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In the interests of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses, here’s what’s up with me: super anxious. Not coping well with my anxiety. Struggling to make all the ends meet, and as my friend Julie described it, feeling like I’m at the end of my rope but someone replaced my rope with a bungee cord so the end just keeps going. I’m feeling intense desperation that I’m not *enough* to deal with all the things that should, could, might need doing. 

I have huge projects at work and if I could work 60 hour weeks I *might* be able to feel like they were under control. The house is a disaster and I can’t even begin to figure out where to start to un-fuck it. My kid is 2 and that says all that needs saying. My husband has $1000 in leather commissions he’s super excited to do, but he’s down with a migraine. I just sorted our mail and found important things we’ve let slide: safety recalls on both cars, a speeding ticket I got, rabies shots for Jack, Malcolm’s registration, medical bills. I’m sitting on the floor in the kitchen because though it is relatively disgusting, there’s sunlight in here in the late afternoon and that feels like a benediction. 

And I hate Easter. My dad died at Easter time and I am so sad he doesn’t know Gwyneth. 

But I’m going to clean this kitchen. I’m going to play with G. I’m going to fill some eggs and do an egg hunt tomorrow. I’m going to go to work on Monday and finish two staffing plans and an initial draft of my grant. 

Because I persevere. It’s what I do. And the sun is shining, I have a good life, a loving family, and amazing friends, one of whom is bringing me dinner tonight. And sometime soon I will be able to see that those things, and I, are enough. I know I will. Just not tonight. 

It’s all gonna be okay. Eventually. 

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“you do 75% of the cooking, at least 50% of the laundry, and you make the money that keeps our family safe, comfortable, and healthy. You’re not disappointing anyone. Take a nap.”

–my husband, when I mumbled something into my pillow about being afraid to disappoint him if I didn’t do… something…. other than nap.

#mightyifitkillsme, insert emoticon here

Got up at 5. Found workout clothes. Stole a timberland hoodie from Justin. Put my parka and uggs on. Shoved wallet, inhaler, keys, and phone into the pockets of my parka. Looked at the temp. – 10F. Add gloves. Started for the car, remembered I need water. Went back in, got a water bottle. Got to the driveway, remembered I need shoes. Search for shoes. Search car – I had them Wednesday – search shoe rack, search other shoe rack, search other car. Search garage. Give up, assume I left them at the gym on Wednesday. Start Honda. Try again to start Honda. Honda starts. Put it in reverse, start to move, Honda says “fuck no” and stalls in the driveway. Try again. And again. Manage to re-park it, and get in Toyota. Toyota has an iced windshield. Start the car, second try, confirm ten below on instrument panel, and get out to scrape the windshield. Finally leave house. Arrive gym 5:37, find shoes! Hurrah!

Skip most of the warmup but do the jump rope to get my body warm and moving, and do my 12 minute ass-kicking workout, plus push press set. (55lbs, 5 sets of 3) Still hate burpees, now also hate reverse bear crawls.

6:02, head home, looking forward to reading for an hour before I shower and get ready for work.

Wait, where’s my phone?

Search Toyota. No phone. Find two pairs of glasses, that’s cool. No phone. Check Honda; no phone. Garage, kitchen…

Get iPad. Use Find My iPhone. Says its in the driveway. Back to the cars. Still -3F. Hate everything. Search for phone. No phone. Try to play the sound, app says iPhone is not connected to the Internet. Hear the distinctive hiss-pop of a soda can opening as I sit in the below-zero Honda, and toss a super frozen ginger ale out of the car into the driveway.

Wait. The driveway. Literally the driveway. I changed cars and scraped windows… Ok, so I start searching the snow in predawn light. No phone. It’s in a red case, it should be easy to spot.

But I moved both cars. I can see under the Honda, easy – lots of ground clearance. No phone. But I refuse to lie in the snow to look under the Toyota. It’s negative fucking 3.

I go inside, get keys, start the Toyota (second try) and move it to a different parking spot.

And there, in the tread of my tire, where I had pulled in and backed out, so four tires bearing the weight of a Corolla had driven over it, is my phone.

It doesn’t turn on when I push the button, but it’s -3F, so wtf. I take it inside.

Lifeproof case? Undamaged.

Pulled the phone from the case, no visible damage. Push the button.  Dead battery.

Plugged it in and ….

It lives. Unharmed. Run over by a car twice. Frozen solid. Perfectly fine.

Persevere. You are stronger than you know.

insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen

My kid. MY kid. 
Tonight she rejected the idea of pajamas in its entirety. I stripped off her clothes and diaper and she was hot – she had been wearing layers, and boots, and playing/running/climbing – and so she wiggled away from me and crawled into her bed naked, tucked her blankets around her, and closed her eyes. 

I put a diaper on her, regardless, and snuggled her into her down blanket without much commentary. Because I remember. 

One of my earliest memories is of finding nightgowns annoying. Of being frustrated that I had to wear pajamas at sleepovers when a pair of underpants was so much more comfortable. 

So I get it, kid. I really do. 

And then after some stories and some snuggles and some stretching out starfish-like, she fell asleep. On her belly, left leg pulled up to her chest. 

As I have always done. 

I get it, kid. 


#mightyifitkillsme, craftastic, food, gratitudejournal, insert emoticon here

You know what happens when I don’t post or comment on Facebook for 24 hours?

I want to write elsewhere.

Imagine that.

So let’s reclaim that part of me, too. I am a writer. It’s a thing I do that has value for me.

So is exercising. This morning I did situps and squats with hand weights, and it felt good. Really good. Justin commented that I was walking differently when I got dressed this morning. I stood and paced during a meeting today and felt more at home in my body than I have in a long time. Let’s reclaim that.

I made dinner last night. Chicken thighs, turnips, parsnips, carrots, and mushrooms made into a stew/soup stuff, based on this recipe. Tasty. We ate it all. Reclaimed.

I have a novel on my bedside table. I’ve read some of it. Fiction. In print. Reading. Reclaimed.

I knit a cat toy — just a little stuffed squid — for Steve a few nights ago. Reclaimed.

What’s next?

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Last night I woke up in the wee dark hours to the sound of Gwyneth’s tiny anger. Justin was with her already when I went to check her, so I went back to bed.

Then I woke up again, to the sound of Gwyneth’s tiny rage. She was clearly MAD. She was screaming, but not the tantrum scream — the GIVE ME WHAT I WANT scream. I got out of bed, and fumbled my way to her room, expecting to see Justin. No Justin. No Gwyneth, either. Spare room… nope. Living room… nope. Kitchen? Jackpot. Tiny enraged human, soothed with graham crackers and yogurt. Larger bewildered father, saying “She was starving. I dunno.” I went back to bed.

Then I woke up again at 2, to sustained tantrum crying. Stumble to her room. Justin is lying with her. She is enraged. I didn’t even ask why, just said “Get. Go sleep. I’ve got her” and we traded places. I shut the bedroom door behind him, pulled G’s sheets and blankets over my nightgown, and talked quietly to her about how I was all snuggled in, and ready to lie with her, and it’s nice and dark and quiet and the noise machine is on, and wouldn’t you like to sleep now? No, no she would not. She wanted to go play in the living room. But eventually she stopped wailing. She finally sat down on the floor, and stared at the door, little hiccuping sobs coming from her chest. Then she crawled to bed, crawled into my arms, and snuggled until she fell asleep.

So when my alarm went off this morning, too few hours later, dragging myself to work sucked. SUUUUUCKED. I had some resentment held close to my tired chest over The Toddler. The Toddler Who Is An Asshole.

Then today I saw, in rapid succession, images of Syrian refugees holding their terrified children. Images of Jewish refugee children from the 30s. Concentration camp images from the 40s. A story about a baby that died in daycare, apparently smothered by a blanket at naptime. An amalgamated creative nonfiction story about a father who lost his two year old daughter to drowning as they fled their war-torn home. And, the icing on the cake, a real photo of a dead toddler, about Gwyn’s age, face down on a beach in the surf, with an aid worker looking on.

And all I want is to have a screaming toddler keep me awake at night, in my comfortable home in a peaceful rural town where I have a stable job and good friends and strong connections to my loving family.

And to not have those images and stories in my head, and in my heart. And to not be too aware that they are just the tip of the iceberg. And to not know that there are people walking past me every day who don’t think that innocent people suffering through a war are worthy of compassion.

I want to live in a better world than this one.

For today, I’m going to love my daughter. I’m going to stop consuming news or social media. I’m going to do my job. I’m going to hug my husband and my friends. I’m going to tell you all that I love you. And I’m going to recharge my emotional batteries.

Maybe tomorrow I can fight the good fight. Today… Today I’m just going home.

insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

3:45: woke up to a screaming headache — a tension headache that was building toward a migraine. I tried to stretch through it.

4:00: give up on stretching, get up to take Tylenol and magnesium and get an ice pack for my head and a heating pad for my back.

4:05: return to bed to discover Steve is asleep on my heating pad and Jack is asleep on my pillow. At least they’re both purring, I think, and move them both aside and crawl back into bed.

5:00ish: fall back asleep, pain abated somewhat, and migraine averted.

6:30: turn off alarm.

6:45: turn off alarm.

7:00: turn off alarm.

7:45: wake up to my “get your ass out of the house now” alarm.

7:46: wake Justin and Gwyn, and ask him to please, I’m so sorry, I know I said you could sleep in today, but can you get her ready for daycare FAST while I take a quick shower?

7:52: as I fumble for a towel, I wonder why it’s so hard for us to keep clean towels stocked, and think maybe that, I dunno, WE COULD BUY MORE. (I think it’s been, like, 10 years…)

7:59: showered and dressed in the only clean pair of dress pants that currently fit me, I help hunt down shoes for Gwyneth. She has a dozen pairs of shoes, and only one pair at any time is actually a pair. But we find the second shoe! And it’s red, which is great, because it’s Red And Denim day at daycare for Halloween dressup week.

8:12: Finally pull out of the driveway.

8:19: Drop Gwyn off at daycare, which goes as smoothly as I could ask for, excepting the awareness that G really wanted me to stay and snuggle for a while.

8:29: Arrive 14 minutes late for my 8:15 appointment at Bodyworks. Discover on arriving that my zipper is down, and there’s a hole in the crotch seam of my trousers. Fantastic.

9:30: Leave Bodyworks with about 20% of my headache remaining, and call it a win.

Now. What was I going to work on, today?

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RIP, Miles the Cat, 2004-2015

Today we said goodbye to Miles The Cat, the furry friend known as Miles Vorcatigan, Fat Miles, Terror Cat, Desperation Jones, Little Buddy, and KITTY!

From the day he rode back from Hudson Falls on my shoulder, he was mine like no other cat had been mine since Butterscotch when I was a child. He was the product of a 6 pound siamese mother cat and, depending on who you asked, a Sneaky Neighbor Cat, Swedish Volleyball Player, or Mountain Lion. He was huge in frame, and he was deeply bonded to me. He meowed like a mofo, and was afraid of his shadow and seemed to be rather agoraphobic, and was incredibly lazy and very very fat. He was also the best nap buddy I could ever have asked for, he purred a very satisfying rumble, and he had the most gorgeous green eyes. He was not smart, and once got trapped in the basement ceiling because we went on vacation and the contractors redoing our bathroom were scary… but his not-smart-ness was rather charming, most of the time.

He loved me, and I loved him. He even, eventually, decided Justin was mostly not trying to kill him, and would acquiesce (with full-tilt airplane ears) to being petted by him. He tolerated the “pink toe, pink toe, black toe, pink toe” game, and the endless songs I’d sing about how “Miles the cat, he is very fat…” He let baby Gwyneth, and then toddler Gwyneth, pull his tail, tug his fur, lick him, pat him, and then pet him. He never ran from the screech of “KITTY!” she let out when she saw him.

He was just sweet.

He will be missed.

gratitudejournal, insert emoticon here, misc

Kyle​ and Maggie​ kept my animals alive and happy, cleaned my house, and were super-awesomely-silly when we got home, and problem-solved with me through rolling power outages during the thunderstorm. Best housemates ever. We are going to MISS Maggie.

Then after I sent her to bed with her daddy, I cleaned the evening snack peanut butter art off the Pook’s kitchen tower and counters, sorted my laundry and G’s from our suitcases, found the checkbook and wrote out the two checks that Justin​ and I need to deliver tomorrow, started a load of diapers to wash, put away G’s clean laundry, hung some fly strips because fuck that noise, rearranged my calendar tomorrow to accommodate our ever-evolving schedule, and am tending to my email so tomorrow sucks a little less.

Also, the power came back on so I’m sitting in the cross breeze of two oscillating fans, which has improved my mood considerably.

That was a hell of a travel day today — Justin’s injured, and the Pook is a toddler, and O’Hare is O’Hare, and we aborted our landing and tried again from a second approach because of thunderstorms and then it was a 3 hour drive home — but honestly, I feel capable. I feel like I can handle this. Like my life is controllable and functional. It may be a fleeting feeling when the realities of my everyday existence hammer into me, but for now, I’ll take it. I’m grateful.

insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

We’re in the middle of the 18 month sleep regression, so seeing 3 am, 4 am, and 5 am is common right now. Gwyneth is teething, and popped a tooth yesterday, and she’s about to pop on talking, too — her brain is working overtime — and keeping up with her just got hard and different again. We welcomed two new people into our home this summer, and changed our adult family dynamics, and Justin and I are still sorting that out. My cat is slowly dying, and I don’t know what to do about it. I’m overbooked on summer travel, and had to postpone visiting my grandmother, and I feel awful about that. And I work a lot, and have recently started feeling like I’m trying to move a mountain with a teaspoon, or tow a boat with just my teeth… the odds don’t seem to be moving in my favor on several of these projects and initiatives, but I’m trying to remain positive for the good of the institution and my people, putting on the best face I can while I fight for us in private. There are 7 ongoing summer construction projects in my main library, and several of those caused a lot of emotional, political, and power-dynamic disruptions that had to be addressed.

In short, I’m stressed. Right now, on a Friday night at 10:42, I’m sitting in my darkened living room, listening to Gwyneth wail as Justin tries to soothe her to sleep. She wants, depending on the moment, to do her bedtime routine again (stories! milk! teeth! snuggle!) or watch Curious George on one of our phones, and she’s frustrated and angry and sad and so are we… but she will sleep. Eventually. And our car is 90% packed, and in the morning after we all sleep a little we’re going to the Pennsic War in Pennsylvania, to camp with Sam and Suzy and Liam and a bunch of other friends for a week in medieval summer camp.

And that’s a good thing. I’m at the end of my rope. Today I realized that my tattoo hurts. All my scars itch. My joints ache, and my muscles are knots. I’ve been clenching my teeth all day and night. I can’t turn my head to the right because of a muscle spasm. I’m not sleeping, and I’m subsisting on carbs and cheese and coffee. A lot of coffee.

So this week I’m going to read books. I’m going to play with my kid. I’m going to wear medieval-esque garb and eat communal meals with my friends and sleep in a tent and nap during the day and tickle my baby until she giggles insanely and wander through the merchants and take some classes on arts and crafts and generally live differently for a while.

Because I need to reset. This is unsustainable. This is insane. This is not who I want to be. This is not how I want to live.

So I won’t.