Monday, January 5, 2015

Suit Up

It is not necessary that you leave the house.  Remain at your table and listen.  Do not even listen, only wait.  Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone.  The world will present itself to you for its unmasking . . . in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet.
- Franz Kafka  

Well, Happy New Year.  The question that's haunted me daily since the beginning of the new year is: What day is it?, followed closely by, Did I wash my hair yesterday?, &, When did I give the kids a bath?

There are plenty of moments during the course of each semester I teach that I ask myself why I do it.  It's not like our mortgage payments hinge on what the local community college pays me.  Yes, the paycheck is nice.  The new rugs are nice, the absence of questions from Trey about the ridiculous amount of stuff in my closet, again, nice.  When I have no teaching responsibilities, & there's no paycheck being deposited in my account, what I miss most is the structure a schedule provides.

By structure, I mean my job demands I know what day of the week it is, & it demands I shower & dress myself, make-up & all, a minimum of two days a week.  Were it not for my part-time job, a tube of mascara might last me a full year (& not because I have amazing lashes & don't need it).  These last few weeks, were we not a church-going family, it's possible a month could've lapsed without me ever even making the weekday/weekend distinction.  My sweats know no such distinction, & let's be honest, when your hair spends all day in a top knot, sheltered indoors from harsh winds & debris, washing it all the time is not necessary.  It's not.

While the new year began last week, I choose today to really kick start things, beginning with recognizing that today is Monday.  So, today is Monday (& I washed my hair yesterday, if you're interested . . . today is admittedly iffy).  That means it's been a week since our fateful trip to the mall.  Before there's any talk of resolutions or new beginnings or clean hair slates, I have to tell you about a little trip to the mall my mom & Jessa & I made last Monday.

I rarely take both my kids to the mall at the same time when I'm the only adult available to yell supervise.  I did this once when Henry was about five months old; it involved a huge markdown on a purse at Dillard's, & if I had to do it over again, I'd forgo the purse.  So, Henry had never ridden the merry-go-round, & neither had Maisie, & my mom & Jessa & I, informed by the six degrees of higher education between us, decided it was a good idea to take all three kids to the mall & ride the merry-go-round.

Henry fell asleep on the drive there & I had to rouse him so we could all sit & eat a Chick-fil-A lunch.  Henry spent basically every moment thereafter protesting the fact that he was awake, but refused to drift off to sleep in the roomy, reclining stroller in which I wheeled & wheeled him in hopes of him finding sleep, & me finding a red coat on sale.  Henry got no sleep; I got no coat.

Meanwhile, as I was wheeling Henry, my mom was on merry-go-round duty, & despite Henry's fussing, & Maisie's sheer terror of the merry-go-round, my mom's experience was by far the most traumatic.

The babes looking on while the earth continued to spin for Nana:

In retrospect, our judgement was obviously hindered by countless hours trapped indoors with whiny kids.  I'd classify the trip as a FAIL.  After we all returned home, Jessica, in an effort to provide our mother some relief, discovered via some Googling that there is a band named Carousel Vertigo.  No joke.

So, the last week of 2014 began a bit ominously.  We didn't do much for New Year's Eve.  I took the kids to my parents house to play with Maisie for a bit while I exercised, & then Jessica & I saw our parents off for their big New Year's night out with friends.  Seriously.  My mom even borrowed this trendy jacket I have that I never wear because I'd look foolish in it in the grocery store.  Then I went home with the kids, & Trey picked up Chick-fil-A, & the only reason I was up at midnight was to check Reagan's number.  You can see why a top knot & sweats have been staples for me these last few weeks.  The great irony is that I've been spending a fair amount of time online searching for coats on sale, you know because I go so many places that might require me to wear a trendy, hooded red coat (I have of course ordered one, & just in time apparently if you've seen our weather forecast).

This leads me to a few of my resolutions.  One of Trey's New Year's resolutions is to wear a suit & tie to work every day, every day, even Friday, when his coworkers (sorry to any who're reading) wear jeans & sometimes look arguably sloppy for people whose goal is to appear to be competent legal representatives.  Not so many years ago, when I was a young girl, my dad left for work in a suit & tie every day, even when he didn't have to be in court.  It was the norm at his office for many years (insert sentiment about times changing & youth dressing sloppily here).

Trey has kept his suit resolution thus far, & this isn't all that shocking considering he belongs in an episode of Mad Men.  Every morning for the past week, I've plodded into the kitchen in my oversized pajamas of choice, my top knot a bit messy, & smiled at him in his pressed & proper suit, told him bye, & felt a little bit more like a slob than I typically do when he leaves me in the morning, coffee on my breath & smears from Henry's morning banana hand-cleaning on my pants.

So, what to do about the attire shaming that's suddenly an every day occurrence?  Obviously I am not resolving to wear a suit every day.  I mean, please.  I think I own maybe one suit, & it's a white linen pants suit, so I could only wear it half the year (but really not even that, because linen makes me so angry).  I guess I could  resolve to put on a bra every day, & to always change out of what I slept in, even if only to exchange sweats for yoga pants that will double as my pajamas the coming night.

(Can I just stop here for a minute & let you catch your breath from the picture of sexiness I am painting for you?  If coffee breath doesn't do it for you, maybe I should mention the hankering I've had lately for all things sour cream & onion flavored?)

What I have resolved to do is exert a little more control over my attitude (cue Trey's roaring laughter).  There are days I love staying home with the kids all day (in our pajamas), & I know as they age these days will be a rarity.  I need to soak these days up, rather than wishing them away, as I sometimes do, or beating myself up for feeling like a slob.  There are many days I feel like a slob, even though at the end of the day, I finally get in bed, & it's often the first time I've sat down for any extended period of time since rising that morning, & the list of things I've accomplished, while not always that long, is significant . . . 1) managed Reagan's diabetes, 2) set an example for my kids (more or less), 3) ensured my kids have clean(ish) clothes, food in their bellies, & feel happy, accepted, & loved.  See, these things are important, but can be done in one's pajamas.

I get frustrated at times because I have a closet full of clothes I love, including several items I've only recently been able to fit in again, but I rarely go anywhere.  When I do leave the house, the kids are usually with me, & so that eliminates some items of clothing because, well, my kids are messy & destructive & all their shoes velcro, & velcro, while awesome, sticks to expensive sweaters & destroys them.  Whether at home in my sweats, or at church or the grocery store in slightly fancier clothing, I am always mom, & I always dress like mom, & carry the mom bags, & bear mom stains, & mom grime, & in general am surrounded by a mom-aura that repels feelings of being well put together & in control.

In my many weeks of weather imposed entrapment in our home, I've realized a few things, or rather, thought more deeply about them.  First, your clothes affect your attitude.  This is not earth shattering news, & it's something I tell my students every semester when they ask me if they have to dress up for their speeches.  I always tell them that no, they don't, but we do spend time discussing the way our attire affects our confidence, our attitude, etc.  I always tell them that there is a reason I don't show up to teach in my sweats, & it's not simply adherence to the faculty dress code.  Too often we think only of how others perceive the way we dress without considering the psychological influence our clothing has on us.  

When I get tired of my mom suit, tired of the perpetual, disgusting stains, & the cavernous bags under my make-up free eyes, & my messy hair, sometimes I think the answer is to get everyone dressed & out of the house.  That's how you end up sitting on a bench in the mall beside your nauseous mother, wondering why, why?, did you leave the warmth & comfort of your home & pajamas to drag three small kids out in frightening weather?  That's how you end up discovering the band Carousel Vertigo.

Lord willing, in my future are plenty of days when I'll be free to shower (without an audience), put on my make-up, & wear nice, clean clothes with little fear of them being stained or destroyed.  There will be plenty of nights, plenty of New Year's, when I can dress up & Trey can take me out . . . or I can go out without him, because kids or not, he's a papaw.  These times are few & far between right now, & that's one of the reasons I enjoy teaching.  I sometimes struggle to get a shower, & get my make-up on, but I am no one's mother when I walk on campus, & I like that.  I wear nice clothes, & no one's velcro snags my shirt, & no one spills their drink in my lap.  No one's lunch is my responsibility, & if someone's pants are wet, well, it's not my problem.  At least once a semester I find myself gleefully announcing, "I am not your mother."  

I have to embrace my mom suit in the same way a nurse wears her uniform, or a cop wears his, & when it is getting the better of me, I will change my clothes if that is what it takes to change my attitude.  I will put on my new red coat that Macy's is shipping me as I type & go sit in front of the fire in my living room & sip coffee as if I were in a Starbucks in New York City.  Mind over matter, or yoga pants, rather.      

I've also resolved to care less about college football.  I know, I know.  That's an easy thing to declare in January when all but two teams are done for many long, long months now.  There is a lot I could say about the football that's been played the past week or so, but most, if not all, of it would raise my blood pressure, & so I am going to do the unthinkable, & leave it unsaid & engage in a little self-reflection instead.

Except I'll say this.  Just this one thing.  The SEC's bowl record is 7-5.  Other conference's bowl record's aside, the SEC had twelve bowl eligible teams this season, Twelve!, & I believe every team in the Western division of the SEC played a bowl game.  For the first time since 2005, no SEC team will play in the title game; the Tan Man & his Tide were kept out by one touchdown, unlike another ridiculously overrated team & their unsavory QB I won't mention by name.  So, yes, there were some disappointments, but I think it's a bit premature to be waving all these SEC white flags.

So, self-reflection . . . I've realized that my keen interest in college football is driven entirely too much by hatred, by hoping bad things happen to others, to people I don't even know, & I am thinking that this is not the healthiest habit to continue to develop.  I watched Alabama & Ohio State play (oddly interspersed with black & white shots of Robert Pattinson in the bathtub), & I realized that I used to pay attention to Ohio State's football program, & even, at times, wished them well.  Do you know why?  Jim Tressel.  I miss Jim Tressel, & I miss his sweater vests.  I loved seeing him on the sidelines in his sweater vest.

Urban Meyer, on the other hand, is not on my list of favorite coaches, & so as the game began, I was torn.  I was torn between two coaches I don't like, two storied programs whose teams, I admit, earned their spot in the first college football playoff (I admit it, Kirk, I admit it), one of them an SEC team.  What to do?  Had Jim Tressel been on the sidelines in his sweater vest, I'd have had no quandary.  A man in a sweater vest will always sway me, particularly when his competition is the Tan Man.

It was at that point, realizing I was unsure of how I felt about the outcome of the game because of the absence of a man in a sweater vest on the sidelines, that I decided I needed to take a step back, to refocus, to maybe just enjoy the sport.  I think I can manage this for the title game.  I'd love to see Mr. Mariota win; I kind of love him & his team just a little for dismantling & embarrassing a certain team.  Can we please all agree that being undefeated in the ACC is not a huge feather in your cap?  Or your headdress, as the case may be.  So anyway, go Ducks.  Or whatever.  When August rolls around, I am simply going to cheer for the Tigers.  Geaux Tigers!  I feel that, even if Les steadfastly refuses to recruit & develop a legitimate QB, LSU deserves my support since, when you get right down to it, I have been supported by a man with an LSU law degree basically my entire life.  

Other resolutions for this year include: using semicolons more judiciously, spending less time & money in Target, buying no new purses or other bags, & organizing my pantry.  I'm not sure what that last one will entail, but I'm pretty sure it's going to involve baskets.  With labels.  I'm listing them in my head now.  They may be organized & labelled by carb count.  I'll keep you posted.      

I've whined just a little bit about my mom duties, & I'd like to conclude by telling you how I spent the inaugural Friday night of this new year.

Wait for it . . .

I spent it all alone, & it was glorious.  Trey took the kids to sleep at his parents' house.  Reagan was vibrating with excitement about the sleepover all day Friday, as was I.

The moment they all left the house, I jetted to my parents' house to conclude the Pride and Prejudice miniseries with my mom & Jessa.  Once Darcy & Lizzie were finally married, I drove home (alone!), & I may've listened to a little Bon Jovi (loudly!) on the way to the house.

True story: when I was younger, I thought the lyrics to "Bed of Roses" were pure poetry:

With an ironclad fist / I wake up and french kiss the morning / while some marching band keeps its own beat in my head while we're talking / about all of the things that I long to believe / about love, the truth, what you mean to me / and the truth is baby you're all that I need . . . & then of course these gems: I'm so far away / each step that I take's on my way home . . . &, Tonight I won't be alone / but you know that don't mean I'm not lonely.  Oh, you're so clever, Jon.  So, I may live in sweatpants, & have lines on my forehead, & see my parents off for their New Year's party, but at least I now realize that, while it's still exhilarating to sing loudly in the car, that song is a bit ridiculous.

So, Bon Jovi & I were Livin' on a prayer for the twenty or so minutes it took to drive home in dense fog.  There wasn't any contraband in the house (you know, Oreos, Vodka, Robert Pattinson), but I had everything I truly needed for a stellar night alone: heaps of K-cups, books, my fireplace, & my revolver.   And sweatpants.

I read for awhile, & then I nestled in for an incredible night of sleep.  I talked to Trey at midnight, & Reagan's number was 136, so he bumped her basal rate down for a few hours.  Once I knew Reagan would stay well within a healthy range overnight, I slept.  I woke up (as opposed to being awoken) around ten Saturday morning & stayed in the bed & listened to the silence.  I heard nothing, nothing at all.  No one called my name, & no one was groping for me, not even the dog, who also, I think, slept a little more soundly than usual.  I eventually got up & walked around the empty house in the silence.  I hit the Keurig button & started the fire (we have a remote . . . I mean, I am not wonder woman).  I sat on the couch & read & drank a lot of coffee.  By the time Trey & the kids returned home around one o'clock, my food to coffee ratio was dangerously out of balance, I was a bit drunk from my own company, I had my suit on, & I was ready for them.    



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