Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday Morning Survival

It is 8:49 on a Sunday morning. By all accounts I should still be in my ducky pajama pants. But I am not. I am up and showered. Already, I am so overwhelmed by the list of tasks running through my head that I am literally crying as I dry my hair. Which is completely ridiculous. Phil said he would watch the kids but instead he fell asleep in their bed and they came running into our room. In the past two hours I have already done a load of laundry, some dishes, and explained adoption (thank you Disney channel and Jessie for that important but also difficult to explain episode). All I want to do is write out my feelings but there is a Barbie, a screw driver and one Spiderman walkie talkie on top of my laptop. They are symbolic gifts from each member of my family not so subtly reminding me of who and what comes first.

I know this feeling. I’ve felt it before. It comes whenever I get so overwhelmed by the tasks of my family and of life in general that I forget the loving them part. The how to love me part. That I forget that if I don’t start to love me a bit more, I am going to drown. I mean I literally won’t. It’s not as if we are living within a giant pool. But this is how I imagine it feels. You are sinking underneath slippery and moving parts. There is nothing to hold onto. You can’t quite catch your breath. Things like water which normally feels light, suddenly starts to feel heavy.

My husband gets the kids dressed in matching Jets football gear. This annoys me on many levels; partly because I have been trying to get Ruby to wear that Jets shirt for a full year but only when Daddy the magician suggests it, does she finally want to put it on. She wears it proudly. Dylan and Phil are in matching football attire and they all bound into the room and ask if I will take their photo together. It feels like they are all in on some joke that I am not. They seem so happy, so carefree. So freaking adorable. It bothers me because I want to stay mad at them.

Why do they not have the same ticker of stuff running in their heads? I am looking at them in the midst of this adorable family moment and there is a part of me that is there and another part of me that just has a running list of stuff that has to get done. And I hate myself for that. I feel like a split screen TV. I want to watch the main program, but I can’t take my eyes off that stupid scrolling feed at the bottom of the screen telling me really important things like Khloe Kardashian files for divorce, and Miley twerks with a Christmas Tree. I am having trouble, once again, focusing and prioritizing.

Instead, my own personal ticker reads something like this: I have to finish the kids’ room and start washing the baby stuff and where are their back packs? Did I never unpack them from Friday? Did we get the mail yesterday? Is there still snow gear all over the house? Why do I wash constantly but the laundry hamper is never empty? Can I get the dishes done before my husband’s 87 year old grandmother shows up and starts washing them? How long before she asks me if I’ve hired a cleaning lady? And what about my writing? I need to prioritize that, and my marriage and the kids’ physicals……

And it never stops. Water, sinking, drowning. Phil packs the kids up and takes them for a walk to go get breakfast. I contemplate staying home by myself. There is so much I will accomplish. Which is mostly true. But that overwhelmed feeling will stay with me as long as I stay anywhere where there are constant reminders of my scrolling ticker of stuff. So I hastily pack my laptop and grab my keys to drive 2 minutes away to the local coffee shop.

On the way down the street I pass Phil and the kids walking to breakfast. Yet again, they look so frustratingly adorable together. I slow and roll my window down. In my head I can hear myself saying something like, “Do you want a ride?” or “Can I join you for breakfast?” because this is what I do. I get overwhelmed with life and them and then I get really crabby and take it out on them which is completely unfair. Then when they offer me space to breathe I reject it and jump back into the pool. Which makes absolutely no fucking sense. But it is a rare warm Sunday morning with my family. Why wouldn’t I want to have breakfast with them?

In a most unusual break of clarity I catch myself. I know if I stay with them I will keep sinking and the rest of the day they will only get the muddied and wrung out version of me. So for the sake of all of us, I just wave and keep driving. I am not sure if this is the right decision. I leave my adorable family in the rearview mirror. I drive to go find me. To pull me out and separate me from the list of crap and chores and to dos. Just me.

It is 9:41AM. I found me. She was at Starbucks with a decaf latte, an ice water, a bacon sandwich and her own thoughts. I am finding it much easier to breathe and I do so slowly, deliberately. I spend a few minutes with my own thoughts. It is the breakfast of champions; or at least of overwhelmed mothers who forget how important it is to champion themselves once in a great while.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Season of Miracles

I am walking Dylan to the bus stop. We are greeted with the sights and sounds of winter’s first snow. It is before we have grown jaded and bitter toward its’ punishing storms and winds and snow that turns brown and slushy and problematic. Every tree and surface is covered with a light and fluffy white powder. Not great for snowballs and snowmen. Perfect for snow angels. We are early enough in the season for it to still feel magical.

Indeed this time of year almost always does feel that way for me. Everything is covered in twinkling lights and powdery-white. And people of almost any faith recall a time and plan anew for a season of hope and miracles. December has always been a most miraculous time. It marks the season in my life when I labored with both my children on the same date, in different years: December 14th.

I think often of my miracles. Of the ones I am surrounded with, of the one growing inside me right now. I think about what a miracle it is that knowing how tenuous, how painful, fleeting and challenging and complex of an emotion love can be, we continue to open ourselves up to it; to the possibility of loving, of being loved. We do this with full knowledge that there are no guarantees of how it will end, that almost certainly, by virtue of the fact that we’ve shared a piece of our heart, we risk and even invite wounding it. We expose it. For me, this is the true miracle of the season. The miracle of knowing all of this and ever loving at all.

In the midst of it all, I cannot help but think of a community not so very far from my own who dared to love. December 14th marks a very different day for them. And for too many of them, their exposed hearts lay raw and bare, open on their chests. There are sisters and mothers and friends and children who are gone, taken too soon. And yet the people they’ve left behind are still standing, breathing, living, and continuing to believe in the possibility of love in the face of such loss.

My mother was fond of saying that the only reason people ever have more than one child, is that they forget how hard child birth was to begin with. That the best parts of loving and raising a child erase the painful memories and make it possible to do it again. Likewise, I wonder if perhaps the only reason we ever open our hearts again and again to children and spouses and friends and neighbors and sisters and daughters is because the joy and thrill of loving again, of having loved at all, almost always triumphs over the pain of love’s loss. I am thinking of this and of Newtown as I stare at my two snow bunnies. For me, this is the true miracle of the season.

It is afternoon. We are walking home from the bus stop. The snow is slightly more muddied and beaten down, but still a touch magical. The kids skip home gleefully, blissfully unaware of any imperfections. My heart swells with pride, so much so that I think it might burst in a combined state of total love and admiration, as well as fear that I must share them with a world I cannot control. That by sharing them with others, I risk my heart. But I feel the powdery white wet stuff slip through my fingers. It feels cool and magical. I surround myself with it and honor the season as it deserves: with wonder and a celebration of the miracle of ever knowing and loving them at all; of life itself.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hollaback Girl

The holidays are in full swing. The Target Hanukkah clings have been mauled by tiny fingers leaving nothing but fingerprints and a set of candles that dangle in the air sans menorah. Decorations from years of preschool love and tiny turkey hands and painted menorahs adorn every knob and shelf. The menorah is splattered with waxy drippings, the floor with wrapping paper from 3 nights ago. There is Christmas music blaring in the background because I am a Jew who loves Christmas music. Don’t judge.

The fridge is half full from a wonderful Thanksgiving feast that was mostly demolished by our amazing crew of family and friends who gratefully took over and pretty much prepared everything, but just cooked it within my house. Leftovers consist of things like one turkey leg, a tub of blue cheese, a half used can of pumpkin, and 8 different half used sticks of unsalted butter (for some reason we had a butter consolidation problem this year- will have to address next year). The season of gratitude and gluttony is well underway.
I don’t do the holidays well. I mean I love them, but in a sloppy and casual way; not in a Pinterest-y way. We are sort of half decorated, and marginally seasonally appropriate (given that it is December, it is probably time to throw out the pumpkins and gourds). Which brings me to the holiday card. I adore receiving holiday cards. I love running to the mailbox and collecting cards from familiar faces old and new, the goofy ones, the precious ones, island shots and Disney shots and backyard shots, and the formal attempts from families and couples that span the history of me, and of Phil, and of me and Phil together.

I am excellent at receiving holiday cards. I am horrible at making and sending out my own holiday card.

Every year I tell myself it is about the sentiment, the opportunity to reach out to friends and family and colleagues near and far and remind them that we are thinking of them, that we wish them the best. It feels silly and odd that I would wait until a single point in the calendar year to do this; that it takes a sale at Tiny Prints to prompt my thinking here, yet it does.

Pre-wedding and children, my cards were almost always pure sentiment. Post-kids, my cards almost exclusively included pictures of them. This year, I was oddly inspired to put me and Phil in the card as well. I worked hard copiously selecting pictures of the children and one single shot of me and Phil. But it got late and I got tired. My general overall laziness and pregnancy inspired laziness got the better of me, and when I had trouble cropping and moving pictures I just decided to give up and print the damn thing in its “good enough” stage. After all, who am I kidding? This is real. The people who love us accept us as we are, sans Pinterest glam.

The cards came yesterday. And smack dab in the dead center of the card is a picture of me and Phil at Disney World. And next to Phil is a strange unknown man also at Disney World. He is wearing a black sweatshirt and has the world’s largest back, or at least it seems that way given the amount of space strange man’s back takes up on our holiday card. There are some smaller shots of the children that surround the back. But fundamentally I have prepared a holiday card of best wishes from this man’s back. I can’t take my eyes off of it. It is like the holiday card version of the lip synching space kitten from Miley’s American Music Awards appearance. It hovers there in the background. You want to look away but you can’t.

And so, should you get a holiday card from us, it will feature the Meer family and the man with the large back. Happy Holidays from all of us. If you don’t receive this card from us, don’t feel bad about that either. Historically, I spend like 3 days trying to make this card and then order like 20 copies to be printed. Which makes absolutely no sense. And somehow all of that seems exactly right, at least for this band of merry misfits. In this way it is the perfect reflection of how we celebrate this and pretty much every season around here. Accidental, well-intentioned, with joy and mis-directed purpose, poor cropping skills, randomness, and love.

And so I say to you, happy holidays! Wishing you a season and New Year filled with much joy and strange men’s backs.