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)

    Monday, November 16, 2009


    My teaching certification is due to expire.  It turns out I didn't work in the area of my original certification, so I have some bureaucratic hoops to jump through to make my provisional certification permanent.  Or I can start the process over in my field, which would entail jumping through a different set of hoops.  My professional identity will be submitted for official State approval with this decision.  Which definition of myself do I commit to?

    My son is turning rapidly into a toddler, exhibiting a whole range of behaviors I haven't seen before.  I observe, open my mouth, catch myself with a second thought and then close it.  Each word that comes from my lips carries with it the weight of a million tiny moments that add up to make me a mother. What kind of mother do I want to be to this new, challenging creature I find before me?  Each word is a path to a different place.  How carefully do I need to tread?

    All afternoon I edit, edit, edit potential blog posts about myself, my son, my husband, about our family, and none of them seem to get close enough to completion to post.  Who do I want us to be?  I'm locking myself and my family into words, wrapping us in chains of my own composition.  Which chains do I choose?  Which are least likely to chafe us as we wax eloquent into our future?

    I walk out of my house and it's dark.  It's too early to be this dark, and I've had too much coffee, and I'm wired and scattered, not in the right head space to teach my yoga class.  There's too much unanticipated weight to this darkness.  My teaching has changed in the past two years.  I was pregnant, and then postpartum; I attracted an older, slower crowd; none of us move like we used to to.  And then it turns out to be a small group of longtime regulars, and we open with a Sun Salutation, which I haven't done in months, and my body is awkward as it moves through the series of poses.  I breathe deep, into my belly, ribcage, chest, and I feel the buzz of the caffeine, which is all wrong for yoga.  All juxtaposition and no flow.  All sharp angles and lyrics that almost rhyme and promises whispered but not quite fulfilled and the early dark of daylight savings time in autumn.

    I'm edgy, and anxious.  I want to be a to-do list with items neatly checked off.  Or I want to be a lazy river meandering in summer, without promises or a map.  I don't want to sit at a table with too much caffeine, a faceless bureaucrat intent on pinning my professional promise to paper, a toddler desperate to destroy whatever he can get his hands on, oh look, there goes the ketchup, a version of my life stretched into proper proportion for public consumption, a body too stiff for a Sun Salutation.

    But here I am.

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Travel Memories

    We drove all over the country. We drove west, from CNY to WNY and then across Canada to Michigan. And then Michigan through the Dakotas or other times we went west on the 90, stopped in Chicago, and then went south to Kansas.

    He had a red pickup when I met him which I swear to God is half the reason I fell for him. And we drove together, all over the country, really, just daydreaming, and driving into and away from dreams. Tryin' 'em on for size.

    We drove south through Wyoming, and there were rocks to either side as far as the eye could see, and I had just quit the best paying job I'd ever had, but I'd hated it--oh how I'd hated it--and I was so deeply fucking grateful to see the horizon over the stretch of rock in Wyoming right as the sun came up.  It was like a prayer, exploding across the grey rock horizon.  Or maybe the fountain of youth.

    Another time we drove straight South: to Buffalo to Cleveland to Cincinnati and into Kentucky all in the pouring rain, sweeping thunderstorms the whole way, twelve hours or so of making bad time, cheap caffeine pit-stops, and keeping each other focused on the dark, gleaming road. Finally, we ate at a Waffle House, off the side of the highway, listening to the rain pound against the tin roof and then camped that night in a nearby state park with a swinging wooden bridge we didn't find until morning, setting up our tent together in the dark downpour.

    We've gotten to know each other in the cabs of trucks, coffee racing through our veins while day turns to night and back again.  Writing this, I think I finally remember why I told my sister that time, half-drunk on lack of sleep, three people and two cars crossing Canada at dawn, somewhere at a random rest stop, somewhere I told her we would have second careers as a truck driving team.  She and I still laugh at that sometimes.  It seems crazy most of the time, but when I remember that red pickup and the feel of truck stop styrofoam coffee cups in between my fingers and obscure, local radio and the bright, artificial, overhead lights of toll booths, sometimes it reminds me of why I might say something like that.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    A Strength-Based Approach?

    So I get mad at my husband. I glare and I say to him:  You're doing this wrong and this wrong and THIS wrong!

    And he says:  Oh yeah?  Well, you do that wrong and that wrong and THAT wrong!

    We pout, cross our arms, sit with our backs obtrusively to one another.  We humph and harumph.  We develop a simultaneous and sudden need to competitively clean the house.  Cutthroat cleansing commences.  Silence, punctuated by loud sighs and extravagant gestures.  Floors swept with violent flourishes.  Counters savagely scrubbed. 

    Eventually, after rubbing mop roughly over hardwood floors until  fury fades to fatigue, I think:  Damn.  I do do this wrong.  And this wrong.  And, yeah, I totally do THIS wrong.  Shit, man, that's just how I am.

    Then I sneak a sidelong glance at my husband, ferociously rearranging the refrigerator, and I remember:  Shit, man, that's just how he is.

    And I say: Oh, who cares if you do this wrong, when you more than make up for it in that?

    And he says: Baby, we always knew you were hopeless at that, but damn, you've sure got this!

    And then we get along just fine.

    Ahhh, codependence.

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Blarney and The Rules of the Blog

    BLARNEY - Cajolery; deceptive or misleading talk; nonsense; hooey; ability to talk constantly; mindless chatter; the ability to tell a man to go to hell, in such a way as he will look forward to the trip

    My Irish parents have an ongoing disagreement about the role of blarney in the art of everyday conversation.  My father, being unusually short-sighted in this regard, views it as lying.  Thankfully, for this storyteller, my mother recognizes it for what it is: a way to make a good story better.

    I explained to my husband early in our relationship that when I am holding forth in a group about the enormous, vicious dog that almost bit me, it is completely unnecessary for him to point out that the dog was, in fact, across the street.  Behind a fence.  On a chain.  No one needs every detail!  Especially those pesky details that detract from the humor and richness of the tale.  The spirit of the story depends upon us, our measly little mouths, our piddly words and phrases, to free it.  The spirit of the story is trapped deep inside of us, and if we allow such silly things as the strict recount of accurate details to stand in the way of that spirit....well, we are no better than animals.  Or engineers.  And I, for one, won't have it.  The terrorists of literal detail will not win.  Not here.  Not on my blog.  And I'll brook no argument from the peanut gallery either.

    So just to cover my ass from any potential liability, just to satisfy any lurking literalists, and lay rest to any curious rumors that might arise from the small (gaping) cracks (chasms) that separate my stories from the droning recall of those who rise and sleep under the blanket of the very freedom of the story spirit that I provide and then question the manner in which I provide it!?!?  Well, then.  Allow me to introduce to you...

    .....The Rules of the Blog

    1.  My blog, my rules.
    2.  Because I said so.
    3.  It's for your own good.
    4.  Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about.
    5.  Life isn't fair.

    Saturday, November 7, 2009

    Change of Scenery

    Windstorm has been home sick for the entire past week.  Yes, he will be Windstorm today, because he has been blowing hither and thither wreaking general havoc throughout the house all week long, but especially today.  He is really feeling better today.

    As a mother, one of my weaknesses is creating consistent routines.  I'm whimsical.  I tend to forget about things like eating and sleeping at predetermined times, and so we end up playing outside in a pile of dirty leaves until we are overly tired and need to scavenge furiously for food that can be prepared in five minutes or less.

    I need an outside routine imposed upon me, to help me create order out of chaos.  And we stayed home from work, and babysitter, all week long, so no outside order was imposed.  Thus, we ate bananas while wandering through the house, me tossing items into their designated niches, Windy pulling them from those places to shake, bang, stare at, possibly taste, and then toss back onto the floor.  We ate stone ground crackers and sliced cheddar cheese out of tupperware containers placed strategically around the house at toddler eye level.  We ate apples whenever I heard the word "aaaaapu!" which would usually spark the realization that apples are, in fact, delicious this time of year, and I could go for one myself.

    Because little Stormy was fighting both a cold and the flu (luckily not the dreaded H1N1, just a seasonal variety), I was especially indulgent with naps.  I have had to work hard to develop a sleeping schedule over the past number of months after coming to the sad realization that my child was not going to step up to the plate and implement a flawless regiment of long afternoon and nightly resting periods on his own.

    And this week, we threw it out the window.  If he seemed tired an hour after waking in the morning, down he went.  If his little eyelids began to flutter and droop while we snuggled on the couch reading stories, I pulled the softest blankets up around his chin and let him rest there until he awoke on his own.  We hibernated, like bears, and by this morning my house resembled a bear cave, if baby bears were provided a wide variety of small, stuffed toys and colorful board books to munch upon with their sharp teeth and tear apart with their pointy claws.

    In other words, it was a disaster.

    So today, while the little Tornado is tucked tightly into his crib, I am taking matters into my own hands and, without outside interference, creating order from chaos.  I'm washing clothes for next week so we might wear fabrics other than the softest cotton and fleece, with waistbands not fashioned from elastic.  SuperSpouse has been dispatched to the farmers market to purchase a list of foods for predetermined meals that will be eaten three times each day.  Board books are lined up precisely on bookshelves and soft, snuggly, stuffed creatures are resting quietly in their wicker baskets.  And I, with a mixture of steely resolve and a smidgen of regret, am going to bid adieu to my own cushy ensemble (just as cushy today as it was when I wore it yesterday, and throughout the night), take a decent shower (as opposed to the five minute rinse off to which I have become accustomed this week), and wash and style my unruly hair.

    Tomorrow is Sunday, the beginning of a new week, and it's high time for the bears to find another home to hijack.

    Friday, November 6, 2009


    Someday I will be a dancer, and I will dance every day, and I will practice yoga and Pilates, and do barre work.  I think I will have white hair at this time, and I will wear it in a bun.

    I took ballet lessons as a child.  My grandmother, a southern belle, believed that all young girls should study ballet, and so she paid for the lessons.  Sometimes I stood doing barre work on a Saturday morning in a dingy, brick, one story building with bars over the windows, and I thought: there is nowhere else I would rather be than here, now. 

    Someday I will present at a professional conference in a fabulous black suit, and I will win the room with my well-researched, data supported--but bursting with awesome anecdotes as well, to woo the crowd--work in the field of education.  I will probably be dyeing my hair brown at the time.

    I went into early childhood education in a spirit of defiance.  All my life I had been told that I was smart, that I should use my mind to succeed in the world of work.  And so I flipped that life lesson the bird and chose a profession where I was called to use my heart.  And then brain research exploded, and neuroscience was suddenly a stepping stone from compassion to competence for the children my heart told me I'd better not turn down any tools I could find at my disposal to help.  And eventually I realized my heart and mind were intertwined in ways I never could have guessed when I was so busy pitting them against one another.

    Someday I will claim my body back from time, overindulgence, and from babies.  I will walk fast up steep hills with my heart up and my shoulders down, do squats and lunges, develop biceps and muscles in my back.  I will run, or maybe I will swim.  My hair will not really matter at this point.  I will feel fantastic.

    I went hiking with my aunts once when I was about seven.  We hiked through the woods behind my grandmother's house.  We were walking amongst tall trees, when suddenly we stepped out of the trees and into a sunlit field.  Despite my Catholic school education, and church every Sunday, this was the closest thing I had ever felt to God.  Our bodies were built for walking, for moving.  The sun was made to spill over open spaces.  And I was built to worship at the alter of long strides, deep breaths and stillness as far as the eye can see.

    Someday I will carry another baby in my body, and then in my arms.  I will marvel at what I and we and the universe can create.  I will marvel, and I will be deeply grateful, and I will complain, like pregnant women do, about its miraculous invasion.  My hair will stop shedding, thicken and become incredibly luxurious.

    The morning I took my second positive pregnancy test, and was assured that I was carrying my first baby, I taught a water aerobics class at the YMCA.  I was acutely aware that I was pregnant, and that no one but me knew it, for the entire hour.  Showering in the locker room after class I mouthed: Thank You! Thank You! toward the sky.

    Someday my son, his little body fighting the flu even while he learns to run, squealing, from his chasing Daddy, and to form new words daily with his mouth and his mind, will awaken, hungry, and seeking comfort from his Mama.  I will hold him, and tousle his hair, hum as I rock him, and we will walk slowly and look out the windows at raindrops and fallen orange leaves and we will name things.  I will feed him and comfort him.  And I will marvel.

    That day is today.  And I am so glad to be here, on this rainy, autumn afternoon, stuck at home with a child recovering from minor illness, relieved of all obligations save seeking and providing comfort, settling here into this home, and this life.  This day.  Even if right now my hair is dirty, and pulled back into a ratty ponytail.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Our House is a Very, Very, Very Fine House

    It was our first apartment together.  We toured all the available apartments in the tiny Midwestern college town where we met and fell in love.  We decided on this one for the following reasons:
    • It was the cheapest, or close to it.
    • The airy, open space between the living and bed room (there was nary a door to be found anywhere in the place) suggested a possible history of french doors, old, wavy glass, and a hint of glamour.
    • The sun filtered in through the living room windows like a daily promise of happiness, delivered right to your home.
    • It was on the upper floor of a brick building overlooking the main street of the tiny town (which was kind of an apartment archetype I had always dreamed of), and we had access to the roof, which was unsophisticated but great for parties. 
    Our landlord failed to mention that the building was in some early stage of condemnation.  We were aware that no one else lived in the building, besides a friend, her cat, and an artist who used an empty apartment as a studio.  And some teenagers had been breaking into one the of the empty neighboring units to party and start small fires.  For whatever reason, this failed to faze us.  As did the filthiness of the four room apartment.  Until move-in day, when we brought it up to our landlord.  He promised to take care of it and then sent his seven month pregnant wife toting a bucket full of cleaning supplies, a toddler, and a preschooler.  We sent her home.  Then we filled buckets with bleach water and began to scrub, undaunted, and buoyed by talk of the apartment's potential.  When we moved out a year later and the landlord gave us our check for the security deposit (which, frankly, we had earned back in sheer hours spent performing manual labor) he said:  Hey, you might not want to cash this until next week.  At least until Friday.


    It was the month before our wedding.  We had been living with my parents for the summer, having just moved from the west coast back to the east for our wedding, and then choosing to remain in my hometown because we were broke, and apartments there are cheaper than anywhere else in the First World.  We toured a series of apartments, beautiful places with freshly painted walls, and relatively new appliances.  The place we finally chose?  Had a chair nailed into the floor by two legs.  Two legs stood suspended in air, the seat at an angle.  The previous occupant had some issues.  He had also nailed random nails into the wall and woodwork, especially into the old, oak, beautiful woodwork.  Just here and there and everywhere, no apparent form or function in mind.  Like I said, they told us he had some issues.  When we walked out the door I said to my husband-to-be:  That one had a lot of potential, don't you think?  Oh yeah, he replied.  It did have a lot of potential.


    When we moved into the gritty, northeastern city we were pretty sure we would make our permanent home, we looked at apartments in all corners of the city, in so many neighborhoods we could scarcely remember where we'd been and what we'd seen by the end.  Well, I could scarcely remember.  SuperSpouse, to this day, will toss out a casual:  Hey, 'member when we looked at that place?  As we pass completely unfamiliar buildings, homes and complexes while driving through the city running errands.  No!  I always answer.  We looked at that place?

    But the place where we finally moved was a neighborhood on the cusp of gentrification.  It was full of old Victorians, some abandoned, some abused, some restored, and some grasping at the vestiges of their dignity by a thin coat of paint.  Can you guess which kind we inhabited?  The detail on the woodwork was exquisite, buried though it was in a coat of khaki.  We tried not to think too hard about the seemingly homeless dude who offered to sell us a whip for our ride out in front of the house, or the Rottweiler across the fence from our front door, on a chain in a small yard, with no grass.  The apartment had huge windows, a nice big bathroom, and loads of potential.


    At various points in our relationship I would say to my husband:  The next place we live will be NEW!  The walls and the corners will be straight.  It will be clean when we get there.  Things won't roll away when you place them on the floor.  He would always vigorously murmur his assent, or maybe even mutter: Seriously!  Or: Oh, I know!  For real, this time!  If he was seriously, for real, frustrated with whatever mishap was costing us extensive extra effort, time or annoyance most recently.


    The first time we toured the house we ended up buying I kept repeating: this is fascinating, this is fascinating, as I walked from room to room.  The vast majority of the house was covered in a thick gray layer of dust, and dominated by model trains, parts, paraphernalia, and information.

    At one point the guy from the real estate agency murmured aloud, as if in a trance, "I used to think my dad was too into model trains.  Now I see that he didn't really care about them.  At all.  Sorry, Dad."

    I think he said it as we walked into the basement, which housed, among a wide variety of scenes, a model train set piece re-enactment of a Chicago fire from the early 20th century, and another of an earthquake in San Fransisco.

    Now, people are getting serious about their model trains when they are re-enacting real, historical events with small plastic pieces.  It seems like we might have some shit to process here, as a culture, or something, does it not?

    But I'm getting off track.

    The model trains were so distracting that it wasn't until after we left that we started to say to each other:  Hey, did that place seem like maybe it had potential?

    I was three weeks pregnant when we put in an offer on the house, the only house (out of many) we looked at that specified that it was being sold AS IS on the listing, and was described as "a diamond in the rough".  We finally closed and moved in with an eight week old.  It was filthiest place we've ever moved into, in part because it sat unoccupied for eight months, a symbol of the start of the housing bubble burst, an impending foreclosure that no one knew how to shepherd through to a short sale, while I sat gestating, and waiting.

    We had no kitchen sink and only a thin trickle of hot water from a bathtub sprouting mold for weeks after arriving, and I packed up the baby daily, and drove across town to our old apartment so we could bathe and do laundry.  We scrubbed our home on our hands and knees while our eight-week-old son sat in his bouncy chair and babbled happily at the light from the big bay windows in the living room.  We are still scrubbing on our hands and knees, and we have a long way to go.

    But this place has so much potential.

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Cast of Characters

    LazyBones aka CoffeeBuzz:
    Prefers sitting to standing. Prefers lying down to sitting. Prefers daydreaming to almost anything. Requires coffee to achieve basic, everyday life tasks. Possesses an almost supernatural ability to chill. Moves at the speed of light for the amount of time it takes caffeine to travel throughout bloodstream, achieving monumental tasks such as: tidying living room, and starting the laundry. Resumes chilling immediately upon drug exiting the system.  Waiting wistfully for the day when reading a book results in a clean house and mattress testers are finally paid what they are so clearly worth.

    MoodyPants aka SuperSpouse: Possesses demon moods that have been known to escape the limits of the body and cast a dark shadow throughout the land. Attempts to harness said moods as weapon of warfare against rogue states currently ongoing. Ability to wither with a look. Alternately, to achieve more before breakfast than most people achieve in a month when the stars are properly aligned. Cooks like a five star chef, cleans like a maid on meth, and works harder than John Henry with a hammer in his hand. But when it's a full moon: watch out. You've been warned.  Wishing for a handyman, a million dollars, or both, so he can take a well-deserved break.

    Sun aka Storm: Small child who thus far has demonstrated inheritance of the maternal capacity for chillin' out, maxin', relaxin' all cool. Incapable of shootin' some b-ball outside of the school as of yet. As the toddler timetable continues to progress, be on the lookout for paternal traits to surface including extreme mood swings accompanied by intense emotional outbursts. Has already demonstrated capacity to surpass father in skills such as: bursting into tears for no apparent reason whatsoever, and winning arguments with a single word (see: MINE! also: NO!).  Lover of cheese sticks, french toast, and those disgusting mandarin oranges that come in a can.  Wants what he wants, when he wants it, which would be NOW!

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Torpid Trifling: The Name

    My sister called me, upset. This was years ago; the particulars escape me. But she picked me up, I know that, she drove a Geo Storm. Teeny, tiny little thing. The car, not my sister, although I guess it could be said of both.

    So she's crying and she's saying she's fucked up her life, like I said, the particulars escape me. There are many ways she could have been appearing to fuck up her life to an outside observer, or occasionally even to an insider.

    In my memory of the event it's as if I had a buzz. The way the words expanded into the inside of the front seat of the cramped car and then shimmered in the air as I said them; the sense that simply speaking called the concept into being and made it true. Like as the idea was said aloud it looked down upon itself and thought: I might just be crazy enough to be true. It's also possible that I did, in fact, have a buzz.

    So what I said was something like: The things that are the very worst about you, the qualities that drive you to the brink, that will not be tamed, changed or subdued, that take you to the ugliest places you can go: These Things: are the things that will save you.

    Another time, another sister, I said: Sometimes I think you have to look at whatever it is that scares you the most. Then walk directly into it.

    Torpid Trifling means, in essence, Lazy Lazy. It is in my ability to lie down, stretch the line of my spine long against the earth, inhale, exhale, remain: that I will be saved.

    We lead with the negative/follow with the positive here at Torpid Trifling because what we see as negative deserves a second glance sometimes. The very things we fear ought to be allowed up front occasionally, to lead the way once in a while. See where they take us. This might just be what saves us, in the end.

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    Notes From Saturday

    5-8:30 am: Living room, snuggling, Sun.

    8:30-10: Hubby wakes up, coffee, looking out dining room windows at rain.

    10-10:30: Playing outside in rain--magic of children is childhood reborn.

    10:30-12:30: Farmer's Market in the rain, I carried the heavy baby frame backpack, biggest pumpkin of them all!=us :D, asian pear=half apple, half pear, yum.

    12:30-2:30: Home from market, Hubby to help friend move piano, Sun down for a nap, Me lunch, coffee, read, tidy.

    2:30-3:30: Sun up just as I started to get into cleaning. I stop, we chill, we sing, I say: want to hear these songs on CD? Go find CD from Grandma, never listened to, nursery rhymes. Turns out to rock! I give him random nursery rhyme board book and cup of goldfish crackers in hallway by CD player. He sits, mesmerized, for 45 minutes. I clean cheerfully around him, whole house clean!

    4:30-6: Hubby home, snack, discuss, go for walk in neighborhood, hard hills for over an hour, we have lived just over a year here in our hilly, tree-lined, upstate NY neighborhood. I like it.

    6-8: Hubby makes pizza, Sun wanders and plays between us, I rearrange furniture to put a couch in our dining room. I have a feeling I will love this couch in our dining room. Hubby to buy wine, I put Sun down to bed.

    8-10: Glass of syrah, slice of cheese and mushroom, side of conversation with an extra dose of daydreams, please, served sitting on the couch in the dining room.

    The couch in the dining room is the resting place between who we are and who we want to be. When I sit on the couch in the dining room, I can see my future unfold in the hallway mirror while "It's Raining, It's Pouring, the Old Man is Snoring" sings from the speakers on either side. I love that song. But it's really just singing from one speaker. The other one is broken. This is who I am. It's also who I want to be. Saturday is a resting place between who we are and who we want to be. Saturdays we are who we want to be, if only because we let ourselves forget about both for a little while.

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    My Inner Teenage Boy Loves the Phrase “EPIC FAIL!”

    Saturday is the reason I finally started blogging. I want to remember Saturday.

    My son woke at 5. I got up with him and we spent those first few foggy, sleep-deprived but somehow sublime hours of the day snuggling on the couch and dozing. I'm going to call him Sun because children are forces of freakin' nature, and he's sunny much of the time. And he's my son. So that should make it easier to remember. I like to keep it simple here at Torpid Trifling. Some might say stupid. Okay, maybe they have said it. But that’s not the point here.

    The point is Saturday morning, with a baby-turning-toddler. I’m not quite ready to concede full toddlerhood yet. He’s still a baby sometimes! And mornings are his best times.

    It's magic how time moves when you’re with a baby or a child, how it melts together or speeds up or slows down and when the baby is yours you’re always tired and you’re also falling in love, both of which fuck with your sense of time. I read an article on Double X recently where they talked about the arc of parenthood and the arc of careers and the intensity of those years with young children. So at some point I want to talk more about that. But is a mommyblog even the right forum for that? Shouldn’t I be weaving tales, spinning yarns, documenting the day to day narrative of parenthood as it unfolds? I mean, at the very least I should wait until I get some readers before I start trying to make people read articles I liked and discuss them with me. Yeah, that’s probably rude. I definitely won’t do that on my first post. It would be so inappropriate.

    So Saturday…

    So then my husband gets up. He's going to have two names, at least. We all deserve more than one name to describe ourselves, we contain multitudes after all, Walt Whitman said so, and—yes—Sun will also be allowed to expand his repertoire as he grows into toddlerhood. I've got Storm lined up as a back-up, so I'm good there.

    So my husband, MoodyPants aka SuperSpouse, gets up. We lead with the negative, follow with the positive here at Torpid Trifling.

    I'll get to why, but right now I'm trying to blog about Saturday. Leading with the negative is my post about the name Torpid Trifling. The second post. Not the first. The first is supposed to be about Saturday.

    Yes, I'm familiar with the fact that you're supposed to say 4 POSITIVES BEFORE A NEGATIVE; I'm a teacher; of course I've heard that. It’s like, basic teacher knowledge.

    The fact is, you’re distracting me.

    I want to talk about Saturday and that’s my whole impetus for finally starting here after ten months of fucking dilly dallying and now you’re going to interrupt?

    I am sorry audience, I told my inner voice he was not invited to this party and his ass just didn’t listen. He never fucking listens and that is my major problem with him right now. He interrupts, he pipes up all the time with the most trivial ass shit, nobody wants to hear that shit! I’ve been told to meditate to teach his lil’ ass to sit the hell down and shut the hell up, but I’m telling you, he is bad. Bad! He NEVER shuts up, the whole time I’m tryin’ to meditate, ruins it for me. Fuckin’ ruins it for me each and every time. That’s exactly why I don’t meditate. That’s the exact reason right there. Asshole.

    So ANYWAY I am going to talk about Saturday because I was alive in the details of Saturday and I need to preserve those details.

    Why? (Why?)

    I mean, just ‘cause Saturday flowed nicely doesn’t guarantee The Story of Saturday will flow. Saturday and The Story of Saturday are two very different things. You might want to think about that before you get started.


    Wait, now my inner voice is calling for some organization and structure here. Hold off on Saturday. Explain the blog’s name, do an About Me, maybe introduce the cast of characters. Include a pic of each. But cropped. Like, just an eye or something. Just a nose! Ha! That’d be funny. I’m still a little iffy about family pics on the Internet. I don’t even know how to crop photos. I did learn that one Christmas that we bought a scanner and photo printer and gave everyone photo collages for Christmas. I definitely knew how to crop then. But I can’t remember a damn thing about it anymore. Damn, that’s pathetic.

    But my inner voice is so distractible. I mean, you hear it, right? It constantly interrupts; I’ve got this nonsense in my ear all day long! I can barely finish a thing around here.

    Like motherhood? I could bring it full circle right here with some sort of tying together of the distractibility inherent in the inner voice and in motherhood, like mothering and thinking and writing and living are the same thing, all in the distracting details, and the interruptions, in the too-fast and the too-slow, in the trivial, in nonsense, and in taking the roundabout way. That’s why I chose the name Torpid Trifling. Two synonyms for lazy. Typically a pejorative, but sometimes a blessing, especially during these first few magical years of mothering.

    Speaking of lazy…*yawn*…I haven’t successfully told you about either Saturday or why we lead with the negative/follow with the positive here at Torpid Trifling. But now it’s late and I’m exhausted and so my first blog entry will end like most of my days: messy and unfinished, filled with far more nonsense and interruptions than I ever intended, and … be continued...…