Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of a Decade: Part I

I was inspired by Jasie, over at by the seat of our pants, and her retrospective look at the last decade, and decided to do the same over here.  Here goes:

2000:  Moved from Arizona to my parent's house in Western New York to get married.  Ran out of money after the wedding and remained in WNY (not our original plan!).  I taught preschool for $7 an hour and SuperSpouse was unemployed and did the day-job gig at Labor Ready.  We ate a lot of Ramen.  In fact, I had to quit Ramen that year because I ate so much of it.  I've only recently started eating it again, so--hey!--I guess Ramen noodle soup has bookended this decade for me.  Our lifestyle was perhaps a bit humbling for college grads in a decent economy, but when Jurassic 5 released "What's Golden?" a few years later with the lyrics:  I'm labor ready, Rhode Scholar for the dollar/ Work for mines, pay me by the hour, we felt like we could authentically rock that song because of the experience.  And that has made it all worthwhile.

2001:  Plugged along in my hometown.  Our apartment was gorgeous.  The city we lived in was decidedly not.  Although I will always love my hometown like a little lost child you just can't save, it is depressing as hell to live there.  We applied to grad school, got accepted, and took off in December to spend a month visiting the in-laws in the ever-sunny Deep South before moving to the cold, snowy shores of Lake Ontario.

2002:  Rented our first ever house together with just the two of us (we had lived in houses before, but always with groups of students).  It was small, crooked, and up on top of a very steep hill.  We could hear the wind coming across the lake and then feel it shake our house as we lay in bed at night in multiple layers of clothing, using an illegal-according-to-our-lease space heater to keep warm because the upstairs of the house wasn't heated.  That winter brought us 13 feet of snow.  Why the @#$% wasn't the upstairs of that house heated!?!?

2003:  Hubby finished grad school and got a long term sub position as a middle school art teacher.  I started teaching yoga and pilates and decided I didn't want to teach school full-time when I graduated in December, so that I could ensure some space in my life for this newer calling.  Sure, lots of people work full time and then keep a side gig, but I didn't choose LazyBones as my nom de plume for no reason!  I likes me some time to sit and think.  And poverty has always been less of a dissuading factor than an absolutely normal part of life for me, so...part time, yes!  This is also the year I said to my husband: as soon as we get health insurance, let's have a baby!  He agreed.  Little did we know the giggle the Universe was having over that simple statement!

2004:  Moved 45 minutes down the road from the big, cold lake into the nearest big-ish city (or at least bigger than the tiny town on Lake Ontario that was, after just 2 years, both boring and freezing us into catatonia).  I got lucky with a part-time teaching gig that offered health insurance for the both of us; we found an apartment and began to settle in, ready to start "real life".  We even began a house search, and started discussing baby names.  Then I found out my job was being cut at the end of the year.  But wait!  They had another offer for me.  But it was full-time.  And I would be teaching a self-contained class of students with severe emotional and behavioral problems.  Now, I'm a planner.  And this wasn't in my plan.  But after much reflection, I decided to "let life happen to me".  I took the job.  And life happened to me alright.  Life happened to me like a mugging happens in a dark alley, like a two-by-four happens to the back of your skull, like one drink happens to an alcoholic.  The last half of 2004 found me curled up on a daybed alternately sobbing copiously and obsessively watching Sex and the City so I could forget my problems and immerse myself in fluff.  Meanwhile, the long-term sub gig ended for the Hubby and he was fighting his own no-job blues the best way he knew how: with big cans of cheap beer.  A baby was no longer an option because it would force me to keep this job indefinitely and I was pretty sure babies didn't like mothers who came home from work only to cry and watch SATC and fathers who stared sadly out the window drinking big cans of beer.  Wow, 2004 sucked, yo! 

2005:  2005 started out the same way, but took a turn for the better when I resigned in June and we took all our savings and blew it on a cross-country road trip.  We spent the summer living out of our car and visiting family and friends, and returned home in August ready to start over.  Hubs began subbing in a bazillion different districts so he seldom had to teach anything but art and I picked up as many fitness classes as I could to fill my days.  We were even poorer now, but infinitely happier.  I will say that that the experience convinced me to listen to my intuition from that point on.  I'm a planner for a reason.  It's how I work, and it works for me.  My experiment in "letting life happen to me" was not one I care to repeat.  And perhaps I needed to suffer a bit in order to build up the bravery to forge my own path into the future.  I have a policy never to regret the past if I'm happy in the present, and so I've woven that terrible year into a narrative of freedom:  I was chained to a life I hated with chains I chose for myself.  These chains were tight enough to convince me it was worth walking into the unknown, because the fear of what could be became better than what was.  Is that true?  Who knows.  In the end, whatever we tell ourselves becomes the truth, and that's the story I've chosen to tell.  It makes that terrible year make a kind of sense, and makes it worthwhile in the end.  And in the end, what do we have besides our stories?

It's no news to me that I am overly verbose, but in the interest of keeping my audience awake (are you still out there?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Anyone?), I will end this post here and finish the next 5 years tomorrow.  Have a wonderful New Year's Eve everyone.  Goodbye 2009.  Welcome 2010!

New Year's Purge

Owning stuff makes me feel anxious.  I hate to shop, and will put off buying even things I really need for as long as possible.  For some reason this gives me a strange sense of satisfaction.  I spent years where everything I owned could fit in the back of a station wagon, and that made me feel safe, secure, contained.  My husband has pack-rat tendencies, and I am so glad that at some point in the course of our decade together he has apparently been infected with my New Year's Purge bug.  Now we both come down with it annually.  Symptoms include a lightening of the heart, soul and spirit when you throw away/give away as much of your stuff as you're willing to get rid of every January.  The more you get rid of, the better you feel!  That's the cure for the bug.

This year is especially exciting because we have a week off together, at home, and a lot of belongings still in boxes from our move in October of 2008.  Wait, is that pathetic?  Whatever, people!  I never claimed to be on top of things around here.  In fact, things are on top of us, literally: stored behind the wall in the attic.  I dragged all the boxes, bags and storage totes around into categories the other day: paperwork, home decor, baby clothes in sizes other than current, and the ever growing To Be Organized pile.  I can't promise we'll make it through the To Be Organized pile.  In fact, I can probably promise that we won't.  However, we will pull whatever crap we are willing to part with from all the various piles, and make a new pile: Salvation Army.

And--oh--that is the sweetest pile of them all.  That pile, my friends, is the only pile who will whisper in my ear the words I long to hear from all my belongings:  You will never need to worry about me again.  No more cleaning, no more fixing, no more purchasing, no more anything.  Just take that space in your head and offer it to the highest bidder honey, because I am not your problem anymore.  And yes, by highest bidder, I mean free.  Cause while daydreams don't pay dividends in cash, their rate of return is higher than anything else in my current portfolio (and that would be true even in an economic upturn).  And if I can toss an outfit that once upon a time told a story about me that turned out not to be true, or a bunch of plastic toys that appear to be interchangeable and fail to light up my son's face like the morning sun to make more space almost doesn't matter what the space is for, in the end.  It's the making of the space that's here, in front of me, this week.  It's the making of the space that I must do.

So this week I'll be all:  Aarrgghh!  as I shuffle and shift, poke and prod, pile and then finally, blissfully, toss.

And then I'll be all:  Aaaahhhh!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Last Year's Totally Unrealistic and Overzealous Resolutions: Report Card

So my New Year's Resolutions last year were a bit over the top.  But I did rework them over the course of the year to make them more realistic.  Let's see how I did:

Originally:  Start both a business AND a blog!  Maybe a few blogs: mommyblog, business blog, teaching blog, the possibilities are endless!  Post every day!  Sign up an entire roster of clients for my business!  Work with them daily, incorporating my son seamlessly into my business model!  Keep my day job and continue mothering, wife-ing and house-wife-ing (I've got an equal househusband, so this should be cake, right?)!

Later scaled down to:  Start either a small business (one client would suffice) OR a blog (as long as there's a post before 2010, it counts).

And:  Check!  Not the right economic climate for starting a business, and not the right time for me to do it, personally.  Finally got around to the blog in November.  And I have to say, it was definitely the New Year's Resolution that forced me to do it.  I only had two months left and I knew my business was a bust before it began, so I'd better get to writing!
     Originally:  Not only will I get back to my pre-pregnancy weight, I will get below it, and be in the best shape of my life, incorporating cardio, dance, weight-training AND mind-body into my routine.  Also, drop a bunch of the exercise classes I'm teaching so I have more time with my family.  Soooo, maybe breastfeeding will just melt that weight away!  Or I'll pick up a bunch of new fitness hobbies, like skiing and ice skating.  Maybe I'll do fitness DVDs?  One way or another, I'll look and feel better than ever before!  Notice the appealing vague fuzziness and inherent contradiction of this resolution.  Yeah.  Foreshadowing, anyone?

    Later Scaled Down To:  Never really got scaled down, or squared with reality.  I dropped a bunch of my exercise classes, and then did nothing in their place.  My son decided he hated his jogging stroller and would prefer to scream without ceasing than to enjoy a nice walk in the neighborhood.  I worked longer hours all summer and then came home to relieve my poor husband from all day baby duty.  Then fall came, the weather cooled and I decided to try to get pregnant again, so I was snuggling in at home for delicious romantic dinners with the hubby and whoever said coitus burns a lot of calories was probably behind that myth about breastfeeding melting the baby weight away as well.  That lying bastard!   

    So:  Fail!  And even worse:  In the last few months instead of getting pregnant I've eaten my way back up to the same weight I was when I was released from the hospital.  Right after giving birth.  Almost eighteen months ago.  Ouch.  Epic Fail.  I'll be, um, tweaking this goal for this year.
      Originally:  Send a beautiful, personally created photo album to every member of both sides of our extended families each and every month this year, accompanied by a personally crafted letter. 

      Later scaled down to:  Send some pictures to our parents and grandparents every month or so.

      And still:  Mostly Fail.  I think I did this twice.  This is last year's overzealous resolution that morphed into this year's monthly scrapbook for every extended family member, depicting the various stages of my son's growth complete with coordinating background layouts and adorable labeling.  I do have a few ideas about how to scale this down to something feasible.   Maybe I'll aim for seasonal instead of monthly (yeah, that still won't happen).  Or get a family Facebook page or something (now I've got my thinking cap on!).  But seriously, wouldn't those monthly albums/scrapbooks be so cute?  I do love me some New Year's Resolutions that envision a whole new life revolving around a skill-set I do not even possess, and a commitment level I have never previously demonstrated.  It's the imagination that keeps us young, people!

      And Speaking of the Imagination...

      ...Bonus Totally Unrealistic and Overzealous Resolution for This Year:  I will write a Cookbook.  Yes, it's true I don't cook anything but pizza, and I've only been cooking pizza for the past few weeks of my life, but I have a fabulous idea for a cookbook anyway.  It will incorporate local, organic, seasonal foods, and my husband and sisters will test-cook everything before publication (on me of course!).  I'm seeing bright, colorful photographs by the SuperSpouse and a sales rack at our Farmer's Market.  Needless to say, I'll be raking in the dough.  It's a very popular Cookbook, or will be as soon as it hits the streets.  Yes, I originally said I'd write it in a week, but I'm already backpedaling (It's not even January 1st yet.).  By this time next year I'll have decided that as long as I've planned one recipe for my unwritten Cookbook we'll call it good.

        Tuesday, December 29, 2009

        Moments of Resolution: Last Year's Delusional Drunken Elderly Fellow versus This Year's Overly Earnest Spiritual Seeker

        Last year we celebrated the end of our holiday trip with two days of driving twelve hours with a five month old, returning home from visiting my in-laws.  He cried for the last three hours of the drive, inconsolable in the carseat.  We arrived home, he looked around, let out a huge sigh, and finally went to sleep.  I collapsed on the couch with relief and sat staring out the windows at the light snow falling.  I drank two glasses of white wine and my stomach was empty and I was immediately overcome with such a feeling of goodwill toward man and rollicking hope for the future, I can only describe it as wildly delusional.  The comparison is crass, but the most apt I can come up with:  I imagined myself an old, old man, out at a pub, surrounded by the most nubile young women, like delectable delicacies to me: tired and sunken in to my everyday routines.  Two drinks in, and I am feeling certain I am going home with one of them tonight.  The night is young and I am old, but I am deliriously delusional, young and virile again for one evening.  I felt so grateful to the universe for allowing me to feel the delusion of youth, of rebirth.  I felt, for at least those moments that night, like I could accomplish anything.  I looked at my life and I thought:  I can do anything!  This will be cake; it will be beautiful; and I will do it perfectly.  That feeling carried me through most of the past year, and I'm still intensely grateful for it.

        This year we ended our holiday trip with a three hour drive home from my mom's house, arriving in the early afternoon.  I drank two cups of coffee, and then Sun declined the generous parental offer of a nap in his very own bed, and dashed my hopes of cleaning the house with my caffeine buzz.  I looked around at the bags to unpack, the mess my son was currently creating with a whine, while overtired and teething, the afternoon already beginning to grow dark and get away from me, the unspent caffeine buzzing in my veins and I felt frustration rising.  I went into the kitchen, made a pizza and put it in the oven.  While it cooked, I went upstairs and sat alone in the attic.  Our attic is converted; it's a bedroom with diagonal walls, built into the roof of the house.  I lay on the futon we keep upstairs for guests and stared out the window at the thick, white, fast falling snow.  My husband called up to tell me that we were in a storm and would likely be snowed in through tomorrow afternoon.  As I watched the cold, winter weather from the safety of my warm, wood-colored attic, I felt my frustration melt away, and turn to awe.  I felt humbled by my luck and my blessings, and my earlier feelings seemed petty, unworthwhile and easy to release.  I felt deeply humbled by the blessing that is my baby, unworthy of such a gift, and I rushed down the stairs to hold him, to breathe in his scent, to carry him to my husband and clutch his hand, and to kiss them both.  I was overcome with a feeling of deep commitment to doing the best I can, not just for myself, but for them: for my family.

        This feeling was so different than last year because last year I felt:  this will fall into place.  This will all fall right into place.  It will happen like magic.  I can see over vistas and into the heavens from right here on my couch and I can smile and make magic happen.  This year I feel like:  Now it's time to work.  Now it's time to climb.  Gather my loved ones close, and count my blessings.  Now I must earn this, create this.  I feel a calling this year to reach outside of myself in some way that I haven't defined yet.  I'm still sitting with the feeling now, and it may end up taking some time to define, but last year I sat atop a vista and this year I'm in a valley, and I may have some climbing to do once I gather my bearings.

        My New Year's Resolutions flowed from the moments described above.  So last year's were a bit delusional and over the top, but I did eventually scale them down and achieve some of them, or steps toward them.  Others I failed completely.  And I think this year will end up being more of a recommitment to the day-to-day work of the same dreamy ideals I conjured into fancy last year.  With, as will be my new annual tradition: a few wild and unrealistic dreams tossed into the mix as a shout out to my Inner Old Perv, and a wink and a thank you to the Universe who nurtures us, Old Pervs, delusions and all.  Happy New Year!

        Monday, December 28, 2009

        Offroading and Other Possible Topics

        Because I am a list maker, and because I am too scatterbrained to focus on a single post this evening:
        • Traveling:  Hated It!  (Disclaimer:  Family:  Lovin' them!  Just hate traveling!)    
        • Got Fat:  Whoops! 
        • Owning Things/Anxiety/New Year's Purge/Aarrgghh!/Aaaahhhh!
        • Back Home: Snowed in!  Lovin' it!  Snow, You Beautiful Devil, You!
        • Resolutions: Last Year's Delusional Drunken Elderly Fellow versus This Year's Overly Earnest Spiritual Seeker
        • Being In The Body:  Yoga as Spiritual Exercise
        • Real Gifts Attempt #1:  Hardware Store
        • Real Gifts Attempt #2:  Cable?
        • Totally Unrealistic and Overzealous Resolutions:  Scrapbookin' for everyone important in my entire life, monthly.  Doesn't it sound like such a good plan though?  I am always so single-minded and disciplined in my Unrealistic and Overzealous Resolutions.  I like to have at least one each year.  Two this year:  Writing a Recipe Book This Week.  If you know me, you know this is hilarious.  But I am SO excited about my Recipe Book, you guys!  It's going to be awesome.
        Oh, and about our getting-on-the-road-plan from my last post?  I am pleased to announce that we got on the road at 2:15, making us a scant 15 minutes late for the plan, which I am more than pleased with.  I keep my standards low;  I'm happy more often.  It's win-win.  Happy New Year Everyone!  I'll try to return to the list above for elaboration when my brain has settled back in for a long winter's nap.  Any requests?

        Wednesday, December 23, 2009

        On The Road Again

        Tomorrow we get on the road to go to my mom's house for Christmas.  The plan is to get everything done in the morning (laundry, cleaning, packing, wrapping, showers, baths, meals and whatever the hell else we think of along the way), and get on the road in the early afternoon, allowing the little one to sleep as much of the trip as possible, and arriving on time for dinner.

        We depart one hour later than planned nearly every time we travel to my mom's.  I've tried planning for an hour before the real plan.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  I don't think it will work for tomorrow; there's really just too much to do.  In fact, I think I'll do the opposite this time.

        I would like to leave by 1pm tomorrow.  Even saying I'll leave by noon is obviously a total lie, so I'm going to reverse it and say we'll leave by 2.  We might even make that plan!  Okay, the pressure is on!  Ready...Set...Christmas!

        P.S.  I got some scrapbooking skillz!!!  No, I will not post pictures, because compared to other people in the wide world, I most likely have no skillz whatsoever, but in the privacy of my own family, where no one else scrapbooks:  I got skillz!

        Monday, December 21, 2009

        Things I Have Been Doing Instead of Blogging

        • Digging through 17 months worth of disorganized digital photographs to compile the cutest possible collection of chronologically organized photographs ever to fill a photo album for all sets of Great Grandparents.  Luckily, they live in four different states and will never need to know they received identical gifts.  I'm applying the Henry Ford assembly line approach to Christmas gifting.  Great Grandparents get the basic photo album model, perfect size for pocketbook storage and easy retrieval.  Grandparents will receive the luxury model photo album with an extended cab of extra pages and premium upholstery with full leather trim by way of basic scrap-booking layouts and catchy photo captions. 
        • Realizing that I have never scrap-booked in my life, and perhaps the time to learn isn't the week of Christmas itself, practicing on the only actual gifts I have planned for my parents and in-laws.  Shrugging about that unfortunate reality.  Continuing to allow time to pass with no new plan.  Imagining how cute my imaginary first scrap-books will be.  Remembering what a mediocre craftsman I really am.  Telling myself to shush, so I can go back to imagining my adorable scrap-books.  Making no moves whatsoever to actually create said scrap-books.  Staring out the window, drinking tea, waiting for scrumptious scrapbooks to create themselves.  Imagining incredulous and grateful expressions of love pouring forth from parents and in-laws when they behold the perfect specimens that are my first and only scrap-books ever.  Blocking all thoughts of actual effort involved in scrap-book creation in favor of wild fantasies about fabulous finished products.  Pouring a new cup of tea.  All this thinking is hard!  Mama needs caffeine!
        • Refusing to stress about my total lack of preparation for Christmas.  After all, if I got Baby Jesus and Santa on a conference call (which I totally COULD if they saw how perfect my pretend scrap-books are!), I feel certain they would both support a stress free holiday season.  Well, Jesus would anyway.  He was a hippie, and hippies are chill.  On the other hand, Santa's probably stressed as a motherfucker right about now!  But I'm not Santa (well, okay, technically I AM Santa now, but I haven't mentioned Santa yet to my son, so I can keep my big, red suit in the closet for another year.  And eat even more snacks so it will fit better next year!  Yay!  Pass the cookies!), which seems to me another reason to celebrate the season in the de-stressed manner befitting the dignity of a first time scrap-booker suffering from a seasonally induced cookie coma.
        • Enjoying a few beers with my sis and her boyfriend who are passing through on their way from Boston to my mom's house.  In our typical family fashion of unpreparedness and last-minute-itis, she called to let me know they were hour before they got on the road.  In our typical family fashion of unpreparedness and last-minute-itis, I decided that cleaning the house for guests is an unnecessary contrivance and took a nap while they drove here.  In typical Irish fashion, the four of us split a twelver and ate a giant shepard's pie when they arrived, and no one gave a hoot about the fact that we had to eat sitting on the living room couches because the dining room table is currently acting as repository for any and all mail received in the past however many months, plus some bowls of fruit.  And three small pumpkins from Halloween.  Sorting through all that is on my to do list.  I shall get to it when I get to it, y'all.  These are the holidays and shall be enjoyed with a nice india pale ale and some lentil shepard's pie.  
        • Digging?  Realizing?  Refusing?  Enjoying?  It must be the end of one year and the beginning of another; calendar years love to go out in a burst of togetherness, intensity and ritual, like the burning of a pyre, and new baby years love to waltz in on the wreckage and beauty of it all and sweep clean the slate for the start of another cycle.  Today was the solstice, the shortest day of the year.  It's all brighter from here on out, y'all.  Happy Winter.  Happy Holidays. 

        Thursday, December 17, 2009

        In Which I Find the Christmas Spirit

        Today I bought my first gift of the season.  And it wasn't for my son, or my husband, or any of my family members or close friends.  It was spur-of-the-moment for a student.  Here's how it went down:

        I've worked with this student for the past three years.  She had three babies in three years, started young and ended up in my program because it's one of the few (if not the only) GED programs where you can bring your infants and toddlers and get parenting and early childhood classes along with GED training.  She has taken her GED test twice now.  She's failed twice.  She arrived at school this morning feeling discouraged about the second failure, even though we know that test scores improve and students get closer to passing each time they try.  She was struggling.  Struggling with failure, with making the same commitment again and again without demonstrable success, with what felt like starting over.  We all know these struggles, in one form or another.

        I have watched this mother blossom over the past three years.  I've watched her totally overwhelmed with three kids under three, drowning in diapers and short-tempered, disappearing sometimes for weeks or maybe months, moving from crisis to crisis, apartment to apartment, job to job.  I've watched her pick herself up, dust herself off, determine her next move and then make it, repeatedly.  And I could see on her face how disappointed she was that she didn't pass her test.

        So I changed the subject and we started making small talk about the weekend.  She told me she went to see the movie Precious, and how her aunt told her it was based on a book, and now she was dying to read the book.  I cried for her!  she said.  I left that movie and I was cryin' because it was so wrong what happened to her.  If there's a book that tells that story, I want it.  I want it so bad!

        The underlying philosophy of my program is that literacy can eliminate poverty.  We are mandated to work with families who are incredibly impoverished, as well as illiterate.  They come into our program with no high school diploma and one or more very young children to raise.  We teach them to read, and to be their child's first teacher.  The story we tell them--by way of our mandate and our mission--is that if they learn to read, if they ensure their children learn to read, that they can stop the cycle of generational poverty.  Sometimes that story is true, and sometimes it's not.  There are a lot of variables that come into play besides literacy.  But it's such a wildly romantic notion and true often enough that I fall in love with my job over and again as I watch these families work toward a better future, led by love for their babies.  Sometimes it's a love they never received from anyone and never learned how to show their kids until they walk into my classroom full of parents just like themselves: coming from nothing but bound and determined to get somewhere better, beginning that journey by way of words, sustained by stories both written and spoken.  We gather in circles and read our babies board books, we speak our way through parenthood together, sharing stories to inspire and nourish ourselves, each other, our children.  Hearing one of my students talk about wanting a book so bad is like manna for my ears!

        I walk quickly from the classroom to my office and call Barnes and Noble, which is just a few miles from our center.  They put a copy of Push by Sapphire at the counter for me.  I read this book myself about 5 years ago, and I remember sitting, curled on the couch, sobbing large, choking sobs into my quiet home as I read it.  I know that stories can hurt and stories can heal.  I want this experience for her too.  I ask the other teachers if they can cover the classroom for 20 minutes, and I speed down the boulevard to buy it.  When I return, I hide it in my office until the end of the morning.  I call her into my office, slip it from the bag and hand it to her.  Her whole face lights up, her arms open and she hugs me.

        I'm goin' home to read this RIGHT NOW!!!  she says.  FUCK lookin' for a job!!!

        My face breaks into a huge grin.  Now, there's a girl after my own heart!  And if that doesn't catapult me right into the Christmas spirit, I don't know what will.  I guess I should go figure out how a gift-hating gal such as myself will celebrate the season of giving: what stories do I want to compose for my family this Christmas?  And do you think I can I get away with telling my one year old that Santa sent him a library card from the North Pole?  'Cause that sounds to me like a gift that keeps on giving!

        Monday, December 14, 2009

        If You're Not Religious, What's Up With All the Religious Imagery in Your Posts?

        This is the question I've been asking myself lately.  In fact, the religious imagery flows so fast and furious around here I've been somewhat regretting announcing that I'm not religious.  Had I not announced it, people could simply assume that I am religious, and I wouldn't have to explain myself.  But here we are, and the best explanation I can offer is this:  I grew up Catholic.  When I told my youngest sister I didn't consider myself religious and she repeated it to my mother (no surprise to her after I declined to be married in the church, opting for the backyard instead), my mother told her:  She's not un-religious.  She's a lapsed Catholic.  She'll always be a Catholic, lapsed or not.  You can't undo that.  I was amused at the time I heard this, but as with most things, my mother's wisdom is revealing itself over time.  Images of saints and sin, of the weak rising and the mighty falling, of God's presence alive in the daily details: they run through my veins with my blood and beat in my chest with my heart.  Lapsed or not, apparently you can't undo that.


        I suppose the first difficulty I encounter with Catholicism is the idea of Original Sin.  Babies are born sinners needing to be saved?  It seems silly to me.  If any of us are sinners, surely it's those of us who have been around long enough to learn the difference between right and wrong, and then make choices.

        I struggle with the whole concept of sin.  Are we not animals?  Is it a sin when the hawk tears the fox limb from limb?  We're the children of a history of savage brutality, and we practice savage brutality today in the world, actively and passively every day.  Making high drama of this human story sometimes strikes me as avoidance: to look at it directly, to sit with it thoughtfully, to work effectively toward systematic change.  That's not a fair assessment of religion, considering that plenty of religious individuals and communities devote considerable time and effort toward looking directly at evil, sitting thoughtfully and working to change it. And I can only guess that the story that seems like high drama to me resonates deeply with them.

        What resonates deeply with me is not the idea that there is sin and repentance, good and evil, suffering and striving as eternal opposing forces, although this language tends to resonate with the writer in me.  But I believe they are one.  They are somehow one, although damned if I get how, but even if we could break open our brains to accept this, I think we would simply continue to inch forward away from the brutality and into the light, shedding our history flake by flake like human skin, rather than in one fell swoop like the skin from a snake.

        It's too bad we can't shed our brutal history like snakeskin.  We could iron it flat, bind it into a book, and read it to our perfect babies, to remind them that while they are not sinners, nor are they saints.  They are animals as much as they are gods and goddesses, and they will kill and heal and write their own stories on snakeskin someday.  All we have is time, and acceptance, and slow, incremental steps toward whatever and wherever God is.

        Sunday, December 13, 2009

        Full to Bursting

        It's a Sunday that started, early, with a cry from my son that sounded not quite right.  It was just after midnight and he's been sleeping through the night for months now.  I went into his room, reached into his crib, and lifted him to cradle in my arms.  He's fighting a cold, and teething, both of which give him a terrible runny nose and he was having trouble breathing because of it.  I took him to the rocking chair in the corner of his bedroom, propped him up against my body so his head was elevated, wiped his nose the best I could, and began to rock him.  He reached for the zipper on my sweatshirt, a sign that he wanted to nurse.  We've been slowly weaning, and he hasn't nursed in the night for the longest time, but his need for comfort was so blatant that I didn't think twice.  He nursed while we listened to lullabies and rocked in the darkness.  He reached up to grab a lock of my hair in his hand, and then drew it down to caress his face with the handful of downy ends.  I watched as his breathing calmed and slowed.  He gently ran his fingers along my jawline and neck, as if to reassure himself that I was still there.  I felt like a miracle, to be able to provide such complete and perfect comfort with my presence.  I felt like a sacrament, or a lucky penny all polished up in copper glory, secretly in possession of a winning lottery ticket.  I was the grateful, and the giver, and the vessel through which holy water flows all at once.  And I looked out the window at the cold rain falling in the night, and I was the wretched, and the beggar and the poor, lost soul seeking comfort too.  I imagined myself on the other side of that window, looking in, and the line between here and there seemed blurred, thin, and yet insurmountable.  I nursed and rocked him back to sleep, and then propped his mattress up on one end with rolled towels and put him back in his crib to sleep peacefully through the rest of the night.  I made my way back to my bedroom, floating on the grace of the god who inhabits my fingers when I stroke my sleeping baby's hair and when I reach for my husband in the shadows of the moonlight, prayers for another conception floating from my lips, dissolving into the dark night air.

        Today we went to get our Christmas tree in the rain.  We splashed through icy puddles, flagrantly daring our colds to worsen, and picked up pine boughs that had fallen to the ground.  We chose a tall tree with deep green branches and soft pine needles, carried it home atop the car and set it up in the corner of our living room.  Our son circled it repeatedly like a dog searching for the perfect place to sleep.  I didn't wash the floors this weekend, nor did I make it through the ever growing pile of paperwork awaiting my attention.  I've only just started the laundry, late on a Sunday afternoon.  I haven't showered and my clothes and skin are ripe with the smells of sweat and sex, streaked with mucous and some blood from when my boy bit his tongue this morning and came to me for comfort.  Each breathe I take is full of the dust of a house in need of cleaning, the scent of pine, and of the piquant stew my husband is cooking in the kitchen.  I feel so full of life I can hardly stand it.  I won't wash anything away today.  Not dust, nor pine needles, not sweat or blood or the smell of sex from between my thighs, or the feeling of the wretched trapped in the rain outside the window of my baby's warm, dry bedroom where I am everything: mother and savior, goddess and girl with nothing but breasts full of milk and open, empty hands, held out in offering, waiting to be filled.

        Saturday, December 12, 2009

        Scroogin' it Up

        Do you know what I love about Christmas?  I love decorating the tree and the house, spending time with family and friends, traveling (although this has gone from love-of-my-life, pre-child, to bane-of-my-existence, post-child, I love that the holiday season forces me to do it!), eating and drinking too much at too many parties, sparkling lights glowing in the city streets, Christmas carols and festive spirits everywhere.

        Do you know what I hate about Christmas?  Presents.

        Giving them, getting them, shopping for them, thinking about them, exchanging them, and the fact that they exist as a major facet of the holiday.

        Do you know what I got for my 5 month old last Christmas?  Nothing.

        Do you know what I got for my 17 month old this Christmas?  Nothing.

        Do you know what I got for my husband every year for the past decade plus?  Nothing.  And what did he get me?  Nothing.

        Fortunately, we feel the same way about presents.

        In fact, let me share a story about the one and only time my husband and I went gambling, and you will understand the shared trait of frugality that has kept us together all these years, huddling under threadbare blankets wearing decade old clothing and bitching about the godforsaken Secret Santa activities at our respective workplaces.

        We went to visit his family in Louisiana, where people go to "the boats" for fun and relaxation.  These are riverboat casinos floating just off the shoreline, and therefore not subject to local ordinances against gambling.  We agreed that we would bring $30 to the boats.  While this might seem paltry to some, it was--frankly--more than either of us cared to spend on gambling.  But we rounded up so as not to seem like total spoilsports.  We arrived at the boats, exchanged our money for tokens, and began to wander the casino.

        We found we could only play the nickel slots.  Every fourth quarter slot we said:  Oh damn!  That's a dollar!  And then began to daydream about what a dollar could buy.  Many, many things at the Dollar Store, I'll have you know.  And even at the dime slots:  ten dimes in and it was the same sad story.  But at the nickel slots we had to wait twenty turns to complain and our collective attention span isn't quite that long.  Plus, they didn't have penny slots.  So nickel slots it was. 

        Until his grandmother (an accomplished and quite lucky gambler who regularly brings home winnings from the boats) approached us joyously and favored us with an enormous double handful of tokens out of her most recent pot of winnings.

        He looked at me.  I looked at him.  Our eyes met in a moment of mutual love and understanding and we fled together to the staircase in the hallway, where we carefully counted out $30 in tokens, pocketed it, and then went back to enjoy the fruits of someone else's labor, knowing our own money was back where it belonged: safe in our wallets.  Think what you will, Internet, but that's why my credit score is 750 despite the fact that I have been underemployed for the vast majority of my adult life.  I'm a cheap bastard.  And fortunately, I'm married to one too.

        Now, we won't be able to Scrooge it up to our full satisfaction for the rest of our child's days, we realize this.  Withholding presents from a child every year at Christmas while celebrating the holiday in all other ways is probably prevented by the cruel and unusual clause of the United States Constitution.  Which is exactly why we may as well Scrooge it up to our heart's content now, before he develops the powers of recall sufficient to remember what we bought (or in our case, didn't buy) him for Christmas.  This year, he will recieve a large, wrapped package of love.  With a sweet side serving of nothin' at all.

        But I might need someone to remind me to erase this blog post before he learns to read.

        Wednesday, December 9, 2009

        Schedules, Real and Imagined

        My Current, Actual Daily Schedule:

        6:30-8:30:  The Morning Routine:  I get ready for work; Sunny either sleeps (Thank You God!) or relentlessly dogs me (Why Me Lord?) while I weave through the house dodging his grip & packing our things.  Hubs leaves at 6:45, so we pass like ships in the way-too-early-morning.  This is the time when we tiredly tell each other tidbits that later we insist:  I'm pretty sure you never mentioned that to me.  Well I don't remember it at all.  Then I drop Sunny at sitter's & head to work.
        8:30-12:30: Work.
        12:30-4: Pick up Sunny, head home and it's naptime for the kiddo!  Lunch, coffee, blog/read, clean house/do the neverending supply of laundry that we manage to accumulate for me.
        4: Hubs home; we chill a bit together & chat, joined by the little one whenever he wakes up.
        5:  I feed Sunny dinner & do bath/jammies while Hubs makes our dinner.
        6: Sunny plays while we eat & then get ready for the next day.
        7/8, depending:  Sunny goes down sometime in here depending on his nap that day.
        8-whenever:  Hubs and I spend quality time catching up with each other & discussing important current events (by which I mean watching "The Office" on DVD).
        5:40-7:20:  I go teach yoga while hubs does bath duty; we eat leftovers (which I just heard referred to as lefties & I totally need to adopt that) when I get home, then move directly to quality time with Jim, Pam & the 'Nard-dog.

        My Ideal, Imagined Daily Schedule:

        6-9: Wake up, brush teeth, throw on workout gear & teleport immediately to a yoga studio (or perhaps it's next door & I just walk), ready to begin my session by 6:15.  Yes, I want the first three hours of the day for this.  I may not do yoga the whole time.  I might toss in a little Pilates or strength training.  Heck, I could learn some tai chi & ballet too.  So I'll need three hours & at least two instructors.  Plus that studio next door or a teleporter.  Plus, in ideal-land, I actually get up at 6 without pressing snooze or hating the world with a deep, abiding passion, which would be an unfortunate attitude to bring to morning yoga practice.
        9-1:  This is ideal-land, so I go to work here, same job, but I get to bring my son.  I work with parents, infants & toddlers, so it's not so far-fetched, but I would need someone to watch him while I do my planning & officework. 
        1-4:  The whole nap, lunch, coffee, blog/read setup is pretty sweet, so I'll keep that, but in ideal-land someone else cleans my house.  And they do a far better job than I, introducing such concepts as regular dusting & steam you steam clean.  Also, in ideal-land the Hubs gets home at 1pm too & has a few hours to work on his art.
        4-5/6, depending:  We do something outdoors--weather permitting--or something fun that we can't currently afford, as a family.  In ideal-land we can easily afford all of the great ideas we come up with!  Plus we come up with many, many great ideas.  During this time someone else makes us dinner.  Hubs likes to cook, but if someone else did it every day & he could save it for special occasions, I don't think he would complain.
        6:  Dinner as a fam, followed by bathtime for the tyke, which I like to do, but again: perhaps not every day.  In ideal-land random household help abounds!
        7:  Bedtime for the little one; but he can stay up til 8 if he's really cute.
        7/8-whenever:  Par-tay! (by which I mean watching "The Office" on DVD)

        Monday, December 7, 2009

        A Metaphor for Winter

        Scene:  My Inner Therapist's Office.  Winter's in one chair; I'm in another.  My Inner Therapist is gazing down her nose at us through cat frame eyeglasses.  We all look uncomfortable.

        My Inner Therapist:  So we're here today because LazyBones wrote some things *shuffling through intake paperwork* on a blog?  Is that correct?  On the Internet?  And Winter, that made you feel.....well, why don't you tell us?  How did that make you feel?

        Winter:  It made me feel terrible, just terrible.  *Sniff*  Can  I have a tissue?  I'm sorry, I just, this is very emotional for me.  The holidays always bring up a lot of emotions, and then this...this attack!  Out of nowhere!  I just...this is difficult.

        MIT:  Take your time Winter, we're here.

        Would you like to tell us more about these holiday emotions?

        W:  Everyone wants me around for Christmas, and New Year's, but then it's just Poof!  Be Gone!  Like I'm not good for anything else!  It hurts!  Every year I give it my all, I give everything, and in the end I just...*whispers*...I just feel so used.

        MIT:  LazyBones, how does it make you feel to hear what Winter is expressing here?

        LazyBones:  Well damn, Winter, I wasn't trying to bring up all that.  I mean, it wasn't even personal!  It's like, you're just a metaphor, Winter.  A metaphor for the existential emptiness we all experience from time to time.  I was just using you as a metaphor...

        W:  So you WERE using me!  I knew it.  I knew it.

        LB:  Not like that!  I just wanted to express the melancholy and the rage I was feeling, and you seemed like a good symbol for that.  I'm sorry Winter.  I never meant to hurt you.

        MIT:  This is good, this is good, we're airing our feelings here.  Winter, would you care to respond?

        W:  It's hard for me to accept the apology after yesterday's post.  I was treated like a cheap floozy.  It's hard to come back from that.  LazyBones has proven that entertaining audience...comes before my feelings, and I don't think I'm ready to forgive that right now.  I'm more than a metaphor!  I am a season.  I deserve more.

        LB:  More!?  More!?  You already get six months of the year, and Summer, Spring and Fall share the other six!  How is that fair?  When I lived in Arizona you barely got a month!  Now we're in upstate New York, you get six months and you deserve more!?  You take over half the year, and get all the major holidays and then you complain about being a metaphor?  Winter, I'm sorry, but when you take up six months worth of my psychic space, you end up as a metaphor.

        And yesterday?  Okay, I came at you wrong.  You're not a cheap floozy; I'm just not ready to commit to you and--you're right--I shouldn't have tried sweet-talking you that way.  My Inner Playa came out as a metaphor for making up, and my metaphors got mixed.  I didn't meant to hurt you.

        Besides, it's an honor to be a metaphor.  All the seasons have been metaphors for me.

        W:  Really?  *dabs eyes*  Even Summer?

        LB:  Yes, and I complain about Summer too.  She's stifling; she has a forced cheerfulness about her, and her expectations are always too high. 

        MIT:  How does this change things for you, Winter?

        W:  Well, I appreciate the apologies.  I do.  And now that I know Summer is a metaphor, I feel...better somehow.  Like it's not as personal as I thought before. I've been told I tend to make things all about me.

        I guess I do need to learn to detach.  I've been working on that with my own therapist.

        MIT:  Good Winter, good.  Keep that up.  And LazyBones, how are you feeling about our session today?

        LB: I want to get along with Winter, I really do, but we've had issues all my life, this point, all I can say is I'll try. 

        MIT:  Alright, good work you two, I feel like we really started a dialogue here.  We can continue this at our next session.  We'll leave it at that for today.

        Sunday, December 6, 2009

        Wooing Winter

        C' mon baby.  It don't have to be like that.  I know I said...some things...yesterday...that maybe I shouldn'ta said, but you know how I get sometimes.  It didn't mean nothin'.  I'm still here, you see me right here, don't you?  You really think I'd spend 6 months outta every year with you, right here in CNY baby,  if I didn't have feelings for you?  I was just bloggin', baby, I was just tryin'a entertain, you feel me?  You know how it gets out there. 

        But I'm here with you now, ain't I?

        What, you need proof?  Look around my house!!!  What do you see?  FLEECE!  How much fleece I got up in my house, and you're gonna question my feelings for you just causa some shit on the Internet!?  You know you ain't supposed to believe everything you read on the Internet, anyway.  I got, I got...LAYERS!  Look at this: non-cotton for next to the skin so I keep that heat in, I got blankets stacked up from ceilin' to floor, I got, I got...hoodies!  How many hoodies I got right here in this room!?  And these is just for inside the house!

        Winter, I am HERE!  I am here with you baby, right here, and I don't know what I gotta do to make you see that.

        Okay,'s like that, then?  It's like that?  Okay, then.  I'ma remember this.  I'ma remember this, though, winter.  This shit ain't over, winter.  This ain't over.  You'll be hearing from me again.

        Saturday, December 5, 2009

        If I Meet Winter In A Dark Alley I Will Thrash It With A Garland Of Spring Flowers

        Winter is coming to Upstate New York, and with it the melancholy that I wrestle every year as the season changes.  The air gets colder and the sky darker and the green earth turns grey, and before I can embrace hibernation I rage against the change.  Can there be melancholy and rage?  I think there can.  The rage is suppressed, helpless, like violence hidden underneath a heavy blanket of snow.  Like frostbite eating away at your fingers and toes while you sit, so tired and still, as if in a trance, slowly freezing.

        I should be grateful that it's December and winter is only now rearing it's ugly head.  I am not.  At least not right now.  This is not a grateful post.  This is the end of a long, lonely day covered by a cloudy sky and full of dirty floors and unending laundry.  This post is about boredom, and the purgatory of transition.  It's about resistance to inevitable change and stubborn, futile defiance, digging heels in when it makes no sense whatsoever to do so.

        It's about the start of winter.

        I don't want to go gentle into these dark, endless nights and days.  Winter lasts for months upon months in Upstate New York!  I don't want patience.  I want to rage like the rainstorms of early spring, melting ice with explosive strength.  I want to burst into technicolor like buds on trees in March; I want to sweep away the debris that gets hidden under the snow; clean the streets with a wild, maniacal energy.  I want to bare my teeth and rip berries from their vines before they have the chance to ripen; I'm so hungry for winter to be over before it begins. 

        Winter, you leave me no choice but submission, and in the meantime melancholy and a silent, seething rage.  I'll play a collection of short films in my mind tonight and in each and every one I will be the heroine and you will be the villain and I will best you with ever more colorful, creative schemes.  Tonight I will melt you with the fire in my mind.  Tonight I will annihilate you.  And in the morning I will wake to your bleak and unforgiving landscape just outside my bedroom window.

        Tomorrow, you bastard, I will sigh and begin to embrace you.

        Friday, December 4, 2009

        Proust Questionnaire Copout

        I will rely on the Proust Questionairre to hook me strong when I am uninspired for blogging material.  If it's good enough for Graydon Carter, it's good enough for me.

        What is your greatest fear?

        Losing a family member.  Sometimes I feel I wouldn't survive it, but then I remember that survival is just waking up morning after morning and sitting with pain.  And I, like the rest of the world, could and would probably do it.  But please God, don't make me.  And, yes, I realize I'm not religious.  But I will pray to anything and anyone if it has even marginal chances of protecting my family from harm.

        On what occasion do you lie?

        I actually have no qualms whatsoever about lying to strangers.  If it seems like they really want to hear something.....I'll tell it to them.  I may elaborate on this further in the future because I feel it has comic potential, but suffice it to say: if it sounds like I'm agreeing with you just to shut your ass up, that just might be the case.

        What do you most dislike about your appearance?

        My chin.  No, not that one!  The other one.  The *whispers* double chin.  Yeah, my whole family has twice as many chins as everyone else, at minimum.  SuperSpouse calls it:  Your chin, and your chinny-chin, and your chinny-chin-chin.  Why haven't I divorced him for that?  Oh yeah, cause I can't cook.  And he can.  So in the end, ALL my chins and their extended friends and relatives are clearly his fault anyway.  If you didn't want my chin to call everyone she knew, WHY did you make homemade guacamole?  I'm just sayin'.

        How would you like to die?

        At home, in my sleep, preferably of old age.  I would love to die the way my great grandmother did.  She lived independently in her own home until she was in her late nineties.  Every Sunday, we picked her up and took her to my grandmother's house (her daughter) for dinner.  There are six of us girls in my family, and she lived to see four of us.  One evening, when my mom was almost due with her fifth daughter, my grandmother had a strange premonition about her mother.  She drove over to her home and said:  Well, Annabelle's baby is almost due.  My great-grandmother responded: it's too bad I won't be here to see her.  You might! my grandmother replied.  No, countered my great-grandmother, I won't.  My grandmother had a feeling she should stay that night.  She spent the night with her mother, sleeping in her bed, spooning her mother and wrapping an arm around her waist.  When she woke in the morning, her mother had died during the night.  I can only pray it will be that beautiful for me.

        Yes, I remember that I'm not religious!  But I pray all the time.  I just pray to the universe, and hope it's benevolent.  What else can a poor agnostic do?

        Thursday, December 3, 2009

        Tankoo! Uvoo!

        My boy gets bigger and bigger every day.  He's walking to and from the car when we go to the babysitter's house in the mornings and come home midday.  He insists upon carrying his own lunch bag.  And sweetest of all, when you hand him a toy or a snack he responds with:  Tankoo!  He doesn't realize one tankoo can cover the entire transaction, so I get a separate tankoo for each and every goldfish cracker or puzzle piece.  I love the tankoos.

        Then, just this weekend, he began to say:  Bye!  Uvoo!  Again, not fully understanding that bye is typically reserved for when you are actually leaving, he prefers to throw a random bye! uvoo! into the conversation every so often, just to keep me on my toes.  I love the uvoos too.  (Uv the uvoos?)

        No matter how many times I've witnessed it professionally:  watched as a pregnant mother grows bigger and bigger, disappears and then returns with a tiny newborn who in turn grows bigger and bigger until he too, disappears from my program and enters preschool, the lowest rung of the Pre-K-12 ladder that he will continue to climb, growing bigger and bigger as the years fly by in a blur, no matter how many times I watched it happen to other families:  I wasn't ready.

        I'm not ready.

        And I know I never will be.  All I can do is stand and watch as he walks away, the bittersweet thump of my heart in my chest.  It's starting already, and it will never stop as long as we are both here on this earth.  I watch the back of that little being who began as a seed inside my body and is now beginning that long, slow walk away from me, and I whisper:  Bye.  Thank you.  Love you.

        Wednesday, December 2, 2009

        Keeping Up Appearances

        It's important to keep up appearances after you become a mother.  The appearance that your life is smoothly held together rather than a motley piecemeal mess gathered by staples, safety pins, and the odd wad of duct tape, the appearance that you give a flying fig about fashion and do not choose attire based on waistband flexibility alone, the appearance that you still maintain the time and effort to attend to your own personal hygiene and beauty now that little junior is the recipient of those long, nourishing nightly baths and the bottle of bubbles that used to be reserved for your own relaxation.

        Well, today you're in luck, because I am here to share with you my own personal beauty routine!  It's easy, quick, and affordable.  Those are the only promises I am willing to put into print.  Here's how it works:

        When you wake up in the morning too late for a proper shower including shampoo and conditioner, go ahead and indulge in the five minute scrub up and rinse off.  Just ignore that mop on top of your head, the same way you've been ignoring it for the past three days.  It'll be fine.  Afterward, in the unnecessarily bright light of the bathroom mirror, when you notice the sheen of grease lightly coating your lovely hair, decide that a slicked back ponytail would be a great look for today.  A slicked back ponytail is a classic, timeless style appropriate for everything from a casual day at home to a professional setting to a formal affair.  It has the added benefit of being the only hairstyle where excessive hair grease is beneficial!  I consider it my signature look.  Comb hair back with a fine-toothed comb, wrap in a rubber band (I use two rubber bands for the so-tight-I'll have-a-headache-when-I-take-this-out look.  Very becoming.), and viola!  You're ready to go!

        Go ahead and leave the house with no makeup on at all.  Don't worry ladies!  I've got this under control!  I highly recommend keeping an assortment of lipsticks in the bottom of your purse.  Why an assortment?  Well, when you're trying to dig into your purse for lipstick, maneuver your car through city traffic, check on your son in the rearview mirror to make sure he's not eating your cell phone, which you swore you would stop giving him to play with after your husband told you some horror story about saliva entering into phone crevices and causing irreversible damage to either the phone or the child but you can't remember which one right now, and find NPR on your radio dial so you can keep up with current socio-political-economic-local events, it really helps to have an assortment of lipsticks bumping around down there for your fingers to find.

        But LazyBones!  You promised affordable!  Lipstick is expensive!  How will I ever accumulate an assortment?

        Worry not, my lovelies.  I have the best piece of affordable beauty advice you will ever be privy to right here at my frugal little fingertips:  buy your makeup at the Dollar Store.  It's just as good as Sephora.  Well, I've never actually tried Sephora because they don't sell it at the Dollar Store.  But I've heard it's fabulous.  And who could deny that a dollar for lipstick is fabulous?  So go ahead and grab one of babies from the bottom of your pocketbook and let's get to beautifying!

        Our next step is best undertaken at a stoplight, as it is iffy at best to ensure proper application while steering.  Luckily, applying cosmetics the LazyBones way is quicker than a red light in most major metropolises.  Apply a diagonal lipstick line from the inner corner of your eye to your jawbone, midway between the ear and chin.  Repeat on the other cheek.  Then apply a dot of lipstick to your forehead, nose, and chin.  What, you thought lipstick was just for lips?  Not these days, my darlings!  If the light turns green and you are forced to accelerate through an intersection at this point, it can offer a nice face-saving self-esteem boost when you wave coquettishly at a construction crew as you roll past and they studiously ignore you.  It's not that you're getting older sweetheart, it's just the warpaint on your face!  Oh, right!  Of course!

        Wait for the next red light, and then take the palm of your hand, open wide, bring it to your face and rub vigorously.  In just two short steps you've eliminated that pale, pasty look from your complexion and replaced it with a dewey, dollar store glow!  If you suffer from exessive undereye bags, go ahead and rub some more lipstick on those bad boys.  It can't hurt, right?  Finish up with a coat on your lips.

        Now thank your lucky stars that your cosmetic routine is so quick and easy.  After all, you'll still need time to eat breakfast and possibly make a few phone calls--all from the driver's seat of your vehicle--before your morning commute is complete!  When you arrive at your destination, I find it's best not to do any last minute checking of your look in the mirror.  You really don't want to know how this has turned out.  Just be confident!  Confidence is key!  And remember:  You're never fully dressed without a smile!

        Tuesday, December 1, 2009

        Random Thoughts on Education

        Ruby Payne versus Academia:  Anecdotes or Data?  Held down by the man or pulled up by the bootstraps?  It ain't either/or; it's all of the above.  Ruby Payne's giving people down in the trenches tools to figure shit out.  She repeats stereotypes of the poor, which is where academia started off too, might I remind you?  But she makes sense in a lot of ways to those of us gettin' our fuckin' hands dirty down here and you guys talk too much and do way too little and for all your blather about not objectifying the poor by imposing middle class constructs of thinking upon them, y'all ought to get down in the streets, ask some questions and start listening and helping 'stead of just talking all the time.  And I say this sincerely as someone who never knows when to shut the fuck up.  Entrenched poverty and failing public schools in this rich country are a damn shame, and it's all of our problem.  We need anecdotes and data, systemic change and personal responsibility.  Let's go.

        No Child Left Behind:  Test scores are a bullshit way to truly measure all kids' learning.  If you teach kids, you know this.  However, this is 2009, people.  We do need to know WTF our kids are expected to be learning in our public schools and how well we're doing at it as a nation. That's basic accountability and it needs to happen if we're tryin' to run a halfway decent democracy here.  These are our tax dollars.  So teachers and administrators need to work heavily with policy makers to craft smart legislation that can give us research based ways of looking at this stuff.  It's out there; we just need people to do the heavy lifting and rework the legislation to reflect best practices.  Congresswoman?  Senator?  Who wants the ball?

        Brain-based Learning:  One of the most exciting things happening in education.  We need innovative neuroscience and we need large scale, replicable studies and cumulative data.  We also need a prime time TV show to figure out a cool way to teach us about new developments in neuroscience because this is really fascinating stuff, and needs to be explained in laymen's terms.  If we understand how our brains work we can teach and learn so much more efficiently.  I usually prefer to make fun of science nerds (*ahem* my husband and more than one of my sisters), but I guess this is my own little kingdom of science nerddom.  Neuroscience.  See, doesn't it even make me sound smarter?

        Monday, November 30, 2009


        I was raised Catholic.  I went to Catholic school through eighth grade, and attended church on Sundays until I went away to college.  Since I don't consider myself religious at all now, I guess you would think I would have a complicated relationship with religion.  I don't.  I think religion is perfectly right for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons.  Just not me.

        As a child, I could tell that my younger sister, the one I was closest to growing up, had a very different relationship with God than I did.  She prayed, fiercely at times.  She was tormented about her day-to-day choices and what they meant to God.  At one point she grappled with feeling obligated to become a nun, although it didn't feel like a calling for her, because the Church needed nuns.  I watched her struggle with all of these things like you watch a neighbor through the window shovel snow on your day off.  That struggle is not yours.  You don't feel the cold wind on your face, the heavy burden on your shovel, the drive to keep trudging forward through the task.

        I spent my senior year of high school battling a severe depression.  Once on a particularly bad night, my boyfriend at the time took me to church.  I remember seething with anger through the entire mass that he would bring me to church, of all places, thinking: he must not know me at all.  Later he tried to explain, along with my sister, how mass makes them feel a little bit better about the world.  I wasn't hostile to their point of view by the time we had the conversation.  I just sincerely didn't get it.  Mass doesn't make me feel better about the world at all.  It's just boring, like a trip to the grocery store.  I'd never do either again if I had my druthers.  I've never felt the feelings that faith is supposed to inspire in the hallowed halls of my own, or any other church.  And I'm simply not driven to search there.

        Some people come to religion out of a love of ritual.  My mom, a devout Catholic, explained to me how meaningful it was to her to repeat the rituals of the mass, to know that she was performing the same liturgies that she did as a child, that her mother did, that our ancestors have performed for generations before us.  A Jewish girlfriend told me she felt the same way about the rites of her own faith, the bone-deep satisfaction of passing down from parent to child of ancient traditions.  Others are drawn by a deep belief in the Scripture itself, the meaning it imposes on a life of sometimes seeming chaos.  They draw comfort from a cohesive narrative that shapes their daily decisions, providing a guiding principle to light the way through the murkiness and moral challenges of everyday subsistence.  I've seen this faith in action, lived out by college friends from the Bible Belt Midwest.  I think both of these reasons are beautiful.  They're just not a beauty that fits me.

        I believe deeply in my own intuition.  So deeply that no matter where I've found myself, no matter how tragic or ugly, I can't shake the faith that I am always exactly where I am supposed to be.  My faith in my intuition is so strong I sometimes believe that everyone else is exactly where they need to be in every moment.  That as a culture we are always exactly where we need to be right now.  I've told people this on a few occasions and they usually look at me a little slantwise.  It occurs to me now that this might be my own form of fundamentalism.  I believe so deeply that it must be true for everyone.  It must be true for the world.

        I said to my husband once, still on fire with the flash of a consummate notion that had arisen from nowhere yet felt like a homecoming of sorts:  We are put on this earth to eat and shit, to work and play, to sleep and wake, to fight and fuck, make and raise babies, to rage and to love.  That's all there is.  Do you really think there's nothing more to it than that?  he asked.  Nothing MORE?  I replied.  I can barely wrap my head around all of that, it's so abundant!  

        That--just that--is so much, so full and so heavy and so bursting at every seam with joy and pain and struggle and striving, it's hard for me to ever imagine needing more.  I breathe in.  I breathe out.  This is a miracle.  For me, it's exactly everything I need.  I breathe in.  I breathe out.  This is how I worship.

        Sunday, November 29, 2009

        Tree Lighting Downtown

        All photo credits to the SuperSpouse.  Stylizing (is that a word?) by LazyBones.

        Saturday, November 28, 2009

        Better Late Than Never Thankful

        So we were supposed to go to my mom's house on Wednesday.  My husband and I are both teachers. Tuesday is our last day; we'll leave Wednesday.  But then on Tuesday my husband tells me that he has to work on Wednesday.  We work in different counties, so our academic calendars do not always align, but I wasn't expecting him to work Wednesday.  So I readjust my plans to accommodate him working on Wednesday.  I will need to clean and pack by myself on Wednesday while he is at work, and then we'll be ready to go when he gets home.  No problem.

        I am thankful that we are teachers.  I am thankful that we both love teaching, thankful for the teacher's schedule.  I am thankful that we live in NY, a state where teachers make enough money to live, and have enough time to spend holidays with family.  I am thankful for our careers.

        So I wake up Wednesday and my shoulder is.....shall we just say all jacked up?  My sister and I have discussed how "all jacked up" covers everything from a stubbed toe to a terrible car accident.  So it's fair to say my shoulder, falling somewhere smack dab between a stubbed toe and utter ruin, is all jacked up.  I suffered a previous injury to this shoulder, and my physical therapist warned me it would be easy to re-injure.  It crept up on me; I noticed it hurt on Sunday, but not badly enough to curtail activity, and then more and more each day until I get up on Wednesday and.....yeah, all jacked up.  I try to do laundry, but I can't carry a toddler and a basket full of dirty clothes to the basement at the same time.  It takes 20 minutes, round trip, to negotiate the stairs: toddler climbing backwards while I guide him with my bad arm, blocking him from falling sideways off the stairs with no rail onto the concrete basement floor below, full laundry basket wedged against my hip and clutched with white knuckles in my opposite hand, and then the same thing all the way back up, that very bad idea in reverse.

        I am thankful that our family has health insurance.  I am thankful for the coverage that allowed me physical therapy in the past, and will most likely allow it again in the future.  I am thankful for the knowledge that if I go to the doctor, or even the emergency room, I will be treated with respect, and the best that medical technology has to offer.  I am thankful that I am relatively young, and healthy, and I have choices for how to deal with a failing shoulder.  I am thankful for yoga, an unlikely dialogue between my cerebral self and my lethargic body that sometimes gently suggests what I need to do next, or how to get where I need to go in order to feel good.  I am also thankful that we didn't fall down the stairs.

        I call family members to let them know that we will not be able to make it on Wednesday because I am simply not able to get things done at the pace that would be necessary for us to travel that afternoon.  I mostly leave messages because people are too busy cooking and preparing to answer.  Then I get a message from my mom, which I was too busy putting the baby to bed to answer:  I heard you aren't feeling well, honey, and I want you to know that if you can't come down, we will miss you, but it's okay.  Do whatever's best for you.  Of course we'd miss you, but if you're sick, do what you need to do.

        I am so thankful for a family that has taught me flexibility.  I am thankful for the freedom to change my mind, or not.  To be sick on a family holiday, to hibernate for winter, if need be.  I am thankful for my mom, who's extended to me the freedom and the courtesy that the next step is whatever I decide, no guilt, no hard feelings.  I am really, really thankful for that.

         So we get up on Thursday, and we notice.....Oh!  I'm due for an oil change.  Overdue, in fact.  We're talking 8,000 miles instead of 3,000.  Whoops!  So my husband has to find an oil change place open on Thanksgiving morning.  Which he does.  And we get the oil change.  And we get on the road.

        I am thankful for a car that works!  For a car that has an overdue oil change as the only item on the list of things gone wrong.  I have driven cars for years that are a cross between a rustbucket and a round yellow fruit, and I am sometimes astonished that we ever got where we needed to go for all those years.  I am also thankful for a husband who takes my car in for oil changes after I have inevitably neglected it for longer than recommended.  And finally, I am thankful for all the people who work on Thanksgiving, providing the rest of us unprepared shmucks with last minute saving graces. 

        We get to my mom's house a few hours before dinner.  Little Sunnyside Up morphs immediately into Torrents of Tears when we exit the car.  He doesn't see my family more than once every few months, so when we arrive he's whiny and clingy, afraid I'm going to abandon him to these seeming strangers.  After a few mini-sobfests inspired by various people having the audacity to pick him up and offer a friendly welcome, my youngest sister says:  He does not like to be picked up.  If he doesn't know you, get out of his face.  That's how he is.  Just accept him already, and step back, people.  Soon he's breezing through the house like a typhoon.

        I am thankful for all my sisters, for their comedy and their wisdom.  For always teaching me new things, even though I am the oldest of the six.  I am thankful for what wonderful aunts they are, for everything they offer my son, even though he may not yet be old enough to recognize it.  I am thankful for borrowed clothes, borrowed ideas, and surrogate storytellers and snugglers for my baby boy.

        Shortly before we sit down to eat I fill a high chair tray with all the yummy Thanksgiving treats a toddler could ever dream of: scrumptious sweet potatoes, savory cornbread stuffing, tasty bites of turkey, a succulent cranberry-cherry sauce and heavenly homemade applesauce.

        I am thankful for peanut butter and jelly.

        He has no interest in any of these delicious, delectable morsels, but he does devour a peanut butter and jelly sandwich like it's.....well, Thanksgiving Dinner.  Which I guess, for him, it is.  And then the rest of us sit down to a delicious feast, fine wine, family and good conversation.  As we sit together, in the gathering dusk, passing dishes and glasses, laughs and wishes, prayers and thanks and some of the best food ever eaten from one end of the table to the other.....

        .....I am thankful.  I am thankful.  I am thankful.

        Tuesday, November 24, 2009

        Letter of Apology to Second Wave Feminists

        Dear Second Wave Feminists,

        I apologize for reducing the scope of your wide ranging social interests and influence to: like, meetin' up, bein' ambitious, and runnin' the world and stuff in my recent blog post entitled: In Which I Solve the Mommy Wars.

        I acknowledge the enormity of your vision, and the uphill battles you fought so that I could take for granted a great many of the things I take for granted today.  I stand upon your shoulders, my foremothers, and like daughters to their mothers throughout herstory, complain, bitch and moan about the view all the while digging my feet in trying to find a more comfortable place for myself.

        I recognize that you were fighting for the betterment of all womenkind when you fought your way into the man's world of work: paid employment, professional satisfaction, personal fulfillment, all available NOW (or rather: THEN) at your nearest employment opportunity!  And all for what?  So your ungrateful daughters could take those opportunities, and stir them into some strange cultural stew of pole dance aerobics classes, competitive unpaid parenting, and blowhard bloggers proud to publicly proclaim laziness all while mocking our mothers for their big dreams (anybody wanna be a hedge funder?), outdated ideas (you can have it ALL at the SAME TIME!) and poor fashion sense (unshaven underarms anyone?).*

        Such are the ways of the world, my radical foremommas; we roll our eyes in rebellion against our parents just as our children will someday turn scornfully away from us.  Such are the ways of the world.  But just for the record, I know you were about more than just like, meetin' up, bein' ambitious, and runnin' the world and stuff.

        *I sported unshaven armpits for a number of years, which automatically earns me a ghetto pass to freely ridicule others for this same behavior.  Yes, it does too!

        Monday, November 23, 2009


        If blogging is a chance to capture the fleeting minutiae of motherhood and record it for posterity, here's what I  want to remember about my son today, on the day he turns 16 months old:

        The look of pure joy on his face while running, naked and soaking wet, through the house after bath time, slipping on hardwoods, losing his precarious balance repeatedly in the presence of water drip-dropping from his limbs as he flees at top speed from imaginary capture.  The even greater joy, bordering on hysteria, if he is actually chased during this time.

        The jaunty toss of any bag (lunch, tote, diaper, camera, purse, it matters not to him) by its straps over his shoulder, accompanied by an emphatic and drawn out Byeeeeeeeee! as he walks haphazardly toward the door.  He says Byeeeeeeeee! like he's throwing down the gauntlet, challenging us to a duel to the door, daring us to stop him in his act of brazen escape.  If car keys are left low enough to be within reach, they too will be tossed over the shoulder with impish attitude and a clearly stated:  KEYS!  Followed by: Byeeeeeeeee! and that crooked, determined stride toward liberty.

        His fake laugh, which originally appeared months and months ago, then disappeared, and has made a recent resurfacing.  HahaHeeheeHahaHeeheeHahaHeehee.  It's actually kinda freaky, but I'd like to remember it anyway.  It might come in handy around, oh, say, junior high or so.

        Finally, and perhaps the most exquisite memory morsel to cling to: lately he SLEEPS like an angel, like a well-oiled machine, like a run-on sentence, he sleeps for so long, and at such predictable--yet flexible--intervals, we are talkin' twelve hours at night and 2-3 hour afternoon naps, put him in his crib AWAKE and he puts himSELF to sleep, NO CRYIN', somebody needs to high five me right here!  And it's all due to my incredible, fabulous and amazing parenting skills absolute dumb luck!

        I always like to remember my moments of absolute dumb luck.  I'm not religious, or a gambler, but I've had my fair share of Absolute Dumb Luck, and parenting, like writing, is both a prayer and a gamble every day.  I'm grateful as hell to the Gods and the Odds of Absolute Dumb Luck.

        Thursday, November 19, 2009

        In Which I Solve the Mommy Wars

        Original Title:  I Hate My Post from Yesterday, and I'm Not Sure Why.

        Oh yeah, cause it's boring.  But I can't figure out what to do to make it any better.  It's a topic I'm interested in: work-life balance.  But reporting on it is just kind of...dry.  Like blogging about blogging.  Which, oh.  Yeah.  Boring.

        So let me try a different tactic here, and do something I swore I'd never do as a parent:  Get up on my high horse and tell people they should be doin' what I'm doin'.  
          But hear me out:  We should all be working part-time.  And I don't just mean moms.  I mean Dads.  Grandparents.  Single people.  Teenagers.  Those people who say bearing and raising children is a lifestyle choice similar to skydiving and so they need to leave work early to skydive.  Do those people really exist outside of the Internet?  Whoevs.  We should all be able to work part time, make enough money to live, and have enough time left each day to live and enjoy our lives.  The only people who oughta be working full time are people who really want to work full time.  And they can go on ahead and do what they feel, as far as I'm concerned.  Crazy workaholics.  LazyBones experiences involuntarily shudders at the mere thought of working 40 hours OR MORE per week.  *eye twitch*

          I've been giving this topic a lot of thought, weighing fiscal and family policy options, brushing up on the latest scientific research in the field of work-life balance, discussing things with my girl, Michelle (Obama, of course).  And it's a little out of the box, but I think I've got this problem covered.  So here's my game plan:
          •  Go back in time.
          •  Gather all the second wave feminists, and a bunch of dudes too.
          • Be like:  Hey, instead of having women join the work force full time, how bout' havin' 'em just join part time, and then all you dudes get to go home from work early?  And you chicks got extra time for like, meetin' up, bein' ambitious, and runnin' the world and stuff?
          • What's not to like, eh? Right? RIGHT?  *Noddin' head*  *Big grin*  That's what I'm talking about.   
          • BAM!  Mommy Wars Over!  Somebody pour me a drink.  And since we're still back in the old days, I want to drink it while at work.  Oh yeah.  Just cause I can.  Plus I work with toddlers, and that shit's stressful.  But somebody better stay sober and keep an eye on those crazy babies.  They're faster and smarter than me before I start hittin' the sauce.

          Wednesday, November 18, 2009

          First Twelve Months: Snapshots: Work-Life Balance

          Zero to Three Months:  Easy baby.  Move at 8 weeks.  Home Ownership is waaaaayyyyy more stressful than mothering an easy newborn.

          But then again, most houses aren't missing part of the dining room woodwork because a small animal, possibly a squirrel (but also possibly not), ATE IT while trapped inside your new house for some unknown amount of time prior to your closing date.

          I go back to teaching exercise classes for an hour each evening at 6 weeks, but don't go back to my regular teaching job until 12 weeks.

          Three to Eight Months:  I go back to work, part time.  I was a part-time teacher before I had my son, so it's familiar.  Somewhat of a relief, nothing to do with baby, or work, frankly.  It's a relief to get away from the disorganized and demanding house!  Baby and job are both a breeze, compared.

          I love my job, and I trust my babysitter immensely.  She has about 30 years of experience in Early Childhood education (which is also my field), and I think he benefits from spending 4 mornings a week with her, as well as another, slightly older baby.  I'm also glad he's bonding with her when he's very young, as I'm hoping that will make separation anxiety easier when it arises at around a year.

          I'm slowly realizing that teaching an exercise class five nights a week is too much time away from the family.  I feel resentful about it, because I want this hour a day for myself, and it doesn't pay enough for me to do it any time except evenings, when my husband is home to provide free child care.  Also, can we afford it if I drop the classes?  And will I ever work out if I'm not required, and paid, to show up?

          Eight to Twelve Months:  I get offered a promotion at work, adding some administrative duties to my teaching job.  Extra hours, rather than extra pay.  Work's interesting, we could really use the money.  I take it, and drop all my fitness classes but two.  Both yoga, which is what I need the most right now!  Love the teaching/administrative work.  Hate the less flexible schedule and the longer hours. 

          Am able to segue extra hours into close-to-full-time summer work, which allows my schoolteacher husband to stay home with our son for the summer--critical because our babysitter works for teachers and takes summers off.

          I can see my son begin to bond more closely with his dad, spending all day together, which is one really great benefit of our flexible schedules.  Even so, I find myself looking forward to the fall, when I move back to part-time hours!  Part-time work is a perfect balance for me, and I've been incredibly lucky to have both an adaptable child and a flexible job to ease me through this first year of motherhood.  Now how to fit some workouts in?

          Tuesday, November 17, 2009

          Transformation to Toddler

          Ok, who did it?  Who stole my placid baby and left this crazy child at my house?  You didn't think I'd notice?  You didn't think I'd remember that sweet baby, the one who never cried unless he was hungry?  The one who smiled all the time, entertained himself by gazing lovingly at his own hand, DIDN'T MOVE when I placed him on a nice blanket in the center of the rug?

          You didn't think I'd catch on when you replaced that soft, sweet, IMMOBILE baby with this...this...I'm wondering if maybe it's a midget crackhead.  The way he's been tearing my house up all day long.  Looking for drugs is all I could think, with that crazy behavior.  Seems a little like he's on drugs too, what with the screaming meltdowns, then next thing you know he's laughin' like a loon?  Grabbin' stuff, screaming MINE, then drops it and just starts runnin'?  Uppers, definitely.  Thing is, it looks more like a young child than a midget.  I mean, he'd even be cute if he wasn't so clearly crazy.

          Or maybe it's part monkey!  He did seem decidedly monkeyish when he was running around naked, squealing, earlier today. Are they mating humans and monkeys at my local zoo?  Seems like that would be unethical.  And no wonder, seeing as how they're escaping and breaking into local homes!  But that still wouldn't explain how it knows how to hum the alphabet.  Never heard of a monkey knowing the alphabet song.  And it doesn't look hairy enough to be part monkey..... 

          It's mind control.  Alien mind control.  It's the only explanation that makes any sense.  That's why he looks so much like my baby.  Aliens are controlling his mind.  Perhaps they can draw power from the incessant mess of a human house.  The more clutter per square foot, the stronger the aliens grow.  My house is probably supporting a weight lifting team of aliens, right now!  As we speak!  Their little minion covered every inch of my home in all manners of clutter!  It's got to be a tool of alien mind control.

          Unless our own government is trying to weaken us from within.  Covertly controlling the citizenry through tactics specifically designed to exhaust us.  We, the people, run back and forth all day long, performing death-defying leaps through the air to repeatedly insert ourselves between toddlers and utter destruction, and by the end of the day we're so damn tired that--in our weakened state--we believe anything they tell us.

          Oh God!  The possibilities!  None of them pretty, I tell you.  But it's time to ask the hard questions.  And to demand answers.  So I ask you, America, please check one:

          Toddlers are:

          _____Midget Crackheads?
          _____Human-Monkey Hybrids?
          _____Agents of Alien Mind Control?  
          _____Governmental Brainwashing Tools?
          _____Other? (Please specify)