Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Right As Rain

I figured since I use this blog as a place to complain when things are not going right (right being--of course--how I want them, when I want them), I should also report when things are going right.  So, the following things are as right as rain:

  • Spring came early this year, and I absolutely love it.  I have a love letter to spring saved in my drafts, but each and every time I sit down to finish writing it, I get carried away anew with my love of the season and have to abandon the effort and go outside.  I've even had to do this during a rainstorm, wrapped in an afghan, breathing in the rain smell, standing on my covered porch because we haven't put any porch furniture out for the season yet.  A short winter, and an early spring?  Mother Nature is a Goddess, and not the bitch I thought she was when winter first descended upon us.
  • Remember the time change?  Spring ahead?  Well, I sprung ahead alright, and rocked the time change like it was the Casbah!  This was the fourth time change since my son was born (yes, I just had to count that on my fingers), and I was finally prepared for the fact that it would take his carefully calibrated schedule and blow it to bits.  And I was ready.  First off, I pushed his bedtime forward an hour so that it actually remained the same.  Then I let him sleep in as long as humanly possible every morning, waking him up right before I had to put him in the car to go to the babysitter's (she lets me deliver him in pajamas and feeds the kids breakfast and lunch before dressing them so as to cut down on clothing changes due to messy independent toddler eating!).  Then--and this is the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that ought to earn me a Nobel Peace Prize in Organizational Thinking (What do you mean they don't give Nobel Peace Prizes for Organizational Thinking!?  Fine, I'll take some sort of commemorative placard, both for my superior organizational skills and for using a tired corporate phrase like out-of-the-box correctly in a sentence.)--I worked an extra hour each day, for four days after the time change.  Then an extra half hour for the next three (okay, two of those were the weekend, but we put him down a half hour late for nap.  It counts).  And after a week, we were seamlessly back on schedule.  My son was none the wiser, my paycheck was slightly fatter, and I hope to be receiving a commemorative placard celebrating my accomplishments in the field of infant/toddler time change any day now.
  • A dear, old friend of mine posted a Chinese proverb on facebook as her "zen of the day".  It said: Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are.  These simple sentences have brought me pleasure every time I think of them.  In my ongoing struggle to define God for myself, I keep coming back to certain things: the breath, committing and recommitting to my choices, the act of and the beauty in waiting, the work and transcendence in accepting, and the importance of joy.  This proverb wraps all of it up in a pretty little bow, and sends it right to me via facebook.  Thanks Universe!  And thanks Shelly!
  • I sat in a rocking chair today, listening to lullabies, breathing in the sweet, sweaty scent of my toddler's head, waiting for him to fall asleep, watching slivers of silver raindrops through cracks in curtains sewn by my mother-in-law, and feeling blessedly relaxed, in no hurry whatsoever, and at peace.  And I thought: this is heaven.  And while having another baby will be its own heaven, it will necessarily preclude this one.  Why am I in such a hurry to trade this one in?  Why not just enjoy the one I've got?  And for a blessed moment, sitting in the nursery, rocking my boy to bed in the same rocking chair where I used to nurse him to sleep each night (sometimes feeling--or fighting--a mild panic/resentment, at the length of the nighttime commitment, at the uncertain end of what seemed like endless caretaking), it was that simple.  I experienced this extra time with my toddler as a gift, as this golden, shining moment without distraction.  And just then: everything was right.  Right as rain.

Monday, March 29, 2010

What's Up With That? Edition

I have had morning sickness for three months now, with no accompanying pregnancy to give the daily gagging any depth, meaning or context in my life.  Every morning I wake up, and different smells set me off.  Sometimes it's coffee (actually, it's often coffee).  Sometimes it's a leftover aroma of spices from last night's dinner.  Sometimes it's peanut butter when I start to make the toddler's sandwich.  Basically, everyday smells set me off and I walk around the kitchen gagging.  A few times I've had to go running for the bathroom, but I've never actually gotten sick.  Just a lot of gagging.

So.....what's up with that?

I started using an ovulation kit this month in an effort to discover what's up with our failing procreative attempts over here at Casa de LazyBones.  Prior to this, I was using ovulation calendars to track my fertility, and so this month I used them both.  Calendar, meet kit.  Kit, meet calendar.  And right from the start: conflict!  The kit says the calendar is all wrong.  The calendar refuses to line up with the kit.  So those bitches are battling it out, and for now I'm just caught in the crossfire.

I guess we'll have to wait and see what's up with that.

My son has recently started telling me:  Mommy, I want baby AGAIN!  I want sisty!  I don't know where this is coming from, because I've never talked to him about having another baby.  He announced it one day from his carseat while I was driving, and has consistently repeated that he wants gul and sisty rather than boy or brother.  I don't even think he really understands what he's talking about, considering he's never around siblings.  It's both adorable, and slightly disconcerting.  I'm thinking I'll buy him a doll, and see if that's enough baby AGAIN for him.  Not sure who he thinks the first baby was!  I'm certain he doesn't understand that he was my baby, and that baby AGAIN, or sisty means another baby for me.  Weird, huh?

I wonder what's up with that.

I turned thirty four this weekend, and my entire immediate family came to visit (all seven of 'em!).  It was very low-key, and it was wonderful.  The weekend seemed to stretch out, long and lazy, and time seemed abundant.  Somehow I managed to clean (okay, tidy might be more accurate), go shopping at the Farmer's Market, take a family trip to an art show in another town, go for a long walk, read, write, shower and still have hours to relax with my family and enjoy dinner on Saturday, without ever feeling busy or hurried.  On Sunday, after everyone left town, my husband and I tried to take the toddler for a walk along the canal, but the wind was so strong we abandoned the effort and came home to nap instead.  I cuddled in a blanket and finished a novel, and then dozed until my son woke up.  Then we sat together on the loveseat in the bay windows and read stories all afternoon.  Time stretched out; it seemed we would never run out of daylight, and we enjoyed the sun streaming in on our shoulders while we lounged on piles of pillows.  What a gift, on my thirty fourth birthday, to spend it so unhurried, to feel time slowly spreading out around me like a wide open meadow, like a gift I can unwrap again and again.

I have no idea what's up with that, but rather than question it, I think I'll simply gratefully accept.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spiritual Conundrum

Here is my current spiritual conundrum:

I feel like I spend too much time "going through the motions" and not enough time really engaging with life.

I feel like it's wrong (for me; not my place to judge what's right or wrong for you) to simply go through the motions of life without making some sort of effort to cultivate a spiritual awareness and engagement; a sense of gratefulness.

On the other hand, I think it's impossible to "force" true engagement with the spirit; it needs to arise, and our job is to commit to a disciplined practice of inviting it, which often entails time spent going through the motions.

How do I reconcile this?  Is there ever any answer other than: keep trying?  Any advice?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Listening To My Body: Update

So, remember when I decided I'd choose listening to my body for my New Year's Intention?

What I failed to account for is that my body is generally a whiny bitch, and really, who wants to listen to that all the time?  She's all:

My shoooouuuulder hurts!  I'm tiiiiired!  I don't feeeeeeel like it!  But goldfish crackers taste yuuuuummmmmmyyyyy!  I want mooooorrrre!  I need a naaaap!

And then I finally take her out on a good, long workout, and she turns all militant on my ass:

You know you need to work out every day!  This is what you NEED, girl.  Now figure out a way to get out here EVERY DAY!  No excuses!  Make it happen!  Do I need to set the alarm for some ungodly hour, or are you gonna do this thing?  You'd better get with the program!

And next thing you know I'm e-mailing my boss offering to teach my very own, self-created, yoga-pilates, boot-camp, 30 Day Shred knock-off, hybrid workout at 5:45am. (I told you I would plan the ultimate workout someday!  And I did!  But actually doing it on the regular is a whole 'nother thang.  And, sadly, it don't seem to be my thang!)

Fortunately (for my sanity at 5am, not for my second chin), the boss turned me down, since no one else in their right mind wants to work out before 6:30am, which is therefore the earliest class she offers, but that's too late for me since the hubby leaves for work at 6:45am (I know!  Early morning bus duty.) and I don't have child care until I go into my teaching job at 8.  So, alas, no getting both paid and forced to complete the ultimate workout.

I think the problem here is that I only really enjoy two forms of working out: 1) taking super long walks or hikes, and 2) teaching exercise classes.  This would be fine if I had the time to do either of the above every day.  But I dropped my daily fitness class down to twice a week because it cut into our family time to the point where it felt like we had none at all.  And ditto for long walks because: a) my husband is not really into super long walks or hikes, especially daily, and b) my son is not really into sitting in a stroller or a backpack for super long periods of time; he wants to get out and play while you meander around him at a much-lower-than-prime-fat-burning-target-heart-rate speed.  Or, in my case, chill on the nearest bench.

And I have come to accept that I am never going to consistently do things I don't enjoy (like doing my very own ultimate workout all by my lonesome each day in my living room, rather than reading my library book all curled up on the couch) just because I ought to do them.  Life's too short; I'm too lazy; call it what you will.  It ain't gonna change, so I'm gonna to have to work around it.

My new plan:  I'm going to try taking the jogging stroller to a long, flat trail along the Erie Canal, right at naptime, and see if the toddler will sleep while I push him and walk for two hours.  Obviously, I won't do this every day, but if I do it once a week, and then leave my husband at home with the babe once a week while I do a quickie 45 minute hill-walking session in the 'hood, and then maybe once a week we all go hiking together and I wear the kid, that plus my yoga classes would be a good workout week.

Seriously, I am super lazy, and will therefore only ever do workouts I really enjoy or am being paid to do, but at the same time I've been spoiled by years of being paid to work out ten to twenty hours a week, and now I realize I am addicted to working out regularly and need it to be happy and feel balanced in my life.

And it has been a struggle since my son was born to make it happen.  Except for my maternity leave, which was July through October, and the only thing I planned to do each day was hang with the baby and take a super long walk.  Ahhh, I remember it so fondly!  I even jogged!  And liked it!  Clearly, the post-partum hormones were making me crazy.  But what a nice crazy it was!  I could use some of that crazy 'round these parts, on a more lasting basis.  But I think I need to have to have hours upon hours of unoccupied time before I get crazy enough to try jogging, and I kinda need the paycheck my job only seems to want to provide when I show up there each day and, y'know, work.  Selfish, greedy job.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go NOT eat some delicious goldfish crackers that my body, that same devious bitch I resolved to listen to, is telling me she reeeeaaaallllyyyy wants.  I might need to smack my own hand on it's way to the box to get the message through, but if I have to listen to my body all year long, then dammit, shouldn't she have to listen to me too?  Pssst.....Just because it says whole grain on the box does not mean those things are healthy, body!  This is one of those times you need to get with the brain, hon!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Catching Up

I've been a terrible, terrible blogger!  It's just that spring has sprung in my fair city, and I've been oh, so distracted.  So we'll play catch up today, with various happenings from the last week or so.

We took the toddler hiking at a lovely park south of the city, where we trekked through a short patch of woods to a beautiful stream.  I used to take my dog walking there before she died, because she could get right into the water and drink to her heart's content.  I was not expecting my son to want to do the same on a 50something degree day, but he surprised me by walking up to the stream, and then attempting to continue walking right into it!  When I lifted him back onto the trail and told him he couldn't get into the stream, he began to pull his shirt up with one hand and his pants down with the other.  I want bath, I want swim, I want sip, I want water he repeated, again and again, all the while trying his hardest to pull his clothing off.  And again and again I had to tell him: I'm sorry baby, but noNo.  Finally he cocked his head to the side, looked me dead in the eyes and said very firmly:  Mommy, I WANT no!

And here I thought the problem was that he didn't understand!  He understood perfectly, and surely not for the last time: he WANTS no!  Apparently, it's me that needs some catching up on this concept.

Later in the week we attended an open house at the school where my husband teaches.  It was held during the dinner hour, so we packed some food for our little Sunshine (who should really be referred to as an Unpredictable Weather Event from here on in, if his behavior is to be taken into account).  I took him into the teacher's lounge and he ate, and then noticed a wooden apple sitting on the window sill.  Mommy, apple! he said, and pointed, and so I gave it to him to play with while I washed his dinner dishes.  Suddenly I heard a crash and a shatter, and when I turned around the apple was in pieces on the floor!  While it looked and felt like wood, it was instead some plastic laminate that was thick on the top (where I knocked to be sure it was safe before giving it to him), and thin on the bottom, where it shattered into tiny pieces on the floor when he dropped it.  Oh shit! I gasped, upon seeing it on the floor, and my son echoed: Oh sit!  I'd like to tell myself he's practicing commands for the dog we'd like to adopt someday, but I guess it's time to start watching my mouth.

At our last appointment with the pediatrician she asked if I had started potty training yet.  I told her about the small potty I bought when he was very young, and how starting at 8 months he would use it if I sat him down on it before bath time, but then he decided one day that he absolutely hated it, and refused to sit on it all, screaming bloody murder if I tried to bring him toward it.  She suggested the smaller seats that go onto the adult toilet, and so I bought one.  Our bathroom, in a strange design I've found to be disconcertingly common in older houses, has a window right next to the toilet, and the window looks out on our driveway and the neighbor's house and backyard.  His favorite part about sitting on that potty is pulling the curtains open to look outside.  And when I say favorite part, you know I mean the absolute only thing he likes about the potty at all, right?  So now I find myself asking: You want to sit on the potty and look out the window?  I've thus far refrained from adding: at the neighbors?

When he grows up to be a nudist I suppose I'll have no one to blame but myself for teaching him that sitting naked on the toilet is a good time to catch up with the crew from the neighborhood.  I'll try to shift the blame back onto him.  Sorry kiddo, I'll tell him: I told you it wasn't a great idea, but you WANTED no!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Banishing the Bedtime Blues

As a newborn, he was an easy sleeper. He slept, and he ate, and he seldom cried, and once he was able, he often smiled. People used to see him so tiny, and me probably looking tired, and say: it gets easier. But I used to wonder: how much easier could it get? He's easier than a dog! You have to go to the store for dog food, and walk 'em. He just sleeps in my arms and eats food I can make for free, without any effort at all!

For the first four months I did what all the books said to do, and put him down in his bassinet drowsy, but still awake, so he could finish that fall into slumber on his own. At four months, he suddenly decided he hated this plan, and began to scream if I put him down awake. No biggie: I rocked or nursed him to sleep. He was still so tiny! I never considered anything else.

At eight months he went through that terrible phase where they immediately start to cry if you even think about putting them in the crib.  Fortunately, I knew it was a phase, and repeated: this is only a phase, it will pass, this is only a phase, it will pass, as I held his sleeping body in my arms, night after night, dancing closer and closer to the crib, praying for better luck each time around.

We tried a modified version of cry-it-out soon after that, that went: we will do anything at all to comfort you, except remove you from that crib.  Sing to you?  Sure.  Read?  Yep.  Hold your little hand through the wooden rails?  Okay, then.  But you ain't getting sprung from that there prison, kid.  It worked, until the next bout of teething.  There's nothing like that one, specific cry in the night that says: THIS HURTS SO BAD, MAMA!  MAKE IT STOP, PLEASE? to make you toss all your hard work to the wind, and leap back to square one faster than you can snatch a screaming infant from a drop-side crib. Breastfeeding was the only thing that ever helped with teething pain, and I gave in again and again, with every new tooth.

Eventually, through a series of bedtime experiments, we got to where he would go peacefully into his crib each night and put himself to bed.  He seldom wakes in the night, and even less frequently requires our assistance to get back to sleep when he does.  He sleeps about 12 hours every night, and 2 to 3 each afternoon.  We're a little locked in to our routine around here (if we miss that 1:30pm deadline, fuggedaboutit, day ruined, over, done, out), but on the whole, we consider ourselves lucky.

I do the bedtime routine most nights: bath, teeth brushed, diaper and jammies, books and lullabies, into bed, goodnight.  Then I come out to the living room and collapse on the couch.  Lately, although he goes willingly into his crib, sometimes even telling me: I want bed, and then seeming to drift into slumber for 15 or 20 silent minutes afterward, he's suddenly struck with the need for comfort and begins to sob.

I go back in, scoop him up and hug him to my chest, rock side to side with the rhythm of whatever song drifts through the air, instrumental, from the lullaby CD we keep playing in the background of his bedroom when we put him down at night.  He says: Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, twirling my hair between his pudgy fingers.  And I say: Mommy's here, Mommy's here, as I gently caress the soft down of his hair on the back of his head.  Then I lay him back down, soft as a prayer, and surround him with Elephant, Bunny and Bear.  Bear will keep you safe, I tell him.  Bunny's here too, nice and soft, feel Bunny's furAnd here's Elephant: your favorite!  Elephant will snuggle you.  The animals gather round to give kisses, and promises that they will stay, in my stead, and keep him comfort, and he rolls onto his side and tilts his head back at a certain angle, which I know means he'll be okay.

And no matter how tired I am by the end of the day, no matter how inviting the movie waiting for me on DVD in the next room over, how shiny and new the novel I just picked up from the library looks resting like a gem on the throw pillow on the couch, no matter the genius of the blog post dancing in my head and itching to escape from my fingers onto the keyboard, I'm always so grateful to be a mom in that moment.  Standing in the dusk in my baby's bedroom.  Just me and Elephant and Bunny and Bear, our little quartet, banishing the bedtime blues.

But mostly me.  I'm not trying to brag here, but I don't think the rest of those guys could do it without me.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

My, How Time Flies

My Baby Boy in Blue Jeans


And now.....

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Little Bit of Rita's All You Need

I missed my paternal grandfather's funeral.  My sister and my fiance (now husband) and I had just rented a house with some friends in Arizona when my Grampy underwent open heart surgery, following his second heart attack.  We didn't even have a phone yet, so we found out he died when we called home from a pay phone outside an Albertsons grocery store.  None of us could afford to travel back east for the funeral, nor could my parents afford to bring us home, and so we missed it.

My parents had just sold the house where I grew up, which happened to be the house where my dad grew up as well, and they were waiting to close on their new house, where they live now.  In the interim, they were staying with my maternal grandparents, which wasn't easy.

My grandmother, Rita, has been dead for over two years now, but remains one of my favorite people on the planet (or other planets, or heaven, or maybe hell; I'm not entirely sure where she is now, people; the point is, she's still my fave; death does nothing to combat her status in this regard).  I called her just days before she died to tell her I'd been invited to Oktoberfest, at Fall Festival in EllicottvilleI wish I were going with you, she replied, We could have a few beers together down there!  And so did I wish it, badly.  I had to pull my car over to the side of the road, sobbing at the thought that we wouldn't be going together, as we had in a couple of years past, my husband officially joining the family when he poured my Gran a beer from the keg.  She was loved beyond measure.  But none of this means she was easy to live with.

The story, as it was told to me, or perhaps I should say: as I remember it being told to me, goes like this:

My parents (and younger sisters) had been living with my mom's parents for a few weeks, waiting to close on their new home.  It wasn't easy, staying there.  She snapped at my sisters, wanted more quiet than a family full of girls was accustomed to, didn't want friends to visit, enforced archaic rules about snack times, and generally bossed everyone around.

One evening, my parents got a call.  The new house was finally theirs!  My parents had been slow in buying their dream home.  Slow in their willingness to assume debt.  In fact, their advice to us was: be bolder than us, take on more debt and be more capable to pay it off, assume you will be successful, then be successful, don't necessarily wait, simply assume middle class status.  And so, after their own long wait, and slow economic scramble upward, they got the call; the house was theirs.  They drove over, went inside, and danced across the hardwood floors, smiling at the new setting of their lives.

On their way out, my dad's cell phone rang.  His father had died during open heart surgery.  Right around the same time he finally received the keys to his new home, and--leaving behind the house where he grew up, and then, in turn, raised his own children--walked into the house where he would eventually become a grandfather. 

A few days later, on the drive to my grandfather's funeral, the radio began to play Lou Bega's Mambo #5.  Suddenly my youngest sister popped up from behind the backseat of the baby blue station wagon with the brown replacement door: hazel eyes sparkling, blond hair bobbing, chubby face smirking as she sang along loudly with just one line of the lyrics: A LITTLE BIT OF RITA'S ALL I NEED!

My whole family burst into laughter as they drove to the funeral.

My dad's dad was the first of my grandparents to go, and the only funeral I missed.  By the time my mom's parents died (within a few short months of each other), I was living back in NY, and able to attend both funerals.  My paternal grandmother is still alive; the only one of my four grandparents still breathing.

But I was always closest to Rita; we all were.  Despite her snappiness, archaic snack time rules and general bossiness, she was Gran.  And she was always there for us, always had our backs, always loved us no matter what.  She never met my son, and I'm still saddened when I think about that sometimes, although I have no doubt that she's watching over him from above (or *ahem* wherever she might be now).

And what I wouldn't give for a little bit of Rita, again, some day.  I'd be more than willing to forgo cheese and crackers for the requisite number of hours before dinner, and accept a sharp smack on the backside when I leaned in for a hug, if it meant just a little bit more of Rita, again one day.

I miss you and I love you, Gran.  Happy Saint Patty's Day weekend, wherever you are!  And please gather both of my grandfathers together for a pint and a bout of family nostalgia, will ya?  If anyone could make a party happen in the afterlife, I've no doubt it would be you!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pondering Yoga and God

In yoga, as in life, the breath is fundamental.

Always the breath, and always stretching in two opposing directions at the same time: up through the crown of the head, and down through the base of the spine, and the soles of the feet.

I'm drawn to the idea that truth is simple. I'm drawn to it, but I'm not entirely sure I buy it. Truth can, in fact, be incredibly complex.

I've long held a theory that if I had the time, inclination and ability to study all the world's religions and spiritual practices, I would discover common elements, and of these commonalities, create my own sacred narrative.

In fact, I'm far too ordinary to undertake such a task. It would be the work of a lifetime, and will likely not be the work of mine. The best I can do is that truth is both simple and complex at the same time. That either/or is never as rich as both/and.

In the meantime, the simple things (for me): breathe, walk, detach, and love the ones I have before me to love. And the complex things (for me): be present, attentive to my senses, and discern with whatever semblance of wisdom I can muster what detachment means in the patterns of the evenings and the shadows of each morning sun.

I can be grateful for what comes easy, and I can try, again and again, to do better where I struggle. See? Simple. And at the same time, so complex. Always stretching in two opposing directions at the same time.

But if all of that becomes too much to remember, just remember to breathe. That's the most important thing.

Friday, March 5, 2010

R.I.P. Road Tripp Luv

Road Tripp, honey, I'm sorry, but it's over.  We had a few good years, heck, we made it more than a decade, but I'm in love with someone else now.  It's my house, and I pretty much never want to leave it, so ... yeah, it's probably not going to work out between us anymore.  At least, not for now.  Call me a few years down the road and we'll see if I'm feeling a seven year itch or anything.  You never know.  But for the time being ... yeah, sorry ... um ... we're done.  It's not you, it's me.

Of course, baby, of course I remember when we first fell deeply in love.  It all started in March of '97.  I walked out of my morning lifeguarding shift, hopped into my high school boyfriend's Honda Civic, and hit the road.  We spent the next three months livin' it up, Road Tripp, just you and I, my sweet.  Well, and the high school boyfriend, but he was short-lived after that; we parted at the end of that very trip, whereas you and I came back together again and again as the years passed by in a blur like the view from the passenger side window.  I pored over road maps and atlases like a student with a textbook and a test the next day (oh, the heady romance of the days before mapquest!  Remember that time we traveled to the southernmost tip of New Jersey, driving all day through smokestacks and graffiti, only to find that the "bridge" to Delaware was built by my baby sister, and made entirely of magic marker on the map?  I knew that would be funny someday, and look!  Now it is!).

I ate road food until I gained 30 pounds and couldn't fit into any of the shorts I brought with me after March turned to April, May and then June.  It's okay, Road Tripp, I forgive you.  It was just another excuse to shop at thrift stores for bigger clothing, cuddlebug, and I needed to shop at thrift stores anyway, after spending all my money with you.  Well, on you.  You were never a cheap date, dear.

But then there was that time in Virginia, lost in the woods, when I happened upon a lake, and looking out over the glistening water, vowed to live the rest of my life in three month increments, never repeating what I had done the three months before.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, sweetpea, but such is the folly of youth, and the madness of amore.  I can't keep up with you any longer, love.  I'm getting older, and I guess it's true what they say: we settle.

Settle in, and settle down, and for some reason the backseat of the station wagon just wasn't as comfortable this last time, pulled off on the side of the road, somewhere in a rural Louisiana truckstop, infant nursing or sleeping on my exposed chest, feet resting on the carseat and husband passed out in the driver's seat, leeaanned back, with his mind on his money and his money on his mind.  Except I'm pretty sure a part of that money on his mind -- a subcategory, if you will -- was pondering both the price of gas and the state of the current economy; let's not underestimate the man's intelligence, he may well have entertained a fleeting analysis of peak oil; we'll never know.  The point is, Road Tripp, I could tell, even then, that things were beginning to go south between us.  And I'm so sorry, sweetheart, but I don't mean that literally.

Those last miserable hours driving home, between Buffalo and Syracuse, where I balanced my body weight on bags of luggage and attempted to twist my breasts into some brand new shape that allowed for backseat breastfeeding while keeping the child enclosed in the infant carseat?  Sugar, those were simply nails in the coffin of our long-dying relationship, at that point.  And then when the house began to demand those same dollars for basic maintenance that you would require for your own existence, well, there's only so much I can do with a dollar, and keeping my roof from leaking every day into the dining room simply must take precedence over our sweet celebration of the beauty of our nation.

Baby, it's me, not you.  But it's over.  I've got four walls, a good job, a toddler, and a comfortable bed.  Revel in your youth, Road Tripp.  Go on without me.  Perhaps we'll meet again someday, in a Winnebago somewhere, where knee braces are an everyday occurrence, and those day-of-the-week pill containers are a spot of poetry in an otherwise chaotic world.  I'll never forget you, try though I might sometimes, but my feet are planted firmly now, and we can't meet anymore in the middle of the night; truck stop coffee just ain't what it used to be.  Or maybe it's just me.  I'm old; I'm tired.  I'm happy where I am.  R.I.P. Road Tripp Luv.  You may be gone, darlin', but you'll never be forgotten.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Long Time Comin'

Shortly after I met my husband, I said to my sister on the phone: he makes me a better person, he makes me the best me I can be.

But then we were together ten years and we mostly just chilled for that decade, lacking any demands that we become better, let alone the best we could be. We traveled and we partied and we dibbled here and dabbled there and we were always broke, but lucky in love, and life was pretty easy, overall.  We spent years flitting from place to place, living in three states, six towns, and nine domiciles in our first decade together, no real responsibilities on our shoulders for most of that time. 

When we got engaged, almost twelve years ago, another couple we knew at the time also got engaged, and bought a house.  I can't believe you're buying a house! I told her.  That's such a commitment.  You're getting married! she replied.  I know, I said.  But husbands are portable.

As it turns out, I was correct there, at least in regards to our easy, breezy, goin' where the wind blows, lifestyle.  We took our sweet time growing into anything but each other, and when love's the only commitment you have to make for the first decade or so, it's not so difficult to do.  We get along well day-to-day.  I thrive on daydreams, abstractions, and intuition while he loves delving into details, organizing and running daily operations with ruthless efficiency, eyes sparkling with adventure.

Because it took us so long to settle down, both career-wise and geographically, we had a long time to ponder what we wanted out of life.  He decided to teach art; I wanted to split my work between early childhood ed and yoga, teaching each part-time, with the choice to stay home with my babies when they eventually came.  So we needed a house affordable on one income, and hoped to find it in a city, rather than in the 'burbs or the boonies.  We also knew we wanted a property that allowed (or needed) us to redesign, rework, remodel, with a yard big enough to landscape and garden, to grow some of what we eat rather than buying all of it.  All of these were considerations that we entered into very consciously, albeit without fully understanding how they would play out day-to-day, and the level of commitment required to achieve them.

There are times when I feel like all we did for that decade is wait and wish for what we wanted, and then it manifested into reality via some sort of voodoo magic.  I'm susceptible to New Age magical thinking at times, although I'm probably a pragmatist at heart.  Other times I acknowledge that we worked hard to get here, although we did it so slowly that in retrospect it sometimes looks like hardly working.

But here we are, at long last!  He's teaching art; I'm working part-time with infants, toddlers and their parents, and teaching a couple yoga classes a week.  I have afternoons at home with my baby, and we're working on having another one (although this second, stubborn baby seems to be taking its own sweet time being conceived.  Perhaps already taking after its lagging, last-minute parents!).  We own a house in the city with a nice big yard that's just begging to be redesigned, reworked, remodeled, and don't even mention the landscaping/gardening that's somewhere on the bottom of an endless to-do list.  When it all finally came together, it happened quickly.  Very quickly, and the demands of our thoughtful choices suddenly seem to be outpacing the supply of time, energy and money we have to offer.

So, approaching a decade of marriage, my early words to my sister are finally put to the test.  When push comes to shove, will I, will we, be better together?  Will we be the best that we can?  And will it be enough?  Quite simply, it will have to be.  What else do we have?  Only faith.  Faith that after a decade spent seeing a whole country full of choices, that the ones we've made are the ones we mean, and that taking the long road is our forte, and that while it seems like we've finally just arrived, this is really the beginning of a whole new trip, and one thing we do well together is travel.  So, yes.  Yes, together we will we better.  Together, we will be the best we can be.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Colors of Love

I always envisioned myself with a husband who was primarily hunter green, and various shades of brown.  His aura, you know?  Or his essence, or whatever.  Those are the colors you would think of when you looked at him.  Earthy colors, deep shades.  Mostly dark greens and browns.

Instead he turned out to be a Jackson Pollock, splashed lively with bright primary colors criss-crossing and blending into secondary pigments, and splatters of black.  He's brighter, blazing, more vibrant than I thought he would be.  He's also darker, more demanding, louder than I anticipated.  His roots run deep as an old tree, and he's stable as an evergreen, but he's by turns flowering with tropical blooms, coated in ice and snow like a pine bough, dry and industrious like prairie grass, or crashing and smashing like a broken branch against a glass window in a windstorm.

I think of myself in shades of blue, and pale browns.  Soft, watercolor, background shades.  Defining the space, but accommodating. On the one hand, I'm the sky and the water and the earth; I'm everything.  On the other, I'm seldom foreground; I ask for little and offer open space to grow up or out or anywhere at all; I'm nothing.  It all depends on the day.

Our son is yellow, orange, burning red, or cooling green.  He's generally a happy soul, these days seeking language that burns bright red to look for and soothes cool green to find, or explodes in bright yellow bursts.  His essence is pure, sunny, light.  He leans wide-eyed into circles of strangers and smiles, like the sun.  He burns orange out of the quiet purple hush of our home, looking for knowledge like kindling to burn, seeking kindred spirits, racing into life like a million green buds in spring bursting into leaves in the hot, muggy summer.  We watch him in awe.

We'll teach him to burn long over time, like a big, fat log smoldering into charcoal that will calcify into crystal, but never die.  Even after we're gone, we'll be floating around somewhere, like chimney smoke curling up and dancing into cold winter air.  We may pass some time in a pale gray purgatory, but never gone for good: matter is neither created, nor destroyed, just rearranged.  Just biding time til the soul's next spring, raring to burst into technicolor again out of the dingy white waiting of winter.

UPDATE:  My husband has informed me that he is not, in fact, a Jackson Pollock, but more of a Hans Hoffman.  I checked it out, and he is, indeed, more of a Hoffman.  I stand corrected!  He agreed that I'm a watercolor, and specified that he thinks I'm a J.W. Turner.  Don't try to use art metaphors when you're married to an artist unless you don't mind a little second guessing!  He's thinking about the boy for me.  He was so quick and on target for both of us that I can't wait to see what he comes up with!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Straddling The Tracks

In the city where I live, if you head uphill, chances are you're entering a nicer neighborhood.  If you go downhill, you're likely watching the 'hood get worse.  Our house is on a steep hill.  We're the first house at the bottom of the street, as it heads up.  I always have one foot in each world.  I come from poverty, or working class, or blue collar roots, whatever you want to call it.  Now I have a masters degree, a professional position, and a student loan back in forbearance for another year because I still can't afford to make the monthly payments on all that fancy schooling I bought myself.

I leave my house to go for a walk.  I walk uphill, because I like the cardio.  Except that's not always true.  I also walk uphill if I'm pushing the jogging stroller.  You can't rock a golden yellow double jogging stroller walking in the ghetto.  That shit just ain't right.

So if I walk uphill with the jogger, I see other moms, mid-thirties, early forties, also rocking jogging strollers and toddlers.  We smile at each other as we pass.   I don't know any other middle class moms around here.  Our circle of friends fell apart right before I got pregnant when everyone else got divorced or procreated and high-tailed it to the 'burbs, and we never got around to making any more.

I wonder when I see these mothers walking with their jogging strollers and yoga pants, while I'm walking with my jogging stroller and yoga pants: are we the same?  I don't think we're the same because I don't want to smile as we pass.  I want to look down at the ground, avoid eye contact, walk fast, hide in the hood of my XXL black hoodie.  But maybe they don't want to make eye contact either.  Maybe they do it for the same reason I do it: that's how shit's done in this neighborhood.  And it has nothing to do with them that I'd rather avoid eye contact.  I've been known to pretend I don't see my own friends at the grocery store.  I'm just like that sometimes. 

If I don't take the jogger I might go uphill and I might go downhill.  Usually I start off going up for the cardio, but eventually I take a turn that leads me back downhill and I cross that notorious street--every town has one, cities have a bunch of 'em--that street where the neighborhood officially becomes no good anymore.  The windows in the houses are boarded up; there's garbage in the streets and the sweet smell of blunt wrappers and weed wafting through the air.  If I pass someone walking here, we both do the same thing: look down at the ground, avoid eye contact, walk fast, hide in the hoods of our XXL black hoodies.  Aaaaahhhhh.....

There's always a certain sense of relief for me when I cross that invisible class line, over to the the wrong side of the tracks, a sense of freedom, like I'm going back home, like I'm safe in anonymity and no one will bother or question me.  Unless I have the jogging stroller.  Then I just feel like a tool who probably stumbled into the wrong part of town accidentally.

I wonder if I'll always breathe a little easier on the wrong side of the tracks.  I don't know.  I have to walk back uphill to get home.  And that golden yellow double jogger is mine; I chose it myself after searching long and hard on Craigslist.  But so is the oversized black hoodie.  I think I'll always be standing right at the intersection of that street that separates us.  No matter where I walk: uphill, downhill, or for how long, I'll always have one foot on either side of the tracks.  Maybe that is where I belong.