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.

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.


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. 

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 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.


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.

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. 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 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

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Happy belated birthday to my neglected third child

While I've been busy trying to dodge the man-eating boxes invading my house, this blog turned 5 years old. Five! That's a biggie, no? I mean, when my first-born turned 5, we threw him a full-blown party--complete with an acrobatic, wall-climbing Spiderman impersonator (trust me: it was one of the rare times in our parenting history when we did something really expensive and over-the-top, but thankfully, it was actually worth it).

Half a decade.
Five years.
269 blog posts.

When I started, I wondered if I'd survive the year (and early motherhood). And look at me now: preparing to switch over to Wordpress all by myself, with a brand new domain name and everything (and no longer crying hysterically from sleep deprivation and the identity crisis that often comes with becoming a new mom).

My blog and I are all grown up.

This blog was born of need and desperation. I was out running and doing what I usually do when I hit that good runner's high: attempting to recreate myself in my own head. (Maybe this is why I'm getting boring as I'm gaining weight--my knees have finally decided to strike in protest until I give in to the surgeon, and running is a distant memory.) I was thinking about how much I miss writing--the words, the sentences, the musings, the freedom. As my feet pounded the asphalt, my brain pounded out ideas, much like that  "I Love Lucy" episode in the bonbon factory.
I need to write again. I used to write a lot. Maybe I should write a book. Could I really write a book? I have no brain cells lately. I can barely stay awake, let alone write anything. How could I come up with a plot and characters when my own life is a dizzying whirlwind of diapers and potty training, bottles and sippy cups, first steps and tantrums?
The main characters of my own real life, Ben (then, 4) and Aidan Kai (a few months old), were draining the creativity and energy out of me. That's when it hit me: write about them. Write about how hard and wonderful and funny and scary this--Motherhood--all is.

I remember walking in the door at the end of my run, sweaty and red-faced, and proclaiming to Hubby "I need a minute!" I marched straight over to the computer that sat tucked away in a corner of what was supposed to be the family room, but was really the toy-bin-and-baby-floor-mat-area/indoor-soccer-field/general-room-of-crap-and-miscellaneous. I opened Word and typed nearly frantically. After a few minutes I was done, and on the screen, where the cursor still sat blinking, were several sentences and a mishmash of notes on essays I thought I could throw together into a book. Musings on what my life had become since I'd had my kids, how I'd changed as a person--in ways I had wanted to and in ways I absolutely had not. Anecdotes, basically.

What I thought, at that moment, might be chapter titles soon morphed into blog posts.

The title But Then I Had Kids came relatively easily. It seemed to me, then (and sometimes still now), that all my reasons and excuses for not being able to do something--anything--were related to my kids.
I used to be cool. I used to travel. I used to go to fancy martini bars. I used to be interesting. I used to be thin(ner). I used to skip undereye concealer. But then I had kids. I walked around in a daze, for about 3 years, eyes unfocused, disoriented, tired, overwhelmed, and feeling guilty about all of it, while my boys were babies.

Those 269 blog posts not only helped get me through those early years, but they helped me rediscover my writer's voice, my craft, and my sense of self. They gave me an outlet for venting and connected me to other women and writers who felt the same way. They helped me be a part of something bigger than my often-cramped world, and pried open my head so some of the noise could escape.

I've beat myself up quite a bit over neglecting this blog. No matter the stage, it's never been enough:
I'm not writing enough or I'm not writing well enough. I don't have enough comments or I haven't followed other blogs consistently enough. I'm not social-media savvy enough or I'm not disciplined enough to keep up with it like I should. I don't put enough into it--ever.

Over the last year, I've tried to take in some of the advice I've learned from other writers: that I need to approach the work as I can, and sometimes that means dedicating hours to it a week, while other times, it means only a bit at a time, if at all. I have to remind myself constantly that I am a full time teacher, wife, mother, friend, and individual...and that all of those roles need my attention. My role as Writer might sometimes monopolize a lot of my time, but more often than not, the best I can give it is a few inspired but exhausted minutes at the end of a long weeknight.

I had hoped to have my new blog site up and running by my fifth anniversary. Not only did I not meet my self-imposed deadline (I am really starting to think I should have a section dedicated to the word "self-imposed" on the blog), I actually forgot my blog's anniversary...and then even after I remembered, only got to writing about it nearly a month later. You do know I fretted and beat myself up a bit over this, right? I guess after 5 years,  you all know me pretty well. But it's all good. You know I ain't going anywhere.

Happy 5th Birthday, Little Blog. Thanks for the ride.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Boxes: Just Write

They are going to eat me pretty soon. Like the blob in that old tacky black and white horror movie from the fifties. The boxes, I mean. They are everywhere.

I am sitting on the sofa--the one that is perpetually stained, no matter how much stain remover and steam cleaning we throw at it--in the sunken-in part. (Why does it seem that I am always on the sunken in part of the sofa for Just Write Tuesdays?) My butt is dividing the two cushions...I feel like I'm falling in. Maybe the sofa is going to eat me, too.

I like my stuff pretty neat. Not like OCD neat. In fact, I relish a good chaotic Tupperware cabinet. But I have a hard time relaxing when shit is everywhere.

I thought I would enjoy my house these last few weeks, before the move. But really, who am I kidding?
There is stuff everywhere.

At first, I tried to contain it: boxes in one corner, garage sale items in the other; then, pick up the book bags, mail, lunchboxes, jackets worn for the day and tossed on the floor by the door. I thought it would help me relax--picking up the day-to-day stuff--still feel like the owner of this domain, still feel in control. Then I could still enjoy a movie or a book or a glass of wine or some sex....if I wasn't harping mentally on the piles and piles of stuff. But really, now, there is no more containment. It has all exploded.

As we watched a movie Sunday night, I did a really good job of ignoring the 18 boxes piled next to the TV. Each one labeled in thick, black Sharpie. LOFT. WINTER CLOTHES (which, in South Florida, thankfully means a sweater or a turtleneck tossed haphazardly into a giant box). LAUNDRY ROOM. There's another box that Hubby labeled with BIKING CLOTH. I am sure he just ran out of space or time for the ES since I never would have married a man who can't spell clothes.

The family room was an empty space that we have barely used over the last 7 years except as a mini soccer field for our boys and a dance floor for parties. Now, it houses bags and bags (and not the grocery store reusable kind, but actual hefty sized garbage bags...some the kind you can only buy at Home Depot that say something intimidating on the box about Contractor Use) of garage sale items: The Excess. The stuff we've hoarded for all these years because we needed it except we never used any of it.

As I type this, sitting at my kitchen counter, my laptop and phone share the black granite space with two business cards of realtors we are not even doing business with, a post-it with 4 items all scratched off, three pieces of random junk mail, my son's pencil box covered in shiny animal stickers, a coupon for my favorite Mexican place, a 100-dollar-bill-looking eraser, some kind of army Matchbox-looking vehicle I've never seen before, and an index card with a chart depicting exactly how much we will save per month if we get the house on which we just put an offer. There's a towering pile of newspaper and tissue paper on the floor in the corner of my kitchen, waiting to wrap up my delicates. On the other kitchen counter, there's a box of random mail belonging to my husband, an opened bottle of Dreaming Tree red wine, coupons from my son's class, several print-outs of houses for sale, and a bewildering amount of old X-rays (the actual films and the CD's). The old stuff, in need of being tossed, sold, or packed is now mixing in with the new, daily stuff. It is this that is threatening to totally annoy and overwhelm me and send me into a mood reserved only for serious PMS days. I think about tackling some of it as soon as I finish this post. But then I think: Nah. I'm gonna bury my head under the covers for the night. (Isn't that better than running away screaming like in the movies?)

JUST WRITE with me (and Heather of the Extraordinary Ordinary!) every Tuesday.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Decisions That Matter

I am thinking maybe I should change the name of this blog to But Then I Sold My House.

Not only is it the only thing I’ve been writing about lately, it’s also the only thing I’ve been thinking about. So yeah, for those of you who have been around (here, or in my “real” life), no more Open Houses for us. We sold. (Not, mind you, thanks to the aforementioned sucky open houses, but because we finally caved and listed on the MLS, which just goes to further prove my theory that Open Houses really do suck). We officially listed our house on Friday morning and by Sunday afternoon we had not one, but two, buyers. Somehow, in a matter of a month, I have gone from just considering the possibility of moving, to signing a contract and running around town collecting liquor boxes for packing (it would be even nicer if the liquor was still in them).

I would never describe myself as a risk-taker.

More of a chicken.
With anxiety.
And a near-compulsive need to control everything and avoid change of all sorts at all costs.

Except, maybe I’m not.

I’ve given this some thought, and I’m starting to think that maybe I am a little gutsy…at least when it matters.

Take, for instance, my divorce 15 years ago. I was 25 years old and had been married to a man who everyone thought was the cat’s meow, but really, he was just a pussy who constantly told me to lower my voice and wear more beige. I didn’t tell anyone I was thinking of leaving, because I knew everyone would try to convince me to stay, and to be quite honest, back then, I was too young and too scared to be really confident in my choice. So I mulled it over for 2 years, alternated between trying to be what he wanted me to be and being even more of what I truly was, and made myself nearly sick with anxiety and resentment. When I finally walked out and told people, I had almost no support. My parents thought I was crazy and barely spoke to me (except to tell me I was crazy). My sister told me she thought I was making a huge mistake that I would regret for the rest of my life and “simply could not support this.”  My best friends told me they couldn’t be my friends anymore because “divorce is against the Catholic religion” (I kid you not). People at work kept whining: “But whyyy? He seemed like such a niiiice guy and you guys made suuuuuch a cuuuuute couple…”

Over the year that followed I got my own apartment for the first time in my life, started dating the man of my dreams, and became my own person. Now, in the interest of complete disclosure here, I will admit that, on most days, I did not accomplish all of this with grace. Not even close. I was a blubbering, anxious, over-eating, not-sleeping, therapy-attending, scared shitless little mess.

But I did it anyways.

And now here I am, selling The Dream House Of My Grown-Up Life, moving in temporarily with my parents (they no longer think I’m crazy—or maybe they do, but they just don’t tell me anymore), buying an RV to live and travel in over the summer, and hoping to eventually find a house that will be smaller, cheaper, but still "cute enough," so that we can live the Life We Really Want. I have no idea what the next 6 months hold in store. I am cleaning out 9 closets worth of Stuff that is being sorted into piles labeled Garage Sale, Throw Away, Keep. Every time I step into my little oasis of a closet with its mini chandelier and get teary, I remind myself that a wall of stilettos is not worth giving up trips with my husband and a college fund for my kids.

When people ask where we are moving to and I answer, “We don’t know yet,” the responses seem to follow a theme: 
“Wow, you’re bold.”
“Wow, you’re brave.”
"Wow, you're crazy."
“You guys are like gypsies.”
“You guys are like hippies.”
"You guys are perfect for each other."
"You're gonna be miserable in a smaller house."
"Your kids are gonna be miserable in a smaller house."
"Why do you want a smaller house?"
Or my personal favorite:
“You’re going to live in an RV?!?”

Then there are those few people who listen quietly and nod and smile and ask questions about our plan, and seem confused or concerned while I'm talking, but then will tell me--almost in a conspiratorial whisper--something along the lines of: "Wow, I really admire you guys."

It's interesting how when a person is making a major life move, especially one that tends to go against the norm, people have strong opinions (which they tend to volunteer freely). I suspect for some, it is truly out of concern and love because they are worried we are making a mistake. For others, I suppose it is simply disconcerting to see others doing something that holds potential regret. And I have no doubt that some are forced to face their own demons when presented with my choices.

It all makes me anxious: the packing, the waiting, the not knowing where we are going, the looking for a new neighborhood that is "good enough" but also "cheap enough" (quite a feat in South Florida), the giving up of this house...the house we thought would be The House. And yes, sometimes, people's reactions make me a little anxious too. But really, I have realized in my old age (uh, hello? 41?) that I have quite a rebellious side, and there is nothing like telling me something I think is a good idea is a bad idea to make me really want to tackle it and kick some serious ass coming out on the other side all shiny and happy.

The bottom line is: yes, some of this is risky. Yes, some of this is considered a little loopy, especially by society's standards (I can not tell you how many times people have asked me: "Who the hell downsizes?!?"), where everything and everyone is about More and Bigger--all categorized under the label of  "Improving." Yes, I am scared, sometimes. But I'm doing it anyways. Because this is really what I (we) want. This is worth the risk.

Just like that divorce so many years ago.

Sometimes, in life, even the chickenshits have to be brave and do things anyways...because that, after all, is what really matters.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Open Houses Suck

As soon as he left to take down the Open House signs, I went into my bathroom, opened the cabinet under the sink, and took out the toothbrush holder that had been hiding under there. I went around our 4/2, 2-car garage, corner-lot-with-pool home and blew out all the candles that had been lit earlier in the day in an attempt to make the house look more Zen and appealing. I didn't really blow. I huffed and puffed violently with great indignation. Everything that we had put away when we "staged" the Open House came back out: the toys, the books, my contact lens solution.

I hate Open Houses.

I hate and resent that I have to pretend I don't really live in my home, have toys and books and bags scattered around, where we live, where we spend our time, where my children are growing up, and my husband and I are fighting growing old.

I have done these before: these Saturdays and Sundays with the curtains all opened and the ceiling fans whirring and the candles lit. Where everything is "just so" and you pretend you live in this house like this, make it seem that it can be someone else's, but hide everything that actually makes it look lived in, real.

We want to downsize. We want to sell this great big dream house we bought and gutted and made to exactly our specifications. We want something smaller. Simpler. A few years ago when we took every penny we had (and several more that we didn't), nothing but granite counters would do. Now, when we go house shopping all we care about is a big back yard with space for a pool and storage for a new RV. Formica counter tops? No problem. No garage? We'll buy a storage shed. I am well aware that, most likely, I will give up my walk in closet with the tiny chandelier and wall of shoes. (If you are anywhere near a size 6 1/2, you might want to be real nice to me over the coming weeks.)

We want less house and more life.

Our children do not need an entire room filled with toys (what we call a playroom is really just an excuse for excess).
My husband does not need 5 bikes, 10-year-old racing trophies, and rappelling gear he's used twice.
I do not need 7 giant boxes of Christmas tree collectible ornaments.

What we all do need, however, is money for college and retirement.
A newer RV that does not require prayer each time we turn on the generator.
The ability to plan a trip and go on it without having to constantly swat away that nagging sense of guilt.

So we are taking a leap of faith. We are selling a too-big house we love and seeing where we end up. We are gambling on the research we've done (okay, really, Hubby has done and I have sat by him on the sofa and blogged and occasionally nodded and agreed whenever he'd show me something that served as further evidence) that we will be able to end up somewhere cheaper and smaller and possibly closer to the beach (Bonus! Bonus!), with a yard big enough to have what we have here.

Every time someone loves the house, I am hopeful they will make an offer. We will be able to jump in the pool (the metaphorical one, this time) without this prolonged waiting and worrying that we are making the right decision. Let's go already! Let's sell! Let's get out of here! Let's live with my parents for a while until we get our bearings. No more time to debate.

Push me in the fucking pool already.

So I will continue to hide my pictures and my toothbrush. But each time, I will resent it. I will be pissed off at the people who come in and smile politely and nod. I will resist the urge to yell at them: "Don't you see? Don't you see how great this house is? Don't you see how much soul and heart it has in addition to the goddamned square footage?"

And then, I remember...oh yeah, it's not the house that has the soul and heart. It's the four of us. And we plan on packing that shit up and taking it with us...wherever we go.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Discomfort: Just Write Tuesdays

The cushions on my side of the sofa have been lovingly beat up, smushed and flattened from years of little boys jumping and playing and watching too much TV on them. I feel myself leaning over, towards the right, where my husband is sitting, on the firmer, less-used side of the sofa. Tilting over.

The laptop is open in front of us on the chocolate brown Ikea coffee table. It is late, nearly midnight, and I am keenly aware of my chances of going to the gym at 5:00 a.m. slipping away: not enough sleep, a migraine starting, more excuses, albeit legitimate.

A map is open on the screen, dotted with little blue numbers. He clicks on several, and each one opens to reveal another house for sale. One is adorable: cute and full of character, and with plenty of space for a pool, but its asking price is pushing up against our budget ceiling. Another, cheaper and bigger, but with its red formica kitchen counters and brown laminate cabinets, it reminds me of a 70's porn film set.

He sees the possibilities with each click.
I see the possibilities for regret.

We both want this, I remind myself. This was our choice, our decision. We are not, after all, "house people." We are doers. We want to go and see and do. Less house equals more money. More money equals more trips, more adventures. This all, in turn, adds to a better life, at least for us.

Who downsizes?!?

People have asked me. I have asked myself. It makes me chuckle. Why am I surprised that people are surprised? We usually surprise people. They don't get us, sometimes. Sometimes, I wonder if we make people uncomfortable. I wonder if it just never occurred to them to do this, or try that, or consider this.

Why not?
Why not go after what you want?
That trip, that RV, that summer road trip, that new hobby...Why not?

My own discomfort makes me uncomfortable. I hate the anxiety, the fear, the paralysis, all brought on by risk, by change, by the What If We Tried This?

*This was another attempt at Just Write Tuesdays. Last week, I shared my homework assignment from Heather's course on free writing. Considering the fact that right now I can barely think about anything other than the For Sale sign on my front lawn, I knew I had to try the technique on this memory.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Perpetual Motion - Throwback Thursday

The only time I sat still today was in an MRI machine. Okay, I was lying down. But that was really the only time I was motionless. Even in the waiting room, while I "sat still," I was wiggling my foot, biting my lip, tapping my phone screen. I woke up at 4:40 in the morning, rushed to the gym (where all I can do, for now, is sit on a recumbent bike...hence, the MRI...and pedal and try not to be so bored I want to kill myself), rushed home, helped Hubby with the boys' breakfasts, rushed to get dressed myself, drove to work, stopped for gas, dropped off my son, made it to work in time for an early meeting, taught all day, rushed to an afterschool meeting, rushed my oldest to a dentist appointment while talking to my mother and then hanging up with her mid-call to answer a call from Ben's teacher about his recent not-so-impressive behavior, waited for Hubby to "relieve" me at the dentist so I could rush to my MRI appointment. (I'm out of breath just from writing all that.) I have not included, mind you, the post-MRI tasks of dinner, dishwasher emptying and refilling, washer-to-dryer transferring, and bad self-bikini-wax-job. You would think I was looking forward to lying there, completely still, with nothing to do (and no guilt), music playing through the headphones. But I wasn't. I was ready to get out before I even went in. What a waste of 40 minutes! I scoffed. And I remembered the following post...only the 9th post on this blog, back in 2009. I guess I haven't changed all that much. Neither have my knees, apparently.

I can only do Nothing if I schedule it in
Posted originally HERE on March 9, 2009

I love to run. As luck would have it (my luck anyways), however, my knees don't. So yesterday I had to get yet another MRI done on each knee. For those of you who have never had an MRI, let's just say that it's not exactly fun. If you are even a teeny, itty bitty, tiny bit claustrophobic, you're screwed. There's no other way around that. If you don't actually mind being pushed into a startlingly noisy, sterile coffin-like machine for anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour and being told to "keep very still" although you are absolutely shivering because they keep that room set to like, oh, maybe 52 degrees, then it's, at best, just a pain in the ass.

My husband's suggestion: "Why don't you sleep?"


Apparently, that's what he did when he went in for an MRI a few weeks ago.

"It was nice," he said.

And so, as I was lying there "very still," I thought "Okay, maybe I can nap. Maybe I will nap! Sure, I will take a nap!"

Uh. No.
I forgot.
I don't do that.
I can't do that.

My husband is in an almost constant state of relaxation. He can nap in the MRI machine. He can nap (and snore) during the final relaxation pose of yoga class (which is why he was no longer allowed to go with me). I, on the other hand, am always doing something--even when I'm doing nothing.

While in the MRI machine, for example, I accomplished a great deal:

  1. I planned this blog post.
  2. I planned what I'd wear to work the next day.
  3. I planned what I was going to make for dinner.
  4. I learned many of the lyrics of today's top 20 hits. (They give you headphones in an attempt to drown out that crazy noise. It doesn't work.)
  5. I calculated how much spending money I had left for the week out of my new budget.
  6. I counted all the things I might need to spend my spending money on before the end of the week.
Of course...
The blog post took on a life of its own.
I totally did NOT wear that cute outfit.
I got take out.
I forgot all the lyrics.
I'm broke anyways.

When will I learn?

There is always noise in my head. I can't shut it off, unless...I plan for it. How screwed up is that?!? I can actually relax, do nothing, just sit...if it's scheduled. As in..."We have babysitting so let's go to the beach and do nothing." That's the only way. Don't get me wrong. I do things everyday that I find relaxing. I read. I write. I work out. I watch "Lost" and "What Not To Wear".

But these things are all part of My Plan. My Routine. And really, still, they are all activities, things I am doing, and therefore are deemed worthy of my extremely limited time.

In fact, I was recently telling a friend about my summer cruise, and she was saying "Oh, I could never enjoy that kind of vacation. I'm not good at just sitting." And my response was: "That's because you don't have kids! When you have kids, all you want to do is sit." That may be true, but apparently wanting it is not enough for me to break out of my screwed up, noisy little head to actually do it on a regular basis. Not even in the MRI machine.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Lonely: Just Write Tuesdays

Sometimes, if I'm really lucky, if everything has aligned just so, if I'm really moved or inspired or, especially, feeling something really intensely, I write in an almost-trance. It's weird. And liberating. And miraculous. And incredibly fulfilling. I can compare it to when you're driving somewhere and you arrive at your destination and realize with jarring suddenness that you have absolutely no recollection of having gotten there. When these writing out-of-body-experiences happen, sometimes I reread my work and can barely remember writing it. It feels effortless and automatic and instinctual. At the risk of sounding super corny and all transcendental: it's like the words came out through me, and I was just the vessel. (Gag.)

So when I found out about Heather King's online course "Just Write: The Art of Free Writing,", I thought I would be okay. I had already participated a few times in her Just Write Tuesdays, and read a lot of her work. I thought this would be sorta like a stream-of-consciousness thing or a just-don't-censor-or-edit-yourself thing. It wasn't.

It was hard.

And really, really good for me.

Heather says free writing should come more from a memory or the actual description of an experience you're having right then and there. You start out with no real "point," or message. The theme, she says, will (usually and hopefully) reveal itself to you. So for today's Just Write Tuesday, I thought I'd post my homework assignment from the course. Here is my first official I-think-I-did-it-right-this-time-Just-Write. Thanks, Heather.

Join in...Just Write!

I sit in the upholstered denim blue rocking chair, my feet on the ottoman.  Back and forth. Steady. Smooth.

It’s still and quiet, like I am the only one at home in the neighborhood. The wooden blinds are open, and I look out the window periodically, the day outside sunny and bright, the trees still. I can see part of the small playground and my neighbors’ house across the street, their driveway empty.

Ben is sound asleep in my lap. His bottle, nearly empty on the changing table next to me, a few drops of the grayish-white formula left at the bottom. His lips, a perfectly pink pout, are slightly open, his breathing steady, even, effortless. His arms are flailed up and out, his ruddy pink fingers balled into loose fists, also perfectly still, except for the occasional sound-asleep twitch.

He weighs nothing on my lap. I can keep him there, safe, content, by simply crossing one leg over the other, ankle to knee, forming a pseudo-cradle.  With my left hand I steady his head, absent-mindedly caressing his black, baby-thin, nearly Elvis-like hair, shiny and messy from last night’s sleep. With my right hand I hold open “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.” I read for at least 40 minutes, uninterrupted, feeling guilty that I’m letting him nap so long in my warm, rocking lap. Aren’t babies supposed to get used to being put down in their cribs? Am I spoiling him?

I look at the clock. 11:08 a.m. I mentally check in on everyone else. My husband is probably handling some kind of situation or holding a meeting at his school. My friends would all be having lunch now—together around the big kidney-shaped tables we always clear of students’ folders and books and join together so all 8 or 9 or 12 of us can fit around them. I figure Beth is telling one of her stories or Carole is picking food out of her teeth or Joel is saying how upset he is that the girl got voted off “American Idol” last night or maybe John has just cursed and everyone else is shrieking, laughing, shocked and giddy that he let the F word slip.

It amazes me that they are all only a few miles away. The guilt comes back now: I should be blissful, home with my first baby. Finally, a baby.

Ben, 2005

I spent many, many hours rocking in this chair...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

You mean it gets worse?!? - Throwback Thursday

Hard to believe THIS face belonged to a tough baby, huh?
Aidan Kai at 1 year old

I was extremely vocal about my struggles with The Baby Years. Hubby and I wanted children desperately, but had a rough time when they actually showed up. For us, the baby smell, coos and giggles, and holding a teeny tiny little human in our arms were not enough to balance out the sleepless nights and 24/7 on-call parenting. We loved our babies from day one, but always looked forward to them not being babies. Now, of course, we are sucking every little ounce of baby-likeness Aidan Kai might throw our way, because we know those days are officially over. As everyone predicted, we do miss the baby smell, coos and giggles, and holding a teeny tiny little human in our arms, but we still do not miss baby--or toddler--hood. Going back to this blog's first year and rereading the following post makes me laugh. I remember this day, this moment, clearly. I remember the feelings I had when it all happened. I remember the exact errand I was running while this all went down. And I remember that high-maintenance little boy I was schlepping around with me. 

You Mean It Gets Worse?

Posted originally HERE on November 10, 2009

It was one of those moments...I had the 25-pounder on my hip, a full blown wrestling match necessary to keep him from sliding down my side again and onto the floor, where he desperately wanted to reach the elevator alarm button.

Errands with a 15-month-old are not easy. No, let me correct that: errands with this 15-month-old are not easy. My first kid? I could go to the mall on Black Friday for 10 hours and he'd sit happily in the stroller the whole time.

Today was the second day in a row when I'd had to spend hours on my own with Aidan Kai while trying to accomplish something. Simple tasks such as buying a loaf of bread or dropping off a pair of glasses for repair become full blown tests of physical endurance and mental strength with this kid.

Yes, he's cute. Reeeeeeal cute. And funny. Reeeeeeal funny. But that baby who wailed the entire first four and a half months of his life? Still there.

So as I was standing there in the elevator, wondering how in the world women who don't work out can physically handle their toddlers when I thought surely I'd end the afternoon with either a broken back or a broken baby, a woman steps into the elevator with her teenage son. She looked serene. Her hair was brushed. She smiled at me. She made cooing sounds at Aidan Kai. That's when she points to her son and says wistfully: "Awwww, it's hard to believe he used to be that little." Another woman who had been standing behind me immediately piped in: "Yeah, they really do grow up so fast."

My response?

"Yeah, I hope so!"

It was my attempt at a bit of humor and a bit of honesty.

These two women with grown children did not think it was so funny. Or true, apparently.

"Oh, no, no, noooooo. Enjoy it. Trust us." They both nodded emphatically, nearly in unison.

At this point, the elevator door opens and as we all step out, the woman with the teenage son slows down enough to let him walk ahead. She turns back to me and conspiratorially whispers (complete with the hand over the mouth for dramatic emphasis): "You know how they say this is the best time?" She pauses and motions to Aidan. "It really is true." With that, she shuffles along to catch up with her son.

And I am left standing there, blinking. Discouraged.

You mean this is IT? This is where it peaks? Then I'm screwed, because most days, I'm not digging this part so much.

Look, I get it. I know I will look back and ooooh and ahhhh and nostalgically remember the days when my boys were babies. I already do that sometimes with Ben. I get that these days really will fly by in the grand scheme of things. I understand that they are only little for a very short time. I do know that. You realize it all the more when you've had one already grow up into a small boy, all scruffy and rough-and-tumble and occasionally stinky. So I do take time to inhale all that baby/Cheerios/milk/drool smell Aidan Kai manages to harbor in his neck and, amazingly, the very tippy top of his head. I do still make sure to take tons of pictures, so I never miss out on any lasting memories with the second child. I do try to keep in mind that this will be The Last Time In My Whole Life that I will see my child learn how to walk and say a new word and discover Mickey Mouse.

But I also think: it's gotta get easier. It's got to. Because, quite frankly, I can't do this much longer.

I often find myself fantasizing--we're talking full out theatrical production complete with narration going on in my head here--about when the boys will be old enough to be self-sufficient. No, I don't mean get jobs and move out. I don't want to fast forward that much. But an independent bath and butt wipe would be lovely. To be able to go to the beach, come home, and call out "Okay, everybody to the shower and then we're getting a pizza and a movie!" To be able to run an errand without lugging a wriggling, borderline-tantrumy sack of potatoes back and forth. To be able to unload a dishwasher without having to use one foot as a mid-air gate to keep the baby from climbing into it.

So, really, how bad do things get after this? Did that woman in the elevator know something I don't? Is this like when parents don't tell people who are thinking about having kids how tough it really is because a) they don't want to frighten them and b) misery loves company?

I've spoken to many women who tell me that they absolutely loooooved the baby stage. Sometimes I wonder if they really did, in fact, love it while they were in it, or, if maybe after the years have passed, they love the memories of it. Maybe once it's all over and you have grown kids running around, with their own set of issues and challenges, you just remember that fat wriggly cooing baby and wish for that simplicity. You block out the sleepless nights, the ear-splitting tantrums in the grocery store, the mashed peas thrown across the room. I read somewhere once that scientists have discovered that the brain tends to forget unpleasant memories. It's like a defense mechanism. I suppose if you couple that scientific logic with the everyday aches and pains of babyhood, it makes sense that we'd remember only the good.

The next time Aidan Kai is screeching, stiff-legged, refusing to sit down in the shopping cart, I will try and remember that woman with the teenager. I will try. And maybe, just maybe, one day I will walk into an elevator and see a struggling mom with her struggling baby and smile knowingly, maybe even long for the smell of Cheerios and drool. But I don't think I will tell her to "enjoy it." Because really, that's kind of unnecessary.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The wishes and resolutions of others

On New Year's Eve, we hosted a party in our house. Because we love ourselves a party gimmick, we covered a bare wall with white butcher paper and asked all of our guests--ranging in ages from 1 to 74--to write their wishes and/or resolutions for 2014. At first, I wasn't completely sure if our idea would be a hit, probably because I'm one of those insecure party-throwers who still worries that "no one is coming to my party" and "what if people don't have fun?". (Never mind the fact that we throw tons of parties in our why-did-we-think-we-needed-such-a-big-house-House, but I am sure that is just one more issue I should bring up with my therapist.) With the exception of the 1-year-old, who was way too busy either crying or losing her pretty tiny silver Mary Jane,  it seemed everyone had a lot to "say."

Some of the graffiti was serious and important:
My sister's wish: her health...because after this year, she's learned--and so did we--that the rest is just crap.

Some of the wishes were very indicative of the ages of the wishers...

Like Angie, a straight A high school student,who has perhaps decided a
slight dip in her average will not  indicate the end of the world...

And little Andrew, whose grape eating habits have, apparently, been a problem his entire 5-year-life:

"I will eat grapes with the skin on."

There were the usual, expected types of resolutions and go to the gym and work hard, but then there were also those wishes that, hopefully, would not come to fruition...
Can you spot..."Kill my boss slowly"?

It was especially interesting to see the difference between my two boys' wishes. Those who know my kids really, really well, got a kick out of this:

From Ben, the older one, who obviously felt it was important that he write something important on the wall for all to see:
"I hope all the poor get money and home's. And happy holidays!"
From Aidan Kai, my younger one, who has a much simpler, less world-changing wish:'
"Everybody have fun"

Then there was Hubby, whose wishes and resolutions said a lot about his daily habits: too much drinking and too little texting...?

Personally, I was quite relieved to read the "Yeah right!" which he added immediately afterwards...

Perhaps it was a sign that his marker faded as he wrote his "real" resolution:
"Respond & text/call the people I love!!!!"

Bottom line: when we woke up on the first day of 2014, it was a lot of fun to take some time with our coffee and read the remnants of the night's leftover thoughts, hopes, and plans (especially since neither of us were hungover this year). It was such a mix of authentic resolutions, mixed in with some of the drunken commentary that probably should never have made it onto a wall where an 8-year-old lives...

Oh, and here was mine:

I have been just about as successful with my meditation resolution as Hubby has with his returning calls one. I guess that's a good thing, since neither of us have been very quick to judge or critique the other. As for my phone one, I'm trying... And the writing? Well, I'm here, ain't I?