First Draft: The Measure of My Creation

On a Sea Plane

I found something.
I found something I still can do.
I can write.

Enamored, I felt it in myself: a self that has felt lonely, lost, and redundant.
An education was secondary. Eternity. Proclamations to the family, and be-ye-therefore perfects consumed my breath. Do not blame my religion. I wanted those babies. I wanted to be a mom.  In truth, in this particular crowd, not being able to have children has always made me feel “less than.”
But if I could be a mom, I would manage. I have.
Babies were hard to come by, really crazy hard to come by. Like the hard to come by where people roll their eyes and say to each other, “she is crazy. She is crazy to keep trying.” I was crazy and I could not stop.
They told me, “Beth, I could not do that. I could not handle the pain. How do you do it? Why?”

Because, and Thank God, I have Kyle and Eli. And I promise, even a teenaged Kyle and Eli [wink wink] would make you want to have one more too.
Thank God for them, thank God for them or I would have completely failed at this proclamation that somehow imprinted itself onto my DNA:
“God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth . . .”

I can still see fully formed ultrasound babies never meant to live their lives with me.

“Be quiet.” I say.
My outward sorrow is given to my friends who cannot bear children of their own.
They deserve my broken voice.

One of these friends reminded me, “Beth, you have no idea what is like. You have your boys.” She is right. I have not walked in her shoes. I have no idea. And then I wonder where I put my own pain. I wonder why I am so tenacious. I wonder if anyone has been as crazy as me. Who the hell does fertility treatments for all of those years? Who keeps trying after one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, and on and on. Lost, these babies that were not meant to be.

Every super power I thought I had, every prayer I tried to pray, and every pure act of will did not change the fact that babies get into my uterus and that is where they die.

The last fetus lived the longest when I was my oldest. My hormone levels were fantastic. My baby’s heart was beating. I could see him, yes he was a him on the ultrasound. There I saw him from across the room. I saw see his cute baby face in side profile. It was so clear. Then I noticed his ten fingers and his ten toes.   “They are all there!” I smiled. I reached for those fingers, those fingers that were inside of me. So close I thought I could touch them.

Years before, we were traveling through South Central Utah. Dave took us on a crazy dirt road between two canyons. Like A Disneyland ride we laughed, the boys said, “whoa,” we bounced, we swayed and I grabbed the “oh shit” bar. You know the one. It is on the right side of the car above the window. I grabbed it and turned my head to the back seat. There I saw Kyle, Eli and a baby, all strapped into their car seats. The baby was sitting between them. This boy, as luck would have it, was their brother. I see them touching his face. True story and I still think I have lost my mind,

Three slipped my grasp.
Two are my gift

Feeling sorry for myself does not really work. I say this because maybe you think I sound like I do. No. I worry too much what you think. Dramatic, my feelings can be dramatic and a little dark. Absolutely!

The other day while Dave and I were driving down 700 East just past the 2100 South Starbucks I felt grateful. I felt super awesomely grateful.  We were talking about what I figured out.

That was yesterday. Yesterday I thought I could write.

“I may be old, but I can still write.” I said.
Then as we drove past that Starbucks on the right and Rumbi Island Grill on the left, I continued, “I may be too old to be a doctor, but my voice it strong. I think I can write.”
“You do have a strong voice,” Dave said. “I am proud of you for making these connections.”

Happy with the love I was feeling I continued, “I am back in school again, and school is actually making sense.  I have four classes left to go before I can graduate. I am taking two of them now. I kick myself for not finishing before, but here is where I am.”

Dave encouraged me, because really what can he say? “Yes, Beth you are a total dumbass for leaving school with only one semester left.”

I continue, “School is making more sense. I am digesting the words of the poets and novelists in. I am listening to my classmates. I am listening to my teachers. I am making connections. I am seeing how my voice has a place. I am learning. I am getting better. I am excited. I feel hope.”

Before, Dave and I had this conversation I wrote my first class paper. Dave edited it and said, “Your writing has really improved. I think this deserves an A,” and then I turned my first paper in.

I thought I was a writer.
I am not.

Moments ago I looked at my grade. I read my professor’s feedback. I did not like his feedback. In fact, I cried.

Maybe it is laziness.
Maybe it is the skull fracture I had eight years ago.
Maybe I am just the person my one teacher (I took her class twice) told me I was:

“You cannot write.” She looked away and then continued, “Maybe you should go to a vocational school.”

She was my Critical Writing and Analysis teacher.
Maybe she was right.

I sound like a big baby. I feel retarded and yes, I just used the word retarded – out loud. In the true sense of the word, that is how I feel — retarded.

I thought I was a writer.
I am not.

My ego is small. It shows big. I said the dumbest thing the first day of class. When we were all introducing ourselves I said, “I am Beth,” and then I said a bunch of other stuff like how NPR’s show “Snap Judgment is awesome,” (that comment was not dumb because “Snap Judgment” really is awesome), and then, somewhere between “Snap Judgment” and snapping my mouth shut, I said, “and I used to get paid to write.”

I am an idiot.

Sure, I worked in job where I wrote stuff and was paid, but really?  I was doing that whole setting-yourself-up-to-fail-by-raising-the-expectations thing, or as I like to call it, self-sabotage.

I do not want to fail.

I just texted Dave the words, “I am stupid.” And then I said out loud and alone, “I want to quit! Why am I in school? I cannot do this again.”

Tears, snot and more tears fell. The snotty tears were reminding me how stupid this all is. Maybe I do not want to be a better writer. Maybe I need to be ok with who I am.

I am the person, who while learning to ride a bike, takes three thousand times to fall and say on three thousandth one or even two, I finally get my balance. I pedal. I ride. And I am off.

I hate it, and I feel selfish.

I hate that everything I do is like riding a bike for the first time. I hate that every time I learn a new thing, I am starting from scratch. My brain does not connect to cumulative. Damn it. It is exhausting. Please tell me that you get it. Please tell me that I am not alone. Please tell me that every time you start a new class, a new job, a new pregnancy that it is like going back to the beginning. Please.

In a genetic twist, no, not a twist, because genetics pass in a very straightforward way, well, in pure genetic-genetic-y-ness, my taking-a-million-times-to-pedal-the-damn-thing passed to one of my sons.

Kyle, our oldest, is like his dad – literally. When he was five he looked at a bicycle, walked over to it, hopped on and pedaled away.

No. I am not kidding. Ask Dave.
Just like that. Kyle got on his bike and rode the damn thing.
And I was completely blown away.
“Is he a mutant?” I exclaimed.
“Have you two been practicing behind my back?” I demanded.
“No. No, we haven’t” Dave excitedly responded.
“He just figured it out and rode.”
“That’s my boy!”
“Indeed.”

In this one area, our lovely, Eli is my genetic offspring. (I am sorry, Eli.)

Learning to ride a bike almost broke us, all of us, especially Dave.
Eli screamed, yelled, and tossed his bike aside. “I cannot do this!” He shouted. “I hate this!” He cried.  “Bikes are dumb!” He yelled. He did fall. He did get hurt, and he did scream. Then Dave anxiously exclaimed, “This is not going to work! Let’s try it again next year.”

I calmly responded, (only because after already waiting until next year I knew Eli was getting a little old), “Hey, Dave he will get it.” I could hear Dave inhale, then exhale. I could see Eli’s head drop.

“Hey Eli, you’ve got this.” I said. Putting my hand on his shoulder I continued, “Keep trying. It will be ok.” Eli kept trying. He kept falling. He kept screaming. And then one day our friend took Eli and taught him how to ride a bike. It was a gift.

She is a genius. She took him to a park. She put his bike on a large grassy field. She brought her daughter, who is one year older than Eli and also his friend. Her daughter had just learned to ride. My friend and her daughter let Eli fall, encouraged him to get up, let him fall again, and let him scream. Over and over he fell. He fell and then I got the phone call,

“HE IS RIDING! COME SEE!”

I raced over and watched Eli. He was giggling. He was falling. He was getting back up. He was riding.
“Mom, look!” He yelled as he laughed and ran over to his bike. “Watch this!” I did. I watched as he swung his leg over the bike, wobbled, gained his balance, and we all yelled, “Pedal. Pedal hard!” He did. He laughed and he pedaled hard.

I just heard back from my teacher.  Yes, I emailed him. I asked if I could re-write my paper. He said, “Yes.”
And then he said,
“The point of these analysis papers is to give you lots of practice writing so that your are prepared for your final paper.” Followed a few sentences later with, “Don’t worry about it.”

I do worry about it. I do worry.

I do not know how many more of these learning-to-ride-a-bicycle-and-falling-over-three-thousand-times experiences I have left in me. I do not know if I can. I do not know if I can figure out this new bike.

I am tired.
I am tired of trying and then each time realizing that the best I can do is almost.

 

 

 

 

Destination: Minnesota, the place of my birth.

This guy. I wish he was here.

 

After exactly nine days back in the place we currently call home, here and once again I am blogging from the road. Our bags or as I say it, “Behgs,” well, they are packed, and we are somewhere between here and there, Phoenix International Airport, to be exact. Indigestion is settling in after ingesting our overpriced airport food. I’m sitting on the floor just outside of gate A10, leaning against a poorly painted pinky-beige column, guarding the outlet we found. Kyle is sitting over at gate A12, and Eli is sitting behind me.  I cannot see him. He came over and assured me he was there, and now we communicate via text.

Blogging from Europe was not only an insane writing goal, a goal that I thought up during a Red Eye; in truth, it actually kept me sane.  While traveling through England and Ireland, instead of things getting under my skin, when I felt like screaming, I would reach for my phone and take notes. In truth the happy moments were equally motivating. Recording them assured me that I would not lose the memory of those lovely times. It worked. Now today and seeing as how Kyle, Eli and I are on our way to a family reunion, a little sanity is what I could use. I am also counting on a lot of happiness.  (Yes, it is also true. I am sure this family reunion would make a most excellent Lifetime Television movie.)

It is Day one. Between the time the Salt Lake City gate attendant scanned our boarding passes until the moment I dropped our carry-ons off for gate pick-up, the boys looked over to me and said, “Mom, we think this whole family reunion is making you a little nervous. You are not yourself.”

My boys are right. I am nervous. And as much as Kyle and Eli know I love and adore my family, the truth is my two brothers, three sisters and I have not been in the same place in fifteen years. It was October 1999. I was pregnant with Kyle. My oldest sister was getting married, and even my biological father (Will) was there.  I believe he touched my pregnant belly. Uncomfortably weird, which was exactly how things were between us.  He will not be in Minnesota, and coincidentally he currently lives in Arizona. My sister’s wedding is the last time I saw him too.

October 1999. My mom and I flew to Minnesota early. I was at the end of my you-can-fly-safely-while-pregnant window. And it is a memory that started with pregnant and frustrated tears, lots of tears.  My mom and I booked our flights late and could only get middle seats. My tiny-sized mom got her seat, and eight month pregnant me was seated in the middle of two colossal people, each using their own “extend-a-belts” that they attached to the regular airplane seat belt.  However un-cool and un-PC I was, at the sight of their individual extend-a-belts, I immediately burst into tears. I am certain they were heaving sobs. The moment the lady lifted the armrest between the two of us and said, “Do you mind if I keep this up for the flight. It just doesn’t fit,” I short-circuited. could only give her a blank stare.  I was pregnant and just as big, and had no idea how we would all fit. I jumped to my feet, waddled my way past the extend-a-belt guy, and found a flight attendant. “For the love of the three of us, please find me another seat.” I couldn’t stop crying, and he complied.

 

Day 1

  • Eli, Kyle and I are flying to MN while Dave works in San Francisco. My mom took an earlier flight. My sisters are driving in, and my other Utah brother, yes, I have a brother that lives in Utah and yes, we hardly speak, well, he flies in I don’t know when. I have one brother and one sister who live in Minnesota, the land where I am from.
  • OCD. Did I lock the truck? Did I shut the garage door? Did I start the dishwasher? Did we get the lock on the storage unit? Safety is my OCD. Where did it come from?
  • Boys know I’m stressed. They tell me so.
  • We are on the plane.
  • Taking off.
  • Kyle and Eli hold my hand.
  • We are seated in Row 22, seats, A,B and C . It is the best back row I have ever sat in.
  • Dave offered to fly out for the weekend. I felt heard. Way to go, “Big Daddy!”
  • Now listening to Sigur Ros’, “Alright.” A little Icelandic music is good for the soul.
  • Mumford and Sons is playing.”We run and scream. You will dance with me. We will fulfill our dreams and we will be free.” Turbulence. I don’t like turbulence. Pressure change. Ouch! My ears. “We will be who we are. It will heal our scar sadness. We will be far away…I will love with urgency. Not with haste.”
  • Yes, music always always connects my heart. It eases my mind.
  • Kyle us playing on his DS. Eli is watching,  “The Simpsons.”
  • Kyle has been getting into Simon & Garfunkel so I put the Concert in Central Park on my iPhone. I am glad.
  • The Acronym BFF is on Coke can I am drinking from.
  • There is a soundtrack  playing in my head, because I hear it through my headphones. Even though you may not know the melody, I hope the words connect. Now playing: Avett Brothers, The Perfect Space. “I want to have friends…that love me for the man I’ve become not the man I was…all alone is when being alone is all I need… I want to fit in [pause] to the perfect space…” Now from The Concert in Central Park, “Hello darkness my old friend…” The song makes me think of home. Singing with my sisters, sitting at the table in the back of our camper. “But my words like silent raindrops fell.”
  • Remind me to charge my iPhone.
  • 25 minutes left of the flight.
  • Ouch. Pressure. Ears.
  • Don’t tell Dave (because I always give him grief for doing the same): I gave Eli a few sips of my Coke.
  • Yes I have “Blurred Lines,” on my iPad and yes, I’m doing a little shoulder shake while I type this.
  • “It’s 98 degrees in Phoenix.” The captain says over the loudspeaker and I think of boy bands.
  • “Every time I see you falling I get down on my knees and pray.” I am so glad New Order’s “Bizarre love triangle” made it on the Shuffle.
  • We are about to land, and the cups haven’t been picked up. Oh well. We piled them onto Kyle’s tray.
  • “She keeps it simple and I am thankful for her kind of loving, because it’s simple.” Bobbing my head to the Alt country (is that what you would call them), Avett Brothers as we hear the landing gear ready itself.
  • Words do mean something, even without the melody. Although I readily admit the melody makes it much better.
  • The Avett Brothers continue, “I hope I don’t sound insane when I say that there is darkness all around us…in January, we’re getting married…it no longer matters what circumstances we were born in.”
  • Did I mention I’m taking two poetry classes in the fall?
  • And Bohemian Rhapsody shuffles on at just the right time. Freddy Mercury aptly sings us into our turbulent landing. Yes and perfect.
  • Kyle teases me when I grab his leg.
  • “Don’t mean to make you cry if I’m not back this time tomorrow. Carry on. Carry on.”
  • Hello Arizona.
  • Crazy companion fare: SLC – PHX – MSP

Touchdown

  • “Mama Mia. Mamma Mia. Let me go.”
  • Landed.
  • Airplane mode off.
  • First text shows up from our friend Kevin. It says, “yep. Breathe.” Exactly.

 

PS. Hours later.  My lifetime, BFF, Marianne,  picked the boys and I up at the airport. On the way home we stopped at my oldest sister, Brenda’s house. All six kids (and my mom) were there. We hugged. We laughed. We were awkward. We hugged some more. It was amazing. I would call this weekend a success and it is only Thursday night. So cool!

A Little Turbulence

Coming Home

Day 17 (really Day 18, when you include travel, I think)

Europe
We won’t miss:

  • Inconveniently placed hair dryers in every single hotel.
  • The Shining bathroom
  • Inconveniently sized spoons
  • Paying for parking everywhere
  • Under seasoned food
  • Roads too narrow for cars
  • Fighting over dessert
  • Painted ceilings
  • Hampton Court
  • The Tower of London
  • Overly complicated but ineffective European plumbing — toilets – hot water on one side, cold water on the other.And what I won’t miss about the journey home.
  • This is really not about Europe, but I will not miss the Newerk Airport. I am sure I will have to fly through you again, but today you have let me down.

What we will miss:

  • Superior bacon
  • Dark chocolate covered rice cakes
  • The Chalk Cliffs (especially Kyle & I)
  • Dublin
  • The Cliffs of Moher
  • The Fountain Inn, Whales
  • Cornettos
  • Croissants every morning
  • Bulk loads of Nutella to smother all over the croissants.
  • Tea kettles filled with piping hot water
  • The Kensington Whole Foods
  • Ruined castles and abbeys
  • Walls adorned with hundred of guns and swords as decoration
  • Downtown Leeds
  • Brighton
  • Beachy Head. We loved Beachy Head.
  • The cute boutique London Boutique hotels
  • Dave says he’ll miss Marmite. I do not believe him.
  • Little Ass Burrito, DublinAdditionally,
  • Grandma, additionally we will miss you! <3
  • I will and I will not miss the parallel universe, and overly reserve, polite people.

And about today, it is not over, and we are about to board another plane.

  • We had breakfast in Belfast.
  • On the drive to airport, we joked about the Utah pronunciation of the word mittens pronounced, mih’ ins. We promised to name our pet Mih’ ins (if we ever get one).
  • I was totally thrown at Belfast Security when they sent Eli’s jams through the x-ray another time. That is where we kept the jam(s), and somehow my very lovely toiletry bag did not return to my backpack. Arhg!
  • Yes, and about airport searches. Really, about airports… I think airports are their very own governing unit/police state, with the ticket agents representing say War Lords.  (Um and yes in this moment we are a little frustrated with frustrated rant to follow):The ticket agents know the system and know how to manipulate their power. Everything is always “out of their hands.” And apparently in the Country of Newark, it is ok for four ticket agents to stand in the path of people trying to check-in.  When we first went to check in the agent, Shereen snapped at us and sent us to a computer. When Dave asked her a question, she snapped again, and told us we had to call Award Travel, because some of our tickets were paid for, and some were Frequent Flyer tickets. We kindly stepped away and called the Award Travel People. They couldn’t help so we decided to simply take our original flight. No problem. We walked back up to check in.  As we did, the same United Airlines Premier Access Ticket Agent loudly said to the three other agents she was talking to (instead of any of them helping customers),
    “Oh great, they are back!”
    Yes, that is what she said. And yes, Shareen R. we are back. Where else are we supposed to check in? And when we, the  lowly customer, say something like,
    “I heard that (which I did as we walked by, and I am also tired of bullies, who come in all shapes in forms 00 my bad ;) ),”
    it is apparently also ok for the not-doing-their-job-gossiping ticket agent to grunt and then say,
    “she should not be eavesdropping on our conversation.”
    (Um, I don’t think it is eavesdropping when you give us the obvious once-over, as you share loud enough for us to hear.)Anyway…
    I caught my breath and while walked over to see if Dave heard, the lovely ticket agent quickly went across the way, and called a supervisor  over to talk to us (we found out  who she was calling moments later).

    True story.
    Lame.
    Customers are powerless.

    Shereen R. was using her knowledge of the system to bully us, the customer, and to avoid responsibility . She should have just apologized, helped us and moved on. Instead, she lied and undermined our credibility.  This is one of the reasons why I think airports are no longer places to feel free or safe, especially as the customer. We really are powerless, and it is their (stealthy and practiced) word against ours.

    The three other lady agents are not without blame either. They knew Shareen was wrong. Instead of helping us, they covered themselves, and went back to work.  Yet before I called out the ticket agent, instead of helping all the customers, they thought it was ok to stand in our path and complain about us.

    It is my understanding that a ticket agent is a customer service job. Apparently I am wrong. By calling a supervisor over (Dina), Shareen cut me off at the pass, saving her own bacon.  Instead of saying that what she did wasn’t cool, she created a drama that did not exist.

    We couldn’t change our flight, and were ok. We moved on and as we were walking away, Dina (the supervisor),  stopped us (got in our path) and began to accuse us of having a “confrontation.” We were puzzled and really confused.  When I pushed for answers, she said, “the gate agent called and said there was going to be a confrontation.”  What the what?  We explained, she didn’t listen, and then she kind of did. She actually said, “well, I don’t see why we couldn’t help you.”

    Honestly, we were so tired and worn down. We know airports. We were actually were calm and nice. Because Shareen was protecting herself, the supervisor kept waiting for us to strike. We did not. After a few seconds the supervisor could see that we were harmless. We were simply confused (like I said), and caught in the path of a ticket agent, who apparently, has a problem with personal responsibility and integrity. Her reaction was bizarre and also calculated. She knew what to do to avoid punishment and what she did was sicl. She has the power.  We were no one really.  Just people who got in her way. So gross!

    And because of the police state airports have become, there was really nothing we could do. Dina, the supervisor, promised to call both the United Lounge and Customer Service. We stopped at both. Neither knew who we were. Customer Service was useless. They did not listen. Our original concern: “can we get on an earlier flight?” United Airlines, you blew it. Shame on you!

  • We found a Smash Burger in the airport. I finally ate.
  • I talked to two very lovely men in the United Lounge.  Renewed my faith in humanity. Reminded me of Brian and Robbins, my favorite, favorites, who really do make the world a better place.
  • Oh hey and my brother Bill just called. I told him not to hold me to anything I say in this conversation. I’ve been up for awhile.
  • The boys are good. Dave is settling back into the work groove and we are very excited for the next leg of our journey.
  • Ahoy!

Next Morning, which is this morning:

I tried and I tried and I tried to post the post from Newerk. Alas, I could not, so here it is from Los Angeles.
Today is a new day. After twenty-four hours of travel, at midnight, we arrived at our hotel. Sure, once we arrived they had lost our reservation. After watching Eli pass out on the hotel couch, Brian, the front desk guy, took pity on us.  In on fell swoop, and a few calls, the hotel went from full to one room left.  High fives to that! Dave was up at 3:45 AM for his 6:00 AM flight, and is already back in San Francisco. And from our Los Angeles hotel room I am already knocking away at all the things we missed while we were away. It is nice to be back in the United States. Sure, everyone came to the hotel breakfast in flip-flops and sweats, and a lady stole Kyle’s pancake right out from under him because and I quote, “is going to miss her flight.” I am curious. What do pancakes and morning flights have to do with anything. And yes, it was literally the last pancake, by the way. Anyway, we are home (sort of). As I reach for my adaptor, Eli reminds me that those plugs, plug right in.

We enjoyed the journey and are very glad to be back.

 

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