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Thursday, December 18, 2008


C is no longer welcome at his preschool. I just found out Wednesday, and I was initially feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. I was told that he continues to hurt other kids and can be disruptive during nap time.

I knew that there were having trouble with him occasionally. I knew that he had hit another child with a toy, and I knew that he did not nap one day and some of the other kids started to emulate him. But I didn't know that it had gotten to a point where they didn't want him at the school. His problems seem like typical behaviors for two year olds. After a few hours of reflection, my initial feelings faded, and I decided that they are just old (the couple that runs the school is in their mid- to late-60s) and they don't want any kids that aren't super mellow. R would have been the perfect preschooler for this hippy school with the chicken coop, bird aviary, and organic vegetable garden. I used to hear that he was "such a delight." Turns out they were talking about R -- R would join his brother at the preschool a couple of days a week after kindergarten.

C was welcome to stay though the end of the month, since we had already paid for those days, but I decided that yesterday would be his last day. If they don't want him there, then I certainly don't want him to be there. Fortunately they refunded my money for the remaining days. With Christmas just days away, I'm sure I'll find another way to spend that $240. Oh wait, I already spent it.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Michelle Obama's disservice

You're dammed if you do. You're dammed if you don't. Especially if you're Michelle Obama.

If Michelle Obama had said that she was going to get a high-powered job in Washington, she'd be getting a bunch of slack from the at-home mom consortium about how she was neglecting her children through a difficult transition from Chicago to the White House. But because she said that she was going to be the "mother in chief," she is getting slack because she is sending the message "that high-level paid work and motherhood don't mix, or that women need to be the ones to step down to care for family," according to Maggie Jackson's November 30 column in the Boston Globe.


Can't people just do what they want to do? If she wants to be home to help her young girls through the transition, then she should be able to make that choice in peace. If she wants to eventually go back to work, then she should also be able to make decision in peace. Jackson wrote that, "Obama's controversial message deserves some dissecting, for it's one that our daughters and sons are hearing, too." Yes, I know that she's a public figure and every choice she makes as a woman or parent or wife will be dissected and analyzed until the original goal and her original intention is no longer recognizable. But, I suspect -- and maybe I'm going out on a limb here -- that she is just trying to make the right choice for herself and her marriage and her kids. Period. I doubt there is any hidden message or agenda. I doubt she is speaking for all women or all parents or all wives or all mothers. Jackson wrote: "To hear her try to distance herself now from that role (as a highly successful working mother) does a disservice to our children - and to our country."

Does it really have to mean that much to so many people? Can't it just be about a woman and her family? Does her choice really have to be the reflection of where women are in the world or the workforce or whether they are trapped under a glass ceiling or whether they are oppressed by their husbands or whether they are ambitious enough or if they are sending the right message to our sons and daughters?

And is she really doing a disservice? I'm sure her kids don't see it as a disservice. I'm sure her husband does not see it as a disservice. I'm sure he's grateful that she is willing to sacrifice her own career for a little while to be with their kids. He is going to be pretty darn busy in his new job and I'm sure he's grateful that his children will have some normalcy in their newly-chaotic and very public lives. Does her choice have to be a bad thing? Is is wrong for our sons and daughters see an educated women want to be with her kids for a period of time? If so, then many of the women I know are also sending the wrong message to their own sons and daughters and to their communities. I'm surrounded by highly educated women with all kinds of degrees who are at home with their kids. I'm also surrounded by women who work hard and have their kids in daycare.

It seems to me that this article is just trying to ignite the war (once again) between working parents and non-working parents. Her husband was just elected to be President of the God-Damned United States of America for Christ's sake. It seems to me that Jackson is just trying pick open a scab to get the bleeding to start again. Why are we trying to say that one choice is better than another choice? This old war between working parents and non-working parents is nothing but a reason to argue. One is not better than the other. I think we should focus on more important things, like the fact that our county is going to be a better place simply because Barack and Michelle Obama are in the White House, regardless of whether Michelle is in a playroom with her girls or in a conference room with her colleagues.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sour grapes, perhaps?

I think I'm going about this book-writing thing all wrong. I should have just latched onto a comment made by the First-Lady-to-be and decided to write a book. Why do soul-searching and a gut-wrenching examination of my personal experience with a critically-ill son who has spent months in the hospital when all I really needed was a catch phrase to latch onto. I needed the domain-name gods to align and be in the right place at the right time.

What am I referring to? Why Michelle Obama's self-proclamation of "Mom in Chief." I love that she used that expression. I'll chalk that coincidence up to great minds thinking alike. But if only I had been smart enough to also register in addition to back in January 2005 when this site took life. Well, now there is another Mom in Chief, in addition to Michelle Obama and me. There is blogger with that domain name and a book deal to match. Her book is set to come out in February 2009. Her blog miraculous sprung to life the day after Michelle first used those words in August 2008. I'm sure this other MIC is a perfectly fine writer with a perfectly nice book, and fantastic connections (apparently) in the publishing industry. Do I sound bitter?

I suppose I wouldn't be filled with disdain for her if I was having a smoother transition from writer to author. I just don't understand how you go from concept to published book in six months flat. If I did, my book would have hit the market 18 months ago. In the meantime, I'm still working, still researching agents, still feeling optimistic, although ever-so-slightly annoyed. I am still confident, however, that my project will eventually reach the people who need it. At least I wasn't planning on calling my book Mother in Chief. At least my book isn't about balancing a career with parenthood. Then I'd probably be really, really annoyed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Shock and awe

Revelations come on the way earthquakes hit—there is no warning. And only afterward can we look back and be amazed at the magnitude of what has happened.

Sure Kindergartener has been sick frequently, but he isn’t in the hospital. Preschooler has adjusted to his new school and is no longer at risk for being kicked out for bad behavior. I’m deciding which graduate programs to apply to. While I haven’t landed an agent or a publishing contract, I’m confident that I will accomplish those things. It is just a matter of determination and time. I’m working on a project with a non-profit to improve California’s healthcare system. I’ve been traveling and enjoying my own company and the company of friends I don’t see frequently. I’m planning a trip to break in my new passport.

And despite all that stuff I’m doing for me, I’m still a parent. I’m still a caretaker. And it just dawned on me ... I think I found it—balance. Balance. I feel whole again. I feel like I’ve woken up from a deep and lonely sleep. I’ve put myself on the priority list again because I count. I matter. I have dug my way out of the rubble.

All I needed, apparently, was to do more things for me. And in order to do that, I needed to let go. I needed to come to the conclusion that my kids are going to be just fine, even if they aren't with me all of the time. Hired help may not have the same motivation as grandparents, but they can still love my kids, teach them things, and be a positive influence on their development. Since family isn’t down the street or around the corner, that is all I have.

This thing called balance is delicate and elusive—it’s taken me almost six years to find it—so I intend to treat it with the respect it deserves, in an attempt to not fall off kilter again.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rejection made easy

I find humor in the self-addressed stamped envelopes that I include with all of my query letters to literary agents sent via the post office. Along with my titillating one-page query outlining my book, my qualifications, and all the other goodies I spent more than a year writing, I include this pre-stamped envelope. This envelope is included with my query for the sole purpose of rejecting my query. It just all seems very negative.

I suppose I have the option of not including the SASE. From my point of view, it would elevate the positive nature of my query because it wouldn't be weighed down by that rejection envelope. But, if I did that, then those literary agencies not interested in my book proposal wouldn't even make the effort to properly reject me (but then I would have had nothing to dance on either). I realize that most of these agencies get hundreds or thousands of query letters like mine -- well not exactly like mine -- every single month. And I should feel grateful that they take the effort to dignify my query with a somewhat dignified form letter. I guess I'd rather have that form letter than the total silence I've also gotten from some agencies. Those agencies that chose NOT to reply also received a SASE. And what did they do with my SASE? Did they steam off the stamp and use if for something else? Or did they just toss it -- stamp and all -- into the recycle bin? It all seems very wasteful. That is why I love the agencies that use phrases on their submission guidelines that go something like this: "We accept queries by regular mail and through email, but prefer email (saves trees!)."

And email submission are very gratifying. I press send and it's instantly waiting to be read. Not to mention, accepting email queries lets me know that their agency is firmly rooted somewhere in the 21st Century. The post office isn't completely antiquated just yet. Although with online bill pay, and email with Auntie, and videoconferencing with Grammy, and iTunes, I don't really need the post office all that much. Oh, except for delivering my packages from eBay and That I could not do without.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A whole new elevation

It's all about attitude. If you feel confident, you look confident. If you look confident, you feel confident. If you're dressed for the job you want, you're more likely to get it. Or so the saying goes.

All I was doing was going out to run a couple of errands, but as I was getting ready to leave the house, I skipped over the comfortable and sensible shoes and slipped into some sassy heels. And as soon as my foot was inside the shoe, it was as if their powers equaled those contained in Spiderman's seductive black suit.

I was a new woman, not just a mom heading out to get stuff done. I felt fabulous and it showed. As I walked through the parking lot at one of the stores, a man walking near me noticed the click of my heels on the pavement and said, "You can't sneak past anyone in those. It's the sound of confidence."

I couldn't have agreed more.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The opposite of mysterious

I'm not as mysterious as I think I am.

Another rewarding Thursday night out with friends was coming to an end as I started chatting with one of the regular bartenders. Only instead of mixing drinks that night, he was on the other side of the bar enjoying a drink of his own. We've exchanged pleasantries over the past couple of months and he remembered my name that night. "Hello Suzanne. Did you have a good time tonight?" I said yes. He asked if I also go out on Fridays and Saturdays. I said no. "So you are married, then?" It was more a statement than a question. Without hesitation, his follow-up question: "And how many kids do you have?" I said two. Then he asked if I had to work in the morning. I said yes, as soon as my kids get up. "So you're a housewife." I cringed at the use of that word.

I'd like to think I'm so much more. But I'm not. I like to come up with fancy ways to explain what it is that I do: chief operating office of my household; executive chef; activities and social coordinator; art director; personal shopper. Oh yes, and aspiring author.

But really, I'm a housewife. I told him that he really isn't allowed to say that. No one wants to be called a housewife. He just smiled his Irish smile and said that his mom is a housewife too. Then, just as the lights were coming on and the bar was emptying out, he invited me to an after party at his house. I declined and slinked away with my housewifery label burned across my forehead. I couldn't believe he had me all figured out in five seconds flat.

I'm not as mysterious as I think I am.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

You want a piece of me?

I found them today. They have been neatly stacked just three feet from my keyboard for months. They were on top of my book proposal and it was time for them to go. I scattered them on the floor, put on some of my favorite dancing shoes, and jumped on them while music played loudly until I felt that their negativity was completely gone. The hold they had over me has been replaced with the joy that I get from dancing around my office. So there!

Why was I saving all of those initial rejection letters from literary agents? What was I saving them for exactly? To make myself feel rejected? Was I going to frame them? Where they supposed to motivate me to work harder? Because they certainly haven't motivated me at all. They sucked the wind out of my enthusiasm for writing. They drained my drive. They fizzled my fire. Just because those 20 people didn't want my book project does not mean that I'm not going to succeed. It just means that those particular agents were not for me.

Being rejected is just part of the game. Those letters weren't the first rejection in my life (that started in junior high school), and they won't be the last. They were just part of the process. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Not sure what I'll do with them once I pick them up. I might file them away so that when my book is published and I'm hugely successful, I can go back and read them and laugh about how crappy they made me feel. But I'm already feeling better now they have been stepped on. I've taken back my enthusiasm. I've taken back my drive. Sometimes it's hard to remember that I am in control of my destiny. Not some agent. Not some rejection letter. Not a stack of dirty laundry. Not a sink full of dishes. Whether or not I success is up to me. No one else can do that for me. And I'm not ready to give up.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's good to be wanted

I have not done anything concrete that can be added to my resume since I was working as the official mom blogger for Oprah two-and-a-half years ago. I'm not saying that I haven't been working. To the contrary. But parenting two kids and writing a 24,000-word, 56-page book proposal isn't something resume-worthy--at least to my knowledge.

So since I have no actual job and nothing of note to keep that resume-thingy fresh, I've decided to start volunteering for the Taproot Foundation. A couple of weeks ago, I went to an orientation to find out more about how Taproot works and how I can contribute. During the two-hour meeting, I definitely felt a little out of place. Most of the people in that room were consultants and project managers and accountants and web designers. Then there was me--the writer. Just when I felt like slinking out of the room with my typing skills tucked between my legs, the orientation leader said something that made me want to show off my calloused finger tips. He said that for every two people in that meeting, there were two other people who wanted to be a part of Taproot. They were turned down because they didn't have the right skills. So they actually wanted me to be there. It wasn't just a one-sided desire on my part to be a do-gooder.

Being a good writer is a skill. Not everyone can do it, even if anyone who wants a platform can have one on the Internet. Sometimes it's just hard to remember that even though I'm not currently getting paid for my skills, they still exist. And they are worthy. Someday soon I hope to figure out how to merge one with the other.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Profound Love Found: Do you like me?

The following note is from a box of love notes recently found in my mother's attic from junior and senior high school. Sadly, they are not dated. I'll be posting them here from time to time as I stroll down memory lane. I will include all typos and grammatical errors.

Hi How's life? Fine here. Do you still like Joe? Did you tell him that you don't like him? Do you like me? Will you go out with me? I like you. Do you like anyone else? If you still like Joe you can go out with him again. I used to like Kelly but she likes Angelo L.

Gotta Go

Your (Boy)friend,

p.s. w/b/s
p.s.s tell me all answers in Spanish

Which is true?
Suzanne -n- Joe
TLF Suzanne -n- Angelo

Love: 1
Heartbreak: 1

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The tears finally came

The first week of kindergarten came to an end and my tears finally flowed. And it wasn't in any way I could have anticipated. It has nothing to do with R growing up. It has nothing to do with letting my first born out of my sight. It has nothing to do with an inability to let go.

We were enjoying the summer concert series in our local park. The weather was perfect. The park was packed, and the area in front of the stage was filled with kids dancing around, jumping, and riding their bikes. Two girls came up to R while we swayed to the music. His face lit up as soon as he recognized them from school. He was making friends and was so proud to tell me that they were in his class.

The blonde girl with curls leaned over and touched R's shoulder and said playfully, "chase me Riley." With that command, she and the other schoolmate ran off as fast as two healthy five year olds run. R smiled a goofy smile and started out after them. Only his body wouldn't cooperate. He trotted awkwardly. He wanted desperately to run after them. To chase them. To catch them and continue the game. His face was full of frustration and there was nothing I could do to help him make his body move faster. To be more agile. To be more energetic. To be more normal. To be healthy.

That is when the tears came. They stung my cheeks. They stung my heart.

I desperately wanted to scoop him up and tell him everything was going to be okay. But all I could do was watch him struggle and curse the rotten heart he was born with. I ached in a helpless way I haven't felt since he was in the hospital and consumed with pain after one of his surgeries. Only at the park, there was no fentenol or morphine to remedy the situation. After a minute of trying to catch them, he stopped with exhaustion and sat down on the pavement. That is when I went to him. With exasperation in his voice, he said: "I just can't go anymore."

His words reminded me of how I have felt many times during this journey. There have been many times when I felt I couldn't go anymore. But somehow, I just kept going. I kept finding a way to get out of bed. I kept finding a way to drive myself to and from the hospital. And I continue to find ways to get past all the what-ifs and I try to not think too much about what is to come. I just keep going. As we sat on the ground, I hugged him. And then I said that when he was ready, he could get up and try again--if he wanted to.

On second thought, maybe my tears at the park were about R growing up and my inability to let go. I'm so afraid of the struggles he will face. The physical challenges. The teasing. His frustrations. I can't help but worry about how the world will treat him. But while I'm affected by all the experiences he will have as a result of his health problems, this is his journey. And being different and slower and more tired is a reality for him. I cannot protect him. I cannot shelter him. Nor can I filter the feelings that go along with all of that.

School starts a new phase for him academically and physically. It is certainly something I had anticipated. But it was only all in theory, sort of the way you imagine what it will be like having a newborn. But until you're in it, you don't really know. And like having a newborn, it's going to be harder than I imagined.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The things I cannot do

I missed the first PTA meeting. I missed Back to School Night. I missed the ice cream social. And I think it's all been logged into my permanent file.

It's one week in and I feel as if I've already been judged. And not in a your-such-a-great-parent way. No, this is about me not being like all those other well-groomed parents wearing sweater sets and wiping away tears as their kids walk into the classroom without looking back for one last reassuring smile. I'm not like those parents asking how they can help out and when they can start volunteering as the classroom parent. That would not describe me at all.

I would fall on the other side of the bell curve. I'm happy to only have one kid to take care of for five hours, five days a week now that R is in kindergarten. As a result, I'm just not able to jump enthusiastically into a new role as a school-helper-volunteer filled with responsibilities and expectations when what I really need--at least for a couple of weeks--is a respite. I need just a little bit of time to breathe after being the primary caretaker of two kids for five years.

I'm sure I'm approaching this whole education thing from the wrong point of view. And the wrong point of view--just to be clear--would be my point of view. My point of view that sees elementary school as a government-funded childcare center. One that provides a well-rounded curriculum without depleting my bank account. So I'm happy to have a break five days a week. I'm happy to not be paying several hundred dollars a month for preschool.

Yes, the more appropriate point of view would be the teacher's point of view and the school system's point of view. R doesn't really care that I'm not volunteering in his class or helping out with "arts in action." But from the school's point of view, where they are experiencing a budget shortfall and are at risk for losing art and music and physical education programs, they cannot wait for me to take a breather. They need me to offer up my energy and my time and my enthusiasm.

But it isn't going to happen today. In the meantime, I'll avoid one-on-one chats with R's teacher. I'll avoid the parents chattering over who's volunteering for what committee. Perhaps I'll look into filling other needs, like the request on the wall for antibacterial soap for the classroom. That I can handle.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The big K

Many of the women I know have kids starting kindergarten next week. It seems that most of them are feeling quite sad about this milestone because it officially means that their babies are growing up. But just as I was not sad when my kid started preschool, I'm not the tiniest bit sad about kindergarten.

Yes, I'm looking forward to a five-day-a-week break, but mostly I think I'm excited about school--and not sad--because I wasn't sure if my kid would ever make it to kindergarten. He isn't in the hospital. He can walk and talk. He can do math and read. And as of today, he can ride a bike without training wheels. Sure he gets tired more easily than other kids, but for the most part, he will blend right in. For me, it's a relief. We made it this far.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Profound Love Found: Bad news and good news

I recently found a box of love notes in my mother's attic that I saved from junior high school and high school. They are jewels from my past. I love that many of them are folded in the proper way that notes should be folded before being shoved into the slots of a metal locker. Kids today have texting. They have MySpace. They have the instant messaging. But there is no paper trail. There is nothing to happen upon 15 or 20 years later. I will be posting these notes here from time to time. I will even include the typos. Without further adieu:

Dear Suzanne,

How are you? I'm fine. I have some bad news and some good news. I now you like me alot - But I do not like you as much as you like me. You are very nice and pretty but I just do not want to go out with you. I wrote this note not to be mean or anything. I just wrote it to tell you that I do not like you. First maybe we should get to know me and get to know you before I ask you to go out with me or if you ask me. I am trying not to hurt your feelings but maybe later in the year I will no more about you. I hope we will be really really really really good good friends. I do not no what to say because I think I tolled you what I had to say. I now you are going to ask me why I do not want to go out with you.

Your Good Good Good Friend Greg S...
P.S. I am sorry

Greg and I did not become "really really really good good friends." If anything, after this rejection letter, I'm sure I avoided him at all costs.

Love: 0
Heartbreak: 1

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Google childcare gaffe

Given that my husband works at Google, I have been sitting on the New York Times piece from July 5, called, On Day Care, Google Makes a Rare fumble. My mind has been stewing over how even fewer employees will have access to the new in-house childcare and how only the richest of the rich will be able to afford to send their kids to the elite program which will cost upwards of $57,000 per year for two kids, according to the NY Times article.

When Father in Chief started at Google almost two years ago, I was excited to know that there was an in-house childcare program, even if it did have a long waiting list. If it was run by Google or even if it was Google-approved (as its program was), then it had to be worth waiting for. In the meantime, we searched out alternate programs run by the same company called Children's Creative Learning Center. Preschooler in Chief has been in the CCLC system for about a year and a half and we have been completely impressed with the teachers, the facilities, and the overall experience. It seems to be a top-notch program and we feel fortunate to have found it.

But now that Google is moving away from CCLC to its own privately run school following the "preschool philosophy called Reggio Emilia," according the article, I believe that Google has done a huge disservice to its employees. Moreover, it has done a huge disservice to Silicon Valley, and to corporate America in general. Why? Because at a time when every company wants to be more like Google, Google could have come up with a comprehensive plan that would have demonstrated that affordable, quality childcare can be provided to all employees. They could have done it. They could have shown the world that it was not only possible, but worth doing. It would have been the ultimate way to contribute to the greater good. To value all employees at all income levels.

Yes, the food perks are great. The bikes are great. The solar power is great. The cookies at 3pm are great. But more than all of that, employees need a safe place to put their kids during the day so that they can work.

No it isn't Google's responsibility to provide me or anyone else with solid, affordable childcare, but they could have done it. And that is what makes me the saddest. Because deep down I have always believed that Google really does care about its employees. It really does want to do the right thing. It really does want to set an example for the rest of the world that this is how things should be done and can be done. But I guess I've just been drinking too much of the organic, in-house cool-aide.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Attention ladies...

When you are on the dance floor, do not squat so that your booty is a few inches from the floor and then bounce up and down with your knees out in a 90-degree angle. You do not look like sexy kitten. You simply look like a frog. Not. A. Good. Look. I'm not against all squatting dance moves, just those reminiscent of Frogger.

And while we're on the topic, do not let your dance partner pick you up and carry you around while he bounces up and down. Horrifying.

Let's dance with a little dignity, people. Thank you for your attention in this important matter.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A little more for me

Perhaps sometimes you must crash into the rocks before you realize that you have been falling.

With small kids in the picture, it is easy to groove away from the lifestyle that includes spontaneous adventures, occasional pampering, lounging uninterrupted on the couch with a book, and extra longs weekend naps for grown-ups, and groove into one that fails to stop, reboot, and recharge.

That is exactly what had been happening to me. It happened in slow motion. That is why I didn't realize it was happening at all. That was, until the cold sharp corners of despair and uncertainty started to eat away at my stomach lining and made my brain race with the power of a centrifuge, whipping from one thought to the next. When I was no longer able to eat or sleep, then and only then did I start to acknowledging that something was wrong. What I have learned is that I have been sorely neglected.

Yes, yes, parenting involves lots of sacrifices. I know all about that.

But if I am not a healthy, thriving person, everyone loses. Therefore, in an attempt to salvage myself and my well-being, I'm starting off with the promise to do more stuff just for me. I'm hiring more babysitters, going on more adventures, and NOT apologizing for doing it. A recent example include a fabulous show at the Berkeley Theatre (which I'd never been to) to see Thievery Corporation (a band I'd never heard of). Tomorrow, I'm hiking over the Santa Cruz mountains to town of Capitola--just to see some live music near the beach and because I've never been there. I don't need a special occasion to enjoy these things. I was also inspired by some dancers in the Fourth of July parade, and I decided to sign myself up for some bellydance lessons. I used to love those classes, and I'm sure I'll love them again.

I deserve a lot from this life, much more than I've allowed myself to take. And there is no time like the present to start living more, enjoying more, and taking advantage of all the opportunities around me. As for my kids, they're going to be just fine. There are a lot of great people looking out for them and loving them. That includes me, but I don't have to bear the bulk of that responsibility all of the time.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

MIC's secret identity

To conquer the day, I decided to try and tap into some super human powers that just might be harnessed in the simple threads of thrift short tee shirt.

While I fully acknowledge that my attitude recently has been less than super, today I'm going the route of dressing for the job I want, not necessarily of the job I have. Or at the very least, I'm striving for the attitude I want.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Not sure which is worse

Is it worse to a) have the occasional poo left in your front lawn by an irresponsible dog owner, or b) have your yard fouled every single day with a picture of a dog pooing in your yard?

While I'm not sure I'll ever know the answer to the above question, I cannot help but wonder if the homeowner went out of her way to seek a sign like this to post in her yard, or if it was just a serendipitous find she just had to have.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A more accurate representation

It's a rare moment when everyone in my family is happy simultaneously. So it seemed a little off to flaunt that picture of me with two smiling babes at my side. As a result--in case you didn't notice--I swapped that photo out for something a little more realistic.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Open letter to "happydog"

Thanks for writing. I always appreciate insightful comments and criticisms from people who comment on my blog. The open communication is part of what makes blogging so enjoyable. It's the anonymous people who offer up criticisms that I find irritating.

I typically ignore people like you, but since you brought up some emotionally-charged fodder, I had to reply. So let me break things down:
  • Pity Party...
I'm entitled to a pity party anytime I like. That is one of my rights as the mom of two young kids, who--like most kids--have the ability to be naughty. Just today, for example, Preschooler in Chief thought it would be a good idea to saturate the family room with the hose. It was hot out, so I can see why he thought it might be a good idea to cool things down in the house. But in actuality, it was a bad idea. Soggy books, drenched toys, and a wet wool carpet contribute to the overwhelmed feelings that I wrote about Sunday, which in turn, prompted your comment.

It is my kids' jobs to push the envelope as they learn boundaries and figure out how they fit into our family and our society. And, yes, it my job to reel them in and help them understand right from wrong in a loving and supportive environment. I can love my kids and hate my kids at the same time. It's mommy multi-tasking. It's a complexity of the human condition. And, by the way, it's totally normal.
  • A Little Gratitude...
Your lame suggestion that perhaps I need a little gratitude shouts that you know nothing about me. While I am currently frustrated and tired with the mundane parts of parenting, I'm filled with gratitude. If you've read much of my blog you would have found countless posts that acknowledge my generous husband, our supportive family, and our network of amazing friends. You would have found posts that find humor in my kids' quirky behaviors. You would have found forgiveness and glimmers of goodness squeezed between hospitalizations and medical drama.
  • Thanking My Lucky Stars...
I, more than anyone, know all about my son's medical condition and how lucky and appreciative and thankful I am for the technology, the surgeons, the friends, family and medical staffers that have helped my family through hours, days, weeks, and months of being in the hospital and being surrounded by the possibility of death. I, more than anyone, know all about being grateful that my kid is alive. That my kid has been out of the hospital and has led a relatively healthy and normal life for more than a year. I, more than anyone, know that everything can change in a minute. I, more than anyone, know that there will be more hospitalizations. That there will be more surgeries.

Because you don't really know anything about me, you can't possibly know what I think or what I feel or how I struggle with the life I've been given. I don't have the luxury to know what it's like to raise two healthy kids. I don't have the luxury to be blissfully ignorant about the future. I have never known--not even for five minutes--what it is like to be a mother without thinking that my son is going to die. And don't think that I don't know how all that knowledge makes all my frustrations and guilt that much more complex.
  • Sad Medical Crisis'...
I specifically remember during one of PIC's hospitalizations that I was just constantly grateful that he was breathing, that his tiny body was still living, despite the massive trauma it had been though. I felt that way for several weeks after he was discharged too. And then one day, I got angry at him for something. I remember that moment as being profound because it meant that things were going back to normal. And that was a good thing.

Just because PIC has medical problems does not mean he gets a free pass. It does not mean that we'll never argue or disagree or that he'll never get on my nerves simply because I'm grateful he's alive. It doesn't work that way. I'm doing my best to treat him like a normal kid. To praise him no more and no less than a kid who has not had five heart operations. To punish him no more harshly or less harshly than his heart-healthy little brother. I'm doing my best to treat him as normally as possible. So that means I have the right to get annoyed with my kids and the mundane and repetitive part of parenting. It doesn't make me a bad person. It makes me human.

Finally, thanks to everyone who offered support and advice. It has been a rough couple of weeks, but I'm taking steps to get out of this slump.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I never thought I would be this person

I'm tired of making the same snacks.
I'm tired of wiping up the same spills.
I'm tired of hanging up the same clothes.
I'm tired of washing the same diapers.

I'm just tired.

I'm tired of the bickering.
I'm tired of tripping over the same toys.
I'm tired of brushing other people's teeth.
I'm tired of wiping other people's butts.

I probably should be fired.

I'm tired of the monotony.
I'm tired of the no-end-in-sight.
I'm tired of the screaming.
I'm tired of hating my kids.

Isn't nurturing supposed to be hard-wired?

I can't remember why I craved this role.
I can't remember why that other life took such a toll.
I can't remember the last time they made me smile.
I hate that this life, this choice does not seem worth while.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Creating drama

For the past five years, (medical) drama has become a normal part of everyday life. With Preschooler in Chief either heading into the hospital, having an extended stay at the hospital, or recovering from his many interventions, surgeries, or procedures, drama is just part of our normal lives.

When he was discharged last spring after an eight-week stay, we were convinced that he'd be back in there within a couple of months for additional time-buying surgeries to avoid the inevitable heart transplant. Only he got better. He recovered. He started growing. He started having energy and feeling good. So here we are almost 14 months without a hospitalization, without that normal drama. That is a record that we hope will get more impressive with each new week.

When Computer Security Friend was at our house for dinner last week, he said, "When you don't have drama in your life, you make your own drama." He was referring to some of the older women at his church who were in a tizzy because the pastor had some pregnancy photos done. And you could actually see the skin on her belly. And her husband was touching that unclothed skin. The horrors!

His comment got me thinking. Since I don't have PICs drama to occupy my thoughts, have I been summoning unnecessary drama into my otherwise peaceful life? I've been worrying about my age as the 35-year-old milestone approaches. Along with that, I've been worrying about the little lines around my eyes. I've been worrying about my sexuality. I've been worrying about the less-than-perky pieces of flesh that nourished two babies for almost three years. I've been worrying about my legs and the fact that they will never be flawless. They weren't when I was 12; they aren't now that I'm 34. In the meantime, I'm filling my calendar with doctor appointments as I cling to what I see as my fading youth, beauty, and sexuality. But that's just the little stuff.

I've been worrying about where I'll be 10 years from now. With two new rejections arriving over the weekend, I wonder if I'm going to find an agent. I've been worrying if my marriage is strong enough to make it through all of this worry and stress and drama and individual goals and aspirations that ultimately take us in different directions. I'm sure some of this is the fact that our 10-year wedding anniversary in approaching and I don't know many people who have had successful long-term marriages.

I've been so overwhelmed with these things that I worked myself up into having some kind of panic or anxiety attack a few days ago. Four pounds have been shed in two weeks. My resting heart rate was hovering around 125 beats per minute (normal is 60 to 80). My stomach was in knots. Eating was difficult. Sleeping was traded in for a reclined physical rest as my brain raced with all of my flaws, my failures, my unfulfilled aspirations.

Medications have been prescribed. Anxiety has been temporarily toned down. Is there such a things as a normal and balanced life? The more I look around, the more I'm convinced it does not exist. Everyone has some kind of drama--work drama, kid drama, health drama, marriage drama, family drama, fertility drama--nagging at them.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The lonely housewife

Gone are the days when my week revolved around playdates. Those breaks in the isolation of new motherhood. The isolation of being at home all the time instead of in an office surrounded by work, coworkers, and deadlines.

There are too many schedules. Too many sibling naps. Too many other things pulling at our time to allow us to get together with any regularity.

That leaves each of us struggling to find our own way. We are rarely alone. But we are rarely conversing with other people our own age. We rarely have free time, and we are trying to figure out who we are now that our kids are a little bit bigger and just ever-so-slightly less needy. They have their own activities, their own schedules. Yet, they are not independent enough to offer more free time and less stress to the parents caring for their needs.

So here I am feeling ever so alone in this strange world as a housewife and mother. It's sometimes gratifying. And sometimes it's not gratifying. I find it all-consuming, yet those feelings are snuggly wrapped with feelings of emptiness. Then there's the guilt, the anxiety, the never-ending chores and to-do lists.

I'm not stagnating. In addition to the lonely parenting, I've been writing and pushing myself towards my self-imposed deadlines. But those things are also solitary, isolating.

Mostly, I miss my friends. I miss our simple gatherings at the park when the kids would roll around on blankets while the moms talked shop--breastfeeding, diapers, sleep, sex (or lack thereof), and what aspirations we had for ourselves beyond motherhood. Talking about our aspirations is much easier than actually trying to sort it all out.

Attempting to sort it all out amplifies just how much I have no idea what I'm doing, where I'm going, or how I'm going to get through the week, or the next hour for that matter.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The life I didn't choose

All I know is where I am at now. I know where my resume has gaping holes. I know how my interview skills have gotten a little rusty around the edges. I know my short-comings in my current full-time job as a parent and as an aspiring author.

And because I know those things, I know that I am not perfect. I am not a perfect mother. I am not a perfect writer. I am not a perfect wife. I am not a perfect daughter. I am not a perfect friend. I am not a perfect neighbor. Acknowledging my imperfections has got me wondering about the life I didn't choose. About the writing career I didn't pursue after I had a baby.

I'm sure I would still be imperfect in many ways, but I wonder about the parts of me that didn't get nurtured based on the choices I've made. At this point in my career, I would have had 12 solid years of writing and reporting experience. Sure, I'm still writing, but it has been many years since I did it full time. Since I did it without interruption. Since I did it without breaks. Since I did it without constant deadlines or editors barking at me over my shoulder.

I don't know where that other life would have led me, but I wonder about it. I wonder about it with nostalgia. I wonder about it as if it was the glamorous life I left behind. As if it was the gratifying work it never was. As if it was the serious boyfriend I never got married to. Or the city I didn't move to after my college graduation. Or the kids I didn't have those times I thought I was pregnant.

With all that wondering and romanticizing, I think about it as if it is something I've been missing out on, like that advanced degree I really want to hang on the wall behind the monitor. But I know it's not. I felt proud of myself when I decided to leave it. It was like deciding not to read the rest of novel I wasn't enjoying just because I started it.

I dreamt about this life. I dreamt about being a mom. I dreamt about getting to choose my destination each day with my kids at my feet.

I suppose that is the funny thing about choices. You never really know what you gave up. In some ways, I'm a better writer because I'm writing what I want to write about every day. But I don't have an editor. I don't have deadlines. I don't have someone pushing me to do better. At this point, I only have me. And some days--like when a rejection letter shows up in the mail--it's easier to dream about what I gave up. On those days it is just easier than pushing forward.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sad commentary on society (or me)

I am neither old, nor fat, nor has my image broken any mirrors.

Therefore, I cannot understand why of all the books that I read at Borders last night, the book I thumbed through for the longest amount of time was called, How Not to Look Old: Fast and Effortless Ways to Look 10 Years Younger, 10 Pounds Lighter, 10 Times Better.

I seriously considered buying that book at the store. Then I realized that it might seem a teeny bit vein to buy such a book. It would be more discreet to wait and buy it online (another reason to love the Internet). It's been almost 24 hours since I left it on the shelf, and I haven't given in to any online purchases--yet. Mostly, I'm trying to figure out why my brain seems to think I need such a book.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Worlds are colliding

Like the Boston University button I used to wear on my jacket which proclaimed, "Be You," I am always being me. But depending on who I am with, certain characteristics of my personality are accentuated. It's a bit like Dr. Seuss's My Many Colored Days. The story goes: "Some days are yellow. Some are blue. On different days, I'm different too." But instead of being determined by my mood, my color usually depends on who I'm with.

When I'm with Therapist Friend, my Sassy-Potty-Mouthed side is a little louder. When I'm with my in-laws, my Good-Wife-Good-Mother side is a little more prominent. When I'm at a networking event, my Smarty-Journalist side shines. When I'm with my husband's coworkers, my Level-Headed-Intellectual side is a bit more pronounced. When I'm out dancing, I flaunt my MILF-y side. Underneath all the slight fluctuations, I'm still me.

It's still a little strange when things get a little mixed up and those worlds collide. Like George on Seinfeld being weirded out by the potential ramifications of his fiancee Susan getting all chummy with Elaine, I too am a little weirded out by different parts of my life intersecting. Or more specifically, the different people in my life witnessing different parts of my life that they aren't usually exposed to.

Last Thursday night, a big Wham:

I was out with Teacher Friend. We were at our favorite Irish bar and dance club, dancing our regular moves, seeing some of the same faces. I was decked out in a hot pink top, tight jeans, black boots, a navy news-boy cap, and glorious amounts of eye makeup and lipstick. Therapist Friend would have been so proud! I looked fabulous (before I left the house, Father in Chief concurred with a fistful of my booty in his hand). I had invited a couple of women I've met through FIC's job. Florist Friend was there. Writer Friend stopped by with her husband. Writer Friend's husband has seen me around the office showing off my LHI side. He's seen me at parties flaunting my GWGM side. But Thursday was the first time he saw my other side and I'm pretty sure he was horrified.

I don't think he was horrified because I was all decked out (because I looked pretty darn good). I don't think he was horrified because I was out dancing (it's no secret that I like going out dancing). I don't think he was horrified because I was drunk (I was NOT drunk. Since I am typically my own personal designated driver, my libation of choice is club soda with a splash of cranberry). I think what horrified him the most (and I'm assuming this based on facial expressions alone) was the fact that I frequent that low-brow dance club almost every single week. And possibly more horrified because I am always inviting his nice, level-headed (and sexy) wife to join me.

There is a chance that he wasn't horrified at all. Maybe that was me just feeling a little over exposed as people from my Level-Headed life collided with my low-brow side. I'm not ashamed of my low-brow side. It's a fun, carefree, white-trashy side that reminds me of my Western New York youth. My youth of hanging out in fields drinking. My youth of sneaking into strip clubs. My youth of crashing parties in trailer parks. But I'm not doing those things now. I'm not getting drunk. I'm not hooking up with guys. I'm not sneaking around to unsavory places without anyone knowing about it. Sure I dance with hunky Latino guys, men with a touch of brown sugar, and geeky Silicon Valley engineers, but my adventures are all on the up and up.

Some people look forward to long bike rides (like FIC). Some people look forward to international travel (like Photographer Friend). Some people look forward to dinner parties (like Food Editor Friend). I look forward to wearing sexy outfits while shaking my hips around the dance floor. Those few hours offset the 164 other hours during the week when I'm a fashion-sensible mom and aspiring author.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The evil powers of a princess

Princess Power does not equal Girl Power. Actually, it seems to be Girl Power's Doppelgänger.

I know that little girls like princesses. All things princess. Or more exactly, all things Disney princess. But I have only ever seen it in small doses during playdates. This past weekend everything changed. I witnessed a Princess Party in which "Cinderella" was the guest of honor. This alone was sad because I thought the five-year-old birthday girl should have been the guest of honor at her own party. But she was out-shined by the tall demure blondie in a blue hoop skirt.

While I found Cinderella's show mildly amusing, I mostly felt disheartened by the commercialism. Instead of being uplifted by the spirit of dress-up and make-believe, I was disgusted by the commercialism. And I was annoyed at her overall message of love and helplessness and marriage. She started her show by asking the birthday girl if she was married (reinforcing that if you're not, then you're nothing--even at five).

At one point, Cinderella engaged the enthusiastic group of girls (my two boys were glued to the window watching tee-ball practice outside) in a game involving a red heart-shaped balloon. I imagine she asked for help blowing it up because it would have been unladylike to blow it up herself. While music played, the game was to pretend that the heart balloon was your very own lovesick heart beating--thump, thump, thump--before passing it to the next girl. If the music stopped while you held the heart, then you won a princess ring. I was actually surprised that their gowns weren't shredded back to rags as they clamored for that balloon (each girl showed up to the party in her very own replica of Cinderella's dress).

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for love and marriage. And yes, when I was a little girl, we had princesses. We had Cinderella and Snow White and Smurfette. But we also had Princess Leia. She was bad-ass and her main objective was kicking intergalactic butt, not getting married. And she was far from helpless.

I cannot help but wonder what this kind of reinforcement of helplessness and dependency does to little girls. Women already have a tough time being unmarried in today's society. I know that this is all supposed to be in the name of pretend and make-believe, but we need more princesses who can blow up their own balloons, drive their own coaches, ask guys to dance, and who are not always agreeable for the sake of keeping things status quo.

Friday, April 25, 2008

How CS Mom got her groove back

As a woman who works out of a home office, a reason to get dressed in something that isn't cottony or stretchy is rare. Sure I have the occassional business meeting or networking event, but for the most part it doesn't matter if I'm wearing sensible shoes or a g-string. No one sees me.

I've admitted somewhere along the way that one of my favorite parts about actually going to an office to work is the outfits. I love a reason to color coordinate my favorite lipstick (although I do wear lipstick daily) with my cute businessy attire. That, and the coffee breaks with coworkers. I supposed the glory of seeing my name is print is pretty cool too.

All of this came to the forefront this past weekend during the height of Birthday Season. Many of the people we see during Birthday Season, we only see during this birthday-filled time of year. And I was shocked when I saw Computer Science Mom. She has a whole new look and she was barely recognizable. She was wearing high heels, eye shadow, a sassy low-cut top, and her hair was super cute. She looked fabulous! This is a woman who was in sweat pants nearly every time I saw her for two years. She was a frumpy, albeit comfortably-dressed woman. What's her secret for getting out of her slump? Going back to work.

For me--when I have the rare business meeting or interview--it's a reason to still own those cute clothes. And when I exercise my right to get dressed up, even without something important in my schedule, it's amazing how it makes me feel like a whole different person.

So after that birthday party where CS Mom shone brightly, I decided to take some action to make myself feel better. Sure, no one sees me but the babysitter, but I want to dress the part. I decided the part I'll be playing is that of a successful writer. Or at least the part of a super cute mom. If putting on a flowing skirt makes me feel glamorous and successful, then I'm going for it. What am I saving those clothes for anyway? If I wait too long to wear them, then they are just going to go out of style.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Where are the bad times?

When my parents separated, my mom took her clothing, her family's antiques that had been stored in the attic, and the photo albums from when my brother and I were kids.

Even though it has been 12 years, she occasionally goes through those albums and wonders why she got divorced. She looks at the photos of our family vacations, our holiday feasts, my 4-H pies, birthday parties, and little treasured moments from my childhood. Then she thinks about all the good times. All the laughs. Those books are proof that those good times really happened. It's all right there in those color photos.

But there aren't any pictures of emotional neglect. There aren't any pictures of alcoholism. There aren't any pictures of the rift that grew between them over the years. That's because we only take pictures of the good times.

I started thinking about this after reading a post called, "The 2 Habits of Highly Annoyed People" over at Pen to Paper. Her two habits were: 1) she sells herself short, and 2) she compares her life and her successes to the lives of people she reads about online. She wrote:

"I'm pretty sure from the pictures of their vacations that they had a higher household income than my husband and I (although, given the amount my degrading job was paying me, that wasn't too hard)... But does that equal more success? In this country, money often seems to be the measurement of success," she wrote. Fortunately, she eventually concluded, "I'd like to think that happiness is a better measuring tool, and though I can't measure the happiness of a couple I've never met solely from their blog, I'm willing to bet that my life measures up to the success I perceive."

And that seems to be the key issue. She perceives that their lives are more successful, but what can you really tell from a blog? It's like those photos in the albums from my childhood. If you just look at those photos, it looks like we were an amazingly close-knit family eating together, going on family adventures together, supporting each other. But my dad was barely ever around. He was off with his friends doing his own thing. And at mealtime, my mom ate in the kitchen, while the rest of us ate in the living room while watching "Three's Company" or "Cheers."

People typically don't capture the stuff that makes them look bad. They capture the good times. They capture the fun. The moments. The success. All the sadness, all the disappointments, all the failures, and all the medical dramas--that stuff doesn't often make it into the albums (or the blogs) because that isn't the stuff that most people want to remember.

Or maybe, just maybe--like us--they save the worst of the worst for some other place.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Nude is the new black

I should have known that something was up when Baby in Chief refused to fall asleep. I could hear him shouting and laughing and crying in between bouts of silence. I kept thinking that he would eventually drift off and let me have an hour of peace.

After about 30 minutes of his shenanigans, I went to check on him. He was sitting up in his crib with a big smile on his face and nothing on his bottom. He managed to unzip his sleep sack and remove his pants and his diaper--a diaper with four snaps. He was very pleased with himself and immediately asked, "See the penis?" I certainly did. I also saw the big wet spot it left on the sheet and could feel a little wetness on the carpet below.

I couldn't help but laugh. So much for a nap.

Monday, April 14, 2008

My mother, myself

As a little girl, I wanted so much to be like my mom. I wanted to know all the things that she knew. How to bake the best pies. How to make the most delicious spaghetti sauce. How to can tomatoes, or peaches, or pears. How to be a beautiful belly dancer. How to sew. How to be silly. How to not care what other people thought of you. I wanted to look just like her too.

Somewhere along the way, I realized I didn't want her life, her domesticity, her dependence on my father. I needed more. I needed to get away from the small town I grew up in, I needed college, and a job, and a partner that was my equal, a life that was my own. I didn't even want kids for a long time. I felt that having kids would equal failure. It would equal falling back into the roll that I wanted to escape. When I finally did have a baby, I was 10 years older than she was when she had her first baby at 19. It was almost as if I thought those extra years would ensure that my life would be different from hers.

But it's not so different after all. I haven't had a full-time job since a couple of months before my first son was born. That was more than five years ago. And I am very much dependent on my husband.

Early in Waiting for Daisy, Peggy Orenstein writes of her own mother, her ambivalence about having children, and how her childlessness made it difficult to connect with her mom who also had children early in life. She wrote, "I longed for a mother who I could be a mentor, someone I could turn to for wisdom and guidance. Her limits made me short-tempered....It wasn't just hostility I felt around my mother, it was inadequacy."

Like Orenstein, I also feel inadequacy when I think of my mom. I get so dragged down with my kids' constant needs that I sometimes find it hard to enjoy just being around them. We don't bake pies together. And my kids have logged many more hours with sitters and preschool than I ever did. As a result, I sometimes feel that having children has made the gap between us even larger.

Hopefully someday I'll figure out how to get past the fact that my mom and I are similar and different, and it isn't good or bad or success or failure. It just is.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I need new equipment

Mandy went dancing this past weekend. It was the first time she'd been out dancing in years. She wrote: "It was a gay bar, so reminding men to keep their junk to themselves was not that much of an issue for me."

It reminded me of an adventure I had when I was in Portland a few weeks back. My girlfriend and I went out to see an 80s cover band (which was fabulous). When it was done, we went to another bar. It was a gay bar filled with a colorful crowd of men and women of all shapes, sizes, and persuasions.

We laughed. We danced alone. We danced together. We danced with some of the people in that colorful crowd.

There was one guy in particular who wanted to dance with me. I figured it was for the same reason that I wanted to dance with him--he was a good dancer and being a gay bar, it was the pure pleasure of dancing with another person that brought us together. There were no sexual undertones. And he was not grinding me with his junk.

When I'm dancing, I prefer that my dance companion not touch me unless he knows how to put his hand at the small of my back for spinning and dipping purposes. Otherwise I enjoy my personal space so that I can perform my moves without someone else's moves encroaching on my fun. Eventually, my friend decided it was time to head home for sleep (her son would be up in the morning wanting attention and food, as those needy, puny humans usually do).

I thanked my dance companion and told him that I was going to head out. He then offered to drive me wherever I needed to go when the club closed. Since I don't go in cars with strangers, I declined. Then he asked if he could get my number. I was a bit confused. I then told him that I live in San Francisco and was only visiting for the weekend. Then he told me he had a job offer in San Francisco. Then I told him I am married and have two kids.

He was crushed, and then I realized he wasn't gay. I guess my gaydar is broken.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Collapsed ATA affects heart kids

For three years in a row, our family has gone to a free summer camp for kids with heart defects and their families. It's called Camp Taylor, and their summer camp in Hawaii is in jeopardy because of ATA Airlines, which abruptly shut down last week amid bankruptcy.

Camp Taylor paid $9,000 for now-worthless ATA tickets for 26 mentors and medical staff to fly from Oakland to Honolulu for camp. The camp in jeopardy is for heart kids who live in Hawaii. It is scheduled for June. Kimberlie Gamino, who runs Camp Taylor, estimated that tickets for alternative flights will cost another $17,000--money the group doesn't have, as reported by The Honolulu Advertiser.

"I can't contact ATA, nobody can," Gamino said in the article. "You just get their recorded message, same as everybody else. Maybe in three years we'll get a penny on the dollar for the value of the tickets."

If you are able to help with a donation so that camp is not cancelled, please contact Camp Taylor.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The 5th anniversary of a failed Apgar

Today my baby turned 5, and I was jolted back to the day when my regular life was tossed in one of those plastic biohazard bins along with my placenta.

When we woke up this morning, I wasn't even sure what to do--I certainly don't have much practice. My son has not woken up in our own house (and not in the hospital) on his birthday since he turned 2. I've spent the last two birthdays trying to keep people from wishing him a happy birthday. To somehow stop his birthday from coming. To somehow stop time until we were home and he was safe. Embracing the day, feeling excited about the day and the milestone, feels a little bizarre.

Life can change in a second. One day I was walking the dogs with my giant belly, and the next day my son was in the neonatal intensive care unit with a ventilator helping him breathe while they scheduled him for open heart surgery. In those first few hours, we didn't know if we would ever see him turn one week old, yet alone one year old, or five years old. But here we are. To most people, we look like a regular family with regular kids and regular problems. That is a good thing. But on the inside, I am certainly bruised. I will never be completed healed. You don't see my scars the way you can see my sons--on his neck, his wrists, his cheek, his torso. My scars are emotional, and I carry them everywhere I go.

I wish that when we were not at the hospital, I could pack up my scars and file them away the way we pack up all my son's medical paperwork. Sometimes I wish my scars were on the outside and not on the inside. Maybe then I would not feel them. They'd be numb, dead to touch because the nerves would be dead. Then if I wasn't looking in the mirror, I might forget they were even there. But it doesn't work that way. I will always be reminded of where we've been--when he gets dressed, when he gets his medicine, when we go to the movies, when I see that he runs differently from the other kids, when I hold his hand and see how blue it looks next to my pinkish skin, when he has a birthday.

Especially when he has a birthday. Will we get one more year? Will we get five more years? As every year passes, I feel like we're getting closer to the end.

I will always feel anxious about what is to come. I will always have moments of weakness when I can't get off the couch and the tears come until my sleeves are soaked. Today won't be one of those days (I hope). I won't let my mind linger in the past; I won't let my mind wander to the future--both are filled with sadness and fear. For today, I will try and just be in the moment. To laugh when he laughs. To sing when he sings. To dance when he dance. To be proud when he blows out his candles.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Keep your junk to yourself

When did dancing with someone become simulated sex? Can someone please tell me when this happened?

I'll admit, it's possible that this extremely intimate dancing has been going on around me for years and I never noticed. I'm into my own moves on the dance floor--rolling my arms, shaking my booty, flinging my hips, and sliding my feet. Plus, I haven't been out dancing to pick up guys in more than 10 years, so I could just be out of touch with how single people interact with each other.

I enjoy dancing with people. But it's more like parallel play with toddlers. My son is playing with his car here, and your daughter is playing with her doll there. They aren't playing together necessarily, but they are playing near each other, enjoying the other kid's proximity. That is the way I like to dance. I shake my groove here. You hustle your moves there. But we do not share toys, so to speak.

So how did I happen to notice this Dirty Dancing on Ecstacy phenomenon? Someone told me that I seemed "timid."

I used to be the girl who blushed back when I was just starting out as a reporter. But timid? As in, timid on the dance floor? That just is not me. Or at least I didn't think it was me. For as long as I can remember, I've always run enthusiastically onto an empty dance floor. I didn't need anyone or anything except a song with a good beat.

Dancing is my thing. It's my release from a long and stressful week with kids. I look forward to it the way a hungry baby latches onto a milky breast. After that guy's comment, I took a minute to look around me, to notice the other dancers taking up space around me. And there were some definite distinctions to the way I dance versus what I saw:

1) I do NOT grind up against my girlfriends.

2) I do NOT let guys grind their junk into me.

3) I do NOT bend over and touch the floor while dancing.

4) I do NOT look like I'm having sex with the person I'm dancing with.

So if you add those things up, I guess I am a timid dancer. And I guess I'm okay with it because I will not change adapt to this new, way-too-much-information style. I'll stick with my solo style and ignore all that groping and grinding going on around me.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

You're always 95 percent done

The art of writing seems too fluid to ever be set in stone. And that makes my job difficult. I keep editing. And editing. And editing. Every time I read my book proposal, I tweak a sentence here. I add some color there. I rearrange something in the table of contents. I can't imagine there will be a time when I read it, and I don't see a single word that should be replaced with a better, more appropriate word. But if I continue with this line of thinking (and editing), I will never, ever send this proposal out to agents. I will never move past this fluid phase.

My talented husband said that as with software development, a project is always 95 percent finished. But you need to pick end dates so that you can actually ship the product. That same theory should be applied to this proposal as well. Letting the calendar dictate my end-date seemed like the perfect way to help me move past this editing phase. As a result, my new deadline is Saturday, April 5. That gives me one more week to tweak, edit, add, delete, paste, and perfect before I stop.

I know a big part of my hesitation is just the idea of putting my words and ideas out there. The idea of moving into the uncomfortable phase where strangers will cut it down, move things around, and ask for revisions is daunting. But I believe in myself, and I believe in my project. I need to remember that a year ago, the idea of writing a business plan for my book was daunting. But I did it. And I know I will do this too because I know that ultimately, all those revisions, all that criticism, and all that outside feedback will make it even better.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

No one's butt but my own

There was no one to feed but me, no teeth to brush but mine, and no butts to wipe but my own.

It only took 72 hours to undo the damage done to my mental status as a result of spending three years with my children without a vacation from them. A three-day, mini trip to Portland was thoroughly enjoyable, and I'm relieved to find out that I am still me under the stress and frustration of two children who enjoy biting each other, kicking each other, and removing fists full of hair from their sibling's head. While I do love them dearly, I sometimes I feel like they bring out the worst in me, and I find myself shouting (when I should be talking), scowling (when I should be laughing), and wondering how to escape (when I should be enjoying these fleeting times).

Since I've been back, I've been trying to laugh things off a little more and let them sort out their squabbles a bit more frequently. So far it's working, but it has not been easy. They sure know just what to do to make me cringe.

Anyway, I can't remember why I used to hate traveling before I had kids. It was so easy, and there was so much less to carry. I even enjoyed being at the airport. Without children, there was no one to distract me from my latte and my book. And I'm already planning the next get-away. Being selfish, I've realized, is good for the whole family.

Monday, March 03, 2008

It isn't laziness

It seems that whenever you get a bunch of talented mothers together, inevitably the talk eventually turns to work and the frustrations of trying to get some without abandoning the idea of raising the kids.

I had an opportunity to talk with Floral Designer Friend over the weekend. We were at a delightful birthday party for Aspiring Writer Friend. The party was delightful for so many reasons... good food, good friends, no kids. And then we started talking about work.

FDF has been an at-home mom for the past year and a half, and she has been thinking about going back to work part time. "I'd really like to figure it out," she said. "But I'm just too lazy." Floral design seems like the perfect job to do part time. But sadly in order to make it work, she would actually be spending money to go back to work because it would cost her more to pay for childcare than she would earn at her job. There has to be some equation where it would make sense financially.

Lazy is the wrong word. It just should not be this difficult to figure out.

If FDF decided to go back to work and pay for the privilege, she wouldn't be the first woman I know to go that route. Early Childhood Education Friend has been volunteering at a farm doing animal therapy with disabled kids and disabled veterans. She says it's rewarding work, but ECEF shouldn't have to work for free. She's hoping it will eventually lead to a paying job.

This is not laziness people. The system does not seem to value the brainpower of mothers. Where are the childcare credits for working moms? Where are the tax incentives for employers that make it more attractive to hire part-time professionals? I know that some employers go the extra mile to retain women and get them back to work in flexible jobs after they have a baby, but they seem to be the exceptions.

Friday, February 29, 2008

A reason to love...

This bowl filled with amazingly delicious strawberries is another example of why I will live in California forever. Things like this are plentiful at the grocery stores. Even in February. We ate them outside where the sun was shining and the temperature was a delightful 70-some degrees. Again, in February. I love California.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The miserable downside of my fabulous new neighborhood

I never considered the downside of our fabulous new neighborhood with lots of fabulous neighbors. It never occurred to me that all of those neighbors would be able to hear what a terrible mom I am or how miserable, loud, and obnoxious my children are. But now that we spend a lot of time outside and the lot sizes are small and tightly packed, they can easily hear my children screaming, crying, and throwing temper tantrums, which are frequent and long-lasting.

Then between screeches, you can hear me trying to stop them from crying and screaming. At first, my voice is even-tempered and soft-spoken as I try to redirect them to something less frustrating. But as my attempts backfire and the crying escalates and shouting persists, I get annoyed and my even-tempered voice escalates into an annoyed boom. I cannot figure out how we went from happily swinging in the hammock to hair-pulling, kicking, and sobs alternated with screeches in just two minutes flat.

As this all-too-common scenario unwinds, I immediately think of the neighbors that I've met a couple of times and who I wave at whenever I see them. I think of their one child who is only 16 months old. I think of how at 16 months, she can't cause much havoc. And then--as they hear all of us shouting and crying and screeching--they must cringe and wonder what kind of terrible mom and terrible children and terrible family moved in right next door to them, not 15 feet away from them, and their nice, quiet, single-child household.

Then, I imagine, as they have a moment to consider the situation, they must certainly think: there goes the neighborhood. Sure this crying and shouting happened at the old house, but our lot was bigger, the house was bigger, and the neighbors were camped out in their own expansive house, far away from our loud sounds. Well, hopefully these new neighbors will be fabulous enough to overlook these flaws.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Someone gave the clutter our new address

It's been two weeks and we're getting settled in the new house. It's fabulous and I don't really miss the old house at all. Well, maybe I miss the views. Preschooler in Chief told me that he misses the kitchen. I honestly can't give that comment all that much credence. When we asked him what he likes most about the new house, he told us he likes the dining room table. But that table was at the old house too. Then again, perhaps he likes it because it's familiar.

There are still boxes everywhere. That is expected. But I'm have to admit that I'm a little bit surprised that all the of clutter from the old house ended up in the new house. It's a bit depressing. We got rid of furniture. We got rid of old clothes we don't wear. We got rid of toys and exercise equipment and outdated electronics. But somehow, even though we got rid of so much stuff, there is still clutter everywhere.

There are still stacks of paper to sort.

Toys are still scattered everywhere.

There are still baskets of laundry.

There are still dishes in the sink.

I guess I sort of thought once we moved away and left all of our clutter behind, it would not appear at the new house. Silly me. Oh well. We may have clutter, but at least we can walk to downtown, the park, and the elementary school.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hoping for a hospital-free 2008

Many of you know that my son was born with severe heart defects and that he has had five heart operations. As a result, February 14 means more to me than just flowers and candy and the warm goodness that surrounds people when they love each other. That's because February 14 is also Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day. Heart defects are the number one birth defect, affecting one out of every hundred babies born. That's more than 40,000 in the United States every year.

All wrapped up with hearts and flowers and candy, February has become difficult. For the past two years, February was just a couple of weeks from extended (and sometimes unexpected) hospital stays and surgeries. I'm keeping my fingers that we won't be there again in a couple of weeks. Right now R seems to be doing great. Still, because there are so many unknowns that sort of linger the way the smell of antiseptic lingers in the hospital's air, it's hard to not believe that we'll be there again. It feels sort of like we have a standing appointment in the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit this time of year. It's like I'm waiting for that one thing to go wrong that sends us there again. That rips Riley from his routine at preschool. That disrupts our immediate family's lives. That affects our extended family's lives as they fly in to support us.

See Father in Chief's blog for suggestions on how you can make a difference in the lives of kids affected with a congenial heart defect.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Off the radar

A recent move has left me without a telephone or the Internet, and much to my surprise, it's been a little refreshing. Usually I sprint to the computer between toddler squeals and dumped over bowls of Cherrios at least 26 times a day because I can't stand the idea of getting behind on email and the latest headlines. But knowing that I cannot connect except for a rare moment at my gym--which offers free Internet access--has freed me to focus. I'm still need to finish packing up miscellaneous items at the old place, and I'm buried with boxes at the new place. And without Internet access, there is nothing to distract me... Well, except for my two kids and all their needs. But without the computer calling my name, there it seems as if there is at least a few more productive minutes in my day. Still, it has been a little bit hard to put my work on hold. For now, it is waiting patiently in the background.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Accomplishing more in less time

Because I have a limited amount of child-free work time each week, I want to maximize the ratio of butt-to-chair and finger-to-keyboard efforts. As a result, I barely leave my desk when I am home alone.

This effort to maximize my work time is reminiscent of an old habit from when I was employed full-time in an office that was not attached to my living room: I've started eating at my desk. I microwave leftovers and eat behind my keyboard, barely conscious of the fact that I've lifted and lowered my spoon 17 times before my bowl of lentil stew is empty. Pangs of hunger are gone, but my palate barely remembers the taste. This is a very important reason as to why I NEVER bring a bag of anything to my desk.

I mentioned my working-through-lunch habit to Photographer Friend a couple of weeks back, and she told me that she always takes a full-hour lunch break. My initial thought was that seemed decadent when there is so much to accomplish in such a short amount of time. But the reality is that taking a break boosts productivity.

As a result, I will give this a try. It won't be this week (since I'm trying to pack the house for our move). And it won't be next week (since I'll be trying to get us unpacked in the new house). But I like the idea of a mandatory break. A few minutes to reflect on what I've accomplished. Or maybe I'll use the time to read a book. Or flip through a magazine. Or maybe I'll just stare off into space as I savor my leftovers.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Shedding a piece of me

A journal and a pen were my constant companions as I meandered through junior high school, as I recovered from the boy who crushed my spirit in college, as I felt unsure of myself at my first professional writing job. Eventually my personal prose were traded for tales of chief executives and corporate earnings. When my son was born, the tales were traded for the struggles of motherhood.

My tattered collection of journals serves as proof that I was a writer long before I took any class or received any degree that affirmed my talents. I will always keep those journals. They can instantly transport me to a dorm room, my first apartment, a concert, an exact moment. The words let me relive my first kiss, the subsequent heartbreak, the dramas of college life, and the struggles of being a daughter, a teenager, a woman, a person, a friend, a lover, a fiance, a wife, a mother.

I also have other, less-personal proof that I'm a writer. They too are books filled with stories, emotions, and tales--none of which are my stories, my emotions, or my tales. I have a mountain of journalism textbooks. They contain bits of my past as I think of the professors who taught me, the classrooms I sat it, the assignments I typed. And they have followed me over the years. From Stetson Hall, to Symphony Road, and Queensbury Street in Boston, to someone's basement while I studied in London, to Kelton Street in Allston, to a storage closet while I was in Boulder, to Laguna Street and Lincoln Avenue in San Francisco, to Mill Valley, to San Carlos. Along the way, those textbooks were packed and unpacked. Packed and unpacked. Stored and displayed. Thumbed through or ignored. They have followed me through school, my career, my travels, my life.

As I prepare to move again, I am torn over those textbooks. Do I pack them and unpack them yet again? Those books certainly contributed to where I've come, but they aren't the reason for my accomplishments. I was a writer long before I ever read them, and I will still be a writer even if they aren't stacked on the shelves around my desk.

Mostly, I'm tired of packing them and unpacking them. So I think it's time to let them go, even though it feels like I'd be losing a part of myself.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I think I'm a little jaded

An increasing number of men are taking time off from their careers to care for their kids. When these dads decide it is time to reenter the workforce, they will face many of the same challenges that millions of women have been struggling with for decades--how to you overcome that several-year resume gap?

I can't help but wonder if overcoming resume gaps will become easier for men and women as more men need to accomplish the same thing that has been a longstanding, prickly challenge for women. Or will it eventually become easier for men to get back in? Sort of a knock, knock, wink, wink re-entry? An old-boys network kind of re-entry? As I wonder about this, I start thinking about the same sort of questions that I think about when I am perplexed as to why Viagra is covered by many insurance plans when birth control pills are often not covered. Or why men continue to make more money than women for the same job. Inequities are everywhere. As a result, I guess I would not be all the surprised if men one day had an easier time overcoming those years away from desks, meetings, and conference calls.

While this phenomenon of more men staying home is in its infancy as fathers trail-blaze their way to playgroup and Mommy and Me classes, we won't know for years if my theory is right. For now, some men who are ready to go back to work are taking advantage of programs that were designed to help women "on ramp" back to work, according to Maggie Jackson's article in Sunday's Boston Globe, called "On-ramping' not just for women anymore."

While women are the primary participants in these kinds of refresher courses, more men are joining in. Dartmouth, for example, debuted a "Back in Business" program in 2006. Of the 72 participants in the program's first two years, 16 percent were men, according to the article. Lehman Brothers has also seen a jump in the number of men interested in its "Encore on-ramping program," the article said.

Perhaps I should spend less time wondering if, how, or why and focus instead on the fact that there are more programs helping people--mothers and fathers--successfully move back into the work-world.

Friday, January 04, 2008

My search for pleasure

I'm not really sure what gives me pleasure anymore. But I'm not the only one who has this problem. I'm in the middle of reading Eat, Pray, Love, and Elizabeth Gilbert writes about her inability to "relax into sheer pleasure." When she is in Italy, she eventually comes to the realization that all she wants to do in Italy is "to eat beautiful good food and to speak as much beautiful Italian as possible."

At this point in my life, I don't have the luxury of going to on a trip by myself to figure out what I really want to do, to find out what makes me happy and gives me pleasure. I take yoga because it makes my mind and body feel good, but I'm not sure I'd describe all the stretching and all those shaking muscles as pleasurable. Any other free time I have is filled with tasks or chores. If it's not, I feel like I'm wasting time. That is probably why I have such a hard time just sitting in a comfortable chair and reading. Waste. Of. Time.

I used to gain pleasure out of walking in the Marin Headlands every morning with my dogs. It was my favorite part of the day. But I don't have dogs anymore. I don't have mornings to myself either. I used to gain pleasure out of backpacking with my spouse and sleeping in a tent. I don't have the luxury of going out of town sans children. I enjoy writing. Or I should say, I like the finished product, of feeling that I accomplished something. But I'm not sure I would describe the whole process as pleasurable.

Really pleasurable things probably don't have a purpose outside of being pleasurable. Eating chocolate. Sipping lattes. Soaking up the warm sun from a hammock. Sleeping late. I think I'll start brainstorming on how I can take more trips without kids, to explore pleasant things, and to do things for no other reason than they might be enjoyable.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Important life lessons learned by watching Flashdance

As 2008 begins, it is important to consider some very important life lessons from the movie Flashdance. I watched the movie for the first time recently with some of my fabulous friends during one of our nights in. Considering I'm such a huge dance fan, I'm honestly not sure I how made it this far in life without ever actually seeing this movie. Perhaps I was too young--I was only 10 when it was released. Or perhaps I was too busy to watch the movie because I was so busy cutting the necks off of all of my sweatshirts. Without further adieu:

1) At least you put yourself out there.

Getting over the fear of rejection is difficult. I know I'm guilty of this for sure. But if I never try anything because I'm afraid of being rejected or not succeeding, then I will never get anywhere. And I imagine rejection is sort of like playing a guitar: at first it really hurts, but eventually you get all calloused and you don't feel it anymore. And along the way, you learn to play guitar.

2) When you give up your dream, you die.

If we aren't constantly striving for something, what is the point? We should all look forward to achieving something, or going somewhere, or doing something. I believe in my book and my writing. If I didn't, I'd only have piles of laundry, muddy footprints on the carpet, and the whines of wee folk to fill my days. I know there is so much more to me and to life than chores and plugging my ears when my kids are annoying. Even when I'm discouraged or feeling bummed or overwhelmed, deep down I still believe in me. I know I have my husband and my family and friends cheering me on, but when it comes down to it, I need to be the one picking myself up and driving myself forward. That other stuff is hugely important, but I need to be the person who is most clearly looking out for me.

3) Not a quote, but still an important lesson learned: How to take my bra off without removing my shirt.

A timeless skill. Happy 2008!