Thursday, April 28, 2016

Parenting, Panic, and the Boredom That Never Came

Twenty years ago at a summer work get-together, a woman made an announcement in the middle of our circle of lawn chairs. She had just had a baby, and I watched her get up from her chair, sweating glass of hard lemonade in her hand, without clearing her throat she stood and said, "I am so freakin' bored with this staying at home business that I cannot wait for my six weeks to end!"

Glasses clinked all around, and I, I pushed my chair a leeeeeeeeeeetle bit out of the circle because my reaction was this:

This is so hard
I can't be bored in between the panic and terror of keeping my baby alive
I want to cry because I'm not bored

I never took to parenting like that, with my feet hitting the floor. It's been so hard for me, all of it, from the first second of the labor and delivery through bringing them home and seeing that I was the ultimate guard at the gate of life and death for them.

My kids couldn't do anything without me. The weight, the fear, the responsibility, I would cry in between blow-out diaper changes, screaming baby baths (from both of us), health-mandated stroller walks, and trembling moments that I had not secured my infants into their baby bucket Graco car seat the way the free clinic at the police station had shown me.

I was a wreck. I prayed for boredom. Boredom would mean that I had this. When would it come? That feeling of being on automatic pilot and looking around for something to do. Because, for me, there was never not anything to do. Piles of laundry there, dishes spilling out of the dish rack, a refrigerator filled with expired foods but empty of fresh and healthy.

A friend at the time told me that I would learn about planning out my time and become more efficient at home if I worked part-time. So I applied at a garden center. It was 15 minutes from my house and I went in, filled out an application (no online 20 years ago... knotty-veined hands up if you remember applying for a job in person), and believe it or not I WAS HIRED before I put the cap back on their pen.

I could begin right away because they needed workers during the day. My mother was thrilled to watch our (hers and mine, as she saw it) new baby, and on a morning later that week, I went in to work at a warm, domed indoor garden center.

It was easy to get used to the meditative sounds of automatic sprinklers turning on at intervals. Every time I heard the soft hiss of spray, I breathed out sweet relaxation. The mist together with the sun-warmed air was a free oxygen facial. I liked it, I liked this job. Bonus would be a paycheck and I felt pretty damn good that day.

After I put in my four hour shift, I drove home, smiling. Happy. Feeling good. Parking the car and running up the stairs back home, I unlocked the door to a baby wailing for me. How long was he crying like that, so hard? I could see the lie on my mother's face despite her answer of, "He just started." His eyes were too puffy, too red, for "just now." To calm him down took a block of time. And soon it would be 4:00 and we had to eat, and the baths and laundry and groceries and mail and all of it had to be done. And I couldn't. It was too much.

My mother told me we would adjust, we could try again.

But I knew, no. I was already breathless in anticipation of another afternoon like this tomorrow. I called the garden center and told them I had made a mistake.

Next year might be better for me. They told me they'd keep my application on file.

That was 20 years ago. I never went back.

The boredom I wished for? It's never come.

I would blame myself for not being able to get a hang of this parenting thing. Wondering why some could do what I couldn't do. My therapist at the time told me to I could ask myself that question until I was blue in the face because the only answer that mattered is that I needed to do what kept me from losing my mind.

Since then, I've worked from home and have taken jobs with hours in the evening or weekends so my spouse can be home with our three. This is what helped me keep a grip on the spinning planet that surrounds me.

I know now that my personality is one where this role of mothering threw me into high alert. I've been hanging from the ceiling ever since that 1-2-3 push and this is my way. I can't scale back and I can't ohmmm my way into serene sighs. I'm a panter, a rabbit's-rate heart beater. I know that I'm fortunate that I've been able to patch together jobs enough to allow me to contribute. I know how lucky I am.

But realizing how statistically many women can't do what I'm able to do with snatching part time hours here and there, doesn't erase the negative self talk of thinking that not working is a reflection of inability or lack of competence.

I am proud of all of us, all that we do while mothering: the ones who work and take care of home and children. The ones who handle all that running a home requires. I am proud of all of us, because we get 24 hours and somehow we do 36 hours worth of work inside that timeframe.

We are amazing. And we need to look away from the scenarios that threaten to tell us otherwise. We are doing what is not easy. In the 20 years of parenting, I have not mastered anything. The boredom I sought, thinking it would show I had this thing figured out, has yet to show up at my door.

Every morning I wake up, and I know, today will be nothing like the one before, and the only boredom I've felt was this past summer when we rented Noah.

And it was then that I understood that woman from the party years ago. Because though I didn't have a hard lemonade in my hand I did have a Miller, and I felt that compulsion she must have had to confess the irrepressible. I stood up from my Costco lounger and without warning, had an announcement of my own to make:

"Jesus Mary Joseph I am so freakin' bored with this snake-slinging while trapped on a boat that I cannot wait for these two hours to end!"

I get you, Ms. Hard Lemonade. I get you.

* * *

Monday, April 25, 2016

Maybe... Splurge on That Babysitter

I have collections of the once upon a time thought of as perfect examples of child-rearing. Not just two or three sets but shelves of volumes numbered I-X of vintage parenting books filled with Teach-You-A-Lesson-Today- Child. Stories that will make you sh*t your pants with fright if you're a kid. Enticing illustrations set you up, and then before you know it you're assaulted with the 1950's era finger wagging if you do this, my child, you might just lose an eye or finger or be lost forever on a nature trail.

Though the titles were couched in "Suzy's Sunday" or "Johny Makes Jam" these stories might as well all been called "Here's What Will Happen To You If'n You Don't Behave."

I showcase these volumes front and center in the kid’s reading room downstairs. They’re harmless fun and give us all a good laugh.

Or so I thought.

Our house has a big kid in it, a teenager. He babysits for his younger brothers. One of these vintage books has a story in it about Joey, the little boy you see pictured above. Joey has a behavior problem, as children do.

Joey likes to sneak around and satisfy his curiosity when no ones around.

I found out one night that my oldest son used to read about Joey to my then sweet baby four-year-old-boy at the beginning of each babysitting session, like this:
Teen BrotherslashBabysitter: "One day, when Joey’s mom was gone and his big brother was in charge, Joey sneaked away and did sneaky things without telling his brother. That’s not a safe thing to do, is it? Do you know what happened to Joey?” [At this point, my heart seizes as I imagine my wide-eyed four-year-old baby chewing his fingernails to the nub when his brother gets to this part.]

Teen Continues: “Well, here’s what happened to Joey.”

And my teen babysitter presses THIS picture into my baby's face. Then he adds:

Teen: "That's not jelly on Joey, either."

Free is free when it doesn't cost you anything. Free is expensive when it comes with therapy bills for a little boy who would hide the jars of raspberry jam in the cupboard because the sight of them had him out cold on the kitchen floor. Suddenly the $8 an hour for a non-free babysitter didn't seem so outrageous.

I could've used that cautionary tale on free babysitting in my vintage collection.

* * *

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Faith and Belief: It Doesn't Make You a Fool - Submit Your Work to BlogHer

Six years ago, I submitted my writing to a call put out by BlogHer, the world's largest social media conference for women. I didn't think if I would win or not, what I had decided one morning was that if I didn't believe in my work, who would.

So with a deep breath, I submitted a story on life as a blogger, and then told myself to not think of it again.

I opened an email two months later at 7 a.m. telling me that my entry was chosen as one of ten submissions to be read aloud at the BlogHer Conference in San Diego. I remember screaming and shouting in front of the computer, "I did it, I did it!" There was no one around, but one person to hear it: me.

There had been 1700 entries, and what I had sent in was a combination of timing, relevancy, and something else: belief.

I wouldn't have read in front of the world's largest social media conference for women if I had not believed in my work.

That was six years ago. Since then, I have been chosen as VOTY (a voice of the year) four years running. But it was belief that got eyes on my work.

This year, I am taking another step forward: I have submitted a photo to a category of visual images, again with a call for work from BlogHer.

I have never done this before, I am not a photographer, I do not even dabble in photography and can't say that I've ever been in a community class. But I sent in a photo of my mother because I have belief that this moment captured has a story in its image. I have sent it in and I will not think about it again.

Except to hope.

I want YOU to have the same belief in your work. BlogHer has officially announced its call for submissions and published its nomination guidelines along with a deadline date of MAY 8 for this year's competition.

Believe in yourself, send in your work.

Send it in and know that you've done the most important part: saying yes to faith and belief.

And this does not make you a fool. It makes you a believer in yourself.


* * * 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Blog Hop: It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Every day of my life could start with, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

But today, I'll limit my story to something that is safe if my kids find it online.

It's time for another long-awaited and much yearned for on my end, blog hop, hosted by the creative master storyteller, Nancy Davis Kho of Midlife Mixtape.

Our theme: “It Seemed like a Good Idea at the Time.”


Even when there's a few bills in my wallet, it's still never enough to cover all my needs. I like money.

My desire for money was solid by the time I was five years old. I think it was then that I began with my first thoughts of the day being how could I make some money today. I didn't want a pile of hundred dollar bills to swim through, I just wanted two dimes and a nickel: enough for a candy shopping spree at the corner grocery store.

I would think about money at breakfast, during school, at lunch, and again back home from school. At age 10-11-12, my chances of any money were slim.

But then I turned 13, and a woman who worked with my mother and had a baby asked if I. Could. Ever. Babysit.

Oh my precious jesus, YES. YES, I could ever babysit.
But my mother was wary:
Would there be other people home at the time?
Was a drifter uncle ever known to drop by?
Were there double locks on the doors?

How far away was the house from a police station?

While my mother was busy casing the joint, I was mentally spending the $1.25 per hour they'd be paying me.

At age 13, I had a young but quickly growing fashion addiction. This season, I needed sailor pants. A thin-rib sailor top would be next. Sandal platforms, of course, and with the dollars left over: a chiffon neck scarf. I needed this lady to like me and like me often.

The week I was set to babysit, my mother's friend called home to talk to me.
Lady: Have you watched children before?

Me: As the oldest of four, absolutely.

Lady: Are you able to change a diaper?

Me: In my sleep.

Lady: If our child cries, will you hold him until we get home?

Me: See these biceps? Only way to get these is holding children for the past decade.

Lady: Are you ok with the family dog?

Me: ….................................

Lady: Are you OK with a dog?

Me: ..............................

I couldn't answer. It's not that I don't like dogs - spoken in present tense - it's that they scare me out of my mind. They pick up some kind of scent from me that takes them back to a prehistoric state and it commands: terrorize, bark, jump, growl, crouch and growl, surprise attack and growl.

Lady: Hello? Are you OKAY with a dog?

Me: Yes.

I lied. I said yes I am Ok with dogs because dollar signs made it seem like a good idea at the time. I still cannot believe that for money I would say yes to being in an enclosure with a dog. The woman was astute enough to pick up on my chicken liver ESP and told me she'd put the dog outside before I got there.
He would be outside.

Ok, with this accommodation I would be able to honor my commitment, and on a Friday night at 6:30 PM, I was hired to watch her two year old. The woman came to pick me up after work and rushed me inside. She wrote down some things I had to do, along with a phone number, and then, she put her red-headed baby in a playpen and flew out the door to meet her husband.

She clicked the front door shut behind her and left. And it was me and her baby. He was definitely the easiest baby I had ever watched for money. Also the only baby. This was going to be so great.

Her son was in the playpen, content to stare at me and chew on his fingers. I was fine staring back at him from the sofa in front of him. She was supposed to be back home by 10, there were only 3.5 more hours left of something I did for free at home, staring at walls.

This could be all right. 

By the end of five minutes, I heard the click click click of toenails across a kitchen floor and coming in my direction.

I jumped up and grabbed the baby and began to move to the front door, walking backwards. Five seconds into the toenail tapping, the family dog was not outside but standing four yards in front of me. He lifted his jaw and began to bark, shaking drool all around like a sprinkler. Then he started with heavy breathing and head twitches and ran toward me and the only thing I could do with the adrenaline that had worked up inside me was jump on top of the end table in the corner with a baby in my arms.

“Get outta here!” I yelled and screamed at the dog. “Get outta here! You're supposed to be outside!”

Because dogs can understand human words.

I'm getting nothing. Like nothing even remotely close to comprehension from this dog.

The thing about babysitting is it's a job where you're the only one doing it. There is no one to help out or jump in if things don't work out. When you babysit, it's just you, and someone less capable than you.

And even if they're less capable than you, it doesn't diminish how VERY IMPORTANT this less competent person is to the person paying you to watch them.

I had to do something else to save us from this damn dog.

I talked to the beast.

I threw a pack of cigarettes left on the table at him.

I focused all my mental energy on having that dog jump through the window and run away.

I stood and screamed like an audience from a madhouse.

I just got stupid.

And I stayed stupid for the next three hours.

At the end of the night, the Dad is the one to walk in first, let's call him “Dan.” The first thing Dan sees is me sitting, legs tucked up, leaning against a wall on the end table with a sleeping baby in my arms and a family dog barking at some moon that no one sees. Dan does nothing more than look at me.

He calls his dog, he grabs him by the collar, he puts him in the yard. His wife enters, just steps behind Dan, and takes her baby from my arms. Dan is back inside and drives me home.

My only thoughts driving home, I did a lousy job.

Dan's only thoughts driving home, GD is there not a decent babysitter This unknown kid babysitter seemed like a good idea at the time.

The couple never called me back for more care. I went through that sailor fashion season without sailor pants top shoes and kerchief. But this whole experience raised some very good questions about me and how much I was willing to do for money. It put my financial pursuits in perspective.

You know what seemed like a good idea at the time after that?
Goodwill. I decided that the Goodwill fashion scene was a good idea for me.

* * *
For more tales of truth, on "It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time," be sure to visit the funny funny people on this blog hop:


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Signs 11 Through 20 That You're Getting Old

Never one to excel at anything, it shouldn't have surprised me that aging would be just another thing that I didn't do well.

But surprise me, it did. Even with 30 years of Prevention magazine subscriptions under my belt I got knocked off my knees with getting old.

I don't keep my aching creaking complaints to myself, I mutter them to the world and the response from the world to me is, "Wow. This is really hard for you I don't know what you mean because I am digging this getting old stuff."

I am a mediocre ager. So, when one of my favorite people, Vikki Reich, wrote about her own surprise at aging, I jumped on that AgeTrain. To see where I pick up where she left off, click here for Vikki's 10 Signs That You're Getting Old.

And thanks for keeping me sorry company once again, Vikki.
Signs 11 - 20 That You're Getting Old
11.  Leaning over to pick up the soap I dropped in the shower has me making sounds like an elephant finally finding a water hole after three days.
12.  Said sonorous efforts from bending over in the shower to retrieve dropped soap is heard by household to the point that when I exit the shower my kids shout to me from down the hall, "Boy, mom, heard an awful lot of noise in there. Glad you're Ok."
13.  My dependence on coffee for life energy has lost any beautiful ritual it had in the beginning of my caffeine life to cup-guzzling like demons at a drunken feast.
14.  My going to bed now is not the adorable nestling down of a person tucking into the night for restful rejuvenation. Watching me drop into bed with clothes that take on the dual role of pajamas is truthfully just this: five hours of unconsciousness before a twitchy bladder pops my eyes open.
15.  Getting Old Sign Number 15 is the twitchy bladder up there ^^^^^
16.  The woman at my make-up counter thinks she hears shrill, desperate, wild yapping of coyotes that have somehow been loosed at Macy's when it's me finding out my wrinkle-free surface lip-smoother primer emollient has been discontinued. (there is no way to apply lipstick now)
17.  When people talk to me, it takes the concentration of a mind meld to not begin to speak my mental dialogue of, "numbing details numbing details numbing details."
18.  Physical regeneration of self ain't what it used to be. Break a toe? Be prepared to feel it until next summer. Have two beers in a row? Prepare to wait nine months for brain cells to grow back. Until then, alert your family no cause for alarm when they find ground turkey defrosting in the cereal cabinet.
19.  You concentrate on hydration (the act formerly known as drinking water) as you envision your half-century old insides curling up like a potato chip. You are a potato chip inside without your hydration. Don't be a potato chip.
20.  Menopause may be howling at my door, but with my swollen feet and fingers, chronic heartburn, constipation, outgrowing bras yearly, and reaching for Liz Lange maternity wear for the non-maternity, I feel six months pregnant every day.
If it weren't time for my necessary self-maintenance (afternoon nap), I'd begin my next post: "10 Handy Tips as You Age."  Number 1: Keep a supply of knee braces throughout the house for when you stand up too fast from a toilet.
* * *

Sunday, April 17, 2016

How to Celebrate a Child's 21st Birthday

As of 1:59 PM today, my child can buy their own alcohol. No need to lean against the outside wall of a liquor store and ask the person going in to pick up a 6-pack and no need to not get caught inside the beckoning restricted area of the beer tent at summer church festivals anymore.

If he wants a beer, he can get himself a beer.

But my speed isn't to enroll him in the beer of the month club, I may have been the one to coax that first bottle of milk to his lips, but I won't be the one to do the same with a bottle filled with beer. We can also count out a trip to Vegas so he turns 21 there, and the same for any plans for an epic drinking party for him and his friends on this milestone birthday. Not from this mama. What he'll get from me is his own independence with a generous Amazon gift card -- he can figure out how to party in his own way from there.

He is an adult now. And I'm thinking all sorts of strange things about that, that don't seem to fit in my life, like how he won't go to a pediatrician anymore and that, well, he is an adult.

I can't pry, I can't probe, as to how he is going to spend his birthday today. I've set guidelines for myself so that I can maneuver my way around asking him how he celebrated this 21st birthday away from us, I want him to hear my questions with the love in my voice and not the raised eyebrow of concern:

God as my witness, I will limit my 21st birthday actions to within these confines:

1.) I will wait until the next day to ask any questions. I will not text at midnight, "Hi Honey! You up? You alone? You OK? Did I ask you if you were alone?"

2.) I will not drive up to see him at college today just so I can secretly pin a note to the inside of his Patagonia fleece with the instructions IF FOUND PLEASE RETURN THIS CHILD TO

3.) I will not call and bribe his roommates to feed him greasy cheese curds to coat his stomach before he goes out to prevent any alcohol absorption by intestinal villi.

4.) When I do speak with him apres-21, it will be with keeping in mind who he is as my audience: an adult, and I will respect that.

Monday will be my first day as the mother of a grown person. I've never been that before and I've been thinking about that pretty much every 5 minutes. I realize I have to shift into this new relationship slowly. I keep going over into that I can't believe no pediatrician mode. Just as when he was first born, I've had no dress rehearsal, I am going to have to get familiar with my new role and that of his. We've got our next acts, with evolving scenes, and both of us will step around each other as we try out new pages of dialogue.

The curtain is rising on this first act. There is never a time to practice my lines or to memorize my moves. Stumbling sometimes and shining others, as when I was a first-time mother, I will come through these first frightening months of a new presence in my life.

For tomorrow, when I speak with him, I will edit and re-adjust for my new speaking parts. I'll ask him how 21 went:

You didn't do shots did you  How was your birthday?

You had cheese curds before you went out, right  Anything fun to eat last night?

No way you let someone drunk drive you around  So, here's an interesting ice breaker, say someone's drunk and they want to drive, what's your opinion on that?

Tell me you didn't walk home alone in the dark  Did you stay together with friends most of the night?

See? I can do this. I will talk to him and he will see that I respect the grown adult that he is. We can do this all by phone. No need to video, I mean - as if there's value in him seeing me chew my nails and pull on my hair until I look like Opera Man.

He'll be fine.

This grown son of mine will be fine.

Happy birthday (baby)! I love you, young man (baby)!

* * * 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Multiples Illuminated

Touching stories of families with multiples, each told with humor, honesty, and heart.

You know what it's like when you find your people, your tribe, your community, the ones who you only have to look at in a certain way, and they say I know and you know they mean it? That's exactly what Multiples Illuminated is for the parents who share having more than one baby at a time.

I wished for twins since I was a little girl, and though I have three children, I did not have the rare fortune of more than one baby at once. I wish I would have been a more efficient birther, because to have two Alecs, or three Xaviers, or four Auggies, would have been my delight. Reading Multiples Illuminated allowed me the chance to daydream about the What Ifs. Even without twins or triplets, quadruplets, I found myself able to share in the stories of bed rest, high risk pregnancy, NICU, coming home with monitors - this is where we as mothers find our common ground: we do what it takes for our children to thrive.

Multiples Illuminated is edited by Alison Lee and Megan Woolsey, both mamas of multiples and they have done a tremendous job of selecting stories for this anthology that represent all the feelings that must go along from first finding out you're having multiples, on to pregnancy, delivery, bringing them home, and then through life with more than one baby at a time. If you know someone with multiples, this is the book for them: they'll smile through the pages as they nod along in recognition of  the special world they live in.

The stories included cover infertility, birth, and what comes after. Useful and considerate additions to the book include a resource guide and sections with practical advice on how to deal with the infertility process, tips on taking care of yourself during pregnancy, how to handle a possible NICU experience, and lists for what to pack for your hospital bag and necessities for your twins/ triplets during the baby years. The print version includes pages for journaling each step of the first few years of being a parent of multiples, which has the book serve as a guide and keepsake.

With this anthology, Alison and Megan have created a community. Multiple births are rare, twins account for 3 in 100 births in the United States. And 1 in 837 births are triplets or more. That puts you in some slim company - if you don't know any families who share this event of multiples, you certainly will find your sisterhood in these shared stories that are heartfelt, funny, tender, and honest.

We never know what life will give us, sometimes it's more than one baby at a time. Through hearing of others tell of struggling through the uncertainty when they find themselves in the land of multiples, you'll come to realize how we may not always have all the answers, but with encouragement and a shared story, we will find love and friendship.

The editors, Megan and Alison, say it best:

"Multiples Illuminated is a collection of stories by parents of multiples, for parents of multiples. It takes the reader on a journey from conception to the first few years. We have stories about infertility and trying to conceive, pregnancy, labor and delivery, and various aspects of the early years. In between the sections, there is practical advice on how to deal with the infertility process, tips on taking care of yourself during pregnancy, how to handle a possible NICU experience, and lists for what to pack for your hospital bag and necessities for your twins/ triplets during the baby years. In the print version of the book, we included pages for journaling each step of the first few years of being a parent of multiples. We want our readers to have the book as a guide and keepsake."

Multiples Illuminated can be purchased via Amazon.

SIGN UP for the Multiples Illuminated giveaway on GoodReads! Ends April 16!

For more information and getting to know about life with multiples, visit
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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

This Third Baby

My third baby has a birthday today. He's a teen and the thing about teens is that the pages long lists that they once offered up to you in anticipation of their special day now comes down to one chicken-scratched item: A PHONE.

I miss the days of him, stomach down on the living room floor as he looked at flyers from ToysRUs while he circled every other glossy photo, with his words magic-markered next to them: "this one for sure" "this one only maybe" "I need this one" "this one but only if you can't find anything else."

He is my third one, and my last one. He still fits around me and next to me, and my arms can surround him without me stretching any of my ligaments. He feels just perfect right now. But I remember thinking that about him when I first held him, and then when he was three, and again when he was five, and every year since then I think the same thing, how he could ever be more perfect.


I was able to find him a birthday card yesterday. Finally. I had gone to two stores looking for a card that said what I felt and was *this close* to torturing him with a hand-made one like I did last year because all the ones that I had seen at the grocery story and the drug store didn't come up to the task of wishing this child the happiest of birthdays: Happy birthday as in happy birth-day. Let's celebrate that you are here, and that you are with us.

Would he get that, what I was trying to tell him --  at this age, could he understand why when I look at him on his birthday I have to stop myself from being all crazy-lady and arms flung out wide looking back at life with him versus life without him and talk much too loud and fast that OMG I ADORE YOU HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HONEY!

I don't think he can yet, at that so very young age. So I don't do that.

I keep my arms loose, semi-normal, at my side, and what I do instead is hug him when I say Happy Birthday. When he starts to step back because the hug has gone on long enough, I whisper to him, "Just a little longer, Auggie, Ok? Just let me hug you a little longer."

Happy birthday, sweet baby. I hope you know what my card today is trying to say. I didn't want a too grown-up serious card because you are still a kid. This card will have to do, even though I wanted to find you one that says how important you are to me.

I wanted one that said, "Thanks for letting me hug you until I'm finished," but this one with the glitter cupcakes that spell out a-w-e-s-o-m-e is pretty cute. And I know that a year isn't enough time to mentally recover from last year's oil pastel creation from your mom.

I love you, Auggie.

Happy birthday, honey.
* * *

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Past, Present, Future: What It Feels like to Look at Your Children

I can flatter myself by saying these children are beautifully mine. But to be honest, they are their own. They always have been. In the beginning of their lives, I may have been the one caring for them and keeping them alive - each of them born four weeks early - but my work was joyful commitment, it's what what we do as humans: care for those who are unable to do so themselves.

There was a season in my life when the three you see here couldn't put their flip-flops on the right foot without me there to set the shoes in front of them. I remember those days because I would stare at my children then, memorizing their snug shoulders, the small impossible hands, their features so exact and precise it was more than my eyes could take in.

The first time I saw my children, in the seconds when their lives began, the only word I could think as the nurses handed them to me was beautiful beautiful beautiful. Their faces were so heartbreakingly exquisite that even if I had 20 college degrees, I still couldn't design something as extraordinary.

They're older now. My children have grown. When I look at this picture taken a month ago, I discover things about them in the same way when the nurses presented them to me. Their faces seize my heart.

My eyes search, top to bottom, forehead to chin, across the cheeks, back up to their own eyes. My mind calls forth the only words I've ever been able to think as I look at my children:

Beautiful beautiful beautiful.

* * *


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Time Poverty

It's been four straight hours that I've been trying to cross off things from my “Things To Do” list for today. So far, two- soon to be- three, are completed.

But that's only from the first page of my three-page list. And I've got to get page one finished because I will not start a page four of what needs to be done.

What holds me back from crossing off all the to-do's for today?

It begins with a huge letter “T”.



I work, doing four things at once: a head start with dinner prep, setting up the dishes on the table while I unload the dishwasher thinking You are so smart to kill two birds with one stone and in the background you hear the washer and dryer going so that I can have the laundry upstairs to be folded right before I leave to get the kids from school and then bring them home before I go to work. And throughout every day, the one thing that keeps me from disappearing, there is my writing.

I am behind, even on a good day. And when you throw in a surprise visit to the doctor or the dentist because the kids need it, a mid-afternoon call from school to help out with forensics coaching, and you end up watching your minutes blown to the wind like a dandelion. 

Last night, late, after 11 PM for sure, I first wrote this post. I started at 8:50 and finished around 11ish and hit publish. Then it was Good Night, Irene and sleep until I had to be up at 5:30 to exercise so I don't have a heart attack and then I have to pack lunches and get the kids up for school. When I came back home after grocery shopping and a drug store pick up, there was an email from my friend (bless friends who read our work) to tell me, “Hey! Sorry to tell you this, but, yeah, there's no post up on your blog. There's a blog title but no post.”

I coughed on my dry multi-grain toast that I was walking around eating as breakfast, but I call it breakfast when it's actually something I've learned to do so I don't pass out while I'm driving, and I type in my blog name and Lord help us, I see the same thing. No Blog Post.

It's gone. All that time -- the thing we fight to find -- and it's gone. The irony is not lost on me.

I should have gone right back in to the dashboard and typed the post again, but I was too spent to think. This post is different from the post that vanished because this one was created after I hit Energy-less. Reserve-less. One Mississippi Two Mississippi Done-ness. I couldn't muster up a drop of inspiration to write about what I am writing about again: Time Poverty.


For the longest time, by that I mean decades, I thought it was my lack of organization that had me flinging minutes in 50 different directions. Was it my cleverly hidden attention deficit, unable to prioritize, lack of a solid example from my single mother who had six children who never managed to finish a thing? Why can't I declutter, unclutter, organize, plan, include, deplan? It must be me.

It's none of the above. I heard on the radio this week, it's Time Poverty. And the largest segment of our population affected by needing time and finding none of it, is women.

Women, as in who my single mother managing a household of six children, was. Doing everything and swimming as fast as she can but the waters keep rushing at her. She was a juggler, with not just four or five balls in the air, but 99. I remember the moments of her while I grew up: she moved in a blur and would alternate between the state of passing out on the sofa while sitting down for the first time to angry tears from the amount of things she had to yet accomplish before the day ended.

Whether time prioritization is your strength or not, women should not have to live their lives between power naps and burning tears.

We bear the weight of this time challenge. Not to say that we are all giant messes, but I remember my mother's purse, filled with papers, receipts, medicine or things for her children, along with checkbooks and wallets and pens and all the items she – or her children – might need. The mother of six, and responsible to always be prepared. It's unforgivable if you don't have what everyone needs of you, you're the mother.

I promised myself I'd never have a purse like that. It gave me stress to witness, so I purposely choose purses that are the size of a notebook. It's that single factor that's behind my pocketbook fashion. But guess what? The papers and all the other others of being a woman spill out of my pockets, pants pockets, coat pocket, my car's glove compartment and the tote bag I finally had to give in and carry, with my purselette inside.

But I keep on trying to balance it all: running from home to car to work to school and driving while eating from an opened wax paper napkin on my lap that holds a slapped together turkey and mustard sandwich. Whole-grain again, to keep away the fainting.

I'm yelling at my children to make sure they pick up the plates from dinner while I slam the door behind me, almost choking on my food for the third time this week. I pull out of the driveway and think hard about how much this has to change. But the things to do keep coming.

Time Poverty doesn't bring so much feelings of inadequacy and failure as it does moments of forgetting how to breathe or suddenly feeling pain in your jaw because you've been clenching your teeth for the past hour.

It's going to take serious work to change what is demanded from women. It has to begin with us in recognizing that the impossible is just that, impossible. But it also has to start with seeing that we are not machines. There is so much that tells us, everywhere we look, that we need to not just do things, but do them so that they shine: organized and attractive homes, plan activities, commit to social obligations, home-spun meals, family time, all with yoga-tough physiques. We can't lose our tempers, we need to stay in control, we need to say 'yes' to requests for additional requests, and we need to be available to everyone at all times.  For anything.

You don't say no, it would be selfish. That's not what women are, you know: selfish.
We have stress. Women in their lives are stretched beyond what 24 hours can accommodate. How do we cut down this list of things that we feel we need to do, the list that we worry about, things too important to not put in front of our day? when our internal dialogue is fed by the outside -
Today I have to
Tomorrow I need to
Before Sunday, I'd better...

I'm not searching for a miracle, but I am begging for manageable. To get it down to the place where there is room for air, not just a pocket of it, either.

We read that our actions are choice. That makes everyone feel good, right? But who does the list if we're not the ones?

My life is good, so much of it is happy. But these moments, when my back feels the four pages of must-do's that sit on only my shoulders, I need to read the items marked #1 #2 #3 and see it with the truth of the 24 hours before me: Time Poverty.

As a woman, I have it. And it's time that the world sees all that we do that we don't tell anyone that we do. The standards held up to us are possible for machines, but not the living organisms that we are.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Wisconsin Primary

My children tease me, they call me "Facebook SJW"- Facebook Social Justice Warrior.

I accept this title.

I have decided that though the majority of the people I know are like-hearted in what our social obligations to each other are in this world, I have to keep talking. We have a current political and social climate in America that won't let me not do everything I can to bring perspective to the ones who may not be aware of many things. I'm talking about the attitude toward immigrants, especially with Latinos in America.

The picture here is of me with my family celebrating the day we became United States Citizens. My mother's employer had taken us to lunch in the executive dining room of the bank where my mother worked as a document translator. This was one of three jobs she held. Her days were spent at the bank, and after 4 PM, she walked to the department store five blocks away where she worked until 9 PM. On Friday nights, she started her weekend shift at the nursing home, and then on Sunday afternoon, she would enjoy her only time off for the week. "Enjoy," as in do the grocery shopping, go through mail, catch up with your family until everything began its cycle again Monday morning.

My mother's boss' name was Dario Lopez, and he had come from Cuba. I will always remember his generosity to us. Mr. Lopez knew about the road to United States Citizenship. It's not an easy one. The process for those unfamiliar with it, would leave you bug-eyed.

It took my mother 10 years to be granted the status of United States citizen, and in that time, nothing was guaranteed. This past weekend, in front of me, someone used the term "anchor baby". An unacceptable way to describe half of my mother's six children. The family you see here is the fruit of a marriage.

US Citizenship is a dream to immigrant families. Immigrants stand as the face of what was America's birth: a place for those seeking a home and who come hoping for opportunity, acceptance, and compassion.

Tomorrow, April 5, is our Wisconsin Primary. Our votes have never mattered so much with what is at stake: I ask everyone to VOTE: but not to cast your ballot with fear, hatred, and ignorance of those who are new to our country. 

We are immigrants, and we ask for the same chance as your family who arrived here once received. 

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Saturday, April 2, 2016

A List of Gratitude About The Person I Live With

It's a closed-in, blustery windy surprise snowstorm-in-spring day over here. We are all of us cabin-fever locked inside. I'm feeling a lack of  I'm-so-blessedness and I sit here, wondering what I can do about it, because I'm wandering around this house like a bear poked early out of hibernation.

I think it's time for me to prepare a list of gratitude of the people I share this cabin with. I met a man months ago, a young man, who told me he begins his day with a reach over to his nightstand, where he finds his pen and his notebook- the one with the filled in pages of three things he is grateful for.

He says that before his feet touch the floor he has spent a few minutes, eyes closed, bringing to mind different things every day, of what he is grateful for. Every day brings a new prayer of gratitude, and at the end of the week, he has a running list of seven days x three = 21 things he finds good in his life. Many of them are hidden blessings.

This morning, I sat with the keyboard in front of me and once I typed "Number One" of what I could find to be grateful for about the person who is now crunching potato chips loud enough for me to hear in the next room over, the good thoughts broke through and flowed. I'm not going to say it was like a clear running stream after I hit the obvious first five, and the last six minutes of typing more like water finding its way to the surface after a winter thaw, but here it is:

My list, finished in about 35 minutes, on what makes me feel appreciation for my life partner:

1.  How he just shouted to me, asking why he keeps seeing the less than sign next to a number 3 on his facebook.

2.  How he has committed to studying the craft of writing a symphony. Books taken out of the library in 4-week intervals and practice spurts at the piano. With God as his witness he will understand how all the notes work.

3.  We can discuss the beautiful gift from above that coffee is, forever.

4.  He doesn't care that I have public radio on all day and he ever so considerately looks up to give occasional eye contact when I loudly agree along with the headlines of the day. (I ignore the pained expression on his face, the world is not perfect, and no one in it is, either.)

5.  He understands the frustration and the disappointment in how the mechanics at our warranty-covered car shop, and our warranty-covered appliance repair, and our warranty-covered anyplace, try and sell me on the most maximum repair service versus when he calls they act like they've known him since kindergarten. I can sum this up by saying: Mark believes what I tell him.

6.  I watch him open his mouth, the temptation for the last word burning on his tongue, but then he takes a deep breath, and closes his mouth. This is a grand effort, the feeling of implosion. I know, I have felt it often myself. I appreciate it.

7.  He will ask me if I want the last oreo/potato chip/meatball, even when there is no way humanly possible if you have a heartbeat to not see him licking his lips while he offers it up. I pretend I am full.

8. After 20 years of hearing stories about my mother, here as an immigrant, supporting six children as a single woman in a country that did not make it easy to be female and Latina, he talks of her with the equal measure of pride as I do.

9. We secretly daydream about living in a library.

10. Listening to Car Talk together is what Saturday mornings mean to us.

This little list here, people, it helped me. There is a lot to be grateful for. And though this cabin feels a bit tight this morning, there is room to shove myself out of the way to see glimmers of good fortune in its corners.

Happy weekend, everyone. I love you, guys.

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