What The Hell Happened To My Life?

I’m having a midlife crisis. This is my second midlife crisis, actually. The first one happened right after Cassie was born. Now it’s happening again with Sam.

What’s my problem? Before my first child came along, I had no idea who I was or what I wanted to do with my life. I was 33, had two degrees in communications, and had never once gone after any of the things I dreamed of doing when I was in high school. Pathetic, isn’t it?

When I was a teen, I knew I wanted to be an artist. Hell, back then, I was an artist. I drew all the time, I had no lack of ideas. Everybody who knew me knew I could draw. I was even voted most artistic in my senior class. Problem was, at some point I sort of lost my way. It started even before I graduated from high school, to be honest. Even as my peers were proclaiming me most artistic, I was slowly letting my artistic interests fade away. I wanted to draw and paint, but I didn’t pursue it the way I should have. I should have taken art classes in high school. Instead, I took band. I should have drawn every spare minute of the day. Instead, I pissed away the days by doing other things, like watching TV, goofing off and hanging out at the mall. That wasn’t to say I still wasn’t creative. By the time I was sixteen, I had gotten heavily into fantasy and science fiction costuming. But my real passion, art, just got left in the dust to wither and die.

It didn’t help that my dad insisted I could never make a living as an artist. I wanted to go to art school. Dad insisted that I major in something “useful” instead. Since I hadn’t spent the last four years of school preparing for art school by taking art classes and building up a portfolio, guess who won that argument? And the end result? A bachelor’s and a master’s degree in communications, two pieces of paper that I’ve had almost no use for in the last 15 years. Yep, six years of my life and several thousands of Dad’s money devoted to a subject I really couldn’t care less about.

To be fair, it’s not Dad’s fault. He also swore my sister Carolyn could never make a living as an actress, but she fought for what she wanted, and she prepared for it by taking acting classes every year in high school and by being heavily involved in school musicals, dance productions, and the chorus. She showed Dad up front what she could do and what she wanted and then she went to college and pursued her dream. It is entirely besides the point that now at 33 she is getting a new degree in something else – physical therapy – because making it as an actor in New York is almost damned impossible. What matters is she pursued what she wanted. I didn’t. Carolyn at least has several years of theater performances and a production company to show for it, even if she is now changing course.

So here I am, mother of two and still wishing I could be an artist. I haven’t been completely without my artistic successes. I have a tiny portfolio of very nice 3D and 2D graphics. Too bad I only complete two or three pieces a year though. I do have a couple of animated cartoons done, the only instances where I had any use for my degree in broadcast communications. I’ve even got a couple of nice colored pencil drawings floating around the house. But none of this is enough to make me feel like I can stand up and shout “I’m an artist!”

To be an artist, I would have to draw every day. I don’t do that. To be an artist, I would have to turn out a prolific amount of work. Do I even have time for that? To be an artist, I would need to do any number of things – take classes, enter shows, submit work for publication in a magazine or online gallery – that I simply don’t do. Why the hell not?

Because I don’t know how. I haven’t been practicing this shit and at the age of 37 I know no more about being an artist than I did at the age of 12, which was probably the last time I took my drawing seriously.

I’ve got to change something. I’ve got to go from being the stay at home mom to being the artist again, because honestly folks, I feel like I’m dying here. I am not suited to just being a mom and I know it. I’ve got to have something more. I recently bought myself a subscription to ImagineFX magazine. Paid $150 to have it shipped to me from the UK every month. It’s a gorgeous mag, full of 2D and 3D digital fantasy and sci fi artwork. I’m reading every issue from cover to cover, devouring every detail inside. And it’s killing me, because every artist published in that magazine is between the age of 16 and 24.

What the hell happened to me? I’m 37. Is it too late to change things now?

How Many Remotes Does It Take…

Another class yesterday, this one on infant care. And yes, we sat in the same hard-ass seats again. I was going to take a refresher class on breast-feeding, but my pelvic girdle just can’t take any more torture. It already feels like someone’s taken a hammer to my groin.

My husband and I hired a babysitter for Cassie while we were at class last night. Our sitter is great – fifteen years old, smart, hard-working, responsible, and she lives right next door so I know if there’s any problem, her mom is right there to help out. Of course, before we leave, we always go over the necessary info for the evening – where we’ll be, what time we’ll be back, how to get in contact with us if there’s an emergency, and how to turn on the TV.

Now remember, I said our sitter is smart, and she is. This teen is sure to get into college on a scholarship and will probably graduate with honors. So I am in no way implying she’s a little thick because we always have to instruct her how to turn on the TV. Instead, I am implying that my husband has made it damned near impossible to operate our television without a degree in engineering and computer science.
Yep, my husband the genius has turned our TV into a regular nightmare.

It all started a few years ago when a friend of ours decided to hook up a computer to his TV so he could download movies online and watch them at his house. Of course, the movies were all pirated, and Michael didn’t care to watch pirated movies because of how strongly he feels about copyright issues (I’m with him on this one – I’m a writer and I’d be pretty pissed if I caught someone stealing my work when I busted my ass writing something). But the idea of hooking a computer up to the TV appealed to Michael, especially when he realized he could use it to record his favorite programs just like a VCR and then watch them later at his convenience (an activity which is legal and therefore meets his approval).

So Michael gathered up various computer parts from around the house and built a new system which he installed into the living room next to our entertainment center. And that’s when the nightmare began, because he couldn’t just install a computer. He also had to install a sound system, because why bother going high-tech if you’re not going to go all the way. And along with the new sound system he just had to install a device to switch between the various audio sources so they’d all come through the new speakers crystal clear, and of course the whole thing had to go onto our wireless network and cable modem so he could surf the net from the TV if he wanted, etc., etc., etc.

Boxes started arriving at the house on a daily basis, each carrying some new technical do-dad. We had to save every box of course, in case Michael needed to send something back, so pretty soon we had a mountain of cardboard in our garage, making the garage absolutely useless for anything else. But that was a small inconvenience compared to the other problems that we encountered along our way to building the ultimate high-tech multi-media system. For starters, there were no manuals out at the time to explain step by step how to do this, so Michael was building everything on the fly, and of course there were bugs to work out. Lots and lots of bugs. Some days he’d get the computer to record everything he wanted. Some days the damn thing wouldn’t even start up. The computer lost time, sometimes as much as five minutes, screwing up Michael’s recording schedule. Then it gained time. Then it locked up repeatedly during recording. Then there were all the little annoyances like being unable to use the computer for anything else while it was recording, or not having enough disk space to save all the programs it programed to recorded. And let’s not forget all the remotes we suddenly had to have to use this new system. There was one for the switcher, to pick what audio source you wanted to hear (TV, radio, DVD, CD player, etc.). That was supposed to be the master remote that would control the whole deal, but since it didn’t have all the buttons to operate the DVD and the VCR, we had to have a remote for each of these as well. Then there was a remote for the cable and another for the VCR, because the master remote didn’t have any buttons to operate those two things. It could operate the TV, but we still had to keep a separate remote for that in the end because none of the other remotes had a way to turn closed captioning off and on. With a light sleeping three-year old in the house, we pretty much had to have that, otherwise we’d never be able to hear the TV after she went to bed in the evenings. In total, we ended up with about nine remotes to operate the whole system, and you can’t use just one remote to do anything, you have to use at least two and they have to be the right remotes. Thus the reason we always have to sit down and explain to our sitter how to turn on the TV each time she comes over.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. My biggest beef with the whole deal? My husband started spending more time with that damned machine than he did with me. Entire weekends went into taking the system apart and putting it back together again. Some days I’d spend more time talking to Michael’s ass than his face because he spent so much time with his head stuck in the computer, trying to fix whatever the latest glitch was. And this went on for a year, until I finally put my foot down and told him if he didn’t start spending time with me, I was going to trash the whole set-up and send him packing.

That seemed to get Michael’s attention. He declared the computer finished and we went back to talking to each other face-to-face and spending the weekends together doing the usual husband and wife things (i.e. shopping at Sam’s Club and cleaning house). Then I made a horrible discovery. The computer had developed an artificial intelligence. That’s right. The multi-media center from hell had a mind of its own, and it decided it hated my guts.

I first came to this realization around the time the television show “Lost” came out. I was sort of interested in seeing the first episode, so I asked Michael to record it for me. He did. On the computer. After getting detailed instructions on how to retrieve the recording so I could view it, I sat down and watched the most enjoyable hour of TV I’d seen since Cassie was born. Keep in mind that I had pretty much quit watching TV after Cassie was born (except for Sesame Street and Wiggles), but “Lost” really appealed to the sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction nut in me, and after the first episode, I was hooked. So I asked Michael if he could set up the computer to record “Lost” every week. He assured me it would be no problem.

He was wrong.

I have never seen the third episode of season one, because the computer failed to record it, when it first ran and again when it re-ran a couple months later. I was a little annoyed about that (actually, a lot annoyed), but I figured I could live with missing one episode. Then the computer failed to record other episodes. It never screwed up any of Michael’s programs, just “Lost,” the only hour of television I watched each week that didn’t involve puppets, learning the alphabet, or grown men dancing around in brightly colored shirts singing about the amazing Captain Feathersword. After the third missed episode, I began to suspect that the computer had it in for me because I was Michael’s wife, and therefore competition for his attention. When the damned thing started breaking down again on a weekly basis and Michael had to go back to spending every weekend repairing it, I was certain it was out to get me. When it failed to record the first season finale, leaving me completely in the dark about what happened to Kate, Locke, John and all the other characters stranded on the island, I knew we had a serious problem.

How did I solve that? I’d like to say that one afternoon while Michael was at work, I took a chainsaw to my digital rival and hacked it into little pieces. Or that I finally made good on my promise and threw the whole damn thing out the door, where it landed in the street and was crushed under the neighbors’ big-ass SUV. Or even that I threatened its hard drive with Cassandra and a really sticky peanut butter and jelly sandwich. None of that is true. The truth is, I sucked it up and let Michael devote several more weekends to the problem until he finally – FINALLY – got the computer fixed. I don’t know if he ended up switching in a new motherboard, or if maybe he replaced all the computer’s memory and thus wiped out its budding artificial intelligence. I just know that when he finally declared the computer done for a second time, it really was done.

I’’ve got the last five five episodes of Lost stored on the computer right now, and being an indolent pregnant woman, I’ve been using Cassie’s nap time to catch up. I must say the computer runs like a charm now, and even I can figure out which remote to use to switch back and forth between the television, DVD player, VCR and cable. As for our babysitter, well we still have to give her a refresher course every time she comes over. But eventually, she’ll get the hang of it. After all, she’s a very smart girl and we’re only talking about nine remotes here.

Day By Day

A long time ago, I used to keep a daily diary. At one time, it was a hardbound journal. At another it was simply an MS Word document that I kept on my computer. I still have both handwritten and electronic copies. I have no idea if I’ll ever read through them again, or if anyone will ever read through them, but I’ve stored both kinds for future posterity (or posterior, depending on whether or not you think I’m an ass).

I can’t quite remember why I quit writing in either diary, but a few years ago I did. It just got to be too much to record what was going on in my life, I guess. Not that there’s all that much excitement in the life of a stay-at-home mom, but there is a lot going on. Whatever the reason I quit keeping a diary, I’ve come to realize I miss it, so I’m going to try and use this blog to make up for what I haven’t been doing the past few years or so.

My main reason for wanting to start recording my humble day-to-day existence is my daughter, soon to be daughters. My first-born, Cassie, just astonishes me with the things she does, and I’m afraid if I don’t somehow record the little miracles she performs every day, I’ll forget years from now some of the best memories of my life. I also want to record what child number two is going to do. I’m 34 weeks along in my pregnancy, and I can already tell this kid is going to have as much personality as her big sister. There’s bound to be some outright hilarious moments waiting for me in the near future, between these two kids.

Another reason for wanting to keep a diary again – I’m a writer. The best ideas come from real life. In fact, I could not make up some of the stuff that happens to me on a day-to-day basis. For instance, Cassie has been sharing in the whole pregnancy experience with me the last several months. When she realized there was a baby in my belly, she had to have a baby in her belly too. I have Baby Sam, short for Samantha, whom we also sometimes call Sam-I-Am. Cassie has Baby Boy. For a while, if you asked her very nicely, Cass would reach into her navel and pull out Baby Boy to show you. She doesn’t do that these days. She says her belly is too big.

So Cassie and I are both expecting and everything I’ve gone through, she’s gone through with me. The latest has been the recent rash of contractions I’ve been experiencing. Last Thursday, I had twenty contractions in ninety minutes, and they were pretty strong too. However, they didn’t follow a labor pattern, meaning they didn’t continue to get more intense over the course of a couple of hours. In fact, they tapered off eventually, which was good because every time I had a contraction, I had to pee, and there’s nothing like peeing twenty times in an hour and a half to make you sick of seeing your own toilet. But I digress. As a result of all the contractions I’ve had, the doctor gave me orders to take it easy. Any time I have four or more contractions in an hour, I’m supposed to lie down for a while and rest. While my contractions have died down since last week, I still get a few really strong ones, and I end up lying down at least once a day, much to the dismay of Cassie, who wants me up and on my feet so I can chase her around the house or the yard and play games with her. Well, I guess poor Cass decided if she couldn’t beat ‘em, she’d join them. Two days ago, Cassie started having contractions. That’s right. She jumped up from the table at lunch time and said, “Oh, I have to lay down, Mommy. I having contractions!” I nearly spit milk out my nose when she said that. Keep in mind folks, the kid is only three years old. Hearing her complain about contractions, having a big belly and being kicked in the bladder by Baby Boy has been a source of unending amusement in our household.

So anyway, I’m not going through this pregnancy alone. Cassie is going through it with me, step by step, and it’s not something I ever want to forget. So I’ve decided to take 10-15 minutes each evening and record the little events of my day that make my life so enjoyable. Yeah, I know. The title of the blog is Cynical Woman, and this all sounds so sappy, but don’t worry. Cassie isn’t just sharing my pregnancy with me. She’s got plenty of sass in her too, and I’m sure her own inner cynic will pop its head out to give us all a healthy kick in the pants.