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Saturday, December 29, 2007

A holiday party pick-me-up

If you're ever feeling discouraged about the project you're working on, I highly recommend going to a party so that a bunch of friends, strangers, and acquaintances can rally behind you and tell you how great you're doing. It sure worked for me.

A few days before Christmas, we went to Aspiring Writer Friend's annual White Elephant holiday party. As I was sliding into my slinky cocktail dress, I realized it was exactly one year ago that I started telling people about my book project. I announced during the party a year earlier that I had hoped to write the whole book in 2007. I realize now that was a lofty goal. But instead of feeling bummed that I didn't meet my goal, I actually feel energized and proud of all the work I have accomplished in the past year. Despite the fact that Preschooler in Chief was hospitalized for two months, I made some real strides. I also was a little naive about the whole book-writing process and didn't realize I should not be writing a book until I had written my proposal. But even with those setbacks and realizations, I managed to write my proposal (which is 27 pages long), and type a rough draft for about half of the book.

If you want to take a glass-half-empty approach, no I didn't write the whole book and no I didn't published anything in Brain, Child magazine (another one of my 2007 goals that went unachieved). But I prefer the glass-half-full approach where I can celebrate my accomplishments and feel proud of the work that I have done. I did write and submit an essay to Brain, Child, even if it wasn't accepted. And I did write a huge chunk of my book. And talking with people who were genuinely excited about my book was a huge boost. They really helped me see how far I had come. One woman even talked about how she couldn't wait to see my book in the window of a bookstore someday and how she was excited for the book-release party! I definitely had not allowed my brain to get that far ahead of myself, but it was fun to have so many people believe in me, to feel excited about my project, and to basically give me a gust of energy.

I also had an opportunity to have lunch with my friend and published author, Courtney Macavinta, a couple of weeks back. Her advice was sound and her encouragement was contagious. I feel fortunate to have so many people in my life cheering me on. It's humbling and motivating. As I get ready to launch myself into 2008, I'm ready to take the next step of finding the right agent. It's a little daunting, but I'm not afraid. And I haven't forgotten about my Brain, Child goal either. I've decided to resubmit my essay now that it's 75 percent shorter than it was originally. They publish more 1,000-word essays than 4,000-word essays. What's the worst that can happen? They reject me? That's not so bad. It just means I need to keep trying. I know how to do that.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wondering if it's a wonderful life

It's really easy to take care of other people. I have been doing it my whole life. But particularly right now, I need figure out how to be easy on myself, to take care of myself. To start, I've been letting some things go. I can't always pack the perfect lunches. I can't always keep the sink free of dishes, there will always be more laundry that I can manage at any given time, and my to-do list will never be empty. I've even let go of working on the book for a couple of weeks. And that is okay. For my sanity, I need to accept those things. They don't make me a failure. They don't make me a bad mom, a bad wife.

They make me human. I can't do everything all of the time.

Another thing I also let go of was holiday cards. I didn't send any. Not even one. It was sort of two fold. First of all, I needed to take some things off my plate because I've been feeling so overwhelmed. Secondly, I've been thinking of the 1946 classic It's a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart and Donna Reed. And I've been wondering about my life. Does it matter that I send holiday cards? I wonder about how different the world would be if I wasn't here doing my little daily things, all my little routines. Mostly, I have been wondering about the contribution I make to this world as a stay-at-home parent. It feels pretty paltry sometimes.

I'm certainly trying to impact this world in small and positive ways with my writing and by trying to teach my kids to be kind, compassionate, and productive human beings. But since it feels like I’m not really a part of a big picture--although I'm sure a lot of people involved on big projects at big companies often don't feel that they are making any real contribution either--my life, my contributions sometimes feel invisible.

So as I chose not to send any holiday cards, I wondered if it would really matter that much. And then to my amazement, we started getting cards. And I enjoyed opening them and hanging them up as I do every year. And I remembered why I sent cards. It wasn't out of obligation (well, maybe a little bit), but rather we send them because people like hearing from people they haven't heard from in a long time. I know I do. It's fun getting mail that isn't a bill or a catalog. It is nice seeing pictures of my friends, their kids, their dogs. And if there is no picture, it's nice knowing that someone thought about us.

Maybe it's less like It's a Wonderful Life and more like How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Even though the Grinch took all the trees and all the presents and all the Whoo pudding, Christmas came anyway. So maybe even though I didn't send all the cards, the holidays will come anyway. They will still be filled with love and joy. And I will be a tiny bit less stressed out...Now if I could just get to the Post Office so that the family will get their presents before Christmas.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Family-work balance is a presidential issue

Helping families find the ever-elusive family-work balance is becoming a key issue for presidential candidates. Senator John Edwards is the latest candidate to announce his proposals to help working parents as part of his "Young Families Rising Agenda." The key issues announced today include: offering universal preschool and expanding affordable child care; offering paid leave to all workers by 2014; expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act to cover 13 million additional workers; requiring that businesses offer all full-time workers seven paid sick days a year.

"Two-thirds of mothers now work--most of them full time--but our workplace practices and public policies don't reflect this change," Edwards said in a press release. "It's time we offered universal preschool and expanded affordable child care. We must also extend the Family and Medical Leave Act so that working parents don’t have to choose between taking care of a sick child and losing their jobs. And we need to make sure every American has access to quality health care and a good-paying job. As president, I will fight to make sure young families can succeed and build a better life for their children."

Edward's policies seem similar to Senator Barack Obama's "Work Family Balance Agenda," which was announced last month. And both policies seem similar to Hillary Clinton's Work-Family Agenda, which was announced in October.

I'm sure there are differences between how each of these politician's policies would actually impact American families. I haven't sorted all that out yet. What I do know is that it is good to hear presidential candidates acknowledge that current programs are grossly inadequate, and that they--the top-running Democratic politicians--are trying to fix a broken system.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Just a little too shy

In a recent conversation with Preschooler in Chief about body parts, I couldn't manage to say the word vagina. I managed penis and testicles, but I was unable to say the v-word.

I'm terribly disappointed in my inability to properly talk about girl parts. I'm comfortable talking openly about sex and the female anatomy when I'm chatting with girlfriends and acquaintances, so I'm really disappointed that I wasn't able to say more when talking with PIC. It isn't that I said the wrong thing or misled him. Rather, I just didn't share the whole truth. I'm sure his understanding between boys and girls is this: boys have a penis; girls don't have a penis. Well, I suppose his understanding is a little deeper. He knows that girls are the ones that grow babies in their tummies. He also knows that breasts make milk for babies, and that the milk comes out of nipple-part. Girl nipples, that is. He knows that boy nipples are non-functional, even though he occasionally lifts his shirt so that he can nurse his baby rhinoceros.

So despite my desire to be open when talking about sex and bodies with my kids, I feel like I've failed him a tiny bit. Fortunately he's young enough that it doesn't matter too much. And I know that there will be plenty of other opportunities to get it right as he grows.

Monday, December 03, 2007

An emotional trifecta

Some of my recent posts have given the impression to some concerned readers that I might be depressed. I might be. But I think I'll blame my emotional prose on all the book-writing I've accomplished recently (which drudges up a lot of feelings), on this time of year (a little old-fashioned seasonal-affective disorder), and the fact that I'm just about done nursing Baby in Chief (a hormonal whack-job, to say the least). Each of those issues alone can create a lot of stress. But they are all coming at the same time, unfortunately.

Yes, this is a lovely time of year with all the festive music and the lights and promise of packages and sprinkle-covered cookies. All of that goodness holds the promise of mountainous highs. At the same time, it also can bring on chest-crushing lows. I'm really looking forward to the arrival of family--the family we regretfully did not spend Thanksgiving with due to the 2,500 miles separating our houses. The anticipation of their arrival, the joy of a family holiday is exciting. But then there is the added responsibility. The extra responsibility of ordering the holiday cards, writing notes on and sending the holiday cards, picking out the right gifts, wrapping the gifts, mailing the gifts, decorating the house, baking festive goodies. All that stuff is piled on top of all the regular responsibilities of parenthood, of being married, of running a household.

I know I'm not the only one with this extra long to-do list, but toss in the hormones and all the feelings I'm revisiting as I write my book and whammo. I'm not complaining. It's just nice to know that there are actual reasons for me feeling so off. Then again, I guess it could be a teeny bit of depression. Last weekend I read online: It's not my problems making me depressed, it's my depression making me depressed.

I sort of like thinking about things that way. Maybe instead of feeling overwhelmed by the piles of toys, the sink full of dishes, the car full of wrappers, or the holiday shopping, I'll just blame that overwhelmed feeling on my depression. Thinking of it that way actually takes the pressure off a bit. It's nice to have a scapegoat, even if it's an artificial one.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The easiest connection

Shouting out how many candles were on our last birthday cake isn't something we regularly do as adults. It's more of a private affair, especially for woman. Even with my friends I sometimes feel uncomfortable asking how old they are. I don’t want to pry. And I certainly don't want to make anyone feel self-conscious.

But as a kid, it is something to be proud of. Last night I was out listening to Christmas carolers with the kids and some friends. Mathematician Friend introduced me to her friend and her friend's kids. The one boy said: "My name is Daniel and I'm four and a half." Preschooler in Chief lit up and said with total delight, "I'm four and a half too!" That was all they needed to connect, to know that they would get along. And so I shouted out, "I'm 34. But after Christmas, I'll almost be 34 and a half!"

It was silly, but it felt good to get it out there. I don't have any hang-ups about my least for now.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It's not all about me, me, me

When we were small, our parents--if we were lucky--told us that we were doing great. That we drew beautiful pictures. That we mastered lacing. And letters. And spelling. And math. They encouraged us to strive for our dreams. To not hold back. To always, always take pride in our work and do our best. Eventually our grades affirmed our work. Then we graduated, and that paper we received summed up the strides we made, the work we accomplished, the things we learned. We got a job and our salary (hopefully) reflected our accomplishments. All along there were ways to feel appreciated.

And then along comes parenthood. And there isn't much feedback. There are no grades or salaries to help me feel that I've accomplished important things. That I've made great strides. That I am doing my best. Much of the time I work to get ahead only to find that I am more buried under piles of sticky laundry, mountains of unorganized toys, and a whole lot of stress. I look down at myself and see rumpled sweat pants, a stained shirt, unwashed hair, and a little acne (how old am I?). It's hard to feel appreciated by the wee folk who like to bite, smack, step on, puke, and poop on me. But after they do, they go and smile or giggle. I guess that is feedback.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I wonder why I want to feel appreciated, why I want the world to know I'm still here and to validate my existence in some way or another. Shouldn't I be the one sending out all the appreciation? The one feeling thankful? I should thank my mom for doing such a great job raising me while my dad was off with his buddies playing sports. I should remember my grandmother and my grandfather and be thankful that they believed in me and helped pay for my college education. I should be grateful that my husband is 100 percent supportive of my writing efforts and that his job allows me the flexibility to be at home with our kids and working at my own pace. I am humbled by the group of amazing people that I am lucky enough to call friends and that have been there for me again and again. I should be focusing on the teeny bits of good news we get with Preschooler in Chief's health.

I want that to be enough. I don't want to be greedy with my own needs. SoCal Attorney Friend recently emailed me a tear-jerker about the trials of invisible motherhood. How mothers sacrifice time and again without anyone really noticing. All along, we wonder why we do it because the job is so thankless. I'm sure you can get the moral of the story without actually reading that piece. And even though it was super sappy, I agreed with the bulk of what it said. I don't want my kids to have to say thanks for every meal I cook, every load of laundry I do, every crafty project I set up, every cup of juice filled, every game we play, every story I read, every playdate I organize, every adventure we go on. I want them to remember that I was here and that they had a fun childhood.

I also want them to remember that their mother was happy. I don't want my own wants and aspirations to overpower that other stuff. I don't want them to see a cynic or a depressed woman. Yes, that stuff is there as I struggle to find my own way. But I'd like to teach my own children to deal with frustrations and letdowns by setting a positive example. The things that get me down and sometimes wrestle me to the ground are small when I consider all the things that I have to be thankful for.

Friday, November 16, 2007

All spiffed up

In case you haven't yet--because you're reading my insightful posts via a newsreader--you simply must check out the swanky new look of my blog. Just having this professionally-designed site makes me feel, well, more professional. I know you're supposed to dress for the job you want, but since I write at home and no one sees me but my grubby-fingered kids and tolerant husband, it makes more sense to dress up my blog to fully reflect me and the job I want--that of a fabulous, stylish, and successful writer and parent. Even if most days I'm not all that stylish on the outside, I am still fabulous on the inside. And stylish when I want to be. And while I haven't reached the ultimate success--that of a published author--I'm at least heading in the right direction.

Along with the launch of my blog design, I've been focusing on other aspects of professionalism. I've been getting all connected through Facebook and LinkedIn, the latter which may be leading to a little paid writing gig on the side. A little bread and butter, so to speak. I'm getting out there, reminding people that just because I left the paid, go-to-an-office job, not only did I not completely disappear into the abyss known as suburban motherhood, I've actually been writing, and editing, and publishing. And most recently, making tons of progress on my non-fiction book for parents who have kids in the hospital. That is, of course, in addition to all of the pontificating I do here.

And when all those connections do a little research on me, they will certainly see my blog, which will hopefully--with its appealing, polished look--reinforce in that I am indeed worthy of their encouragement, their support, their advice, and their endorsements.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

If only Calgon really could take me away

Father in Chief and I went to see Dan in Real Life on Saturday night, staring Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, and Dane Cook. It is a comedy about family, about relationships, about brothers. Grown up brothers. Only instead of making me laugh, I sobbed quietly on FIC's shoulder during parts of the movie. And then I sobbed loudly during the walk from the theater to the car.

You see, I have two little boys. And in most families, those little boys will eventually grow up to be men. To be brothers. They might be close. They might not be close. But they'll have each other and the shared family history of growing up in the same house with the same parents. Only our family isn't like most families. One of my boys might not grow up to be with his brother. To joke around in the yard while tossing a football. To spend holidays together. To tease each other, as brothers do. And so watching that fake Hollywood family do those things caught me off guard. So FIC's shoulder got wet as I thought about what might not be. I thought about the grown men I might not have. And I ached for myself. I ached for my son. I ached for my other son, and all of the losses that go along with his health problems.

When I was driving back to my house after taking the sitter home, I decided a good solution to feeling so sad was to just run away from my problems. I wouldn't drive home. I would just leave and go have a different life. It seemed like a really, really good idea. I want the nice house on the lake in the middle of nowhere. I want to be able to live far, far away from top pediatric heart centers. I want to be able to vacation at high elevations and not think about whether there is enough oxygen. I want to fly on airplanes without oxygen tanks or the need to figure out how to keep the medicine cold. I want the perfect family with the perfect kids. And if I can't really run away, I want to believe in parallel universes because there has to be a better, happier version of my life out there somewhere. The life I'm supposed to have. The life that I planned. The life where no one is really sick or in the hospital or having surgery. I want the life where everyone grows up. I want the life where I have to boys--two brothers--as long as I'm alive. And then long afterwards.

But then I realized I want all of that with my family, my husband, my kids. So I drove home, checked on the boys, and snuggled up with FIC in our bed, in our house, which comes complete with all that other stuff.

So here I'll stay. I'll eject those thoughts from my head as best I can. And I'll enjoy the moments we have right now. The moments when Preschooler in Chief squats beneath Baby in Chief's highchair and tickles his toes over and over, as BIC does the sign for "more" after each tickle. The moments when PIC is hollering about BIC putting Matchbox cars in his mouth. The moments when the kids are being crazy at the restaurant and everyone is staring at us. I need to cling to those moments. I need to savor those moments because I don't know how many more moments we'll get.

I think it will be a long, long time before I consider going to see another comedy.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Can you put a timer on that?

Microsoft announced the Xbox 360 Family Timer earlier this week. The Family Timer (which will be available for download in December) will let parents set a specific amount of time that kids can use their Xbox. When the minutes are used up, the machine shuts down. I'd like to take that concept and see if it can be applied to other aspects of life.

For kids:
  1. Limit back-talk or nagging: Once the limit is met, the vocal chords are disabled until the following day.
  2. Limit annoying toys: You can set a timer on "soundy" toys. Once the time is up, they are silenced until the following day.

For spouses:
  1. Limit bathroom loitering: Once the time is up, the lights go off and the toilet flushes automatically.
  2. Limit shower hogging: You set the number of minutes allowed per shower. The temperature gets significantly colder as a one-minute warning. Then the water goes off.

For self:
  1. Limit snacking: Food eaten after a certain time will cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Success through osmosis?

I had a very important dinner tonight. It was a businessy dinner. It was at Google. There was a cafeteria full of busy people with important job titles. I am pretty sure you can become successful by osmosis. I should start having dinner there more often. If nothing else, I'd be successful at having a clean kitchen on the nights I dine at Google.

On a side note, I was also surrounded by kids with food in their hair. With that same line of thinking, I hope that I don't become a total slob because I was also around those messy-haired kids. Bollocks! A self exam leads me to believe that it's too late to avoid the messy part. At least the kitchen is clean.

Monday, November 05, 2007

No NaNoWriMo for me

Instead of trying to write a 50,000-word novel for National Novel Writing Month, I think I'll keep my goals more realistic and focused. I'm going to finish my book proposal and write four more chapters (short essays) before the end of the month. Now I better go get to work.

And for all of you actually participating in NaNoWriMo, I don't know how you keep your wrists from totally cramping up. I used to have a lot of wrist problems back when I was a CNET scribe, writing two and three news stories a day. Now that I'm more of a leisurely-write-when-I-can kind of girl, I don't have that problem as much. (I also don't have the fame I used to have either ;-)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Who needs a costume?

Just half an hour before I needed to leave for Preschooler in Chief's Halloween parade yesterday, I had the best idea for a costume. I would get my old suit out of the closet. And I would wear it. And I would be a corporate attorney. No, a public relations account executive. No, an accountant. A therapist. A Wall Street analyst. A reporter attending a financial conference.

And then I put the suit on.

I would have had to be a corporate attorney, circa 1996. Or a public relations account executive, circa 1996. An accountant, circa 1996. A therapist, circa 1996. A Wall Street analyst, circa 1996. A reporter attending a financial conference, circa 1996. I always thoughts suits were supposed to be timeless. But let me tell you, the waist on these pants sat inches above my belly button. Above!! The shirt was baggy everywhere. And the jacket... Well, the jacket was just the wrong cut. Period.

Then I felt very pathetic that the only reason a suit would ever come out of my closet was for a day of dress-up. So I did what any rational girl would do. I put on my favorite, dressy pants and a matching sassy shirt. Then I grabbed my adorable Anthropologie jacket (the one Shopper Friend said exudes my essence). I put on a little lipstick and my newsboy cap. I think I looked very snazzy. No, it wasn't a Halloween costume--it wasn't a costume period. I guess I just needed an official day of dress-up to remind me that it's okay to wear nice clothes for no reason every once in a while. Clothes that represent the real me, the one inside the milky bras and yoga pants.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Jumping over my writer's block

If showing up is 98 percent of success, then just starting to write has to be a solid way to get over writer's block. Write anything. Write everything. Just as long as you're writing.

And that's what I've been doing, and I'm kicking my book proposal into shape and it's actually starting to look like the book proposal of someone who knows what they are doing. If I can just convince part of my brain that I actually can successfully write a book proposal--an ultimately a book--then that has got be the hardest part of getting through this rough patch. And even if the rest of my brain is skeptical, I just need part of me to believe in me. I'm certain that my own fear of failure has to be the most significant part of my writer's block. But I refuse to be defeated. I've armed myself with some how-to books and I'm writing and writing and writing. Some of it is garbage (and that is all part of the process), but at least I'm making progress in the right direction.

I think one of the things that helped me was that I did an image search on Google for "published author." My blog is in the process of being redesigned and I wanted to get some ideas for how to visually say writer/author without using an old typewriter, like I did when I ordered my official business cards a couple of years ago. And the search results showed a lot of people who look less capable than I do of writing a book. And so I thought, if all of these people have published books, then I most certainly am capable of publishing a book too.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What a pig

There are no more cookies. I just double-checked and it's true. I ate all of them two days ago. I thought the best way to get rid of those last four jumbo cookies was to just eat them all at once. Then they would be gone. It worked. There were gone. And I felt sick. And then later that day when I went to get more cookies, I was angry that I had eaten them all at once and not saved any for later.

Since there are no cookies, I scoured around looking for something to eat that would serve as a decent substitute for chocolate cookies. What I found was a jumbo container of Ovaltine. That's chocolaty. And it's practically good for me. It's fortified, you know. Then I found a mostly-empty, 64-ounce Costco-sized tub of plain, whole fat yogurt. And I mixed a generous helping of Ovaltine into the yogurt. It was almost like soft chocolate ice cream. Almost.

What is wrong with me? I can not buy anymore cookies or ice cream or chocolate or candy (or Ovaltine, apparently) until this whole emotional-eating thing passes and I can walk through the kitchen with my hands at my side and my mouth closed. I look forward to the day when I can throw food in the garbage, when leftovers from my kids' plates do not equal an extra helping for me. I look forward to the day when I don't squeeze my muffin-top after every meal.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Being alone with my thoughts is not a safe place

I started out as the girl who blushed. At my first real job, I didn't feel confident in myself or my skills or my ability to do my job. I was insecure, I guess. Green. And I'd blush whenever people looked at me. Or whenever I had to talk to people--which is rather frequently when you're a reporter. I felt that they could see through my inexperience and know that I wasn't really sure what I was doing. That I was just playing a part.

And then I wasn't.

Somewhere along the way, I got good at what I did. I had experience and lots of clips to be proud of. And no one intimidated me. Not CEOs. Not CFOs. Or PR flaks. Or financial analysts. Or fund managers. I was a good reporter. And I stopped blushing. I was good at my job. Even if I didn't particularly like it all that much. So I quit to do something else. Then I got pregnant. And here I am five years later. And I don't have any confidence. And I don't have any recent clips. And I feel like that green college graduate, who wondered if anyone would ever want to hire me when I was surrounded by thousands of other smart and driven recent grads. I feel like that shy girl, who wondered why any guy would ever want to go out with me when I was surrounded by so many other smart and pretty girls.

It's like I don't remember how to write, even though I've been writing my whole life. I get so paralyzed with fear of failure. I guess that is why people who want to quit smoking tell people they are going to quit. It is like once you tell people, then if you fail, you haven't just let yourself down. You let this whole group of people you respect down. And that is where I am with this book. I have told scores of people about my book. This amazing book that I'm writing for parents who have young kids in the hospital--a topic in which I sadly have too much personal experience. I want to believe that I'm that confident and capable writer. I want to believe that I can do it. I want other people to think I'm confident and capable. I want other people to believe in me, so that some of their confidence rubs off and me and helps me succeed.

Part of the problem is that I'm emotionally connected to the book's topic. I have to go places that I've been trying to forget for four-and-a-half years. Dark places. Sad places. Angry places. Weak places. Defeated places. And so I'm stuck. I need to deal with my own messed-up life first. I need to confront all of those demons. I'm reminded of them every time I see an ambulance. I'm reminded of them every time I go to the pharmacy. I'm reminded of them with every doctor appointment. With every test result. With every dose of medicine.

So now that I've carved all this time into my schedule so that I can work, it is just me and my thoughts. I've realized that having no time to write was a gift. The gift of avoidance. Having no time to write was the perfect way for me to not deal with my own stuff. I guess it is true what they say: be careful what you wish for. I wished for some childcare so that I could work. What I ended up with was a bit of insomnia, a dash of depression, an inability to stop snacking, and the realization that I'm not as nearly together as I thought I was.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Feeling antsy

There has been an uncomfortable feeling following me around like a late-afternoon shadow.

Well, all I needed to do was check out my Google Docs to be reminded of the spreadsheet I set up a few months back to keep track of my freelance submissions. Since I hadn't been exercising my keyboard skills because I was out of town, I haven't had a reason to go there. Well, now that I'm back and I have gotten through my backlogged to-do list (grocery shop, doctor appointment, pick up medicine from the pharmacy, follow up on past-due bills, drop off Preschooler in Chief's late school photo order, etc., etc.), I finally decided it's time to attempt to get back into my writing routine. And there it was, that reminder that eight weeks has come and nearly gone since I submitted my essay to Newsweek. And there hasn't been a word from them. And in this business, silence is not golden. On the bright side, there are six more days before I'm officially rejected. Sigh.

Maybe because it takes so long to be rejected from these publications it makes it feel like the rejection is bigger than it really is. There have only been two rejections at this point, which really isn't all that bad. And there are still several other publications that I can try to place my piece with. But you submit your work and wait and wait and wait.

Perhaps if I was a big-named writer with lots of recent clips at national publications, getting my stuff published wouldn't be so emotional (or difficult). But then again, I'm sure big-named writers probably don't write stuff on spec without knowing that it will be published wherever they want it to be published. So I guess I just need a break. I need to get a couple of pieces featured in prominent publications. Then things would get easier. Or maybe I wouldn't sweat it so much if an occasional piece was rejected.

I wonder if it's better to keep shooting for the big publications or to start small and take my small successes to the bigger publications. It has to be who you know. And at this point, I don't know the right people.

Father in Chief says I should shelf the essay for a bit and work on something totally different. And I could do that because I always have ideas bouncing around my brain. But I don't want to start from scratch. And if I'm going to be working, then I'd rather work on my other who-knows-if-it-will-ever-get-published project: my book. Ugh.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dreaming of an uncomplicated life

I have a crazy delusion that life is so complicated because I don't live in Western New York anymore (that is where I grew up, and I recently spent two weeks there). I think to myself... If I lived there, there wouldn't be so much stress, so much stuff to weigh us down. But that notion is entirely untrue. It just seems that way because there are no real stresses there when I go to visit (outside of the fact that very little is child-proofed).

It is a total misrepresentation of reality. None of my responsibilities are there when I visit because I don't live there. If I did live there, all of those stresses and responsibilities would most certainly be there when all the boxes were unpacked. And then instead of living in the beautiful and exciting San Francisco Bay Area, I would live in dreary and depressed Western New York. But our families would be there and that would be wonderful. But then once we settle in, all of the stuff that gets me down and makes me feel overwhelmed would appear as our lives started to settle in there. There would still be groceries to buy and laundry to wash and cluttered cupboards and bills to pay and deadlines to meet.

But it's always so deliciously deceptive when I visit because none of that stuff is there. My only real responsibilities are to care for the daily needs of my kids. And even then, there are grandparents around willing to take the wee ones for a bit so that I can go out with friends or take a mid-afternoon snooze.

I'm sure that is partially why I get so home-sick. I'm sure I don't really yearn for Lockport, New York. Yes, I long for the day-to-day stuff we miss out on with our families and the stuff they miss out on with us and their grandchildren. And I long for the simple times that I remember. Because when I lived there 17 years ago, there was little real responsibility in my life. Everything was in front of me. My life was just starting to unfold. And that is a beautiful and wonderful time to think about. Now if only I could figure out a way to bring that feeling home.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

You think you know a brand

And then wham, they go and put fish oil in your baby's yogurt! When did organic, whole milk yogurt need to have anchovy oil, sardine oil, and tilapia fish gelatine in it?

I have been buying Stonyfield yogurt for years and have never noticed that before. But perhaps I never noticed because they don't put that kind of nastiness in the plain yogurt that I usually buy.

But here in Western New York, the Stonyfield Farm Organic YoBaby was the only whole milk yogurt in the grocery store. So I bought it without even reading the label. Because I trusted the brand, I thought I knew what I was buying. No such luck. Gross.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Been losing sleep

I just couldn't do it four nights in a row. I'm not that young anymore. And I just need more sleep. I don't know how people can go out night after night and have drinks and not go to bed until 3 am, and then still get up and be functioning members of society.

Three nights in a row was my limit. I went to Niagara Falls in Canada to a nightclub that plays nothing but 80s on Thursday night. It was fabulous--you know how I love the 80s--except for all of the 19-year-old guys. Yes, they can be cute, but for the most part, they are usually quite drunk, never offer to buy you a drink, and are terrible and aggressive dancers (Think Dirty Dancing without the suave part).

Then on Friday night, I went out to see a local band with my girlfriends. We danced and had some drinks and ended up at Denny's. I can't believe they still have Moon Over My Hammy on the menu!

And then Saturday morning I was supposed to have breakfast at my dad's house with the kids. Breakfast??!! I had just gone to bed five hours earlier and now I'm supposed to be awake and have my kids dressed and ready for the chitchat that goes with blueberry pancakes and scrambled eggs?

Then I looked in the mirror. And there was a very disturbing image staring back at me. My hair was straggly mess. There were dark circles under my eyes. My eyes were only half open. I was wearing the same shirt that I had slept in and I had not put on any deodorant. I was a mess. We ditched our plan to go to the zoo and I took the kids to my mom's house, put the baby down for a nap and crashed on the pull-out sofa for more than two hours. Thankfully my mom was there to watch Preschooler in Chief. My siesta was followed by a quick shower and then it was time to go out all over again.

There was dinner with my dad and the kids, then driving to my mother-in-law's house to get the kids to bed. We watched a movie, and then it was time to drive back to Lockport to go out dancing with my mom and her girlfriends. It was fun, but I have now put mascara on my eye lashes four nights in the past week and that is more mascara than I have worn in the past four months. I lasted about an hour before I needed to head back to my mother-in-law's house.

Just five hours later, the kids were awake.

I was supposed to go out again tonight. And. There. Was. Just. No. Way. It. Was. Going. To. Happen.

I don't think I'll complain about my I-like-to-go-to-bed-and-read-at-9-PM lifestyle once I get back to California. Or at least I won't complain about it for at least a couple of weeks and I start missing my friends and the dance floor. And now I'll take this opportunity to go to sleep. Good night.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

You can take the girl out of WNY...

But you can't take the Western New York out of the girl. I arrived in Buffalo (yes, Buffalo is Western New York, not Upstate New York), after a long day of travel with two small kids and it was as if I was instantly converted to another version of myself.

My vowels immediately sounded more nasally. All words with an "o" started sounding like "aah" (for example: instead of hospital, it would be h-aah-spital). I was excited about my PT Cruiser rental. (Sadly, they didn't have one for me, and I ended up with an HHR, which is sort of like a PT Cruiser only it looks more like a pick-up truck.) I happily programmed my rental's radio to have all of the local Top 40 stations for the 30-minute ride to Lockport. After my boys were tucked in, I was ready to tackle the local bar scene. I hoped that I'd see someone I went to high school with. And I drank Yingling, a WNY favorite.

The bar wasn't much to look at, but it was spacious and it was full of faces that I wanted to be familiar. The dance floor wasn't overly crowded, but if it did get too packed, the dancers just back up in between tables and along the bar. The band was working hard and the crowd was the payoff. It wasn't the Cheeseballs, but it was a wonderful, town-I-grew-up-in close second. And I felt comfortable, at home, included, loved. It's no surprise that I managed to meet the band. And during the last set I got at least 15 shout-outs because it was my birthday. And I was with one of my best friends. It was perfect, except that Father in Chief wasn't around to enjoy it with me.

There is something about going home, home to the small town I grew up in that is comforting. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that my family still lives there. My dad still lives in the house I grew up in. My mom lives in the house that my family lived in when I was born. My grandmother still lives in the same house she has for the past 60 years. My uncle lives in my other grandmother's house. Two of my best friends still live here. Stores come and go, but the shabby downtown keeps trying to reinvent itself with renovated buildings and new bars. Mostly, it's comforting because when I lived here--17 years ago--life was pretty simple. The biggest worries were whether he was going to call and whether I was going to have to work on New Year's Eve.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The sun'll come out tomorrow

It's amazing how a little childcare has helped me hate the annoying and naughty parts of my kids a little bit less and like the silly and inquisitive parts of my kids a little bit more.

This is only week three of recurring, part-time childcare--Preschooler in Chief at school; Toddler in Chief with the nanny--and I've seen a change in the way I spend time with my boys. Why? Because it's quality time. I look forward to the days when it's just the three of us of exploring and enjoying our adventures. And after all that exploring and enjoying, I know that I'll have other days to catch up on all of my stuff and household chores. And there is time to work too! Imagine that. That means I can spend time with the wee ones without trying to cram shopping and laundry and telephone calls and query letters in between puzzles and naps. I don't have to forfeit my attempts at working to do fun things with my kids. And I don't have to forfeit quality time with my kids so that I can work. In this scenario, everyone is getting some of what they need.

We've been to the beach and the zoo and the park and the farmers' market. And we're having fun. I'm not cursing under my breath because I need to do other stuff. I'm not sticking them in front of the TV so that I can make a phone call. I'm not wishing I could run away and leave it all behind. Nope. I like my kids again. Well, I like them most of the time. That is, all except when PIC whines or TIC pees on the fresh sheets after a bath before the diaper is securely fastened (although the peeing thing was sort of funny, in a perfect baby timing kind of way).

It's almost like I've had a glimpse of the Whole MIC. The sane, together, complex woman/mother/wife who does more than just run a 24/7 childcare center. As a result, I don't have to clench my teeth as the baby starts crying a bit too early in the morning. There will still be good days and bad days. And it doesn't matter. I can handle it. I will get through it. I'll let it roll off of me like rain on a duck. I know that a break for me--whether that break involves writing or yoga or grocery shopping without incessant demands--is only a day away.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Waiting is so hard

I peeled my essay like an artichoke. Layer after tasty layer was removed. While I managed to scrape tiny amounts of goodness off of each bit before it was discarded, there wasn't much left when I was done. I cut a mere 3,100 words from my 4,000-word essay. While it is still kick-ass, I know that fruitful prose were removed, elegant descriptions were clipped, colorful anecdotes were trashed. It was emotionally painful, but it had to be done. I decided it is best to try and get the thing published. Period.

And while I chopped it down to conform to the needs of other publications, I did not lower my standards. I did not settle. I refuse (for now) to send it off to a publication I never read for the sake of publishing. So I submitted it to Newsweek. Every week they run a personal essay called "My Turn," and I think it's a great fit. So off it went and now I'll wait and wait and wait. And if that doesn't work out, I'll try another high-profile magazine. Then another. And another. And another. I don't want to settle.

I don't know how freelancers do it. Perhaps they simply don't write articles or essays on spec. Otherwise, you spend a bunch of time writing. Then you submit it to Publication A and cross your fingers. If that doesn't work out. Then you rewrite it and submit it to Publication B and cross your fingers. Each time this happens, you're waiting six or eight weeks for a response. If you're lucky, you're piece gets picked up on the first try every time. But more realistically, your work is sitting in a stack or in someone's inbox and you're hoping that it will rise above the other 800 submissions. All the while, you're wasting months of your time waiting for find out who wants what.

The scary thing is, if this was my full-time paying gig, I'd be lucky if I were able to afford ramen noodles. It reminds me of something I read recently in Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott. It was something along the lines of: "People who write novels often live in hovels." I think that saying can be extended to include freelance writers of all kind. There are the lucky few who break through and make the connections to have regular and fruitful work. But mostly, when it comes to writing personal essays, the paying options are slim.

That was one of the many reasons my gig at Oxygen Media as a professional blogger was so great. If only they hadn't given up on the project so quickly. And I guess that is what I've been trying to do on a smaller scale--not give up on my projects too quickly, even though rejection is so hard. So I'll wait and I'll wonder and hopefully I won't lose any sleep in the process. In the meantime, I'll try to figure out what to do with the 3,100 abandoned words.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A moment of bitterness

If they don't want me, then I don't want them.

At least that was how I felt for a brief moment when an email appeared telling me that my subscription to Brain, Child magazine was going to expire. Then my rational side kicked in and I remembered how much I enjoy the magazine.

So I will renew my subscription. And I will continue to write and submit essays to them in the hopes that eventually they will want me as much as I want them.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Essay dilemma

I am the daughter of a belly dancer. The way I see myself, the way I parent, the way I handle stressful situations, and how my childhood memories of music and dance affect my children is the essence of my essay that was recently rejected by Brain, Child magazine.

I've been trying to figure out what to do with it. Since I wrote that piece with Brain, Child in mind, it is written for the readers of that smart and thought-provoking magazine. For instance, it is 4,000 words long, and it focuses more on the parent than on the child. There are very few magazines that publish personal essays of that magnitude with that kind of slant.

I hate to cut it apart to make it fit into other magazines. Most seem to want 1,000 words or less. Many want 500- to 600 words. I could easily trim 500 words, but trimming 75 percent or more is just killing me. I've been trying to trim it for Mothering Magazine. I've been trying to trim it for the Christian Science Monitor. I've been trying to trim it for Redbook. None seem exactly right. But with the right amount of editing, I can make it work. I'm good at finessing. But it is so hard to trim because I really love it the way it is. I'm sure part of that is because I'm so close to the subject. That I'm sure is one of the hardest parts of writing personal essays. How can it not be taken, well, so personally?

Photographer Friend recently blogged about the hardships and frustrations of being an artist who is trying to earn some money practicing her craft. She wrote: "Its a tough business because every lead is a potential blow to your ego, every possibility can take with it a little piece of you soul."

Her struggles apply whether you're a photographer and writer. And as I attempt to tailor my work so that the masses can enjoy it, with every word, every paragraph, every scene removed, I feel like I'm scooping out its innards and it hurts. I need to stop taking it so personally. But that is what is happens when your craft is very personal. The rejection. The disappointment. The tailoring of your work to fit different publications needs. That was partially while Bethany decided to self-publish her short story Postpartum Euphoria last year.

Still, publishing in its entirety would be my favorite exit strategy. But then again, if that doesn't pan out, I need to decide what it more important: keeping the essay as is, or chopping it so that it can be enjoyed. Ultimately, maybe the most important thing is to get it out there and to move on.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Which side are you on?

Last weekend Father in Chief installed a sturdy metal gate separating the computer room from the living room in order to protect the kids from the computer and the computer from the kids. But I have found that instead of locking the kids out of the computer room, I increasingly want to lock myself in.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Drug-induced bliss

To say I wasn't nervous would be an understatement. I was reclined at about a 45-degree angle on one of those hospital beds reminiscent of a Craftmatic Adjustable Bed. I was draped in one of those unflattering one-piece muumuus with the open back and flimsy ties. My clothes had been crumpled up into a clear bag with plastic snaps and stuffed into my canvas bag with food and a Vitamin Water for after my surgery. But none of that matters. I was all alone and it was wonderful.

I had not had anything to eat or drink in 14 or 15 hours. My shoes were off. My glasses were on. My mouth was dry. I did worry that I was going to have a coughing attack and there would be no saliva to swallow to coat my scratchy throat. But I only worried about it for a minute, and then I forgot about it altogether. I was holding a novel and it kept flopping forward onto my abdomen as I waved in and out of consciousness. I could hear hospital staffers rummaging around outside my partitioned space with clipboards. There were voices calling out patients' names. Even though it was just on the other side of the curtain, it sounded so far away. My mind was cloudy with thoughts of nothingness: no kids to feed, no snacks to prepare, no household duties to tend to, no deadlines to meet. Almost an hour passed this way before the surgeon came in to draw a map on my leg with black magic marker. Just as she photographed her art with her camera-phone, a nurse handed me a tiny paper cup with three pills in it--two large white ones, one tiny blue one. What? You mean I didn't already take the pills? They actually double-checked the chart since I seemed so relaxed. Then again...

The Vicodin and the Valium were dreamy and my mind wandered farther still from the daily responsibility of parenthood and my concerns about whether my boobs would burst before I could nurse Baby in Chief again. Finally the time came to be wheeled down the hall to the operating room where my arms were strapped down and I was tipped backwards just far enough so that I wouldn't slide off the table and onto my head. A large blue bonnet covered my hair, but fortunately the nurse allowed me to have my iPod in one of my ears to distract me from the sounds of scalpels and sensation of warm blood dripping down my leg. I don't remember many of the songs that came and went during that hour-long procedure, but I remember singing--loudly apparently--to Ageless Beauty from the Stars. It was sort of fitting since I was in the middle of trying to fix some of the damage that pregnancy and childbearing has done to my body. So I guess it isn't ageless beauty I am striving for, but more childless beauty in the form of nice legs.

As the bandages were wrapped around my leg, the surgeon told me that they never had someone sing throughout an entire procedure before. I didn't care. All I knew was that the worst was behind me and I was headed home to a long nap while Father in Chief tended to the wee folk.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Holding it all together

I've seen motherhood illustrated as an octopus--think February 2005, Newsweek cover when Judith Warner was about to release her book Perfect Madness--and that just isn't quite right. With an octopus, you have eight working parts all functioning independently. And presumably, if one of those limbs was severed, the other seven would still be operational. If I had to illustrate the idea of motherhood, it would be a spider web. Because if one thread is compromised, the whole thing collapses. Sure the spider would immediately start mending the damage, but it would take time.

That is a more realistic view of motherhood. Mothers are stretched in so many directions, so when mom hasn't figured out how to stabilize all the parts--child rearing, spousal relations, domestic duties, getting much-needed breaks, pursuing her own creative outlets, managing house projects, etc., etc.--the whole web suffers.

So if I don't find childcare soon, this whole thing is going to collapse. I'm a totally frustrated writer--I have so much to write and no time. Yes, you could argue that instead of writing this, I could be writing that. But at least it isn't the other way around with so much time, but nothing to write. So what is holding me back, you ask? Finding a reliable and normal person to watch Baby in Chief. Finding someone who meets my seemingly-simple criteria seems about as likely as finding a contact lens in a cornfield. With the bad luck I've had, I'm going to start taking it personally. Here are the sordid details:

  1. Successfully hired Childcare Person #1 (but then I changed my mind because she wanted to bring her two kids with her).
  2. Successfully hired Childcare Person #2 (and then she flaked and I never heard from her again).
  3. Was ready to hire Childcare Person #3 (and then she backed out because she accepted a full-time job elsewhere).
  4. Wanted to meet Childcare Person #4 (but then she hung up on me once she realized she was a 45-minute drive from my house. Who just hangs up on someone? What kind of person does that? How about a normal person's response: "Oh, wow. I didn't realize you lived so far away from me. I don't think it will work. Thanks anyway.")

Perhaps a better solution is sharing someone else's nanny. I responded to an ad and even went over to meet the mom, the boy, and the nanny (aka: interview for the privilege of sharing a nanny with them). And now I wait, and wait, and wait while they interview other prospective families. I even upped my offer to include more hours. Please, please, please pick me!! When did finding childcare become as competitive as buying a house in the Bay Area?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Shed tears? Are you kidding?

I think of images of parents weeping as their kids head off to school. That is probably about as realistic as those images of couples sleeping in separate beds, like Rob and Laurie Petrie from the Dick Van Dike Show in the 1960s. Preschooler in Chief started school last Monday and total elation was the result. If there had been tears, they would have been of utter joy. As soon as he left, I did a little happy dance and got out some chocolate to eat for breakfast. Because I can't eat chocolate for breakfast when PIC is here.

He has been the most annoying, loud, defiant, and obnoxious kid. I'm gritting my teeth just thinking about it. It is best for everyone that we are not spending as much time together. Yes it is nice that I have a bit more time to work, to exercise, and to play one-on-one with Baby in Chief. But honestly, the best part is that I am not with PIC 14 waking hours a day. The chocolate part is nice too.

I thought the worst was going to be the Terrible Twos. Everyone knows about the Terrible Twos. It's a well-advertised fact that kids are annoying and demanding and difficult when they are two. Even people without kids have heard about those Terrible Twos. And two was actually a pretty easy year. But then he turned three. And then everyone started talking about the Terrible Threes. Wait? What? Terrible Threes?? It was all false advertising. I thought two was going to be the worst year. But we took a deep breath and looked forward to the Fabulous Fours. But no, it didn't end there. Now that he's four I keep hearing about the Frustrating Fours. When does this end?? Well, frankly, I'm sick of it. I want the Fabulous Fours, not the Fuck-Off-Mom Fours. I want the Freakishly-Wonderful Fives, not the Go-Fuck-Yourself Fives. I want the Stupendous Sixes, not the Shitty Sixes. How long can this possibly last??

I guess it really doesn't matter that much because as soon as the PIC hits those good years, it will be just in time for BIC to take his turn trying to win the award for Most Annoying Kid. Ugh.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

First order of business

Fashions have changed since I was last gainfully employed. And so has my body--for better or for worse. So when I was invited by Photographer Friend to a media networking event last night in San Francisco, I sadly struggled with what to wear. After several outfit changes--complete with a list of expletives to match--I found a compromise that would work for the night, but I felt so outdated that I might as well have shown up in a shiny blazer with shoulder pads.

Over the last four years, my career has shifted from full-time writer/editor/managing producer to full-time parent/activity coordinator/household executive. As a result my wardrobe has shifted. Instead of cute and sassy business-type outfits, I have Capri pants and tank tops. Instead of financial-conference-type slacks, I have sexy dance outfits. Instead of comfortable but fashionable shoes and boots, I have Crocs or candy-red dance shoes. I have held onto some stodgy business-type outfits. But do not have any cute business casual outfits that say I'm smart, talented, somewhat stylish, and I've been shopping at least once this century. That said, I did wear my smart-girl glasses.

Lesson learned. As part of my effort to get back into business as a professional writer/freelancer/author, I need to look the part when the opportunity arises. I will go out and get two outfits that make me feel just sophisticated enough and just hip enough to fit in and feel confident, like I belong. Because as they saying goes: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. And while my primary job is parent, I don't want that to be the primary impression I give when I'm out mingling with the natives. At least I didn't have any crusty spit-up on my shoulder or breast milk leaking down my front. So I guess it could have been much, much worse.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Desperate times call for desperate measures

IT has been officially scheduled in my calendar. In pen.

This does seem to take the spontaneity out of the whole thing. But if scheduling in advance is the only way to ensure that we succumb to post-coital exhaustion--instead of just plain old regular parental exhaustion--then I'm all for scheduling in advance.

My only hope--besides success--is that all this planning doesn't take all the fun out of it.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Standing still or left behind

I'm tired. I'm grouchy. I'm underwhelmed with parenting and overwhelmed with all of its responsibilities. I'm sure part of it just some of the ebbs and flows of having two small kids. Part of it is having too few breaks and too little help. Part of it is feeling left behind.

I think of Therapist Friend who managed to create an amazing part-time private practice. I think of City Planner Friend who seems to have been able to be promoted all while having a part-time schedule (it wasn't clear for a while if a part-time schedule would preclude her from achieving that goal). I think of Colorist Friend who gets to decide what colors will be in fashion in the seasons to come.

Then there's me. I'm wrangling with my two kids. I can't wait for it to be dinnertime so that Father in Chief comes home to give me some parental relief. Instead of totally enjoying the moment, I'm waiting for this moment to be over because it's so hard or exhausting. I never used to be that person. I don't get up and feel energized and ready to take on a new day, a new set of challenges.

Those friends seem to have figured it out. They work, they parent. They are moving on with their lives. So what is wrong with me? I haven't figured it out yet. I'm feeling bummed because I didn't land that freelance assignment for that publication I never heard of--that I didn't want anyway. I'm feeling exhausted because Preschooler in Chief has been an incredibly annoying four year old that I don't enjoy being around. I'm feeling overwhelmed because Baby in Chief never stops moving or putting things in his mouth. I'm feeling discouraged because CraigsList is a crappy place to find a childcare provider. I'm. Just. Plain. Tired. When does that stop exactly? Are there different vitamins I should be taking?

I need to remind myself that my friends who seem to have figured it out only have one kid. Having two kids is really hard work. Especially after you are used to just having one kid who sleeps through the night and can feed himself and can drink out of a cup and use the bathroom by himself. Starting over is hard--whether it's parenting or working. Despite having a year of experience under my belt with two kids (yup, BIC is having a birthday next week), I haven't figured it out. Maybe I just need to get over the fact that he is a very different kid from his brother. Many of the parenting skills I have are for a different type of kid. I guess I need new skills. As for the working part, I haven't figured that out either. I've equipped myself with the tools to produce a solid book proposal. I've skimmed the books, sloshed some ideas around my brain on what some sections might actually say when I get time to start typing up the proposal.

Maybe my goals and deadlines are too optimistic. Maybe I'm setting myself up to fail. Basically, I need to stop comparing myself to other people, all those people who are my age who have already published a book. Those people who are so perky and organized. And successful. I'll get there. I guess I need to remind myself that it's been a tough year.

Monday, July 02, 2007

No iPhone

There is no doubt that the iPhone is very cool. But really, why do I need one? Why does Father in Chief need one? He has a cell phone that works perfectly well. He has a computer at home and two at work which all offer excellent Internet capabilities, so when else will he really need Internet access? Sure the iPhone has maps, but so do those computers with Internet access. And so does his Prius with the navigation system. If we are ever out somewhere and we don't have the nav system and we are in need of directions, I'll volunteer to ask someone. What about photos of the boys? Available on those computers again. And on our television. And round the house and on his desk at work. I'll bet there are even some in his wallet.

Father in Chief's argument was that everyone else is getting one. It reminded me of one of Preschooler in Chief's favorites whines these days: It's just not fair. And as with PIC, it is just not a compelling argument. He also said with much enthusiasm that could get email at the park. As soon as he uttered those words, he realized it was a mistake. That is an argument to never, ever get one, ever.

Any new gadgets that have the potential of cutting into family time or us time are not welcome in my home. FIC and I already have so little time together that we needed to schedule nightly meetings to make sure we are still communicating. And I'm pretty sure we need to start scheduling sex if we really want that to happen as well.

Part of my objection is that I don't want my kids to grow up in a world where our family gets rid of perfectly good stuff just because there is new stuff to buy and to have. Both FIC and I grew up in families where there wasn't a lot of frivolous spending. Going out to dinner was a special treat. Getting new clothes happened because our other clothing was too small, because they were totally worn out and no longer wearable, or because the neighbor's garage sale had a bunch of clothing that would fit my brother and me. Extras were few and far between. I feel fortunate that FIC is able to contemplate buying an iPhone without including the can we afford it question into the decision-making process. But just because we can doesn't mean we should.

I don't mean to squelch FIC's excitement for the iPhone. I'm sure some day FIC will have one. I'm sure some day I'll have one. But not now. Not when our perfectly good cell phones work. And we have perfectly acceptable digital cameras. And we have more Internet access than any family needs. Maybe, just maybe, I'd be on board if ongoing, quality childcare was included in the $600 price tag.

Deep down, FIC must agree with me. Or else he probably wouldn't have asked my opinion in the first place.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Let's be friends

After much skepticism, I finally joined Facebook. And I have to say I'm feeling a little vulnerable. I've been sending off requests to link up with people I used to work with that I haven't seen or talked with in years. The request says you want to connect to this friend or that friend, but what if they reject my request to be friends? What if they don't remember me?

(Oooh, I already have six friends)

And what does it mean once I have this big network of friends? Do I need to start booking my calendar with coffee dates to catch up? That seems exhausting. And I still don't have childcare (another story altogether), so I'm not sure what I'd do with the kids for all these possible networking dates.

(Now I have eight friends)

So far, no rejects. But perhaps a less offensive way to reject someone invitation is to simply ignore their request. Then you don't actually have to officially decline their request to be friends. Then you'll just wonder if some people ever got your request in the first place. I actually hesitated before sending some requests... Will he remember me? I don't think she ever knew my last name.

Still, I don't want to be rejected. No one wants to be person or online. So I think that's what I'll hope for. If you don't want to be my friend, then just ignore my request. Maybe I shouldn't take it all so personally.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

An hour at the spa.. I mean, doctor

Yesterday was one of those days. I was out of the house for a couple of hours for a long, boring drive to get an ultrasound on my leg. On the drive there, there was no running commentary about the other cars on the highway--the red BMW, the Black Volkswagen, the green Honda Pilot, the blue PT Cruiser, the car carrier filled with new cars, the stream roller. There were no demands for drinks or unneeded stops at the gas station for a potty break. I took the stairs (instead of the elevator with a stroller), flipped through a couple of magazines in the waiting room (instead of feeding snacks to Preschooler in Chief and nursing Baby in Chief), reclined with a book and then closed my eyes in the dimly lit exam room (instead of stressing out while trying to keep BIC quiet so that I could communicate with the doctor). I went to the cafe and had a snack (and I didn't even have to share it). Then I lounged for a few extra minutes in the courtyard and enjoyed the silence and the warm sun. It felt like I was in Calistoga for a glorious pick-me-up.

At what point did my life become so twisted that a doctor appointment without kids equals a luxurious outing?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I've run out of excuses--shit!

I'm about to venture out into the land of the living, the land of the working, the land of laptops and lattes. I hired childcare yesterday--just 10 hours a week--and while I'm totally excited, I'm a little worried about actually having the time to work. It's a lot of pressure. I know it doesn't make any sense. But recently, it's been so easy to not work because it's really impossible to work when you have a wee one pulling at the power cords under the desk and another one constantly demanding food and attention. But once the childcare starts, what excuse will I have?

I guess I have some fear and it is twofold--fear of failure (can I actually write a book?) and fear of rejection (will anyone want to publish my book?). I guess there are some other fears in there too... Am I organized enough to write a book? Am I organized enough to write the proposal? Will an agent want to represent me? I know I'm getting a little ahead of myself, and I will try to not let the potential downers thwart my enthusiasm for my project. There is much work to do. And with most of my writing, I will give a piece of myself away as I write and write and write. But saturating my work with myself does not necessarily equal success. I can still feel the rejection from my recent submission to from Brain, Child magazine, and it feels about as good as sunburn.

Regardless, I will push forward. I will persevere. I will feel good about working towards a goal that I believe in. And I'll try to remember that getting burned is something that happens sometimes when you venture out into the sun.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Moving mountains

Prayer does not move mountains. Prayer does not save lives. Prayer does not heal sick people.

A religious radio station overpowered my satellite radio for just a moment today while I was driving in my car with my kids. Just long enough for me to hear some loud, passionate preacher announce that. Was it a sign? No. It was static.

It is sort of ironic that I heard those few words on the radio today. Network Administrator Friend was here with her family over the long weekend. All five of them. It was her, her husband, and their three boys. She was telling me about a book that she just read called Letter to a Christian Nation. She told me that it is a book about responding to ridiculous religious people who want to convince you that prayer works, that religion is the way, that prayer can move mountains. And one example she shared with me was about how no amputee has ever had her prayer answered. No matter how much she prayed. No matter how many people pray for her. It just doesn't happen. Does that mean that God hates amputees? Does that mean she didn't pray enough? Or that enough people weren't praying?

And what about sick kids? What about Preschooler in Chief? What did he do to deserve his heart defect? People all around the country were praying for him? Even if Father in Chief and I aren't religious, PIC has a lot of religious people in his family praying to a God that can't or won't heal our boy--or thousands of others like him. It doesn't happen.

Prayer does not fix people. Prayer does not heal people. The only thing prayer does is help the people praying feel better. It is a way for helpless people to feel like they are doing something. Prayer does not move mountains. And it makes me angry to have people out there preaching that praying is going to do something or heal someone. If you pray hard enough, God will hear you. God will help you. Prayer will move mountains.

I don't thank God that my son is alive. I thank the doctors and scientists and technology and research. I thank the thousands of others who came before us, whose children died as the doctors were learning how to help kids like my kid live a little bit longer and a little bit better. I thank the people who donate their blood so that my kid could get transfusions, and plasma, and albumen. I thank the families who donate their dying kids' organs so that other sick kids might live. Those are the people that need thanking.

So if you really want to move a mountain, you better get to work and you better be ready to sweat. Because no amount of prayer is going to make it happen.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Too old for Abercrombie

I've been feeling a bit old lately because my nephew just turned 16. I was 16 when he was born. Or maybe I was 16 when his mom (who is a year younger than me) got pregnant. Maybe I was 17 when he was born. Either way, it was a long, long, long time ago. And I realized I'm 100 percent older than he is. And I don't feel that old. Although I have been having a clothing crisis lately. Am I too old to wear this? Can I really pull this off. I never used to wonder this. And now I do. And I used to get carded when I bought wine at the grocery store. Now I don't. If I do, it's a thrill.

Anyway, what to buy a 16 year old? I know what four-year-old boys like, but 16-year-old boys? Turns out that they like clothing from Abercrombie & Fitch. It's a store that I have not gone in since high school. And I'm not sure I went in to it back then either. Whenever I walk by the store in the mall, all I can think is that none of my friends in high school looked like the kids pictured in those larger-than-life black and white photos in the windows. But I pushed forward and got him one of the shirts I've seen him wear in a color I hoped he doesn't own already.

After that, I started feeling sort of blue. It all comes back to that age thing. So I decided the best way to get over this feeling was to go buy a couple of shirts from Abercrombie & Fitch for myself. If this is what the kids are wearing, then I will wear it too. And I will look good. And I will feel young. Because I'm still youngish. When I got home the only thing I felt was lame. I have tried those two tops on in front of my own mirror and they don't look nearly as nice as they did in the store dressing room (does anything ever?).

Those shirts will go back to the store. And I'll just have to come up with other ways to feel young.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Better to have loved and lost

I've been trying not to think about it much. Even so, it's difficult to not think about the possibilities of success. It's difficult to not think about the disappointment of failure. And 10 weeks is a long time to have to wait for an answer.

While Preschooler in Chief was in the hospital, I wrote a 4,000-word essay and submitted it to Brain, Child magazine. It had nothing to do with hospitals. It had nothing to do with sick children. It had nothing to do with surgeries or doctors or transfusions or heart transplants. It was like water for my mind during a horrible drought of normalcy. It was an escape from those white walls, those never-ending alarms beeping, the sound of other children crying, the sound of my own child crying, the sound of me crying.

Writing an article for Brain, Child was one of my 2007 goals. Actually, writing the essay was not the goal. Getting an essay accepted for eventual publication was the goal. And I found that writing was such a wonderful escape. It was so gratifying to open that laptop and be taken away from that hospital room for an hour as I dove into my past and really thought about my life growing up the daughter of a belly dancer. What did it all mean? Did it affect my childhood? Did it affect how I see myself as a woman? As a person? If so, how? How did her dancing affect our mother-daughter relationship? And ultimately, what does it mean for my children?

Thinking about my carefree childhood was an escape. It filled me up in a way that the ultimate dessert could satisfy a desperate sweet tooth. It was just what I needed. It was available whenever I needed it. For all intents and purposes, my childhood was simple and wonderful. And thinking about it, writing about it was totally satiating. Because simple and wonderful was not really in great supply during that long hospitalization. Simple and wonderful are not words we use to talk about the hospital.

Anyway, I heard from the editor today that they decided to give my essay a pass. She told me that the magazine receives upwards of 750 submissions for every issue they publish--and they only publish quarterly. Fortunately I really wrote the piece for me. Still, even with all the personal gratification, it is disappointing to be rejected. That said, I'm not just going to let it go--my essay or my goal. It just means I have a bit more work to do. Phooey.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Inappropriately goofy

Between people accidentally farting while stretching or snoring during meditation, I have a really hard time not snickering during yoga. Don't get me wrong, I'm probably hooked for life. But am I the only one who thinks it is funny? It is impossible to take it all so seriously. I am thankful that our eyes are closed during much of this because I have such a hard time keeping a straight face. Thankfully no one has asked me to leave for being goofy. And for now, I'm grateful that I have not had any farting incidents (I'll fess up if I do). A girlfriend told me after my first day of yoga that all that stretching just loosens everything up. Still, I'm going to work extra hard to make sure my intestinal track doesn't fail me in public. Perhaps hanging around with three- and four-year-olds is the reason I find farting in public funny.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Forget the kids--celebrate you

The best way to celebrate Mother's Day is stop feeling like a mom and feel more like a woman, a person! Father in Chief and I had a little date last night. We booked a sitter went out for a drink and some dessert. Well, all I needed to do was to shed my nursing bra for a black lacy bra and matching undies to realize that I am indeed still a woman, even if most days, I'm a lactating, comfy-pants wearing mother.

I really recommend it. It was quite liberating, even if it was short-lived.

And I even celebrated part of today with my kids. But only because my original plan to go to yoga and have a massage was thwarted because I cut my finger Friday night trying to wedge two hunks of frozen baby food apart (now there's a argument for buying the pre-made stuff that comes in jars). Anyway, the knife incident led to a dreadful four-and-a-half hour stay in the emergency room. As as result, my hands were rendered useless for yoga (and typing up until today). I suppose hanging out with the family wasn't all bad. There was breakfast and a lovely picnic in the park. Still, I'm going to reschedule my massage for later this week and hopefully I'll be back to my alternate nostril breathing by next weekend.

In the meantime, I think I'll be sporting my sassy, lacy bra at least once a week to remind myself that under the spit-up and crusty goop, I'm still an attractive female who does own (and occasionally wears) sexy lingerie. Alternatively, I could wear it for a couple of hours each day. Perhaps as soon as the kids go to bed, I'll go up and change into it. And then maybe, just maybe, there will be another reminder that I am indeed an enticing woman. Now if only there was a wardrobe change that was a quick fix for exhaustion.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

What does this say about our relationship?

My kids leave a trail of mess the way a slug leaves a trail of slime. I'm not saying it's good or bad. It just is. We're working on getting Preschooler in Chief to clean up one activity before moving on to the next, but strict supervision is involved. And with a wiggly baby in tow, I can't be watching every enthusiastic venture PIC makes into the toy cupboard.

So there's mess. There's clutter. There are crumbs. Mix in the fact that my house accumulated an abnormal amount of clutter, junk mail, and mess while PIC was in the hospital. For two months, I was at the house at night to sleep, to eat a late dinner before bed and an early breakfast before heading back to the hospital. I hadn't done much cleaning. I hadn't done much cooking. Kind and generous friends filled my belly with food--and as a result--my kitchen with plastic containers.

Little did I know, all I needed to get things back in shape was the anticipation of a non-family member or close friend to stir my drive to organize. And this past week it was the pending visit by Aspiring Writer Friend. I was driven. Driven to clean. Driven to purge extras. Driven to get my house back where it belongs. Drawers were emptied and organized. Counters were shined to a sparkling glow. Toys were sorted and stacked in bins. Clothing was washed and folded. Dishes were done. Appliances were organized and tucked into cupboards. Apparently, the messier my house is when you come to visit, the better friends we are--and vice versa. I suppose part of my drive was just to prove to myself that despite what my family has been through, I really do have it together. Look at me in my clean house thriving, living, smiling, surviving. I even managed to get both kids to nap at the same time! I'm practically Wonder Woman.

I look forward to the day when AWF and I are close enough that the mess will be left, not because I enjoy living in disarray. But, rather, AWF is a super cool chick and it will mean that our relationship has been elevated to a to a new level of friendship that comes complete with toys strewn in every room, baskets flowing out of the laundry room, and dried up goop on the countertop. But I suppose the downside is that I will lose some of my motivation to clean. That is until I need to prove to myself that I'm still holding it all together.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Don't ever, ever tell me that!

Boy, you look tired.

Gee, that's just what every woman wants to hear. I think that might be up there with, You know, your ass really looks big in those jeans. Anyway, as hard as it is to believe, those words are being uttered out of perfectly well-meaning people. I have been told this hideous fact three or four times in the past couple of weeks. Even if it is true (and I'm sure it is), why, why, why would you ever think that is something that a person wants to hear...ever? It's not! So don't say it, okay?

I try to imagine the real reason some normally kind people would want to share this information with me. I know my family has been through some horrific and stressful weeks and perhaps these people are trying to relay that they understand that these long hospitalizations and surgeries have taken not just an emotional toll on me, but also a real physical toll as well. They most certainly have. There must be some way to say essentially the same thing without making me feel like shit.

How about: I'll bet these long hospitalizations have taken a real toll on you emotionally and physically. Try to rest and take care of yourself too.

Now was that so hard?

Because let's face it. Nothing good comes out of hearing that you look terrible. I know I look terrible. I know that have dark circles that look like I forgot that eye shadow goes over the eye and not under the eye. And sadly, unlike the big ass comment where I might be able to remedy the situation with a change of pants, I can't erase the exhaustion. It's not like you just told me I have some broccoli stuck between my teeth and I can discreetly remove it. Those circles are there. They are going to be there. I know they are there. Now all you've done is remind me that you and everyone else knows they are there too. Can't we just pretend they aren't?

I know I yawn a lot. I know I'm forgetful. I know I'm over sensitive and emotional (just ask Father in Chief.) I know I'm totally exhausted. I know that I'm not very good at returning all of my email or telephone calls right now. Finally, I know that I'm not looking so good. And now all you've done is just confirm that it's not all in my head.

Monday, April 30, 2007

What do you still wear from 1994?

That is an easy question with an easy answer: nothing. I know that I still have a few items from the 1990s, but I can't seem to think of any that I actually wear regularly. Styles have changed. My taste has changed. My body has changed. My wardrobe has most certainly changed as well.

I'm thinking about this because a video clip was forwarded to me from Father in Chief today. This video clip was part of a documentary about the early days of the Excite team (he's been working with some of those guys for the past couple of years), and it included some fun (and dated) images of those good people. The kicker is that one of the guys was wearing the exact same shirt at work today that he was wearing in the video more than a decade ago.

I couldn't help but wonder if he was like that woman from Seinfeld who had an endless supply of the same dress. But even if he did have an endless supply, why that shirt? And what a coincidence to be wearing the same shirt on the same day that this video was passed around.

Seriously, I can't think of a single item that I still own, that I still wear, from 1994. Some contenders:

A college sweatshirt (circa 1991)
I own it (I think), but I don't wear it. If it is still on the high shelf in my closet, that soft gray Northeastern University sweatshirt hasn't seen the sun since it came off the shelf of my old closet and was packed in a box to be moved to the top shelf of my new closet four years ago.

My wedding dress (circa 1998)
I still own it, but I definitely don't wear it. I guess I still have it somewhere, but I'm not sure where. It might be at my mom's house, so I'm not sure that actually counts. It's probably packed up in some silly cardboard box waiting for the daughter I never had to open it and want to wear it on her wedding day.

A winter coat (circa 199?)
Even though I've lived in the Bay Area for 11 years, I can't seem to bring myself to get rid of all those unused winter coats. There must be two or three of them slowly deteriorating in the cedar closet in the garage. That last time I needed a warm, wintry coat, I borrowed one. It was faux shearling.

Burgundy, clunky-heeled dance shoes (circa 1993)
For full disclosure purposes, I don't think I've worn them in a year since I bought my all-time favorite dance shoes at the local thrift store for $6. But I still own those burgundy shoes and I do put them on occasionally when I'm getting ready to go out. Lately, though, they do lose out to my Steve Madden bargain. I guess the difference is that I still like them and probably will wear them again.

I guess I'm not that surprised that the single remaining item from the 1990s that I actually use occasionally is dance related. On the flip side, I cannot think of a single item that I wish I'd kept.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

We need your help

Two heart operations and seven-and-a-half weeks later, Preschooler in Chief is home from the hospital. If you are able to, please donate blood this week to help us replenish the blood supply. Then please post here that you were able to help out, so that we can add up all the blood that was donated across the country in honor of our little guy.


Friday, April 20, 2007

A weird thing that happened during yoga

I need to premise this entry with the fact that I am indeed not a seasoned yoga practitioner, so perhaps for all you seasoned practioners, you won't find this strange: Alternate nostril breathing

The name of this alone makes me want to crack up. It is the practice of using your fingers to press one of your nostrils closed while you breathe through the other, open nostril. After you close one of your nostrils, you are supposed to take a deep cleansing breath. Then you switch sides to breathe through the other nostril. I imagine if you use the incorrect fingers, then the believed healing benefits are thwarted. Our class was instructed to keep our eyes closed. That means this chick in the picture here is probably doing it wrong because her eyes are open. Then again, we were probably told that because no one would be able to keep a straight face if we had to see ourselves doing this in the mirror. Anyway, this technique is supposed to relax me, but it makes me want to laugh at its absurdity. I honestly thought the instructor was joking the first time I heard her instruct us to do this.

I find this especially silly since I can only ever breathe through one of my nostrils in the first place. So if I try to block the open nostril and breathe through the blocked one, I'll probably end up spewing snot onto my yoga mat. So I usually just sit still with my eyes closed and ignore this part of class as I think about the chocolate croissant I'm going to eat when I get out of there.

Then after this exercise was done, we moved on to a breathing technique that was supposed to shoot oxygen up to my brain. The last time I checked, however, regardless of how I suck the air in, it still has to go through my lungs and into my bloodstream before any oxygen gets to my brain. But maybe that's just because I'm doing it wrong.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Crappy Birthday to you

Four years ago my life changed forever. It wasn't the joyful birth of my first baby. It was the horrifying news that came with him--that he was born with severe heart defects that would lead to a life of heart surgeries, extended hospital stays, multiple daily doses of a variety of foul-tasting medicines, and little-to-nothing that resembles a normal childhood. Sure we've had laughs and healthier times, but those seem to be sprinkled between the uncertainty and painful medical dramas.

This is the second year in a row that Preschooler in Chief has spent his birthday in the hospital following a heart operation. He's had five surgeries so far, two in the past two weeks. Yesterday's surgery was #5... 13 days ago was surgery #4. And we've reverted PIC back to the circulation he had after surgery #2. So basically, the last three surgeries, seven heart catheterizaitons, 193 x-rays and 68 days in the hospital (and counting) were all for nothing. It's so disheartening.

Anyway, we decided not to even mention that it's his birthday, and we've made that clear to the staff as well. No birthday talk allowed. You could argue that since he is alive, it is a reason to be happy on his birthday. And I'm so grateful that he is alive, but no kid should have to suffer the way he has suffered. There's nothing happy about that.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Back in the hospital

Just an update to let you know that R has been admitted to UCSF. We will be providing updates on his condition on R's blog here.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Floundering, feeling discouraged

I'm not sure if Preschooler in Chief's health problems have been the catalyst to my stagnation or if they just exacerbated the problem. But whatever the cause, there has been an abrupt halt to my enthusiasm. I just feel discouraged, derailed, disappointed in myself.

I was so excited for my book project, but scrounging up the energy lately has been almost as impossible as getting both of my kids to nap at the same time. It does happen occasionally, but because it is so rare, I usually squander the moment on something else, like a much-needed shower or an opportunity to whip up a batch of baby food. I shouldn't say was. I am excited, but it seems that the universe is working against me.

Sickness after sickness. Eye infection after eye infection. Vomiting at the grocery store. Another week off from preschool (why are the schools closed so frequently??!!). My sitter canceling--yet again.

It is just so hard to muster the enthusiasm when all I'm aching for is a good night's rest. No coughing. No post-nasal drip. Just good, restful sleep. Puleese!! Maybe then, when the basics are covered, I will feel enthusiastic for my book project. For now, I'm just trying to survive the week, the day, the next five minutes.