hours last night. I know, because most of the time I watched the clock. A combination of nerves and cramps [whew!!]. I'm trying to get the place picked up and my makeup done in anticipation of Mr. Miner's visit in three hours ... I want to give the impression of being earnest, sincere and intelligent. [No black eye-liner??] Jamie is here again today, more to lend moral support than anything else. I honestly don't know what to expect from this visit. I told the attorney yesterday -- no, I actually asked him point-blank -- whether he was going to "attempt to dissuade me." If he was, I said, it would probably be a waste of his time and mine. I could tell by the tone of his voice that my directness had caught him off guard, but he said no, if I've made up my mind, that's fine. So what else will there be to "discuss", I wonder...?
Killing some time
Still no snow, by the way, but today might be the day ... huge gray clouds are rolling in from the north, and it's still very cold.
Puget Power finally stopped by this morning: we have until Monday to pay the bill or be disconnected. :]
Kyle's school program last night was very sweet. I was tired and didn't really feel like going, but one look at Kyle's eager little face snapped me right out of it. The gym was hot and crowded, and Kyle's class was the last to perform -- naturally! -- but I'm glad I went.
Well. Here it is: Mr. Miner called and said he won't be coming today, after all. Delay is not defeat, however. Ted's lawyers are drawing up the papers, and early next week I'll sign them and receive a cashier's check for $30,000.00. Possibly as soon as Monday or Tuesday! Mr. Miner saw no point in coming to the house today and running up extra legal fees, and I agreed with him.
Feb. 22, 1993
note: Snowed Fri. night and Sat.
Coming off of a long, light-headed, festive weekend ... for the first time in months, the atmosphere around this house isn't one of gloom and doom. No, we don't have the money yet. No, I'm not sure when it's coming, exactly. The important thing is that it's coming. Our salvation is near.
Tuesday 10 a.m.
Feb. 23, 1993
Still no word. Ray was a little disappointed, I think, that we didn't get the money yesterday -- we were going to get Chinese food to "celebrate" -- but he stayed cheerful anyway, going out to pay the Puget Power bill and eating leftover chicken without complaint.
Against my better judgement, I've quietly started making a "Wish List" of things I'd like to get for the family. [Last night I dreamed that I was driving a pretty red car: the first "car dream" I've had in a long time. The idea of having a car again has just begun to excite me.] My list doesn't include anything overly-grand ... it's mostly a lot of little things that we've either needed or wanted for a long time ... "treats" that I feel this family deserves. For example: do you realize that the sheets and bedding on our bed actually pre-date our relationship? I picked out the sheets with Scott Wolf in 1978, and the raggedy old comforter is one Ray bought before he'd even met me, for Pete's sake. I own exactly one wearable bra at the moment, and two days ago one of the straps broke: a safety pin is holding it up now. There is only one working alarm clock in our house. Kyle is still wearing the underpants I bought him when he was two years old. Etc. etc. etc. This is the kind of stuff I'm talking about. For most families, these things are probably a given ... in P.Ville, they're considered "treats." How sad.
Well, shit. I should've known better, I guess. It's like that old saying -- "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is." Why in the world should I expect anything to go smoothly for this family?? I just got off the phone with Mr. Miner [I'd called his office earlier, and this was his follow-up call], and there is a new delay. Ray is going to shit. Now Ted wants a "warranty deed," whatever the hell that is. Apparently he wants to make sure the title is transferred free and clear, that Ray and I aren't being hunted by the IRS or anything. The upshot is that it's going to be a few more days before any paperwork is ready. The old fart is kicking us one last time while we're down, just for fun, and I hate him.
Feb. 24, 1993
Still waiting... What else is there to say?
The kids got out of school early today,which provided a nice distraction all afternoon. Somehow the waiting is worse when I'm home alone all day.
I'm fairly calm about all of this, but Ray isn't. He calls home at least twice a day to "check up" on the situation, or at least he was until I told him he was making me a nervous wreck. Last night he jumped all over me because we'd run out of mustard. Finally I yelled at him to "Quit taking your frustrations out on me and everybody else!," and that seemed to calm him down a little.
Terrible stomach-ache this morning. I'm a bundle of raw nerves, and it's getting worse with each passing day. The worst part isn't the fact that we're broke now and have no groceries. It isn't the weird dreams every night. [Last night I dreamed I was trying to enroll at BCTI, only to be told that I was "too late."] The worst part is that the delay is giving me time to doubt myself, and the wisdom of this decision. As long as things were moving along smoothly and swiftly, I felt good about doing this, but with each new glitch I feel my confidence slipping. That infernal little voice inside my head is whispering, "You big dummy! You're making the stupidest, most costly mistake of your pathetic life!" There's really no turning back at this point, and the truth is I don't think I would, even if I could ... but the delays and glitches and the self-doubts [not to mention Ray's constant, irritating needling] are sapping all of the joy and fun out of this for me. I should be so happy. This is such a wonderful gift, such a wonderful opportunity, but instead of feeling good about it I just feel ... tired. Tired of Ted and all his crap. Tired of jumping every time the phone rings. Tired of worrying. Tired of all of it.
Down, with a capital D.
Ray brought his bad mood through the door with him half an hour ago, and now I'm sitting here in tears. I hate him. I hate Ted. I hate everything and everybody.
Slightly better, and do you want to know why? Because I did the big, grumpy asshole a favor, of course ... I called the landlords and deferred the rent payment a few days. I humbled myself; I risked their wrath; I did what he was too chicken to do [I even told them the TRUTH, instead of the convoluted version he'd concocted.] So THERE.
Saturday 11 a.m.
Feb. 27, 1993 [H.B. Dick, wherever you are]
God. I can hardly believe I'm saying this, but we're in the middle of another fucking Weekend In Hell ...
Apparently the title still hasn't gone through, and here we sit, still waiting ... Ray is back to moping, I'm back to mixing powdered milk, and our old friend, that dark cloud of gloom, has settled in for the weekend. I'm angry beyond belief. I'm worried about feeding my kids. I'm scared that once Ray starts drinking later today [isn't it miraculous, the way he always finds a way to replenish his beer supply??], he'll turn surly. I'm in total despair.
A little while later
Well, so far it hasn't been completely awful. As long as we both stay busy [I'm in the middle of scrubbing floors; he just left for QFC to buy some rubber groceries], we seem to be OK. He's not even in as rotten a mood as I'd feared, although I suppose that's always subject to change.
Will I look back on this weekend, sometime soon, and smile indulgently at my depressed little self because everything eventually turns out fine ...? [A more ominous thought: Will I look back on this weekend and feel the urge to wring my stupid neck because I sold myself out...?]
Wednesday 9:20 a.m.
March 3, 1993
I haven't written anything for a few days, because there's been nothing to tell. Still waiting for word.
In the meantime, we have been dealt an unexpectedly cruel blow: our much-loved kitty, Spud, was killed yesterday. We don't know when or how it happened, but some neighbors found him beside the road and alerted Jamie as she was selling Easter candy around the neighborhood. She came home in hysterics. "Mom, have you seen SPUD today??" she screamed at me. The weird thing is that, at that very instant, I knew. I just knew that Spud was gone. Jamie was frantically praying that the white cat laying in the driveway up the street wasn't our Spuddy -- "Please, please, please God!" she sobbed -- but I knew. I put on my shoes and grabbed a bath towel,and the kids [Jamie and Kyle] and I solemnly walked up the street. And of course I was right. Jamie broke down as I wrapped the towel around Spuddy's still little body and tenderly carried him home. We placed him on a table in the garage and then broke the sad news to Kacie, who took it very hard. All three of the kids were utterly inconsolable, but Kacie seemed to go into actual physical shock ... she was incoherent and shivering, and at one point we caught her out in the garage, shouting at Spud to "Meow! MEOW just one more time!!" ... I finally had to wrap her in a comforter and lay her down on my bed to get her to calm down. Jamie went and closeted herself in her room with Sabrina for the rest of the afternoon: I could hear her weeping in solitude. Kyle was very quiet and somber, and once or twice I saw tears well up in his eyes, but he seemed determined to keep his emotions in check and he never actually broke down. [I held him in my lap for a long time, though -- his idea -- and told him that it's OK to cry if he feels like it, it's OK to be sad, and that he can come to me whenever he feels he needs to talk about it. That seemed to satisfy his emotional needs. What a brave and dear little boy.] I also allowed the kids to go out to the garage and "pay their respects" to their friend ... somehow, it just seemed like the appropriate thing to do. This is their first, real, close encounter with death. Of course, they went to my grandmothers' funerals with me a couple of years ago, and they've lost other pets to death -- mice and fish, and a couple of kitties who've run away and never come home -- but Spud's death hits closer and harder than anything they've ever experienced before, simply because he was such an enormous part of their lives. I felt it was important that they be allowed to see him, to touch him, to acknowledge that he's gone and can't come back. My heart was breaking for them [and for Spuddy, who I too will miss, very very much], but I didn't intrude on this time: I stayed in the kitchen and let them say goodbye without me hanging all over them. It was probably one of the hardest things I've done as a parent.
Solemn faces all around when they left for school this morning. I briefly considered keeping Kacie home today -- she still seems terribly fragile, emotionally -- but instinct tells me that "business as usual" is the way to go here. Ray worked late last night [wasn't home until 7:30], so Spuddy hasn't been lain to rest yet ... a situation I find vaguely troubling today. Hopefully tonight.
This whole thing bothers me on a lot of levels. I tried to pray last night, to tell the Lord OK, I'll accept this if it's Your will ... but every time I tried to address Him, I just felt these waves of shock and hurt. Why would God do this to my children? And why now, on top of all the other troubles we face at the moment? Why does this family keep getting kicked in the teeth ...?! I couldn't finish the prayer. I want to accept God's will, I honestly do, but not if I'm just saying the words. And the truth is that I'm furious with God! I can't help it. The money situation is bad enough: the months of desperation and deprivation, the weeks of waiting for a phone call that doesn't come. But to kill my children's beloved pet?? That just doesn't seem right. That's adding insult to injury, and I can't simply roll over and "accept" it without protest. I suppose I'm mourning our kitty, and this is the anger portion of the grief process ... I don't normally go around being mad at God. Every time I think about Spuddy, a fresh gust of pain blows through my heart. Maybe when I'm past the worst of the hurt, perspective will return. [Getting the money would help, but I've pretty much lost heart where that's concerned.] Eventually I hope that things are right between God and me again. But for the moment I'm just sort of shell-shocked and deeply, deeply dispirited ...
... I keep thinking I hear Spuddy meowing -- outside, or in the girls' room, or in the laundry room. I look out the window and expect to see him sniffing around the backyard for birds. I open a can of chili and wonder if he's going to come running when he hears the sound of the can opener. [Silly cat didn't care what I was opening -- it could've been split pea soup and he'd be right there at my feet, meowing demandingly.] It's just plain not going to be the same around here without him. I'm going to miss so many things about him ... his oddly beautiful eyes, one yellow, one blue ... his sweet disposition, and the way he put up with the kids' constant mauling without complaint ... his obsession for Jamie's mouse ...
I've put in a call to the lawyer, and am waiting now for him to return my call. Sipping a very strong screwdriver ... I feel its tingling warmth, all the way down to my toes. No, this is not a regular practice; yes, I feel guilty as hell. But it's helping, for the moment. I tried talking to Lori about half an hour ago, to tell her about the kitty, and I completely dissolved into tears. This mustn't happen when I talk to the lawyer! I need to be calm, dignified and objective, no matter what, and if a screwdriver at 2:00 in the afternoon is what it takes...
[Ring!!! Only Ray. "I'm gonna write a check at Tom's, ya need anything? Heart, resume beating.]
March 4, 1993
As it turned out, it was 9:00 this morning before the Very Busy Lawyer managed to return my call, and naturally there was nothing new to report ... I mean, something new would mean PROGRESS, and we certainly can't have any of THAT now, can we ...?
We buried Spud last night, out behind the garage. It was cold, dank and raining as the five of us [Ray included] solemnly filed out back to pay our last respects. I lit a candle and we all took turns saying "Goodbye." It was sad and sweet. The kids seem to be handling their grief fairly well, although I caught Jamie crying at the breakfast table this morning. I've warned them to expect the sad feelings to catch up on them from time to time, and that it will be perfectly natural.
Friday 10:30 a.m.
March 5, 1993
Well, here it is, almost the weekend again. If I had known it was going to take this long to get the money, I wonder if I would've gone through with it? Of course I would have ... but I wouldn't have made the mistake of getting everyone so fired up about it so early on. We were so excited two weeks ago: I look back on it now and feel slightly ridiculous, because everybody feels completely let-down now ... especially ME ...
Actually, it's slightly better today than usual because it's payday, so at least I know we'll have groceries. Ray is taking Jamie to a hockey game tonight with a group of people from work: she's very excited. Considering the sad week we've just endured, I think we all deserve a little fun. I don't know what Kacie and Kyle and I will do tonight -- probably eat a lot of junk food, watch TV and goof off. Kyle was an irrepressible handful last night -- more so than usual, I should say -- kicking stuff around the living room, picking fights with everybody, slamming doors. He was just this little ball of angry, nervous energy, and at first I attributed it to the chocolate milk I'd given him [sugar hits him funny, especially in the evenings]. But then I realized that it probably had something to do with Spuddy's death. This was his way of expressing his grief. I mentioned this to Ray and he agreed with me, and we ended up giving him more slack than we might have otherwise. I'm just glad to see his feelings come out, regardless of what form they take.
March 7, 1993
It's Sunday afternoon now, and I'm feeling mellow from the day's sunshine, a clean pretty house and a couple glasses of wine ... I feel as though I'm walking around in a soft, slightly-off-center cocoon of happiness. The kids are out in the living room, fighting tooth and nail over the Nintendo, but I am insulated from their noise, sitting here in my office with the dryer spinning next to me, the radio playing softly ... I honestly feel as though I could take just about anything right now ... their funny petty little squabbles roll right off of me. This is temporary, I know, but I'll enjoy it while it lasts.
Margin note: "Roll with It"
"When life is too much
Roll with it, Baby..."
Guess what happened on Friday night? The lawyer called when I was least expecting it, and told me that the paperwork went through! I mean, I wasn't even waiting on the call when it finally came through ... it totally caught me off guard. Early next week I'll have to go in and sign some papers, and I'll have my check the next day. We've been happy and excited all weekend, convinced that this time is really "it"...
March 9, 1993
Ray and I drove to the lawyers' office in Burien last night to sign the papers, only to be told that there was a "mistake" in the wording of the contract ... sigh. Fortunately, Mr. Meiner was able to get a new contract drawn up, and fifteen minutes ago he stopped by the house and had me sign it. The check will [knock on wood] be ready tomorrow. Or so we're told. Personally, I'll believe it when I see it. Do I sound a bit cynical? Yes, I suppose I do ... but who in the world could fault me that? After months and months of agonizing over this thorny problem, of continually being set up only to be knocked down again, who could blame me for not wanting to be dropped on my heart again ...?
Wednesday morning 9:30 a.m.
March 10, 1993
This will likely be my final entry for this journal, and who knows? With any luck, we may go out in a blaze of glory ...
No word from either of the lawyers yet, but it's still early: I've only just poured my first cup of coffee. It's a beautiful, sunny day ... spring is in the air. I've got the doors cracked open and the morning air feels wonderful. I haven't slept much all week, and I'm a little tired this morning as a result, but if Mr. Meiner calls and tells us to come pick up the check, I'm sure I'll perk right up!! If the call comes early enough, I'm supposed to get Ray out of work so we can go get it and make a trip to the bank before it closes.
I'm sorry that this journal has been so downbeat and so focused on money, money, money. I suppose that I'll be getting my car and going back to school soon, and maybe that will help make the next journal more interesting and more fun to read.
Still playing the waiting game, but maybe this will be the last time...? If I haven't heard from the lawyer by 2:00, I'll call him myself.
Thursday 7:30 a.m.
March 11, 1993
Well, geez ... here I am again, dammit. You're simply not going to BELIEVE what happened yesterday. Did I say we're going out in a blaze of glory? More like a soggy book of matches ...
The lawyers' office called at 3:30 yesterday to say that the check was there, waiting for me to pick it up. Hurray, Hallelujah and HOT damn!! Ray and I flew to Burien, got the check, went to the bank to cash/deposit it ... only to be refused service because I don't have any valid I.D.
Words cannot express how disappointed I was. I cried buckets all evening, in spite of Ray's best clumsy efforts to comfort me. I just felt so stupid ... I felt like I had let everybody down, including myself, and nothing anyone could say helped cheer me up at all. [Ray suggested that it was probably Grandma Vert's doing - that she is looking down at me from Heaven saying, "Terri Lynn, you're not getting a dime of this money until you get yourself some proper I.D.!!" Actually, that cheered me up more than anything.]
Anyway. Later this morning John and Lori are taking me to the DMV to get a Washington State I.D. card. If the DMV accepts my moldy, dog-eared old driver's license from 1979, I'll probably be issued a photo I.D. today and we'll be able to get back to the bank this afternoon; if they [the DMV] won't take it, I'll probably have to wait another 10 days to cash the check. Frankly, I feel no hope whatsoever. Nothing has gone smoothly since this whole business started; why should it now?
Trying to look on the bright side. At least I have the check. At least I'm finally getting some I.D.
I'm back. I can hardly believe I'm saying this, but I GOT MY I.D.!! It went through without a hitch. Thank you, Lord ... thank you, Grandma ... and goodbye, Journal!