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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.