Angela Amman

Start and stop and start again

Caffeine Fix My coffee doesn’t look nearly as sun kissed — or as prepared by a barista — this morning as it did a couple short weeks ago when we were driving home from Michigan Adventure. I wish it did, of course. The chill in the air is partially welcome, especially by a certain, sweet girl who desperately wants to wear her new fall clothes, but I’m still feeling a bit wistful for summer.

School started with the best intentions, and we attempted to settle into a routine. Unfortunately, a misunderstood fire code and other shenanigans meant the kids were home again this Tuesday and Wednesday. Any semblance of normalcy took a backseat to a few days’ rewind to a summer mindset.

As life does, the two days with the kids reminded me time marches in one direction only. Despite a bit of humidity and temperatures warm enough to warrant bare shoulders and bare feet, we’ve clearly entered fall. They bickered a bit, in between the moments they read together and separately, asked to watch TV, careened down the street on bikes and scooters, asked for snacks, and counted down the minutes to extracurricular activities.

I thought about playing hooky with them, pushing off deadlines or working into wee, wee hours of the morning. (Yes, the second wee is necessary, because try as I might, I seem to be up until wee hours of the morning even on a normal day.) I felt beholden to my obligations, though, the ink of my fall responsibilities still too damp on my planner pages for me to feel entitled to tossing my hands into the air for unexpected fun.

We were all ready for the walk to school this morning, and for that I’m grateful. Their enthusiasm for summer and breaks and fun is matched, for the most part, by their enthusiasm for their days spent in their classrooms. I miss their breath in the house, that certainty of knowing I can reach to touch them or laugh with them within seconds. At the same time, I appreciate the silence, the music I turn on without worrying about contradictory requests from opinionated little people whose opinions seem to be forking away from each other’s — except when they’re not.

My blood pulses with start-stop-start-again lately. Too many ideas and not enough time. Too many plans and not nearly enough tables filled with double vats of caffeine. I hope it’s enough, that start-again. Enough to meet actual goals, not just to check off items from a to-do list. Enough to climb a little closer to the precipice I see from where I stand.

How are you adjusting as we inch closer to fall?

Winding down

end of summerTaking Abbey to a birthday party was one of the things I did on my birthday this year — along with consuming mass quantities of garlic and chicken schwarma. I teased her that I should be invited since it happened to be my birthday, too, but she’s discovered the tween eye roll and sigh combination that’s sure to drive me to the brink of ballistic more times than I’ll be able to count.

She wanted to walk, despite carrying a present in the sweltering heat, so we did. Later I drove Dylan to the pool, picking her up later in what seems to be an increasing shuttle back and forth between things they want and need and desperately have to do.

Summer’s winding down.

We had a summer PTA meeting this week, and teacher placements should hit inboxes sometime this Friday. Many of our friends around the country are already back in their buildings, which means I spend extra time on Facebook each day, marveling over how people’s children have changed, how babies I remember as babies are now kindergartners, some of them with gaps in their smiles.

We’re lucky to have a little extra time to stretch our summer into September, but I can feel the gears moving scheduling into the next gear. My pens are already filling days with color coded activities and hopes for the upcoming year.

Back to school sprinkles magic into the air; it always has for me, but the magic tastes bittersweet this year. Our summer, though the calendar might deny it, has been too short. My pendulum has wildly careened from loving the time with the kids to feeling stress over things far out of my control. The futility of those worries hasn’t escaped me, and my frustration with myself shortened my temper more times than I would have liked since June.

Still, it’s been one of our sweetest summers. The kids can both swim and ride bikes without training wheels and pretty much remember to look before launching themselves down the driveway and into the street. They laughed as we read The BFG, and they both read themselves to sleep many nights. I like playing Headbandz and Connect 4, and they mostly accept it when I need to work for a while before another trip to the pool or grocery store or one of the very few organized activities we did this summer.

Last summer ended with a freelance position requiring more time than I’d anticipated working during Dylan’s first weeks of kindergarten, and juggling my time became a chaotic way to drown out the quiet of having both kids in school full time.

This year, I’ll be working fewer hours.

In two weeks it will be quieter in my house, both literally and figuratively, than it has been in over eight years.

Summer’s winding down, and I’m just not sure I’m ready for it quite yet.

The connection between ease and strength

 

Motivational quotes float around Pinterest like dandelion fuzz, getting stuck on my boards and in my head. One of them comes out of the mouths of the instructors at the studio where I work out many mornings: It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger. A quick search lead to this possible source of the quote:

Quote about strength

screenshot courtesy of Goodreads.com

“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.” (Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free)

For the past few months I’ve been dragging myself out of bed for a 5:30 barre class — a variety of classes really, from barre to cardio kickboxing to a boot camp that might be my favorite. I’ve been there 107 times since I started going in March.

A friend started coming to classes a few weeks ago. Thursday morning as we stretched before class, we laughed a little about various sore body parts. She mentioned she’d hoped she’d stop being sore after she got over the initial discomfort from starting a new workout. I paused and shrugged a little, shaking my head.

I still get sore.

I know I’m stronger than I was when I started. My kicks are higher, my lunges lower, and I recently added weighted gloves to kickboxing days. The changes, though, came about so incrementally I can’t pinpoint when they happened. And that greater range of motion means my muscles still scream at me some days.

quotes about grief

one of my dad’s old coffee mugs — perfectly sized for black cherry ice cream

 

My old Care Bear rests on the couch a few inches from my still-sore legs. Abbey brought it down last week after a slightly painful dental appointment — mine, not hers — and I haven’t been able to take it back upstairs to the stuffed animal bin. He was a birthday gift over thirty years ago, gifted by my dad and tucked under covers in beds from my childhood canopy to my dorm room and beyond.

Last week, I turned 39, the age at which people like to joke about having one more year before 40. I laughed and ate cake for dinner and breakfast and tried not to think too much about how this was my first birthday without my dad.

I still felt my breath catch in my throat.

Tears don’t catch me off guard as often as they did in April and May. I know when they’re coming, the weight in my chest a familiar presence I recognize and acknowledge, as I try to figure out if the tears are stoppable.

I still feel them trace their familiar path down my cheeks some days, but some days I don’t.

The sharp realization that he’s gone isn’t getting easier, but I think I’m getting stronger.

On buying shoes

pre-first Communion pedicures with my favorite girl

pre-first Communion pedicures with my favorite girl

I was 18 years old the last time I bought Birkenstocks. I spent my summer working in the shoe department at the department store formally known as Hudson’s, which was half my dream job and half a nightmare — access to all of that fabulous footwear teeter-tottering with having to help slide other people’s feet into shoes. My wardrobe teeter-tottered, too, wedges and crop tops in one breath, oversized flannel and the iconic Arizona Birks in the next.

At 18 years old, I didn’t know what my closet wanted to be when it grew up, let alone my whole person. I’m inching closer to 40, and I’m still not entirely sure about either of those things.

I’ve got a pair of Birkenstocks in my online shopping cart again, though I haven’t been able to click the purchase trigger just yet. I ditched oversized flannel 20 years ago, and I don’t plan on sliding into cut-offs this summer. This time, I’m thinking about buying them because I refuse to give up my workouts or my favorite wedges, and Googling “plantar faciitis shoes” made me cringe in horror.

Buying shoes purely for comfort feels foreign, and I can’t exactly reconcile it with… well… anything. When, exactly, did my feet grow up and start demanding support and responsible decisions? I thought we were still on the same page, and in my head, that page is filled with sky high heels and ridiculously flat flip flops for days when I’m rushing across the street to pick up the kids.

The past few months have turned a lot of my pages upside down; my grief expands and contracts at the strangest times, a new sort of normal bookended by memories and unbidden tears.

Six months ago, I would have told you I’d said good-bye to my 18-year-old self long ago. Eighteen was kind of the middle of bad decisions and halting starts and stops, poorly judged friendships and a poorly judged tattoo.

Losing my dad, though, thrust me forward in a way that made me think 18-year-old me wasn’t as far in my past as I thought. I still reach to call him when I need an adult perspective, I think about taking him banana bread when I make two loaves. I couldn’t breathe for a moment when I bought one less Father’s Day card this year.

As I think about the years between my first Birkenstocks and the pair waiting in my shopping cart, I wish I would have enjoyed 18 more, when I could slide on shoes and identities without much thought, when I never doubted I had a soft place to land.

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