Thursday, April 29, 2010

Girl Power

Last night I had cocktails with 3 of my girl friends. As we sat at the table, sipping our martinis, we jokingly compared ourselves (as countless other women have, I am sure) to the most famous four girlfriends ever: Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte.

"Oh, well, Liz is definitely Carrie, and I'm Charlotte, and..."
"No, no! You are so not Charlotte. You are more Miranda."
"Miranda? Me? Well, maybe in some ways, but you're a little Carrie too."
This is how it went.
And we came to the conclusion: Each one of us is all of them.
That was the whole point, I think, of the show....that although we probably related to one character more than another, we're all a complicated mish mash of these 4 women.
Depending on the day, the time in our lives, who we are with, and perhaps the kind of shoes we are wearing, we're all a little Carrie/Samantha/Charlotte/Miranda. That's what makes us, as women, interesting, complicated, and probably incredibly infuriating to our signifcant others (and ourselves).

I've known these girls for a long time, 2 of them for over 10 years. We are all teachers. We all have children. Three of us have gone through divorces. We have a million things in common. We all like each other. We all complain about not spending enough time with friends, doing what we like to do, relaxing away from the husbands and the kids and life's laundry list of to-dos. And yet I don't remember the last time we did something together. We've gone months (or maybe it's been over a year?) without going out together, but last night they practically had to kick us out of the restaurant at closing time. And then, we stood outside of the restaurant and talked and laughed and cried for another hour and a half.

I write on this blog all the time about how hard life as a mom can be, especially when you don't want to give up "the rest." I write about how amazing it is that I've found these women out there in the blogosphere who are "like me," who understand, who help me realize that I am not crazy or abnormal or a bad mother. And I always wish I could meet these women on the playground, at the coffee shop, at the bar, instead of just online. (And I still do wish you all lived nearby.)

But last night, as I sat there, with these 3 women I've known for so long, who I see almost daily at work, I realized that sometimes if you make the effort, if you open yourself up enough to let others in, what you've been looking for could be found right under your nose.
Last night, there was no judgment, no drama, no complications, no stress. What there was, however, was laughter, confessions, honesty, respect, and an incredible amount of understanding. There was also a lot of: "Me too!" and "I thought that was just me!" and "Oh, so that's normal?" and my personal favorite: "Oh my God, I always thought that made me suuuuch a bad mother..."

At one point in the evening, I admitted that I always feel guilty about not being joyful first thing in the morning when I see my kids. We laughed, because most of us are not full of joy over anything in the morning, much less when our children are wailing for breakfast or Barney or a diaper change at 6 in the morning on a weekend. But here's the amazing thing: this morning, when I saw the boys, in spite of the cocktail-induced-cotton-mouth and 3-hours-sleep-headache, I had to smile. I was happy to see them. Perhaps not happy that it had to occur before 7 in the morning, but I was happy to look at their little faces. And I realized that it was because of last night...because I was able to talk about this, to vent, to laugh, to compare notes, to feel understood and to provide validation, to be away from it all...that I was able to face the morning and the requirements of Life with some amount of happiness.
Last night, I felt free to be myself.
I felt genuinely understood and supported amidst the laughter and the squeals and the silliness. We were our interesting, complicated selves.
So there we were: this complicated, interesting mish mash of 4 women, all so alike and all so different.
And there they've been...all along.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I don't think this is what Mattel had in mind...

Somewhere out there in the blogosphere, some people have come up with some pretty creative blog awards. I've been flattered to receive a few such bloggies over the past year, but a couple of weeks ago I received one that was, well, um, even more quirky than the Zombie Chicken Award. ThatGirl39 of Forty Not Out has honored me with...ready?

You sure?

Positive? it is...

The Plastic Joy Award!

Yep. It's naked dolls doin' it. (Check out brunette Barbie on go, girl!).
Now, we all know that I can get as serious and dark as the next person. I'm all about blogging bluntly...putting it all out there...therapy online, if you will. This blog is mainly about my kids, about how motherhood challenges me every day, about how I struggle to keep myself authentic and happy and interesting while still being a Good Mom.
However...I am all about frivolity. Fashion? Celebrities? Shoes? I'm in. And that's what I love about ThatGirl39...I mean, she has regular Wardrobe Watch posts, for glory's sake. So when she bestowed upon me this raunchy little award, I was like "Oh, hell yeah."
And gets better. It's more than just a pornographic picture of Ken and Barbie (minus the highlights, apparently). The award's rules state that I must select 5 characters with whom I'd like to, well, you know...I mean, look at the picture...'nuff said. So let me take a moment to point out that the rules state that I must select characters, not celebrities. I know...semantics...but it does make a difference, believe me. It's one thing to say "Oh, the 5 hottest celebrities are..." That's easy. That's all about eye candy. With this one, I had to think about the characters' personalities. (Maybe I think too much?)
So now, without further adieu (and with the hopes that I can forget that Hubby reads this blog regularly), I present you with the 5 Characters I'd Like To Ride Like Brunette Barbie:

1. Lost's James Sawyer:
I'm all about the dirty, long-haired look, but what makes me want to forget that this guy hasn't bathed in days is that underneath that bad-ass-I-don't-give-a-damn-exterior is a guy who just wants to be understood (and knows how to treat a woman in a cage).

2. Dirty Dancing's Johnny Castle:
Forget porn. Give me the dancing/sex scene from "Dirty Dancing." Johnny's a little misunderstood and a little "bad boy" (see a pattern?), and loving him pissed off a whole lotta people. Plus, every woman should have a man who pulls her out of the corner her Daddy put her in (What? I've been in therapy. It's okay.).


3. The Hangover's Phil:
Okay, here is my token pretty boy. Bradley Cooper has never particularly done anything for me. In fact, when I saw this movie, I thought it was the first time I'd ever seen this guy. I didn't realize until later that this was the same guy from "Wedding Crashers" and a few other movies. I am soooooo not into pretty boys. I am sooooo not into clean cut. But the character he plays...well, who wouldn't want to get drunk in Vegas and steal a police car with this guy? He was the ultimate party boy: funny, laid back, and ready for anything. Oh, and at the end of the movie, when he's got his kid slung over his shoulder, sound asleep? Perfection.

4. The Bridges of Madison County's Robert Kincaid:
Allow me to stress, yet again, that the bloggie assignment was to pick characters, not actors with whom I'd like to romp around, so this is not Clint Eastwood I am talking about. In fact, I debated just putting a picture of the book's cover, rather than the movie version. Robert Kincaid was an artsy, rugged, nonconformist who knew what love and passion was when he found it. That's the kind of intensity a woman needs in her life.
And for my last and final choice...the one and only...

5. Pirates of the Caribbean's Captain Jack Sparrow: Yes, I realize he smells. Yes, I realize he looks a tad effeminate when he runs. Yes, I know he might be completely mad. And yes, I realize the fact that Johnny Depp plays him probably skews my perception a bit. But no matter how many times I see this movie, I can not, for the life of me, figure out why Elizabeth Bennett would pick Will. I mean, to be on a deserted beach, drinking rum with Captain Jack, with his smudgy eye liner and chiseled cheek bones? Argh, Cap'n.

And so now I pass this task (and award) to a few other of my bloggie friends:
~Maria at Mom of Three Seeks Sanity
~Jane & Lucy (this is soooo up your alley) at Four Jugs
~Kristen at Motherese
~Jen & Sarah at Momalom
I figure everyone loves a little bloggie award...and this one does wonders for your libido.
*And for everyone else...c'mon, join in...which character/s would you like to pull a Brunette Barbie on?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hand-me-down Mama

When I was pregnant with my second child, I worried that I would resent him.

I worried that he'd interfere with the little life we had built with our first son. It almost felt as if we were betraying Ben. I felt actual guilt about wanting another baby.

As a result, I was incredibly overprotective of Ben at first. In fact, when I went in to the hospital for Aidan Kai's birth, my biggest worry was Ben. Would he be okay without us? Would he be confused by this new person in the house? How would he react to seeing me in the hospital? How would he feel about his new baby brother? How could we make sure he still felt really, truly loved while we were tending to the endless needs of a newborn?

I never thought that what would actually happen was that I would sometimes resent Ben for not allowing me to be the kind of mother to Aidan Kai that I was to him.

When it was "just Ben," I would come home from work, plop myself down on the floor, and spend time with him, one-on-one, uninterrupted. We'd play ball, we'd read books, we'd laugh and tickle and sing and play.
When it was "just Ben," bath time was unhurried, fun, and even educational. I would play float and sink games with him, pop bubbles, and narrate everything that I was doing (just as the parenting books told me I should).
When it was "just Ben," meal times were calm and simple and organized. I'd prepare healthy meals for him, with lots of variety, and I'd take the time to feed him (or help him feed himself).
When it was "just Ben," time in the car was quality time. I'd play Baby Mozart (just as the parenting books told me I should), I would talk to him, responding to his coos and gurgles at first, then his words, and eventually his frighteningly well-developed sentences.

Now when I get home from work, I am bombarded by the squeals of two very happy boys. They both want to play with Mama. They both want attention. And inevitably, Ben wins. He is bigger. He is louder. He is demanding. So when I plop down on the floor to play, it is usually Ben that commandeers the whole thing. He is the one who dictates what game we play. Aidan Kai just ends up following along.
Bath time now usually consists of trying to keep Aidan off of "Ben's side" of the bathtub, and trying to get the baby done and out of there as quickly as possible so a war does not break out over the toys floating around.
Meals now are whatever we can scrounge together, and Aidan is often on his own, which means more of the spaghetti ends up in his lap than in his mouth.
And car rides are now spent listening to one of Ben's dissertations on superheroes and classmates and dragons and dinosaurs, during which I inevitably have to try to come up with some really good answers to some really good questions ("Mama, is it dark inside our bodies, or light?")...all this while Aidan Kai either sits quietly listening or shrieks "Mama!" repeatedly, trying to get his share of the attention.

When it was "just Ben," he didn't have to share me. He had me all to himself.

All the time.

Aidan Kai has to share me.

All the time.

Granted, Aidan doesn't seem to mind. He seems happy just to be with us, hanging out, being included. He's so damned easy-going, so easily pleased, that it makes me feel even worse.

There is almost never undivided attention for "just him." Sometimes, in fact, I feel like there is nothing that is Just His.

This week, he got his First Official blood-pouring-from-his-mouth-busted-lip...a gift from big brother Ben. Just like all his other firsts: Aidan Kai's first shoes, first rocking horse, first bike...all his important firsts have been hand-me-downs from Ben. There has been nothing of great importance that I can say has been all his own, just for Aidan.

I realize there are pros and cons to everything. I realize that, sometimes, by giving your first child your undivided attention, he can grow up to be...well, let's just say "difficult." I know that second (or third or fourth!) babies can grow up to be more resilient, more easy-going, tougher...I see that already in Aidan. And I wonder often if this is all actually good for him...

But it still frustrates--and saddens--me that by being the second child, Aidan often gets a harried, exhausted, multi-tasking mother, another hand-me-down.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sorting it all out (but perhaps still not making sense)

I admit it: I hesitated before hitting "publish" on my last post.

What if they all think I'm nuts?
What if they read it and are like: Awww, poor thing.
Or worse, what if they read it and think: "Oh shit. She's fucked up." (Or, for those of you who don't even think with the f-word: "Oh my, she needs help.")

I even texted Hubby: "Just posted. Hope I don't scare you into leaving me for someone simpler."

It's a good thing I posted.
The responses were completely the opposite.

Hubby? He laughed. Laughed. When I asked him what he thought, he shrugged: "Nothing. I know all that about you. And, most of the time, I love that about you."

And you all? Your comments were therapy. Anti-depressants. Magic. I don't think I have ever fully understood the power of a comment until this post. Those of you who "know" me, those of you who I consider my Blog all came out in full force. And then there were those of you who have never commented before, who I don't even know, and you wrote heart-felt, honest, revealing comments. Nuggets...little nuggets of wisdom is what you all threw at me...most of you empathizing, commiserating, admitting that you, too, feel that way sometimes. (So I guess it must be pretty normal to be abnormal?)

Your comments made me realize something that perhaps was incredibly obvious: I needed to just allow myself to be out of sorts. I needed to stop trying to figure out why it was happening, when it was going to end, and what I was doing "wrong." I needed to Just Be. Surrender. Surrendering: such a recurring theme in my life, my head, my posts (I went back to check...I've got 12 posts labeled "Surrender"!). When you mix "control freak" with "intense," you get a pretty potent cocktail. And often, I end up a little hung-over.

Your comments were like the morning-after aspirin and coffee:
HG: "Girl, if I were you, I would marinate in the funk you're in and ride it out."
Stacia: "I think funks are "normal,"(probably because I'm a funk-haver, too). I just have to let it run its course, like the flu. And maybe that's OK?"
Lindsey: "I try to remember, in the low points, that the highs will come back..."
LouBoo: "...the point being that I needed to not panic about my out of sortness as it would pass..."
Kelly: "Believe in yourself, ride out this funk, and know you are not alone."
Maria: "...sometimes, you got to simmer in it a little, so that it propels you out of it..."

Let it go. Ride it out. Surrender. Just Be.

It was so relieving to know that I was not alone in this. It was so relieving to know, especially, that I was understood...that there were others out there who feel "this"...whatever "this" is...and that it is, in fact, not a bad thing, not something to fight or hide, but something to embrace, something that makes us who we are, something magical:

KiKi: "Madness, envy, funk...the marks of a true artist. There is no medium, no mediocrity, because you feel so deeply--and that is a gift."
Inannasstar: "I too have really high highs and really low lows and don't do medium. My response? It's part of my charm."
Gilcelia: "I'd rather be chaotic and intense than simple and boring. I'll take complicated over comforming anyday."
Kristen: "But I have to believe that those high highs that come with the low lows make it all worthwhile in the long run - and that maybe we get light and not just heat by trying so hard to get to the sun."

All of this made me wonder:
What happens if you can't get this stuff out? What happens if you don't have a blog or a friend or a spouse to turn to? What happens if you are walking around, as I was, with all of this inside, festering, ricocheting around in your head? The craziness that is, in reality, normal, and possibly almost always healthy...doesn't it inevitably turn into something bad? The wondering turns into worry. And then don't you shut it all off? Don't you just try to shove it all down, close it up, snap it all shut...those things you feel that make you very high or very low? Those intense, chaotic moments of insanity that make you, in the big picture, sane? Don't you end up telling yourself to just stop? Stop being the way you are, stop thinking the way you think, stop feeling the way you feel, because surely, definitely, it must not be normal, and most certainly can not be healthy...
And then, when you manage to find a way to make yourself go slightly numb to your own Self, don't you stop being You?

"...the only people for me are the mad ones..."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Making no sense at all...

I am out of sorts.

So much so, in fact, that I have been unable to write. I have no coherent thoughts. Lately, my brain has been a jumble of mashed randomness. Or, completely blank.

This emptiness can sometimes be a welcome reprieve for me, but it's been going on too long. So I thought I would write about just that: my out-of-sorts-ness.

It seems this may not have been such a good idea, however, because it has taken me 11 minutes just to write this little bit. And that's not even counting the several minutes during which the cursor blinked on my screen, urgently, expectantly, right after I wrote that first sentence:

I am out of sorts.

And then, I had nothing.

Hubby once told me: "Your highs are really high, and your lows are really low." It's true.

I don't really do "medium."

This is both a blessing and a curse, 'cause when I'm happy...woo-hoo! But when I'm not,'s not good.

I struggle with this, because I'm never really sure what's "normal."
Is it "normal" to have as many mood swings as I do?
Is it "normal" to be giddy one minute and overwhelmed the next?
Is it "normal" to feel lost for no reason at all?

Am I normal?

There are days when I think it's just physical: I need to get back in the gym. I need to take my vitamins. I need to eat right. I need to be on my routine. I do well on routines.

Then there are days I think it's more than that: Maybe I'm just an overly sensitive person. I over-think everything. I get wrapped up inside my own head. I dream. I plan. I stress. I worry.

It's normal to be in a "funk", no?

I am intense, and usually, I have little tolerance for those who walk around unmoved, blase.

But sometimes I am jealous of those people.

It must be so much easier...walking around with quiet simplicity in their heads. They must not struggle, as I so often do, with the everythings and nothings of Life. Do they ever feel indefinably out of sorts?

I have a Jack Kerouac quote on my refrigerator:

"...the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop..."

I am sure I am mad, and certainly desirous of everything at the same time. I'd rather have a mad, loud existence than a quiet, simple one.

But sometimes I think perhaps sanity and nonchalance are a much easier way to live.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Partying over at the neighbor's again... (Woo-hoo!)

Since I started this blogging thing, I've "met" some pretty cool people along the way...people I wish truly lived in my neighborhood...women I wish I really could meet for cocktails. Kristen is one of those. She and I would chat about the best formats for a query letter, Lost's Sawyer, whether or not it's possible for Lance Armstrong to ever win another Tour de France, and...oh yeah...that little topic called "motherhood." So please go over to Kristen's house...that's where I am today, guest posting on the topic of...well, let's call it...Competitive Parenting. After you read my post, be sure to take a minute or two to rummage around her place. The coolest thing about Kristen is that she always leaves you with something to ponder.
Thanks for the invite, Kristen, and for serving as the inspiration for my last post!