2.15.2015

Dear Friend,

As I write this, you are checking into your hospital room where you will begin the journey of birthing your daughter from the dark waters of your womb, into this world. Neither one of us knows what the experience will hold for you; my only wish is that it is everything you want and need it to be.

There is so much I want to tell you, so much I want to say that hasn't been said in the many conversations we've had, the emails written, and the texts that have been exchanged over the past 39 weeks. And honestly there is little I could actually say that would properly illuminate the journey you're about to begin. But there is something, something that needs to be said, something that won't make sense right now, but will in the coming days -

you are not alone.

All the questions you will have, every feeling you'll encounter - the fear, the guilt, the worry, the unrivaled joy, the frustrations, the happiness, the humility, the inexplicable anger and love, every fat tear that will fall - a tribe of women who have come before you, have felt the very same things.

You are valid in everything that has passed through you and will wash over you.

And in the coming days, when the high of your newborn daughter's arrival slowly begins to recede, if the tides of sadness edge their way in - don't turn a blind eye. It happens and it doesn't make you any less than the amazing mother you already are. Say something to someone, and ask for help. There is no shame, there is no defeat.

Forevermore, your heart will now exist outside of you. It will magnify whatever fears you may harbor about the evil that exists in the world. It will hold a mirror to every insecurity you have ever had. But, my friend - here is where your backbone lies. That same heartbeat is the one from which you'll draw a reserve of strength and patience you never knew existed.

When you birth your daughter, you will also birth a Mother.

Because whether it is your own muscle, or if she is brought forth by the hands of a doctor, it is still your body that gives her to this life. The two of you are intertwined - forged in the fires of labor and delivery. And it is that knowledge that the flesh now understands, that will stay with you long after the cord is cut. You are transformed through the single most life-altering experience.

Don't burden yourself to remember every moment of what is going to happen in the coming hours, and even in the coming days. The blur of events is dizzying.

What's important will stay with you. I promise.

Welcome, dear friend, to the Tribe.

2.01.2015

Dirty Dancing, Sort Of.

Two months into Motherhood, I wrote about trying to understand who I was now that I had this alien baby. I likened the journey to a choreographed dance, learning new steps while incorporating a few old ones. Fast-forward 13 months, and I still find myself occasionally tripping over my own feet. Picture the Dirty Dancing music montage where "Hungry Eyes" is playing and Patrick Swayze is trying to teach an uncoordinated Jennifer Grey how to dance. She steps on his toes, can't get the timing correctly, and giggles when she's supposed to be serious. I'm barely holding it together Jennifer Grey right now. But I have hope, because if you've seen the whole movie, and I know you have, she's a spectacular dancer by the time the credits role. I mean, who can forget the final scene? Please tell me you have stayed up long into the wee hours of the night, your freshman year of college, perfecting the moves from the final scene, with the girls who live on the same floor as you. Who's with me? Jenny, Sara, Pam - you'd better raise your hands.

I've made some serious advancements in putting the pieces of my revised self, post baby, back together again. The photography gig is going really well and despite Old Man Winter, I'm booking clients. My brother had been on me for a while to update my website, something about flash (not boobies) and html and optimal viewing, blah, blah, blah. I'd been dragging my heals on working on the site because I knew it was going to take me about a billion hours to update and revamp. These days, time is precious commodity. Finally, I just bit the bullet and sat my ass down one evening after Lucy had gone to bed, and got to working on it. I was right - it took nearly a billion hours, or closer to five, which in Mommy time is pretty much the same thing, especially when working evening hours that are best spent zombified on a couch, eyes trained on The Real Housewives, or Girls, or Broad City, or Togetherness. Yes, I watch them ALL and then some. Point is, with the sacrifice of a couple prized evenings, I got the website done. And dammit, it looks fabulous.

Writing has definitely been on the back burner, but I did something today that forced me to dust off some old work, and put a new piece together. I auditioned for the Pittsburgh show of Listen to Your Mother. Gulp. At about high noon on this quiet snowy Sunday, I stood before a panel of three women, and performed my pieces. I think it went well! They laughed when they were supposed to, and they got teary-eyed, too. Both good signs that my writing, and how I told my stories, evoked a reaction. Now it's a waiting game. A fingers crossed, breath held, waiting game...


Slowly, I'm making progress at redefining who I am. There will never be a time, though, when I'm not Lucy's mama; Motherhood underscores everything. It's the nature of this blessed beast. But, I'm discovering that while being Lucy's mama is part of my everyday, it doesn't have to be my everything. I can be her mama, and be a photographer. I can be her mama, sweep some blush across my cheeks, dab on some lipstick, lint roll the dog hair off my pants, scrape the crust of god knows what off my shoulder, drive myself downtown, and rock an audition. 

The more I do for myself, the better of a mama Lucy gets. It's a win-win situation. Now someone lift up your arms, I'm going to jump into them cause - and you knew I was going to work it in somehow: 

nobody puts baby in the corner.  




1.01.2015

2015

The profound, Day #1 of the new year, proclamation.

Nope.

No new diet. I ate leftover Chinese take-out for breakfast AND lunch. And I’ll eat it again for dinner.

Not going to find that here. Far too many times I’ve made some pretty bold statements about new leaves I’m turning over, sins I’m giving up, and how many pounds I intend to lose. Sure, I can make a list of resolutions if forced to do so, but if Motherhood has taught me anything it all, then I know to keep my mouth shut…for the most party anyhow.

The best teacher: my kid.
Before I had my kid, I had all kinds of notions of the things I would or wouldn't do as a mom; how quickly many of those notions flew out the window when the day-to-day reality of this squirming, mewing newborn – now turned babbling, spunky toddler – arrived on the scene. 2014 has been the single most humbling year of my life. Harder than any rehab after knee reconstruction, harder than getting up at 4 am in the bitter cold to train before heading to class, harder than moves across the country, harder than my first year of teaching. It’s been HARD.

But – I’ve been a keen student and have grown marginally wiser to this new normal. I’m still learning, though. Learning to let go, mostly. To let go of what other mothers are doing and to not compare myself to them; we’ve each got our own gig going, and what we do is the best for our own kids. To let go of the dog-hair tumbleweeds that taunt me in the corners of the stairs, to let go of the dishes that haven’t been scrubbed, to let go of the office that sorely needs to be reorganized. I’m not a “let go” kind of woman by nature. In fact, I’m quite the opposite. I’m the get shit done, every square inch of my home is organized, kind of woman – at least I was. I’ve had to clear out the clutter in my psyche and make room a whole other human being, one that needs me much more than the dishes, the dog hair, or the messy closet.

I’m just going to continue on this journey with Lucille and Big Red. I will do my best to take care of myself a little better, and to continue learning to let go of the small things. Okay, so I lied. That previous statement sure did sound like a resolution, but I’m alright with what I’ve put out into the universe.


Happy 2015.

12.20.2014

Fall 2014

Once again we have found ourselves in coats and scarves, the traces of autumnal colors all but gone. We crossed the threshold of one year as parents, and I personally gave myself a pat on the back for surviving. Not that we're out of the woods; we're still very much deep in the trees, often in the dark, guessing at which direction we should head.

Miss Lucille continues to grow and thrive despite the endless stream of colds, coughs, and annoying germs from daycare. She loves her friends at "school," and she adores her teachers. We often get reports that our kid is the "life of the party," and is quite content to entertain. Big surprise. Not much is different at home, and my blue-eyed babe makes me smile and laugh on a daily basis. She is growing her personality more and more, and learning just as quickly.

To date, Lucy now says: mama, daddy, ball, apple, happy, car, go, yeah, bubbles, baby, doggie, ducky, birdie, book, woof, good girl, and nana. She understands a ton, and can point out or go and grab most of her toys when asked. Her current favorites are Piggy (a stuffed pig), Tiger (a stuffed tiger), and any of the cars Big Red gave to her from his matchbox collection. Lucy continues to enjoy books, and we've added Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to the rotation. For now the pacifier remains (say what you will), but we're down to just an am and pm bottle of milk. Lucy knows the signs for more, food, help (a modified version), and milk. She gets her teeth brushed every night, and continues to be a good sleeper - that is, when there's no illness thwarting her efforts.

In the month of December alone she added four teeth, for a total now of six, and there appears to be a few more on deck. Lucy quickly learned to climb into the Learning Tower Big Red made for her, and most evenings she keeps me company in the kitchen while I put dinner together. She is content to play with a bowl and spoon while mama cooks.

A few other notables this fall season:

  • first trip to the pumpkin patch
  • first trick or treating Halloween
  • she's using a utensil to eat more often
  • she can identify the eyes, nose, ear, mouth, and belly
  • stacks rings on a stick
  • working on throwing a ball
  • getting better at walking faster and close to running
  • she had her first unofficial haircut - I trimmed her bangs
  • she rode her first pony

Personally, I'm still struggling to find a balance - Motherhood and Myself-hood. I joined a gym, and the goal is go twice a week. Out of two weeks, I made my goal once. Baby steps. Most evenings I'm exhausted by 8 pm, but Big Red and I have gone out a couple of times, and I went out with some girlfriends a week ago - no husbands, no kids, just the gals. We had a lovely time. Tonight as I sit here and write this, the monitor next to me, an ear keenly tuned to any chirps my kid makes, there are dishes in the sink, and plenty of tidying up to do. There just aren't enough hours in the day to get it all done. So I've decided I can cry about it (which sometimes happens), or I can pick and choose what I feel really needs attention, and then let the rest go. Letting go is difficult. VERY difficult, but so necessary at this stage in my life. As I've said before, perfection is unattainable and a dangerous bar to set.

Despite all the exhaustion of parenthood and life, my crowning achievements this season have been putting together Lucy's first birthday party, and finishing a project that had been in the works since she was born: I edited and put together all the live-action clips of my daughter's first year in a finished piece. It's 30 minutes long, would probably bore anyone who isn't blood related to this kid, but I LOVE IT.

Christmas is around the corner and I have a sneaking suspicion Santa will make a stop here for Lucy. She's too young get to get Christmas, but I still look forward to seeing her face light up each night when she flips the switch that turns on the Christmas tree.

I'm going to hit the "publish" button on this post, change into my comfy clothes, ignore the dishes in the sink, and head downstairs to relax. Because if I don't take the opportunity to relax tonight, then it won't really ever happen.








10.28.2014

Rattled.

I belong to a network of working mothers and we have a space on Facebook that’s closed to the outside world where we can post whatever rants, frustrations and successes that currently pepper our chaotic lives. Recently, a member posted a link to an article that revealed some statistics (as collected by a survey done through Care.com) about working mothers. First of all, I could have written several portions of that article, but what startled me the most were the following two revelations: 1 in 4 working moms cries at least once a week, and 11% are late or call in sick to work at least once a week. Before my daughter was born, I was the archetype of timeliness to work. Not anymore. Just this morning, my alarm went off, as it always does, at 5:30 am, but it wasn’t until 6 am that I pulled what sorry sack of a human I currently am, out of bed. In order for me to get to work on time, I need to be pulling out of the driveway by 6:20, and definitely no later than 6:30. Today it was 6:45, and that included skipping breakfast. 

Early on in the article, the author recounts a rough evening where after a long night at the office she comes home to discover that there isn’t enough milk left in the house and that come morning, her kids would wake wanting their milk and there would be none. Fatigued, and ready raise the white flag, she “[shuffles] into the living room, [crumples] into an exhausted heap on the floor next to a pile of toys no one had cleaned up” and cries. This morning as I was frenetically getting myself together (which involved grabbing the nearest work-reasonable top, one that I wouldn’t notice until it was too late, had dried Lucy snot on one shoulder), I passed by the living room and was also confronted with a scattering of toys that had not been picked up. That chore falls under my list of responsibilities, but last night I’d made a deliberate choice not to pick up her toys because I needed to get a lasagna into the oven. And the reason it had to happen last night was because attempting to put it together this evening, baking it, and having it be ready for a 5:30/6 pm dinnertime would be impossible. So it had to happen last night. By the time Lucy was in bed, and the lasagna was bubbling in its Corningware, it was nearly 8:30. I had just a paltry thirty minutes left to speak to and hang with the man I call my husband before my eyelids would become too heavy to keep up. These days I turn to dust around 9 pm. 

Motherhood itself is tough stuff, but more than motherhood itself, it's the rattling motherhood does to your life. The secondary expense. All that stuff I got done on time, had organized, remembered - well, I can't seem to get a handle on it. Any of it, and it's rattled me because I've always been the one who has their shit together. There just isn’t enough time anymore.

I’m late to work on a regular basis, I haven’t exercised in god knows how long, I eat crap (breakfast this morning was chocolate chip cookies and a Sunkist – leftovers from Lucy’s party this past weekend I shoved in my bag on the way out the door), I forget stuff, and the house is constantly verging on disastrous. Here’s the good news. My daughter is healthy, happy, thriving, and loved immensely. My marriage is solid, and we have an understanding that while most days we can only muster a quick conversation and check-in, for now it’s about survival.

I know that so much of this, motherhood, parenting, life, is all about perspective. If I take a moment to pause and examine the details, the conclusions are a lot less dramatic. Late to work for me means not getting there with time to exhale before running down to do bag duty. Am I technically late? No. But to me, it feels like late when I don’t have some leisurely time. While I occasionally replace some meals with total shit-bag food, not every meal I shovel into my pie-hole is without merit. In fact, tonight’s lasagna is made with grass-fed beef, and plenty of vegetables. And the disastrous house is not tragically disastrous, it’s just lived in and not always picked up with everything in its place. What can I say? My standards are my own prison.

Too many plates are spinning, there are far too many balls in the air. Something has to give. And not only does something have to take a backseat, but I need to pick a starting point. A place from which to reassess – find and hit the proverbial reset button. Instead I’m faced with what feels like my own personal Everest of a mission, and I have no idea where to begin. If I could just get 48 hours - 48 hours that included an acupuncture session, a full-body massage, and time to regroup, that would be perfect. Instead I’m Clarice Starling in Buffalo Bill’s basement, in the dark, pointing my gun at nothing in particular. 


10.09.2014

She's One.

Dear Lucille,

Today you are one year old. Your age is no longer relegated to the obligatory month-count; when folks ask how old you are, I can now say, “she’s one.” You’re one. Already your life of one year is replete with memories, none that you’ll remember, and some of which, for me, will certainly collapse under the weight of time. But there are many, many moments, hallmarks and milestones that have stitched themselves onto the fabric of my life. And because you won’t remember, there are stacks upon stacks of images, both in video and photograph, that document this first year.

Lately, I’ve been replaying the days leading up to your birth, your arrival, and the days that followed. Scenes from your first few weeks queue themselves like stills from a movie. Feeding you bottles in the wee hours of the morning, my eyes barely able to focus on the clock tick-tocking on the wall across from us. Visitors coming in and out to meet you, dropping off trays of food, and the moment your grandparents met you for the first time.

There is still clarity in many of those memories, but the raw pink flesh of newborness and motherhood have since callused over. Who you and I are today are not the gals we were then. More than anything, you have single-handedly taught me to trust my instincts. That mother’s intuition is the real deal, and no one knows you better than I do, my darling. No one, not even, dare I say it, your dad.

This past year wasn’t always masked in buttery bokeh and soft twinkling light. There were more than enough pitfalls and days laden with a suffocation I was certain would get the better of me – but somehow, we weathered the mighty white-capped swells. And in doing so, something has been forged between us, you and me. It was built in the fractured menagerie of all the hours and minutes of the past year. In the innumerable tears spilled, the frustrations, and the successes. It was built in the time spent making your food from scratch and spooning the brightly colored purees into your little bird mouth. Learning each chord of your cry, my ear tuned to precision, often times in scattered fragments of desperation. In washing and folding your miniature clothing, the socks unfathomably tiny. In the naps you took on my chest, your face turned up to mine so that every exhale was my inhale, your breath and the weight of your body an intoxicating elixir.

While I mourn the passing of your babyhood, I am giddy with excitement over what lies ahead. Your proficiency in walking will lead to running, and beyond. Your babbling and the few words in your vernacular will turn into phrases and then sentences. We will go places that you will be able to experience and understand in a way that you could not as an infant. Through your eyes, I will see the world anew.

This life you begun a year ago is off to a remarkable start. I can only hope that down the road, when we enter the quivering grounds of the pre-teen and teenage landscapes, you don’t disappear for too long, that even though you may become distant, you will always be just on the horizon. My hope is that by then we will have built such a strong relationship it is able to weather any dark storms. A mama can wish, right? Let’s not be the cliché.

You make us laugh, your smile is brilliant and there is an unmistakable twinkle in your eyes. Your curiosity is insatiable, and the learning and growing you've done this year have been humbling to watch. It has been, my darling, an absolute honor to be your mother. You are delightful and comical, affectionate and clever. More than anything, more than your exquisitely beautiful face, I am in love with who you are.

Last night you fell asleep, a baby, under a gloriously bright moon. Today you wake up a wide-eyed toddler. Tonight we will sing Happy Birthday to you, and the very same style of Cuban cake your mama ate when she turned one, will be the cake you get to have as well.

Happy birthday, my sweet Lucille.




10.03.2014

Ramblings

Maybe it’s the autumnal air, the trees beginning to turn their brilliant colors, the sky deepening it’s hue before a long winter’s sleep. Something has affixed itself to me; something that has no name but boards alongside restlessness and boredom. Let me interject and state that this has nothing to do with Lucille. On the Motherhood front, I feel a sense of gratifying fulfillment. Motherhood has simultaneously shattered and healed me. By day’s end I am exhausted, but even in a collapsed state on the big brown couch, every evening, my heart swells when I turn the monitor on and see my daughter’s rumpled body in the corner of her crib, her doughy hand clutching her lovey.

This thing, this some other, has more to do with the rest of my life. I’m 36. Am I too young to be facing a mid-life crisis? Is that what this is? I have been teaching for nearly eleven years, a decade split between two schools I love. For the majority of my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to teach exactly what I want and how I want, and I have been relatively successful at it. But lately the claws of a greener pasture seem to have fastened themselves to the hours of my days. Daydreaming has turned into thoughts of a full-fledged photography business, or transforming into a married with a kid version of Carrie Bradshaw. My usual state of acceptance and general happiness has been stained with a narrative of I want more.

Can we really have it all?
Pause.
My god, can we have it all and more?

My immediate response to this nebulous fog is to organize. The need for a clean slate, for shirts hanging in the closet to be filed side-by-side according to color and sleeve length, makes me happy. Begin a cleanse and whole body makeover.  And I know why. It’s because I can control these. I can make changes, I can reorganize my desk drawers, I can clean out the pantry – I can be in complete control of the outcome. I’m not grasping at gossamer trails of smoke in the air that don’t exist. Shirts on a hanger are concrete items that can be manipulated. The daydreaming, the fettered state of metacognition – it’s all so elusive.

The reality, though, of this more, is not really real. At least it appears to be temporary; it comes in waves. While I was feeling as previously described for several days, I then sank my teeth into planning one of my new courses, and guess what? I felt revived. The color came back into my cheeks, and the wan sense of boredom retreated. Clearly this just bolsters the case for not making a rash decision. Good thing I didn’t resign and go spend umpteen-thousand dollars on lenses and a new camera body. Good thing my family still has health insurance.


Good thing.