Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Heaven and Hell

These past few days remind me of how I felt in the wake of September 11th.   I kept hoping that it really didn't just happen, that we all suffered from a massive hallucination and when I woke up the next day it would be erased.  And then when I accepted the awful truth of what happened, nothing felt right.   I walked around feeling as if I were constantly at a funeral – long stretches of great and uncomfortable sorrow, punctuated by side splitting laughter – the later helped to remind myself that I was still alive. 

There are multiple levels to how deep of a hole this tragedy has caused.  I keep pealing back the layers of connection and it is shredding me to pieces.  My connection starts at the top, being a human, an American citizen.  I have the sad realization that there is something fundamentally  decayed in a society that believes it is an individual’s right to own  multiple high caliber guns,  whose only purpose is to kill as many people as possible.  Since when did this ownership of violence become a right? If you cannot smoke in a public restaurant, you sure as shit shouldn't be allowed to carry a gun into that same space.  Fuck this Wild West mentality, fuck your ‘right’ to bear arms, fuck all of these guns, fuck this selfish, greedy monster, this I, me, mine attitude that is rotting us into oblivion.

As a mother I am afraid.   Afraid in a primordial sense, the same way I felt exposed and incapable after September 11th.  That fear will always reside inside of me.  That fear comes to the surface when I bring the girls out, whether to the library or the supermarket and I always check and double check the exits.   My most basic job as a mother is to protect my babies.  When tragedies  like these occur I am painfully reminded of how little I can protect my girls. I tell myself, “You survived 9-11.  You dodged that disaster.   You will be OK.”  And now this massacre happens.   The game has been changed – again.  My loved ones survived  – but once again I will be fundamentally changed.

Our family does not go to church for many reasons.  But I have always felt that our daughter’s school serves a very similar purpose for our family.  We believe in public education and are proud to be a part of our school community.  It is vital to the soul of our neighborhood and an essential part of what makes our city thrive.  Cliff and I volunteer at our school - as many parents do- because we believe that it supports our teachers which in turn helps the children learn and grow.  We have a responsibility to each other and we are united at their elementary school for the same fundamental goals.

I am a substitute teacher at my daughter’s school.  I substitute for classroom teachers and for the special education teachers.  Over the course of a school year I experience the unique position of teaching and interacting with nearly every child in that school.  I think I could name nearly every one of them.   I love my job – truly, love it.   I love being a part of something that is bigger than myself.   I spend many hours each week at school, as a teacher and as a mother. It is a focal point of my life.

 School is a sacred place.  It is where magic and inspiration occurs every day.  It is where children learn to read and where many get their only meals of the day.  That sacred place has been violated.  I am so sad.   I don’t believe in the afterlife of Heaven or the damnation of Hell.  I believe that this earthly plane can be Heaven and Hell.  When Cliff or the girls tell me they love me I am in Heaven.  When I am cooking dinner and the girls are reading and doing homework I am in Heaven.  When we snuggle the girls to bed and after Cliff and I talk about our day and hang out together with our cat George, our home feels like a raft of safety, it is Heaven.  But sadly, it is punctuated by moments like this that we all have a bitter taste of Hell.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas in Rite Aid!

I ventured out to Target last week to try and score some cute stocking snuffers.  Try as I might I could not get into the mood.  Nothing seemed to fit or made me clap my hands with Christmas glee.  Rare for any trip to the mega store I left with nothing. Nothing!  In my despair, afraid that I was slipping into a Scroogian holiday mood - which is verboten with two kids who believe -  I ended posting on Facebook something like, "If I can't buy it at Goodwill or Rite Aid it's not ending up under my tree".  One friend suggested buying tampons for all and then another posted that this was the beginning of a great holiday song.   So my friend, and funny man Rick Crowley and I wrote this one together.  It has brought back the smile on my face and put the jingle in my step.

Christmas in Rite Aid

It’s that magical time of the year
Filled with egg nog, parties and good cheer
But life and get hectic and busy and you need to buy gifts
For loved ones deserve a present that fits
No need to go far a quick drive in your car
It’s Christmas in Rite Aid!

Light up your Strikes and roll your own smokes
Tampons, pads and two-liter cokes
Toenail clippers and a can of Raid
It’s Christmas in Rite Aid!

There’s a nip and chill in the air
So shower your loved ones with rollers for her hair
Or maybe some Metamucil and Pringles
Will make her holidays tingle
It’s Christmas in Rite Aid!

So let’s pop a few Zoloft’s and burp-free fish oil
Maalox, Aveno, a balm for that boil
A six-pack of Ensure and a plug-on from Glade
It’s Christmas in Rite Aid!

Burts Bees for your chapped lips and RID kill those lice
A romance novella and 99 cent spice
Grecian Formula in a box cuz your hair went and grayed
It’s Christmas in Rite Aid!

Everyone needs these items, there’s no need to be shy
We’ve all had diarrhea, crabs or a sty
No gift will be wasted when you buy what friends need
To take care of gas, stinky pits and each month when we bleed
Happy Holiday’s to everyone goodwill to all
Please save yourself a stressful trip to the mall
It’s Christmas in Rite Aid!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sexy Time

For the past two weeks, Cliff and I have been consumed in our search for a new dishwasher.  We have known this time would come; it’s been on its last legs for a couple of years now.  One morning  I tried to turn it on and it was dead.  No life. It didn't even grind to a dramatic halt.   Our dishwasher just said, “Fuck-it.  I’m done with you Lazenby’s”.  Kaput.  And so, the search began.

There is no glamour or excitement in researching and purchasing a major appliance.  It is a very mundane, grown up thing to do.  I didn't look for ovens when I was 24.  I can’t even attest to having one in my apartment since I survived on bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches from the deli, take-out and the French-fries served at The Bottom Line where I was a cocktail waitress. 

Cliff and I have been comparing, researching, opening and closing doors and stood in many a store wide-eyed and feeling dazed and confused.  We dragged the girls to Best Buy on a Saturday where they had their first lesson in never, ever stepping into and closing the door on themselves inside of a refrigerator.  We unsuccessfully tried to pull information out of the world’s worst salesperson, a dumpy, over bleached twat of a woman.  I asked, “Does this model have a food grinder?”  She would sneer and sigh and point to a sticker on one of the many dishwashers that lines the walls, “Well, all the information you need is right here”  Since I have never bought a dishwasher, I asked her, “Why would I need to take the racks out and re-adjust them?”  She blew out crypt keeper smelling breath at me and replied, “I can’t answer that question for you honey.  I don’t know your dish washing needs. ”   Here we were practically waving money in our hands because why else would a person be shopping for an appliance – this is not a browsing for fun kind of purchase-  and this peach of a woman couldn't wait to go on her cigarette break.

After endless comparisons and conversations about stainless steel interior versus plastic and controls on top or the front, we finally found one in our price range where the store offered a special with free delivery, pick-up and thirty eight dollar installation.  We pulled the trigger and bought it.    It’s a hard trigger to pull – not only because it’s expensive, but online we read hundreds of reviews, and there isn't a single dishwasher out there that doesn’t have at least one review that screams, “DO NOT BUY THIS DISHWASHER!  THE WORST EVER!  IT BURNED MY HOUSE DOWN AND ATE MY CAT AND IT DOESN'T T DRY DISHES PROPERLY!!!!!”

Yesterday Cliff calls me at work and says, “I went back to Home Depot to look at the one we bought and I dunno, I am afraid the racks are a little flimsy.  I was opening other racks and the ones on our model seems…weak.  Can you just come and meet me at lunch so we can compare the racks.”  I said “Sure babe, it’s a big purchase, I get it.   I want you to feel good about it.  And I giggle every time you say ‘compare racks’” .

We meet and there Cliff is in a sea of dishwashers, working up a sweat, comparing racks.  “Look at this, see how it wiggles around, flimsy – right?  And this other one here, more solid.  Do you see it?  Feel it?”  We compare more racks.  When Cliff gets focused on something, his eyebrows are mesmerizing.  They arch up and have a slightly sinister quality to the shape.  His eyebrows do this when he is pissed-off or when listening to some seriously heavy and loud music.  I love Cliff’s eyebrows.  They are one of my favorite things about him.

“I don’t know babe – they all are feeling nearly the same to me.” Cliff says, “You think I’m crazy?  Can we check out one last store just to compare?  How about Lowes.  We haven’t been there yet.”  “No babe, I don’t think you’re crazy.   No crazier than I am.  Let’s go - but I will not go to Best Buy with Mrs. Good Mood over there.”  We jump into our separate cars and race two routes to see which one is the closest and quickest.  Cliff won.

At Loews, the rack slide show begins again and we are approached with the opening line, “Can I help you?”  By a salesman who looks a modern day Grizzly Adams.   I jump in and say, “Quite honestly, we have already bought a dishwasher at Home Depot, but we are having buyers regret and rack remorse.”  I go through our entire spiel with this guy who patently listens.

It turns out this guy was the guru of dishwashers.  He explained why some racks feel loose, (because of their removability) and the ins and outs of how Maytag, GE and Whirlpool are one company, which are built in the U S of A and how Boch is anal retentive because it has a printout of how to precisely load each wash.  Cliff and the guru get into the minutia of why he should not get too hung up on exact make and models when looking at consumer reports and no, Home Depot is not trying to unload a bunk dishwasher on us. 

I think Cliff felt a bit better.  His eyebrows came down and relaxed.  “Thank you so much” I said, “I’m sorry we aren't buying one from you.  This has been so helpful.”  “That’s OK.  Glad I could help.  Seems like you did buy a decent dishwasher.   But here’s my card – because someday you will need a fridge.”

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Every picture tells a story

Sophie is in an awkward phase right now – at least that is how I am seeing it.  Her body is growing in all directions, she walks into desks, trips over imaginary dust bunnies, her legs are hairy, her teeth are growing in all crooked and her hormones are beginning to play tricks on her brain.  Poor thing.  Even though I think she is lucky with the group of girls in her grade – I am starting to see which girls are going the too cool for school route, working the “What evah” attitude on for size.  Sophie has a heart as big as the great outdoors coupled with social naiveté  - I do not predict that she is going to be too cool for school any time soon.

She is in good company, because I never was cool at that age – or really anytime in those grade/middle/high school years.  You can’t rock, “What evah!” with thick glasses, a broken beak of a nose and braces.  But hey, if I wasn't saddled with those character builders, I wouldn't have developed my stellar sense of humor.  I pity all those pretty girls who turned out to be bland in their twenties.  At this point, their asses must be huge too.

To help Sophie through this time, twice a week for ten weeks, she has participated in Girls on the Run at school.    It is an amazing program that promotes self esteem and empowerment through workshops and exercise.  This program culminates in a huge girl power 5k.

This Friday when I picked Sophie up after school, she was a hot mess - didn't understand her homework, all sweaty from gym and lost her sweater.   As she flung herself up and over to look in the lost and found, she slipped and twisted her ankle.  The same one she cracked pretty bad at practice a month earlier.

I was hoping it would be fine – because I knew that Sunday – today - would be the big 5k day.

We arrived on time.  The weather was perfect late fall, sunny and crisp.  The stadium was filled with pop music,  teammates, coaches and parents vibrating with excitement,  ready to run and celebrate.  Sophie and I start off the race at a respectable  pace – and barely and half mile into it, she starts slowing down.  It was her ankle.  Her slow down became a stumbling walk, which turned into sobbing and limping.  Crying and leaning on me, she came to a complete stop on the side of the road.  We sat down in the grass and she bawled in my lap.  It was all over before it even started.

This event that she has worked towards all fall was just shit down the drain because of a clumsy move days earlier.  My poor little Calamity Jane.
My heart just hurt with disappointment as she was crying and watching groups of girls running by, doing what she should have been doing.   Disappointed for my own unrealized expectations – I was looking forward to this event with Sophie and as a family.  I was saddened by the sweet signs that Cliff and Katie made for us that they barely got to wave.  Disappointed by my expectation that together we would run over the finish line, smiling, buoyant with mother daughter love gliding in on Spice Girl size girl power.

It was a total letdown.   I was simultaneously wrestling with wanting to shake her and yell, “Are you kidding me?!  Your ankle hurts?!!!   Get up off your ass and do this shit!   It can’t hurt THAT BAD!!”  And my heart broken in two for her.

At this point Cliff and Katie have found us.   Cliff and I try to regroup and pull some parenting shit out of our asses.  Nothing had gone as planned.  We both looked at Sophie and said, “We think you would feel better if you get up and finish this last loop and cross the finish line.  Just walk slowly.  OK?”  She balked at this.  That was when I then said, “You will get up and you will walk across that finish line.  I don’t care how slowly you go – but we will do this.”

She was not too happy about it.  She protested.  She cried.  But Cliff and I stayed united on this one. 
Sophie, Katie and I made it across.  Not in any way like I expected.  But we did it.  Our car ride home was quiet.  Just Sophie and I.  At one point Sophie quietly chirped, “I love you Mama.  I’m so glad that I have you as a Mama.”

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Happy New Year!

It is that seasonal tipping point.  The soft, beachy days of August are becoming farther away in my rear-view mirror of life and the back to school, work, volunteering, holy cow I need to use this crock-pot or we all are gonna only eat at eight O’clock every night, after school activity shuffle is fully upon our family. Kapow!  My tan is already fading.  Boo.

I feel like a cross between the lady at the circus spinning plates and a one-man band.  Part koo-koo crazy, part, “Wow! How did she do that?!”
crazy - right?!
I am trying to be very aware of the temperature my mood can bring to my family.  A harshly snapped comment at Sophie while we are all careening around the house in the morning can make or break a day.  I am learning that it really doesn’t help anyone of I lose my temper.   It doesn’t mean that I have to accept Sophie’s eye-rolling, whiny protests at whatever is bothering her pre-teen, roiling hormonal self.  I can use my calm airline stewardess voice – and simply take away her i-pod privileges, continue getting myself dressed (cue the evil, hand-rubbing, cackling, laugh of Mommy get- back)and give her a kiss later.

I don’t want the girls – or Cliff –or to see me as the yelling, wheel spinning, not getting anything accomplished, late for everything mommy.  And I’m not – most days. 

I am thinking about all of these things this morning.   I have always thought of September as the start of the New Year.   I believe that the new habits and rituals that I create and practice, the goals that I write down – really direct my path for the year.   
I like to believe in signs from the universe.  Signs that blink red-warning lights.   And signs where the universe lovingly whispers to you -"Hey honey.  You are going in the right direction."
 This is the first image that came up when I googled, "woman spinning plates". 
Look at Farrah - all back arched and sun in her California blond hair.  She's not worried.  Or crazy.  Or yelling.  She's spinning her wheels looking gorgeous and easy.   If that isn't an exquisite sign, I don't know what is.  Happy New Year.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The sky today was just as blue as it was eleven years ago

I have never written about my experience on September 11th.  I’m afraid that if I write about it, I won’t do any of it justice, and my experience will be downgraded into a  Lifetime Movie of the Week.    Quite simply - that day just gutted me. 

This is not about a recounting of that day – although every year, Cliff and I do this together.   This ritual makes us feel better even though we know where the story goes and how it ends.  This history that we share gives us yet another layer of connection with each other.   

Here’s my thought - I feel as though we don’t have a national ritual that honors this day in a unique and respectful way.  I know that there are the ceremonies at the sights, and I respect and completely agree that they should remain solely for those people who lost their loves.  Sure, we post pictures on Facebook,and there are television shows dedicated the timeline of that morning - but what do we actually do on September 11th to give it the respect it deserves. 

I fear that if we had the day off,  it would become a  “Holiday”.  In the way that Memorial Day has very little to do with actually memorializing those who lost their lives protecting our country.  Sure, there are parades, and for those families who lost a loved one in war, the day takes on a deep and somber meaning.  But come on – we all know Memorial Day as the kick off of the summer season.  Most of us have lost the meaning of Memorial Day.  I know I have.

So this is what I think we should do – September 11th should be a national day of service and beauty. We should use this day to clean up beaches, plant trees, volunteer at a women’s shelter or ASPCA –whatever it is that you want to help and to give. 

We should take that day and create beauty on such an ugly day.  


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Yesterday was the earliest I've gotten up all summer - and it was worth it

I took the girls to see Barack Obama speak yesterday.   More specifically,  I went with a powerful posse of girlfriends and their daughters.  It’s not every day that the President of the United States, the First Lady and The Vice Pres come to town.  It was an event that I wanted to take my girls to and that I was very excited to attend.
I mean - we made t-shirts for the event!

I knew it was going to be a long day, with a fair amount of jostling for position and waiting in crowds in the hot sun – but I have years of practice from waiting overnight in line for concert tickets or attending many concerts and music festivals.
You talkin' to me 
I was getting a little loopy from the sun and sweaty bodies
  I was proud of my city – this massive event went smoothly, with no crazies, and the crowd maintained a respectful and easy atmosphere, despite the sweltering heat .    There was airport –like security and we weren’t able to bring in anything – no food or drinks.   Although I did manage to smuggle in pretzels, which I doled out as if we were on Survivor and I kept telling all the girls that they needed the salt because we were sweating out our body weight.  And there was water handed out constantly, which we drank and poured over our heads and down our backs.

             This was the point that my upper arm strength was in full-effect

  I felt so gratified from our day – from the girl power company, to attending this huge event  - I mean I took my daughters to see the President and Vice President speak in our own city!  Yowza!    But there was more to my satisfaction - I realized I have had this same feeling when I take a road trip with my daughters - solo.  At some point during every trip I think to myself, “ I’m in charge of these little creatures – I am completely responsible for their safety and well-being.  Wow!  I’m in charge?   How can that be?”  I usually have a moment of complete wonderment and holy-shit at the fact that I am adult enough to do this herculean task of being a parent.  The feeling quickly passes,  and I think , “Well, frick yeah I can do this – I’m Stephanie!  I kick-ass, I’m a damn good mom, and I never leave the house without a snack!” And I feel sure of myself and my ability and dexterity to navigate traveling and parenting together – successfully.

I had that same feeling of parental confidence after our experience at the Obama event.   I felt such pride -  in raising girls, speaking honestly with my daughters about what I believe in and why, and including them in this event.  Watching my daughters and her friends I appreciated this deeply responsible moment.  Hopefully, these girls will remember this day (well, maybe not one friend’s daughter who is four and she was kinda falling asleep).  As parents, we are building memories that are shaping the narrative of who they are and the people they become.  And I love that part of being a mother.

 And Michelle Obama is just gorgeous in person - when she stepped on stage, the crowd roared.  I screamed like I was at a rock concert.

We got pizza and beer after - the best most luscious beer and pizza I've ever had.   (that's pizza dough on Katie's head - of course!)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What you should NOT say to Stay-at-Home Moms the first week of school.

Over the years, many well meaning people have doled out to me unsolicited, misguided platitudes along the lines of, “Oh, they grow up so fast!” and “Enjoy them while they are young.” And here’s one I love, “Breast is best!”(Not when I have a fever of 104 from Mastitis and my nipples are cracked and bleeding!)

 Along those lines, here is a guideline of phrases and sentiments that you should avoid.

10. After all those years of nurturing, quality time, won’t you miss them while they are at school?

9. See you at the supermarket!

8. Oh Goody – new blood! The PTA needs someone to head up the Election Day bake sale – come to think of it, have you considered being a class parent for your child’s homeroom? Or maybe the school carnival? Book Shelver in the Library? Hall Monitor? Book Sale?

7. Don’t you just miss it when they were babies – why don’t you have another child?

6. You would be really good at selling, Amway, Jewelry, Natural Cleaning Products, Vibrators, Nu Skin… Can I talk to you about how flexible the hours are?

5. You let her take the bus to school?! Don’t you know what happens on the bus! Well, I guess it’s OK for you – I just would never feel comfortable.

4. They don’t teach enough Arts at their school – Want to start a Home-Schooling Co-Op?

3. Honey, could you pick up my dry-cleaning?

2. So, when are you going back to work?

And the number one thing to NEVER, EVER say....

1. What are you going to do with all of your free time?



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I have a tent for sale - cheap

 Lately I have been thinking about revenge versus karma, the timing of events and the meaning of why people enter your life for brief moments.  I am trying to understand what I am supposed to learn from these short and disastrous unions. 

When I was 24 I had a boyfriend named Lou.  He was the type of boyfriend that you have when you are young and don’t really know any better.   I wasn’t looking to settle down, just practice what it was like to have a boyfriend.  He was good looking in that, bad boy, dumb as a pile of rocks, really honey, we’re not here to have deep talks, you’ll hurt yourself, let’s just have fun with each other in New York City, kinda way.

We even took off on a cross-country trip.   Together, we bought a bunch of camping gear, including an ultra-deluxe LL Bean tent, plus the ugliest banana yellow 1979 Ford Country Squire Station Wagon, complete with faux wood-paneling.  I think it got 10 miles to the gallon and we drove all over this country.  I had a once in a lifetime experience, but at some point while we were driving through Tennessee I knew that the shelf-life on this relationship had expired.

We got back to New York and sadly had a very ugly break-up.    I remember being devastated by the fact that in one moment this person who I spent nearly every day with for  two years was completely erased from my life.  True, we needed to end it, but it still hurt and cut deep.   There were no follow-up phone calls after, no running into each other at the same bars we used to frequent – nothing. 

I kept imagining what I would say when I finally did see him.  I practiced many witty quips and bitchy remarks and eat your heart out outfits.  But our paths never crossed.

Until one day, nearly a year after we broke up.  By then, I was well over him.   But I wasn’t over the fact that he owed me about two thousand dollars from the trip we took. 

I couldn’t have planned the moment any better.  I looked good and I was with friends.  We said hi and  talked in an easy, nearly flirty way.   In all of my imagined scenarios leading up to this moment,  I never practiced what I said next.  I told Lou that I was going camping in a few days with my girlfriends.  I said, “Hey, isn’t this the greatest coincidence that we ran into each other, because don’t you still have the camping gear? “ I continued, “I have a great idea! Can you meet me tomorrow with the equipment and tent so I can borrow it?”  “Well, sure.”  Said Lou.  “But I really need it back soon – it’s so funny that you are going camping, because I’m taking my brother camping the day after you get back.”  I smiled and replied,  “ I promise, I’ll give it back.“

  As we walked away my friend Fred turned to me and said, “Steph – you’re not going camping.”  “No I’m not Freddie.”  We laughed and rubbed our hands like cartoon characters with vengeful glee. 

I was shocked that Lou actually met me.  He was standing at the entrance of Central Park, at Columbus Circle with this massive amount of gear, stuffed into an army surplus duffel nearly the length of my body.  We agreed that he would call me the coming Sunday and meet that day so I could return the gear.   He was going camping early Monday morning.

 Lou called when I ‘got back from camping’. I politely explained to him that I would be happy to meet and give him the camping gear, as long as he gave me a check for at least half of what he owed me from the trip.   It seemed like a fair deal to me. 

He didn’t get the tent. And I knew that he would never give me the money.  I needed to get in that last killing blow.  I also took particular satisfaction in the fact that I have never used the tent – I don’t really like camping.   Right now it’s in the same spot I left it back in 1995 -  in my parents attic.

This time last year I went through a similar break-up with a friendship and I’m amazed at the parallels between the two.   We were friends for the same duration as Lou and I were together.  Our friendship had its limitations as did my relationship with Lou.  The friendship ended ugly and we eviscerated each other from our lives.   And over the course of a year we never ran into each other.  It will happen when the timing is right – just like with Lou.

Lou and I were never meant to see each other until that exact moment.  I didn’t know this at the time, but my twenty something self needed time to heal and recover from a nasty break-up.  Maybe it prepared me for what I have gone through with this grown-up version of Lou.  There is a reason we have never run into each other -  we have been like opposite magnets, repelling each other, staying out of each other’s way.

I know I can’t really act in the same youth-fueled vengeful way – although I’d like to sometimes.  Maybe that is where Karma comes in to play.  I’ve stopped preparing what I would say to this ex-friend should we run into each other face to face in the produce isle.  My experience with Lou taught me that I really can’t plan these moments.

Both of these shallow relationships have truly taught me a great deal – about the distrustful nature of some people, that everything, every relationship runs its natural course, and we can’t always predict when it will end.   Some last a lifetime, some exist in perfection in grade school.  And some only last two years.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Happy Birth-day Sophie!

Today is Sophie’s birthday – She is nine.  Every year I like to remember moments of the day I gave birth to her.  I will spare you the details of the labor and delivery.  They are equal parts, gross and mind-bogglingly painful and miraculous. 

I was thinking today about the cheeseburger I ate right after Sophie was born.

You see, once you are admitted to the hospital you cannot eat anything.  They don’t allow you to.  From the time I was admitted to showtime it was some eighteen hours later.  When all was said and done, I was ravenous.     To my great relief and joy, the hospital was equipped with room service.

I ordered my afterbirth meal.  It consisted of a cheeseburger, Mac & Cheese, chocolate cake and a coke. 

Within minutes – no kidding – manna from heaven appeared right in the delivery room.  The nurses took Sophie to do their routine new baby check. I was left to savor the greatest, juiciest, most satisfying burger I ever had the pleasure of devouring.   I was making love to this cheeseburger, and the nurses came back with a minutes-old Sophie. 

“Ma’am, your baby!”  The nurse beamed at me.

I sat in bed chowing a mouthful of burger, and I stopped and looked at her quizzically.  “My baby?”  I thought.  “She must have the wrong room.  I don’t have a baby.”  And then it dawned on me, “That’s my baby!! Holy cow – I have a baby!”  I had a moment where I panicked, “I don’t think I can do this.  Maybe I don’t have to.  If I just keep eating she may just leave me alone.  Baby?  I just want to eat.  How am I going to eat?”

I took Sophie from the nurse and I proceeded to successfully eat my first of many one-handed meals, one arm wrapped around Sophie, the other feeding myself.  I knew that something inside of me had fundamentally changed.  My DNA was rearranged.  I crossed across the chasm and stepped onto the other side.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I enjoy being a girl

I haven’t blogged in a few weeks – and in blogging terms that can be the difference between gaining some new readers and losing a few.  I hope I haven’t lost any of you.  Maybe you have all been having the kick-ass summer that we have been having.  One filled with ocean waves and parties, chlorine stung eyes, hot dogs and movies.   We have taken road trips and strengthened friendships, old and new.    Our soundtrack has been full on sugar-pop music, with Katy Perry as the band leader.

Right now, Sophie is having a sleepover with three girlfriends.   They are giddy with girly silliness.   Loud as bullhorns, these girls have scarfed down pizza, created candy-filled sundaes and washed it all down with cokes (gasp!).  We all curled up and watched the movie, Big Miracle, about the whales stuck in the ocean in Alaska.  I have come to realize that nine year old girls love animals, pop music, nail polish and food.  We have all of these on hand. 

I woke up to the sounds of giggling girls playing Mad Libs – it amazes me that they are really doing exactly what I did as a kid on sleepovers –  calling out to each other, “OK, I need and verb.”  “Pooping!”  “Now, a noun.”  “Boobies!”  It never gets old.  It never changes.

I want to freeze this moment in time.   As much as I am starting to realize that nine is a transitory year – she’s growing out of being a little girl and I have already experienced the crazy brain of hormones starting to wreak havoc on her moods-I don’t want her to forget this feeling of freedom.

Sophie and her friends can fart and laugh and cuddle with each other.   They may have grown out of dolls, but stuffed animals are still necessary for sleep.  And even though boys have just begun to catch their interest, in a new “Oh my gosh I think he’s cute!” squealing kinda way – they are still friends.   And these girls believe that they are smarter than boys and their equal in sports.  Sophie is free to eat anything and not criticize herself for being “fat”.  “We are going swimming later, so I need more whipped cream on my pancakes!”  She regards her body as strong and gorgeous - and she has her own style – as all her friends do.  I love their confident outfits of plaids and leopard prints and feathers in their hair.

I know being a girl isn’t always free – I respect that they have their own real worries and fears.  The world is opening up, and not all of it is nice and filled with My Pretty Pony.  I am not kidding myself; I know that other girls are sometimes their own worst enemies.  But I say a little mommy prayer that Sophie and her friends can keep this camaraderie and individuality going through middle school.  Because being a girl and having girlfriends is one of the most amazing things in this crazy world.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Anyone have a spare xanax for tonight?

I have a confession to make.   I don’t like the 4th of July.  I dread this holiday. 

The truth is, Fireworks freak me out.  I can’t stand them – there is not enough xanax in the world that keeps me from simultaneously wanting to wrap a towel around my head and crawl under a bed and haul ass far away when those explosives go off.  I would lead a very fulfilled life if never go to a firework display ever again, staying far away from the crowds of knuckheads and the random, heart stopping blowing up of cherry bombs and bottle rockets. 

I am true to what I have felt since I was a kid.  Loud noises have always made me shriek and jump –  the sound of a popping balloon makes my heart race.  As a kid I hid under the blankets during a couple of firework shows  and my parents were perceptive enough to realize – “hmmm she really seems unhappy…”   I grew up not going into the fray of bodies and noise.   When I was seventeen,  I gave it another  try  and my teenage bravado could barely hold at bay my internal terror of the relentless blasts.

When I lived in New York, I was able to escape the fireworks and traditional hoopla – the city cleared out on holiday and unless you made a point of going to the fireworks on the East River, I could easily avoid the mess. One year, I had fun watching the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy in Bryant Park.  Another, there was a Twilight Zone marathon on TV – I think I stayed indoors for twelve hours, only moving off the couch to answer the door for delivery.  That was an ideal 4th of July.

I know that I am in the minority and I really don’t understand why I feel so strongly against fireworks.  I am not an anxiety riddled person – I just have always hated loud, blasting fireworks. 

But here is the rub – We live in a town that celebrates with a huge fireworks extravaganza and we have close friends who host a fantastic party right under the umbrella of the blasts.  Sophie loves the feeling of being so close to fireworks that it rattles her body – and while Katie must have earplugs in for the big finish,  (she is my daughter) she enjoys the party.   Sure, my family could just go to the party without me –but  I get worried that in such a crowed scene, Cliff and I need to have one-on-one defense to keep an eye on the girls in this situation.   I feel better thinking that my presence will magically protect my children from an errant missile exploding in their vicinity.

 I also can’t resist good party –and this one is filled with delish food, interesting people, and the greatest game imported from the mid-west…Cornhole!  Basically it’s bean bag toss, but the fourteen year old boy in everyone can’t resist the endless jokes of, “I’m next to Cornhole!”, “Wow, you are an amazing Cornholer.”  "You just missed the Cornhole!"  The Cornhole jokes never stop.  
 I hate to miss out on a good time with rockin’ friends. (hmmm, maybe that was part of the problem in college…).

Maybe in a past life I was killed in the French Revolution and I am trying to work out some karma.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Are you ready for the summer? Inspiration Monday

At the moment my front yard is a scene from summer since time began - I have five girls playing "Red Light Green Light"  and boys from the neighborhood are riding their bikes by, being loud and trying to show off.

Here we are at the super start of summer vacation. 

It was highly unusual to have no snow days this year - in turn we ended the school year "early" since we usually have to add on at least a week for the make-up days.  Because I don't feel beat up from winter, I feel as though summertime snuck up on us.  I am happy to have this week to get ready for the summer - set some goals, firm up plans, sign the girls up for art camp and pray to Mother Nature in New England that we warm up consistently here.  It's either 65 or 90.

Here's a sample to the grand start of the summer here.

  A little poolside cuddle on the last day of school - always a day of mixed feelings for my girls.  They had an amazing year, so it was hard to say goodbye to their teachers.

The next day the public library sponsored an event at a local park to kick-off their summer programs. 

For Father's Day the girls got all crafty with a good friend and made these amazing flower arraignments for Cliff and my Dad.  

Sophie and a friend giggling like girls in our front yard tree.

  At one point we had four different dads from the neighborhood in our driveway drinking beer. 

On top of all this fun, Cliff and I had a Saturday date and I painted and re-purposed two side tables and a shelf, a project I've been wanting to finish for a while, mainly because I hated looking at those scratched tables.

I love the summertime.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

This is why I discovered there is a show called 'The Chew" on in the middle of the day

I had another entire blog post planned for today – which will just have to be put on pause for the moment  like everything else in life right now – because my Sophie pie is a barfy, sad, sick mess.   Poor lamb cannot keep anything down all day long.  And I would rather have the  nastiest head cold and a fever any day over a stomach bug.  And my poor little Sophie is very prone to those stomach bugs.  

As my girls get older, their colds come with less frequency than when they were babies and toddlers, but they sweep over them now with such a swift ferocity.    I am always caught off guard by my children’s otherwise independent demeanor to be swept away once they get sick their neediness is that of little baby birds. 

I am filled with contradictory feelings as well today.  In one part of me I am satisfied by this caretaking.  There is something elemental about knowing that I am the sole source of Sophie’s comfort and ease while she is rendered useless and limp like an over cooked noodle.  She is normally like a Thoroughbred, with all the speed and grace that comes with that animal.  But when she is sick like this – she actually naps and cries in mews like a baby kitten and keeps a crinkled worried brow glued to her forehead all day. Momma is all she wants and needs.  And that feels good because I am able to give this little creature that I love so much a little ginger ale and it makes her feel  better.
Yet, when they are sick – all time comes to a screeching halt.  I am amazed that the earth keeps turning and that there are highways filled with cars going somewhere because my world in an instant is telescoped into small, focused areas and actions -  Kid, kitchen, bathroom, couch.   Ginger ale, washcloth,  warmed up boo-boo snake (a magical rice filled tube sock, pre-school project, that cures all ailments)  All plans and items on my  to-do list I had for the day are done – and because of her frequency to use the bathroom – anything I start has to stop at any second.  (The only reason why this is even written is because Sophie is napping.  For the briefest of moments. ) 

Time really does stop for me – because anything place I was planning to be, go and do are done. And today was one of those days where I had it mapped out to the hour – and none of it is happening.   It is hard – but I have to let it go.

This is where the smashing contradiction of motherhood happens.   How can motherhood be so deeply gratifying yet soul sucking at the same time?  Why does holding her hair while she pukes feel so Nobel Prize worthy, so utterly necessary to keep the world turning?  I really don’t know why the New York Times isn’t covering the fact that I warmed up that Boo-Boo Snake 14 times today, wiped barf over 10 and sat on the bathroom floor with Sophie for countless hours and rubbed her back while she cried through each heave. 
I have to go - Sophie just woke up.  She rolled over, smiled at me and said, "Hi Momma."

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Does this housework make my butt look fat?

It is May, so that means the bi-annual summer/winter switch of clothes is upon me.  Every May and October I have the massive undertaking of weeding through the girl’s clothes – what fits, what doesn’t, properly storing snow pants for next season, and then selecting what clothes I will take to Goodwill or which ones I will pass onto friends.  It is an essential pain in the ass task that seems to take forever, and with the picky New England weather, it comes in fits and starts. 

I embark on a similar undertaking for myself, switching out woolen sweaters for cotton skirts and tall black boots for open toed anything.  As I was trying on skirts the other day I came to realize that some of my skirts were feeling a wee bit tight.  I put on my trusty teal green cropped pants and lo and behold, they betrayed me and were a little snug as well.

Now, I am not a girl who has weekly weigh-ins.  I have always gone by a simple measure of how my clothes fit - and by the adage of everything in moderation- so I enjoy my cheeseburgers as much as I appreciate a damn good salad.   I also try very hard to never, ever call myself fat, especially in front of Sophie and Katie.   I am acutely aware of girls and self image and how much of a direct – and hopefully - positive influence I have upon their growing little bodies and self esteem.  So I tell them that I run because it makes me feel strong and happy and it is good for my body and they should enjoy sports or being active for the same reason. 

I think that Fat and Diet are mean, nasty curse words.  Too many women have these words embedded in their brains and vocabulary and I refuse to be one of them.   I exercise because those endorphins rush through me and that feeling translates into feeling confident in a bathing suit - that is what is important.  I know that I will never be a size four, so I will make my body size the best it can be. 

But trying on my clothes the other day I began to realize that I had put on a few pounds – not much, but enough to make my clothes feel snug.  So I tried to think about what I have been doing to cause this small weight gain. 

I came to realize that it has been what I have not been doing.  I realized that I had not exercised one bit in the past three weeks.  I tried to figure out and sift through my daily time to understand why.  I realized it is just so hard to squeeze it all in, every single day - work, sleep, play,  what not, and my most dreaded of all life maintenance, housework.

Anyone who knows me knows what a joyless task I find cleaning to be.  I know that adult life can be littered with tasks that must be performed to keep it all chugging along, but the amount that has to be done to just keep a path clean from one room to the next is depressing to me.  It is one the ultimate catch 22’s in my life.  I love my home – I spend a great deal of time in it and I love having it filled with friends and family, so some sort of order must be maintained.  Yet I resent every moment that I spend sweeping the kitchen floor of crumbs that magically appear three minutes later. 

And I don’t care so little that I am just going to let it go to squalor, because, well, I don’t want my house to look like total crap.

When I clean, I begrudge every second I spend doing something I hate, wishing I was doing something else.  When my house is a mess of piles, sticky floors and dust bunnies it makes me cuckoo.  And I don’t think it is fair to ask Cliff to do more – he is not one of those guys who  complains while  I’m vacuuming, telling me to keep it down so he can watch the game, and get me another beer while I’m up.  He is a full, contributing member of this home, with an overflowing amount of life to contend with as well.   

 I have been sacrificing my work-out time for housework – and that is not cool.   Something has to change.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Inspiration Monday - My new love, George

This is our new cat, George.

We just adopted him from the animal shelter two weeks ago.  As we were looking at the cats, I watched Cliff stroking his little cat head, and I saw them look at each other - I saw "The Look" exchanged between them. 

You know, "The Look".  The one where you go to an animal shelter and you connect with an animal, and not in a superficial, "Oh I feel sorry for him, isn't he cute, I just want him."  No.  "The Look" is when an animal gazes into your eyes - your soul - and says, "Haven't we meet before in another life.  Take me home.  We belong together." 

The girls and I rush home from school to see him because we miss him and we eat our snacks and play with him.
We sit in the living room and watch George clean himself and we marvel at how cute and amazing he is, and ask each other, "Why is it so fascinating to watch this cat?!  Don't you just LOVE him!"

He talks and sleeps with the girls and is not afraid of water, so when he drinks he submerges his paw into his water bowl and then licks it.  We also find him curled up in the bathroom sink sometimes.

He is everything that I want in a cat.  He purrs and flops and is social and hangs out.  He is not skittish and George is not an aloof cat.  He likes to be a part of the action and he needs to be loved.  And we are all to happy to pet him and love him.

Years ago, when my cat Milo died, I was devastated.  He died just a couple of months after September 11th and a few weeks shy of moving out of New York City, so it was a very emotionally raw time.  I haven't had a cat since - I couldn't.   I have always hoped that I would find a cat that was Milo-esque.

Our George is that cat. 

I am head over heels in love with George.  I am so happy that we found George.  Or that George found us - same thing.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Namaste MCA

I first saw the Beastie Boys in concert in the summer of 1987.  It was a long time ago – but with the devastating death of Adam Yauch, I have been trying my best to remember as much about that night as I can.  I found this article in the New York Times – and I believe this was the show I went to.  I can recall flashes of that night, like going with my beloved boyfriend and friends.  I remember the thick, August humidity that only a New York summer can deliver.  I remember the massive police presence.  But I also remember the unity and exhilaration that all of us felt seeing this concert.   It was the kind of night that you only experience as a teenager.

It can be strange how we people react when someone famous dies.  I never hung out with MCA – but I sure felt like I did.   Adam Yauch felt like a friend.  He was an artist that has sung to me since I was ridiculous teenager.  I have been inspired by his music and have always felt personally connected to the Beastie Boys– they sung about places or television commercials that I recognized as a New Yorker, (“Got more suits than Jacoby and Myers” only a New Yorker knows what that is!).   I felt like I was listening to people that I knew.  When Cliff and I lived in NYC on Prince Street we had numerous Adam Yauch sightings – at the pizza place, picking up laundry or pushing his baby girl in a stroller.  These run-ins always gave us an excited tingly feeling, like we were living near greatness, but also near our friend.

His death brings another level of identification, in that he was a peer.  Adam was only 47 years old.  He had a child and a wife and a large circle of friends.   When I break it down like that he was no different than you or I.  He didn’t blow his brains out like Kurt Cobain or waste away on drugs.  He died of Cancer.  Any one of us can get cancer.  A stone cold reality as we age – and that is a scary pill to swallow.  His death has forced me to contemplate the inevitability of my own death and the legacy that I hope to leave behind.   I have asked myself over the past few days, “Have I done enough?”  “Am I living the life I want to live?”  These are heavy, reflective questions to ask while in the torrent of everyday adult life -  But they are also healthy and necessary as well.

Maybe that duality is why Adam Yauch’s death is so hard  – I have come to realize that I thought of him as a friend, a mentor, who has been with me each step since I was a teenager. And what is different about his death, than the passing of Michael Jackson, is there has never been any scandal or drug abuse with MCA.  Michael Jackson, as gifted and brilliant musician as he was – I perceived him as a sad, incomplete human.  His childhood was stunted by crushing fame.  And even though he created music that is indelible and enduring, Michael Jackson was living on a bankrupt ranch named Never Land and accused of diddling little boys, his death hastened years of drug abuse.  Sad – yes. But I found it to be merciful and not surprising.

Adam Yauch doesn’t have any of those tainted qualities.  He was never mired in scandal, and the Beasties were not only adored by fans but they were respected musicians who crossed and erased racial boundaries through music.  He was a Buddhist and a humanitarian.  He was a filmmaker, writer, a father a husband a son and a friend.

If there was any religion I would consider following, it would be Buddhism.  Adam Yauch was a Buddhist.  The Buddhists believe that death is not the end of life, but simply the end of this body we have inhabited.  When we die our spirit continues and seeks out a new life or new body. Where and how we are reborn is determined by the accumulation of positive and negative action, which is our Karma.  I believe that MCA accumulated some amazing karma in his short life.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Inspiration Monday - I Love New York

Every year for Spring break the girls and I pile into the car and road trip it on down to the New York City area.  I have posted about this journey in May last year.

It is an epic trip filled with friends and family, subway rides, late nights and a Mommy (that's me!)  who likes to say "Yes!"  all week long.   "Mom, can we have new flip flops?"  "Yes you can!  And how about some cupcakes too!"   I have learned that we all need a break from the daily routine.  It is fun to be the mommy who says yes on vacation.  And let me tell you and brag a moment - my girls deserved every yes I served up.  They were fun, game for anything, and great traveling companions.

I never get to see everyone that I want.  It is hard to squeeze in everything we did in just a few days.  But we always come back.  Momma needs her New York City fix.

 Here's a sample of our week of "Yes!"

Nothing satisfies like a real diner.   Katie sees the world with Pancake glasses.

"Mommy, can I pour you some more wine?"  "Why, yes you can Sophie - and don't give any to that guy at the other table!"

Katie enjoys crunchy wantons as Sophie reads People Magazine

"Would you pour me some more wine please Sophie!"

The next day, Sophie contemplates what a silly lady her mother is.

No trip to New York is complete without some real frickin' pizza

Katie sees her future - and it is filled with hair products and gorgeousness
(we all got haircuts, but Katie looked the most glamourous during hers.)

I think this one may be the album cover

Or maybe Sophie picking Tupac's nose...