jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

1/4 Inch Short

IMG_0004

At the art show with his awesome bird
April 2014

I ran into a friend at the kindergarten art show late last week.

“How’ve you been?” she asked.

“Ugh. I have shingles.”

She started to laugh a little.

“You know, I was just saying to T. that I have all these friends who do so much. I just don’t know how they do it. I used you as an example. I can barely keep a ball and a half in the air, and you do so much! How’d you do it, I wondered.”

“Yup. Shingles. That’s how I do it.”

“Ha! Yes! Shingles!” she cheerfully replied.

It’s been that kind of week, a week where it’s sometimes a funny thing. You know, “I got shingles!! On my lady bits!! Hahahaha. Right?! Who knew that could happen?! Hahahaha.”

Because anything that rhymes with Pringles and ends up on your lady bits has got to be at least a little bit funny, am I right?

So they gave me meds for pain and meds to try to shorten the duration of those shingles. And they told me to rest, which means now when I go to soccer practice in 45º spritzing rain, I lug a beach chair to sit on. I mean, while the doctor was looking at my bits and shaking his head and telling me I had to rest, I had three children ages 3, 5 and 5, crowded around my iPad watching Elmo in the examining room with me. With me. Seriously.

Grocery shopping between doctor's appointments  April 2014

Grocery shopping between doctor’s appointments
April 2014

Last week was the week I was going to send out the invites for Jasper’s 7th birthday party and finish the owl woodcut for the pre-school auction. This weekend was the auction at the kindergarten, and I was going to help hang the art for the pre-school auction at the coffee shop. Then this week was the week I was going to finish printing and framing the pieces for my art exhibit. Are you following all this? Balls are dropping everywhere.

So this morning I limped around framing up the few prints already done before I got sick. I’d almost finished one piece -amidst the mayhem of watching the three youngest battle it out over Legos, ironing Perler beads and playing a hand of Go Fish- and then I realized I’d come up a ¼ inch short on the width of the frame.

That’s the metaphor for this week, the message. I am continually coming up a ¼ inch short. And shingles has just shined a shingly light on it.

I returned to the doctor and she told me I need to rest more. Because it turns out I’m not even doing a good job at shingles.

jasper.recital.4.29.14

Dressed for the recital
April 2014

Fast forward to just now, this afternoon. Driving to my six year-old’s first ever piano recital, and I suddenly got this funny feeling. I’d asked the teachers at drop-off what time the recital began, but still. I had that feeling a mother has when she’s about 20 minutes away from school and she senses that right that very minute her adorable kindergartner, dressed in a tie and sport coat and brand new sneakers, was stepping out onto the stage to play Pretty Princess on the piano.

I called the school and yes, I was right that very minute missing the recital.

Do you see what I mean? ¼ inch short.

And as I sped through the country roads, crying and punching the steering wheel, cursing in German, calling myself stupid, stupid, STUPID, a remake of Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror came on. And I looked in the mirror to see mascara running down my cheeks and my puffy red eyes… and my three year-old absolutely aghast, staring right back at me from her carseat in the row behind me.

So we missed his playing, but they had him play again, right there, in front of his classmates. He made a tiny mistake, a mistake he hadn’t made the first time. And so when I went up afterwards, he was crying.

“Why’d you make me do it again?” he gasped.

When the doctor told me I had shingles I started crying a little, too.

“It’s not like I told you that you have Parkinson’s!” he said. And I, of all people, know this. I know. These things are not that big. The prints and the show and these lost, lost days and helping my son’s first recital be a terrible experience; in the grand scheme, these things are little.

By the time you read this, and before I pick him up from school, I will have taken this 1/4 inch failure and I will have clenched it in my fist until it becomes a diamond. Then I will put it in my mouth and grind it between my teeth until it’s powder. And then I will swallow that powder down and exhale whatever is left. I will make it nothing.

But still, for now, that ¼ inch just feels like a little too damn much.

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59 comments on “1/4 Inch Short

  1. Maggie Wilson
    April 29, 2014

    I hope this makes you feel better, because that’s my intention.
    I cried like a baby when I had shingles. On my shoulders. Shingles on my shoulders, shingles on my shoulders, la-la-la-la-la-la! Sing it!
    Seriously, I was stressed and burnt out and I cried like I had been diagnosed with all of the deadly diseases PLUS dandruff.
    And I had no children to care for.
    Nor the obligations you’ve just listed.
    You go ahead and cry and grind that bastard 1/4 inch to dust, my dear.

    • jgroeber
      April 29, 2014

      Ha! It is a crying illness. I cried almost the whole day they diagnosed it, from the exhaustion and pain, I think. The kids keep my mind off of it much of the time but I’m still so tired.
      Your attitude is exactly what I needed!

  2. Burns the Fire
    April 29, 2014

    I hear you. Now, please rest. xx

    • jgroeber
      April 29, 2014

      Had to cuddle the piano-recital-boy first. Now rest. 😉
      (And by the way, he’d practically forgotten the tears by the time he got home.)

  3. APCDGG@aol.com
    April 29, 2014

    I feel for you. Even though these things may not be “big” in the grand scheme, I know that they can all make it feel like life really sucks! Your Dr. is right that you probably still need more rest (at least TRY to do shingles right – GEEZ !) I hope you are feeling better soon, and that things start going little smoother! Love you, Deborah xoxoxo

    • jgroeber
      April 29, 2014

      Ah, thanks, sis.
      Headed to bed once lunches are made. (Nice to sit and catch up on e-mail etc. first though!) xoxo

  4. dianaroggenbuckebrown
    April 29, 2014

    I read this quote that I just loved about motherhood “if it’s too easy, you’re not doing it right”. I can totally relate to this post, I always feel I need 5 minutes more to get everything just right, but no matter how much I try those 5 minutes always seem to allude me.

    • jgroeber
      April 29, 2014

      Yes, yes, exactly! If I only had five more minutes, or maybe 15, I’d do it just the way I’d want it. Isn’t there some kind of time machine we can borrow from Santa or someone?! Thank you for that!

  5. Margie S
    April 29, 2014

    Yes, your shingles on your lady bits, did me laugh. But I also feel for you! You do so much for your family, I hope your son willl see that some time. That parkinson’s comment is a bit insensitive, your situation hurts – alot! In more ways than one. Hang in there and just remember, this too will pass.

    • jgroeber
      April 29, 2014

      Right?! Who does that happen to? And my son is such a mini-me when it comes to emotions. He gets it, most of the time. Still. I hate to mess up something so easy to get right… sigh. Exhale, exhale.

  6. Kelly
    April 29, 2014

    This speaks to me deep, Mama. Right down to the pile of kids at the doctor’s office. I have been there. Chin up!

    • jgroeber
      April 29, 2014

      Thank you, Mama bear. Everyone is so nice when you complain about shingles on-line. 😉 I’ll have to do it more often.

  7. Matt
    April 29, 2014

    What you do. How much you give. How much you serve.

    It’s the stuff of heroism.

    Don’t. Ever. Forget. It.

    Thank you for what you give. So that four kids can grow up to be men and women who do good things, too.

    You can think about how heroic you are while you’re resting.

    And, hey, a few drinks have been known to help too.

    • jgroeber
      April 29, 2014

      Thank you, but don’t romanticize it too much. I can be a bear. I’m afraid I may have said to my five-year-old daughter this week, “Why do you make such terrible decisions when you know Mama is so sick? Why are you so mean?!” or something to that effect. Ack! Did I mention she’s five? I mean, she is diabolical, but still. I probably could say it more nicely. I’ll blame it on the pain meds. Which become lovely sleep meds when you add just a wee nip of wine.
      But I do so hope that all this time means something in the end. And that even this writing is something they can look at someday and say, “Oh, Mom really did care that she messed up my first ever recital…”
      Your comments always resonate…

  8. Miriam
    April 29, 2014

    Isn’t shingles supposed to be very painful? You poor thing, that sounds awful. Sure, things can always be worse, but shingles as a young woman with a bunch of small kids doesn’t sound very minimal to me… I hope you’re able to cut yourself some slack and get some rest 🙂

    • jgroeber
      April 29, 2014

      Thats’ the first thing people say! “Isn’t shingles painful?” Ha! Technically it was in my sciatic nerve where my labor pains went. So a lot like labor, definitely painful.
      Part of me really thinks it’s a small thing, like pneumonia. You know, crappy but easily treated and forgotten in a month or so? But during the month it’s just so frustrating. Who wants to be the guy who let people down?
      (And I will take to the bank that you’re considering 43 to be young!)

      • Miriam
        April 29, 2014

        You’re younger than me 🙂 It seems like shingles affects older people more (my mom had it, maybe around 70) so relatively speaking you are young to have it. Not that it’s less painful to be sick when you’re older, but at least you don’t have as many responsibilities. I’m impressed by your toughness but i think you should definitely try to go easy on yourself and get as much help as you can. Your kids still need you… everyone else, not so much.

        • jgroeber
          May 18, 2014

          I can’t believe I’m younger than you. And yes, it does mostly get my Mom’s generation. But it’s amazing how many people in my age range have had it recently, all Mamas, all feeling stressed out when it happens. Remember those commercials, “Calgon, take me away!”? I think they had something there!

  9. Jacqueline McDonald
    April 29, 2014

    😦 Sending you a hug. And a wish for some version of rest.

    • jgroeber
      April 29, 2014

      It’ll be better soon. I just feel like such a loser. It’s like I want to be Superman, but I’m sort of a pathetic, slightly drunken, whining Clark Kent. Who wants to be that guy? That guy needs to go to bed. But he can’t. He’s Superman (or so he thinks…)

      • Margie S
        April 30, 2014

        Ha! He/you is/are. We just all have our Kryptonite, coming in all shapes and sizes.

        • jgroeber
          May 18, 2014

          Yes! Exactly. (You are so great to read and comment!)

  10. nikibayard
    April 29, 2014

    thank you for your strength

    • jgroeber
      April 29, 2014

      Oh, I’m so not strong. I’m so frustrated, is more like it. But thank you.

      • nikibayard
        April 29, 2014

        🙂 strong to see, strong to know, strong to express
        thank you

  11. sbhansen2014
    April 29, 2014

    Awww…jeez. Been there, not with the shingles, but super-sick in the Urgent Care with three kids playing on the floor in the exam room. And trust me, whatever small crayon that isn’t shared or shoe that isn’t feeling right is more important. And RIGHT NOW! It’s sooo hard at times. I feel your pain. But try not to worry about the stupid little things like whether the counter is clean or whatever. In fact, don’t overly worry about any of it right now! Get well…

    • jgroeber
      May 18, 2014

      Can you tell the thing I decided not to worry about was replying to comments in a timely manner?! Ha!
      And thank you. Everyone’s support while I was feeling low (instead of just exhausted, which is where I am now) was such a lovely lift. It gave me a little, “I think I can. I think I can” mojo. And hopefully no more urgent care rooms with kids in tow for either of us!

      • sbhansen2014
        May 18, 2014

        Glad you are feeling a little better. And my kids are ancient teenagers now. If they go with me into Urgent Care? We’ve got issues. Take care of yourself 🙂

  12. Tandi
    April 29, 2014

    I’m sorry. I can’t sit by and hear you say you failed. So not true. You are surviving motherhood and shingles at the very same time! That might even make you some kind of superstar. The older I get the more I am learning that the little voice inside our head telling us we don’t measure up is so not helpful.

    And by the way, that is one cute kindergartner!

    Hoping those nasty shingles settle down soon.

    • jgroeber
      May 18, 2014

      Thank you for the motherhood props, the shingles support and the kindergartner compliment. Can’t you just eat him up? Even when he’s a pain? 😉
      Yesterday at the Lego gala event a Mom walked up and said she was intimidated by how I always have it all together. The woman standing next to me cracked up because she’d heard me worrying about massively failing (and seen some evidence of those failing moments.) We all think the other person is doing so great and we’re about to totally flop. Why is that?!

  13. kellyinrepeat
    April 29, 2014

    Aw, Momma. Rest. I have had that kind of week myself and it will have to wait for another blog, but I will say that last night my day ended with, “Momma? I am sorry that I puked on your arm. And your pillow. And your hair.” I have missed a recital here and there, even sent my oldest to school dressed as a giant spider for nursery rhyme character day ON THE WRONG DAY. It’ll all pass and it’s all okay.

    • jgroeber
      May 18, 2014

      I know I didn’t reply right away and that this probably shouldn’t have made me smile, but I read it right away and it did make me smile. We’re all on our islands of oozing sores and flying vomit, aren’t we? Thank you for the support. Really. Our parallel lives are a comfort.

  14. Amy Reese
    April 30, 2014

    Oh, my God! Shingles is awful and so painful. My husband had a bout of it and it was bad. He said it was the worst pain he ever felt. I can’t believe you are doing so much and running around like you are. Please pat yourself on the back instead of feeling like you came up short. You’ve done 2 times, 4 times, 7 times…what you should be doing! Oh, I don’t mean to lecture, I just want you to give yourself a break. Please rest and feel better. xoxo

    • jgroeber
      May 18, 2014

      Shingles was the worst pain he ever felt because he didn’t go through labor 😉 With that said, I’d avoid it next time if I could. Zoiks!
      And what I said to my doctor on week 3 when I was still getting blisters, “But who’s going to go to Market basket?! Someone needs to go.” Today though, I’m resting. It’s time.
      Thanks for your mothering, lecturing ways. Sometimes it helps to have other people remind us that we deserve a break. Why is that? xo

  15. talesfromthemotherland
    April 30, 2014

    Ouch. Shingles, and all the rest. Ouch. I think, so often, that if I could really mentor other (younger) moms, I would tell them: rest. Take a nap. Cut back. Don’t try and do it all… because, it’s was a lie: we can’t do it all. At least not well. Things just come out 1/4 inch short; feelings are hurt, and we get shingles. Jen, you can probably find a way to make all of that work, I did. But, then I crashed. You are a good mom; you are a very talented writer; you are a very talented artist; you’re a good wife; and there are so many more additions to the list. But, ultimately, we all must choose, or we will forever be 1/4 inch short. Now, I suppose both Amy and I sound like we’re lecturing… but it’s because we care. Well, ok, in my case, it’s because I’m older too! Have you learned nothing from reading my mis-adventures? 😉 I hope you get some rest, and feel better. Shingles suck big nasty eggs! ((hugs)) (the gentle kind)

    • jgroeber
      May 18, 2014

      Thank you for the props. Can you tell that the thing I cut myself a break on was replying to comments? I just Let It Go (as the song from Frozen goes.)
      Shingles was so nothing to complain about it the grand scheme of things (although I did, plenty) when I think about you tackling chronic things. Perhaps it’s just a reminder for me to be grateful, be grateful, be grateful. And as I said to Amy, the lectures are sometimes a good thing.
      Hope you’re feeling better, too. xo

      • talesfromthemotherland
        May 18, 2014

        Thanks Jen… yes, mostly healed up. The ribs may be sore for a while longer, but overall it’s good. Glad you weathered your storm… though I still think one of the lessons should be “good enough.” Or, “Less is more.” 😉

  16. michellebellah
    April 30, 2014

    A couple of thoughts: 1) You’re screwing your kids up just enough so they’ll be funny. It’s a gift! Trying to overcome that 1/4″ will take them a long way in life. 2) You should probably start drinking margaritas for breakfast. That is all. 🙂

    • jgroeber
      May 18, 2014

      Ha! I love that! And if I’m too perfect, then what will they have to compare themselves to, as in, “Mom never did anything this awesome for me!”
      And margaritas for breakfast are inspired. You did read that I drank a pina colada at a water park party where I was watching four children, right? I mean, the doctors would have given me vicodin, so it seemed like a fair compromise. (Plus they were weak drinks and it was after 5…)

  17. marthakeimstlouis
    April 30, 2014

    Reblogged this on Martha Keim-St. Louis' blog and commented:
    good writing, good mom though suffering. rest mom

  18. Heidi
    April 30, 2014

    I love you more everytime I read your blog. So glad you are human. So glad you are my spoon-on-nose-wearing friend

    • jesskawrites
      May 2, 2014

      “I love you more everytime I read your blog. ”
      Amen 🙂

      • jgroeber
        May 18, 2014

        Ah, too sweet! What a wonderful thing to read in the midst of a big-failing-faily-fail kind of week. 😉 People love being my friend because all the fails make them feel so good about themselves. Ha!

    • jgroeber
      May 18, 2014

      Ah, the spoon on the nose. Such good times. And so glad we love each other’s beautifully flawed humanity! It’s what one needs in life- unconditional love.

  19. evelyneholingue
    April 30, 2014

    Some days are just like that. I feel for you and your son with the piano recital because I had the same experience once for a percussion recital. I felt terrible and still do when I think about it, many years later. But my son?
    He doesn’t remember that recital, only that I always came to this recitals.
    Relax and everything will be just fine. Including your kids.

    • jgroeber
      May 18, 2014

      Thank you for that reminder. If we throw enough love their way, hopefully they’ll remember the good stuff.
      It’s good to know I’m not alone in those sheer panicking moments of missing something important.

  20. jennbird77
    May 1, 2014

    “Balls are dropping everywhere.” Yes. This is why I live in fear of anyone in my family getting sick. It happens often of course, but still I dread it. Learning to just let the balls drop is the hardest! I hope you feel better soon.

    • jgroeber
      May 18, 2014

      Loved your last post with your bobcat (wildcat? I forget exactly what you call him!) running loose and free covered in mud. I just took pictures of my kids’ hands because all their extremely long finger nails were crusted with dirt and boogers. Apparently I stopped dealing with minutia sort of care-giving like fingernails and toenails about four weeks ago. I’ve decided pretty much no one has it together all the time… or likely even most of the time. Especially Moms. It’s just too much!!

  21. Rivki Silver
    May 1, 2014

    Oh my gosh, you poor thing! I hope your recovery is super speedy. The recital story reminds me of the time I missed my son’s Chanukah party. Just completely spaced it off. And that night, as I was cuddling with him in his bed, he said to me, “It’s okay that you didn’t come today mommy. All the other mommies were there. Except for you. But it’s okay.”

    Giant ball of pain and regret in my gut for the next two days. Ugh. But at least we’re teaching them that no one’s perfect? Right? Right?

    • jgroeber
      May 18, 2014

      Missing a Chanukah party?! Oy! What a sweet child to forgive you so kindly with just the appropriate sprinkle of guilt! And yes, teaching them that no one is perfect and that Mama is in fact human, that’s got to be worth a couple missed Chanukah parties and recitals. Right? 😉

  22. jesskawrites
    May 2, 2014

    Oh man….. What is with the nasty “you’re such an awful person” voice in all of our heads?! It seems to be pre-installed but I haven’t really found a use for it yet…

    Sending you good thoughts and hoping everyone (including The Voice) cuts you some slack and lets you get some rest…

    • jgroeber
      May 18, 2014

      Love that. Why do we hear that voice all the time. Like when I tell my son to play that measure again because he missed a note, am I putting that nasty voice in his head?! Ack! I hope not. I hope all the times I tell him how proud I am of his practicing drown out the negative. We all need more of the positive voice!

  23. jesskawrites
    May 2, 2014

    Oh yeah, and why do you curse in German?

    • jgroeber
      May 18, 2014

      Ha! I’m sort of German but totally fake-New-Jersey-took-it-in-high-school German. I don’t know much, but I do know the curses. I learned them from a hot German exchange student in 1986. He was adorable although a very bad kisser. Also, I try to never berate myself or curse in front of my kids. It’s a challenge. German seemed a nice compromise!!

  24. Nadia
    May 4, 2014

    Jen, I’m so sorry about that 1/4 inch. And your shingles. And the missed recital. And all the balls dropping. It doesn’t rain but it fucking hails. Wishing you time to rest, maybe convalescence with a bit of wine, and afterwards you grabbing all those commitments by the balls.

    • jgroeber
      May 18, 2014

      Ha! The commitments are DONE! Now just regular crazy life, at my own pace, as I choose.
      That’s what I wish for all of us, just regular crazy life at our own pace, commitments basically kicked in the balls and silenced. Would that work for you? 😉

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