AddThis script

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lucky 13

The bitter wind slaps me in the face and a chain link fence obstructs my view of the city. The rusty links start at the sidewalk and launch about 10 feet up before arching over my head. It looks like a wave about to crash on me. I shutter at the thought of being crushed under a wave. I look towards San Francisco and the wind is relentless. I see the Transamerica Pyramid, the Bay Bridge, Coit Tower. My pants ripple, my fingers burn through my thin blue gloves, and I feel my legs pinched with cold. That fence covers my view with a thousand rust-covered diamonds. I lean into it so that my eyes can see through the fence, past the diamonds. Then I have to turn away because I want to feel something besides trapped. That fence is making me feel trapped.

With my back to the city, see the ocean, the Marin Headlands and the gray clouds that graze the peaks. While I’ve seen this view countless times, on this morning I want to see something different. To feel something different, a change. I want my brain to roll over the way the water does when the tide shifts from going into to heading out. I want to feel something powerful, something profound. I want a sign that signifies that 2010 is going to be different. I wait for inspiration. My eyes shift from the water and the lone boat heading into the Pacific Ocean to the cars on the bridge. Black van heading south. White convertible with the top up heading north. Blue Honda heading south. Turquoise pickup truck with the dog in the back heading north. Red Prius heading south. Black taxi truck with a Christmas bow on the front grail heading north. My gaze follows each vehicle as it crosses the span, my head swinging back and forth like a pendulum. I wait. It’s hypnotic.

I’m standing 169 steps past the threshold of where the Golden Gate Bridge begins and where the city ends. I took 13 steps 13 times. Thirteen steps for each of the years I’ve lived in the Bay Area. I’m convinced that this is the spot where I’ll realize that everything is going to be okay. That my life will be okay. That I’ll be okay. When I moved to San Francisco in 1996, I was 22 years old. I had just graduated from college. I was bright-eyed, optimistic, and eager to build a successful journalism career, a partnership with my long-time boyfriend, a life that would include the words happily ever after. But there have been many unexpected turns on this journey, so many ups and downs: a marriage, a divorce; a birth, so many near-deaths; promises, broken promises. For 20 minutes, I stay in this spot.

As I watch the cars and trucks and buses move in both directions, I notice the sound as they pass over a grate that spans all lanes: Ribbit, ribbit, ribbit. And then I notice the white bumps that serve as lane dividers. They are like lily pads resting on an asphalt lake, and for a moment I feel like I’m in a human-sized game of Frogger. Red Chrysler heading north. Red van heading south. Yellow mustang heading north. Silver Audi heading south. The San Francisco tour bus heading north. I imagine I’m holding a joystick and I wonder if I would make it across. I used to be good at Frogger.

It’s been 13 years since I first walked over the Golden Gate Bridge. And it’s possible that I haven’t walked over it since. I’ve driven over the 887,000-ton bridge countless times. I know that it’s not really golden, but more of a burnt orange. I know its official color is called orange vermillion. I don’t know why I know that. Thirteen is going to be my lucky number.

I wait some more. Pelican flying. Bridge vibrating. Clouds billowing. Cars rushing. Waves pressing against rocks. Boat passing. No people walking. It’s just me out here on this windy, 42-degree morning. One bike heading north. Another bike heading north. Nose dripping, but no tissue. I brave the wind and pirouette back towards the city. My eyes start to water as I look down at the parking lot below. It’s mostly empty this morning. I see the pattern of the parking spots, the diagonal lines waiting to offer silent guidance to any approaching cars. I see words painted on the ground directing drivers: “No parking,” “Only van tour,” “Only bus. Only bus.” So much instruction. I look around for my instructions. Where are my instructions? Where is my sign telling me what to do next? How to proceed? I look around. A metal sign bolted to the bridge says: “Any person who willfully drops or throws any object or missile from any toll bridge is guilty of a misdemeanor.” Another sign say: “Sidewalk under surveillance.” I look around for the cameras and wonder if I should wave. Then I notice a sticker that someone stuck to one of the poles. It says: “Hello my name is GROSS.” Those signs don’t mean anything to me.

Golden Gate Transit No. 70 bus heading north. White minivan heading south. Silver Toyota heading north. Gray Nissan heading south.

There are no sailboats. There are no cargo ships. There is just one fishing boat heading west, one Ferry heading towards Tiburon. One jogger heads towards the city, black shiny pants clinging to his legs. Yellow tow truck heading north. Black motorcycle heading south.

It’s time to go. As I walk the 169 steps back to the threshold, a large crow, the color of ink, glides just a few feet above my head. It caws. I see its beak open, and I think I see its pointed tongue inside. Its wingspan is impressive, majestic for a crow. It caws again. I wonder if it’s trying to tell me something. But I remind myself it’s just a bird. Nothing more, nothing less. And I’m just a human being. Nothing more, nothing less. Not a perfect human being. Just one trying to figure out how to get through the day, through the week, through this year of change. So much change. A lifetime of change in 13 years. I run my fingers along the rusty fence for a second and concentrate on the sensation of the metal bumping against my numb finger tips. Momentarily I wonder what change will come during the next 13 years. Mid-thought, I stop myself. I’m going to worry about this week, this month. I don’t need to know all the answers today.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Lonely vs. Alone

Someone asked me the other day if I was lonely. I said: "I'm alone, but I'm not lonely. There's a difference." I smiled a convincing smile and turned my attention back to the Christmas tunes the jazz musicians were playing at Club Deluxe in San Francisco.

It didn't take more than a minute before I realized that I had lied. I'm alone and I'm lonely. But I gave the company line because I said what I wanted to be true. I want to believe that just because I'm single doesn't mean I'm lonely. And honestly, it's hard to believe that I have time to feel anything but busy. I'm in graduate school. I've got two young boys. I'm writing a book. I've been packing and organizing and purging clutter in preparation for my upcoming move. On January 1, I'm moving out of my San Francisco apartment AND out of the house I share with my ex and into my very own house. It will be the first time I've ever had my own place without roommates. Ever. Yes, the boys will live there half the week with me, but it will be my very own place with all my very own stuff.

But even with all that busyness, my brain still finds time to feel a bit of loneliness as well. Especially this time of year. Especially this time of year this year. Even though I'm often with people--my kids, friends, schoolmates, visiting family from out of town, with a date--they can't replace the comfort of having a significant other. I love and adore my kids, my friends, my family. But they can't provide that special feeling that makes my stomach flip, that makes me smile to myself, that equals comfort and the security of not wondering if I'll be solo on a Saturday night.

It's not that I'm not happy. I am happy. Really, honestly, and truly! I swear! I have so many things to be happy about. And I have so many wonderful people in my life to be grateful for. But like so many singles out there, I'd like a companion. A special friend. There is something to be said for waking up in proximity of someone you care about, who cares about you. There is something to be said for sitting next to someone while you hold hands under the table. There is something to be said for giggling on the sofa while your boyfriend tells you a story that you never heard before.

Sure, I can wake up alone in my bed and feel good. Yes, I can go to out by myself on Saturday nights. Yes, I can sit on my sofa and giggle while Therapist Friend tells me about her crazy adventures with her former colleagues.

I can do those things. I'm capable. But I'd prefer the first version. I guess I don't want to be lonely or alone.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A little off

Everything seems to be a little off this year.

Tomorrow is the first Thanksgiving that we will not been together as a family. It's the first Thanksgiving that we will not be together as a family since Carter was born. He was born in 2006. It's the first Thanksgiving that we will not be together as a family since Riley was born. He was born in 2003. Tomorrow is the first Thanksgiving that we will not been together as a couple since we moved to California together in 1996.

Everything seems to be a little off this year. And that would probably be an understatement. My stomach just did a little flip-flop. I know that this is just another one of those milestones that I will now pass on my own. Without him. I suspect each one gets a little easier. A little more normal. A little less profound. I little less noticeable. Until I stop noticing them altogether.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A sweet, empty dream

It’s so hard when you think that you are on the same page as someone else in your life. And then you aren’t. And instead of wanting to accept that realization, it’s easier to go back to sleep. To not think about it. To forget for just a little while. I wish I was still in bed not thinking about it right now.

For years and years I was on the same page as my significant other. We finished each other’s sentences. We solved each other’s Pictionary drawings when only one line had been drawn: Pilot! Aardvark! We always seemed to know what the other was thinking. What the other was feeling. Until we didn’t anymore. We stopped paying attention. We stopped caring to look, to feel, to wonder. We were no longer in tune with the other person. Then we just let go.

I climbed into my bed that rests on the floor of my San Francisco apartment at 6:30 last night and I slept for three hours. From there, I wasted a bunch of time on Facebook and got text messages from the architect who broke my heart this past summer. “Leave me alone” was all I responded to him. His messages came on the worst day in the hardest week. I was feeling so vulnerable last night and it was tempting to reconnect with him. Not really. Well, maybe just a little bit. But I just ignored him. Leave me alone. Alone.

A couple of days ago, I looked at a house. A house that I’m likely to rent. It will be my house. My stuff. Not our house. Not our stuff. It’s terrifying, even though I have known for many months that Ken and I would eventually not share a house. Moving into my own house is just so much more official than not cohabitating. Even when he’s not in the house where our kids live seven days a week, he’s there. His stuff is there. His picture is there. Our family photos cover the walls. His essence is there. Even if he isn’t physically there at the same time I’m there.

After ignoring the architect, I had a bowl of Moroccan stew and went back to sleep. It was about 11 pm. I didn’t get out of bed until 11 am this morning. That’s 16 ½ hours of being in bed, most of it asleep. And honestly, I could have kept sleeping. I really wanted to keep sleeping. Those hours of denial are so appealing. I think I might also be coming down with something. Or that’s what I’m going to tell myself because that’s easier to accept as the reason of craving hours of nothingness. A sweet, dark dream of nothingness.

But I have a 15-page paper that due tonight. So I should be working on schoolwork. But this has been one of the hardest weeks for me since Ken and I split up in April. My emotions have whipped across the spectrum, like an erratic kite in the sky. And schoolwork is the last thing I seem to be able to manage right now. Because I’m writing about Riley’s early days in the hospital. His first surgery. And that means visiting really dark places. And thinking about what that was like. And wondering about who was there to hold my head as I cried. From there, I wonder who will hold me next time I need to lean against someone in the hospital waiting room.

I wish I was writing about puppies. Or rainbows.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

She just doesn’t love me

I tried to love the city yesterday and she didn’t love me back the way I needed to be loved. I put on a long, flowing skirt that sat below my belly button, comfortable shoes, a little lipstick, and one of my favorite hats. And once I was spruced up, I walked down her streets. I wanted her to notice me. I wanted her to like my company and wanted her to cheer me up and remove the bit of sadness I woke up with.

I walked from my apartment on Grove Street to Divisadero, up and over Pacific Heights, through the Marina, and along Chrissy Field. Occasionally, I grabbed onto a light pole and spun around it like I was in a movie. I sung softly as I walked. The sun was bright, and the breeze licked my skin. I watched dogs jump after balls in the ocean. I saw troupes of exercisers with weights and colorful resistant bands. Then I climbed back over the hill and went to Mojo Bicycle CafĂ© to satisfy my stomach. From there, I walked to Alamo Square. I nestled down in the cold grass and stared at the sky. I tried to feel each blade on my arms, my shoulders, the back of my neck, my ankles—anywhere without clothing.

I wanted all that sky and air and grass to make me feel loved. Caressed. I wanted to feel wanted by something that I love.

And I love San Francisco.

I love the old Victorian houses. I love rollerskating in Golden Gate Park when the streets are shut down to traffic on Sundays. I love the vegetarian restaurants. I love that all cafes have soy milk. I love that if I find the energy to climb a hill, I can see the ocean and bridges and mountains in the distance. I love that on any given day you can go see bellydancers or smoke hookas. I love that you can get Ethiopian, Mexican, Indian, Italian, BBQ, Vegan, or Thai in my neighborhood and then go see live music at the Independent.

I want to be scooped up by the city’s branches like the little boy in The Giving Tree. It gives me a lot, but the city cannot love me the way I need to be loved. It can’t kiss the nape of my neck. It can’t hold my hands. Or look into my eyes. It can’t snuggle up with me or talk about NPR.

After lying in the grass for a while, instead of feeling the joy I’d hoped for, I just felt alone on the hillside. Then I started thinking about the loves of my life – it’s a very short list – and I wished that they had been able to love me the way I needed to be loved. But it didn’t work out that way. And I know I’m partially to blame. Letting a relationship die takes two people, just as keeping a relationship alive takes two people.

And then I started thinking about the men I’ve kissed. The men whose mouths have grazed my neck. Whose hands have held the nape of my neck. I thought about the few men that wanted me to love them that I didn’t love. That I couldn’t love. I thought about the few whose hands have touched the small of my back, the curve of my breast. They might have wanted to fuck me, but they didn’t love me.

This is the part of the story where I’m supposed to have some realization about the joy of solitude or the happiness of just being in the moment. Where I remind myself how much I enjoy my solitude. How I like my own company. How I am happy to have time to myself after so many years without it. Because those things are all true. But it just didn't work today. I just felt sad, even with the sky and the grass and the old houses and vegetarian restaurants.

As I walked back to my apartment, a man said, “Hey, how you doin’ suga” as I passed him on the street. That made me smile for a few minutes. But after I unlocked my apartment and went inside, I was still alone. Still feeling sad. I guess some days are just like that.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A brave, new me

Just two days before what would have been my 11-year wedding anniversary, my life is barely recognizable to the life I had five months ago. I'm in graduate school. I live in San Francisco half of the week. I live with my kids on the Peninsula half of the week. I'm getting divorced.

While the decision is mutual and we are amicable, a transition of this magnitude has altered every part of my life, of his life, of our kids' lives. It has changed who I am, who I thought I was, the woman and mother I want to be. It is also shaping me and will affect the person and partner I hope to become at some point down the road.

It is now my future and his future. There still is a version of our relationship, of our future as it pertains to our kids and to the house we each live in part of the week. But the future that was pronounced with the words “as long as we both shall live,” and sealed with a kiss in that country church filled with 97 family members and friends nearly 11 years ago, has been permanently altered. For better or for worse, I cannot say. For richer or for poorer and for sickness and in health, those are things that will now be determined separately.

Wondering about the future is a luxury I have not allowed myself during many of the last six years because of our son's heart defect. I’ve lived in the moment surrounded by ambiguity and uncertainty. Thinking of what is to come is too painful. The reality is too painful. My son's single ventricle heart too primitive to allow him to reach adulthood. His condition to too rare, too serious. How much time we have before a heart transplant is unknown. The knowledge of what is to come lingers in my daily thoughts the way that the name of someone I have forgotten can linger on the tip of my tongue.

But now I am forced to think of the future. That unknown world. I need to think of where I will live. Of how I will support myself. Of how I will be a single parent. I need to think about health insurance and car insurance and homeowners insurance. I need to think of bank statements and credit cards and my Toyota’s registration. I need to remember which day of the week is garbage day. And I wonder how we will manage our son's next surgery together and separately.

I remember reading somewhere after my son was born that couples that have kids with massive health problems have a higher chance of divorce compared to the general population. I never believed that. I never believed that could be us. But here we were. Another statistic. Another couple letting their legal union disappear as chalk drawings do in the rain.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

M is for Moderation

My kids cried today because no babysitter was coming over and they would be stuck with just me.

I wasn't annoyed at them for wanting someone else. I felt a sense of relief that over the years, I have brought other people into their lives. To add depth. To add variety. To add another layer of security and joy for them. How could I be upset that they cried for Daddy last week when they were stuck with me? The fact that they want other people and not just me all the time is a gift. Because I can't always be with them.

There was a time when I had a hard time letting other people parent my kids. I was paranoid about the mistakes that people might make around my kids (like giving the wrong dose of medicine) or offering them a viewpoint that I disagree with (Hummers are great!), or just that it was wrong for me to be off doing things for myself or by myself (because somehow being a parent meant that I was to sacrifice everything in my life for the creatures that grew within me). So I was with my kids every day. I dragged them to the store and was frustrated with them when they demanded my attention when what really needed was some alone time. A chance to reflect on the changes that took place within me as I transitioned from a woman with dogs and a writing career to a lactating, over-tired mother with little sense of direction.

But eventually I did hire childcare, drop my kids at the daycare at the gym, and get sitters so that I could go learn salsa or drive to a concert at the beach. I slowly learned that my kids would be okay if other people took care of them, changed their diapers, made their dinners, read them books and tucked them into bed. Letting someone else do those things does not mean that I love my children any less. Although there certainly have been times when I've questioned my love for them. But I do love them, especially when I don't spend all of my time with them.

It seems silly to have taken six years to learn all of this -- and it's remarkably obvious -- but I now know that it really is quality and not quantity.

I had the best Mother's Day ever this year. I was without kids, I slept in, and had brunch with one of my best friends. It was a joy and there wasn't any guilt at all. I've realized that guilt serves no purpose in parenting or in other types of human relationships. The only thing it does is make us feel inadequate, as if we've fallen short of some expectation (set by whom exactly?), and takes up time as we wonder how we could have done things differently.

And after time away from them, I look forward to playing games with them, playing baseball in the yard, to creating bubbles with giant wands and large, soap-filled bowls.

I don't have the time, the energy, or the desire to second-guess every choice I make as a parent or as a person. But as our lives evolve and schedules change and relationships wander down different paths, I'm grateful that my kids like me in moderate doses. The feeling is mutual.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Choice vs. Luck

It scares me sometimes how little control we have over our own lives. Sure we get to make grand choices for ourselves – I want to go to this school or that school (if I get accepted); I want to live in this town instead of that town; I want to have kids; I want to make this for dinner; etc. But really, so much in our lives and so many of the things that shape us have little to do with anything we get to choose.

I often get stuck in this line of thought when I think about my son R. His birth defects really didn’t have anything to do with a choice that I made. Yes, my husband and I decided to have a baby, but that was the last real choice I had in the matter.

Random luck took over from there.

And luck couldn't care less about who I am or where I grew up and whether I'm a good person or a bad person or a mediocre person. Luck doesn't care about where I went to school or what town I live in or what I'm making for dinner. Ultimately a little bit of planning combined with a heaping helping of luck got me here because there are the things that you can't plan and don't plan. Like having a child with massive health problems.

I started thinking about luck and control and choices recently after my mom told me that my almost 18-year-old nephew is smoking. I know that there are worse things in life that smoking, but there are so many better choices too. Choices that say you care about yourself and your health. That you care about your body. That you care about the environment. That you are stronger than peer pressure. That you care about your family who wants nothing but the best for you.

It’s an individual choice that kids make when they are too young to really know the long-term implications of lighting up. Or of lung cancer. Or emphysema. But it’s a choice none the less. And each person gets to make that choice for themselves, regardless of what I think.

Maybe because I managed to not smoke (even though my father smoked two packs a day of filterless cigarettes), I have always had hopes that my niece and nephew would also choose not to smoke. Maybe because I managed to get out of the small town I grew up (even though the guidance counselor at my high school tried to convince my parents that I should NOT be allowed to go to college in Boston), I have always had hopes that my niece and nephew would do the same. A small town can be stifling.

I always had hoped that if I set a good example by not smoking, by not getting pregnant as a teenager, by going away to college, by moving to another state where there were good jobs to be had, that I would somehow influence them to have big dreams for themselves. I always hoped that if I talked to them like adults about the risks of pregnancy and smoking and the benefits of getting away, they too would avoid the negatives and shoot for the positives.

To be fair, there are benefits to staying in a small town near family. Maybe I need to let go of the part that thinks I can influence them when I live so far away. When my words are few and far between. Maybe I need to let go of the idea of what I think is right or that it matters. Or that somehow I failed them. Or that it was somehow my responsibility. It isn't. It's not.

I can only make choices for myself (and my kids, at least for a few more years). And even then, I suppose luck will still rear it's ugly head from time to time.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Math is hard

It seems like a simple enough equation: Applying to grad school + getting into grad school = overwhelming sense of joy and accomplishment.

But somehow in my whacked out head, this seemingly-simple math problem is quite complex.

The satisfaction that should come hand in hand with an acceptance letter (or an acceptance email, in this case) is not quite so obvious. In this situation, I’m more confused as to how it came to be that California College of the Arts wants me to be a part of their Creative Writing program. I’m sure my confusion has something to do with low self-esteem, the low self-esteem that often goes hand in hand with long-term, full-time parenting. The longer I’ve not been officially employed, coupled with a stack of rejection letters from literary agents, and another recent rejection from the magazine I covet a byline from makes me hesitate before feeling what seems as a given to others – feeling proud that I was accepted because I deserve to be accepted.

Yes, I’m certainly excited about being accepted to grad school (so far I’ve been accepted to 100 percent of the schools I’ve heard from). But mostly it gives me pause. It makes me feel that there must be something wrong with CCA if they want me. It reminds me of that famous Groucho Marx quote: “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.”

I’m sure I’ll get over this initial sense of confusion and then the hard part will begin. Am I ready to make this commitment to school? Am I ready to be a full-time student again? Am I smart enough? I’ve always tried to live by the idea that time is going to pass me by no matter what I’m doing, so I might as well be doing something worth while. Getting my MFA is worth while. And it will be hard. And there will be times when I wonder if I made the right choice. But it will give me a sense of direction. A sense of purpose. Something a wee bit selfish after years of serving the needs of the wee folk in my life. And that is probably a good thing.

So maybe it’s not the math equation that is hard. Maybe what is hard is the sense of feeling like I’m entitled to do something just for me just because I’m worth it. Because I am. It's just hard to remember that sometimes.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A new reprieve

C started his new preschool last Thursday. Phew. Finally.

I'm just not cut out for this full-time-parenting thing. At least I'm not cut out for it with my second, and very active boy. I was happy to learn that this preschool has NEVER kicked a kid out for bad behavior. Sure they've had um, challenging, kids before. But the undesirable behaviors are used as a learning experience, not as reason for expulsion.

Teacher Friend helped me feel less guilty for feeling a little overwhelmed with having him all day, everyday. She said, "Some people are cut out for it (full-time parenting) and some aren't. The ones that are, are called nannies."

Or babysitters. Or childcare providers. Or teachers. Here. Here.

I can almost feel the the tension seeping out of my pores.

Friday, February 13, 2009

No awards here

Here are two reasons I will never win the "Mother of the Year" award:

1) I gave my son a large bowl of Cherrios, turned on the TV, and went back to bed for nearly two hours this morning.

2) I fed my son chips and guacamole for lunch.

He didn't complain, so it can't be all bad, right? I'm sure he'd be thrilled if both of those things happened on a daily basis.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

(Almost) All the right stuff

I’m wondering if getting an agent to champion my book proposal is like playing Skeeball.

I always want to go for the slots in the upper corners. They are worth 100 points if you get the ball in. But if you miss and your ball falls to the bottom slot, you get zero points. As a result, I usually stick with the safer, and more reliable, 50-point slots. Or at least they are more reliable for me. I'm pretty good at Skeeball.

I attended an all day seminar for people who want to turn their idea into a published book. Outside of having the seminar leader tell me that she wants to take me on as a client so that she can champion my book project, I heard the best thing I could hope for at my one-day seminar on turning your idea into a published book. “You’re doing all the right things,” she told me more than once during the six-hour class sponsored by Media Bistro.

And who doesn’t love praise? It felt great to hear that my hard work has produced a sound strategy and a compelling two-minute pitch. It’s nice to hear that I’m doing the right things when it comes to writing query letters, organizing my book proposal, contacting agents who have represented authors in similar genres, and trying to get a sample chapter published in a magazine. But there is something about that sentiment that is truly disheartening.

If I were truly doing all the right things to get my book published, then I would already have an agent and a book deal and a publisher.

To be fair, she did offer a few suggestions on how to make what I’ve produced even better. I’m going to make those changes, tweak my proposal, and create an online presence around my book idea. So I guess I’m not really doing everything right. Maybe that was just part of a praise sandwich.

Getting praise and decent feedback is like racking up a respectable Skeeball score. But in the quest to get published, only getting half of what I need is like getting nothing at all. Maybe just doing almost everything right isn’t right enough. I need to stop shooting for those reliable 50-pointers.

Hopefully a few more tweaks, along with my boosted confidence, will help me land in that most coveted place -- in the determined hands of an amazing literary agent.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

I prefer the real world

Today was one of those lazy weekend days when we wondered what we should do with our precious family time. Father in Chief tossed around some ideas – Coyote Point, the Children’s Discovery Museum, the Academy of Sciences. He figured today was a good day to check out one of those usually-too-crowded museums because most people (he hoped) would be home getting ready for their Super Bowl Party.

But I hate kid museums.

Call me a curmudgeon or a bad parent. But I hate them for all the same reasons I hate taking my kid to the playground. They are crowded. And they are pretty much boring for parents. Or at least I find them incredibly boring. Whenever the weather is nice and it’s light outside, I always have the babysitter take the kids to the park. At least they get to go. I’m pretty sure there is no rule that says I have to take them, right? As for museums, I avoid them too – unless I’m going to be meeting up with one of my favorite friends. Then I’ll suffer through it.

As we pondered the list of kid-approved venues, I figured that they’re had to be a better place for us to spend an hour or two without crowds, without germ-infested buttons to push, without kids fighting over the buckets and shovels in the sandbox. I wanted to go somewhere that the kids could still learn about life without it being a place specifically designed for learning about life. We decided to take the kids to the bike path near Oracle.

R rode his bike. C finally figured out how to pedal his tricycle. We stopped at nearly all of those exercise pit-stops, which are part of one of those ancient exercise circuits made of wood. We did push-ups. They slid down the one that was supposed to be for inverted sit-ups. We saw birds. We saw cyclists. We saw rollerbladers. We saw flowers, clouds, and talked about brackish water. We saw airplanes, leaves, stones, and sticks. C and I even marveled at a spotless ladybug for several minutes.

It was great. There was fresh air, no hefty admission fee, no stressful search for a parking spot. There was no line for the bathroom or the drinking fountain. There was no one demanding anything from the snack bar. It was just our family enjoying each other’s company at our own pace out in the real world.

Sure, we didn’t learn about gravity or wind in any kid-designed experiment. But we saw gravity in action as we watched the kids hurl sticks out to the marshy water and as stones fell to the ground. We learned about the rules of the road as we corralled the kids to the right side of the path to lets others pass around us. We learned about the food chain as we talked about the birds swooping down to the water as they scooped up their lunch.

It was the best.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I can handle it

Last weekend was a test. It was test of my self-confidence. It was a test of my desire to still be just like the old me. The old, pre-kids me when I felt comfortable going out to dance clubs all by myself.

I had plans to meet at Ruby Skye in San Francisco with some acquaintances from my favorite dance club/Irish pub on the Peninsula. We firmed up plans to drive separately. We firmed up plans to meet at the club at a certain time. Then once I found the perfect street parking just a block from the club, I got a call saying that they would be delayed. They were meeting up with some other friends at the W Hotel first. Since I was not giving up my free street parking (the lot was $28!), I said I would head to the club solo.

Going into the club alone was relatively easy, but heading onto the dance floor solo took a little extra courage. As I stood at the edge of the floor I watched for a few minutes and tried to pick out the most-friendly-looking group of women. Fortunately they were very nice, and I stayed with them the whole night.

Earlier this year, I started to learn the joys of going out to dinner by myself. I also learned that I like traveling by myself. It forces me to get outside my comfort zone and talk to new people. And now I know that I still have it in me to go out dancing alone. I'm proud of myself, but honestly, I prefer the company of friends. Still, I won't let a lack of a companion hold me back from doing the things I want to do or going the places I want to experience.

And as for those lame acquaintances who ditched me -- their loss.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Getting serious

With just two weeks to go before the cut-off date, I decided to apply to grad school to get my MFA with an emphasis on creative writing. I've been meaning to get my masters since I graduated with my BA from Northeastern University more than 10 years ago.

Fortunately the program I'm interested in does not require the GRE, which makes applying at the last minute much easier. So now I'm schmoozing up former editors and colleagues so that they'll write me flowery and glowing letters of recommendation. And with all the work I've done on my book, I have an overwhelming amount of material to pick from when deciding what to submit for my writing sample. I suspect the applying part will be easy and the waiting part will be much more difficult.