The school year has started and I promised myself I’d be back in this space when that happened. For the first time in my parenting life all of my children are in school, giving me about 5 hours of blank space everyday. This is amazing. A-ma-zing.
I’m the sort of person who likes to fill blank space. Maybe most people are? At any rate, for me blank space means opportunity and I have a million things I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to do.
Like go back to work. Time for a J-O-B! This is an exciting for me. Although, also, a little not so exciting. It’s hard to find a job that fits my blank space schedule and at this point I still want to be around when the kids are not in school (after 2 pm, summers, vacations) and what actual real life job allows for that? The only jobs I could think of are assisting in the schools like so many of my mom friends do. And that just wasn’t what I wanted at this point. (Although I used to! Here’s looking at you years of TA jobs and 2.5 years of an Elementary Ed major.)
Sometimes I’m a little overeager, so come the beginning of August once we were all starting to think about the beginning of school I started looking for jobs. There aren’t a lot out there that can accommodate this sort of flexibility. At least not being advertised on Indeed.com. There are tons of jobs I’m interested in – but the vast majority are full and maybe a little more than full time. And then Dave said “You know what I’ve been thinking? You should take a year off. You’ve spent the last 13 years waking up nights, doing everything for everyone else. You should enjoy some time to do whatever you want to do.” And I thought “You know what? Yes.” and I kissed him long and hard and quit looking for a job. He’s a good guy.
And then it took for freaking ever for school to really start since I have a kindergartner and they have delayed entry and don’t really start going full time until the second week of school. I forgot about this until the day before the first day of school. We were all getting ready and excited for what the next day would bring. I saw another kindy parent who was talking about gradual entry and it suddenly clicked for me what gradual entry would actually mean. Oh, that’s right…my “what the next day would bring” is actually another week away. Somehow I hadn’t connected the dots before. No problem, I can be patient. Mostly. Time for a few more last minute youngest kid and me field trips.
Once everyone was firmly in school everyday, it took me a little while to get getting a handle on what it means to take the year off. Turns out it’s pretty easy for those 4 or 5 hours to go by without any real thing happening. Especially if you need groceries or you start catching up on the TV shows that have been waiting for you now that you have to be on school year schedule and go to sleep early every night. Great for a day or two, but after that it just feels lame to spend your time that way.
Since I had the whole summer to start forming ideas on what my Blank Space year would look like, I had a few mental images of doing all these fabulous things I feel like I never have time for. An entire Blank Space day going by without any real thing happening was not part of those mental images. Or at least, not a very big part.
So I thought I’d make a sort of Blank Space/All The Kids Are In School Bucket List. Lists help keep me organized and intentional and I absolutely love crossing things off. I’m one of those that adds things I’ve already done so my crossed off list can feel satisfyingly long.
The very first day, I knew I wanted to dedicate to what has always been the epitome of stay at home mom free time to me – Bonbon’s and a good movie. Apparently this is inspired by Peg Bundy on Married with Children, except I was never allowed to watch that show as a kid so I’m not sure where I got the idea that this is what one should do. Maybe my parents secretly watched that show and talked about often enough? I don’t know. But I knew this was a must. Only problem was finding Bonbon’s is harder than one would think. I was looking for the kind that has ice cream in the middle and it took me THREE stores before I found something that would pass as Bonbon material. This search ate up a significant amount of my 5 hours. Luckily, I already had my movie picked out and ready to go (with a back-up just in case things got crazy and I had time for two movies). I’d actually been wanting to see this particular movie for a few months. I had heard a podcast with the director and put it on my “To Watch” list. When it showed up at RedBox as school was starting, I knew this would be my Bonbon movie. Unfortunately for me, it was a disappointment. It seemed to have continuity errors and really undeveloped characters and it just wasn’t as amazingly good as I had hoped. I say that and it makes me sound like I’m some movie buff and like analyzing and reviewing movies. I’m not – at all. So if those issues stood out to me, you know they had to be blatantly bad. Once my daughter got home I watched it again with her just to be sure I was right that it really wasn’t very good, and I’m afraid I became quite sure. But! I still had that checked off my AllTheKidsAreInSchoolBucketList, so it was a success.
One day (okay fine, hour) was spent in a flurry of responsibility making every appointment I’d put off making for the last few months. I made a dentist appointment, multiple doctor appointments, called about the recall notice for my van that had been sitting on my desk for at least 4 months, scheduled an oil change…anything I could think of. I’m still dealing with the aftermath of that little responsibility flurry.
Another day I bought a group on for a local fitness center. 10 classes in the next 30 days for a ridiculously low price! I went to a class, and another and another and finally another and now I’ve got six left to use in the next week and a half. The thing about these classes is that they’re not exactly pleasant. I mean don’t get me wrong – I feel amazing when they’re done. Amazing not in that “Wow! I feel so good!” way, but in that “Holy crap I just survived something crazy.” Also amazing is that I have made it to my car every single time without collapsing even once from wobbly legs.
I experienced my first moment of skinny girl irritation in these classes. It was really odd, because I’ve never felt anything like that before. I think it must have been because there are mirrors EVERYwhere and I could finally see, blatantly and in my face, that the other people in these classes are ½ my size. It came as a shock at first, but after the first stealthy rechecking and then triplechecking that this is in fact the case, a creeping irritation snuck in. What the heck? How are these people so dang fit? Genetics? Oh, crap. Maybe there’s an eating disorder involved and I’m being one of those judgy body shaming people. No families that fill up their time and have them reaching for the left behind chicken nuggets? Huh, everyone’s talking about their kids. That’s not it. Surely it can’t just be that she’s made different choices than me. Like exercising instead of TV binging. Steaming veggies instead of baking sweet deliciousness. And addiction to Fiji water instead of Dr. Pepper. Kale instead of Bonbons. **Sigh** I hate when it’s that.
Last week, I went for a walk through our local arboretum that I’d never been to before. I assumed it would be lots of paved paths through a few acres of localized groupings of trees. Uhhh no.
After about a mile of wandering through a dirt trail, looking for signs about what sort of trees I was in it dawned on me that my cute little jacket, jeans and adorable shoes were the wrong choice for this outing. After the fourth or fifth trail runner I saw I realized I should probably be wearing running (well for me, walking) clothes. Shoes, at least. Cause this is not a cute little walk in the park, this is lots of miles of walking through the woods. Ideally suited for running, apparently. It appears they’ve left a natural area alone, dug some trails and called it an arboretum. Cool. Perhaps that’s what arboretums actually are.
At about this point it also occurred to me that I was pretty far from the parking lot. I figured I had better pick up the pace if I was going to make it back in time to pick up the boys from school. Besides the trail runners the only other people I saw were couples, short cutting off the trails trying to get back to their cars and being audibly unsure (read screaming) about the direction they’d chosen as it was straight down a rather steep hill. You’d think this would just be one couple, but no, I came across two or three. It seems everyone gets in over their head at this arboretum.
So it’s been good so far. It’s funny to me how long 5 blank hours seems on the possibility side of things, and how short it works out to be in the it’s actually happening side. But! I’m back in this writing space, things are happening, and life is good.