Junk in the Trunk

There is a whole lot more junk in my trunk lately.

And, no, this isn’t that type of post.

I mean, literally.  A ton of junk in my trunk.

It all started one Friday almost two weeks ago.  In a scheduling feat only I would engineer, I had three days to prep for an outdoor overnight with one daughter’s Girl Scout troop and clean the house and menu-plan and shop for a dinner party for fourteen upon my sleep-deprived return.  So, of course, a health question that needed office-visit answering arose and the one opening my doctor had was smack dab in the middle of my harried day of reckoning.

Re-engineering the day to fit everything in, I hit the discount store first.  The two-year old squawked when I put her in the shopping cart, but soon entertained herself by holding the various items I plucked off the shelves.  I, of course, chose judiciously which ones she could hold without causing herself bodily harm or a ‘clean-up on aisle five’ effect.  The dish detergent did give me pause, but as long as she didn’t undo the cap on the plastic bottle . . . I’d watch her closely.  A few minutes later, she lost interest and hucked it over her shoulder into the larger part of the carriage anyway.  That was the end of that.

Until the citrusy aroma of Ajax niggled at the back of my nose as we drove a few towns over to my appointment.  I made a mental note to check the cap, thinking maybe it hadn’t survived the huck.  But when we pulled into the doctor’s parking lot, early, and having already checked one task off my list, I was too busy patting myself on the back and herding the two-year old inside to check for a citrus spill.  I was owning this harried day.

 

Turns out we were super early, since the doctor was running late.  We managed to make a bathroom visit, grind bright orange cracker crumbs into the carpet, crinkle every sticker in the good behavior basket, do a diaper change, and make some friends while we waited.  Luckily, the health issue seemed to be a non-issue so we headed back to the car.

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Good thing the extra 20% was free . . . 

Closed up for some time, the citrus smell was super concentrated in the car now.  Popping open the trunk, I found a soupy mess under the sea of plastic shopping bags.  Apparently my decision to buy the bottle with 20% more free was a moot point now.  Using an old towel left in the trunk, I sopped up the slimy mess, which would turn sudsy every time I thought I’d swiped the last of it. As I stood in the cavernous open mouth of my trunk, scrunching up slippery plastic bags and reorganizing their contents, cars zoomed by behind me, pulling the minutes of my early lead on the day with them.   And I still had to hit the grocery store for perishable items for the dinner.

 

Somehow, I made it to camp on time, but as we closed out dinner on the fire, our wood supply dwindled as well.  Camp wasn’t too far from home so my husband met me at the main entrance to the park and loaded firewood into the trunk, mixing the earthy smell of logs with artificial citrus.  The dirt and splinters didn’t bother me as much as they would have since the whole trunk needed a thorough cleaning already.

I felt like a real-life advertisement for removable trunk liners with raised lips to contain spills.  Soap suds, even on a low-pile rug, would have been a nightmare.  And neither my husband nor I would have loaded wood onto anything but the ruggedized surface.  Yet, neither of us pulled it out to wash it off after its workout that Friday.  The soap had dried, the splinters would still be waiting, and maybe we sensed there was more to come.

When another daughter’s Girl Scout troop painted pumpkins for Halloween, of course they hadn’t dried when it was time to load them into the trunk.  The other leader gave me a large plastic bag to lay out on the bottom; I lay the ripped off half of a legal-size file folder over it, the pumpkin resting on top.  I crawled out of the parking lot at a snail’s pace – and the pumpkin rolled over on the first turn.  Flipping on the four-way flashers and righting the pumpkin, I edged up the hill, over the main road and turned onto the side street across the way.  I made it but one more turn before it rolled again.  This time, I hedged my bets, hoping it would stay put in its corner until we arrived home.  My little Scout, meanwhile, was peering over the backseat the entire time, giving me a running commentary of its travels and the patches of pumpkin now showing through the paint.  When we finally extracted the pumpkin from the trunk in our driveway, sure enough, the trunk was more purple than the pumpkin.  She, of course, was more distraught about the pumpkin.  A blob of purple paint on the corner of the file folder, her makeshift palette, remained so I instructed her to go inside, get a paintbrush, and set to fixing her pumpkin on the porch.  I donned a headlamp, a handful of wet paper towel, and package of baby wipes and set to scrubbing down the inside of the trunk.

Turns out the spill of dish detergent at the outset of this trunk evolution was fortuitous when it came to scrubbing down purple paint.  That wet paper towel activated it like a dream.  And suds scrubbed out any dirt the wood chips had left behind.  The rubber-stamped letters of Subaru raised in purple relief against the black backdrop as the absurdity of this phase in my life came to bear.  Would I ever have imagined that I’d be standing in the pitch black of my driveway following the bobbing beam of a headlamp as I scrubbed poster paint out of the back of my car?  While my nine-year-old finished her squash masterpiece by porch light?  While my pajama-clad eleven-year-old peered out the window, drawn by the random shards of light sluiced across the dining room?  While my thirteen-year-old busied the two-year-old, who started this all, upstairs?  While my husband placed the packet of fundraising materials on the dining room table without realizing it was also covered in splatters of purple paint that got all over his hands and anything he touched within the next few minutes?

All because I thought I could fit it all in, in a short window of time; do it all at top speed and not make any mistakes.  Or because life with four children in a family of six people is always lived at breakneck speed with absurd missteps and stuff you just can’t make up.  If my eleven-year-old looked out the window in disbelief, I could just imagine what my neighbors thought if they saw the shifting beams of light through the trees.

The junk in the trunk wasn’t there long enough to become baggage, but old habits like over-scheduling and unrealistic expectations of what I can actually accomplish always travel with me.  Luckily, so do smart purchases like the ruggedized trunk liner and a sense of humor.  And the crazy few days leading up to the dinner party made me enjoy my glass of wine with friends even more.  And the bemused look on my eleven-year-old’s face as she took in her crazed cyclops mother makes my heart sing.  There are small moments of authenticity amidst the chaos – and never a dull moment.

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The offending pumpkin

Impossibly Easy

Last night for dinner, we had ‘Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie’ – which would have been impossibly easy to prepare had I not flipped the dish upside down into the oven.

Just as the oven timer beeped, my husband’s gastrointestinal juices gearing up, I gripped the glass pie plate on either side with my ove-gloved hands and proceeded to do a spastic ground beef ballet. Time slowed down as it only can during inevitable and unavoidable catastrophe. I watched helplessly as the plate tilted at an ever-alarmingly steep angle and poured the eggy, cheesy, beefy crumbles down into the multifaceted cavity between the open oven door and hot oven floor.

My husband, on the phone with his parents, ran into the room to see what was the matter, alerted by my cries. I still can’t recall if what I said was appropriate for his parents, hanging in midair on the phone in his hand, to overhear. When he’d hung up and reentered the room, he asked how it happened – to which I do remember answering quite snippily that if I knew how it happened, I wouldn’t have let it happen. I said that I meant to do it, to spite him, to ruin the family dinner, that it was my intent all along. Yes, it was my grandest moment.

Impossibly Easy, my ass

Impossibly Easy, my ass

You see, it never really was about the impossibly irritating cheeseburger pie. I knew when I gripped it, my hold was tenuous at best. I was already floating off on some negative tangent as we’d traipsed the troop into the school gymnasium to vote. The kids flitting about on the periphery, drawing the dirty looks of the board of canvassers representative, didn’t help. My rotors, failing brakes, something squeaking all day as I drove down the road didn’t help. Money troubles and a possible looming lay-off didn’t help. The greasy mess congealed to the bottom of my stove was just the icing on an already slimy cake.

After I winged a plastic spatula just to the right of him, he thumped a couple of walls, I lied down on the bathroom floor for a good cry (all while the kids played doorbell ditch on their own home) – I set to cleaning the stove. I’m not sure I’ll ever want to prepare or eat this dish again. I discovered places in my stove I never knew existed – just wide enough to allow a chunk of mangled food in and just small enough to prevent my fingers to take it out.

The good thing about this all-around disgusting evolution is that my oven is now clean! It is ready for the onslaught of Thanksgiving like it never would have been had I not spilled food all over its-hotter-than-a-spilled-pie-plate-of-ooze insides. And that’s about the only good thing. I’m not proud of my behavior. None of the issues precipitating the great pie-plate debate of ’14 were resolved. I still feel pretty mushy about the whole thing.

If only it was as impossibly easy to wipe away the grime of our lives.

Pieces of Me

Walking across the quad of the campus of my alma mater yesterday, where I’m taking a weeklong institute on writing, my feet felt tipped.  No, not tipsy, but tipped, as in leaning outward.  Now as someone who is a diagnosed overpronator, this is not a sensation I am used to.  Must just be because I haven’t worn these sandals in awhile, I thought.

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When I reached the classroom, I felt my foot roll and thought I’d stepped on something.  I bent my leg a la checking for dog poo and saw that the rubber sole of my sandal had started to disintegrate.  What I’d stepped on was a small wedge of the one that had made up the bottom of my shoe.  As the day wore on, a pile of rolled-up rubber collected under my chair and a Hansel and Gretel crumb trail of what had worked itself off in the hallway led me to class this morning.

I was pissed.  I had paid good money for these brand-name sensible shoes.  My husband did point out that I most likely bought them when expecting my first child about nine years ago, but still.  My father still has shoes he wore when I was a babe.  What the heck!

Shoe travesty aside, it was disorienting to find pieces of me scattered all around the various paths I’d taken yesterday – and left behind unbeknownst to me.

But then, looking back over this entire week, that seems de rigueur.

The first time I sat down to write this, I shut the door.  My now-six year old opened it and asked if she could rest while I wrote.  Fine.  But the door stayed open and I could hear the television, computer, and talk radio playing simultaneously downstairs.  Then she started explaining, in great, glorious detail, some drawings she’d done.  Beautiful.  But I can’t form words and listen to them at the same time.  Then my three year-old started a full-on high-pitched fit about the television being shut off for dinner.  Downstairs.  Behind the couch.  Far removed from me and yet still ear shattering.  Then my husband called up the stairs that dinner was ready.

And now this, my second time trying to write it, two daughters camped out in the room until I complained of noise and one went into her room, closing the door behind her in a huff.

I’ve attended class all day each day since Monday, leaving campus each day rife with ideas and inspiration, which I need to shove on the backburner of collecting my kids at various family members’ houses throughout the state, trekking home, figuring out dinner with food I didn’t have time to shop for, hugging and kissing for lost time, trying to relax and catch up on my sleep deficit and finish my homework at the same time.  All three of the kids contracted a stomach bug, which not only made me worry about them, but the various family members who still lovingly offered to take them.

There are pieces of me scattered all over the place.  My house, my car, our other car I had to take when I transported all three children at the same time, my purse, in the mosquito that bit me as I cleaned the puke off the bottom of the car and then flew into the woods by the side of the road, the carpeted hallway of Adams’ Library, the windowless classroom, the roads I’ve rushed down, the hearts of my children, the imagination of my husband, the dreams of my soul.

 

I’m not a crumbly mess, but it’s hard not to feel worn thin.

Entropy

I used to like you.

You were a concept I thought was rebellious, unique in its dysfunction.

I scribbled your name on the brown paper bag book cover of my science book.

I joked how my life was a measure of entropy.

I didn’t know that my worst day of stress or ill-preparedness back then was a cakewalk compared to now.

While entropy is supposed to be unpredictable, I can feel myself slipping into it.  That detached feeling while everything swirls around me.  Worries, permission slips, due dates, appointments, a specific pair of pants to be washed, thoughts, concerns, shopping lists, stresses.  I cringe as I await the fallout.  The important detail missed.  The distractedness in me leading to some major misstep.  I know it’s coming.  I know it’s only a matter of time.  I dread it.  It makes me sick.  Makes me feel like I need a keeper.  Yet I can’t stop the feeling, can’t prevent the catastrophe.

It’s only after the catastrophe that I am emptied – of the dread, the worry.  Only to be filled with sorrow, regret, and guilt.  Ashamed that I scraped the side of my car along the opening of the garage as I pulled in.  Mortified that the bus driver awaited my return at the foot of my driveway; that my children had to wonder where I was.  Weak with worry that I could do something so stupid.  And it’s in that low place that I determine such a scenario will never occur again.

And for a while, I am good.  I dial back the enthusiasm when scheduling things.  I plan ahead.  I try to allow for more time than I optimistically think I need.

But slowly, slowly I forget that ‘limp as a dishrag’ feeling following the sick rush of adrenaline and life ratchets up again.

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Is it like the volcano that releases all its pressure with an eruption and then lies dormant again?

Do I push and push and push until my psyche can’t take it anymore and I get set back to the starting block – only to do it all over again?

Sisyphus has been bounding around in my head a lot lately.  A friend pointed out that any upward or forward motion is good – even if it doesn’t result in reaching the summit.  I need to explore these ideas.  Because a whole lot of $#!7 keeps hitting the fan and it keeps on spinning.

Entropy is not my friend anymore.  Chaos is not anti-establishment.  It is insanity.  I know there will always be a measure of ‘can-go-wrong’ness in my life, in anyone’s, but I can’t let it build to the boiling point at set intervals if I want to live a peaceful life.

Think about it

We look outside ourselves for distraction, rather than inside for peace.

We look to diversion rather than rest.

We fill our minds to avoid distinct thoughts rather than focusing on one that truly matters.

What would happen if we slowed down . . .

to meditate

to pray

to sleep

to stare

to breathe

to think in slow, meandering paths

to sit

We’d be happier

calmer

friendlier

more patient

more peaceful

better people, more attuned to our purpose here in life

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