Monthly Archives: January 2011

Goodnight Noises Everywhere

O is very particular about his books. He will love one book for weeks, then without any warning, switch allegiance faster than Hugh Hefner switches his “girlfriends”. He loves them and leaves them, this boy, without a backward glance. He’s a bit of a book slut. His first love, Is Your Mama a Llama? still sits on his shelf, its board pages softened by fingertips and the early baby days when it took many readings to get him to settle into sleep. I look wistfully at this book, it’s cover so familiar and lovely. Sometimes I read it to him and sometimes he will indulge me, with a half smile that lets me know that he’s humoring me. Most times he pushes it away impatiently, eager for his new love, one that is shiny and exciting. He is very specific about his favorite books and I never know when he will declare himself back on the market.

The past few nights, he has picked Goodnight Moon. I’ve tried to read him Goodnight Moon before. It’s a classic, of course, but we also got about five copies, so I feel this need to get some use out of at least one. He’s never been interested before, but lately, he pushes aside his most recent favorite, The Night Night Book, for Good Night Moon. He settles quietly in my lap, leans his head against my shoulder and I put my face into his head and breathe in deeply. He smells like O and no one else. With one hand, he points to his favorite objects as I say good night to them. The other hand is wrapped around the tail of his favorite blue dog, and he systematically rubs the tail across his face, sniffing it, or sometimes sticks it in his ear. Occasionally, if he is feeling super affectionate, he will turn and offer me a sniff of his dog’s tail, the ultimate gift from O. It is moments like these that I am so aware of how fleeting time is, that one day he will be sitting across from me at the dinner table, a 10 year old, a teen-ager, a college man, a married man. And I will marvel that this man used to sit in my lap, that he used to be small and warm and fit with me perfectly.

And as I read Good Night Moon I think, I would like to live in this great green room. If you haven’t read it lately, take a peek. The little bunny rabbit is tucked into this cozy bed in the type of room that used to be called a “nursery”, where children slept and played and were sent when they were meant to not be seen or heard. There is a fireplace with a fire, and through the windows are thousands of stars in the midnight blue sky. The only light comes from the fire and the stars and the moon. A grandmother rabbit sits on the other side of the room, rocking and knitting and watching over the boy bunny. There are kittens napping, and a balloon hovering, and a toy house silent and waiting for tomorrow. It is a perfect room to grow up in and you can imagine hours and hours of playtime here. Do you remember what it was like to be a kid, wrapped in a cozy bed, your grandmother watching over you? Do you remember what it felt like to be so safe and so loved, that the only things in your room were beautiful and magical and yours? When the world outside hadn’t entrenched into your little haven of comfort yet.

My Starbucks barista and I had a bit of a philosophical discussion about this very thing this morning. He said that we should take a lesson from our kids and live like them, realizing what is actually worth worrying about and what is okay to shrug off and leave behind. I said, true, but the reason that kids can live like that is because they have us to make sure they feel safe and protected, to make sure rent is paid and food is on the table and the tax man doesn’t come and take away their great green rooms. And he said that’s real talk, girl. That’s some real talk right there.

It is a real purpose, I think, of parents. To create a safe world, to shield them from the drudgery and stress and pain of the outside world, so that they can focus on the business of growing up and discovering themselves and what they love without worrying about the business of the real world. They will worry about the business of the real world soon enough.

I am trying to slow down and cherish the reading of this book, because I know before too long, O will leave the great green room. He will insist on reading The Hungry Caterpillar or Ulysses or Like Water For Chocolate. And it will be another memory, a good memory, but it will also be one step closer to the day when he gets off my lap for good.

Good night O in your great blue room. No matter what the world throws at you, I hope you always have sweet dreams.

O’s List of the Best Good-Night Books (So Far)

Is Your Mama a Llama?

The Going to Bed Book

Time for Bed

Snuggle Up, Sleepy Ones

The Night Night Book

Goodnight Moon

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What Kind of Bachelor Girl Would You Be?

I’m fascinated by The Bachelor. Even for smart, well-read girls who know better, there is something captivating about this show. Part cat fight, part romantic comedy, part train wreck, it’s ridiculous, but it’s never boring.

I admit I mostly watch it for the stupidity. The things these girls and guys say are GENIUS. And crazy. Reading the re-caps the next day is often even better than the actual show. I have forced myself to suffer through many a terrible episode, simply because I want to be able to laugh through the recap.  (My favorite recap here– speaking of which, how does one get THAT job? Being paid to watch crap TV and then write a snarky post about it? Sign me up.)

But of course, there is a part of me that wants it to work out, that wants the guy to pick the RIGHT girl or the girl to pick the RIGHT guy. Even though I know better, it’s still a tv show, and I do like a happy ending.

So I was watching the most recent version. And the girls were all crying, except for Michelle, the crazy one. And I got to thinking. What kind of Bachelor Girl would I be? Because this is a TV show, which means the writers and producers make you a type. And you have to have a “character” on the show. And in this particular show, you have to either be a total psycho or totally comfortable and willing to a) fight for a guy with twenty other women, and b) make out in front of tons of people. For those reasons alone, I don’t think I would even get on the show.

But let’s say you make it on the show. And you know all of this. You know half those girls have watched previous seasons and think “Oh, I’d never act like that.” But they all do. Does the house itself make the girls crazy? Do they put something in their drinks? Are they hypnotized upon arrival, to suddenly be crazy in love with some dud of a guy? Because really? Brad? Get a group of ten of my best girlfriends together, meet this guy at a bar, and I promise you, none of us would be crying and chasing after him and begging him to make babies with us.

And it’s clear that there are girls who don’t, in fact, feel a “connection” with the Bachelor. There are girls who would go on a date with him and think, he’s a nice guy, but maybe he has too many muscles and just isn’t for me. And she would either politely decline his next invite or ignore his phone calls. But what she wouldn’t do is keep dating him even though she didn’t like him. And she certainly wouldn’t hang in there just to see if he might propose. You know, for fun. I watch the show and every season I think, this will be the year that ONE of these girls stands up and says, you know, living in a fantasy house with twenty other crying women sure has been fun and all, but both you and I know that we aren’t meant to be and let’s just call it what it is. Then maybe she could pull him aside and tell him the real scoop on all the crazies left in the house. Then she’d skip out of the house, conduct her “exit interview” with laughter and grace and go home to meet someone she really might fall in love with. Or probably get her own reality show. But that never happens. Never.

Is it the competition? Now that I might understand. In fact, I participated in my own version of The Bachelor. It was summer camp, circa 1989. All the girls in my cabin decided that “Michael” was THE guy. So we all liked Michael. We all tried to make eyes at him over our punch at afternoon refreshment time, to make a “connection”.  We all tried to stand out and get him to notice us, even though the boys camp and girls camp were separate and we only saw the boys in passing at meals and nightly campfire. Which meant none of us had ever talked to Michael. One girl knew him from back home and said he was “fine” and “cool”, which was enough. So the last week of camp, the big dance arrived and we were all posing on one side of the tennis court. We all stood around, hoping Michael had noticed the way we had jauntily carried our tray of sloppy joes, or maybe the adorable way we sang “One Tin Soldier” at campfire. And like most boys at the age of 14 or so, he stayed on his side of the tennis court. Until the last song of the evening, “Stairway to Heaven” when Michael walked over… to me! He picked me! We DID have a connection. We slow-danced to Stairway To Heaven. While everyone watched and the other girls in my cabin cried, because they thought they had a connection. And then he kissed me. In front of everyone. And I like, didn’t care, because he picked ME. Also I was 14 and had no ability to be embarrassed. And then we left camp and Michael called me and we talked on the phone for like, hours. A whole weekend, in fact. I realized that though Michael was indeed, “fine” and “tall”, he was quite boring and we had nothing in common. And that was the end of that.

So maybe I do understand the Bachelor. It’s really a psychological study about girl-think and how girls can get so wrapped up in the idea of something that they don’t ever ask themselves if this is something they really want. Because at the end of the day, those girls spend way more time with each other than the Bachelor. And after the fake emotional high of not getting picked fades (like in the limo ride home), I wonder how many of them wish they’d spent more time making friends instead of fighting. Because who else will understand the totally hype-induced drama that you just went through? Who else won’t judge you because you went on a reality tv show and tried to win a husband? Who else can you call when some real life guy says he’d really like to date you, but he can’t because he watched you make out with some doofus on national television?

So I keep watching. For the fauxmance and the crying, sure, but also I keep watching, and waiting, for that girl to stand up and say enough is enough. Cause THAT’s the Bachelor girl I hope I would be. But maybe I’d wait till after the fabulous vacation part. I’ve never been to New Zealand, after all.

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Tell Me What You Think, What You Really Really Think

Does anyone ever just say what they mean? Like no-holds-barred, tell it like it is, kick-you-in-the-crotch and spit-on-your-neck honest?

I find myself having to resist this urge lately. I find myself in a few (very few) relationships lately with people who I think need a pretty severe reality slap. People whose expectations and outlooks are seriously out of whack with reality and possibility. I tend to be neutral, to let these people vent or get out their feelings, without really telling them what I think. I’m a relatively honest person in that I don’t lie very well and don’t feel the need to lie, especially about how I feel about things in my life. But I’m not confrontational and I won’t be completely honest about how I feel about YOU and your behavior.

I am starting to reconsider this approach. Is it doing anyone any good? I try to put myself in their shoes. Would I want someone to take my hand and gently, but firmly, tell me to get a grip? I think yes. I would, I do appreciate when someone points out my (ridiculous) behavior and suggests perhaps I should look at it from another point of view.

Why do we shy away from the hard talk? We seem to respect it in our characters in television, movies and books. Gregory House and Elizabeth Bennett are a few that come to mind. Everyone knows that the only opinion on American Idol that counted was Simon Cowell’s because he wasn’t afraid to say what he really thought.

What about in real life? I think I respect someone who would not be afraid to be honest with me, who would not hesitate to lay it on the line. But would I? Or would I just think, man he’s rude? Or wow, what a bitch?

In my writing classes, I find myself going overboard to be effusive about others’ work. Is this really helpful? I do it because 1) I want to be “nice”, I want people to like me; and 2) because I know how hard it is to put your work out there and I really want to encourage other writers. I remember needing the praise (and still do). But. Isn’t there a way to encourage without falsity? In my own critiques, I dismiss people who are effusive. I listen to the ones that offer me real insight and tell me what’s wrong. Because it makes me better.

I am thinking of trying an experiment. Of spending a whole week in honesty. Of gently, but firmly, putting the truth out there and seeing what happens. Of not flinching from the consequences, of not worrying about what others think of me, of not being concerned with whether I am liked or not.

Now, I’m not talking about the nuances and dances that are necessary in relationships. I am not going to walk around and spout out honesty at people like a weapon. And I’m not talking about going overboard. I have an acquaintance who is unreasonably rude and unyielding. She uses honesty as her excuse. She says “I’m not being rude, I’m just being honest.” No, she’s being rude. Being rude is not what I’m going for.

But if you ask me what I think? I’m going to try honesty. Consider this your notice and your warning.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Eek.

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My Fourth Wall

I wrote this yesterday:

I am crumbling, crumbling today. Three of my four walls are unsteady and I don’t have the strength to hold them up. Not by myself. If I am going to do this blog thing, then I suppose I have to be honest about all of it.

O. I already wrote about the pull I am feeling today, the pull towards O and the tension between him and everything else.

Work. It’s not working. The flex schedule and the experiment to be a part time lawyer, part time mom and part time writer is failing. I know I’m not great at math, but even I should have realized that is simply too many parts.

Writing. I am so discouraged today. I don’t really let myself think beyond now, beyond what I want to accomplish besides simply writing. Some days the path is so clear, it’s not even a question in my mind that it will happen. Most days I am not looking at the path, I am just looking down and trying to find my way. But some days, like today, I look up and the path isn’t so clear. It’s cloudy and foggy and seems so, so far. What I am most afraid of is that I will finally figure this mom/lawyer/writer thing out, will finally get the “free time” to write and I will find myself there. And I will suck. Completely and totally suck. That I will spin my wheels and never write anything good, much less great. Never get anything published. Never. Because it so so hard to do this thing and do it well. But it is much much harder to get published, to sell books.

And my fourth wall. Well that’s my husband. And thank God for him because he’s helping me hold all of this up. Thankfully, out of everything, he is the strong part. Because I can’t do this without him. Don’t want to do this without him. Thankfully he’s strong enough to hold us both up today.

In the light of today, I wrote this:

Tried to be supportive, even as I cried on my bathroom floor last night, even as he looked at me in that bewildered way that men look at crying women, when our tears seem to be completely out of proportion with what we say is wrong. Because all I complained about to him was work. The other stuff, the real stuff that was making the work stuff even harder, was too hard to say out loud. And he still supported me. Though he did keep offering me wine.

And I guess that’s the takeaway here. That thankfully I have one wall to lean on. That not all is crumbling at the same time. That just saying these words out loud makes things seem not so terribly bad.

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And Again, The Pull

I’ve written about trying to find balance before. The balance isn’t perfect and it easily gets out of synch, like in November and December when I worked way too much. But in general, I think I’ve found the mental balance between working and motherhood and myself. Or so I thought.

Isn’t that how life works? I decided I’ve been too melancholy lately around these parts so I planned on focusing on more fun and upbeat topics, and to lay to rest the mom thing, the writing thing, the balance thing for a few posts. Planned is the operative word.

This weekend the husband had to work all weekend. We got him till noon on Saturday and then it was just me and O all weekend. That idea used to scare me. What would we do, how would we pass the whole weekend, what if I needed a break? Now though it’s so much easier. I am not sure whether it’s O, who is definitely older and more fun and more easily entertained, or if it’s me whose gotten easier, who has relaxed and let it be easier. Probably the latter.

O and I had a GREAT weekend. We laughed and giggled and played and danced and threw balls and hugged and blew kisses and played with bubbles. We ate a LOT and cleaned up the kitchen a LOT. I swear it’s like Groundhog Day with a toddler with the meals and the milk and the snacks and the cleaning up the highchair tray. But in between I watched him. And at the end of yesterday and into this morning, I was very fulfilled, very content and yet a little sad. Because I felt like I got to know him better. I felt connected to him. And sad because this morning I turned him over to the nanny and lost that connection, for a little while at least.

And this morning, trying to dive back into my writing, I feel a little pull, the pull of a tiny hand that was wrapped around mine all weekend. I can still feel his hand, like the way you feel your wedding ring even when it’s not on your finger. I miss him. It’s usually much easier to make the switch for me. But today I am rethinking everything. Just when I think I understand the balance, for me at least, I get hit upside the head with the see saw.

And then I read this beautiful post and started crying in the middle of Starbucks. I don’t think it’s so simple (for me) as just making a choice. I can’t make that choice right now, to stay home.

I don’t really have anything profound to say on the subject. Even though I’m feeling that pull, I don’t think quitting my job is the magical answer. Because there were many many moments this weekend that I thought “This is just so hard. I don’t know some women do this, just this, all day, everyday. ” No matter what we do as moms, we feel the pull, towards something else. And we question, did we make the right choice?

There is no right choice. Every path has its roses and thorns. Every path has its quiet coffee breaks and dirty diapers. The best we can do is admit the feelings and remember that there is always a yin to the yang, that the pendulum always swings back the other way, and that every experience passes. The good moments pass, but so do the bad.

This morning, I have nothing profound. Just that I feel a pull, towards something, someone. Just that I miss my little guy.

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January’s a Bitch, But At Least She Admits It

To me, the physical representation of the calendar is vertical. December is at the bottom, and January is at the top. So at the end of the year, in my mind’s eye, when we move from December 31 to January 1, I figuratively look “up” to the start of January, on the next page, and see the 365 days spread ahead, down the hill, the gradual slide of time and days and months and moments into 2011. I’ve tried to step back and actually “see” the calendar for what it is- arbitrary, invented, just a way for humans to keep track of an ordered universe that is anything but ordered. I can’t do it. January looks different to me. She is tall and slim and sleek and cold and silvery and shiny. She reflects what the future could be, what it might be, but she is empty and unmoving. Whereas December to me is full and fat and warm and red, the glowing fade of a sunset, the edges spilling over with celebrations and what-could-have-beens and the softened edges of memories. December looks back and captures everything the way we want to see it. January shows us the way we want to be.

I’ve never made resolutions. I never felt the need and I am not an extreme person, so the idea that I’d promise to work out everyday or lose 10 pounds or stop eating chocolate or organize my closet or whatever didn’t make much sense to me. I knew on December 15th I wouldn’t do those things, so being January 1 didn’t make me want to do those things either. I also usually find January depressing. I love the holidays and January seems like such a buzz kill, it’s cold but not for any fun holiday reasons, everyone is busy being “good” and boring, there is really nothing to look forward to until about March.

This year, however, I feel differently. Christmas was a bit of a letdown for me, due to my own busyness and stress. I haven’t been focusing on what I want to. All of a sudden, for the first time, January seems necessary. I’m ready for January this year, ready for her blank slate and clutter clearing and refocusing. And this year,  I made not resolutions exactly, but commitments. I’m re-crossing the Rubicon.

Commitments to myself, for myself, all about writing.

Commitments to myself and to my family about slowing down and savoring life.

Seems like in life, we are always starting over in some way or another. For example, I haven’t written nearly as much as I intended to in the past 6 months, haven’t gotten nearly as far as I wanted. Instead of feeling defeated and frustrated, maybe I just need a better perspective. Maybe it’s not starting over, it’s just starting better. I know how to do it better now.

So here’s to a shiny and blank New Year, ready to be filled with new adventures, new experiences, and falling down and getting back up, new babies ( T and A and K and U!), a new move (sister), new expectations and disappointments and reflections, new philosophies and embracing new detours, new stories and new friends, new laughter and new seasons. While we move forward, we cannot leave the past behind, so here’s to your New Year also being filled with old friends and favorite routines and rituals becoming traditions.

I’m coming for you, cold January lady. I’m gonna wipe the blank slate right off your face.

Happy New Year!!!

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