Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

I’m supposed to be raising money for a half marathon, but I had to do this one first

The girls are spending Thanksgiving in New York with their father this year, and because they aren’t allowed to travel alone for a few more years (per some very earnest and understandable pleading by Leta), I offered to fly out with them and drop them off. I did this for a few reasons, not the least of which is that spending any holiday here in my home without my children feels at first like a vise is twisting itself in on my heart with merciless force and contempt. And then… total emptiness. If I tossed a single penny onto the floor of a vacated high school gymnasium I imagine that would be the sound inside my chest.

Do I play prophet here again? I think I should. I played prophet last time, and my god (no pun intended except yes pun is one hundred percent intended), I could start my own religion with that kind of revelation. One email I received said, “You have all the hallmarks of mania. The Heather I’ve been watching has not exhibited balanced or rational behavior.” I think those of you who have been reading me long enough know that I purposefully crafted that post to read exactly like that. I wrote it to take you on a crazed and titled carnival ride. And I have not had that much fun writing something in far too long.

I’m going to get comments and emails saying, “You should focus on the fact that they are getting to spend that time with their father and instead be grateful!” Or, “See that time as time for yourself!” And, “I used to feel the same way, but then I learned to stop wallowing in the self-pity that it actually is!” Oh, and this one, “But you travel so much already and are away from them then, get over yourself.” That one is super helpful. And so insightful! I wrote that one down on a post-it and stuck it to the mirror in my bathroom so that I can mouth it to myself every morning! (in a super sensual voice inside my head)

What I feel when they are not here is longing, not self-pity. Judge it that way if you want, but those girls are the center of my universe. They chart the course of every decision I make, every turn and corner I navigate. And so when they are absent, especially during a holiday, all the daily nurturing that goes into their becoming whole human beings butts up against an impenetrable wall, one that it longs to reach around to stroke their hair and make sure that if their feelings are hurt or if they are irreparably tired or if they’re just feeling down that someone is holding them tightly and catching their tears with the skin on their own face. That longing has been earned, in fact, morning after morning and night after night of doing this completely alone.

Yesterday afternoon their father and I were texting back and forth trying to figure out how to book the tickets using different credit cards, and when I called the airline to make sure that we’d all be on one booking, that we’d all three reap the benefits of my status DON’T YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I TRAVEL NO IN FACT I WILL NOT GET OVER MYSELF the reservationist told me blah blah blah can’t do this blah blah regulations blah rules blah blah and y’all would have paid money to witness the interpretation I managed to pull off of a Leta Armstrong Eyeroll™. I saw the inside of my brain, and turns out it looks like a really bad painting of Bobcat Goldthwait’s voice.

Ticket prices during Thanksgiving travel are already through the roof, thus we needed to have booked them two weeks ago. So we decided that I’d call back, conference him in and explain the whole situation to another reservationist. Except that I live in a cellular black hole. My landline (YES SHUT UP I STILL OWN A LANDLINE WHAT IS IT WITH ALL THE JUDGING [wait, you still have a landline, too?! let’s exchange landline numbers, lock ourselves in our rooms and pretend our siblings are banging on the door because it’s THEIR turn to use the phone, they are soooo going to tell mom.]) does not possess the ability to facilitate a call among multiple people, so I had to run up to the one place in my house where the possibility of a dropped cell phone call is at its lowest. I really wish I could say that it’s right on top of a toilet because I could then just end it here and it’d be a complete post, right? Done and done. Like, let me book an airline ticket with my ex-husband on the phone, and what? Can you tell? Why, yes, indeed, I am sitting on a commode. As one does.

Nope. NO CHAMBER POT IN THIS POST.

That one place in my house is in the middle of my kitchen, and it just so happened to be right at that sweet spot in the afternoon when the girls are finishing up homework, and Leta is practicing piano, and Marlo is using her inside screaming voice (which is louder and far more abrasive than her outside screaming voice due to the fact that she has more respect for wildlife than humans). I tried to explain to everyone that I needed some silence for, what, maybe seven minutes? Eight minutes, tops. FINE. 45 minutes if the reservationist wanted to help me deconstruct every episode of the first season of “True Detective.” This is not out of the ordinary.

But not even 30 seconds into that call the woman who rents a room downstairs (have I neglected to tell you about her? sorry about that! sometimes I like to keep certain things to myself! shhh! because it just so happens that every single person in and around my life reads this site and HOOOOO BOOOOOOY did I have an awwwwkward conversation about it last week!) walked inside with seven bags of groceries in her hands. It was not her fault, she did not know I was on such an important call, but she set off a chain of noise that fell as majestically as a four-mile-long performance piece made up of dominos.

Coco adores this woman and began wailing at a pitch that cracked several of my vertebrae, and she would not stop. She screeched and hollered and yowled and shrieked for, god, an hour?

postb

Which I guess gave both kids permission to ignore the request I had made not even 30 seconds prior. Hammering piano scales and inside screaming voices joined Coco in chorus and harmony, followed closely by a marching band made up entirely of a percussion section. I tiptoed over to the back door of the kitchen thinking, if I tiptoe the call won’t drop! Why had I not thought of that before? Tiptoe while using my cellphone! What cellular black hole? Hey, planets! Stars! TIPTOE OUT OF THE BLACK HOLE. IT TOTALLY WORKS.

And there I was standing on my back porch, the din inside screaming through the door I had pulled shut. And every time I said something to this very accommodating reservationist it echoed back at me four seconds later. Arrgghhhhh. I could not tell where we were in the order of things, if he could hear my credit card number or billing address… oh wait! STARS! PLANETS! There may be some, hmm, um, side effects to tiptoeing! Proceed with caution! Listen to sound science, you guys, not the mommy blogger who got grossed out in high school dissecting a pregnant shark. Don’t be fucking stupid.

I was finally telling the reservationist the security code on my credit card (ECHO ECHO ECHO) when suddenly my landline started ringing.

The fuck. The fuckity fuck. Are you fucking kidding me. Of course you aren’t. What website do you think you’re reading? The one written by the manic and irrational puke bucket, is what.

And for some idiotic reason I peeked through one of the window panes on the door and motioned for the woman who lives downstairs to look at that phone. WHY? Why was I wasting that precious, scarce energy? Why, Heather Armstrong? IN THE MIDDLE OF GIVING MY SECURITY CODE. Because only one person calls me on that landline out of the blue. ONE PERSON. She didn’t need to look at the caller ID and mouth it to me. I use my landline for all business-related phone calls, but only one person in my life calls me on it rather than calling me on my cell phone: my father. My father was calling me right then. Right that very second as I watched Marlo run from one end of the kitchen to the other to throw herself on a pile of pillows in the living room. Wearing only underwear.

That whole thaaang, that whole scenario… that is just a microcosm of what my days post-blogging look like. Except, in the macrocosm that call would have dropped. But it didn’t. It did not drop! TIPTOEING! So what I’m saying here is fuck science.

  • LaFawne

    You do have a way with words! I might not agree with your life choices ( I know! Imagine that!) but I do indeed like your stories for one simple reason. I CAN SEE what is happening as I read. That is the hallmark of a good story teller, in my book. If I only see words on a page, that story is dull and will not keep my interest. But If I can see the action in my head like a movie, then I know that is “some darn good writin’ right there!”. Keep on keeping on, please!

  • jawnbc

    Epic.

  • Mary W

    Do not EVER let anyone shame you about having a landline. STFU people! We were called on our landline at 5:30 am by the Sheriff’s robo call informing us that ” 2 armed men were “in our area”. Lock all your windows and doors. STAY INSIDE!!” Nice wake up call. Only people with landlines got the call that this was happening right across the street. One of the armed and dangerous robbers ran through my friend’s backyard!! If you had cell only you were SOOL! (Shit Out Of Luck). There’s more to the story than you will ever know so don’t assume or jump to conclusions. Stop judging! You just don’t know!

  • Really…F those people. I am a divorced mom and I totally get it. I don’t care that I’ve been divorced 11 years now, I still long for my children whenever they are with their dad…and holidays without them (which I admit, and am thankful that those are only half-a-day at most) KILL ME. It’s no different than when I have to travel for work! It’s like having half my heart gone. I love your blog now that you’re not blogging anymore.

  • LashleyR

    I hope your forthcoming memoir (titled /Mean Shit Internet People Say/, I presume) will have a special chapter for “Innovative and Unnecessary Backhanded Compliments.”

  • Hoosiermama

    My adult children, their spouses and grandchildren all live within 10 miles of us. On holidays when they spend them with their spouse’s families, I still feel melancholy that they aren’t here. I don’t begrudge their in-laws at all (we’re all friends–small town, ya know?), but it just doesn’t seem like a holiday if they aren’t here.

  • deb

    Brilliant!

  • KimFunk

    So glad you shared the tip toeing secret. I have a sort of land line. I mean, can you call Magic Jack a landline when it works through the internet? My satellite connection requires a phone line. I sometimes wonder what would happen if I received my internet by satellite. Would the time/space continuum be distorted? Life was so much simpler in the olden days of 1982.

  • No chamber pot indeed. Lots of love lady x

  • Richard Morey

    I have a landline too!

  • Cassandra Marie

    Well I got rid of my landline because it was hooked to a fax machine that I’m pretty sure spewed radiation all over me, so I’m probably crazier than you. 🙂

  • happygolucky7

    I don’t read your blog to judge your life choices. I read it because you’re an amazing writer. Although if I had to say anything about it, it probably would be “you do you.” Seems to be working, and you’re entitled to feel whatever the fuck you feel. Goddamit, internet.

  • K.t. Moreis

    This was brilliant. I could just see you standing out there, the wall of sound pushing at the door, the kid clad only in her unmentionables experiencing flight in the living room, and the ear-shattering serenade of Coco as she sings the song of her people. Awesome.

    Holidays without kids… You never quite get used to it, so don’t try. Even though mine are grown and spending the special days at work or with in-laws, I still miss them. (My secret to getting through the season is to erase the holidays on the calendar, and move them to whatever date I can get everyone over. Works for me and my darlings, but not everyone I know digs it).

    This year, I’m spending the holidays with my parents. Dementia and incontinence with a side of IBS. You know, I may not have time to miss the kids.

  • Michael Mathews

    I have two landlines. It isn’t that expensive. Cable is expensive. People who think it is dumb can stuff it.

  • Sarah Close

    We had horrible cell service at my old house. We got a network extender from Verizon. Now I only drop calls if the internet’s out. Which is a pain if I’m trying to call to get the internet fixed.

  • Elizabeth Slaughter-Ek

    This is the reason I still read you.

  • Yes. <3

  • Erin

    I love that you blog in your post-blogging days. Also, I will remember this post when a day in my life starts to make my eyelid twitch. I will remember it and think “hey. I’m not alone in the mania!” as my irish setter version of Coco is shrieking at the Fedex guy who knocked on the door 35 seconds before they started testing the fire alarm in my building while I’m on a conference call with a bunch of important, high-up banking guys in business suits whose datamart I support.

    I don’t have children, but I would hate spending holidays without them. I hate spending holidays without my dog and I think being without children would be exponentially worse. I hope you have a nice time in NYC, though.

  • Marie McDowell

    This post was brilliant. And I totally get where you are coming from. I have been a divorced single mom, and my kids are 23 and 20, so you think I would get used to it by now. But they were at their dad’s last Thanksgiving and my other extended family were all out of town as well, and that was the worst day of my life. So, yeah, you aren’t alone in feeling like you do. Tell all those other idiots to F Off.

  • Susan

    Ditto..

  • Vbrowne

    “make sure that if their feelings are hurt or if they are irreparably tired or if they’re just feeling down that someone is holding them tightly and catching their tears with the skin on their own face.”

    So evocative, “catching their tears with the skin on their own face.” I think this is an image I will keep forever, thank-you!

  • onthegomom

    Whoever tells you that it gets easier is fucking delusional… I have two grown boys (in their twenties) and my daughter, whom is a Senior in high school. When we aren’t all together for holidays or anything really, I’m sad. Period. I always will be.

  • leatitia

    The only holiday of the year when I don’t have my son is New Year and it’s killing me every year. Just that one day, I long for him and feel like crying all day long.

  • leatitia

    My landline is $10/ month. I keep it for the peace of mine when someone babysit my son.

  • KDW

    It’s been my experience that daily chaos is par for the course for everyone. “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” (author unknown/not specified) Your entry does seem like a bit of a rant, which is not the most enjoyable reading, therefore I read sparingly.

  • Raquel

    Me too! It hasn’t gone the way of the dinosaur just yet.

  • Lauren3

    Lovin the truth bullets, baby

  • Pam Graves Kortan Day

    For the first few years, every time my kids left to go to with their dad for a holiday, I cried. The first holiday was Easter, and we’re not even religious, but I sent them off in Easter finery to have a fancy dinner that I was not a part of. So bullshit on everyone who says placating things when really, your heart is just cracking apart.

  • Angela

    I wish there were posts like these daily! You still crack me up and now that I am expecting my first child I am going back to read your archives <3

  • Desiree Johnson

    Fuck the judgers! They don’t know you or your life. They just think they do and like to stir the shit pot! We love you just the way you are and enjoy your posts knowing that some is possibly exaggerated. JUST DO YOU!