9.28.2009

My little old man

Hollis has a pretty reliable clock ticking away under all his lovely chubbiness. It goes something like this:

  • 7-8 am - Wake up
  • 8-9 am - Eat
  • 9-12 pm - Run amok/Do adorable baby things (see 11:07 am post)/Eat
  • 12-3/4 pm - Nap (although, it's usually a 2-3 hour nap, with an occasional marathon nap of 4 hours)
  • 3/4-5/6 pm - More running amok/Eat snack
  • 6-7 pm - Eat
  • 7-8 pm - Sleep

Not bad, right?? (Hey, I'm definitely not complaining. I think it's glorious and wonderful and it actually ends up being pretty flexible for the both of us. He can easily swing mixing it up or missing a nap and still be really happy because we can always fall back on his schedule.)

And here's my whole point to this: this is 100% his schedule. I just follow his lead. Case in point, today:

We had our usual goings on up until about 11:45 am. I noticed that he was laying on his blankie between bouts of running amok so I decided it was time to read a book or two and bring it down a notch. I read him his "potty" book and cuddled with him then put him in his crib. Paci in mouth, blankie clutched under his arm he points to his right shin and says, "Nya-nya."

Now, "nya-nya," if you recall, means a few things in this house. It means, "cookie," "nana," and "monkey." I even thought for a second maybe he was hungry because he hadn't had lunch, yet, but quickly dismissed that idea because he was pointing at his shin, not his belly. Next I thought maybe he had made up a new word for "booboo," because he has his first skinned knee. So, I pointed to his LEFT knee, where the booboo is, but he shook me off, pointed to his right shin, and said, "nya-nya" again.

Then it hit me.

He has monkey pants - pajama pants - and it was nap time after all, so why not wear his monkey pajama pants??

And so, I brought the pants over and he jumped up and down and giggled excitedly. Mama had it right! Woohoo!! I'm learning to speak toddler!!

So I took his shorts off, put on his monkey pants and the little old man trapped in a tiny person's body lay down and when right to sleep. That was an hour and fifteen minutes ago.

Man, I love that little guy... and his monkey pants.

11:07 am

9.23.2009

What happens on a Saturday night...


You know the old saying, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas"? well, I almost want to say the same thing about my Saturday night this last weekend. Anthony was out of town, Hollis was staying the night with my parents and an old friend and I had dinner plans and I ripped it up. But, since it's not Vegas it's something worth retelling.

I don't even remember the last time I went out under circumstances similar to when I was single. I was on my own Saturday, free as a lark. No baby to worry about. No husband to worry about me. I didn't even have a dog I had to worry about letting out. However, I now have a mother to worry about me.

I rarely, if ever, get behind the wheel after even one glass of wine when Hollis is in the car, so my mom was really worried about me drinking and driving by myself that night. She wouldn't let up, "Call us if you need a ride," she kept saying.

"Yes, Mom. Ok, Mom. Of course, Mom. I'll be fine, Mom. I'm not going to get drunk, Mom," and so forth and so on.

But after I'd dropped Hollis off at her house and returned home to get dressed I thought, what the hell? Why not just call a cab and just not worry about it? So I did. And the nice cabby was at my house promptly at 6:30.

As I locked my front door and got into the cab I felt like I was having an out of body experience; I was flashed back to the early 2000s when cabs were a regular means of transportation for me. My perfumed arms and legs meticulously moisturized, my legs shaved, my hair just right, makeup perfect. My dress figure flattering, but not too revealing. I felt like ME again.

As I sat in the back of the cab and watched the familiar buildings go by through an unfamiliar window I was transported to a place of calm and reflection. So this is what it used to feel like, thought. And then I watched the highway over the cabbie's shoulder and thought of all the other cab rides I'd ever taken in my life and how those evenings had ended. Usually with lots of booze and a line of coke or two or three and strangers in my house. I had such an open door, let's party and have fun attitude that my trust in a complete stranger was overwhelming. I've often wondered if my brazen trust didn't disarm any would-be wrong doers, because no one ever hurt me or even tried.

I thought I should call my mom to let her know I was cabbing it after all. I knew she might be up all night worrying about me and drunk driving, but that wasn't enough. She wanted me to call her when I was going home that night. I told her no and no I had no idea when that might be. I was going to be safe, but have fun, too, and that meant not having to call anyone. I have my limits, too, after all.

We arrived at the restaurant 15 minutes early and I paid with a credit card - again, I thought back to the days when they didn't even take credit cards - and went inside. It was a trattoria, sparsely decorated with only a handful of patrons. It was only 6:45 after all. I walked to the bar, straight towards a line of 5 men, shoulder-to-shoulder behind the bar. I felt tall with my Frye boots on and pretty. They politely appraised me and then one of them followed me to the end of the bar where I pulled out a stool. I ordered a glass of sparkling wine.

A minute later my friend arrived and we took a seat in the corner. We ate and drank and reconnected: lots of verbal sparring and jokes and laughter. It was awesome.

[It's important to note that my friend, Dave, is also a friend of Anthony (one of the chosen few). I've known Dave for more than a decade and love that he and Anthony are friends now, too. I have rarely gone out with him alone since getting together with Anthony for the mere fact that I love that he and Anthony like each other and so I have happily encouraged their friendship over ours. Dave and I aren't going anywhere (as in, we're going to be friends no matter how much we hang out, whether we like it or not).]

I talked to Dave about all the different parts of me and how I've been ignoring the Me in me and how it's been a real eye-opener this summer to suddenly feel like I'm standing around with my dick in my hand and he immediately quipped, as he's wont to do, "Well, then it's time to stroke it."

And so I did.

We walked to a nearby bar and sat in overstuffed couches by the door. We laughed our asses off and Dave told me the female bartender thought I was pretty. An old friend walked in and his lady friend complimented my dress. I felt amazing.

A few glasses later we walked to meet up with some of Dave's other friends at yet another neighborhood bar. Dave was wonderfully rude and abrasive and I felt 23 again. It was awesome. I could be myself and trust that it was cool. Just me and me and me. All Jess, all the time. In other words, no one's wife, no one's mother, just someone's friend.

More girls complimented me on my dress and I by now I felt like a freaking super star.

At about 1:30 I called for a cab and left to meet him outside, but he never showed so I began walking downtown to find one on my own. I walked for blocks and blocks, passing groups of friends and loners as the bars spilled out onto the streets. Horns blaring, voices shouting. I felt so alive and strong. I turned down a street with throngs of people and was about to hail a cab when I hear, "Jess!!" I turn around and it's a friend I haven't seen in years.

"Oh my God!! Jenna! Holy shit!" The look on her face said you could have knocked her over with a feather. I close the distance and give her a hug and say hello to her friend. They insist that we have 10 minutes left "to save the world" and usher me inside to the bar and buy me another drink. Behind me are couples gyrating together, laughing, and sloshing drinks and the three of us down our drinks (me, yet another glass of wine). I thank them both and leave to find that elusive cab.

I walk several more blocks to end up in front of the Hilton. I'm surrounded by hundreds of people, cabs, cars, lights, doormen. I just stand on the corner and breathe. I dare anyone to ruin my night by a touch or a look. I'm ready to turn my laser beam eyes on them and cut them down. Nothing can ruin this moment for me. This moment of unadulterated amusement and excitement.

Of course the night wouldn't be complete with some drama. While standing in front of the hotel Dave calls to ream me out that he was about to start driving around looking for me because I still hadn't texted him that I was in a cab. Truth was, I'd forgotten all about it, but I hadn't found a cab anyway. Just then a cabbie sees me and is available. Nothing short of a small miracle.

My voice hoarse from bar-talk all night I laugh at Dave and tell him I'm ok and that I was getting in to a cab that very moment and I drive home to awaken a new woman.

And a new woman I am. Things happened to me Saturday night that have seemed to dislodge the pangs of loneliness and insecurity. A few correctly placed glances and compliments have bolstered my self-esteem. No one looked at me like I wasn't worth looking at. People were approving and excited to see me and talk to me. And I had the added comfort in knowing that I was taken and safe. Girls I talked to often started sentences with, "If I ever get married..." or "If I ever have kids..." Those words are forever lost to me because I have found that kind of love in both cases and therefore I have the added bonus of getting to be me and getting to be a wife and mother.

I'm certain that this isn't the last time that I'll need to do something like this. It's obvious to me that I can't shut this part of me off just because of motherhood or marital status: I need the attention, the reassurance, and the thrill. I just do. Maybe I'm a weak person for admitting it or for needing it, I don't know, but what I do know is I don't care. I don't claim to be all powerful or perfect or even appropriate every moment of my life, but so long as I'm doing the right thing by me then I'm inherently doing the right thing for my husband and son because they get a better, happier me.

So, thanks, to all the strangers out there who looked at me and not through me Saturday night, and thank you, friends, for seeing just me, too.

Bah bah, Dada!

Hollis and I picked up Anthony from the airport last night. It was late, around 8, but I decided I wanted Hollis and Anthony to see each other as soon as possible. This last trip has been unavoidably difficult and different in a lot of ways.

First of all, Hollis' language and cognitive development took a big leap forward recently. His words are more sophisticated, as are his thought processes. His deductive reasoning is almost palpable. I have to be 100% on all the time with him and I'm feeling like I just got switched to French II from French I without my knowledge: I'm scrambling to keep up, but feel like I should know what to do. I'm getting there, but I'm more worn out than usual. There's lots more running around and I have to dredge up so many old tricks from when I was a teenage babysitter: games to play, things to do, where to go.

Second, because of everything I just mentioned Hollis now knows his daddy is missing. I was awoken in the dead of night to plaintive, "Daaadaaaa!"s multiple times and in the middle of the day he'd cry for his daddy, tears streaming down his face. Or once, he heard the answering machine's male voice from the other room and his face lit up as he said, "Dada??" I had to tell him, "Sorry, honey, Dada's at work." And every morning the first week when I'd stumble into his room bleary-eyed he'd say excitedly, "Dada!" in expectations of seeing his father laying in bed to meet him. My heart broke a dozen times this business trip.

Add to it that the Indian office had Facebook blocked off and the hotel had shoddy internet and I had very little contact with Anthony the last 10 days. We were able to video chat only once or twice for just a few minutes each time. When Hollis saw Anthony's sweet face for the first time in days on the computer monitor he seemed mad, despite having been asking for daddy earlier that morning. It was as if he were disappointed it was a flat, two-dimensional Daddy and not the real thing. In the end, it was a short chat between father and son.

So, this morning Hollis woke up when my poor, pregnant sister calls at 7:15 (5:15 am her time). She'd been up since 4 am to pee and couldn't go back to sleep. Like I said, poor, pregnant sister! Anthony goes in to get him and as I'm laying flat on my back, groggy as all hell due to a shitty ass night of sleep, I can see Hollis practically glowing with glee that he's with his daddy. GLOWING. He climbed all over Anthony's luggage, up on the couch, onto Daddy's back, zerberted him anywhere exposed skin is, even lifted up shirts to reach skin if he had to. This baby boy is over the moon with love. Over. the. moon.

My heart, broken so many times the past week-and-a-half from my little boy's grief is seared back together in a handful of precious moments between father and son; each kiss, each zerbert, each squeal a tiny stitch in my heart.

And when it was time for Anthony to leave for the office again this morning Hollis' sweet little face crumpled into a wet mess of tears and sobs of "Bahbah, Dada!" and his little fist would open and close in a wave. My eyes filled up with tears at his heartbreak. Anthony kept on packing up his things, unaware that I was on the verge of tears, too. I didn't want Hollis to see, either, lest he cry harder.

"Bahbah, Dada!" Hollis continues to cry.

I go down on my knees to hug him, then I scoop him up to stand and Anthony gives us both a hug, Hollis between us. And that hug was like a salve. Suddenly Hollis stops crying and says clear as a bell, "Bahbah, Dada!" and holds his hand out in a wave again. No more tears, just a happy send off.

That's what Anthony saw as he pulled away today. Me holding Hollis and Hollis shouting, "Bahbah, Dada!" and a stiff-armed little fist opening and closing to bid his father a fond farewell.

"Bahbah, Dada!" indeed.

9.21.2009

Sick baby, happy cowgirl

What sick babies do: watch TV, naturally.

My mom always used to tell me that she loved it when I was sick. Now, before you think she suffers from M√ľnchausen syndrome she totally doesn't. I was such a rowdy, rambunctious kid not keen on snuggling or hugs and kisses. I was too busy for that sitting still crap!

Unless I was sick. Then the whole game changed.

I wanted lots of Momma lovin', to be tucked in, held, hugged, and squeezed. I would lay in my mother's arms for as long as she'd have me and call her into the room just for a love fill-up.

Hollis isn't quite as prickly as I was as a child, but he does move a lot and isn't apt to sit for lots of snuggle sessions. Except, just like his mama, when he's sick. He slows waaaay down.

When I told my mom she laughed, "See! I told you! This is why I loved it when you were sick!"

So today, at 12:09 pm, we're on our second viewing of Toy Story II. I rented it last night for $5 for the week ($5!! What a rip off!) and therefore I'm going to milk this puppy dry. We'll watch it a 100 times if I have to!

He's got his pillows set up on the floor and he alternates laying on them, standing up, and doing a little running around. But mostly, he's chillin' on his back, fondling his blankie and sucking on his pacifier. Eyes glazed as they're fixed on the TV screen. I even fed him leftover pizza for breakfast in front of the TV. Hey, he's sick! It's time to bust out the special When-You're-Sick-Rules.


It's worth mentioning that I'm sick, too, which is why I'm relying so heavily on Woody and His Round Up Gang. My throat started hurting late yesterday and I can't breathe through my nose. I slept like ass, but also fell stone cold asleep at 8:30, so I got lots of shitty sleep at least, right? I'm sure my descent into illness affected my emotional state yesterday, too. Nothing like feeling raw and exposed and also physically pounded.

However, having said that, I feel immensely better than I did yesterday. About everything. There's a delicate balance to be struck here and I'm determined to find it. I crave to be honest and connect with people, but I also must be able to feel safe from my own compulsions. Just like Jessie discovers in the movie, I'm also discovering that choosing to be safe also keeps you from experiencing wonderment, love, and friendship.

Here's this amazing scene about Jessie and her little girl. Makes me well up every time I hear the music and see her little face so full of joy and then so full of hurt. Of course, the end of the movie finds Jessie daring to love another little girl again just to be able to love while she can. It's what I'm endeavoring to do with me and my life, too: be brave, be happy.


9.20.2009

Too much

It has come to pass that I have bared too much.

I can no longer continue in this way as I delve for self rediscovery. Sometimes, I don't even recognize myself as I continue to search for me. I am trapped in a fun house of insecurity, self-revision, and pain. Yet, things so precious, so sacrosanct, so vitally important to me draw me back and guide the way. In these moments I feel whole again. And hopeful.

I can no longer see the forest through the trees and am wondering if it even matters. What's wrong with just being with the trees? A part of the trees; the ambiance, the rustle of leaves and smell of bark, the crunch underfoot. Just fucking be.

It is no longer acceptable to me to feel this way and be so public about it. I feel raw and exposed. I feel pushed around and vulnerable. I feel like a perpetrator and a victim of unadulterated selfishness and ego; mine.

I am calling bullshit. On myself.

Therefore, it is no longer congruent with my heart to share it with so many. It belongs to one man, one boy, one family only. I am honoring that.

Till then.

Jess

[Ed. notes: That is to say, less sharing. I'm still gonna be here. I'm thinking less yapping, more photos, and shit. You know, lighter fare.]

9.16.2009

1734 words to say, "I'm a work in progress"


Ok, so I'm sitting here on a random Wednesday afternoon and I feel like my thoughts are clouds in a thunderhead.

The more intense my feeling about something the more remote location I give it in my mental real estate. As in, WAY the fuck OUT THERE. It's not real, it's not that big of a deal, it'll go away, etc. Yeah well, that only ever works for so long before the shit storm hits. And it's here now.

I've written before about the concepts of feminism and motherhood, although not at great length (here and here), but they're always there on my mind. I live and breathe feminist mothering. I can't not. Although, honestly, I'm having a hard time applying it to myself and my own situation.

Let me back up a minute and explain what I believe feminist mothering is. It's all the usual feminist ideas and ideals (women are as capable as men at intellectual pursuits and are righteously due equal opportunities and pay for their skills and work in addition to protection of these rights), but it's also about the lens through which I teach and raise my son. Although I am in a traditional role, my husband and I are equal partners in our relationship and life; I am not subordinate to his work-outside-of-the-house role in our lives. My son will grow up knowing this. He will see me as a powerful force in our family. He will also see me being proud of being a woman, embracing all that comes with it, and believing that partnerships are born out of complementing one another, not dominating. And, maybe most importantly, it's about instilling the belief that mothering and all things associated with it are high in status and equal to work not related to mothering.

It sounds lovely, right? But, despite pretty much living up to my intellectual belief system, I am having an extremely difficult time getting what I need by staying at home with an almost 2 year old.

I am certainly not short on meaning in my life or pride in my work. I'm all full of love and wonder and happiness and [mostly] confidence on that front. However, I am also lonely, uninspired, unstimulated, and a little bored.

All these feelings have been on the horizon of my mental grasp, too difficult to bear, until recently when I had a come to Jesus moment and questioned the very foundation on which all of my current life is based: my marriage. I questioned the logic of relying on one person for everything for the rest of my life and realized what a red herring argument that was. It's not my marriage - no one person can possibly be my everything - it's ME.

I've let myself down completely and now I am virtually stranded alone with a toddler day in and day out. No friends, no support system of peers, nothing. And I love this toddler with every fiber of my being and it breaks my heart to say that caring for him is not enough for me, but there it is. Somehow it's just not. And my imperfect marriage is also not the cause of my unrest, isolation or sadness. It's me and the fact that I've abandoned myself.

My biggest mistake has been my attempt to do everything perfectly all the time at the very high price of losing myself (not a very feminist thing to do, I might add). I am housekeeper (lo, housewife soldier), financier, teacher, social planner, mother, daughter, sister, and wife extraordinaire all the time. Rain or shine, happy or sad, willing or unwilling. No where in all of that have I given myself a moment to reclaim Jessica in any form, past or present.

I have a couple of theories on why this has happened and it's based on not only my experience, but those of my friends as well. First, women, because we must prove we are as good as men and as deserving as men, work twice as hard in all aspects of their life. And second, I'm tired of getting hurt and so have shut myself in.

Every woman I know, working or staying at home, drives herself like a lowly beast to be a better mother, a better cook, a better student, a better partner, a better everything. She sleeps and exercises less. She beats herself up on the rare occasion she goes out with friends or takes a run. And God forbid she nap (although, some women are certainly gifted at taking a nap, I don't know many that feel truly deserving of one and guilt-free when she wakes up).

On the other hand, men, who are raised possessing a self-confidence and acceptance of the validity and stability of good things in their life (as in, no one's going to leave him if he gains 50 lbs or he's not going to lose his job to a younger, better looking woman) are afforded an incredible ability to just let others handle things while they take care of their own needs: they nap, they shower, they eat, they exercise. They retain a strong desire to protect their personal needs from attending to family and work.

Obviously, I'm generalizing on all sides here, but the fact remains that the majority of the population can relate to these caricatures of gender, and you know what they say about stereotypes being a reflection of reality. And I know I'm all over the place, but hang with me...

I've mentioned it before, but I'm going to say it again: the feminist movement forgot something in their plight for equal recognition, rights, and pay. That the work women do in relation to child rearing and home management is as important as what men do outside the home. Because let's be honest, women bear the brunt of household work in most cases even if they work full-time (and then some). They come home and make dinner, shop, take care of the house, bills, kids, bath time, night time, middle of the night wakings and on and on.

Yeah! we get to slave at a desk job just like our male counterparts, but oh yeah, we also get to come home and KEEP DOING EVERYTHING WE'D BEEN DOING because no one thought to tell men they should be doing them too! Men are typically done when they get home. Women are just beginning their real work. And I've bought into this bullshit somewhere along the line even though I'm not leaving the house to work. I must take care of everything all the time. Do, do, do! Work, work, work! Push, push, push! I must prove to Anthony that I am busting my ass! Wha-?? How the hell did that happen? (And like Anthony even doubts it??)

And now here I am questioning what my life would be like if a) I worked outside the home in order to feel smart, intelligent, pushed, challenged and otherwise embraced as an adult as opposed to just a mother and wife and b) what would it be like if I never even had those aspirations in the first place? If I had been born 200 years ago and mothering and house management was the only role I could fulfill? Would I be happier if either of those things happened? Is the possibility of me doing even more work and being separated from Hollis really the answer? Is the possibility of just ignoring all my emotional and intellectual needs to only mother my son and wife my husband the answer?

No. And what stupid questions! I should be asking myself: How can I get more opportunities to recharge? What can I do to feel connected to people, adults again? Where can I go to find some solace? How can I carve out some balance in my every day life??

My mom bought me a book at Barnes & Noble the other day. It's called, "Stay Home, Stay Happy: 10 Secrets to Loving At-Home Motherhood."

Ugh.

It's not just a little bit embarrassing that my mother bought me this book, but I understand why she did. She knows I'm floundering a bit and wants to help. The thing is, I don't think it's the SAHM thing that I need to get happy with. I'm certain I need to give myself more credit for the work I do, but I really and truly am honored and happy to get to spend this time with Hollis and craft a loving, trusting relationship with him in the exact way I want to. What I really need is a book to tell me how to be a SAHM and still get the kind of stimulation I was used to (and needed!) for 30 years as a non-parent. "Stay Home, Stay Happy, Stay Sane: 10 Secrets to Loving At-Home Motherhood and Still Feeling Relevant as the Human Being You Are."

The other theory I have on why I'm angst-ridden and upset is because I don't want to get hurt by anyone. And by that I mean, "I don't want to put myself out there and get shat on by 'friends'." It's pretty straight forward. I'm a sensitive son-of-a-bitch and over time I've stopped putting myself out there for reasons of self-protection. I think it's time to put the armor back on and get my ass in the game. For my sanity's sake.

After mulling over on this for weeks now I feel confident in my new plan of action. I've joined no less than three Meetup.com groups for moms and parents and even went to my very first last week (it was a quick playdate at a nearby park and it was lovely and exhilarating). I'm at least aware of my feelings now and am questioning my standards of work and giving myself more slack (that's right "at work," as in here at the house). Anthony and I have spent hours talking about my malaise and unhappiness and he is actively changing his at-home trajectory for which I am eternally grateful and now feel more hopeful about our future as a cohabiting pair. And I've begun to open up to other friends and moms about my situation and feelings and have found that I am so far from being alone it's not even funny, and knowing that relieves some of my loneliness and makes me feel much less crazy.

So, there you have it. A lot of words just to say my head's up my ass and I'm painfully aware of it. I'm definitely a work in progress.

Anyone else feel this way??

9.14.2009

How to remove ink from your couch

This morning Hollis ran excitedly into my room shouting pointing back at the living room. Intrigued I say, "What is it, Hollis?? Show me!"

He shouts in glee and sprints back towards the living room. "Bobba! Bobba!" he's yelling. I have no earthly clue what this means, but I follow him anyway. I'm thinking, "Great, he's dumped his 'bubbles' (or sparkling water to the rest of you) all over the place." Anthony is at the kitchen table pecking away at his computer between bouts of packing for his India trip. Blissfully unaware.

Hollis stops in front of the couch pointing, hopping, and positively rigid with excitement and agitation. He wants me to see what he's done.

And holy hell.


It's our first toddler casualty!!

I gasp, "Hollis! Couches are not for coloring on! We only color on paper!" which, incidentally, he has clasped in his free hand. By now Anthony's come over to see what all the commotion's about. I turn my gaze on him, "DADDY!" I hiss, "Why did you let this happen!!"

"Wha-?? You were with him!"

I guffaw, "No I wasn't! He followed your ass out here! I was alone in our room! He came and got me to show me this!"

Mind you, I wasn't angry, but more severely vexed, but that hasn't kept Hollis from retreating a few steps to watch the show between me and Anto. I come down to his sweet little chubby face and tell him again that couches aren't for coloring on, but let's draw on the paper and don't worry, he's not in trouble, but Daddy is - makes me laugh even recounting it. Big, oblivious Daddy who gave him the stinking pen in the first place.

Anthony and I discuss our next step to eradicate our little Pollack's pursuits. We have a bottle of some heavy duty miracle stain remover that we got when we purchased the couch, so let's use that, we agree. Only problem is, there's barely enough left to clean even one cushion.

"Don't worry. I'll clean it when I get back," Anthony declares.

"I don't want to have ink on my couch for a week and a half! You crazy??"

"..."

I start to blot up an inch of ink trail and stop. This is going to be a lot harder than I thought.

"Ok. You can clean it up when you get back," I reply. And flip over every cushion, wipe off any crumbs, and walk away.

Voila! Instant ink removal!!

How's that for some serious cleaning power??

9.12.2009

It's the little things about social media that I love

Jessica: Whipping up some lovely butternut squash risotto. I hope to make Gordon proud.
about an hour ago · Comment · Like/Unlike

9.11.2009

Eight years ago

The world changed irreparably 8 years ago.

The following year, with $.99 Lady of Guadalupe candle in hand, I sat
below Stevie and sadly watched the Austin skyline, wondering what was
happening to our world.

I haven't visited this spot on any other anniversary, but felt
compelled to today.

It's still my favorite view of the city; jackhammers ting in the
distance, wet dogs run amok on the trails with their owners and
boaters skim along the river. It's Austin life.

And I'm sharing it with Hollis today because I need to be reminded of
this city's unique character and the general goodness of people living
their everyday lives to the best of their abilities.

So here's to you, my fellow brothers and sisters. I'm glad you're here.

9.10.2009

I feel slightly less dirty


The pretty Rain from those sweet Eaves
Her unintending Eyes
Took her own Heart, including ours,
By innocent Surprise

The wrestle in her simple Throat
To hold the feeling down
That vanquished her -- defeated Feat
Was Fervor's sudden Crown

-- Emily Dickinson

9.09.2009

The curse of the historical romance



FAMILY, THIS POST IS NOT FOR YOU. Read if you must, but I'll deny everything if you ever bring it up.

Let me get right to it:

The historical romance (or any romance) novel is as fantastical as Lord of the Rings or The Wheel of Time. Where any young, underdog man can save the world from powers much fiercer than they, in a romance novel a woman is a fine, orgasmic creature who weds a dashing man with vast wealth and then is forever happy.

Yeah, pretty damn fantastical if you ask me.

Also, the woman is unnervingly beautiful, modest, feisty, and a virgin. If she happens to no longer be a virgin, then her previous sexual experiences were due to either rape or grudging obligation, the end result is in all things not directly hymen-related she is as virginal as a any young woman during her first sexual encounters. Or, otherwise clueless. Her cluelessness, however, does not affect her love for all things hot, hard, and male. She is not put off by bodily fluids or squishing sounds or a 250lb man grunting on her in ways she's never known were even possible. No, in fact, she relishes it and welcomes even more.

And why wouldn't she more? Her man is most likely some kind of rebel, outcast, or pioneer. He's incredibly wealthy, either by birth or happenstance, and he knows how to keep it coming. He loves all things female, including shampooing her hair in a giant copper bathtub, and he never climaxes before her. EVER. In fact, he makes it his manly duty to make sure she orgasms as many times as she's humanly capable.

So, yeah, if men the world wide were like this dude, probably named Sir Thrustalot of the Aisle of Longtime, I'm sure couples would be having sex everywhere you looked: on a horse, behind trees, in abandoned hunting lodges, beside that babbling brook, and of course on the giant master bedroom bed with a fire roaring nearby.

Hmmm.

I picked up my first romance novel, a historical one, when I was about 14. It was probably the biggest mistake - of my own doing - in my sexual development. My mother, to my knowledge, had never read one (and still hasn't) and therefore she had no idea what I was sponging up all those years: the messages, the soft-core porn, the ideology. I would devour these books with half-clad girls on the cover being cradled or towered over by burly semi-dressed men by the dozens. I must have read hundreds by the time I finished high school. I was screwed, so to speak, by the way these girls were getting screwed.

From these books I learned that I was to fight a man, but eventually succumb to my own heightened desires. I was to find pleasure in his desire to seduce me whether I wanted it or not. I learned that a man would always know how to pleasure me, regardless of the level of emotional intimacy. I knew that to be considered truly beautiful I was to stop music mid note, lo, snatch the breath from every man in the room and be envied by every woman. I was to reach orgasm in any way a man attempted it in as little time as possible. My man would innately know my feelings, which automatically precluded any kind of dialogue between us. And lastly, a relationship based on lust and sexual satisfaction always parlayed into deep, intimate, lifelong bonds.

To say this fucked me up pretty bad is an enormous understatement.

I was all over the place with boys (and no where with girls). I thought boys were supposed to know when I liked them, wanted to go further than 1st base, and when I wanted to be "over-powered". I once took 3+ hours to kiss a boy because he wouldn't just grab me and kiss me and so he moved about a hair-a-minute until he was facing my lips and could get a good angle. And the funny thing was that I really wanted to kiss him! But my exclusive romance novel training had taught me that I was to wait and be told what to do.

It literally took me years to deprogram and then reprogram myself from this ideology of horny victim into horny participant. Lots of thinking about it and working to get out of my fantasy head space and into an intelligent, meaningful, participatory role with my partner.

As an adult, I continue to enjoy romance novels, but I now know the reality of sex and relationships and can digest these steamy tales as fantasy and not as how things are supposed to be. I can use them as spice to my life and not as the rule. And quite frankly, my tastes are discerning. I read novels where everyone is consenting, there's lots of discussion about feelings and the relationship, and where each of the characters are somewhat fallible. No one has silky soft pubic hair, either. I skip the dumbed-down romance novels of the ilk I first read. Yes, the ladies are beautiful, but often only to their men. And yeah, the men are ridiculously wealthy and hunky, but whatever: no bills to worry about so why not have some more lovin'!

At least now I have a filter through which to enjoy it all. As a young girl it damaged my outlook on everything sex- and relationship-related. I thought I fell short, that my young suitors fell short, and that the whole thing was somehow my fault.

I can't lay all the blame at the feet of the books I read, obviously I didn't have any real life role models on which to base my development. I don't really know how other girls do it. And I'm not alone in this: I have a close friend who feels the same way about the romance novels she read as a teenager as I do and feels it greatly altered her outlook on men and sex. In fact, I don't really know any women who weren't somehow affected by the expectations (of both men and women) in a romance novel. I mean, how many of you romance novel readers were ever disappointed that your partner didn't know how to make you orgasm five minutes after he met you?? Weren't they all supposed to just know that? Weren't they pulled aside in high school and taught by the friendly, and disease-free, town madame how to work it? Coached, as it were, into becoming unadulterated sex gods??

So, from one woman to any parent of a young girl out there who might be reading those romance novels, I beg you to open a dialogue with her about what's going on in her pages. To share with her that it's fantasy, not even close to reality, and why. That relationships take an open and honest approach, that no one reads minds. Tell her her imperfections are perfect: things sag and jiggle and it's beautiful and ok. Sexual pleasure in the form of climax takes work and often lots of experience and practice. And most importantly, that a to be a woman - a sexual woman - does not include giving up her power or accepting force, but involves instead a connection between her desires and her full consent. And nothing short of that is ok.

[Ed. note: This is a conversation I've had for years now with my friends. Interestingly enough, my male friends have shared that their fantasy books also screwed with their idea of what it was to be male in this world; that they felt somehow less because they haven't done anything miraculous or heroic in their lifetime. It never occurs to them to feel like a failure because they're not like Duncan Larksthrush. Funny how that works.]

[Ed. note 2: I don't even have a proper tag for this... am I really going to start talking about sex so frequently I need to add a sex tag??]

9.07.2009

I love laundry. No really, I do.

Hollis' laundry, that is.

I love shopping for it, of course that much is obvious, but I also love washing it, drying it, folding it, sorting it, and putting it away. I love organizing his drawers and closet and folding his teeny little socks into balls.

I was talking to a good friend of mine recently, a new mother, and was surprised she felt the exact same way. She LOVES doing her son's laundry, but can't be bothered with hers or her husbands. I feel the same way.

What is it about my baby's laundry and accompanying chores that makes my heart soar, but sink at the thought of doing my own??

All this reminds me of a conversation I had with Anthony when Hollis was still pretty brand new. Back then we'd give him a bath in the morning then I'd dress him. It was my favorite part of the day; picking out his little onesie and socks, pants, sweaters, whatever. The adorable factor was through the roof and I couldn't believe that I had a baby to dress!! To me, each meticulously picked out article of clothing was tangible evidence of my love. Anthony, on the other hand, saw it as just a means to an end: you gotta cover the baby with something, right?

I was shocked that he never said, "Hey, Jess, let me dress the baby today! It's my turn!" because I sure as hell would have if he'd been bogarting the dress-the-baby time all for himself. He just didn't get it.

It only took me a second to realize my entire life of owning Barbies, dressing my cats and dogs, playing "dress up" with my friends, obsessing with makeup and my appearance was all somehow an evolutionary dress rehearsal for getting immense pleasure in dressing my baby. I had such deeply rooted pleasure sensors at wrapping Hollis in blankets, putting booties on his feet, etc., that I couldn't separate my desire for dressing up my baby from Anthony's completely utilitarian approach and was totally shocked that it was just me.

Of course my motivation doesn't make me better, but it certainly makes me different from Anthony. I wonder if that's what my friend was feeling, too. Her husband wasn't thrilled at doing the baby's laundry or dressing him, either. Do other women feel this way, too?

It certainly occurs to me that this isn't the most feminist of ideas: that I'm "programmed" to enjoy dressing my child, but then again, maybe it is. I'm a product of the world I grew up in, all the social conditioning coupled with innate programming. Maybe I'm really enjoying what I, as a female, am supposed to enjoy doing. And that is a big aspect of feminist thought today: do whatever makes YOU happy and fulfilled (not the whole old "You are a feminist only if you reject the kyriarchy and do everything a man would do all on your own."). Evolutionary adaptation is about rewarding behaviors that contribute to the success of the species. Making sure your baby is well protected from the elements is certainly part of that process.

I dunno - certainly deep thoughts about baby laundry, I know.

As Hollis continues to grow my pleasure in clothing him and taking care of those clothes continues also. I don't know if there will ever be a time when I'm tired of touching and smelling his tiny t-shirts and itty-bitty jean shorts; there's literally nothing cuter to me during my daily hum-drum chore list than this.

Maybe by the time he's 15 and stinky and probably not as clean as I would prefer him to be he can start washing his own clothes. Until then I will happily dive into his little laundry basket of love and stay a while.

9.03.2009

9/3/75

How many times have I uttered those numbers? 9, 3, 75. They're my bar code. My brand. They're, essentially, ME, in some weird we're-all-registered-somehow way. They're special, damnit!

Charlie Sheen can even attest to the specialness of September 3rd. So can Fritz Pregl. And, surprisingly enough, so can two of my blogging friends, Loukia and Elisa. I mean, what are the freaking odds that there would be THREE of us that know each other that share September 3rd as our most special of days?
I'd have to say, "Not very likely."

While loving my numbers and my day, when it's actually here I'm always a little nervous. We all have birthdays so I don't think I have to explain this other than to say there was a time in my life, a very impressionable time, when I had no friends whatsoever and my mother had to scrounge up anyone to come to a birthday party once. It was heartbreaking. Flash forward several years and I've had some extraordinary birthdays and some pretty blah ones, but the nervousness is still there. Maybe it always will be. I dunno.

This year, the birthday plan is as follows:
Birthday breakfast at my moms a la my step-dad (sweet, right??).
9:15 am chiropractic appointment because my sciatic nerve has decided to hold my right buttcheek hostage.
Post-appointment, who knows?? Terry offered to watch Hollis for a couple of hours so I could fart around, but I really don't know what I'll do with myself.
Dinner plans include dinner a la Anthony. I'm thinking ribeye since it's what I'm craving.

Friday morning I'm meeting a friend for birthday coffee since she insisted we do something (so nice of her!).

Saturday night Anthony and I are having a date night at a James Beard-nominated sushi restaurant (the only Beard-nominated restaurant in Austin that I know of).

And that's it. Nice, and low key. I'm really looking forward to it all (especially considering I had my Worst Day As A Mother Ever today - I don't think anyone even needs to hear what happened, suffice it to say I lost my shit completely).

So, without further ado, here are some birthday tidbits to be shared with one and all:

Reason I'm thankful to be another year older: Most simply, because I won't ever repeat the same mistakes I have in the past year. The two biggest being not taking care of my health and painting myself in a "mommy corner." I've started working out regularly and I now realize, with blaring clarity, the error of my "I am an island" ways.

Best birthday memory: If I actually remembered it, I'd say the birth of my little sister. I was three years and one day old. Sadly, I only remember the photos. A birthday I do remember is when I turned 13. I rode every weekend in Napa at Wild Horse Valley Ranch and Piper, my trainer and mentor, gave me a present. I couldn't believe it. She was 23 or so and just the coolest chick you'd ever want to know. I had no idea she even knew it was my birthday, so when she gave me the wrapped box I was over the moon. It was a pink, flowery jewelry box. My first ever. Her card said something to the effect of, "Now you're a teeny-bopper!!" I had that jewelry box for almost 20 years before I decided another little girl needed it.

Reason I like the day/month I was born:
I was born on a Wednesday, technically, and to this day it's my favorite day of the week. Also, the number 3 is just cool and September is one of those cool months that has a rhyme about it. Nothing not to like! AND it's the day before my sister's birthday; cool factor doubles because of that.

Why I hate my birthday (sometimes): I
t's usually around the Labor Day holiday and no matter how far in advance I try to pin my friends down to do something birthday related it inevitably means everyone's out of town. Also, I'm a sensitive mother fucker. I'm easy going, but not laid back, and so I like to have done for me what I do for others. You can say you'd like to take me out to dinner sometime for my birthday and that's cool, but missing it all together or not doing what I did for you stings. At least, it used to. Until recently, like the last 6 or 7 years, I did way too much for my friends... like crazy-girlfriend too much and so no one could ever really reciprocate in kind (especially if they were a healthy, balanced individual). So, I was always "let down." The past decade has taught me restraint and given me truckloads of perspective so I no longer expect anything except my own reflection and that really works for me and makes my birthday a happier day.

So, there you have it. September 3rd and me.

If you want to kill a few more minutes, check out these cool birthday sites. This one starts off with September 3rd, 1939 being the day Britain and France declare war on Germany. And this one goes back to September 3rd, 36 BC - That's right, BC - where in the Battle of Naulochus, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, admiral Octavian, defeats Sextus Pompeius, son of Pompey, thus ending Pompeian resistance to the Second Triumvirate. Naturally!

So, today is just your average Thursday, but to me, it's my special day.

9.01.2009

Operation Just Jess - A pictorial and review

I don't know if any of you have picked up on any shit I've been leaving between the lines of my recent writing or not. Maybe you've sensed that I'm nuttier than squirrel shit or that I'm really lonely or that I'm downright struggling. Whatever I may seem to the outside world I really, really needed to get away this past weekend.

To say that my head's up my ass is an understatement. I feel like it's up my ass, over the moon, through the hills, and out the shitter. Seriously.

So, when my sister and I started talking about a possible trip out to San Francisco to visit her before Baby Rasta arrives (her nickname for the as-yet-unnamed baby boy in her belly) I jumped at the chance.

And, since she is 7 months pregnant why not throw her a surprise baby shower, too?? I wrote a few emails to her friends, found a talented artist to do the invitations, and we got all the details hashed out and invitations sent within 5 days of booking my flight.

My sister also wanted her big sister to help her nest, organize, and do baby things. I was thrilled for the opportunity to mix up my day, get out of my hazy head space and focus on something else for a change.

Then, something extraordinary happened. You see, I have no social life and few friends here in Austin, but I have some very old friends in California and they all wanted to see me! Suddenly, me, who has nothing but time on her hands and a really flexible schedule had to actually turn people down! My goal was to spend the bulk of my time with my sister with the exception of two dinners and evenings when friends would drive in to the city (a big undertaking, no less!) to hang with yours truly.

I cannot tell you how amazing that was for me: to be reminded that I am worthy of someone's effort and time and love.

So, that's the set up. And here's the proof of an amazing, intensely emotional, fun weekend:









Good morning, hot ass San Francisco! It's worth noting that Friday and Saturday were unusually hot, like 90 degrees. I wanted to cry; in my desperation to escape the heat it followed me!


Eating lunch at a neighborhood bistro. I believe this was prior to the homeless man asking my sister if he could eat her salad.

:: There are several hours between lunch on Friday and the pedis on Saturday, but no pictures, sadly. My friends Katie and Jenny drove into the City and I whipped up some dinner for everyone. We commiserated, laughed, hugged, and imbibed. It was heaven. Just one quick note: truffle oil makes anything special. ::





















I'd only eaten a scone since 9 am, so we went to Trudy's for dinner. It's funny because I felt like a tourist once home and more like at home in SF. It's why Anthony's working so hard to get us moved out there. He feels pretty much the same way I do about Texas.

I also felt like an emotional wreck: I'd done some intellectual Olympics while in SF and had a lot to say. Once we put Hollis down we talked for a couple of hours and caught up and reconnected. And Austin is beginning to feel more like home again.

Overall, it was a great few days and I'm glad to be back home with my guys. I'm glad to have this life and I'm glad to have the intelligence to appreciate it.

Now, can I just get someone to give me a couple of days to reenter my real life one toe at a time? I'm old and not as flexible as I once was. No? Well, ok then. I'll just pour myself another little sip of vino. Don't look.

**Pictures added after original post was published.