Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

This morning, we got up to see our son march for the last time in the Memorial Day parade in Middlebury. Not only was it a very small parade (ten minutes), but it was also a very small turnout in the crowd. Apparently, if you don't throw candy, no one wants to show up. Fight for our country, our lives, our freedom, our honor -- but if you're not going to throw candy, you might as well not march. Sad state of affairs, I say. Americans have priorities that are seriously out-of-whack.

Another quick week up ahead -- only three days at the Grind for me, and one housecleaning/grocery day. Our daughter has to get her last shot this week, our middle son turns 17 next weekend, our daughter gets a tooth pulled next week, our oldest son graduates and has his graduation party in two weeks, then I'm going to take a small vacation and you might not hear from me for a week. How's that sound? (Not that you can really tell the difference, since sometimes I go a whole week without writing anyhow!)

I've been working on two articles for magazines, one of which I finally finished and one for which I've just started doing research. I'm still attempting to find a way to make a living with my writing. Obviously, blogging isn't the way to do it (yes, I already knew that) and one or two articles a month, even paid articles, aren't bringing home the bacon, either. There has got to be a way -- without selling my soul and writing essays for college students who are too lazy to write their own -- to make a living this way. Maybe God will just drop it on my head someday. Along with a baby. (That's how those happen, right? Just get dropped on your head?)

I've got to get around to pulling together my stuff for a yard sale. This house always seems to end up full of useless junk I don't need. I don't know how it accumulates so quickly, because I have a gigantic yard sale each year. It's probably from going to yard sales myself. But that can't be true, because I always use the stuff I buy at yard sale. Weird, huh? I should hold an online yard sale. Oh, wait, that's called eBay.

Time to finish my coffee and do my reading. Hope you are having a relaxing Memorial Day weekend!

Stephanie Jean

Monday, May 23, 2011

There is a Season

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the sun."

I've spent the great majority of my life looking back, wishing upon falling stars, jumping at shadows, trying to reinsert myself into a time in the past that I have learned to appreciate more as I've gotten older. Elementary school, for instance. I had a best friend whom I knew would never betray me, and we spent every waking moment together whenever possible. High school, when I could eat a Supersize McDonald's meal AND a double quarter pounder with cheese and still weigh 110 lbs for four years. College, when I felt a sense of accomplishment in class because I was actually learning something. Vacation in New York City, when every step I took in Times Square felt electric, and I was never more alive and sure of myself. Right after my divorce, when I moved in with my "Francine" and we lived a happy-go-lucky two-girls-against-the-world life. When I fell in love with my own Prince Charming, we had our own little apartment, and smiling was the easiest, breeziest thing in the world.

But I've come to realize that there is a season, just like the verse says. Seasons pass. True, seasons come along again, but they're often different. Summers can be smoldering or they can be mild. Winters can be frigid, or they can be damp and messy. Autumns can be crisp or they can be balmy. Springs can be torrential or they can be misty. One smile is not as good as another -- a smile of contentment is different from a smile of glee is different from a smile of "I hope nobody realizes I'm not really smiling underneath of this facade".

I'm growing up.

Peter Pan was a story that my elementary school best friend and I were somewhat obsessed with for a season. I'm not sure if it was the flying, the mermaids, the 'never growing up' part -- but it really spoke to our young hearts. Recently, we went with our daughter's middle school drama group to see a production of Peter Pan in Chicago, and it brought back so many memories to me. One of those memories was crushing. At the end, Wendy grows up. Wendy is a wife and mother. Wendy has a child of her own. Wendy is perfectly content.

Peter is devastated.

I'm growing up.

I always said I wouldn't. I'd grow old, but not up. I would keep a child's heart -- no, not in a moldy trunk somewhere or a glass jar on my desk, I mean inside of my own body. A youthful heart, a merry heart, an optimistic heart. Somehow, somewhere along the line, I forgot. Somehow, somewhere along the line, I let myself grow jaded, pessimistic, sarcastic, arrogant, fatigued. I allowed the world to seep in and break the very spirit that set me soaring.

It occurs to me that I hate so many things, and I hate that about myself. I continue to try and make changes, get a step ahead, get a leg up, dig out of a hole, find a higher plane, go to a happy place, find myself, find contentment, do what I really feel like I should be doing -- and it seems, consistently, that it's all for naught. Every time I think I've made some sort of breakthrough, or gained a little ground, it falls out from beneath me and I'm sinking again.

I'm growing up, and I hate that about myself.

I wonder if part of why I so desperately want a baby is so that I'll have something youthful to cling to. Even our kids are growing up. Eighteen, sixteen, and thirteen. One graduating high school and going off to college, one graduating in a year, and one entering high school. Where did the time go? Was I off in my own world, wishing for a better time, back when I could pig out and not gain weight, or when riding a lawnmower around my parents' backyard was the biggest thrill of my life? How did I get to be thirty-four years old? I wasted so much time. So, so much time.

I remember reading "The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin" in either high school, or college, or both. He goes to a magic man at the beginning of the story because he's disappointed with himself and how the time has gotten away from him, and how many mistakes he's made. He tells the magic man that if only he could go back in time, he'd change everything, he'd be happier, he'd do all the right things. The magic man shakes his head, tries to tell Ivan he's wrong, but Ivan insists. So he gets sent back in time. And he does everything the exact same way he did the first time around, and ends up right in the same place, at the magic man's house, asking for another chance because if only he could go back in time, he'd change everything, he'd be happier, he'd do all the right things. The magic man shakes his head.

I've been down this route before. I know how it ends. It ends with me beginning again. Recycling seasons. I'm not unhappy, mind you. I'm married to the love of my life, I'm going to see my best friend from elementary school next month, I enjoy my writing, I have a great family, and God is good. I'm tired of not being able to breathe, is all. I won't allow myself permission to let my guard down and breathe. My husband tells me it's okay to go sit somewhere after work and read, and decompress. I can't. I can't do it. He tells me that's my own problem, and he's right. I just keep feeling like if I let my guard down, I'll miss something important.

But maybe I'm missing it right now.

Maybe I'm missing it just by wishing constantly that I would get pregnant. If I get pregnant, won't I just be pining for the days that I was 155 lbs, and didn't have a screaming infant at 3:47 in the morning? Maybe I'm missing it just by wishing that I lived in New York, or Chicago, or Las Vegas -- if I lived there, wouldn't I just be missing the clip-clop of horses down the road, and the silence, and the bright stars perfectly winking at me from the black night sky?

Why does growing up have to be so nostalgic? Why can't it be fun and exciting and relaxing and sweet-tasting, all at the same time? I know, I'm thirty-four, I should've grown up a long time ago. But this is why I didn't want to do it, you know. Because it hurts.

At the dentist, I used to hide under the desk so that he "couldn't find me" because I knew that, when he found me, he would take me into his office and whatever he was going to do to my teeth -- it was going to hurt. Playing soccer, when a bigger kid would run at me, I didn't defend myself or the ball, I just ducked out of the way -- it was going to hurt. Perhaps I've avoided growing up for so long because I thought that I could postpone the inevitable.

Nothing in my life has turned out the way that I expected it to. But, luckily, I suppose - nothing in my life has actually turned out. My life isn't over yet. God willing, I've got at least a few more years in me, huh?

Looking back, I realize that this post sounds like I'm depressed. I'm really not. I'm really quite content, most of the time. It's just that... I don't know. From time to time, I want to break out in song and have an entire back-up band and tightly choreographed back-up singers to follow me around for ten minutes before I go back to my regularly scheduled life. Periodically, I want to wipe the fake smile off of my face and pour a cold latte over someone's head when they are rude to me. On an off day, I want to break free of all responsibility, get in my car, not tell anyone where I'm going (not even myself) and just drive until I get wherever I'm done driving to, charge up my credit card in a posh hotel and get room service and watch VH1 all night long. I want to hop a train and not know where I am when I hop back off. Sometimes I want to sell everything I own and get on a plane to an island somewhere and build a hut and fish for a living with my husband.

I guess today is just one of those times.

Stephanie Jean

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fever Pitch

It's that time of year again. The time when everything seems to come to a head. Right at the end of the school year -- final band performances, final choir performances, final drama performances. Our hammy kids (just like us) are in everything, so almost every evening has been filled with running someone somewhere at some particular time to be in some particular performance, then coming back and watching them in said performance. And for one kid, it's his final everything in high school!

Our son Zachary was accepted this week to IPFW (Indiana University/Purdue University Fort Wayne). He also received his first scholarship, so we're excited about that. Hopefully he'll pick up more than one. Aria is being inducted into the Junior National Honor Society, and Michael performed three songs at the Battle of the Bands at the high school and did a fantastic job. We are so very blessed, and in the midst of all the stress of life I tend to forget that from time to time. Sorry about that, J.C.

I'm working on figuring out what I have to do to publish other people's song lyrics in my book,rights-wise, before I can put my next book up on Kindle. It's ready, I think. I just have to get that part taken care of first. I've had a few more articles published in Family Magazine of Michiana and MiChild Magazine, and I have another couple in the works, too. I'm trying as hard as I can to make something happen with my writing. I continue to feel that this is what I'm meant to be doing. God will lead me, I just have to follow when He does instead of wandering away, distracted by shiny things.

Or menial things: laundry, work, housecleaning, shopping, blah, blah, blah. Real life keeps getting in the way of my real life. Ironic, isn't it?

At any rate, I know there's not much of a post here, but I wanted to get something up here in case anyone actually cared that I hadn't posted in nearly two weeks. Thanks, in case you did care.

Hoping school ends soon, and I can breathe a little once again!

Stephanie Jean

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Preach It, Bruno Mars

"Today I don't feel like doin' anything, I just wanna stay in my bed." -- Bruno Mars

Okay, so it's not completely true, but it describes my happy weekend feeling. The last two days were very busy, so today I got to sleep in (ish). The dogs, who do not understand the concept of sleeping in because they don't have jobs and kids, needed to go outside at 8:00 this morning. Actually, even 8:00am is sleeping in for me, but I was thinking more along the lines of 11:00 or so. That's why I came back to bed. Sundays I like to linger, be lazy, catch up on my small amount of reading I can accomplish in a week, work on my writing, have a gigantic cup of coffee, and then start my day, if there's any of it left.

Friday night, I got off work and came home so Steve could sign his check and I could get some cash for our trip yesterday. He was not feeling well on Friday, so he took a much-needed day off (he gets perhaps one of those a year...) We got some food, and then our daughter had her opening night performance of "High School Musical". My mom and little sister and boyfriend came to see it, and Savannah brought her flowers and a card which was super sweet. Aria did a great job -- she's very lively and animated on stage, even when she's not the center of attention. She is in character all the time which, as a director, is something special to find in an actor.

Saturday (yesterday) Aria had to be at the school early for Academic Superbowl -- her group did a great job! Then we left for Merrrilllvilllle (I never know where the Rs and Ls are supposed to go and how many there are) to see Zachary's symphonic band play in the state prelims. They did a great job! Then we took him and two of his band members who are also in choir over to Valparaiso for their concert choir performance! It was a busy day, a lot of driving. We dropped them off, grabbed some food, and came back to watch what was an amazing performance! Zach and Michael are both in concert choir, but Michael rode the bus with the choir kids since he is not also in band. Their dynamics were incredible, and their performance was not only worthy of making it to state, but of WINNING state, so I hope that happens next week! Then we left, homeward bound. We went to church, and Savannah and her boyfriend joined us. It was an incredible service, and I highly suggest that you click on that link and watch it sometime this week -- Ashley Smith, former hostage victim, tells her whole story, and believe me, it is amazing! Then we left, picked Aria up from her last performance at the school, rented the third Harry Potter movie on Blu-Ray, and came home.

And today, I don't feel like doin' anything! [insert whistling]

But, here I am, writing anyway. What I really *do* want, though, is to spend some time outdoors in the sunshine because who knows when we'll get more of that? It seems so rare these days. I might take a walk after a bit and just soak up the rays. I have some seeds I can plant now that, hopefully, the threat of frost is over. I'd love to go to the park and write some more, perhaps. I always love spending time there when it's warm enough.

Sadly, I have laundry to do, and I have to take a shower because even on my day off I can't stand going without one.

But right now -- I'm still in bed, drinking my coffee, and reveling in the fact that, if I really don't want to, I don't HAVE to do anything today!


Stephanie Jean