Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Becoming 40

On my last day of my thirties I did not wax overly sentimental. We were ready to part ways. It was time for new, and next.

My thirties were a beautiful, hard gift. I got some version of everything I always thought I wanted. Sometimes it was more than I could have ever hoped for. Sometimes I felt lost. And I felt lost that it or I might not be enough. If you got everything you thought you wanted and still wanted more, then the problem, of course, must lie with you. I wonder, do other women walk around with this hole inside them or just me? This hole inside them where there is a deep unending well of love for their family, and this cavernous space where they used to nurture their own desires. That small but incredibly important space where you allowed yourself to dream, and where life seemed open to possibility.

Strangely, to say goodbye to my thirties, I went to New York City with my husband which will forever be a nostalgic hat tip to my twenties. The very best part about New York of course as anyone will tell you is the walking. It’s the whole point of it really. It’s how you learn where anything is. The smells wafting out from the steamy subway rolling beneath your feet and the shitty cheap pizza on the corner that will sell you a slice and a drink for 99 cents. It is the walking that reveals all of the city’s hidden gems. New York is a wonderful reminder that the point of it all is less about where you’re heading and more about taking stock. All of the walking, that journey is life.

I think back to 2001 when I made one of my first New York friends. She seemed so much more grown up and worldly and just, adultish. I still felt like I was playing a part. One evening we went for a walk in our city and passed a pair of shoes in the window of a store front. They were a pair of flashy kitten heels. I confessed that I loved them but I could never pull them off. “They just aren’t me,” I bemoaned. She stopped and turned with her characteristic broad smile. “Why, that’s silly. If you buy them, then they will be you.”

In many ways, I feel like I’ve spent the past ten years trying to own my grown up shoes. Trying to pretend I knew the right way to be someone’s mother or how to bury my own. Pretending I knew how to be a wife or join the PTO, pretending that I’m fulfilled through the management of their cello lessons and soccer games and that any of this has any correlation with how much and how deeply I love them. How I would literally saw off a piece of myself for them. How perhaps I already have.

My husband tells me I seem disconnected lately and I know that he is right. I spend most of my day moving through it in a very automatic fashion. I check boxes on emails to be returned and laundry that needs to get done. I kiss boo boos when they need it. I braid hair and read stories. I schedule doctors and make up flyers and it feels so amazing that I get to spend any time at all with these beautiful creatures that my heart feels like it will literally burst open in that moment from loving them so much. And sometimes I feel nothing. And I literally exist all day in the space between everything and nothing and wonder how every moment of every day can feel so extreme.

This morning as we prepare to race through another day, Ruby tells me she learned in her Weird but True book that you get more wet in the rain if you run than if you stand still. I can’t stop thinking about this. My thirties were spent running from it, or running to catch up to all of it, of the stuff I need to do, of the woman I’m supposed to be. I’m tired of existing too much in a space that is consumed by checking a box rather than filling it. She reminds me that I haven’t been writing for a while and this stings a bit, mostly because it’s true. I don’t have a good answer for why. Probably fear, anxiety, logistics, myself, I guess I’ve been too busy running from the rain.

So I take her sister to school and come inside and get very still.

I go upstairs and root around in my messy closet trying to decide whether to wear my bright pink Birkenstocks or my Democrat donkey themed Toms. In the end, I slip on the shitty flip flops I bought in the grocery store. They are the perfect marriage of convenience and freedom and breathability with a healthy dose of I have zero fucks to give about wearing flip flops in October. I realize my friend from all those years ago was absolutely right. You just have to own whatever moment you’re in to become it.

And just like that, I slip into my forties.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Summer Vacation

As it always seems, winter drags its feet and leaves kicking and screaming while summer seems to just fly by. Literally, I can’t seem to catch it. It’s a firefly I’m trying to catch in a jar, a sunset I’m trying to snap before it disappears. It’s a wave, a breeze. Before I’m ready to really settle into summer, it seems like it’s already beginning to bid us farewell.

Our summer swan song is always the same, a trip out to the west coast to visit my sister. I’m sure each of you have a place like California, one that you return to each year. We wait for California, we count down the days. It is our favorite thing. And it also means summer is almost over.

California is as much a state of mind as physical destination. To be in California means you let go of the daily logistics and schedules that consume most of our daily existence. There is still laundry and dishes. But there are long, late mornings spent on deep couches with the people we love most in the world. There is lots of ice cream and swimming pools and mountains everywhere that humble us, and remind us that we are small.

My favorite thing about our days in California are the bookends – the generous coffee mugs at daybreak and the long pour of wine outside on the patio in the evening. We move more slowly here. We know how special it is to be in such a beautiful place with the very best people. We really want to drink this in. As if we have to store those seven days up so that we can take it back east with us. When the schedules and the busy gusto of regular life begin again, as it should, we can search our hearts for that tiny space where we keep the California version of us. The ones that are more relaxed and bathed in sunshine, with full hearts, gratitude, and humility.

As I’m beginning to pack, there is another kind of vacation I’m preparing for as well. Starting on Sunday, I'll also be taking a social media vacation where I log off sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for a week or so. I’ve been doing one of these for the past few years and I cannot recommend it enough. Here is how I know I’m ready for a social media break:

·         My social media usage has steadily been creeping up. My Twitter time in particular has really been on an upswing. The frenetic pace of the news cycle has me checking more and more.
·         Checking the news more and more means, in general, that I’m feeling more distracted. I am keenly aware of this sense of urgency to check, to find out about the latest Washington-based nuttiness.
·         On top of making me more distracted, reading regularly about the chaos in the news is making me more edgy and angry. I have less patience for small children whose needs aren’t that truly complex. But I’m frustrated about 18 different things that have literally nothing to do with them and I can’t fix it. I feel myself having disproportionate reactions to their small, but not insignificant needs and problems.
·         Most importantly, our time in California is special and fleeting. I don’t want to miss a minute.

Here’s the thing with my social media vacations: just like my regular ones, I know I’ll be back. But I’ll return hopefully just as I do from our time out west: with a fresh perspective and the chance to take that feeling, however much I can capture it, of knowing what is real and what matters and how to focus, when fall requires it of me the most. 

August may already be upon us, but its not too late. Perhaps you too have one more vacation left to take.



Bottle up summer and take it with you before it's gone.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Duty to Country

There is an old quote by Abraham Lincoln that goes something like this: “Knavery and flattery are blood relations.”  Indeed history has borne him out. Praise and mischief often go hand in hand. I’ve been turning this line over in my head as I read over the statement from the Boy Scouts of America after President Trump’s highly partisan speech the other night at their annual Jamboree. In it, the scouting organization reiterates its wholly non-partisan stance, and explains that the invitation to President Trump was extended, as it is to all Presidents, as part of the Boy Scout’s commitment to “duty to country” and “respect for the office of the President.”

The scouting oath on “duty to country” hinges explicitly on two fundamental ideals: that scouts must obey the laws, and be good citizens. The speech was, in its most charitable description, strange, disjointed, highly political, and often personal and with very few nuggets of scouting wisdom. He was there because of the Boy Scout’s duty to country. But to lavish praise upon the President while he boos and belittles his opponents, well Scouts, I’m afraid that’s not duty to country. In fact, being a good citizen looks nothing like that.

My family is relatively new to scouting and didn’t come to the Boy Scouts easily. The organization’s murky history with transgender scouts and gay leaders gave me significant pause. But in 2015, they reversed their ban on gay leaders, and in 2017 finally their century long stance on welcoming transgender scouts. It felt as though the organization was open to evolving, to learning. It seemed like perhaps we might have a place there after all. Our son was insistent that he wanted to give it a go and so we signed him up.

Our local Pack has been a pleasant surprise. We have found it to be a welcoming and accepting group. When they boys studied religion, they did so in a church, but in a talk led by the local Rabbi. It seemed as though it was a place to learn about other cultures and religions that we were unfamiliar with. When he pressed us to go on the camp out, we hemmed and hawed. We had no tent. Even if we did, we had no idea how to set it up. But our local pack leader invited us over on the weekend to loan us one of his, and to practice with us how to put it together. Not knowing wasn’t something to belittle us about. It was an opportunity to bond and learn. We felt welcome.

My son came home talking about the importance of how you should always do your best. He rode his first BMX bike with them. He lit his first match with them. He learns how to do things I should probably be teaching him like fire safety and knife safety, these actually genuinely important tangible life skills that parents of a certain age tend to gloss over nowadays. On crossover night, we retired weathered American flags and the boys helped each other roast marshmallows. There were different faces and religions and colors around the campfire. It felt good, and very American.

But the speech that the President made at the biggest scouting event of the year has left me truly heart sick. There is something so wrong about this kind of pointedly partisan and negative talk at an event geared specifically for children. This event was the focus of the entire day for these Scouts: a speech by the President. And he did not disappoint. He encouraged boos for Obama and for Obamacare. He belittled Hillary Clinton and her campaign. He told odd and inappropriate stories about friends who bought yachts and made lots of money. He celebrated the end of “Happy Holidays” and the return of “Merry Christmas to all!” Gone was the focus on respect. Gone was this idea of inclusiveness that my family so relishes about our local Pack.

My son wasn’t at the Jamboree, but if he was, I would have been furious. Perhaps if you don’t have a young child, you may not realize how pliable they are. That wasn’t a celebration of Scout values and respect and inclusiveness. That was an indoctrination event, an opportunity to condition impressionable kids. All the news is fake. Believe what I tell you. Work hard and you too can have a yacht. Also Obama stinks and Christmas rules.

President Trump’s speech at the Jamboree was misplaced at best, and highly inappropriate at worst. And being a good citizen and doing your duty to your country means calling your President out on this. It is a very uniquely Trumpian message to conflate loyalty with acquiescence. That if you support him, if you love your country, you must agree with him, laud him, and go along with him, either in silence or in deed. And many at that rally and still today from the top down at the Boy Scouts of America continue to go along with the most base and disgusting parts of that speech. Duty to country and democracy itself in fact requires that we not clap politely or stand idly by while evading the more uncomfortable parts of that event. Democracy requires us to speak up, to disagree. Duty to country means lifting our voice, not blinding our eyes.

Late last night I asked my son about the Scout oath, and we talked hypothetically about the Jamboree event as I hadn’t given him specifics yet. I asked him how he would feel if he went to a scouting event where both Barack Obama and Donald Trump were belittled and booed. He responded that he would push back. A President, even one you do not like deserves our respect. He went on to tell me candidly, it is hard to give President Trump respect, when he so rarely gives it to anyone else. “He’s mean to people when they have a different opinion. That’s wrong. It’s un-American. You’re allowed to have your own opinion.” Then he adds, “But I believe in him. I believe he can be better. I believe he can change.”

That, my friends, is what being a good citizen looks like. That is what duty to country looks like. Being respectful, being able to speak honestly and say when you think someone is wrong, and believing despite their worst and most base public impulses, in their ability to strive for more, to be better.

Speak up Boy Scouts of America. That speech was wrong, hyper partisan, and inappropriate for our boys. Be the good citizen you preach to our children. Have some honesty and character and use your voice.

Because that is what duty to country looks like.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

In 2017 everything is stupid and so am I.

Literally everything everywhere feels stupid right now. Why don’t you write anymore? Someone asks me. And I reply that I am speechless because everything around me everywhere feels so stupid that I feel bereft of speech. I blame Trump. And Twitter. And The Bachelor. Because it is 2017 I will most certainly not assume any responsibility for this particular self-inflicted wound of dumbness. It is not my fault. The world around me is making me stupid. And silent.

You know what story I read online yesterday? That a Chinese company started an umbrella start-up company where you can rent an umbrella at key spots throughout a city and then you have to return it because well, it’s a rental. But no one returned the umbrellas. So everyone “rented” 300,000 umbrellas – their full inventory - and literally none of them were returned. Which I think means they started an umbrella sales company which is fine. But all of it. Just all of it is so stupid. People are so lazy. They are too lazy to return things they borrow. Or to even remember their own stupid umbrella so that they don’t have to rent one. It’s a rentable umbrella company with zero umbrellas because 2017 is awful.

Last night I had a dream that I was married to Bernie Sanders which irked me beyond belief because I do not like Bernie Sanders and then Kendall and Kylie Jenner showed up in my dream and literally I can recall dream me being like, God, this is just too much. I better bounce. Even my dreams are shallow and lame.

I want to watch Bravo but I can’t because Trump is blowing up the world so I have to watch the news so I can confirm that he is as bad as all of us always knew that he was but also it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how many stupid crimes and meetings and things they say and do. We are all just like, Christ. That was fucking insane. Anyway, let’s just keep ignoring it and let them get away with it while taxpayers pay literal millionaires and billionaires to just fuck with us. Also if Kathy Griffin is somehow involved in any of this just one more time anymore. I just don’t know.

Today on Twitter some pastor shared a photo where he talked about the great honor of praying in the oval office with POTUS yesterday. In the image you see the back of Trump’s head and everyone is literally kneeling before him with their hands up before him and around him and on his back like he is holy or something. And I guess it doesn’t matter all that stuff with pussy and Howard Stern and Access Hollywood or his Playgirl cover. In the image you can see his hair all matted and dyed and fake. A woman’s hand with blue nail polish which is of course stupid because everyone knows blue polish only looks good on your toes.

A giant piece of Antarctica fell off today. And in Brazil they figured out how to treat burns with fish scales. In Syria, people are living minute to minute. They are fighting for their freedom and lives. No one knows when the good guys will come to help them. Or even who they are. We are interviewing a new FBI Director. North Korea needs to chill the fuck out. I open my computer and see a top Buzzfeed tweet telling me about Blac Chyna’s wig in court today.

I close my laptop. Everything is stupid and so am I.

In 2017 Hypocrisy is the President and Stupidity is the VP and I rule the world.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Psalm for the Mundane

The very first thing I do when I open my eyes is squint to see the clock. It is 6:38AM. I have enough time to shower and still get everyone out the door by 8AM which sounds pathetically indulgent. I take care to do an above average washing job – probably a B+, but don’t have enough pride, energy, or desire to even consider shaving my legs. When I am finished and standing in front of the mirror, I decide my left armpit still smells. I can’t decide if this is because the new natural deodorant doesn’t work or if there is something sinister happening on the left side of my body. I decide to rewash and google “smelly left armpit” for later.

At breakfast we are low on food which is an important item that is necessary for this time of day to actually count as breakfast. I find enough expired egg whites, 3 slices of cheese and last week’s bread and cobble together some egg white omelets and toast for the kids. The coffee maker is hissing at me in a way that seems urgent and sinister but I cross my fingers and hold my breath that whatever is malfunctioning will wait long enough to serve me today’s coffee. I pack lunches hastily yet efficiently, all the while filling water bottles and writing in the home school journal at 7:59 when I had all weekend to do it and yelling at everyone about everything. At 8:15 the bus arrives. End scene.

I fill my cup of coffee and look at it like a forgotten lover, someone I once knew, that I am desperate to know again. My youngest, who is inexplicably not wearing pants, declares it is time to make puzzles. Not just a puzzle, but all the puzzles. Inside, I wonder if I have made enough coffee for this. She finishes the first one rather easily but then moves on to the life-sized Sofia the First puzzle. I curse under my breath because this one is frustratingly hard when your brain has been atrophying for approximately nine years. I try to talk her out of it. Nevertheless, she persists.

So I’m trying to figure out where Sofia’s skirt ends and her purse begins when I knock over my mostly full coffee cup. I blot and Resolve the area and feel slightly jealous at how confident my carpet cleaner claims to be. I keep trying to put another puzzle piece down but every time I do she pulls another one out and I keep trying to put them back until I realize in a true mothering existential crisis, why am I fighting so hard to make the Sofia the First puzzle? I need breakfast. Also, she needs pants.

I accomplish both of these tasks. I also manage to unclog two different toilets and fit in a load of laundry. I feel the world’s saddest level of satisfaction. At 9:22AM on a Monday morning at this stage in my life, I am now a person that counts stuff like this as cheap wins. I manage to get us to My Gym with at least eight minutes to spare before circle time and I’ve remembered socks. When I put them on they appear to be completely destroyed. They are so worn there is literally no bottom to them. Just a shell of a toe and a heel and a few threads of the sock that used to exist between these two areas. As I stare at my holy feet, I pray that God will grant me the strength to finally clean out my underwear drawer.

My mother in law agrees to watch her so I can sneak off to the grocery store which again feels remarkably satisfying, and a strong undercurrent of both joy and sadness sweep over me at once: joy that I get to grocery shop by myself, mixed with sadness that such an activity gives me actual joy. I wander the aisles and run into parents of other children and friends and we talk about things like our kid’s classes and Cub Scouts and tick repellent and K cups and all of it seems very pretend grown upish, like the kind of stuff we might think grownups talk about if we were actually children and weren’t sure and were just pretending. It strikes me as hilarious how much we are all cartoonish versions of our adult selves.

By the deli counter, two old women with pristine white hair embrace each other warmly. It is a rare moment of honesty and humanity. I find myself lingering with my low sodium white American cheese, so struck by how lovely it is to see two people connect so genuinely with each other, to be so utterly pleased to see one another. Human connection is vastly underrated.

I rush home to unpack the groceries and back out before the school bell rings for the older two. As I make my long, slow walk up to the building, I pass minivan after minivan, each well adorned with the trappings of our respective children’s lives – the soccer and football and baseball stickers, the local gym, the candidate we voted for. More than anything, it seems to me that the rear end of our giant cars are the surest reflection of our suburban existence. We are who we say we are according to our bumpers. We are highly engaged in the lives of our very scheduled children. Also, we occasionally workout.

We approach the part in the sidewalk where there are two paths and my youngest takes off to walk by herself. She must always prove to me that she is capable of branching further and farther on her own. Watching her tiny body walk away from me feels completely wrong and anxiety producing. I squelch the thought that tries to creep in that all of them will do this someday. That they won’t come back, and that this is right. What a stupidly nonsensical thing all of this is. To love people enough to let them go.

After school, my son pulls a tick out of his hair and flings it across the room at me in a moment of panic. I feel relieved that he has gotten the tick out, but now it occurs to me that somewhere in my house there is a live tick. I decide to never sleep again. The girls decide to make bracelets but the beads keep falling on the floor and the littlest one keeps clearing her throat in a way that is equal parts musical and annoying. All I can hear is the rumble of her throat clearing interrupted by the constant ping of beads hitting the floor. It feels as though my brain is full of marbles and someone keeps rolling it from side to side.

Soon, they will want me to feed them again. It is almost dinner. Though this shouldn’t come as a surprise, I feel panicked.

I reheat and serve the hot dogs from two days ago while I pick at some leftover corn. During their after bath television show, I chase my corn appetizer with the remaining whipped cream in the Redi Whip container. I have about three Weight Watchers points left for dinner and this seems like a fair calculation. Daddy comes home and everyone screams with glee and even though I am screaming with glee on the inside, all I can manage to do is point to the child in the nightgown with messy hair and grumble Mom caveman speak: Hair. Teeth. You. Brush. I wonder how he can still love me when I can’t even make full sentences anymore, and have such dry feet.

At 9pm I pry the book away from my oldest. When he asks how I can deprive a child from reading I explain that I am under no obligation to be nice to him past 8pm. I have well exceeded my kindness window. I retreat to the sanctuary of my bedroom, and by sanctuary I mean a space with a bed and billowy mounds of unfolded laundry. I prepare to unwind through very spiritually fulfilling activities like laundry folding, Twitter scanning, and The Bachelorette. One of the Bachelorette contestants is telling me how hard and anxiety producing all of this is, not knowing what will happen. I feel an unusual kinship with this single man who is dressed like a penguin and looking for love through reality TV. But if he’s willing to trust the journey, I suppose I can too.

I do one more bed check, counting and kissing heads. Then I climb under the covers, and wrap myself in the comfort and blessings of this mundane existence. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Binary Blues

I’ve been struggling with some real fatigue lately. Internet fatigue, general life fatigue, resistance fatigue. I’m just tired. Come join me over at Medium to read more about my Binary Blues. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Someday I May Miss the Adventure of Going Out To Eat With Little Kids, But Today Is Not That Day

Sometimes my husband will ask me if I want to eat out or if we should just order in. In my head, I picture our adorable family carefully passing the basket of bread. It is an alternate reality where everyone shares and no one spills and not even once am I or them under the table for any number of reasons and no one cries and we order dessert and it’s no big deal and we casually share it. And then the version of what will actually happen pops into my head – that of children crawling and crying and spilling. And it is in that moment that I look at my adorable little rugrats and say something to the effect of, “No fucking way. Not this time.”

We’re up on Scary Mommy tonight, sharing some thoughts on what we’ll miss about going to restaurants with little ones J