Somehow I am

Every day is I can’t.

Every day is I will.

Every day is, somehow, I am. I am.

Because every day for the past 10 years has been regret, and I’ll be damned if I take this one crazy, flickering life of mine and spend it on woulda, coulda, shoulda.

So I’m going back to school. Fun fact about me: I never did finish my college degree. It’s a long story, but it starts with my insurance suddenly refusing to pay for my medication. I crashed and burned, got expelled from UK. I had just gotten a job at the Herald-Leader as a news assistant, and I soon became pregnant with my son. So I told myself it was okay. I loved my job, and it was okay that I didn’t have a degree.

But as the years passed I found that I couldn’t advance at work without a degree. I quit the Herald-Leader, got a job as an office manager at the UK newspaper and yearbook. It was a great job, but then the worst thing happened: Graduation Salute.

It’s a one-stop shop for students about to graduate, and of course the student yearbook had a booth there. So last March I found myself sitting in the popcorn-scented basement of the Alumni building, watching kids 15 years my junior picking out their graduation gowns and class rings. I was surprised by how much it hurt.

I realized that, after all these years, I still felt inadequate without a college degree. I saw, keenly, how much more money people could make with the right degree and experience. I stewed on it for a week, fighting the obvious solution.

The reasons why not were legion: It’s too expensive and we’re already broke. What about the kids? What good is it going to do? How many people do you know with master’s degrees who are working for peanuts at a bookstore? And where would I go, anyway? UK expelled me, remember.

But. We’ll never not be broke if I don’t get on the path to a good job. The youngest is in kindergarten, so it won’t affect them as long as I’m done with classes before 2 p.m. It’ll do tons of good as long as I get a degree that’s worth something in the real world. And…I wasn’t sure where I would go. UK did expel me, after all.

Well, getting back into UK turned out to be the easy part. I wrote an essay and then sat for an interview with a committee. They said that, if they let me back in, I must be careful to ease back into college and only take one or two classes the first semester back. They suggested I cut back my hours on my full-time job so I could dedicate time toward studying. They admonished me that my children would miss me if my schedule was too full.

I smiled, agreed, got their stamp of approval, and proceeded to ignore every bit of their advice. Sorry not sorry. I just didn’t have time to ease back into things. And since I had to get a high-interest private loan (they don’t give federal aid to people with my GPA), I had to keep working full time.

And I did. I took 4 classes and worked full time last semester, and I am here to tell you that I got a 4.0.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, haters. I GOT ALL A’s.

Then all the federal aid came flooding in, and I was able to quit my job. Good thing, too. This semester I’m taking five classes, and they are every last one completely insane.

I’m swamped with homework, broke as a joke, and frequently overwhelmed.

But I’m ridiculously, incandescently happy. I love all my classes. And I know exactly what I want to do with my career now.

All in all, not a bad investment.

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chickens3

Achievement unlocked: crazy chicken lady

My cousin Amanda says the only thing keeping me from being a total dirty hippie is that I’m willing to eat the chickens I raise.

Still, I feel like I earned some kind of Ma Ingalls merit badge after the events of last weekend because, check it: I TOTALLY SLAUGHTERED A CHICKEN. IN MY BACKYARD.

It all started out so innocently. I watched Food Inc. last summer, got horrified, and got me some chickens to make yummy misery-free eggs, like so:

The ladies Leia, Camilla & Sally (L-R)

Then I got ambitious and got the chickens bigger digs, like so:

We really went for that "post-apocalyptic, yet practical" look

But the coop was so big they looked lonely, so we bought Leia’s sister Snitch:

Snitch: smart AND beautiful. She's the total package.

And since we’re apparently collecting chickens like frigging Pokemon at this point, we got one more. Meet Deathbeak: Destroyer of Worlds.

Guard your eyeballs around this chicken.

And there we intended to end our avian expansion. Five laying hens was plenty to supply our needs and cover the cost of their feed with egg sales.

Deathbeak, that beady-eyed she-demon, had other plans. She laid poorly from the start: practical joke eggs that looked lovely in the nest but would break in your hand as soon as you picked them up.

And then she went completely insane. The Storey Guide to Raising Chickens describes her behavior as “broody”, but I think she was one good brain fart away from making a necklace out of ears. She stopped laying completely, almost stopped eating, and just sat there on the eggs the other hens had laid. If I tried to collect those eggs, she hissed like a snake and pecked at me.

I’ve read that there are ways to rehabilitate a chicken like that, but y’all, I am not running Chicken Club Med here. Especially not for a hen who laid so poorly in the first place.

So I decided to kill her and, if I did the slaughter well, make chicken and dumplings that night.

The Storey Guide was invaluable here, as were Youtube videos (!!!) that show the whole process. Don’t let the irony escape you as you contemplate modern technology showing you how to do something your great-grandma probably did before she went to kindergarten.

And that is how, last Friday morning I found myself setting up a kill scene to rival Dexter. Only thing it lacked was a row of pictures showing Deathbeak the other chickens she’s wronged.

My kids wanted to watch, which I wasn’t thrilled about. I ended up allowing my 8-year-old son to watch, and sent my 4-year-old daughter away for the actual killing part. Good thing the Sprog was there to witness, because otherwise there wouldn’t have been anybody there to laugh at me when the chicken crapped all over me at the end. Thanks, son.

But I digress. The chicken carcass. I was a little unsettled at how quickly it went from “this is Deathbeak, a mean chicken whom I’ve fed all winter” to “this is a carcass that looks just like what you buy at Kroger”.

Well, not exactly like the ones at Kroger. First I had to pluck the feathers, which ought to be a Jillian Michaels bicep workout. I had to actually use pliers to get some of those suckers off there. Then I had to remove the innards, and that made me briefly consider veganism.

At least Piper had a fun day. When I hung the carcass up to pluck the feathers, that dog thought it was her birthday, and meat piñatas were swinging from the sky.

oh please oh please oh please oh please

I tried to give her some of the edible innards like the heart and liver, but she was all, “Please, I don’t eat that French crap. I want piñata pieces.”

Sorry, Piper. The piñata pieces went straight into my dutch oven to make the best chicken and dumplings ever.

Maybe they just tasted better because I had to work so hard to make it happen. Or maybe because I was tired of getting pecked while collecting eggs. Either way, it was an awesome dinner.

Would I kill a chicken again, knowing what all it entails now? Sure, no problem. I’ve learned so much from this first go around that I’ll be a total pro next time.

Next time, for example, I will sextuple bag the chicken guts before I put them in the garbage, since all double bagging does is reduce it to Yankee Candle Housewarmer strength Gut Smell.

But other than that small hitch? No problem. Ma Ingalls got nothing on me.

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The sun is the same in a relative way

The sun is the same in a relative way

My grandmother died two days after Christmas and I’m not sure how to stitch myself closed again.

Nanny was on my speed dial and we’d talk at least once a week. I remember the last time we talked before her stroke a few months ago. We were laughing over something Red had done, and she said we needed to come down to Harlan and visit soon. But the next time we visited her, she didn’t remember who Red was anymore. Or me. She called me Phyllis and squeezed my hand over the hospital bed railing.

It was horrifying because Nanny had always had a sharp mind and unfailing manners. She was so humiliated by the way her body and mind had failed her, made her confused and unable to take care of the most basic hygiene tasks for herself.

On Thanksgiving, I ended up being the only female in the house when Nanny’s constipation meds finally worked their magic. I had to see my grandmother naked and wipe her behind after a 15-minute bout with diarrhea. Wiping a grown-up’s butt is no picnic, but what made it nearly unbearable was knowing how awful Nanny felt about it. She covered her face with her hands while she sat on the portable toilet seat and cried, saying, “I can’t believe this is happening to me. Who’d a ever thought this could happen to a body.” I hugged her then and we both cried. Then I put on the latex gloves and did the necessary. That night, I prayed she would die soon and hated myself for it.

Two days later we went back to Lexington, and that was the last time I ever saw her alive. Those days are not how I want to remember her: curled in on herself in a wheelchair, trembling mouth and hands. That was not her.

This is Nanny:

She had a razor wit and twinkling hazel eyes that said she was up to no good. Every pillow and sheet in her house smelled like Clorox, and every militantly clean room was full of family photos and weird knick-knacks.

She was a great lover of arts and crafts, and her creations were legendary in their awfullness. My big brother has never forgotten the time Nanny made him a clock from a big straw hat. The clock face was at the top of the brim; the rest of the hat was covered in hot-glue-gunned lace, ribbons and pearl swags. Her only sop to my brother’s masculinity was to make sure the ribbons and lace were blue.

She was an aggressive hawker of her homemade fruit salad during holiday dinners, and she could not abide a skinny boy. She was happiest when people (especially growing boys) were eating her home cooking.

She was a maverick at checkers, a politics junkie, and owned almost every Stephen King book he wrote.

She had a notorious mouth on her. When Hubs and I told her that we were going to start trying for a baby, she stomped her foot, looked at Hubs impatiently, nodded at his crotch and said, “Well?? Get that bird a-workin’!”

A few Christmases ago, we did Kahlua shots together on the back deck just before dinner. That was the last Christmas I saw her on. The year after that, Papaw had just died and she wanted to spend Christmas with another grandson in Virginia. She said coming to see us would just remind her too much of Papaw. And this Christmas, she was in the hospital, ready to slip the cocoon of her body without ever regaining consciousness.

The funeral was horrible, as funerals are. But the worst part was the night after the funeral when I sat in Nanny’s living room, the last one up. Nanny and Papaw always had a thing for clocks. When it gets near the top of the hour, the whole house sounds like the beginning of that Pink Floyd song Time.

And I sat there on Nanny’s couch until the chimes died back down a few minutes later. Missing her so fiercely I could barely breathe. Still thinking about that Pink Floyd song and listening to the relentless seconds ticking by on all those clocks.

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sleepstudy

My brain is out to kill me

So it turns out, my brain is trying to weed me out.

I found out late last year that I have a hardcore case of sleep apnea, which means that I frequently stop breathing when I’m asleep. Which means that my body doesn’t really go into REM sleep, which means that I schlep from one activity to the next in a zombie-like daze.

And even though this all went down six months ago, I’m writing about it now because A) A lot of people have apnea and never realize it, and B) There’s a truly awful story attached to it that I never got around to telling you all.

So after my doctor told me I was a likely candidate for apnea, I had a sleep study done to confirm it, and friends and family, that was a horrible, horrible experience.

It wasn’t just that the sensors were uncomfortable. It was that the sleep tech was creepy beyond all belief. We chatted a bit while he was checking me in (You know, “How are you?” “Got kids?”  etc.) and he asked me what I did for a living. I told him that I had just quit working at the Herald-Leader. Which led to the following terrifying exchange:

HIM: So what did you do at the Herald-Leader?

ME: Um, lots of stuff. Blogging, Weekender stuff. Gather court records.

HIM: Court records? Yeah, I know about that. Them judges don’t seem to like you much when you’re white and male…”

*awkward silence*

ME: So how do you like the Wildcats this year?

So then he and the other sleep tech guy led me into my room for the night. I expected something a little more utilitarian, but it looked like a hotel room, even down to the bland Monet-wannabe painting over the bed. Would have been nice if it weren’t for the thirty squirty squillion wires they had to glue all over my body. I looked like a science fair experiment:

Oh, and? While Creepy Sleep Tech guy was gluing sensors to my chesticles, I stared at his arm, reflecting that I had never imagined I’d see a guy reaching down my shirt who had a Grim Reaper tattoo wearing a Confederate flag as a shroud. Classy, no? So he caught me staring at his arm and revealed that he had gotten that tattoo back in his younger, stupider days in which he had been “affiliated with…certain illegal organizations.”

Why, thank you, Creepy Sleep Tech Guy, for pretty much telling me you used to be in the KKK, while you have your hand down my shirt.

At this point I was just resolved to get through the night and get the hell out of there as soon as possible, so I settled down in my bed and pulled out my laptop, relieved that I was done having to deal with Creepy Overshare Sleep Tech guy. Except, not.

Because he had friend requested me on Facebook.

I flipped my lid, as quietly as possible. I texted back and forth with my friend Rachel and determined that, while creepy and unprofessional, he wasn’t an immediate threat. And it took me like a month to get the sleep study set up. And I needed to get my official results so I could go ahead and get my CPAP machine. So I decided to gut it out, and have a strongly worded conversation with his supervisor and the hospital’s HR in the morning.

Which I did, after I got home and washed my hair four times to get all the glue out. Fortunately, HR was as appalled as I was, and promised that he would be retrained and reprimanded, and if he didn’t get with the program, he would be fired.

So now I have this marvelous CPAP machine, and friends, the difference it has made in my life is astonishing. I have so much energy I don’t even know what to do with it. I feel almost like I’m high on something.

There are some drawbacks, of course. Like when Hubs starts talking to me while I’m wearing my mask. The mask works by forcing a steady stream of air up my nose and down my trachea, so if I stop breathing, it makes me start again. The upshot of this is that I cannot open my mouth while wearing my mask. So when Hubs starts asking me questions at bedtime, it sounds like this:

HUBS: So what time do you need me to pick up the Sprog?

ME: Three o’ cloHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH

On the upside, I kind of look like Maverick from Top Gun, with my sexy, sexy face mask, complete with tubes and neoprene jock strap for the head. And if I want to dream about shooting down Russian MiGs, well at least I can now with all that REM sleep I’m getting.

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Brunch with the Prom Queen

I’m not gonna lie: I was nervous last night. I reconnected on Facebook a few weeks ago with a girl I used to know in high school. We never hung out back then–she was softball, I was poetry magazine; she was the prom queen, I was on the prom court because of the subversive nerd vote (really).

So when she said, “We should catch up some time!” I thought she was mentally filing it under Someday Maybe. Then she said, “How about Saturday?”

Which is how I found myself in front of my bathroom mirror last night, wondering what someone would see if they looked at me for the first time in 14 years. And that’s not even counting the 50 pounds I’ve gained since then.

Back then, I was a thrift-store wearing, Violent Femmes listening, citizen of the coffee houses. Now? Actually, I still shop at thrift stores. Not because it’s ironic, but because I’m broke. I still like the Violent Femmes, but I’ve discovered the joys of hip hop and electronica. And I favor Panera over any coffee house because that’s where my knitting group meets.

And other changes, far more recent than high school. I’ve been a journalist for nine years, but two weeks ago I began staying home with my kids full time. And though it’s immensely satisfying, there’s not a lot to talk about. I miss that about journalism–every day was so interesting. Now, about the most interesting thing that happens to me is when I discover a new pot roast recipe.

Ultimately, though, I gave myself a mental slap and told myself to get a grip. Because here’s the thing: I’m really, truly happy with my life. If you had asked me in high school, I never would have imagined myself being a stay at home mom. But here I am, and I love it. And I love myself–or at least I generally forgive myself–which is a lot more than I can say about myself in high school.

So I went to brunch with K, the prom queen, this morning. And you know what? It was great. She’s a really nice person (not that I expected otherwise), and we had a really fun time.

Turns out it’s a lot easier to enjoy someone’s company when I jettison my self-consciousness and just live in the moment. Wish I’d learned that in high school.

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New year, SAHM job

LEXINGTON, KY — News reporter Heather Chapman has lost her job at local NPR affiliate station WUKY 91.3 FM, but says she’s not letting it get her down.

“Well, I knew it was only a temporary job going into it,” says Chapman. “so I knew I was only going to be there as long as they had the extra money to pay me.”

Chapman says she plans to stay at home with her children for now, take on freelance writing jobs and “clean the grotty dang kitchen”. She also asks that Lexingtonians continue to listen and give to WUKY.

“It’s a great station,” says Chapman. “I had a good time and learned a lot about radio while I was there.”

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Things on the internet that are awesome

I’m still feeling a little barfy from yesterday (and btw? I HATE barfing like nothing else on earth, including spiders), so here is a list of the things I looked at online yesterday to distract me from my poisonously wobbling innards. Plus some other stuff I’ve been loving lately:

Adequate Parenting. “Because good enough is good enough. Really.” Started as a reaction to the horrifyingly judgey bitchery in the forums at DC Urban Moms and Dads.

How the Japanese Multiply. This is the funkiest arithmetic I have ever seen. Total mind-bender. But apparently it works.

Mandarin Orange Dust. This just sounds like a fascinating ingredient. I’m going to try to make it soon; will let you know how it turns out.

Cold House Journal. The blog of a couple living up in Maine who spend next to nothing on heating their home in the winter. They have a wood stove and keep their house between 45-60 degrees in the winter.

I adore the Cold House Journal especially because we’ve been participating in Crunchy Chicken’s “Freeze Yer Buns” challenge this winter and keeping the thermostat set on 60 degrees. After we got used to it, it was actually pretty comfortable. It turns out sweaters and socks really do work wonders! And best of all, we’ve been saving about $80 on our electric bill every single month this fall and winter.

That’s all I got for now, my lovelies. Off to heat up some soup or something equally inoffensive to my picky picky stomach.

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Snow day idiot

So, guess who’s the only idiot in Fayette County who didn’t check to see if school was closed before they drove their kid to school today?

Go on, guess.

So now it’s almost dawn, and I’m awake and watching Invader Zim with the Sprog.

Before I was a parent, I used to think snow days with my kids were going to be so much fun. We’d go outside and build snowmen, I thought. Then we’d come inside and drink hot cocoa and play board games and toast marshmallows in the fireplace.

The reality is somewhat less like Bing Crosby’s White Christmas and more like The Day After Tomorrow, where the shivering survivors huddle in the library. Except we’re huddled in the living room around the space heater. And instead of the board games and snowmen, the entertainment will involve a marathon of frankly non-educational cartoons and Nintendo DS.

Oh, and breakfast with company. I was going to meet my friend Jamie at IHOP, but now that I’ll have both kids with me, I have no desire to take them both to a restaurant while attempting meaningful conversation. So I invited her over here for a homecooked breakfast, which means I get to pretend I always wear mascara and an underwire bra at 9 a.m. Still, worth it because I can’t wait to catch up with my friend.

However: ENOUGH FRICKING SNOW DAYS. I hereby order it to be spring. Or barring that, I hereby beg Fayette County Public Schools to be in session. I don’t think I can handle much more family togetherness.

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Begin the begin. Again.

I guess all it really took was losing my blog before I realized that I wanted to write in it again.

On the same day my ownership of themothertongue.com lapsed, some affiliate marketer snapped it up and be-crapped it up with links to baby-wipes-r-us.com and the like. Thanks, skeevy affiliate marketer. And thanks to Hotmail for the email address from hell which only delivers about half the email sent to me.

My husband asked me last night why I was freaking out so badly when I hadn’t even blogged for like five months.

Well, here’s why: I never stopped loving the blog. I just started to hate all the junk that came with it. All these bloggers around me are flipping over SEO and monetization and blog design and managing their “product”. I started to worry about it too, and I just shut down. I can’t write with all those monkeys on my back.

My very first blog was a LiveJournal, and I loved it. Updated almost every single day and had the biggest fun of my life. I want to get back to that feeling, so here goes. From now on, I am going to just worry about writing, and let the rest of the business of blogging take care of itself. I don’t want to end up like one of the people in this Chicago Business article who quit blogging because it isn’t bringing them enough of a reward. Because if writing isn’t enough of its own reward, I don’t want to do it.

Wish me luck.

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All Hail My NPR Overlords!

Well, so much for being a stay-at-home mom. Less than three weeks after I left the Herald-Leader, I sort of fell into a cool new job as a news reporter at WUKY, 91.3 FM.

It’ll be a great opportunity to learn about the radio side of journalism and scratch my news junkie itch. And The Powers That Be seem pretty happy with me, though I did have to promise not to make any Jerky Boys- prank calls when the boss isn’t looking. As if I would do such a thing. *cough*

Best of all, it’s a part-time gig and all the hours are at night, so I can continue to stay with Red during the day and pick up the Sprog from school.

So maybe I’m still a stay-at-home mom after all? Just not one who stays home very much.

Edited to add: I couldn’t recover the comments on this post when I transferred it from my old blog. But there were many warm wishes, and I thank you all.

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