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Chapter Two

Carla and John went on their first date on new Year’s Even 1969. They stood awkwardly crammed against each other by the men’s room trying to make small talk in the noisy, crowded bar. The Warsaw was the mill workers’ usual hang out, so they knew just about everyone in the cramped and dirty bar. Carla and John worked the same shift at Donahue’s Piping, and they were both regulars at the Warsaw. People who lived in the neighborhood could tell the time of day by the steady flow of tired and thirsty workers streaming across the street to the bar.
John had been pestering Carla to go out for him for months, but she kept turning him down. She was dating men from the mill. Every time she did, it became everybody’s business. At 23 she’d had her fair share of men, and most days she felt it just wasn’t worth the effort. Besides, she still lived at home, so dating was often awkward anyway.
Eventually, though, John wore her down with his persistence. He would wait in the brake room for her, combing his long black hair. They made him tie it up while he was on the factory floor, but he took it down as soon as he hit the brake room.

One night in late December, just a day or two after Christmas, Carla trudged into the brake room and slumped down in one of the green metal chairs. She let her head fall into her hands and sat motionless, barely breathing.
“Tough day, Carla Belle?” John asked from his spot by the mirror.
“I’m not in the mood for your come ons today, John,” Carla snapped, not lifting her head.
“Sorry, honey. What’s going on?” he asked moving towards her.
“Kennwick is on my ass again,” she said, “You got a smoke?”
“Sure. Sure.” he responded, pulling a pack of Lucky Strikes out of left jeans pocket. Seconds later a silver Zippo emerged. He put them both on the brake room table in front of Carla, who gratefully pulled a smoke out of the pack and stuck it into the right corner of her mouth. She opened the Zippo and took a deep breath, sniffing the light fluid. “Just like Pap,” she thought, and then lit up.
John waited for her to take her first long, slow drag before he took a chair next to her at the table, resting his palms on the cool, green surface of the metal table for a second before reaching to light up his own cigarette.
They sat there together for awhile, just smoking, occasionally looking up to see the all-knowing smile of a co-worker at which Carla smirked in response.
She had to admit, he wasn’t bad looking. He was tall and slim, but muscular. His biceps, marked with matching anchor tattoos from his Navy days bulged out beneath the short sleeves of his blue t-shirt. And he smelled good—a combination of cigarette smoke, transmission fluid, and Old Spice.
About halfway through her Lucky, she asked, “You goin’ to the Warsaw for New Year’s?”
“Yeah, I figured I would stop in. Dolly always makes the best pimento cheese loaf. I don’t want to miss out on that, he answered, his spirits suddenly high. “You?” he asked acting as though he wasn’t really interested in her answer.

“Yeah. Why not? Maybe we can go together,” Carla suggested stubbing out her cigarette in the overfilled glass ashtray in the middle of the table. She stood up and started towards the door where other workers were filing out and back onto the factory floor.
John, still feigning nonchalance answered, “Yeah. It’s a date then. Pick you up?” His heart was racing.
“Sure. 24 Kelly Street. White with green shutters. Around ten,” she instructed walked over the threshold of the brake room door. John’s eyes followed her all the way to her safety station where she started to gear up before getting back on her machine. He nearly skipped back to the other end of the floor.

Not even a week later at exactly 10 pm, John pulled up to the white house with green shutters. He left his Cougar idle out front as he strode up the cement steps. The porch light was on, and he could see a woman’s face peering out of a narrow glass window framing the front door of the 1920s Craftsman. Before he hit the top step, the face disappeared and Carla emerged quickly. Her hair was swept up in a bun. Wispy red strands fell on the collar of her black wool coat. She brushed past John, her beige strappy sandals clicking on the wooden porch slats. “Let’s go,” she called to him as she descended the steps.
John shrugged, having expected at least a hello from Carla. “Was that your Mom,” he asked trying to get ahead of her to open the passenger door. He nearly froze his ass off earlier that day washing and detailing the cobalt blue Cougar. It was worth it, he thought, because it shined like new under the street lights.
Once they were both settled inside the warm car, John lit up a Lucky and pulled away from the curb. Carla was quiet, her hands folded in her lap. Every once in awhile, John would catch a glimpse of her long, dangly earrings sparkling in the light of passing cars. He felt alive all over. Her perfume was light and flowery, almost like roses, and he longed to hold her hand, kiss her, climb into the backseat with her. Just get close to her.
They pulled into the Warsaw parking lot, already packed full of cars. John opened his door and flicked his cigarette butt, still lit, into a patch of snow by the fence, and went around to open Carla’s door. They walked together towards the bar, the noise of voices and music growing louder as they got closer to the front door. They pushed their way through a crowd of smokers huddled together, talking and joking, passing around a bottle of Jack.
Once inside, they looked for a table, but found none open, not even a stool at the bar, so they put their coats on top of the pile on one of the pool tables. John caught his breath when he saw Carla’s dress—a silky green slip of a thing with a plunging neckline that revealed her freckled skin beneath the silver pendant necklace that graced her neck.
“Wow, you look great,” John said staring at her breasts and slim hips.
“Thanks,” she said smiling for the first time that night.
“What can I get you to drink?”
“A fuzzy navel,” she said without hesitation. She had been drinking the orange juice and peach Schnaps concoction at the Warsaw for years.
“Be right back,” he said, heading towards the crowded bar where Dolly and her sister Candace were serving up drinks as fast as they could manage.
Carla opened her purse, and pulled out a pack of Blairs. She loved the blue and white, cloud-cover packs, and she had saved up nearly enough tickets to earn a prize from the Blair catalogue. She stepped aside to let another couple toss their coats to the pile and surveyed the crowded room. She knew more than half of the people in there, but she felt alone, almost like a stranger. She supposed that it had something to do with what she was wearing—heels, a dress, and even make up—so different form her usual work wardrobe of jeans and a plaid shirt.
“Watcha think’ about?” John asked, handing her drink. His other hand held a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

“Nothing much. Is there someplace a little quieter where we could stand?!” she shouted. Someone had turned up the jukebox, and it was blaring CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising.” They surveyed the bar that Dolly had decked out in silver and gold streamers and signs saying “Happy New Year 1970.” In less than an hour it would be a new decade and John was hoping Carla would be part of his.

Now on her second fuzzy navel, Carla had become more talkative. The noise of the revelers at the bar forced her to lean closer to John for him to hear her. They were talking about work.
“Kennick is a real piece of work,” John agreed, after Carla told him about their most recent shouting match. His management style wasn’t exactly conducive to producing good work. He had only been a foreman for a few months, and they both believed that the power had gone to his head.
“Well, I wish like hell I could get out of that place,” Carla said into John’s right here. She could smell that sweet mixture of cigarettes, transmission fluid, and Old Spice again. He smelled like she thought a man should smell—a strong, hard working man. As the alcohol warmed and emboldened her, she found herself more and more attracted to him. His blue jeans, black turtleneck, and leather blazer fit him snugly. Slowly, as the clock ticked closer to midnight, she inched into him until by the countdown, the length of her body was pressed against his right side and his hand was pressed into the small of her back.
They smiled at each other as they heard the countdown begin and were already kissing by the time “Auld Lang Syne” hit its first crescendo. John and Carla were married on February 19, 1970.
They got married at Reverend Burkett’s house instead of having a big church wedding. They wanted to use what little money they had to furnish the trailer they rented at Barley Court. John’s parents threw them a big reception at the fire hall. Of course, Carla’s parents didn’t come. Her mother was an introvert, and her father just never cared for big crowds. Carla had grown used to her parents’ lack of participation in her life, but John just couldn’t understand why. When John questioned her, she told him to let it go. John had only spoken to the Rogers’ twice, and they made him feel unwelcome. Carla’s mother sat quietly in her chair knitting and her dad stared at the blaring TV. As they walked to the car, John asked her if they disliked him, and she replied, “It is not that. They are like that with everyone.” John was starting to understand why Carla was so quiet. She had no one to talk to at home.
They were married just under a year when Carla found out she was pregnant. They were both happy, but John immediately started urging Carla to quit her job at the mill. He had been recently promoted to shift supervisor, and his pay was enough to live on. She fought him on it, though. She wanted to keep her own money, and she liked having somewhere to go everyday, even if it was to cap steel pipes for ten hours in a row. Eventually, though, her morning sickness won out, and she quit her job to stay home.
She was so tired in those early months of pregnancy that all she wanted to do was sleep. John would come home and find her at the end of his shift laying on the couch still dressed in her nightgown and housecoat, the house a mess and no dinner on the table. It wasn’t long until she began to dread his arrival from work. She would hear his car coming down the gravel lane, and she would jump up from the couch, run into their room, throw on some clothes, and start cleaning. Sometimes he would kiss her hello and sometimes he would immediately start in on her, badgering her about the dishes not being done or the kitchen floor not being swept.

By the time she was six months pregnant, their marriage had become the seat of all their life frustrations. Rumor had it that the plant was about to close, so John was constantly battling his own worries, and he figured the least Carla could do while he was out working was clean the damn house. Carla became more and more depressed whether from the pregnancy or from John’s ranting and raving. She felt bad about herself and almost dreaded the birth of their child. She knew that no matter what, she would never be able to live up to his expectations.
Marketta Dawn Wells was born on Halloween morning 1972. Carla and John had been fighting the night before about where they would be going for Thanksgiving dinner when Carla’s water broke. After just six hours, Marketta came squalling into the world. The next morning word broke of massive layoffs at the mill. John and 400 other workers were given their pink slips two days before Thanksgiving. That was the first night John did not come home from the bar.
So many nights Carla had to bundle Marketta up and drive her on the icy roads to the Warsaw to retrieve John, who had once again passed out on Dolly’s couch in the backroom, where his friends had left him. The little bit of money John got in unemployment each week was barely enough to cover their rent and his bar tab. The few dollars in Food Stamps they got each month kept food on the table.
By their third wedding anniversary, Carla had started drinking, too, mostly at nights after Marketta went to bed. Carla would pour herself a glass of cheap red wine and lay on the couch, reading Harlequin romances, escaping into another reality while she waited for her soused husband to either be dropped off by his buddies or for Dolly to call her to pick him. Her life was shit and she knew it, but she couldn’t even imagine a way to make it better. She spent her days feeding, bathing, and rocking Marketta, and her nights drinking and wishing she was somewhere else, anywhere else.


One night after a particularly ugly fight, John sat next to Carla and said, “Look, let’s stop fighting for a minute. Robbie and Denise have an idea I want to share with you.”
“What?” Carla asked quizzically. “Robbie and Denise? Those Speed freaks? What do they want?”

“Just listen,” John urged.
He explained that since Robbie had been out of work for months, too, that he and Denise were scheming up plans for making some money, and they had this brilliant idea. They would buy an ice cream truck.
“Oh, yeah, that is really brilliant, John. Like they are going to get rich on Push Ups and Scooter Crunch Bars,” Carla said, taking a long drag off her cigarette. Marketta stirred where she lay sleeping on a quilt on the living room floor. She had gotten accustomed to their fighting, Carla figured, because she was able to sleep right through even their biggest blowouts.
“No, listen. The idea is that they will use it to sell ice cream AND drugs,” John said. “And I think we should get in on it.”
“What?” Carla said, pulling away from him. “Why would we want to sell drugs?”
John stood up and started pacing the floor, pulling his hand through his hair, now cropped short. “Look, the unemployment is about to run out and no one in this damn valley is hiring. We are going to have to do something.”
She didn’t say anything, but watched him pace their small living room, kicking Marketta’s toys out of the way as he went. Eventually, he stopped and looked straight at her, “I really think this can work, and I am going to do it. Are you with me or not?”
Carla picked up her wine glass and sat back on the brown flowered couch, thinking. “Okay. What do we have to do?”
For the next hour, John explained the plan. They would buy drugs—mostly marijuana, speed, and acid—from Robbie’s dealer, and they would make their deliveries out of the ice cream truck. No one would suspect what they were up to, since ice cream trucks stop routinely in all neighborhoods in the area.
Carla interrupted, “And what do we do in the winter? You know, when no one is buying ice cream?”
John said, “By then, we will have established customers, and we will be able to rent a hotel room or something.”

“I don’t know, John. I really don’t. What if we get caught?” she asked, looking over at Marketta, whose lips were sucking an imaginary pacifier.
“That’s the thing, Carla, you can stay out of it. No one will ever know that you were involved.”
“I guess you are determined to do this, so go on. I hope it works out for everyone,” she said, clearly unsure as she put her empty wine glass back on the coffee table and picked up her latest romance novel, Trial by Fire. She leaned back on the couch, making a clear gesture to John that the conversation was over. He walked out of the room and down the hall to their bedroom. She could hear the water in the waterbed slosh as he climbed into bed. Minutes later, his voice, muffled, but clearly excited, told her that he was on the phone with Robbie making plans for the rolling drug truck.
As she got back into her book, her mind kept wandering, not out of worry of John getting caught but if her life would change after the money started pouring in. She doubted that very much. She laid the book open face down on the coffee table, preserving her spot and got up to get a can of Diet Rite, since she was all out of wine. When she came back, she noticed that their bedroom light was off and John had stopped talking. She took a few sips of pop, then curled up on the couch. Carla thought that if she was lucky she might not wake up.

Chapter One

Marketta’s long chestnut hair shown red in the morning sun’s bright beams streaming through a gap in the living room curtains. Her small hands worked her doll’s dress up over her plastic body slowly. Two ribbons held the thin pink shift together at the back of the neck, which were hard for the four year old to untie. She hummed “Delta Dawn” quietly as she labored over the silky knots.
She woke up a few hours before to the sound of spring’s first bird song right outside her window. She slid over the side of her bed, put on her Snoopy bathrobe, and crept down the hall. She paused at the threshold to the living room, holding her breath until her green eyes found her mother, Carla, asleep on the couch. She sighed gratefully and clambered over trash, dirty clothes, and toys to feast on the remaining slice of cold pizza from last night’s party, washing it down with a sip of flat pop from a bottle on the floor.

Marketta cleared a spot to sit and play in the warm sunshine just feet away from where he mother snored heavily, make up smeared and red shirt half off exposed one breast, which sagged droopily towards the brown flowered couch. Marketta wanted to cover her mother, but she was so afraid she would wake up that she let her be. Instead, she picked up Sally, her favorite doll, and began getting her ready for the day. She had spent a long time brushing Sally’s stiff wirey blond hair and then she chose a dress for her to wear. Marketta had grown tired of the pink one and her mom’s friend Rob had spilled red wine down the front of it last night when he stumbled to the bathroom.
Eventually, Marketta had managed to untie the ribbons and remove the dress. She stared at Sally’s body for a long while, turning her over and over in her hands, marveling at her light skin, unmarred by the black and purple circles hidden under Marketta’s own sleeves. She felt sad when she thought about her mother’s last rage, and the more she remembered, the sadder she became. In an instant her sadness turned to anger, and she threw Sally on the floor and punched her in her soft belly. Unlike Marketta, Sally didn’t make a sound. She just stared up towards the ceiling, her expression unchanged from the placid look she wore the day Marketta found her at Goodwill. Her skin did not redden and then welt like Marketta’s. She would have no marks to hide from what her mother said was “nobody’s business.”
Marketta began to cry as softly as she had been humming. She was sorry for what she had done to Sally. She picked up her naked form and rocked her in the hammock made by her nightgown stretched over her criss-crossed legs. Her face felt hot as her tears began to fall faster down her face and into the crease of her neck. She knew she should stop before her mother woke up, but she couldn’t. As she took in big gulps of air, she shoved her right fist in her mouth to stifle her moans.
Suddenly, her head jerked forward, as it recoiled from the blow of one of her Dad’s old work boots that her mother had thrown at her from her place on the couch. “What are you cryin’ for girl?” Her mother shouted groggily. “You just gonna sit there and piss and moan all morning? Clean this shithole up!”
Marketta’s hands were holding the back of her head. Her tears had stopped. She said nothing, but leapt to her feet, ready to dodge another assault, but her mother had even sat up yet, her hands were searching beneath her pillow. Eventually, they produced a pack of cigarettes, but no lighter.
She pulled out a Spirit and handed it to Marketta, “Go in the kitchen and light this. Use the toaster, just like I taught you.”
Marketta obeyed, kicking trash out of her way as she inched closer to her mother’s outstretched hand. The kitchen was just feet away in their cramped up trailer, and the toaster was on the counter sitting on a stack of old phone books. Marketta pushed a chair up against the spaghetti sauce splattered cabinet doors and climbed up, pressing down the toaster level, waiting for the wire to turn red. She had been lighting her mom’s cigarettes all summer and had only been burned twice. She was proud of herself for that.
She put the filtered cigarette in her mouth, leaned her head down over the back toaster slot and pressed it up against the glowing wire. She puffed and puffed until the cigarette end sparked, then flamed. She kept puffing on it as she pressed the cancel button on the toast, jumped off the metal dining room chair, and handed the lit smoke to her mother, who had forced herself into a sitting position.
Carla drew from it deeply and then blew a cloud of smoke into the room that smelled like stale booze and vomit. Marketta stood staring at her mother for a minute, her short red hair that had been perfectly spiked with gel the night before, was flat and matted to her head. She had covered up her exposed breast, but Marketta noticed that her mother’s lip was cut and her jean skirt was ripped up one side, the frayed strings lay limp against her mother’s right thigh.
“What are you lookin’ at, girl? You better get this place cleaned up, or I won’t let you go with your dad this weekend. You hear me?” Carla yelled. Marketta knew that her mother meant it. She had kept her from her dad many weekends. She went back into the kitchen and searched under the sink for a garbage bag. She found just two left in the yellow box. She opened one, the white plastic billowing out in front of her, and she began slowly picking up trash—beer can, wine bottles, used needles, food wrappers, potato chip bags, and the usual detritus left over after a party.
She never thought her mother’s friends would leave last night. Their loud voices echoed in Marketta’s mind. They were nice to her when they first got there, bringing her candy and even a new orange yo-yo that lit up when she let it drop from her finger to the floor, but after awhile, they either ignored her or teased her. Marketta wasn’t sure how many of them there were, but the living room and kitchen were filled with adults, and she felt overwhelmed. She tried hiding in her bedroom, but since her mother had ripped the door of its hinges a few weeks before, it held no solace. In fact, her mother’s new boyfriend, Rob, spent most of the evening sitting on the arm of the ugly brown catch looking down the short hallway and right into her room, where she sat on the bottom bunk, trying to pretend like he wasn’t there.
After a fight broke out between her mother’s friend Amanda and her husband Connie and the cops came, the party broke up. Rob stayed longer, but Carla, who was now coming down from the drugs she had done earlier in the evening, was nearly asleep. He became angry with her and strode out, leaving the trailer door wide open, allowing the cool night hair to drift in.
Marketta stood in front of the open door for a few minutes, taking in the fresh West Virginia air. The trailer park was backed by a large wooded area, and she could hear the creek babbling through the now quiet trailer park. A June bug flew in and hit her in the forehead. She jumped back, swatting at the insect, and watched it fly back outside. She pulled the door shut and turned the lock on the knob. Her mother was out cold on the couch, so she went to her room, pulled her Wonder Woman blanket up tight around her neck and counted the slats on the bottom of the top bunk over and over again until she fell asleep.
She had just filled the second and last garbage bag when her mother went to take a shower. As soon as she heard the water running, Marketta tied the bag shut, sat down in her dad’s old recliner and started paging through a toy ad she kept tucked into the side pocket. She daydreamed about Lite Brites and Etch a Sketches and all of the other toys she saw in the ads and on TV. When she heard the bathroom door open, she jumped up out of the chair, put the ad back in its pocket, and pretended that she had been cleaning the whole time.
Her mother walked into the living room, inspecting it with her now less-hazy eyes. She had gotten dressed in blue jeans and tank top. Her hair was feathered perfectly on each side, and her eyes were brightened with light blue eye shadow. She was wearing the earrings Marketta had given her for Christmas—long and dangly silvery chains suspended from hooks. Marketta smiled, glad to see her good mother back again.
“You’d better get dressed. Your dad will be here in about a half an hour to pick you up.”
“Okay, Mama,” Marketta said, happy to be freed from cleaning duty. She took off her Snoopy rob and crammed it into the black bag she took on her overnight visits with her dad. Then, she slipped her nightgown and panties off, leaving them in a small puddle on the floor. She went over to her dresser and pulled out a pair of blue shorts and a t-shirt with a yellow butterfly on the chest. She sat down on the floor and struggled into her shorts and then took them off again when she remembered that she did not put on clean panties.
Just as she stood up to get them from her dresser, her mother appeared in her doorway. “You have a good time with your dad now. Listen to him, okay?”
“Yes, Mama,” Marketta said, inching on a pair of green panties that she guessed said Saturday because the word started with a big “S.” Carla stood there watching as she finished dressing, not offering to help her as she wriggled into her butterfly shirt. She watched as Marketta packed her overnight bag with clothes for the next day, her hair brush, and her most-prized possession—a bottle of Love’s Baby Soft perfume that her grandmother Tribett had given her for her fourth birthday in January.
Seeing that she was done, Carla took a few steps in side her daughter’s room and walked around her, looking at every inch of her body, inspecting her, a routine that Marketta expected but dreaded. Carla stepped in front of her daughter, looking down at her. She pulled Marketta’s arm out and turned it over, baring the skin of her inner wrist, marred with now-brown bruises in the same of Carla’s fingers.
“Look at me, girl,” she demanded. Marketta looked up into her mother’s young, but haggard face, “You tell your dad that you got into a squabble with those Harris girls at the other end of the court, and they did this to you. Do you hear me, girl?”
“Yes, Mama.” Marketta answered in a demur voice, looking down at her bare feet.
“Because if you tell him the truth, you know what will happen. You do, don’t you, girl? You know that if you tell the truth, I will leave forever. You will never see me again.” Carla said to the top of Marketta’s head.
“Yes, Mama. Please, Mama, don’t go away forever,” Marketta begged. “I won’t tell. I won’t.”
“Well, you better not. I hope you hear me, girl.” Carla said, letting Marketta’s bony wrist go and walking back into the living room.
Just then she heard her dad’s frog-shit green Cougar pull under the carport, its busted exhaust echoing through the thin trailer walls. She picked up her bag and ran to find her flip flops by the front door. Her dad could barely make it up the steps before Marketta was on the porch, waiting for a hug.
Carla had come to the door, peering out to see if John had anyone in the passenger seat, but it was empty in the idling heap he called a car. She smirked as John’s eyes met hers through a blur of Marketta’s tangled hair.
“I’ll have her back on Sunday at 5:30,” he said walking down the steps with Marketta’s long, skinny legs dangling down below his waist.
“Bye, Mama!” Marketta shouted, climbing into her dad’s car through the driver’s door. The passenger door had been jammed ever since he hit a deer coming home from afternoon shift in late February. Carla stood in the doorway, and watched as her ex-husband backed out of the carport and headed down to the end of the trailer court for the turn around spot. By the time they drove past on the way out, the door was shut and Carla was gone.


My Newest Writing Endeavor

At this point, the novel has no title.

Here is the blurb:

At age 4 Marketta Wells is being abused by her drug-addicted mother, who tells her if she ever tells anyone the truth that she will disappear forever. Not wanting to lose her mother, Marketta lies when asked about her bruises. Just days before Marketta’s fifth birthday, her mother dies of a brain hemorrhage, leaving Marketta to live the rest of her life believing that she had killed her own mother. The book is about the aftermath of abuse and trauma and how Marketta is able to overcome very well many struggles in her life but she succumbs to others.

As I work, I will be posting it hear unedited and unrevised.


It’s Finally Here!!

By popular request I have revised this blog and turned it into a book. It is now available on in both paperback and Kindle format. I would love to know what all of you think about the book. I am so excited to share it with an even wider audience.

I will keep this blog up as long as WordPress allows, so the story will always remain free, but if you want to hold a copy and not have to scroll through all the pages, then visit Amazon today!


Book Update

The blog is in book form and is done being edited. Now, I am formatting it for publication. I will post here as soon as it is ready! Finally!

Infertile Myrtle to be Available in Book Format

Coming soon! I will be offering special edition electronic and hardback copies of this entire blog. So many readers have asked for a copy to read on their phones or to put on their nightstands, and I aim to deliver.

Keep watching for updates!

“Why don’t you just stay home?”

I have had an absolutely wonderful summer with my family. My son turned a year old the day after the semester ended, and we have had the most incredible adventures. More than a dozen people have asked me why I just don’t stay home with him. The answer is complex and enters into the territory of the dreaded Mommy Wars. In the past fifteen months, I have been all three types of moms (are there only three? Of course not!): Stay at Home Mom (SAHM), Work at Home Mom (WAHM), and Working Mom (WM). Without question being a SAHM was the easiest and most fulfilling, but would it have been either if I wasn’t also a WAHM and a WM?

On Being a SAHM

My job allows for three and a half months of unpaid break during the summer. I don’t have to drive to work, but I do have to get work done. I took three weeks off at the beginning of summer. It was the first time I had ever walked away from work for that long, and it was a great decision. I hadn’t slept a full night in well over a year, and it took full three weeks to get caught up on rest and to adjust to what for now is my new way of doing summer.  During that period, I was a full-time SAHM, and it was so much fun! 

With no pressure to meet deadlines or to keep up on the latest trends in research and teaching, I enjoyed every single moment with my son. We would wake up in the mornings and read books in bed. Then, we would meander down to the kitchen for a slow breakfast. He would watch the first half an hour of Sesame Street while I washed the dishes and swept the floor. We would spend the rest of the day reading, playing, having lunch, and napping. After dinner we would head to the park or to an outdoor music show. Around 8:30 pm, we would head home for a bath and bed time. 

If it sounds idyllic, it was! It is no wonder so many people choose to stay home with their kids. My stress level was never lower, and I haven’t felt so good mentally and physically in more than a decade. 

On Being a WAHM

For me, working from home with a toddler is the most stressful of the three traditional mommy tracks. I had no regular childcare (my husband and I agreed that we would not hire someone this summer so that we could put away money for our son’s education). If you have ever tried to work with a toddler underfoot, you know that it is nearly impossible. I am sure that certain types of jobs would work better than others, but writing is not one of them. Although he is a very content child, the sight of my laptop would drive him crazy with curiosity, and not even the great Toni Morrison could write to the sound of a child screaming “up, up” endlessly. 

The situation was so untenable that I had a crisis after my three week break. I just could not figure out why I couldn’t manage to do at least 70% of the work that I have always done in the summer. One afternoon my son’s grandmother watched him while I worked. I finished a project I had been working on for months in three hours! I realized then that the only way I would survive the rest of the summer was if I lowered my expectations. Once I learned to not expect to get much work done, I was able to relax a bit more and found ways to work about four hours a day five days a week. It wasn’t easy. It meant that the house did not get cleaned and that I had to work during every nap time. In end, though, I accomplished what had to be done. The rest is still on my desk. 

On Being a WM

Working outside the home is difficult. I have a one hour commute one way, so I spend about 30 hours a week away from my son when school is in session. Because he is away from me, I get ten times more work done on campus than at home.  (It is also pleasurable to be able to go to the bathroom alone.) Unfortunately, though, I miss out on many hours of his life. His grandmother takes good care of him in our home, but I will miss our lazy mornings, our nap time cuddles, and our trips to the park every day. 

In addition, I don’t relish the added stress of the drive, dealing with co-workers, and grading seemingly endless stacks of papers The most difficult part of working outside the home is fatigue. One late-night teething session can lead to sleep deprivation that can last all week. A few nights of that in a row can create months long sleep problems. Unlike being at home, I cannot sleep in or take a nap. I have to be out the door and on the road. 

So, back to the original question, Why don’t I just stay home? 

I love my job. I am good at it. In fact, I believe I was called to teach and to write. If I did not love my job, I would find a way to stay home with my son. 

I need the money. PhDs are not cheap. I will be paying back my loans until I turn 64. If I stayed home, I would have to go into default. In addition, I want to send Tristan to private school. At the staggering amount of $8,500 per year for grade school and $17,500 for high school, I need all the money I can get. Beyond that, my job provides my family with excellent health benefits and a solid retirement plan. Money is not everything, but it can make an enormous difference in quality of life. 

He won’t need me like this forever. Some day (which will come too soon) he will not need me the way he does now. What will I do with my life when that time comes? 

Finally, I think working outside the home makes me a better mother. I have developed a skill set over the course of the many years I have worked that makes me an excellent teacher, communicator, empathizer, and coach. It would be hard to come by those skills any other way. 

All of that said, I want to make clear that your mileage may vary. Many factors went in to making this such a wonderful summer: 

  • I have only one child. There are no sibling squabbles to break up, no schedules to juggle, and no other kids to please. Just one. 
  • I have enough money to drive anywhere we want to go, to go to the zoo, to go to the pool, and to engage in just about any activity we planned. 
  • My son is a content child. He rarely throws tantrums, and in general, is easy going. 
  • He has been able to walk since he was eleven and a half months old, which means that he could walk all summer long. Being able to walk meant that we were no longer bound to the house or to the stroller. We were able to go to the park, the zoo, and anywhere else we wanted to go. 
  • My husband is not home most evenings; therefore, we did not have to plan around his schedule. We could do what we wanted when we wanted. 

Tomorrow is our last day of summer vacation. I will remember this summer fondly. Unlike last summer, we were not stuck in a chair cluster feeding for hours everyday, we were not struggling with unclear communication, and I wasn’t recovering from a c-section. This summer has been just right. I look forward to a time when I can tell him all about it. I’m glad I have the pictures to prove it. 


Doubling Down

I haven’t had a chance to blog in a very long time. Every time I sit down to do it, I find myself working on other projects. Now is a good time. 

You see, I need your help. 

I am still on my quest to get healthier. Although my blood work, including mineral stores, are PERFECT, I know that I need to lose weight for the long run. And yet somehow I keep falling back into old patterns. 

As of this moment, I have lost 43 pounds in about a year. I have 150 pounds left to lose. I am struggling to figure out why I cannot seem to do this. I am losing now, but it is going so very slowly. I am so desperate that I am now counting calories. I have never done that before, but I am honestly at a loss. It is the only thing I haven’t tried. 

I thought that if I told all of you my short-term goal that it would make me stick to it. Here it is: I will lose 30 pounds by September 1. 

How hard is that? It is a mere ten pounds per month. At this rate it will take me 15 months to get to goal, which brings me to my long-term goal: 150 lbs lost by my 40th birthday, which is in, HOLY CRAP, seven months!! 

You see, I have to do this. I must. I want to be healthy and fit for my son. 

I just don’t know why it is so hard to stay the course. I will be fine for awhile and then derail. What worked before he is no longer working. 

Stay with me as I do this. I can. I know I can.

It’s All About the Cup

Once again, I have no time at all for blogging or any other kind of writing beyond the scribbles I make on student papers. I found a moment during a nap and between migraines to squeeze in an entry. It’s a catch up post about my blood work results and the best little recipe I have found in ages. 

After the hiatal hernia diagnosis, my doctor (who says things like “Oh Em Gee! That’s Awesome! and “Expect to feel shitty for awhile.”) ran the usual physical blood work and I got to pee in a cup. The results came in, and he said that they were optimal. Not bad. 

My blood sugar results were 95 fasting. Cholesterol 178 total with good and bad cholesterol all within a good range. Nothing else was out of whack, so he said, “Keep on doing what you’re doing.” I was relieved to say the least. 

Meanwhile, I have been walking, walking, walking. Over spring break in between the 70+ resumes and cover letters I graded and taking care of my son, I walked. We walked nearly 20 miles all together, and it felt really good. I was worried that I would lose that exercise once school was out, but we have many miles of uncharted neighborhood sidewalk to traverse over the summer. 

Although the number of the scale has halted for a bit, I know that I am still losing because my pants feel looser and looser every single day. I wish I would have taken measurements, but that would have given me something else to obsess over. 

Here are some non-scale victories (NSV):

  • looser fitting pants and shirts
  • being told that I look great by more three different people in the last week
  • fitting easily into one of those super skinny student desks
  • being able to walk long distances without getting winded or tired
Now onto the good stuff. 
I honestly believe that I have a gluten intolerance. I want to get tested and will as soon as I get a break. (Insert bitter laughter.) Until then I am working HARD at eliminating gluten from my life. It is much harder than you might think. Nearly ALL processed foods contain it. Although I don’t eat many processed foods to begin with, when I want a can of soup or a sauce, I am out of luck. 
I gave up bread, for the most part, ages ago, but I still miss it. Enter the one minute muffin. 
In a coffee cup (yes, a coffee cup) mix the following dry ingredients: 1/4 cup of flax seed meal and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Stir well. Add one whole egg and 1 tsp of olive oil. Mix. Zap in the microwave for just one minute. Instant bread! 
Some people add sweetners or spices. (Cinnamon is pretty good.) But I like mine straight up. Tomorrow, I am going to make a grilled cheese sandwich with it! (I have to give up dairy pretty soon, too. I had better enjoy it while I can.) 
And now to the bigger picture. 
I have six weeks to make my next mini-goal on the scale. I have to lose 18 pounds. It is going slow. I am not sure what has caused the change. I have upped my exercise quite a bit. I wonder if I am sneaking in extra calories since a person tends to be hungrier when they are exercising. Avoiding healthy takeout might be the key, but that can be hard with a job and a boy. 
But onward and upward. Good health awaits. 


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