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Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Moving Day, Redux

It started with the tree. An old man reflecting on his childhood would use this tree as a landmark to his memories. It's that kind of tree. That spectacular. I spent the summer watching them fix up the house next door. I'd be playing with the kids in my tiny side yard as the sound of hammering and sawing punctuated the work underway at the house behind mine. I didn't think too much of it. I knew no one lived there and assumed the owner was fixing it up to sell at a profit. One of those people that flips houses in desirable neighborhoods. Scrape off the seventies wallpaper, rip up the old carpet to reveal the hardwood beneath, paint, throw some new fixtures and appliances in the kitchen - stainless steel and granite for all the folks who've spent too many years watching House Hunters - then hammer down the For Sale sign.

I noted the enormous double-lot; beautifully landscaped, a football field of grass populated with fruit trees, pine trees, 12-foot tall sunflowers bordering a small, red barn-like structure that would make the perfect playhouse for kids. Ivy creeping everywhere, a garden as big as my current backyard filled with all kinds of berries. And The Tree. Old and strong. Solid. Powerful. Standing vigilantly next to the large, back deck, branches stretching protectively over the deck like a mother shielding her child from the elements.

It was love at first sight. This is like THE tree of all trees. A tree house tree. A tire swing tree. An I-hate-my-mom-and-I'm-climbing-my-tree-to-hide-from-her kind of tree. As my kids attempted to play tag and hide-and-seek on the tiny side patio of the rental home I moved to immediately after separating from Serge I stared longingly at the backyard next door. Acres of grass just begging for kids and dogs and all manner of family chaos. One time, after the men working on the house had left for the day curiosity got the best of me and, as dusk descended on my lovely neighborhood, I sneaked over to peer in the windows. Compared to what I'm living in this house felt enormous. Luxurious! Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, roomy kitchen, huge living room, beautiful sunroom. I wondered who'd buy the place when the guy finally put it up for sale. I hope they have kids, I thought. Maybe my kids will be able to play in the backyard with them. Run and stretch their little legs, cramped from our tiny yard and all the side-stepping around each other we do in our little house.

My house is small. What used to be my computer desk at our old house now serves as the kitchen table in my new house. Nothing else will fit. The bathroom is smaller than an airplane restroom. I rented it because it's in a stunningly gorgeous neighborhood where one of the best elementary schools in the city is located. It's also just down the valley from the place Serge rented. So I rented the house, downsized and tried to make the best of it, figuring that within a couple years maybe I'd eventually move to a bigger and better place in the same neighborhood, a place more suited to raising three kids. Three kids and two enormous frisky labs in a house the size of my first apartment after college is difficult. But we are making it work. It was the only place I could find in the area during the few weeks I had to find a house.

One day, as if by magic - or the deep longing in my bones willed it to happen - a 'for rent' sign appeared on the front lawn of the dream house. I was stunned. And devastated. I had missed it by two months, signing the lease on my little house at the end of June. I consoled myself with the notion that the rent was likely far more expensive than my current rent. For kicks I called the number on the sign and inquired. $200 more a month. Which, when you know the differences in the two homes, isn't much. We're talking about a house and yard TWICE the size of my current home.

Without knowing what I was doing - I had just signed a year lease for godsakes - I made an appointment to look at the house. The minute I walked inside I knew I had to make it my home. For my children. Who deserve to grow up in an awesome house with a fairyland of a backyard where they can run and jump and play and climb trees or hide in a clubhouse.

It's been a stressful month. Dealing respectfully with my current landlord who is understandably not happy with me for breaking a lease while waiting for my potential landlord to assess his options AND CHOOSE ME SWEET MOTHER OF GOD PICK ME! Do you not see this rascal, Henry, eyeballing that clubhouse or this sweet peach of a girl Violet assessing the tree for the perfect spot to hang her swing? Can I direct your attention to this beautiful blue-eyed baby I'm holding? PICK US! I was honest with both landlords, telling them I work hard, never pay rent late and am not typically a lease-breaker but this house, oh this house, and I need a solid, great place to raise my kids - no more moving - AND OH MY GOD DID I MENTION I LOVE THIS HOUSE? I NEED THIS HOUSE! I WANT THIS HOUSE....

We move in Wednesday.

Badass Scaredy-Cat

I wrote this thing over on about taking life day by day with absolutely no clue what tomorrow will bring and how appealing I find the whole concept of embracing the unknown. Not only appealing, but it's the only way I've been able to get through each day; not mulling over how all of my pre-divorce goals have crashed and burned over the past couple months, just putting one foot in front of the other and taking it one day at a time.

Still, at least once a day panic climbs my throat and it takes every ounce of willpower I have not to give in to what feels like a thousand voices vocalizing all my inner fears, shouting them back at me inside my head. I say that because in writing about embracing the unknown I can also acknowledge I am scared shitless of what the future may bring and that maybe I write to convince myself of things as much as I attempt to write truths.

I talk to my therapist about how I feel lonely but still resist the notion of dating, even just casually, and am trying to revel in the loneliness because I feel like a strong person needs to be completely comfortable being alone and not seek out others just to avoid loneliness. She asks why I feel the need to conquer life alone, tells me there's nothing wrong with being with others to avoid loneliness, isn't that one of the good things about relationships?

I don't know. I guess I view people who are uncomfortable with being alone as weak. She challenges that notion as well, says I've spent my entire life trying not to feel vulnerable and that it's OK to be vulnerable. So I'm trying to be open but it's all so confusing and difficult. I feel like an alcoholic in AA who's been advised not to date for at least a year after becoming sober. So damaged by my past and my marriage that I should avoid all contact with the opposite sex or else risk relapse into bad habit behaviors I've spent years cultivating. And, quite frankly, the notion of dating seems awful. I've spoken to a few divorced friends who are trying to meet people and resort to spending time on dating websites and the stories they tell... Just... NO. I'd rather die alone than subject myself to that kind of nonsense.

Actually, in writing this I realize I do have a goal. I want to be a calm, confident person who lets most of life's difficulties roll off her back. Someone who doesn't spend time freaking out about the unchangeable or the inevitable, who doesn't get caught up obsessing over bullshit and just enjoys the privilege of being alive. Life is what it is and I just want to appreciate the ride no matter what gets tossed my way. I'm trying. I alternate between feeling like a badass with a new lease on life and a lonely girl who is afraid of what the future might bring...

And the Playground Stank of Stink Eye

And so what if I did want to sit on the bench for five minutes while my son slides and mess with my phone? That makes me a bad parent? I need to be in on every second of the action or else risk the judgment of others? And forget about judgment, I’m trying to avoid complete and total burnout here. Any mom can tell you her entire day is spent responding to the needs of this child and that child and the dog and the phone call from your health insurance company that lasted 50 agonizing minutes and the bill you had to pay and then this child and that child and this child and that child and yet I still brought you to the freaking fair or the swimming pool or the park and CAN I NOT SIT HERE AND LOOK AT MY PHONE FOR TEN SECONDS WITHOUT GETTING A STINK EYE FROM SOMEONE?

Click here to read the whole damn thing over on Babble.

Ms. Wylet Goes To Kindergarten

Never again will all three of my babies spend lazy days with me in the little bubble that has been our universe together. Oh sure, there will be next summer when school is out but Violet's horizons will have expanded, friends will have been made and maybe our little family excursions with just each other will no longer be enough for her. There was this one, brief summer when all of my children were born and none had started school yet when we felt complete. A team, a unit, best friends who had nowhere to be and only needed each other to be happy.

Go on with your bad self, Ms. Wylet. You have more heart and soul in your pinky finger than most people manage in a lifetime. We're counting the seconds until we can come get you.

Leaving the Legos Out

One minute I’m whirling through complete chaos. A chattering 5-year-old messily slurping Lucky Charms, a 3-year-old giving most of the sausage and eggs he demanded instead of cereal to the two enormous black labs constantly underfoot, claws forever tap-tapping/scratch-scratching the hardwood floor as they angle for table scraps, and a 5-month-old fussing from his seat in the corner of the small kitchen in the home I rented upon deciding to separate from their dad. Ten minutes later I sit alone in absolute silence. Dad came and went, taking the chaos with him.

My latest over at Click here if you wanna read the whole thing.
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