He says, "Ok!" and runs off with a big smile, comes back with about two squares of toilet paper proudly, and hands them to me. I thought, Wow, that was so very good of him! since recently I've been asking him to do more complex things with varying degrees of success.
A few minutes later I go to the back of the house to get something and see this:
I love this little kid.
The woman at the register who is snippy to you might have lost her mother yesterday. The man who dangerously cuts you off may be racing to pick up his injured son. The person you pass in the hall who doesn't return your offered smile might be contemplating divorce from an abusive partner.
The point is, we just don't know, can't know, and shouldn't assume either about anyone.
I remember when my dad was sick, dying, and finally just dead, that I had a similar sense of bigger things going on around me; of a connection to people the world wide in their suffering and strength and bravery to live their lives each day. I was like a raw nerve walking around and NO ONE KNEW. No one knew to even ask. I felt like I was living a secret life in broad daylight. And I'm feeling that again as my best friend struggles to save her baby.
Her amniotic sac suddenly (and unexpectedly - she'd been having a normal, healthy pregnancy) broke on March 14th. Her doctor told her to go the ER and, like an addict in an intervention, she says, she was told she wouldn't be leaving for the next 10 weeks, and no, she may not run home to gather her things. And hence her captivity began.
Spring came and burst into full bloom while she lay in her hospital room with flowers lining her window bench. Her fiance freely drove to and from work and stopped by a few times a week, feeding their cat and doing her laundry a long the way. Her parents held their breaths two-and-a-half hours away doing their daily ablutions hoping they wouldn't receive any phone calls before the ten weeks were up. And Hollis and I continued our daily outings, only this time we stopped by to see "Reeree," one of his favorite people on the planet, every single day as I promised her the first night I visited her in the labor and delivery room.
Now, though, her baby (and her body) have decided enough is enough and she's been in active labor for over 30 hours. She's just past 26 weeks. And again, life goes on and I could hear babies being born all around us as we kept vigil all day yesterday; and I passed pregnant women in the halls; and tried not to cry when the gift shop cashier asked me so sincerely how I was doing that it truly touched my heart to wonder what brought her to this day and sentiment.
So, like all of us do whenever we hear about another mother and her struggles, hold your little ones tighter for a moment today and give everyone an open faced smile and a break. You never know what might be going on in their life today. You might be the one bright spot they receive.
Today is Day 17. Please keep my dear friend in your hearts as she fights a mother's fight.
Jeff, her partner, calls before 8 to say she's back in L&D after a brief respite in her old room. Contractions are more intense and she's getting an epidural. I head back up to the hospital.
Her Mama standing by.
For months now I've been wanting to open up my blog to others needing a place to vent, share, or otherwise espouse ideas they can't or won't in their own worlds. Be it because they have a certain image to uphold in the blogging community, don't have their own blogs, or just don't believe they can share with anyone in real life I'd like everyone to have, at least, the opportunity to get it out there.
Therefore, I am officially calling for readers of This is Worthwhile to use my platform as yours, completely anonymously (and safely) to share your thoughts and ideas.
Here's how it will work:
- Email me here with your submission.
- Let me know if you want to be posted anonymously, under a pseudonym, or as yourself.
- Likewise, you can submit your writing to me under whatever name you'd like as well.
- You can write about anything at all. Heavy, light, humorous, sad, political, whatever.
- I will only apply light editing to grammar, not content, so the writing is yours.
Above all else, I really want this to be a safe place for people who need it. I've gotten a lot of feedback from readers saying they wish they could share how they really feel about whatever, but they can't out of fear of judgment, ridicule, or criticism.
And it doesn't have to be all heavy stuff, although, that is certainly welcome.
So, hello! to all the would-be bloggers!! I'm really, really looking forward to this!
For the readers, there are some guidelines, as well:
- No mean, nasty, judgmental comments. They won't even be published.
- If you know the identity of the person posting, keep it to yourself.
- You may comment anonymously, as well. Just log out of Blogger and comment anonymously.
Yay! I'm so excited about this!!
The other day I met another woman who has three kids and runs a business, ostensibly out of her home, but also away from it a large portion of the week. Her kids are in a daycare or school, I'm not sure which, but the point is they're still small(ish), not teenagers. When she found out I was a SAHM she very emphatically said, "I could never do that."
Now, this has happened many times over the last 2 and a half years. Me, a stay-at-home-mother, rubs elbows with a working mother, and it's like we're lions and tigers: the same genus, but not compatible somehow. I don't totally get how they "do it" and vice versa. But I also feel ashamed for not feeling the same way about motherhood and my life as they do. I'm not a fulfilled adult. I am just a mommy.
I want to make it very clear: This other woman was wholly NOT judgmental. This is about me and my reaction to a working mother. I felt like a country mouse next to a chic, city mouse. Working moms, to me, are seasoned, well-balanced, intelligent, sexy, hard-working, and stimulated. They are go-getters. They are powerful and strong. They are amazing.
I see women out and about sans children and I'm jealous of their freedom and choices. I'm sure they see me with mine and wish they were with their little ones all day long fielding tantrums and kissing boo boos. It's fucking nuts.
I'm curious as to why I'm still hesitant to admit that, despite all its drawbacks, I really, really love my job as a mother.
Of course, the biggest con of being a SAHM is the isolation and lack of adult stimulation we often - nay - almost always find ourselves in. It's stifling, really. But other than that, it's a pretty bad ass gig.
And so, to seem cool to this other (working) mother I sort of scoffed at myself and said that I wasn't loving the SAHM thing so much right now and I was definitely trying to get out of the house, too. To find some part-time work so I could stay happy as an adult, and, in effect, throwing my entire happy little life under the proverbial bus so I wouldn't seem simple to my new city mouse friend. That was my goal in telling her that I was looking for work: that I really couldn't "do it," either. That I was just like her.
Who the fuck am I, anyway?? Do I not know myself?? I'm a smart, educated woman who is damned lucky enough to not be required to work and who can apply 100% of herself to tasks at hand. I'm good at being a mother. It comes naturally to me, and yet here I was playing it off like I couldn't wait to get out of my life.
The truth is, as you all know from my bitching and moaning the past several months, I do want to get the duck outta fodge a lot of the time, but that's just because my life needs more seasoning. The basic recipe can stay the same, I just need a bit more coriander to fill out the flavors, or maybe a little nutmeg, or some cumin. You get my point. Some pep.
So besides feeling like a country mouse and uncool in the powerful shadow of a working mother, I also felt suddenly like a traitor to my sisters the spectrum-over. Not just mothers, but all women who fight to be heard and respected and seen in whatever it is they do. I had just fed into the notion that women doing traditionally female things aren't as sophisticated or "sexy" as those who do traditionally male activities.
I have nothing to be embarrassed about except my shitty ass attitude and I need to work on it.
Everyone, including myself!, gives being a SAHM incredible lip service: it's the hardest, most important, most rewarding, most crucial job in the world, but I still don't feel it when I walk out my door. Am I just not seeing it? Or does it really not exist out there beyond my doorstep? Do other people really think of me as trite or is that my internal voice after a lifetime of being told that you are more important/special/intelligent/worthwhile the higher up the ladder you are? the more money you make? the more you're in charge of? that staying home with children is boring and mind-numbing?
(If you have 15 minutes to burn, read this inflammatory NY Magazine article from almost two years ago. I think it pretty much proves I'm not making this shit up.)
I feel like I'm shrouded in bullshit. I can see through it, there are gaps and holes where I can see clearly, but I'm still struggling under a male-dominated view of what a successful, meaningful life looks like. It just surprises me, that's all. I'm sick that I continue to feel embarrassed about my choice to stay home when really, I should be feeling like a goddamned goddess.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this. What have your experiences been like when approaching your life in comparison to others'??
I made this last tarte last night and it was to die for. I mean, I was drooling all over myself in between back pats. Seriously. It was like good sex, a chocolate bar, and a massage all rolled into one.
Serves: 3, 2 tartes each
Prep time: about 10-20 minutes depending on if puff pastry is already thawed
- 2 sheets puff pastry, thawed and cut into 4x4 inch squares
- 12 oz fresh mushrooms, any variety
- asparagus, stalks broken off, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
- 2 cloves minced or pressed garlic
- 2 Tbs fresh thyme
- zest of one lemon
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 oz goat cheese
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove frozen puff pastry and lay out on counter, side by side, to thaw (takes approximately 20 minutes).
Melt butter in large saute pan, add mushrooms and cook on medium until mushrooms are wet. Add asparagus, garlic and thyme. Saute gently until asparagus are bright green and al dente, but no longer bitter to taste. Add lemon zest and mix. Remove from heat and let cool.
Meanwhile, cut thawed puff pastry sheets each into 4 squares. Score the edges, but don't cut all the way through. Spray cookie sheet with non-stick spray and lay six squares on it (you'll have 2 extra squares, but you can pile a little less on each and spread it out for 8 squares. Just use two cookie sheets in the oven instead of one, rotating them from the top rack to a bottom rack until all the squares are cooked). Spread goat cheese on center of squares being sure to avoid the scoring. Pile asparagus and mushroom mix in the center of each square. Bake in middle rack until pastry crust is golden brown. Remove and grate Parmesan on top of each tarte while smokin' hot.
Let cool for about 5 minutes, lest you want to burn the hell out of your mouth, and serve!
When your heart is telling you to do X? Why would you do Y?
When your gut is telling you you are wrong, why do you let your head tell you you're right? Or vice versa? Whatever??
I've been a student of the human condition for most of my life. Why people do what they do drives me; inspires me to press on, challenge myself, grow no matter how painful or difficult. It's my profession. I am both a student and a teacher of it. I intuit what is needed of me and I am there, like a suckling pig on a platter for the taking. Just eat me up. And I thrive on this. I feel strong, smart, and loving by doing whatever it takes to be there for someone I love, or even someone I like who has no one that loves him nearby. I'll fill those shoes if I need to temporarily, and then I'll kick them off and move and with my life.
I am most proud of myself when I am challenged and given two options: Option A sucks shit and fire; Option B is more bearable, much easier, and I choose A. I always choose A because I can breathe with a clear conscience that I did the right thing. Not the easy thing: THE RIGHT THING.
For example, when Dad was dying a miserable, lonely death I was there for him on the phone and then in person in hospice. Arguably, he deserved none of that: he was cruel to me and my sister, he harmed her person out right, he was just plain mean, but I knew that he was also alone in this universe and it would be my final gift to him as his daughter (deservedly or not) to be there for him and I was.
I fielded his demented phone calls, his hallucinations, his tears through fiber optics. And then I held his cold, soft hand in his gurney and watched his massive, cancer-infested chest rise and fall closer and closer to death for days before I had to return to my life whereupon I caught more distraught and terrified calls from him as he continued towards Death and his Maker.
When it was done, I was devastated, but also proud. Proud that I had given him all the love I had for him and sent him off into the afterlife (whatever that may be) with the glow of being loved by someone, anyone. It shattered me to hear his voice, talk to him, see him, touch him and be touched by him, to bring my sister near him, but I prevailed and I have no doubt in my mind that I did the right thing. I absolutely did the right thing.
Because of that experience my soul has been pulled inside out of me and twisted around my heart, exposed and vulnerable to any man bearing his semblance: a mustache, khaki pants, sunglasses. I fight tears if I see him crossing the street or in the mall. In fact, I just saw "him" yesterday at a festival of 50,000 people. "There's Dad," I told my mother. "Right there... " and I pointed at a tall man wearing a t-shirt and shorts, sporting a paunch, cloth sunglass-holders and a faded khaki hat. "Yes. That does look like him," she responded quietly. He's been dead for 3 1/2 years.
And this Option A would NEVER have been expected of me. No one would have told me, Jessica, you need to see your dad. You need to be nice to him. And yet, I still did it.
So WHY, when none of those things are even at stake would someone given Option A and Option B still choose the easier Option B??? I just don't get it. And it breaks my heart and tears me open to see it happening. I am confounded and confused and angry.
In reality, I know the answer. It's very simple. Option B, is simply, easier. My real confusion stems from why people are willing to take the easy way out over and over when the reward is short-lived and minimal. No one is really proud of this choice. It's like reaching for the chocolate when you know you shouldn't. Mmm, the chocolate tastes so good, but you know the harder choice would have been to deny yourself. And it would feel 1000 times better looking back on it because you've reached your health goals.
I suppose people wouldn't have as many troubles in their lives if they did everything they could to improve themselves given the opportunity. It's when we lose ourselves and divert from who we know we should be that we get into hot water. Self-contempt is poisonous.
So I will slip into those shoes that need filling, because it's what I do and what I love to do. I will power through, I will breathe deeply and fill my cells with love and energy and I will walk through that door for everyone who can't and won't and doesn't think it's that necessary. And when it's all over with I will feel good about how I carried myself, how I behaved and what I did. I'm not sure that everyone will have the benefit of that feeling when all is said and done.
When at a crossroads, what do you do? I'm not perfect, nor am I holier than thou, but I'd like to know what you do when it's safe for you to do so and even when sometimes it isn't safe. Do you lean towards one of these two options consistently? Do you know why? And how do you feel about your decisions?
[Ed. add: I've been thinking about all of this since I posted it. I'm worried I come off as some kind of saint whose shit don't stink, but I'm here to make sure you know it does. I will almost always reach for that piece of chocolate that I talked about and I'm sure there are many real-life friends who might read this and scratch their heads because maybe I wasn't there for them. What I want to really impart here is that whenever I'm at a crossroads, a come to Jesus moment FOR ME, to my recollection, I have always chosen the more difficult path and I am proud of that because I felt in my heart it was truly the right thing to do. People on the OTHER end of that path might not have felt it was the right thing, but I certainly have.]
I knew from talking to other parents that this memory loss is jokingly attributed to why so many of us go through the extreme challenges of parenting a newborn and infant again (and again and again), but it's for real! I remember being exhausted, but not viscerally; I know that I was a walking zombie, but feel more pride about it than fear.
And even through the less traumatic points of parenthood I still can't remember when they happened or any finer details such as height and weights at what age and motor skills, etc. (which is partly why I write about it here in such detail every so often: for a record).
But I think one of the things I'll always remember is that just shy of 2 1/2 years old Hollis became deliberately affectionate. At least I hope I will!
He seeks me out to "pat pat" me, something reserved for animals and people he likes. He woke me up the other morning (the first time in years that we shared a bed) showering me with kisses and hugging and patting me.
Generally, he's an expressive kid, but not overly so. I hear about kids who are so over the top all the time that when I think about Hollis I liken him to a fine wine: fruity, smooth, subtle that leaves you with a lasting impression. Not your average kid, to be sure. So now that he's seeking me out to share his loving feelings with me it's like a little fireworks show every time and I can't wait to see how this little person develops into a bigger little boy.
And for the record he's 2 years and 5 months old, weighs 35 lbs, and is 36 inches tall. He clearly remembers things we did yesterday or a few days ago. He can commentate on just about every action/thing that happens in a day, and does. He remembers specific people and the special things they once did, no matter how long ago (my friend Tony and his daughter Zoe and the "big, pink, ball, throw! Ton-ee! Zo-ee!", my friend Paul and "robot! robot! robot! Pawl! Pawl!", his aunt Amy and her driving, "fast! Am-ee!! fast! turn!").
He's even caught on to what we consider to be politeness by saying "bless you" when someone sneezes and saying "please" and "thank you" when appropriate - things I didn't deliberately set out to teach him because I wanted them to come organically and with appreciation of their use, not from rote.
He's also been at the stage, for several months now, that when he's tired, he asks to take a nap or go to bed for the night. I understand that this is practically an unheard of trait in such a young child. My mother has lathered me up over it more than once, "That isn't normal, Jessie!" she'll say, her body tense and worried. "Maybe something's wrong with him. Maybe he's sick!"
I've had to tell her, "Mom, maybe the kids you knew never asked to sleep, but mine does. He's just wired differently" I know it still bothers her, but I stand by the fact that Hollis is perfectly healthy and normal, he's just a more deliberate little human being than I ever was and can recognize his needs and knows their solutions. (Plus, I took him to his pediatrician, just to be sure. Thank God for copays!)
So, while sitting here I can't remember a damn thing about the 4th month of Hollis' life, but I can remember that he was fatter than fat and ridiculously adorable. When he was somewhere around sitting-up age I bought a one of those little booster seats that help little ones sit upright, but he was too fat for it and his thighs got stuck so when I lifted him up, the seat stuck to his rear end and he cried and that was the end of that. I remember at some point, obviously, he started giggling, but I couldn't tell you at what age.
I love how his childhood has become an impressionist's canvas. Up close the brush strokes are indistinguishable, but from afar a story is told. Sometimes I wish my memory was razor sharp, but I like its inevitable softening, too.
What are some of the things you'll never forget about your child's developmental milestones? Anything you wish you could forget? haha
Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Vintage green!
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month we're writing about being green — both how green we were when we were young and how green our kids are today. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I always knew my mom was a hippie. She had long hair, didn't wear makeup, had Birkenstocks before I knew they were cool, and wore cut-offs like they were going out of style. But she was also an Earth Momma.
She used cloth diapers when disposables were all the rage.
She breastfed me when formula was pitched to mothers like it was oxygen.
She recycled old clothes by doctoring them with ruffles and lace to make them "girly" or to make them current.
And she taught me that the earth was the most precious gift we have and to enjoy it is to honor it.
We went hiking, camping, and exploring almost every chance we got. A favorite story of my mother's is the day she and my dad discovered I was NOT allergic to poison ivy. At 18 months on a camping trip I had toddled my way into an enormous patch of it and plopped down to play with the leaves with nary an itch to be found on my body.
Kids are so naturally drawn to the outdoors that I think it's such a shame when they prefer being indoors, their gazes locked on the television or video game in their hands. I'm all about reading, crafty-things, cooking, etc., all things accomplished indoors, but I think it must be balanced with the abandon that only a great blue sky can lend to the imagination and the body.
In my daily routine with Hollis we leave the house at least once a day. We play in parks, we go for walks around the block, we explore the easement and meadow behind our house. He doesn't care if it's raining or a thousand degrees outside (only Mama does) and his pleasure in and painstaking attention to sticks, rocks, and leaves is mind-boggling. It's precious.
Beyond that, I'm also hoping to pass on a sensitivity for our earth through my behaviors such as recycling, breastfeeding, buying organic and sustainable foods, as well as humanely treated food animals. Most recently I signed up for an organic food delivery run by Farmhouse Delivery here in Austin. I frequent the farmers' market, but can't always make it. This delivery program ensures that I get local food regularly and at a terrific rate.
I want Hollis to always know that there is more than just what he can see with his own eyes. There are ecosystems, animals, and people dependent on his choices in life. What does buying a Hummer say to the world versus a Civic? What does buying those tomatoes from Peru say versus buying them from the farm down the street?
There's a lifetime of education ahead of him, but I am most definitely up for the challenge.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- My Momma Was a Hippie — Jessica at This is Worthwhile is continuing her Earth Momma mother’s way of honoring nature by taking her child outside every day. (@tisworthwhile)
- Mom Did Know Best, About Diapers at Least — Guavalicious at They Are So Cute When They Are Sleeping has a dirty secret about cloth diapers: They’re easy. (@guavalicious)
- The Force that Drives the Water Through the Rocks — Shana at Tales of Minor Interest remembers her first spiritual connection with nature, granted to her through her father’s care for the spirits of the earth.
- Confessions of a Cabbage Patch Kid — Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch Momma learned about landfills and recycling through gardening. (@kitchenwitch)
- Seeing My Grandmother Through Green Colored Lenses — Michelle at Seeking Mother was raised by a grandmother who wouldn’t let anyone throw out used clothing — ever — and who believed baths were water enough for two or more people at least. (@seekingmother)
- Through Green Tinted Glasses — Thomasin at Propson Palingenesis realized her family didn’t so much choose green as it chose them, since not being green would have cost a lot more.
- Green or Die! — NavelgazingBajan at Navelgazing remembers berating her family for not turning off the faucets — and notes that her efforts to save the planet for another 20 years must have worked.
- Natural Parenting Carnival: Green Living — Sarah at Natural Parenting is doing more to make her children’s generation green than what she had as a child.
- Natural Parenting Carnival: Vintage Green — pchanner at A Mom’s Fresh Start used to fill her own water bottles from a spring — before doing so was cool. (@pchanner)
- Getting Dirty — Molly at Molly’s Place is inspired by her mother’s camaraderie with nature. She’s going to get back in touch with the real food cycle, as opposed to the “shrink-wrapped nutrition” you can buy. (@KPMolly)
- My Vintage Green Raincoat — Mama at Maman A Droit is wearing her brother’s bright green raincoat — 16 years later! (@MamanADroit)
- Vintage Green — Darcel at Mahogany Way hasn’t realized it yet, but she is slowly turning into her parents. (@MahoganyWayMama)
- Vintage Green — mrs green at littlegreenblog reminds us that children can be green simply by being kids. (@myzerowaste)
- March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Vintage Green — Lauren at Hobo Mama was eco-chic before it was en vogue. (@Hobo_Mama)
- Growing Up Green — Chrystal at Happy Mothering honed her green instinct from an early age. (@HappyMothering)
- greener pastures — The Grumbles at Grumbles and Grunts has a list of ways she’s transitioning from green living as a novelty to green living as a lifestyle. (@thegrumbles)
- Vintage Green: The Hot Water Tank Is Not Sexy — Zoey at Good Goog had to go green when moss started growing around her feet. (@zoeyspeak)
- We Walked Softly — Starr at Earth Mama wrote a beautiful post about how her parents instilled a love of and respect for Earth and nature in her, and how she is passing that gift on to her own children.
- Save the Mermaids! — CurlyMonkey is learning from her daughter how to keep the mermaids happy. (@curlymonkey_)
- March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Vintage Green — Dionna at Code Name: Mama sees glimpses of her mother’s greenness frugality in her own life – but she draws the line at pantyhose soap. (@CodeNameMama)
- I Thought I Made Them Green, But Really They Made Me — Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! thought she made her parents green — until she took a closer look. (@bfmom)
- A Culture of Less — Alison at BluebirdMama explained why homebirth is the green childbirth choice. I love this thought! (@childbearing)
- 5 Ways to Embarrass Your Children While Going Green — Acacia at Be Present Mama shares some of the embarrassing things her parents did to her in the name of being eco-conscious.
- Ending Is Better than Mending? — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries is teaching us how to darn socks armed only with a light bulb. (@babydust)
- There and Back Again: A Green Girl’s Tale — Lactating Girl offers a gentle reminder that certain eco-conscious practices shouldn’t be “ideals,” but realities. (@LactatingGirl)
And not only is it wrong, it's REALLY, REALLY WRONG. It's my sister's OLD apartment address. In CALIFORNIA! I live in TEXAS!!
My stomach clenched and I wanted to barf and laugh all at the same time. And just my luck, this weeks-long backorder was now over and the damn couch went on a truck on Thursday!! FIVE DAYS AGO!! I sent an email immediately highlighting my error (and utter inability to check the details) and tried to just forget about it. It's not the end of the world if I end up having to pay shipping fees. Well, it's not terrific news, but whatever. It could be worse.
I called them this morning and they'll see what they can do. I'm not very optimistic. I think some stranger is gonna be lounging on my couch looking out over the Bay.
Later, I ran to the grocery store to pick up toilet paper and olive oil. Just those two things. And of course I left with $88 worth of other "necessities." Among them was a bottle of sparkling water and some cranberry juice.
Behold my booty:
Besides the fact that they are paper towels, spring water, and pomegranate juice I think I did ok. At least I also scored some much needed cheesy poofs along the way and I managed to make it home.
To my house.
Ugh. Someone just shoot me now.
UPDATE: Yay!!!! Urban Outfitters called me back today (3/9) to say my couch is still at their shipping hub... in North Carolina!! Woohoo! That means I don't have to pay any extra shipping, some hipster in San Fran isn't lounging on my couch, and I have somehow redeemed myself!!
He was up at 7 this morning after a restful 12 hours of sleep, then back asleep from 9-11 am (per his own little hoarse-y request for "Crib!").
Then awake and playful and alert on our way to the airport at 1, but bleary-eyed and heavy-lidded on our way home from errands at 3 pm and fully back asleep - again - by 3:30 in the afternoon.
Mimi popped in and woke him up at 6, played with him, fed, bathed and read to him and he was back in his crib by 7:30 and asleep by 7:31.
[Ed. to add: He only takes one nap a day and has for the last year +. Two very long naps in a single day is unheard of!]
This child is a superb example of how to behave: lovingly, with verve and delight.
We had 19 lovely hours together before he had to drag his weary self back on a plane to Bangalore.
But we're doing it together and that's what counts the most.
First of all, I didn't have to think of anyone but myself, something I haven't had the pleasure of doing in more than six years. Secondly, I could do, literally, anything I wanted. And lastly, I was able to reflect on my good fortune in a way not normally afforded me.
It was bliss. It was difficult. It was powerful.
I don't know why something like this isn't more institutionalized in our culture. I mean, at any paying gig we are given, by law, the opportunity to not work for at least two weeks. We get sick days, too, where we can put our responsibilities on hold and tend to our own needs. But as a parent, as we all know very, very well, vacation and sick leave is non-existent. Utterly. We drag our sorry asses out of bed with fevers, coughs, and no-sleep. We push on when we are on the verge of complete breakdown. We put our families before us because we feel we must.
Most couples are tapped to the max and barely have the reserves to maintain their marriages and lives let alone give their partner a full-press break from this work intensity. Maybe you've been able to work out a half-day vacay or an occasional night out, but a days-on-end kind of reprieve? Almost unheard of!
For me, it's been six years since I didn't have to think of anyone else buy myself. Obviously, I was single (meaning, I hadn't even met Anthony, yet). I had Levi to worry about, but that was it. I came and went as I pleased, did whatever I felt like, and never felt a shred of guilt about any of it. I got a taste of this again this past week.
I slept whenever I wanted and for as long as I needed. I went out with friends with the same kind of abandon. I did chores when it best suited me and I reached out because I wanted to, not because I was desperate for contact.
And through it all, I was enormously aware that if it weren't for my husband and his willingness to take Hollis 1200 miles away on his own for a week I wouldn't be able to rediscover any of my hedonistic ways and for that I am eternally grateful.
I almost felt like part of a sociological study because whenever I yearned for Hollis or felt aimless and lost I had to stop and ask myself, "Why??" Was it because of conditioning? Because I was lonely? Because of guilt? And, not surprisingly, the answer was mostly just because of habit. I have been so used to thinking of someone else that I felt as if I were missing a limb, but could still wiggle my non-existent fingers. So many times I thought I heard Hollis rustling in his crib or calling to me from his room. I heard motorcycles from down the street notifying me of Anthony's imminent approach. I would shake my head to break the pathways of alertness and try to relax; remind myself that it was just me here and that it was ok.
But it was still hard. I slept with Horse, one of Hollis' tractors and a sweater of Anthony's every night. I put away all of Hollis' toys and generally kept his door shut so I wouldn't feel a pang of longing when I saw his things or passed his room. I even avoided the rear view mirror in the car to avoid that big, empty car seat. Just thinking about it makes my heart clench.
And while it was a magical week for me wherein I recharged and soaked up the Me Time like a starving wanderer, it was an unholy week for Anthony and Hollis.
They both left Austin sick and within less than 24 hours Hollis took a very dangerous spill down a hardwood staircase. I only found out last night that he had tumbled down, head over heels, two-thirds of the way from the top only to be caught by my sister-in-law who had rushed to catch him. His deeply blackened eye and a bruised shoulder are the only traces of his fall. And then, only hours later Anthony lost Hollis' boots on their way into a store and then Hollis pinched his fingers in a door. This was all in Day 1.
Anthony felt like a colossal failure and his guilt was crushing: he could have prevented the fall, he wasn't paying close enough attention, it was his fault, he's incompetent, he's incompetent, he's incompetent.
When I found out he'd hidden the truth about the fall his mountain of guilt all made sense. It had terrified him to the core and he was shaken up... and badly. I don't know that Anthony has ever really realized just how intense my job is until that moment when he, just for a second, looked away. But I'm touched that he hid the truth from me to keep me from worrying and grateful that he finally shared the truth so I could say, "Oh, Anthony. It's ok. It happens and that must have been so scary. You're not a bad parent. You're not. You're a great dad."
And in that moment I was able to shift back to my real life. The life where I think about Hollis and his life every waking moment and do it with renewed energy and a renewed sense of responsibility and joy. My ghost-limb reattached, fingers wiggling away.
I truly hope that every parent, main-caregiver and their partners alike, get the opportunity to reconnect with the person they are and to get the space to appreciate what they have and not just in stolen moments here and there, but in a block of time you would expect any worker to get. Because parenting is work. It's intense, emotional, and powerful and we shouldn't really expect to be able to run at full steam every day, day in and day out. We just cant. Or, at least, I can't.
I recently signed up for a virtual blogging project called Blogtrotting. It's a wonderful idea and I've enjoyed visiting the other cities featured so far, but am I really qualified to feature Austin?? I've always had one foot out the door and have generally appreciated what it's done for me, but openly admitted it's not where I want my Forever Home: it's too hot, surrounded by politics I don't agree with, too small, land-locked, and is no where near a mountain.
However, I also readily admit to its virtues (and they are many). I would never have been able to survive here as a Bay Area transplant 14 1/2 years ago if there weren't at least a few redeemable qualities here.
First of all, let me start by saying when you leave Austin, you enter Texas.
Austin is weird and very, very proud of it. We were a "blue" county in the last three presidential elections. This is where the hippies and tree-huggers make their base camp. It's where art cars and nudists blend in with their surroundings. It's where students and politicians share a 25 block area and rub elbows in the local pubs. Blue-jeans and flip flops are the general dress code no matter where you go. And it's where you can eat to your heart's content and listen to live music any night of the week.
Austin is in the heart of Texas, literally, in an area called Central Texas and is the state capital. The Colorado River splits our city into North and South and I-35 into East and West. More affluent families live downtown, on the lake and in the "hill country" all to the west. Matthew McConaughey famously banged his bongos in a west-Austin neighborhood called Tarrytown. And the Bushes (yes, the Bushes) belong to an exclusive country club in that same neighborhood. Sandra Bullock, Tommy Lee Jones, Bob Schneider, Andy Roddick, and Michael Dell also call Austin home.
And it's not what you think, either. When I first moved here I had never set foot in Texas. My first experience was of flying in from California for junior orientation at the University of Texas, Austin (aka "Texas").
This is what I thought Austin was:
This is what it really is:
My jaw dropped as we sailed over miles of rolling, green hills and a meandering river. It was lush, and technically, it's a humid subtropical climate, which basically means it's hot as hell and never all that cold. Rainy season is in June and July and you should never go anywhere without an umbrella during the summer in general, just to be on the safe side. Not only that, but over the years I discovered amazing natural gems such as Hamilton Pool. I mean, look at this gorgeousness:
And because Austin has always seemed to attract the tree-hugger type, Lady Bird Johnson herself beautified the riverbank property running through downtown and created the Townlake Trail. It's a loop running right through downtown where you can rent canoes, jog, feed the ducks, ride the Zilker Zephyr, and savor the beauty of the skyline.
A very recent shot - TONS of downtown residential development. That really tall building in the middle is the 5th largest residential building in the country. You should move here!
And our drinking. Sixth Street is famous for being closed down weekly for a bar-crawl block party scene. Did you catch that?: EVERY WEEKEND. And when there's a holiday, forget it: it's blocked off like Bourbon Street at Mardi Gras. There's something for everyone on 6th Street, especially the newly minted 21 year olds. If a more demure vibe is what you're after, head down to the Warehouse District or the the brand new 2nd Street District. There's an amazing scene for gay and lesbian bars peppered in the Warehouse District, as well, and a slew of hipster bars in the gentrified parts of East Austin.
SXSW, ACL, and the Longhorns.
First of all, locals call SXSW "South-by." If you have no idea what that is it's a week long music festival featuring thousands of bands from all around the world in private venues throughout town, but mostly centered in the downtown/6th St. areas. Some places start shows as early as 11 am and hundreds of thousands of tourists pour into our city. There's also a week-long film festival and an interactive feature.
ACL, or Austin City Limits, is a festival that started just a few years ago and is 3 days of music on several featured stages in Zilker Park. Last I heard, they capped attendance at 60,000. It's cuh-razy and brings even more people to our fair town. God only knows why you'd want to stand around in a million degree weather - and when I say "stand" I mean STAND - for hours to to barely see some gig, but to each his own. I did it once and was overwhelmed by the hordes of people, but that's me...
And last, but not least, Austin is home to the flagship store of Whole Foods. It's where it was born, where it is nurtured, and this store is beyond perfect. You park underground, take two escalators up and are ensconced in hippie heaven. When you're done perusing the 80,000 square feet of organic goodness you ride down two sloped escalators with really neat grocery-cart-wheel-locking technology.