Groundhog Days

My life is genuine chaos, and I love it. It is contradiction; it's a hot mess of amazing, soulshine moments and the bittersweet ones that come from working too much and missing one's family.

Each day starts around 4:30 AM, when a cocktail of pregnancy woes (mostly related to the massive belly hole I got patched after Arthur was born) and hormonal time warp wake me up. I stumble out of our big, comfy bed, which is currently tucked in my former boudoir, and over our beagle-corgie, Maynard, navigate through the labyrinth of towers of boxes, the dark hoarder's paradise that will soon be the new baby's living space, to the living room, and embrace the hour with a glass of frosty milk, heading to the corner of this space to take in the Internet's version of the news (since I am off of TV news until the baby comes...hormones plus bad stories put to dramatic music combine into a disastrous storm front of mascara-streaked cheeks and angry letters to politicians; it's not pretty).

After I have caught up on the news, I blog surf. There are far too many amazing blogs to ever get to them all. I hit the writing, feminist and political blogs first, then hit the travel blogs, moving on to The Sartorialist and Daily Candy, saving those blogs for last that would have my middle school home ec teacher drooling: design blogs like Design Sponge, guerilla craft and art blogs, all guilty pleasures since I never have time to sew or create any more; even my writing is neglected. I do write daily, but I have a massive box of notes and ideas that it sometimes seems I will never get to.

After I have read for an hour or so, I usually take my happy milk belly back to bed and sink into the cool sheets for a little sleep quickie. If I am lucky, a half hour passes before the nightmare of sad attempts at dressing my pregobelly. Very few acceptable clothing items for pregnant women are within my price range...supporting my family on a state income while putting hubs through college is a mind-numbing chore. That's what a master's in English gets a girl, and it's really not feasible to be a starving artist and have a family. But I do love them so much, my writing and my family, and I am happy, even if the economy has rocked us into submission with not one but three layoffs on behalf of my dear, amazing hubs (who, by the way, is kicking ass and taking names as an English honors student. And no, he's not getting a degree in English. We can't both afford to follow our bliss, and that's not really his bliss anyway).

The alarm pounds some Boss into my brain and I am crowing like the rooster up the road, doing the dread clothing dance. I find something not entirely suitable, but functional at the least, lamenting our poverty for a moment and then embarrassing myself out of it with the image of Gordon Parks' Flavio. Breakfast, usually an afterthought for me, is now a requirement as I try to grow this kid. I ping and pong between a bowl of oatmeal or toast with fruit and the shower, peering in on Roo more than once, who lies chaotically splayed in a mess of Elmo, blanket, and books he slept with last night, sweaty golden ringlets clinging to his sweet, pale forehead, and I resist kissing him because I know he needs his sleep and it's very early still; I throw on some low-heeled boots, grab my bag, and hurry to the car, smiling at the neighbors and marveling at the opalescent sky and the oranges and reds scattered across the ground along the way. This is the only nature I will enjoy today; I savor it.

I don't waste a breath of it; windows are down to invite in Mother Nature as I listen to the NPR Morning Edition. With most of my time spent at work, I pack as much casual life as I can into each moment, much like a concentrated juice. Leaves dance across the road; paved earth stretches; century-old bungalows greet passing hellos in their various shades of browns, grays, whites and pastels; the train whistles in the distance while Steve Inskeep briefs me on Hamas and the GOP; a half-full lidless sippy cup (much more portable than a Victorian tumbler) brims with nectar from Las Americas, sloshing dangerously as my little five-door negotiates turns; slate blue melts into pink into yellow above increasingly now; lights change from yellow to red to green; the homeless walk and the struggling wait in a line for something down the road from my office; behoodied students lug backpacks along the crosswalk; cars buzz and bass booms: this is my morning in fragments.

Soon I am in the library, having once more successfully triumphed over downtown parking, gleefully communing with arabica and hazelnut in the break room. Exhausted, often desperate students, one after the next, file in to see my office mate and I; the day is a hurricane of content and form, rhetoric and composition, mechanics and style, formats, structure, and development, interrupted by brief conversations with lab assistants and librarians over housekeeping issues and small talk, forms, follow-ups, GaGa and who will take what section of the Tulsa World next. 

A workshop or two breaks the day's routine. Dull-eyed students ornamented with alligator clips and ear buds update their Facebook status via phone as I turn on the projector and straighten handouts. It is against a sea wall of overdue mortgage payments, controlling boyfriends or parents, identity questions, sick children at home, babysitters that have fallen through, plummeting GPAs, overwhelming work schedules, preconceived--or worse, earned--unfortunate notions about college professors, grief, anguish, heartache and worry, that I know my first words to each group will fall; I choose them carefully, smiling and engaging each student with my eyes, asking questions, walking around the room, thinking, "You are here, and just for now, you don't have to be everything, just here in this moment." They put away their phones, answer my questions, laugh and learn. 

I have done my job, and it feels amazing.

Between all the craziness, my assistants remind me to eat and take breaks. I am incredibly grateful for this, as is Justin.

The day ends, and my second job begins. I gather papers and roll my heavy briefcase down the linoleum to the elevator, straightening my hair and reapplying lip gloss as it climbs to the fifth floor, where my students wait. Two classes of high energy, three hours of me being constantly impressed at how gifted and dedicated my students are, at how everyone is a writer. By the end of it, the clock rounds 7 PM, and I am reaching the very limit of my energy. I fantasize a nap as I lock the room, answer questions to those who walk the hall with me to the elevator, text Justin if I need to, feel the longness of the ride down to the first floor, and nearly lumber now into the purple evening, the breeze enchanting through the space between the building, floating up from the art deco down the way to say, "Welcome back to the rest of life."

Justin is in class or at work, depending on the night; I miss my husband and son terribly some days. I call to tell my child's caretakers for the evening I am on the way and hit the highway, watching the sky fade from indigo to black now. It's a sad thing to only see daylight from one's office window, but I do what I must for my family. 

I invent a spectacular plot as I pass through a blur glittering headlights and shadows, a plot I immediately forget when I arrive at my destination, obsessed only with scooping up Roo and taking him home to play. I hug him, I kiss him, I squeeze him so hard he squirms; this moment I have waited all day for. He jabbers about his day and his words slay me. The breeze, the sky, the glittering headlights all evaporate...it's just me and my son. Back on the road, I try to keep him talking so we can play together, but at a stoplight he falls quiet. I peer in the mirror, and almost before I see his head tilted and sweet, round face in a dream, I hear his soft, faint snores. The clock tells me it's almost 8 PM.

The hours that my entire family spends together awake are distressingly few, so each moment is stellar. We don't waste a second. I throw the little boy over my shoulder, manage my bag and belly as I open the gate and the front door, greeting the dog with a whisper, silently apologizing that I never get to pet him anymore. Inside, I slip the little boy's shoes off and lay him on the sofa. We should both be turning in, but I will let him sleep awhile and then wake him up to play for an hour or so. If I didn't, we would only see each other on the weekends. 

He looks just like his father when he sleeps, and it's beautiful.

I try to write while he snores softly behind me. Unsuccessful, I turn on a show. I catch up on everything I want to watch via Hulu or Sidereel, but distracted, feeling like a neglectful mother, I soon switch the program off and turn to wake him. I rub his back and talk to him, waking him up. He's too tired to play and I know he should be asleep, so we snuggle up and chat for a little while. He tells me about Sarah, who I assume is a little girl in his school, and about scary ghost houses and dinosaurs and his best friend Jace and his cousin Noah and he sings Queen and laughs and tickles me and in just a moment it is time to put him to bed for real. We brush his teeth, put on his pajamas, and read a book, and he doesn't fight sleep. I carry a book to my bed: Kurt Vonnegut, Sylvia Plath, Douglas Adams for the hundredth time, or maybe House of Leaves if my gestational ADD seems less demanding than usual. I try to keep myself awake, watching the clock. Justin will be home in one hour, maybe two. Maybe he won't close. Maybe he'll make two hundred dollars and it won't be so bad that we didn't see each other. Maybe he...

And now it's midnight, and he is waking me up. I smell him in the dark and I love him like the day I first knew I loved him fourteen years ago. We talk, talk about politics and what's funny in the world and nothing to do with our lives, because who has time for that? and soon I fall asleep, knowing he will be awake for another hour or two.

The next morning, Groundhog Day begins again. My sweet, sleeping boys, my brilliant students, the coffee, the news, the books, the cars. 

I think about Thanskgiving. I think about Christmas and New Year's Eve. Classes will end in three weeks and I will have my family back, a little more, at least. I won't teach next semester, a fact that will hurt us financially, and I will miss it terribly, but I miss my family even more, and I shouldn't be working fifty hour work weeks and trying to grow a human being. I know women do it all the time, but it's wearing me down to a stump.

I think about Spring Break, and finally the five weeks I will take off when the baby comes. Until then, I will work hard, since my leave will be unpaid. But those five weeks will be diamonds and rubies and opals and precious gems; they will be everything.

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