Thursday, March 31, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
(Those would be black-and-white gingham check pants, people. If I thought I wouldn't be laughed off the street, I'd sew a pair for myself. Because really: BLACK AND WHITE GINGHAM CHECK.)
Friday, March 18, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
No. No he doesn't. He bets a measly $1200.
I don't know why, but it makes me want to punch that guy in the face.
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Bean spent yesterday with Wandering Nana. What I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall to watch the two of them. I understand that there was cookie making instead of a nap. Lunch was consumed. Cookie dough was eaten. And general merriment was had. Thank heaven for good friends.
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I have no interest whatsoever to watch a "Gray's Anatomy Music Event". I'm sorry if that hurts your feelings. I just had to say it.
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We're having Bean's much-belated-due-to-illness birthday party on Saturday. Anyone know of any good party games for the 2 to 3-year-old set? I'm thinking of games best played indoors with no clear winners, since the entire concept of winning/losing is sort of moot at this point in Bean's life. What do you think? Any last bits of advice/warning?
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
I remember watching hours of CNN during hurricane Katrina and its terrible aftermath. Crying babies and their frightened mothers, covered in filth with no end in sight. News people wearing glaringly bright Gortex jackets, hoods pulled tight around their fresh-scrubbed faces as they reported from scenes too horrible to contemplate.
There was the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. CNN again, in loud staccato bursts showing images of mass devastation. Wobbly video recordings portrayed a wall of roiling dark brown water--- matchstick structures riding the waves into swaying palm trees. And the faces streaked with muck, telling stories of heroism and heartbreak, eyes wild, scanning the distant horizon for some sign of relief.
The Haiti earthquake: schools of children sitting in terrified clusters amidst rubble too small to be recognized as the remains of structures. Rocks and sticks, really. Destruction underlined by the horrible panic of widespread violence: fathers digging beneath towering mounds of unmentionable death to seek the bodies of their children, scarecrow-thin arms hoisting rifles over their heads, firing into a bloody sky.
Flooding in Rio de Janeiro, Queensland, the Philippines. Earthquakes in Christchurch and Pakistan.
And of course now, the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan.
Each time I find myself drawn inexplicably to the coverage, the 24-7 inundation of terror: from the first shakey camera shots and the news anchors pulled out of bed to report on an unfolding scene of horror they don't understand --- to the rising collection of local news faces as they flock to the epicenter of disaster, jumping on planes streaking the sky only minutes after the initial shaking of the ground.
I don't know if it's something innately human or more specific to American culture or even a sickness designated independently to me, but in the wake of disaster my first impulse is to turn on the TV. I flip channels from local news to the wider lens of CNN and PBS. I let the television drone in the background of life circulations: stopping mid-stride to stand transfixed as I watch the news of families searching for signs of loved ones, elderly women staggering through the wreckage of their village, their eyes too weary for tears. I watch experts weigh in, their voices even and paced, as they talk about statistics and epicenters from their brown leather chairs in a New York studio. This in stark contrast to the scenes they narrate: human beings reduced to their most humble and base circumstance, standing in a world so dramatically foreign to the one they have lived in.
I linger on images of tennis shoes knocked into telephone wires and a vast sea of white cars piled on one another, as far as the eye can see.
It's the same each time. In a few hours or several, after one day or three, my internal disaster meter glows red. With shaking hands and a heavy heart, I turn the television off. I turn the radio dial to black. I shut myself away from the tragedy. One more image will send me into a spiral of hopelessness and inaction.
I turn it off so that I can remember quiet, so that I can reflect on wholeness, so that I can feel normal.
There is a point in human horror when I know that I can't take one more image of sisters and brothers being pulled from unimaginable wreckage. To push myself beyond that limit is to risk stripping away my carefully grown coping mechanisms. To watch any more reports of devastation is to cause irreparable damage to my soul. In order for me to have hope, I have to cultivate it within myself - and in order to have the right environment for hope to grow, I have to feel peace in my heart. And peace, for me, is best found in the table scraps of every day repetition.
It's something I don't understand about myself well enough to explain it to you, other than to say it is so. And I'm not proud of this pattern of retreat, either--- I am trying to decide if it's a survival skill or a nasty wall of Western Obliviousness.
Be that as it may, these days I am watching a repeating cycle of Super Why and Scooby Doo, memorizing Alice's delightful face as she learns to ride her tricycle. I plead fervent prayers of hope and empathy for everyone affected by recent world events. I do things small and quiet to help in my own way, from this corner of the world.
And I give thanks that I have this peaceful corner to retreat to, when so many do not.
What do you do? How do you handle world disasters? And as your children grow, how do you help them to cope?
Monday, March 14, 2011
Friday, March 11, 2011
Work is the fabric of my days. I was raised that way: watching my mother's busy feet carry her from one room to the next, listening to my father's movement in other parts of the house. Evening was a time for different work, hand work - be it organizing a calendar or writing a note or crocheting a baby quilt. I grew up spending twilight hours with a book in my hand, a pile of beads in my lap, and something to be done crawling around in my mind. Work is movement.
I have worked in a professional capacity since I was eighteen. Surrounded by offices and people who used schedule as a verb. Work is life. Work is lifeline.
When Chip and I started to conceive Bean in our minds, the child of dreams and cloud - the wistful imaginings of two people with little concept to the actual being that was to come - we discussed what my work would become. I wanted to be home with this baby. I wanted to mold and craft and teach her in a way that only my hands could. This raising of her would become my work.
But life and work are wild things. They are messy. They scatter our carefully organized dreams to the wind with their firehose spray of inconsistency.
As things shook out in the months leading to Bean's birth, we understood that I would need to be something that it is hardest for me to be - a concept that I am seemingly not - which is this: flexible. I would need to be flexible with my life, with my plans, with the raising of Alice, and most of all with work.
Luckily, my brushes with the most unwieldy side of life and work have yielded some fantastic and amazing associates. People who I have worked with, who believe in me, and who ultimately want me to succeed. One such person is my dear friend John. He came along with a business proposal for some extremely part time work when it was needed in those early days of baby Bean. For three years I've been doing this work quietly in the background of my larger work with Alice.
Then came a fateful lunch, a discussion with John, and many talks with Chip. This was a month ago now--- I've mentioned it in passing, how things have become very unsettled and very strange, how I haven't felt connected enough to explain my feelings about any of it. In the abstract, it comes down to work. Am I brave enough to embrace it, in whatever form it comes? I have always hoped the answer to that question would be yes. Because that's who I believe myself to be - someone who does the work, who lives to blister her fingers in use. John's business is growing and he approached me about expanding my work with him - picking up an additional four days each month to work in his office and in the field. Work: so helpful for bills and our dream for another baby. But work: away from home and away from dear Alice.
After talking with Chip, I said yes.
There were logistical realities to deal with, namely Chip's long stretches of time away from home. We were able to adjust some schedules and plans, enough so that he would be able to watch Alice on three of those four work days. The fourth day we punted for this month, but going forward I'm working out a babysitting swap with Kate, a lifesaver and my very good friend.
Once the physical pieces were put in place in the weeks leading up to this change in our routine, all that was left for me was cerebral, emotional, internal. The things that I do best, depending on how you define best. I am a very practiced worrier, a fantastic internalizer, and on top of it all I am very gifted in the art of The Fret.
I can hear the collective eye-roll: how picking up an additional four days each month isn't that big of a deal, how work is just work and I should be grateful to get it. And you're right. You're absolutely right. But as a child of routine, I crave sameness. I need stability. And making this adjustment in our lives isn't as small as it might seem. There was a time when I only saw the future with Alice as a bright empty field reaching into the far-off horizon with no detours or turning paths branching off. It might sound so boring, but it felt incredibly peaceful. Now that I'm in it, I see all the dips and turns, the hidden valleys that are impossible to see until you're on top of them.
In the weekend leading up to my first day back at work, I did my best fretting: biting my lips and throwing weird tantrums because I hadn't folded all the laundry. Chip found me on the stairwell after I had thrown a stack of towels onto the floor in a fit of irritation. He pulled me in for a hug and then said that I should just follow David Bowie's advice about change. I replied, "You mean to 'turn and face the strain?'" He nodded, yeah, that's it. Face it. Embrace it. Feel it. And then let it go.
My first day back at work, I locked myself out of John's office twice. I spent two hours trying to keep his new puppy quiet during a business meeting. I trained on a couple of software programs that are completely new to me. I took phone calls and tracked expenses and tried my best to organize someone else's work life. I went home to a living room not completely destroyed by my 3-year-old and a husband that was thrilled to see me.
My second day back at work, I used GPS to navigate the outer wildland of a northwest Seattle district known as Magnolia. I ran errands, did marketing work, and spoke to several of John's clients. I went home to a house, again, not completely destroyed by my 3-year-old and a husband that was thrilled to see me.
I spent the next several days recovering the house and myself into the routines of normalcy. And when I thought back about this life of mine, the new normal that we're doing our best to transition to, I felt okay. I felt good. I feel happy.
Work. I am doing my best to embrace it, in whatever form it takes.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
This is how I see it.
When you first glimpse that little double pink line on the pregnancy test, you feel...a million different ways: excited and scared and overcome and nervous and anxious and happy and exuberant and everything under the sun. You also feel a little bit alone. But before too long, you come to be surrounded by other women who are all pregnant, by happenstance or design, you have this circle of people who are going through the same things. You talk about cravings and having to pee all the time and what it's like to go to birthing classes. You compare notes on cribs and swings and baby carriers. You share your birth plans.
When you have your babies, there are other mothers joining in your throng: babies on hips and babies nursing and babies napping in slings. You talk about sleeping and the lack of it. You talk about sore bodies and scars. You cry together and laugh together. Your babies smile at each other and you think, this is how it is, we're in this together.
But even in those first few months, there is one mother and then another who peels off from the group: the first to go back to working a job away from home, the first to put baby in daycare, the first to think about a part time nanny.
One by one we make choices that direct our path.
Once upon a time I was surrounded by a pack of mothers who were doing and thinking and talking about the same things, but in the three years since Bean was born we've each made decisions that have split us onto sidelines and avenues. The working mothers, the part-time working mothers, the ones sending their children to preschool, the ones keeping there little ones at home. The organic mothers, the traveling mothers, the mothers who go to story time at the library.
I don't know if I'll ever be able to describe this adequately, this feeling of branches splitting into infinite numbers until we're each treading a pathway that is individually our own. I used to be able to talk to my friends about the choices facing me as a mother, but I don't have that luxury anymore as so many of my choices are not theirs--- whether they've moved on or moved over or however you see it, there is movement for each of us and even though we all start out at the same place, with a tiny baby in our hands and their future spread out before us, in thirty-six short months we might be light years away from our counterparts.
This isn't to say that any one of us or them or whoever is making a bad choice, just different choices. Yes different choices is what I'm trying to say. Different. But it still scares me, this unknown future that lies before me with Alice. We're making those decision now, Chip and I, in determining what would be best for her in schooling and everything that is wrapped up in that subject. We've decided to throw out the handbook of doing things just because everyone else has done them, and it's leading us down to this slightly less traveled path, a pathway that is strange and exciting and also a tiny bit terrifying.
But I'm excited. Even if I feel like I'm peeling off from the pack, it feels good.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Sometimes I'm able to pull myself back far enough to be able to see most of the whole picture: me and my life and my family and how we fit together. When I'm that far away, I like what I see. It's a peaceful view, and gives me the opportunity to read these posts as if they were written by someone else.
She seems like a decent person.
Which isn't to say that I am, but I try to be.
Alice fell out of a grocery cart the other day. It was not my finest moment in parenting, hopped up on some cold medicine and feeling blurry and weird. She was standing at the bow of the cart shouting directives to the shopping masses when the cart wheels stumbled on something on the floor, causing a lurch. Then this in slow motion: Alice's face twirling up and out of the cart's confines, her mouth an O of shocked surprise, the black of her Converse All-Stars a smudge on my vision. Luckily, luckily, luckily--- she landed mostly on hands and knees, though she did bang her head and scratched her cheek. I sat on the floor of Joann's holding my crying girl for ten minutes. I rocked and whispered the words mothers do.
Chip calls these things Window Opportunities, when we know full well what we should be doing and we do something else instead. The window opportunity comes when the full-scale apocolyptic cataclysm is somehow sidelined and we are left with only a few cuts and bruises, and a reminder to do the right thing, every time. Like not letting her play by an open window. Or making her sit in the cart seat even though she hates it with a fiery passion.
So it goes.
Have you had any brushes with death that you'd care to share? Let's commiserate for Wednesday, shall we?
Monday, March 7, 2011
Friday, March 4, 2011
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
To Whom It May Concern:
While I applaud your ingenuity and creativity, I am curious about your motives for hiring artists as receipt checkers at all of your doors.
It used to be, we would pause for a minute at the exit door while a helpful Costco attendant would look over our receipt, scrawling a quick X on the back to say that we weren't leaving the store with a few extra cases of bottled water. Then slowly the X changed. At first we noticed stars and happy faces, squiggled lines looking mysteriously like fireworks. But before too long there were balloons and Christmas trees - snow scenes with suns setting quietly over rolling hills. Now we stand for minutes at a time while your receipt checkers draw increasingly elaborate depictions of northwest wildlife or portraits of Alice. Recently we were sent home with a detailed image of Old King Cole, complete with beard, crown, and I swear to you - a little swirling cloud of blackbirds flying over his head.
Don't get me wrong, the pictures are sweet - but I don't really need a self portrait on my chips and oatmeal receipt. Furthermore, I'm paying for groceries. Not art. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if it didn't take so darn LONG. For that Old King Cole receipt? The Costco employee actually asked us to wait a minute while she finished the swirly twirly touches on the blackbirds - held up her finger for us to hang on a moment so she could complete her doodle.
I'm writing to you because I'm worried. Worried that this little movement for quirky and fun-loving customer service will have us being asked to wait, wait just another few minutes, while future receipt checkers complete little masterpieces with paint and ink and pastels.
It's cute, but I can't handle it.