Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dreams: Non-Transferable but Exchangeable

Our last house was The House. Our son, who was 2 when we bought it, called it "Da Beeg House." He wasn't wrong; it was big. At least by our standards. We had 4 rooms, a 2 car garage, a pool, a huge family room and a living and dining. The master bathroom had a sliding glass door wall in the shower and double sinks and a door that led out to the pool. My friend referred to it as "the spa." And of course, it sat on a corner lot in a perfectly manicured and highly desirable neighborhood. Even at the great price we snagged it, we had to scramble often to manage it financially. We decided, then, that it was what we wanted. We gave up a lot to have it, but we had other things: granite counters, a fancy kitchen faucet, a house that held parties of over 50 people with no problems. We had a plan, too: stay in The House until the boys grew up and left.

And then, only four years later, I found myself posting this:

"Exchange"

we had always had a plan


so sure of what we wanted

to live life, together, out loud

be as free as commitment allowed

untethered to the things Everyone Else

used to measure their grand arrival

at the finish line of life



keep it small and live simply

so we could live Life large

travel, dance, laugh, sleep at night

without the stresses Everyone Else chose:

a lawn man, the corner lot



we planned life with bare feet

spontaneity, experiences, whimsy, free of cares

we were so sure back then


until something shifted, wishes got swapped

and we suddenly found ourselves dreaming

of a grown up life, settled

a home that was spacious enough

to welcome Just One More baby

(and a lawn man to cut

the grass on the corner lot)



we swapped one dream for another

found ourselves with a new life

new joys, different desires, wishes granted

but with it all sometimes comes

the subtle, quiet unease of wonder:

was this the life we intended

one we will look back on

with satisfaction of a life fulfilled

or a life exchanged for one

that is just like Everyone Else's?



That poem haunted me. Even  now, as I reread it, I don't really remember writing it. It was one of those "writer's moments" where stuff just comes out of you and you don't even recognize it afterwards. But it was perfect. Somehow, I was able to put into words the unease I was feeling; the unease of which I wasn't even fully aware at the time. I just knew something was gnawing at me: I wasn't sure this is what I had really signed up for. Did we sell out? And why don't I feel fully realized, if I had, supposedly, everything I wanted?

Of course, it wasn't just about the size and cost of the house. I had some sort of discomfort with Suburbia. And yet, when the time came to move, I was probably most concerned with leaving the 39 chain restaurant options I had nearby. Because, I learned, that with Suburbia comes not only perfectly landscaped lawns, but also ease, availability, and the masses. The longing for a different day-to-day routine, however, won out--thanks to some gentle prodding from Hubby the Risk-Taker--and I gave up the corner Starbucks (multiple ones on multiple corners) for some eccentric local joints that have been discovered by trial and error and neighborly assurances. 

We are having our first party in the new house today; I only picked the date because it was practical. I had no idea until just yesterday that it was the exact one year anniversary from our closing date. One year ago today, we left our lawyer's office with the key, bought a six pack of Heineken at the gas station, and toasted our new house as we took a million pictures of what we knew would be "The Before's." The months that followed were exhausting and exhilarating: we lived with my parents and then in our RV in the backyard as we completely remodeled the inside ourselves.

When we were finished, we had swapped 2300 square feet for 1600, a 2-car garage for a small room used for storage, and a "spa" bathroom for one with a counter that is so small I literally can not place more than one bottle on it without something falling into the sink. When I went grocery shopping the other day, I found myself standing in line behind an incredibly wealthy-looking and fit older couple buying mainly organic food and fancy wine, and standing in front of a homeless-looking man buying a 6-pack of Budweiser. Suburbia, it is not.

We ride our bikes to the beach, the boys shirtless and in flip flops, Hubby with skim boards attached to the back of his bike with a MacGyver-like contraption, and I with a backpack with the SPF and towels. When we need to clean the house, it takes less than half the time it used to. When we have to pay the bills, we have enough left over to afford the longed-for RV that used to be a dream and the house in Hawaii we have already rented for Summer 2016.

I do not miss the granite or even (gasp) the chandelier hanging in my former walk-in closet (although I definitely have to figure something out about the bathroom counter). Eight years ago, we took a chance on a dream we thought was ours. Fortunately, we were smart enough to listen to each other--and our instincts--and take an even bigger chance. It wasn't easy. I had many, many moments of doubt and even panic. But today, as we welcome our friends into our home, I'll know we did the right thing for our family, and I'll be celebrating another exchanging of dreams.

One year ago today...
Happy One Year Anniversary to our Hale Ma 'Alahi


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

No angst, no problem


I remember once watching an interview with singer/songwriter, Jewel, where she said it was easier to write when she was unhappy. With her infamous snaggle-tooth grin wide, she laughingly admitted that angst made for great poetry fodder.

Being the overly-dramatic brooding type, I immediately agreed. I am often most inspired when there's some amount of discomfort taking place. My highs are really high and my lows are really low; I tend to feel things pretty intensely. So when I've gone through periods in my life when I was frustrated or confused or anxious, I could get pretty creative--if for no other reason than it gave me an outlet for those feelings to escape.

I've been trying to figure out (as you all are probably sick of hearing) why I'm just not that interested in being here. And I realized that maybe that's it: no angst = no fodder.

I started this blog because early motherhood nearly crippled me. I felt like a caged animal. When I wasn't feeling trapped in my house or my postpartum body, I was feeling trapped in my own head. I was metaphorically claustrophobic (what do you mean, that's not a real term?). I didn't know if I was doing any of it right, I often didn't want to do a lot of it, could barely remember who I was before I was a mom, and truly believed I would never, ever be able to take a shower in peace or sleep in on a Saturday morning. This blog saved me.

But now, they're 9 and 6 and I'm 42 and I've been married for 13 years and really, we're good. (Knocking on wood as I type.)  I'm good. I don't question my parenting (at least not every single second of every single day), I don't wonder who I really am (unless I'm PMSing), and I'm even enjoying parenting (mostly). I spent my pre-mommy days growing up, getting married, getting divorced, attempting to find myself, falling in love, getting married, buying houses, trying to get pregnant, not getting pregnant, growing up some more, thinking that I had found myself...there was plenty of angst. Then I finally had my first son, the one I had so desperately wanted, and had to start the growing up and finding myself routine all over again...even more angst.

There was so much fodder, I was drowning in it .

These days, I feel like I'm finally really enjoying the fruits of all those seeds I flung around spastically. I am probably more at peace with the Big Picture Of My Life now than ever before (wood-knocking violently now).

Perhaps what I've labeled as "laziness" or "indifference" is actually something else--something I haven't experienced so often in my life that I recognized it right away: contentment.

So now that I've realized my life is (for now, at least) just as I want it to be, I return to the "issue" at hand: what about this space? Where do I go from here with my words, my thoughts, this blog? On one hand, I think maybe I should pull a Sarah Jessica Parker and shut down the whole production while there's still an audience left. On the other hand, I think why do I have to make any dramatic grand decision at all? (Remember: I'm not so brood-y and angst-y anymore, right?) Maybe this will go from a blog that started out so I could release my stuffed emotions and remember who I was pre-Mommy, to just an online journal where I can post vacation pictures, write about whatever randomness pops into my head, and maybe throw in a bit of attempted poignancy if the mood strikes.

And certainly, if the only "issue" giving me angst lately is this blog, then there really is no issue at all, and I'm in a damn good place.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I'm not good at good-byes. I'm even worse at Skyping.



I suspect that most people who know me would say I am very social.
Outgoing.
Friendly.

That's true.

But what's also true is that I have a very select group of people who I consider "close."

In my early 20's I remember saying I had a List Of My Favorite People In The World.

Now that I'm in my 40's, I don't go around announcing that so much anymore (instead, apparently, I just write about it on a public forum), but it's still true.

I can count those people on one hand. It's a very elite group of people, if I do say so myself.

And before you all go and think that I'm boasting here because they are so lucky to be considered one of my elites, let me go on record, that what I'm actually boasting about is how lucky I am to have them on My List. (You all know who you are.)

And now, one of those Very Elite People is leaving.

She is moving.

To France.

I am terrible at geography, but I know for a fact that that's really fucking far.

And I am at a complete loss.

I knew it was coming. In actuality, I've suspected it for years. There are people that you just know are not going to remain in one place for too long. I've had her in my life for nearly a decade. I'm shocked it's taken her this long to get to this point in her life, really. She's just not a Miami-kinda-girl. She's sorta like a hummingbird. She flits and flutters with a dizzying display of colors and movement. She's a perpetual blur.

And yes, I know. The world is small these days. There is texting and Skyping and apps that I have no clue about that I will most certainly have to learn how to use and we will most definitely absolutely without a doubt stay in touch and she will come back and forth for work and maybe even we will all go up to visit her on a fabulous South of France holiday worthy of being turned into a Woodie Allen-like comedy starring Drew Barrymore as me and Maggie Gyllenhaal as her and it will be just the same.

But it won't.

And so.

Here I am, with one my Elite Favorite People In The Whole World leaving and I am so damn happy for her and so damn sad for me that I don't know which one hurts more.

And so.

When I don't know what to do and I don't know how to cope, there is only one thing I can do, and that is write. (How ironic, considering my last post, no?

I got home tonight from her teeny studio apartment with the purple settee and the loose-leaf tea canisters and the professional photo equipment, after a take-out dinner of her favorite Indian food and a bottle of Trader Joe's red wine, weighed down by the garbage bags filled with her hand-me-down clothes and shoes. "I'm purging at least 50% of my closet before I move!" she declared. "And I want you to have first dibs because you'll appreciate it the most!" I explained to my boys (mostly my Ben, the 9-year-old-going-on-40) why my eyes were puffy. They, who love her too, were not happy either. "Right now, I'm hating Europe," Ben choked. I started to go through the clothes, wipe down the brown leather boots I had coveted for almost as long as I'd known her, tried one on, slipped it off, left it on the kitchen floor, came to the sofa, opened the laptop and here I am.

My words are really all I can give
to this friend who has taught me that...
...galoshes are perfectly acceptable with a summer dress to go window shopping at an indoor mall.
...I "must exploit" my eyelashes.
...in a pinch, hair works just as well as floss.
...if you really need a mixer for your flask of vodka while in the middle of downtown Miami during Art Basel, you can probably get some free coke (and a highball glass!) if you walk down an alley and smile at a caterer.
...I look much better in color.
...I take too many things way too seriously.
...Photoshop is not a myth.
...it's perfectly awesome to be myself.
...I am not the only person in the world who can have an intensely serious conversation about the meaning of my stiletto collection.
...there is no shame in rocking back and forth and sobbing uncontrollably as long as you are doing it with someone you trust.
...consignment shops really are the single best place to shop for true treasures.
...reading about Nietzsche is not that bad.
...green shimmery eye shadow can, in fact, be worn to work in the middle of the day.
...there are other people who ponder and wonder and fret and analyze and dream just as much as I do.
...I am not the only girl who thinks that an adventure race is the perfect venue for some shimmery body lotion.
...every Thelma needs a Louise, but every Louise needs a Thelma.

To you, my friend, I want to go on record as saying you made me a better Me. I am most certainly a cooler, stronger, more interesting and authentic version of myself because of you.

Thanks for the boots...they'll look hot with my new farmer's market hippie chic outfit. In fact, it may have to go on my Elite List of Favorite Outfits in the World.

You should be honored.

My lists are almost as coveted as your boots.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Writer's Apathy (Or: Sh*t. That Didn't Work Either.)


The only thing I seem to be writing about lately is not wanting to write.

Every time I think about a possible blog post, I tell myself I'll do it tomorrow. Every time I psych myself up that I need to spend some time on here, I go do laundry. Every time I remember that I am not "writing enough," I turn on HGTV.

And every time this happens, an urgent, nagging little voice inside my head violently whispers: "What the fuck is wrong with you lately?"

I'm a writer. It's what I've done and who I've been since I was old enough to peck away at my older sister's typewriter, feeling very important and wise and creative and inspired.

Inspired.

Maybe that's the problem here.

How can I get inspired to write again? Where can I find the inspiration to miss my blog, to need  to write?

Hmmm...writing...inpiration...blogging....hmmm....

Eureka! I've got it!

I thought I had hit the obvious jackpot when it occurred to me that I needed to go back to my favorite blogs, my favorite writers, the women who have inspired me all of these years since I had started my own blog. You see, not only have I not been coming here, to this space, to write; I have also not gone to anyone else's space to read.

I sat down today and started at the top of my personal blog roll of faves, and caught up with some of these old friends. But a startling thing happened....something that has never happened before.

Yes, I smiled as I revisited these favorite blogs. Yes, I read great stuff. Yes, they gave me important stuff to think about.

But that was it.

When I was done, I still didn't want to write.

In fact, I was almost...(my fingers literally hesitated over the keys just now because I feel like I'm selling out; not sure on who)...tired.

Tired.

Instead of feeling re-energized and inspired, I felt tired.

Sounds like a bad poem.

There.

I wrote a bad poem.

Does that count?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Hesitation


I would love to declare that my absence from this blog was some sort of conscious uncoupling. Then it would seem that I did it for the better of...I don't know..this blog? Myself? My family? Not to mention that it would make me seem sorta enlightened and very Gwyneth Paltrow-y.

Oh, wait.

I don't really like Gwyneth Paltrow that much.

Okay, so, the truth is: I just got lazy.

At first, I felt totally justified: I was swapping one life for another and things were hectic and busy and exhausting and I was sure I'd be eaten by one the many boxes that were multiplying like Gremlins in my (former) house.

Then there were the perfect moments to blog: saying goodbye to a house I thought was My Dream House (which was pretty good, since I never got the Barbie version when I was a kid); the slight insanity of the four of us living temporarily in my parents' house; the nearly-crippling, irrational fears of taking on yet another house to remodel on our own...  The opportunities for writing were endless.

I could have (should have?) written every damn day.

But I didn't.

Again, the rationalizing: I was tired. I was overwhelmed. I was tearing down walls and wondering what the fuck we had done and obsessing over possible asbestos and fantasizing about what this new little house would look like when we were done.

But again, the truth: I was just lazy. I couldn't get motivated enough to sit at the computer at the end of the day. I didn't care "that much" about writing about all of this. When I had free time, I chose to watch reruns of HGTV or drink some wine or sleep.

And then here's what happened: the longer I was away, the harder it was to come back.

Do you remember double dutch back in your elementary school phys ed days? I remember. The two kids would swing those ropes and I'd stand there, next in line to jump, my weight on my front foot, my body slightly rocking to the ropes' rhythm, waiting for that perfect moment to go. So often, I'd nearly go, ready to go. I was good at jumping. I knew what I was doing. This, shockingly, was not one of those P.E. moments when I was stressed and fretting and feeling completely incompetent. I could fucking double dutch. Yet, there were still so often those moments when I'd flinch forward, the timing perfect, ready to make a smooth entrance into the swinging ropes. But I'd hesitate. No, no. Wait. Not now. Wait. 1...2...now. No, wait. Now. The longer I stood there, body rocking, watching the alternating ropes forming perfect smooth arcs in front of me, the harder it was to jump in. More often than not, when that happened, I'd miss it...maybe by a millisecond...maybe by a millimeter, but I'd hit one of the ropes. The perfect rhythm would stop. I'd get tangled up. My turn would be over. All that just to get back at the end of the line. Damn.

This was sorta like that. I'd open the laptop. I'd wait for the perfect rhythm, the timing, and then, I'd hesitate. No, no. Wait. 1..2....

I figured the longer I was gone from here, the more poignant the "return post" would have to be.

How incredibly narcissistic and self-important of me.

I figured I'd have to write about what's happened in my life the last few months: some great post on my new life in my little house, the obstacles and fears that were overcome, the things given up, the rewards, the lessons learned. But no, apparently, instead I thought some random frivolous Halloween post would be just perfect. And then (oh no, here comes the over-thinking), I started worrying about how ridiculous and pathetic it would be if I never blogged again and my Last Blog Post Ever was some drivel about a bad Halloween costume.

Again, how incredibly narcissistic and self-important of me.

So here I am. I'm not really sure if I will get back in line when this turn is over and go again.
But the ropes are swinging over my head and under my feet, and I'm jumping.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Who You Callin' Cute? Me! Me! Me! Please?



I spent most of my life resisting the term "cute."

"You are so cute!"
"She has such a cute face!"
"How cute are you?!"
"That is a cute outfit."

I grew up alongside a sister who posed for pictures on top of the hood of her Camaro and wore Farrah Fawcett-like white bikinis.

I, on the other hand, was never the Camaro type and the only thing slightly Farrah-ish about me was a feathered blow-out I got once when I was 12.

I hated cute--especially in my 20s. I wanted to be called anything but.

Pretty. Attractive. Beautiful. Or, the most coveted: Sexy.

Oooooh.
Gasp.
Breathy sigh.

If only...

So that was sorta my thing: don't call me cute! Women in their 20s should not be called cute. Especially when  they're all dressed up and wearing stilettos that hurt their feet. Can't you see I'm trying here, people?!?

When I tried to explain my disgruntlement with this particular adjective to the guy who ended up marrying me in spite of my general craziness, he used to tell me that I was all those things: pretty, attractive, beautiful, and yes, even sexy (I knoooow!)...but that within all of that I was still cute.
He said I couldn't help it. I was.

Dammit.

But then...

Fast forward 14 years.
The cute girl in her 20s who was resisting cute-ness is now 41 (and three quarters).
It is Halloween.
She is a teacher.
She, along with several of her teacher colleagues, thought it would be an adorable (read: cute!) and easy idea to be Minnie Mouse for work: pink sequined Minnie ears, black nose paint, bright pink lipstick, black leggings, black t-shirt, black pumps, and the pièce de résistance: a pink tutu.

Think of it as an abstract interpretive Minnie.

When I walked out of my bedroom wearing the outfit (minus the ears and nose paint), my husband started laughing. I did not, in fact, look adorable at all. I looked like a 40-something-year-old in leggings and a too-short, hot pink tutu.

"Wait!" I proclaimed.

I ran to put on the ears and painted the tip of my nose with my Smolder Black MAC eyeliner.
Then I looked in the mirror...
...and realized: Now I just looked stupid-er.
I had a sudden flashback of the movie Fantasia...remember the dancing hippo? No? Look it up. 

Yeah.
That one.

To add insult to injury, my husband said I looked (and I quote) "a little hoochie."

"Hoochie?!? How could I look hoochie? I'm wearing ears, for god's sake!"

"Baaaabe," he chuckled. "The leggings and the tutu and the heels? They're a little inappropriate for work."
This from the man who wears t-shirts and ripped jeans to work and never, ever, ever thinks my jeans are ever too tight for teaching 9-year-olds.

I went back to my room and started rummaging through all my Halloween stuff: maybe it's the too-puffy tutu...do I have a better set of leggings?...what about with the lipstick?....skinny black jeans instead? Why does this look so...wrong?

And then it hit me: Perhaps...just perhaps...a forty-one-and-three-quarters-year-old has no business trying to look cute in a costume that was originally the idea of a 13-year-old who wears a size zero.

Dammit.

What do you mean I ain't cute?!?



My BFF and Teaching Partner AFTER I swapped the Fantasia-like tutu for another one
and swapped the pumps for these less offensive flats...pretty cute, right? Right?!?



Saturday, October 4, 2014

Wish You Were Here


if you come back
to your words
your space
after a very long time

if you come back
does it matter
if anyone missed you
or only if
you missed yourself

if you come back
do you have to explain
to yourself
or anyone else
why you were gone


Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Exchanging of Dreams - Throwback Thursday



It is no secret that we have made a major life change recently. (In fact, I suspect my loved ones and my blog readers are quite sick of hearing me complain about closings, boxes, and remodeling.) Most people think this was "very sudden" and spontaneous. But this general unease about the house we were living in (and the mortgage we were paying) had been gnawing at me for a few years now. In fact, here's evidence.


Exchange
This poem was originally posted here on September 2, 2011


we had always had a plan


so sure of what we wanted

to live life, together, out loud

be as free as commitment allowed

untethered to the things Everyone Else

used to measure their grand arrival

at the finish line of life



keep it small and live simply

so we could live Life large

travel, dance, laugh, sleep at night

without the stresses Everyone Else chose:

a lawn man, the corner lot



we planned life with bare feet

spontaneity, experiences, whimsy, free of cares

we were so sure back then


until something shifted, wishes got swapped

and we suddenly found ourselves dreaming

of a grown up life, settled

a home that was spacious enough

to welcome Just One More baby

(and a lawn man to cut

the grass on the corner lot)



we swapped one dream for another

found ourselves with a new life

new joys, different desires, wishes granted

but with it all sometimes comes

the subtle, quiet unease of wonder:

was this the life we intended

one we will look back on

with satisfaction of a life fulfilled

or a life exchanged for one

that is just like Everyone Else's?


Thursday, May 1, 2014

"Let me tell you the story about the time you..." - Throwback Thursday

I have been asked why one of my labels on this blog is "vomit." Those who have asked were not around when my youngest was younger. Those who have known my Aidan Kai for just a couple of years find it hard to believe that he was a Demon Baby who shrieked for hours every single day no matter what and then entered the gagging/puking phase of his baby-hood. It was awesome. 


Rule #472 of Parenting:
Never Let Your Guard Down
Originally posted here on September 24, 2009

So...I was going through The Bedtime Routine with Aidan Kai this evening and trying to rush through it (as usual) when the thought occurred to me that the days of him snuggling like a baby in my arms are numbered. I looked down at this big fat baby, his pudgy fingers clutching his bottle...his cheeks dimpling with each slurp...his sleepy eyes looking up at me from underneath his damp mop of curls...and I decided, right then and there, to enjoy the moment.
To really take it in.
To savor it.
To savor him.

So...as he finished his bottle, I snuggled him up onto my shoulder and rocked him, humming and patting his back, inhaling his Cheerios-Johnson's-Baby-Shampoo-Yummy-Still-New-Person-Smell, and I admit...I was loving this moment. I was incredibly aware of the fact that this is the beginning of my favorite baby stage (just turned one) and this is really It. No more babies after this. So I decided, right then and there, to start enjoying The Bedtime Routine with The Last Baby.

And just as I made that decision...just as I felt the warmth of his little breath on my ear, his tummy inhaling deeply against my chest...he puked. No warning. No gagging sound. No coughing. Just puke. Thick, stinky, curdled puke. All over my neck, my shoulder, down my back and all the way to my thighs...to settle nicely into the crevices between the rocking chair's seat cushion and its base...

Well then, I suppose it's a good thing I had decided to start enjoying the bedtime routine, because it was back to the bathtub all over again....


Ben is smiling in this picture, but by week 3 of the phase known as The Crying Days,
he would cover his ears and glare resentfully at his little brother.


Hard to believe someone this cute could puke up something so gross on such a consistent basis...


We get along remarkably well these days...
All has been forgiven.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Still Stuck on the Move - Just Write




Brain dead.
Physically exhausted.
Overwhelmed with the chaos that is my house right now: boxes and Tupperware and drawers overflowing (literally) with clothes that are no longer even in any sort of pseudo-order.
The mattress on the floor is not too bad, though. With the exception of needing to put my knees practically up to my ears when I get up in the morning, the set up is surprisingly comfortable. (Maybe considering the fact that I am getting to the gym less and less these days, I should start counting that one exit out of bed each morning as a full squat/lunge.)
The original closing date for our current house was April 14.
Then it was April 16th.
Then it was "on or before April 30th."
Now here we are, living with a TV that has no cable; a kitchen containing only 6 spoons, 3 knives, 8 forks, one small pot, and one small pan; a refrigerator with only milk, eggs, left-over brie, 5 Coronas and one bottle of red wine; and we have no closing date.
Now we were told "it should be by this Friday."
I realize that this is not a Big Deal.
I realize that this is minor.
An inconvenience.
An annoyance.
But I'm really inconvenienced and majorly annoyed.
I am thinking it was a good thing we kept the beer and wine.

Join me and Just Write on Tuesdays