How To Be Christina Fishburne On Monday

Find yourself planted for three years in a place people typically stay for only one.
Congratulate yourself on all that personal growth you did in Hawaii.
Think about all the people you know who might have cancer.
Plan a productive day.
Damn the constantly dirty floor to Hell.
Think about writing.
Go to the gym.
Preemptively grieve all the friends who are leaving this summer.
Start crying because people you love might have cancer.
Want another baby.
Vacuum.
Forget to buy more bagels.
Think about writing.
Think about painting.
Think about cancer.
Think about being pregnant.
Damn elliptical machines to Hell.
Vacuum.
Decide not to have another baby.
Wish you cared more about politics.
Wish you cared more about history.
Wish you cared more about Power Rangers.
Damn cancer to Hell.
Vacuum.
Think about writing.
Think about babies.
Think about wine.
Think about the people you know who have survived cancer.
Wish you were Diana Gabaldon.
Wish you were Claire Fraser.
Wish you were taller.
Wish you were better at conversation.
Wish you had a plan for dinner.
Pick up crumbs with a wet napkin.
Hold Malcolm’s hand when he offers it.
Thank Sam for doing the dishes.
Listen to Bella’s detailed plan for her birthday party half a year away.
Laugh at how Auggie says new words wrong.
Think about not wishing for more.

In Which Christina Realizes She Is In Fact A Colossal Bitch

When we had a non-carpeted eating area (ah, the sweet sweet regret of yesteryear), one of the kids’ chores was to sweep the floor after dinner. On this particular day, Bella was wearing her paper crown from school–Happy Birthday Bella! scrolling in gorgeously sparkly glitter around it.

Bella, from the floor with her dust pan: “Since this is Dad’s house he should be sweeping.” (angry vicious sweeping…) “It’s like we’re servants.” (sweep, sweep)

Sam, from the sink where he is rinsing dishes: “That’s right. And I’m the king.”

Bella, placing the dust pan down with great dignity: “I think you’re forgetting about…” (pointing to emphasize) “THIS” (indicating the crown).

Oh, how I laughed! We are all a bit self-important at times, yes? Except me. I have a completely balanced perspective on where I stand in life. I would never presume any sort of, like, entitlement or anything. That would be childish.

***

Let me sum up

May 16–they pack up our household belongings in Hawaii and we commence the living with nothingness.

June 6–we move to the hotel, discover Bella has lice, and commence the FREAKING of the out.

June 13–we get on a plane back to the mainland.

June 17–I decide to stop caring if we all get lice. I. Can. Not. Deal. with the fighting and screaming and “hold effing still”ing.

June 17, one hour later–I feel itchy and treat everyone’s head for the 3rd time.

June 24–we move into our empty house with great hope.

June 24, 10 seconds later–I am disgusted with the kitchen and the carpet.

June 25–Sam gets a kidney stone. We get to visit the local ER.

June 26–we buy a 36 ft carpet for the basement and, in typical galactically stupid Fishburne fashion, don’t ask for help bringing it in.

June 29–our household goods arrive!

June 29, one hour later–we are told one of our crates was left in LA. No one is exactly sure what is in it.

July 1–Sam is pretty sure he has another herniated disc. He is not wrong. He (rightly) stops all all unnecessary movement. It’s so great that there isn’t anything that needs to get done…VZM.IMG_20160629_191143

July 2–the extent to which I am screwed sinks in: the Hawaii movers disassembled EVERYTHING. The bunk bed, the crib, the shelves, the coffee table (where is the other leg?!), the bicycles, the play table, etc. And the Kansas movers assembled: The bunk bed. For which I am eternally grateful.

July 6 –our missing crate is here!

July 6, three minutes later–oh wait. It’s someone ELSE’S crate. Ours is still in LA.

July 21–Our REAL crate is here! We have a couch! etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…

***

So. Here’s the situation:

I have no life.

No, actually, I have 4 lives–but none of them are mine.

No, actually, I have 4 lives and only the parts of my own life that are exceptionally necessary–Eating. Dressing. Going to the bathroom.

Unless someone is about to fall down the stairs. Or needs more milk. Or medicine.

not-now-skeletor

“Can I get some coffee when you’re done with that?”

Things I Find Demoralizing

*A long white whisker growing from under my eye. What the effing hell. Even the bags under my eyes are stressed? Pull that mother out but quick.

*Spilling some sort of extremely unnatural Red Number 5 juice on the carpet and totally not caring.

Things That Make Me Feel Like An Absolute Rock Star

*Remembering to take off my teeth whitening strips at EXACTLY 30 minutes without setting a timer.

*Figuring this out20160809_080601

 

I’ve always thought of myself- on the whole-as a compassionate and understanding woman. Willing to give the benefit of the doubt. Polite. Kind. Two years ago when Sam hurt his back the first time, I attributed my hideous behavior to being pregnant. I even congratulated myself on how well I managed, all things considered.

I think you’re forgetting my crown, Family…

***

My day for the past 5 or 6 weeks

Wake Up

morning

Just. Like. This.

Make coffee, make lunch for Sam, make breakfast for Sam.

Bring breakfast to Sam.

If baby is not awake yet, gleefully check Facebook and do Jamberry stuff.

Make breakfast for kids, who are now awake. (the gall)

Help Sam with the trickier parts of getting dressed in uniform.

Bring dishes down. Break up a fight or two. Stop Auggie from throwing himself down the stairs.

Load everyone into the car and take Sam to work.

Run errands, or clean, or do laundry, or hang a few pictures, or unpack a box– It never seems to be more than one of these things.

Distribute snacks, put baby to bed, make lunch.

Wake up baby, load everyone into the car, pick up Sam.

3 times a week: Help Sam change clothes if needed. Load everyone back into the car, take Sam to physical therapy. Wait an hour. Come home.

2 times a week right after the above: kick Sam out of the car then turn around and take kids to Karate. Cuz good parents make their kids do stuff, right?

Come home. Make dinner. (Why didn’t I buy stock in Cheerios?! STUPID STUPID STUPID)

Give a few baths.

Listen to them read. (KILL ME.)

Put them to bed.

1-2 hours of Blessed TV Viewing.

Bed.

And interspersed in there, I try to play with them, or listen to the recent development on the War of the Roses research for his thesis, or do math flash cards, or shave my legs, or answer emails. The evil comes out, sadly, every once in a while. And by “once in a while” I mean “around 3:00.” It manifests most frequently in the unhinged shrieking of “STOP YELLING!”

I yell at the kids. I sigh heavily at Sam.

Seriously? You want me to go make you some coffee? That’s great. Cuz I love going up and down the stairs millions of times a day. And now you want a KISS? So I have to put all these dishes down and walk all the way around to the other side of the bed now? Fine. Whatever.

Why am I thinking such things? I’ll tell you why? Because I am an absolute ASS.

I’m pretty sure Sam would rather his spine NOT be jacked up. And last time, he actually DID try to do more and it ended up further injuring him. So essentially I’m all Saint Christina, Martyr Wife and Mother because the poor guy is trying to get better faster, to get back to his own life where I allow him to work like a dog to support me in the style to which I’ve become accustomed and to help me.

Geez, Sam.

So naturally the Facebook 7 days of Happy Couples Challenge exploded my computer and phone during this time. I wanted to want to participate…but all the loveliness only exacerbated my Phelps

***

I’m in the Bizzaro 2013. I tell people where we’ve just come from and they get all wistful and then express their condolences for our surely despairing family. I am so happy to be back on the mainland. SO happy!

The sky isn’t as blue here. I noticed that right away. But it’s HUGE and open and the trees are so familiar and both muted and sparkly.

I see pictures of where I used to be and I want to miss it.

I hear Auggie’s little wave sounds from his Lamby nature sounds toy and I get hit with an image of myself walking toward the sea. For a split second I feel a delicious melancholy and romantic yearning. But almost immediately I remember what the reality was: strapped with 4 tons of baby, carrying a bunch of crap I won’t use, hot, and about to spend the next 3 hours roasting myself on a mat watching everyone else have a great time, making sure no one eats handfuls of sand, and dreading the 2 hours of laundry and 4-5 days of cleaning sand out of my kitchen.

If I squandered my time on the island, it was my own fault. But it also sort of wasn’t. There’s always stuff that needs to get done. But it IS possible to appreciate the important stuff in the midst. Beauty. Humor. Kindness. Honor. Generosity. All of which I just so happen to see in Sam. Maybe not all at the same time. Maybe not every day. We are quite evenly matched in the unevenness of our goodness.

***

In sickness and in health. That’s one of the challenges I accepted. It is one to which I never gave a second thought. Of course! Because I love him!

I have a life. I have a RIDICULOUSLY good life. I’m in no danger. My family is in no danger. I get WAY more sleep than I’ve had in the past 2 years. I can in fact manage day to day activities for all of us by myself. And it is my great privilege to do so. Plus, my legs are getting SO strong from going up and down the stairs.

I’ve spent the past 3 years putting myself back in order. I thought. None of it is any good if I can’t take care of the one I love. I even want to, dare I say it, serve him.  At least…I want to want to.

Surf’s Up. Time’s Up.

So I had a dream the other night.
I was out in the ocean, catchin’ some waves…on a boogie board. Sam was with me. The waves were really REALLY huge. Like, Hollywood-cataclysmic-natural-disaster-movie huge. Sam was trying to teach me how to “do it right”—where to catch the wave to ride the greatest distance. I wasn’t doing well. Then this huge scary tidal wave rose up underneath me and I knew it was going to be bad. I was going up too high. I could see the cities in the distance. The beach was way way below me. But I was not afraid. Just mildly apprehensive.

This summer has been great. Nobody broke their back. Nobody was dry heaving into the toilet every morning. There were planned activities and whatnot. There was moderately good parenting. It’s been an absolute delight not rocketing out the front door at 7am in a flurry of backpacks, lunch boxes, mewling infants, and armfuls of stuffed animals that MUST NOT BE LEFT BEHIND. I’ve had no extra curricular responsibilities. I’ve had assistance. But all that is about to change. School is starting.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think we’ve all had our fill of quality time together. But it means Real Life is happening again.
Yes, Yes, I’ve had real life for the past 3 1/2 months. But in my mind, (which is apparently still 12 years old) Summer kind of doesn’t count. If I feel stress, it somehow doesn’t register at full strength. It doesn’t make sense. Much like my believing every time that growing my eyebrows out WILL INDEED make me look younger–just like the magazines say. In my mind I see this:
daenerys-targaryen-images-11
In the mirror I see this:
o-FRIDA-900
But somehow the months June, July, and August still trigger a big fat forcefield around my brain, rejecting all logical argument that I am accountable to long term consequences.

As I felt the wave cresting and I started to come down I thought, “huh, this one will surely take me all the way in! Good job, me!” but then immediately in front of me another tidal wave began to rise up—over me—and started cresting toward me. I had a Han Solo very bad feeling about this. Yet wasn’t terrified. Just disappointed that my epic ride to the shore was about to be ruined. The second wave was tipping on top of me. I knew I was going to be pounded. Was going to have to go underwater. Which I can’t do comfortably without holding my nose. There would be no time to hold my nose. And I’d need both arms to get back to the surface. There was nervousness, but no real fear.

School– with all the taxiing, homework, and afterschool schedules. School, where my son will be expected to have made significant progress in reading and math because I was supposed to have him tutored and work extra hard at home to get him ready for the next level.
Photo on 8-18-15 at 12.50 PM

Bible Study will be starting again as well, with all the phone calling angst and pleasant yet time-consuming preparation and emotional energy expenditure.
So, clearly, now is the time to start an online business venture! Yes! One that requires much monitoring and tallying and keeping track of different groups and people and orders. And math. Definitely. Let’s do THAT.
And let’s join a book club! Cuz, ya know, IDLE TIME.
What’s that noise? Oh it’s the BABY crying. Good thing he doesn’t require much attention…
I am not even remotely as busy as my friends. But this small list is debilitating to me when I stop and think about it. And because I feel incapacitated at the thought of any additional responsibility, I assume that it’s probably necessary to do it–all of it– in order to be a Grown Up.
I want to be a grown up. But I also really REALLY want to sit on the couch for hours and hours at a time looking out the window, listening to the chimes, daydreaming, and eating cake. With no expectations of me to do anything else. Do grown ups do that?

other than her…?

other than her…?

My parents visited for a gloriously long yet not long enough time this summer. I got a taste of the good life again. That life where my mama does my laundry, gives kids a bath, puts them to bed, brings me snacks, etc. And tv. Oh, the TV! I got to watch my Korean Dramas again. And they are just as brilliant as I remember. I blame Misaeng (Incomplete Life) for my sudden interest in being employed. It’s a show about an office full of business people. That’s really all it’s about. Except it’s also about LIFE and the SOUL. Anyway– my parents are not here now. I have to be the parent again.

My dreams

My dreams

Just as I felt myself simultaneously rising up and being covered under the shadow of this enormous second wave, I closed my eyes. Then for some reason I was moved smoothly from the first rising wave right onto the top of the second one. I had a Leonardo DiCaprio Top of the World moment. I could see everything. I was rapidly approaching the shore. And then I was on the beach. With my boogie board.

The reality of the situation is: I love my life. I love it so much and am so grateful for every syrup covered, crumb coated, vaguely diaper smelling aspect of it. Forcing myself to do grown up things is hard. And by “grown up things” I mean, interacting with adults who have mature expectations of me and upon whom I cannot unload a laundry basket filled with excuses as to why I’m late, in a bad mood, and un-showered. But it’s like exercise. It gets easier the more you do it and the more you do it, the stronger you are.
I have not exercised since May 21st.

I looked back at the surging water and could see Sam still out there. I knew he was fine but was worried about me. With telescopic vision I could see him or feel him asking with his shoulders or arms if I was ok. I tucked my boogieboard under my arm and gave him a thumbs up.

Hello! My name is…wait, what was the question?

I need lots of positive reinforcement. Every once in a while I’ll google my name to see what comes up, both in images and in links, but always with my maiden name–because without the “Rauh” all I get are the menacing facial expressions of one Laurence Fishburne. A few years ago I bailed on a self-publication right before it was to be actually published and right after I had made my last of 4 nonrefundable payments of 500 dollars. Because, if you’re gonna face-plant in shame, go all in. Anyway, I can’t even look at those 6 copies of that book without seeing that could have been a Tiffany’s bangle scroll through my mind and hanging my head under the disgrace of it all, but thanks to the indifferent colossus that is Amazon.com, it appears online that I am a real author. So every few months I pretend that it’s true. Recently, googling my name presented me with charming pictures of myself and my family, lots of Korean Drama actors, the obligatory random Laurence Fishburne stuff, and a starkly black and white phrase clip art: “Eat Shit And Die.”
Huh. Interesting. I could have been quite confused by this. Should have been. But it almost made sense that day. My name conjured that weird collection of images. This was a trail of where I’d been, an acid trip pirate’s map of people I love, my interests, and cyber-wanderings. If a stranger, say a renowned publisher looking for undiscovered mediocre writers to take under his wing and sky-rocket to heights of fame and recognition previously undreamt, were to use my name as a search for clues as to my character, “Eat Shit And Die” might be off-putting.
But do I look like I care?

teacup

Does it bother me that my name should bring up such a command? No. Not really. Know what bothers me?

THIS.

THIS.

And also that my hair is falling out in a post-pardem cascade of horror.

***

I printed out Boss of the Bathroom on my printer. Used up valuable black ink for this. Black ink that I will not be able to replace unless I also replace all three color ink cartridges at the same time. Color cartridges that are perfectly fine. I find the needless replacing of still full ink cartridges to be inordinately infuriating. BUT ANYWAY–Boss of the Bathroom. I started the story when I was in third grade. I finished it after Malcolm was born twenty years later.
This is not War and Peace, people. It’s not so much that I am a meticulous writer. My stories do not require hours of detailed research. It’s more that I am really slow to process my thoughts, easily distracted, and kind of don’t really have anything to say for long periods of time. So I keep it in the back of my mind that I have this finished story (!!!) and I will self-publish it when I’m at a low point to make myself feel productive. Just printing it out on my stupid little printer made me feel like the day wasn’t a complete wash. It flashed me back to the times in the computer lab at school, printing off a completed (!!!) story for workshop, and feeling all optimistic and clean and full of promise. Printing Boss of the Bathroom at my little desk in the kitchen that day made me feel full of promise again. I was 8 years old again. I was 27 again. It was all in front of me.

I am 36 years old. That’s almost 40. That’s, like, a real adult. I’ve always imagined 36 year old women have real problems and expensive purses. They have places to be. Responsibilities. Baggage.
So far, I feel ok. Though, the hair thing is disconcerting as hell.

What I see in the mirror after washing my hair.

What I see in the mirror after washing my hair.

I am old enough now that I can “look back” at my life and see a relatively interesting story. The Web Images that come up in my Life Google are flashes of a great childhood, painless (in retrospect) High School years, dramatic wartime romance, travel, beautiful babies, wonderful friends, essentially: a happy and fulfilling life. A daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife, a mother. But there’s always a little nagging feeling. A small blank space when I scroll through the images. Something is just not there that I feel needs to be there. It’s like looking in my rear view mirror at the NEVER centered baby seat mirror. I know (because of the screaming) that something is not right but all I can see is that his left knee is perfectly fine. This nagging is not a spiritual emptiness–far from it. It’s that I’m supposed to be doing something and I’m not doing it. I am indeed this wife and mother and friend and sister and daughter that people know, but there’s that “aaaannnnnnddd?” in the back of my mind.

***

My sweet first born child had a lapse into hooliganism a few weeks ago. Who knows why, but he thought it would be a great idea to etch his name into a teacher’s car bumper. Now, there is nothing good about this, but I can at least be grateful that the bumper in question had already been in an accident and is about to be replaced so the restitution required will be covered by a 7 year old’s allowance savings and a week of Anti Scratch Scrubbing during recess. Was it peer pressure? Was it showing off? Was it art? Doesn’t matter. It was what we in the business call “A Bad Choice.” But along side the embarrassment and concern that this episode is a foreshadowing of future visits to local penitentiaries comes the completely inappropriate chuckle. He was doing something wrong but was still innocent enough to choose his own name as the carving.

Adorable. But not a bright future in trade craft.

Adorable. But not a bright future in trade craft.

I’ve got all these perfectly fine ink cartridges but the thing I need to communicate won’t print. I know who I am. I like who I am, and my friends and family like who I am. That should be enough. What is it that makes me want my name to mean something to people who don’t know me? What is compelling me to write this? There’s no way on earth I’d ever SAY these things to anyone. The idea of it just made me take a deep calming breath. I don’t talk about my feelings. I can think of nothing more terrifying. But apparently I can write about them all day like an absolute fool. And actually HOPE someone reads them. When it’s out there I feel both relieved and shy. A risk taken, but safe. It’s singing loud, but only if sure of being drowned out–like say, belting out Gershwin show tunes while vacuuming. I’m not saying I do that. Ever.