9.30.2009

Letting myself go

I have this fear I am going to wake up one morning to discover I have Let Myself Go.

I'll open my closet that day and find only sweat pants, t-shirts, and sneakers. And when I look in the mirror the face reflected there won't have tasted a lick of make-up since the Christmas party (where apparently I wore a dancing snowman-festooned sweater and patent-plether shoes with be-belled toes) and appears to have grown a twin at my neckline. My hair will have morphed into a cross between the giant-banged style of my high school years and the shellacked helmet of my grandmother's. (As unlikely as this hair-do sounds, I actually saw one of my high school classmates with such a style recently.)

My jewelry box will be rusted shut from years of neglect, and my large collection of scarves, handbags, shoes will be languishing at the back of the closet praying for just a glimpse of the outside world from which they have been long-since banished.

I'm a work-from-home Mom, in Blue-Collar Town, Vermont. This is the perfect recipe for Letting Yourself Go. Here, if you wear heels of even medium height people wonder "where yer going, all gussied up?" People wear jeans to weddings here! And don't bother to buy a cocktail dress for that party, you'll stick out like a, well, cock-tail.

When I look in my closet now - while I am still cool... I hope - I stand there surveying my mostly practical (but stylish) clothes and ponder the outfit of the day. One morning this week I picked out a pretty hip ensemble of long colored tank, shorter contrasting sweater, and jeans. But after I had yanked down the sweater and up my jeans one too many times, while shivering, to boot, I returned to my closet to dig out the good old fleece sweatshirt. Ahhh, comfy. And warm.

What I wear to walk to the bus stop and then to drop Tator off at pre-school hardly seems to matter. And in the winter when all you can see are my eyes peeking out from between hat brim and scarf, I could be wearing a hula skirt for all that it would matter. For the 5-minutes I am seen by other mothers (all themselves in varying stages of Letting Themselves Go [or just Vermonticized?]) or at the grocery store, my choice of clothing is really meaningless.

But, then it's not about those other mothers, is it? It's about me and how I feel. If I'm having a nifty outfit kinda day then I'm going to wear what makes me feel good. But when it's a sweatshirt day - well, it's just got to be a sweatshirt (but it will NEVER be a Mickey and Minnie or Puppy-dogs or, god-forbid, a 'I Survived Dollywood' sweatshirt).

But if you ever see me at the mall in pajamas bottoms, please feel free to slap me and send me home (to bed), and if the ensemble is accompanied by worn down slippers, please just have me arrested - for the common good. Thank you.

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9.28.2009

Dying rabbit, Blocked brain

As I sit here in the quiet of a child-less house drinking, oh my! hot coffee, I find my mind is scattered. I am trying to write an essay for a contest that is due in 3 days. I don't have to do this of course, but I want to. I want to write something "real," something with a beginning, middle, and end. And a point. And for a reason other than to just hear myself talk, or rather, see myself think. Problem is, I can tell a story but I'm not so good with the take-away. In my writing courses it was stressed that the Why of the article/essay is crucial, otherwise, what is the point?

I write so often just for the fun of seeing words appear and form themselves into sentences, sometimes with no apparent help from me. But when I actually have to think about what I'm writing then I get a bit blocked.

Today I tried Clustering - a mind-map, it is sometimes called. At times this method has worked. While I am busily connecting and circling words, out of the blue an idea will strike me and I'm on my way. The light bulb isn't necessarily (or obviously) connected to what I have scratched on the paper, but the act of associating random words and ideas creates subconscious connections which, in turn, produce the Big Idea.

My cluster of today hasn't produced anything near an idea, let alone a Big one.

Dying Rabbit
Compassion
Life Lesson

Not much to go on there.

And why am I writing this blog instead of working on it? Because I was tired of thinking.

Where did I put that Muse?

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9.26.2009

Ten years ago

September 25 is an important anniversary in my life. I had intended on re-posting the story yesterday but actually most of the history-making events happened after midnight, so I guess today is technically the true anniversary.

Ten years ago...



Two pairs of sandals left by a stream -

Quite unimportant a sight it would seem.
Two wandering children gone off to play?
A couple trying to get quietly away?
What did I feel dart through my heart
As I witnessed those shoes play their innocent part?
Close as two lovers in bed,
They symbolized everything I'd come to dread.
Stifled tears escaped from my eyes
While scanning to see what I longed to deny.
Up and down the river no one was seen,
Only the evidence left by the stream.
I did not see what my mind unwillingly beheld -
How could they continue to be so uncaring and bold?
In the mountains I faced my fear manifest,
Constantly haunting me despite hopeful trust.
Betrayal was laying there at my feet -
Those sandals together, their owners' retreat.
One pair are his who sleeps by my side,
The second belong to my friend - another man's wife.


I wrote this (admittedly horrible) poem almost 10 years ago. I can now share it because the pain has long passed and I do believe - finally - the anger has too. The (happy) life I now have is all due to the events that took place on September 25, 1999, although the story begins two or three years prior to that.

It was almost midnight on the night of my 27th birthday party and all but two of my guests had left. I was woozy but not drunk, and very sleepy. But when B asked me if we could talk I could tell by his tone that I needed to stay awake a little longer. After we finally got the other hanger-on to leave B and I sat down.

Then the tears came.

Now B is a big guy, a funny guy, a don't-show-your-emotions-marine guy, and here he was sitting in my living room crying - to me, and we hardly knew each other. You see, B was married to a friend of mine, not a close friend, just a member of a group of goofy people I had recently become aligned with for the purpose of partying and Sunday morning brunching. I was not particularly close with any of them - I was a friend of a friend. B and I had only chatted about something deeper than the foam on a Guinness one other time (which happened to be religion). Beyond that he was just one of the gang and he made me laugh, as he did everyone (except his wife - but that's another story... oh, actually it's not).

B came to me because we had something in common - our partners were in love with each other Yes, his (very new) wife was in love with my (by then, ex) boyfriend.

B had given his extroverted, gregarious wife the benefit of the doubt for too long and he couldn't take it anymore. He and I had both put up with their "friendship" for over a year - hanging out every Wednesday night (working on a comic book project, they said), even coming home at 6AM sometimes - and in constant denial that there was anything more between them. The awkwardness and insanity of the situation had finally broken up my boyfriend and me 3 months before, although I was still in denial that he could truly be in love with another man's wife - over me! B had never talked to anyone about the pain and feelings of betrayal and anger he was experiencing. But it was time.

That night two very hurt (and slightly drunk) individuals talked and cried together into the half light of morning. We yelled at those who had hurt us and we beat ourselves up for being so naive. We felt like a couple of door mats - stomped on and caked in mud.

I won't deny that I fell in love with him that night. I have never wanted someone to kiss me quite so intensely. I know it was the combination of wine, sleep deprivation, and a very large dose of emotional overload. But it did not happen. He was married. I was still mourning my lost love. We hugged and we said goodbye.

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9.25.2009

Difficult decisions

Again.

Again I am faced with a decision I do not want to make.

Going back to work.

Again.

I've done this twice since I left the full-time workforce in 2004. I was home with Little Lady and, three years later, Tator too, until we returned to Vermont in 2007. At that time, Hubby was making minimum wage while finishing his graduate internship and it was obvious I needed to do my part. As we were living with my parents for a brief interlude I was able to work three days a week with no need of daycare. I was incredibly lucky to find a job in the same facility as Hubby and which ran like a laid-back family. But it was a 40-minute commute up a treacherous mountain road, and with winter looming, Hubby's new "real" job in the offering, and my writing calling, I decided to leave at the same time as Hubby's internship ended.

As Hubby's clientele was growing he was making enough for us to live on but little enough to qualify us for the state insurance plan. But when he reached his full client-load we were over income level and suddenly we had no insurance for us or the children. Having never in my life gone without insurance, and definitely not feeling comfortable leaving the kids uncovered, I began the job search again. My plan was to either find a part-time job that offered insurance or paid me enough for us to buy private insurance. Well, I found a job, part-time, and exactly the kind of thing I wanted to be doing (newsletters, grants, PR), and with access to a group insurance plan. One problem: during the discussion with my new employer she informed me the monthly plan would be $500/month, but it turned to be over $900!

For a few months I worked extra hours in order to pay our insurance premium (and the extra daycare) while facing the insane paradox of not actually being able to afford to use our plan because every trip to the doctor was $30 and many things weren't even covered (Tator's EEG, for example, which we are still paying off nine months later). Finally, after bout after bout of Kindergarten/daycare contracted illnesses and no paid sick days, plus a very high winter oil bill, we just could no longer pull the premium amount together. We canceled the policy and sought out a high-deductible ($5,000) private plan. That was over $500/month and everything came out of pocket, so once again we were had to make the decision with each illness/injury if it was really that bad.

By this time school vacation was around the corner and I didn't know what I was going to do with Little Lady if I was still working. Hubby was bringing home a good wage at this point and we made the decision that I should leave my job - which I had only gotten for the now useless insurance anyway - and stay home with the kids. Also, I was recently certified as a journal workshop instructor and I was anxious to begin my new career.

Then Hubby's paycheck began to shrink. And then bottom out. We had no choice but to cancel our new insurance policy. We were once again eligible for state insurance - financially - BUT, and here's the baseball bat to the head: Because we purchased private insurance we are not eligible to receive help for ONE YEAR.

Once again we are insurance-less and rapidly becoming penniless.

I have begun to look for jobs, but here is the conditions I (and a future employer) have to consider:
1. I can't get there until 9 (Little Lady gets on the bus at 8:40)
2. I have to skip out at 11:30 every Monday and Wednesday to transfer Tator from pre-school to daycare.
3. I have to leave at 3:30 to get the kids from their various school/daycare establishments
4. I will be called away from work to collect a sick child from school every couple of months
5. I will have to stay home with a sick child (for up to four days) at least once a month
6. I myself will have to call in sick on the fifth day because I have contracted the snotties from my children
7. I have another life as a mother, wife, writer, and teacher so I won't be emotionally invested in your company (unless it's a writing job) - I have dreams and passions which WILL be pursued!
8. I will leave as soon as things get on track again so I can be those above-mentioned things (unless it's a writing job)

Needless to say, it is with little joy or confidence I look at the classified job listings. I am wracking my brain trying to think how I can help our little family. I feel so helpless! I have a new online writing gig - for pennies probably - and I'm trying to get my workshops going. On the one hand I believe in my dreams and the absolute need to pursue them:

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined
(Henry Thoreau)
But on the other hand you have to make decisions with proper consideration of risk and timing. If you can't buy food for your kid's lunch your dream to be a soap-opera star may need to be put on hold.

So, that's where I am right now. Stuck between my dreams and a hard place. Do I keep on plugging along my honest, authentic path, hoping it will open up soon onto a sun-lit meadow of success? Or do I take another U-turn back into the working world knowing it won't be forever and as long as I don't abandon my dreams they will still be waiting up ahead?

Goethe said,
... the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
I guess I better make a decision...


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9.21.2009

Bearing my soul

It's not like I write anything personal...

This was me defending my blog. The reaction from a family member was one of disbelief. Griping about my life and sharing my children's antics is apparently way out of the comfort zone for some. But for me, the day-to-day mundanity of my existence on this planet - the struggles and the milestones - are not anything I am ashamed of or feel the need to hide. In fact, I need to share it, whether anyone reads it or not, so I know that I am alive and here for a reason.

At a family gathering this past weekend there was a discussion about the personal nature and vulnerability of art and various other occupations. Among the nine adults present were two writers, five artists/designers, three teachers, two hairdressers, a nurse, two counselors, and a preacher (most of us were some combination of these). It was agreed that the very act of creating of any kind is a bearing of the soul. The teachers/preachers/counselors also felt the vulnerability of their trade as they tell of their own experience to help others with theirs.

... hanging one of my paintings on the wall is like standing up naked in front of everyone...

When I write it is me that goes into those words. Me is all I know. So, on that plane the very act of writing is intimately personal. When you read my blog you are tasting my essence. And I am willing to give this to you. If I wasn't I wouldn't be a writer.

When I open the pages of a magazine like Brain, Child I am sometimes astounded by the honesty of the writing. These women lay their very souls down on the page and allow us, the readers, to poke around in their humanity. But it is this very vulnerability that allows us to understand we are not alone - and there's always someone worse off than us. Recently, a mother told of being arrested for child neglect when she left her pre-teens at the mall with some younger siblings. I have to admit, I myself was surprised, as were many other readers. Consequently, the author has been sorely criticized (beyond reason in some cases) and her story has spread throughout the media channels. She took a chance with the honest telling of her story and suffered for it. At this point in my life I would not have the guts to tell the truth quite so, well, truthfully.

But there is a need for me to tell you things. I feel compelled to. Although, you're not the one(s) I am speaking to primarily - it is myself. I re-live, assess, and understand my life by putting it into words. Anais Nin wrote,

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.
I remember reading this in my early 20s and understanding exactly what she meant - I have to record my life to better live and appreciate it. The fact that I have allowed you, my readers, into my world and and believe you care is an arrogance. But it is also a yearning for community. I want to share the truth as I see it so I might connect with others who see it the same way - or don't, but have another, equally valid opinion.

We all yearn to belong, to be a part of something, to believe someone cares about our lives. The meaningful conversations where we actually talk about the way we feel are, in general, missing from our everyday lives. We feel judged and ashamed of the way we feel (we can't help the way we feel) and so we hide behind brainless chatter. I believe this is why Facebook, Twitter, and texting are so popular. But unfortunately, it has gone to extremes: I don't care if you are going to the store to buy toilet paper and I didn't really need to read that a FB friend had "afternoon delight." (Why she felt compelled to share this is not for me to judge. I'm glad she had fun and maybe it inspired some other friends to surprise their partners likewise. She may think my FB status updates about potty-training Tator are more than she needs to know...)

There is a quote from C.S. Lewis that I read when younger which really spoke to me:
We read to know we are not alone.
So I write for those who read so they may know they are not alone. I write to know I have purpose. I write to understand myself. I write to feel alive. And if I happen to inspire someone or help them feel less alone along the way then I have done my job as a writer.

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9.17.2009

37 and going strong... kinda

It is my birthday on Saturday. 37. I don't feel 37... oh, who am I kidding? Yes, I do! I have a pinched nerve in my neck which isn't a pain in the, er, neck, it's a numb in the arm. And after a day of picking up toys and heaving wet clothes out of the washer my back yells at me until I go to bed. My teeth are showing signs of too much coffee and too little dentist, and my flesh appears to be rescinding on its agreement with gravity.

As I was obsessively raking through my mop of hair the other morning, searching for those pesky little gray sprouts, my daughter popped her out of the shower and said, "Did you find one, Mom?"

"Of course, there's always some hiding in here."

"I don't want you to die!"

Great. Gray hair = death.

I'm re-posting last birthday's rant now because, frankly, this talk of death and stiff joints is depressing. Time for a big cup of strong coffee and something gooey and sweet. Damn! I don't have anything in the kitchen that fits that description. Guess I'll just take my vitamins instead.

Tick Tock, The Clock Won't Stop

This is just uncalled for.

On the eve of my 36th birthday I found, not one, not two, but three gray hairs peeking out from under my otherwise auburn mass (not Auburn, Massachusetts... hehe, I'm so funny). How does that happen? One day you have none and the next you have three pigmentally-challenged hairs. Do they suddenly grow or do regular hairs turn gray? I suppose I could look this up on wikipedia but I can't be bothered with that right now. I'm more concerned with why this would happen on this day of all days.

Tonight at midnight I begin the downward slide to 40. I am beginning my 37th year with three holes in my head from whence I yanked the offending follicles. Am I supposed to read something into this? That the time has come for me to face that I am no longer a young woman?

You see, I have this thing about age. I always assume (completely illogically) that if someone is in a high position of power or reached a stage in their career that puts Director or President or CEO by their name, that they must be old(er). I even think anyone who has children - of any age - must be beyond me in years. I can never quite wrap my head around age.

At my new job I am reorganizing the personnel files. It was with shock that I discovered on a list only two or three 1970's birthdates. Other than the really old 'uns - born in the 50's and 60's -the majority of my co-workers were wailing in their cribs when I was Karma Chameleon-ing to Boy George.

Who do they see when they say hello to me from the hallway? Someone who stays home every night -even Fridays and holidays - who is dosing off at 8PM and gets buzzed on one glass of wine? Someone who will never again zip a pair of jeans without first folding in the baby belly, and who didn't like the 80's styles the first time around. I AM one of the older ones to them.

But aren't the 30's are supposed to be the best years of a women's life? (No? It's the 40's? According to Oprah, it's the 50's... ???)

Yes, tonight for the first time in my life I believe I am having trouble with a birthday. Planning our 20th high school reunion and realizing this year's seniors were born the year I graduated certainly doesn't help.

So, Happy B00-Hoo To Me.

(I still want cake.)

-----

I just wanted to note that this miserable post from last year doesn't actually fit how I feel this year. I think I've passed into "what's age gotta do with it?" mode. Yes, I would like to have more energy to keep up with my kids but I'm happy... gray hairs and all!

(However, I do notice I was much funnier last year... )

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9.15.2009

Keep paddling!

Warning: if you are feeling down the following post will not help your emotional state. However, if you want to wallow in despair along with me, please read on...


I find it kind of ironic that as a teacher of writing to self-heal I am finding it difficult to heal myself. A couple days ago I wrote a post on my other blog on facing despair. I offered sentence stems to prompt my readers to explore their inner thoughts and intuition so they may work through the chaos and ultimately use it for positive change. I have not followed my own advice.

However, that is why I am here now at my computer pounding keys. The very act of writing helps me, calms me. I could be writing about marshmallows and turnip greens, it wouldn't really matter. Somehow those marshmallow thoughts would still reveal some of my own truth. And I would begin to heal.

A few months ago I left my part-time job to pursue my own career as a writer and workshop leader. I had the luxury of doing this because Hubby was bringing in a healthy paycheck. Then BAM! His boss pulled a doozy on him and drastically cut his pay. Over the two last months we have been scrambling to cut our expenses - and I have remained positive. I believe in Hubby's creativity and ability to think outside of the box. I also passionately believe in passion. I know that if you love to do something and have confidence in your own ability you will succeed.

Eventually.

And there's the problem. In this interim while Hubby works out his job issues and my workshops take off it is very hard to stay positive. As I watch the tiny paycheck seep right back out of the account and I am telling my children that oatmeal will be replacing boxed cereal, my stomach churns and I start to feel nauseous. We had fun plans to drive the six-hour trip to Bethlehem, PA next weekend to visit friends and attend the Celtic Classic. Looks like that's off. It's my birthday on Saturday... gifts not happening (and unfortunately I love gifts!).

Last night I had to cancel another workshop - no one signed up. This is the third one this month that has been a bust. I know it is due in part to the weather - who wants to be inside on these last precious warm September days? - and the economy. Thankfully these two factors are surmountable - wait a few weeks and lower prices. But I'm beginning to doubt that anyone even cares (despite positive reviews from those who have attended). But I HAVE to believe that is just my own fear talking. I HAVE to believe there are potential students. If I don't believe it I will not succeed. Other workshop leaders around the country are doing well. I just need to convince the public that journaling is incredibly therapeutic and motivating - and free! (after my workshop fee, of course).

As I write this I feel the stabs of guilt because I know there are others who are so much worse off than us. Hubby still has a job. A member of my family just got laid-off and has to now find a new job and a new home - a new life. We're not there. But the pain of our close extended family is also hanging over me because I feel helpless. I can't help her (financially) and no one can help us - we can only help ourselves. We all have to keep paddling this leaking boat while trying to patch it at the same time. We must trust we'll make it to shore.

I read in the paper on Sunday the story of a local woman who reinvented her life at the age of 54 and who today is the owner of a very successful cracker-baking business. She said:

It validates to me how important it is to be creative and to follow your passion...
I know this! Intuitively, I know this. Emotionally, today, not so much. But I will keep on writing and living and loving (and cleaning - I still have to keep on being Mom too) and trust my confidence in my dreams and abilities will keep our boat afloat.

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9.12.2009

Do they make flannel teddies?

This morning as we were lying in bed listening to our children, who, despite having woken up barely minutes earlier were already screaming at each other, Hubby says to me:

Are you ever going to wear lingerie again?

As I roll over and yank the seam of my cottony soft men's pajamas bottoms from where it had ridden during the night, I say:

What?

Lingerie, ya know, like you used to.

Oh, yeah. No.

Why not?

Um, OK, well, let's see. A) I would have to still own some. B) I would have to have a body that didn't look like a
stretchy garbage bag - with the garbage no longer inside. C) If I wore it, you would assume I was in the mood. You would be wrong. D) I'd have to get a wax. E) We live in Vermont... do you find goosebumps sexy?

Ha. Ha.

No, really. We're not 20-somethings anymore. We're not capable of staying up half the night because we can't get enough of each other.

I know. But that doesn't mean...

[A door slams.]

(LET ME IN! DADDY! SHE WON'T LET ME IN MY ROOM!)

I know, I know. Of course I'm not saying we shouldn't be doing that anymore. I just mean..., well, come on. Can you really see me going through the bedtime battle, dripping with flung bath water and exhaustion, dragging myself into the bedroom and then... d-da! Paris Hilton?

Well, of course not.

And you. You're usually in bed a couple hours before I am, Fabio. Where are
your silk boxers?

I'd just like to have a little fun sometimes.

I have one thing to say...

(THAT'S MINE!)

(NO! MINE! AHHHHHHHHHHH! MAMA!)

Hotel.

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9.09.2009

One smokin' hot fireman!

Call it luck. Call it coincidence. I call it Mother's Intuition.

Last night I was sogged out on the couch watching TV. I have to admit that once the silence has descended that only sleeping children can bring, the corner of the couch is usually my first - and last - stop before bed. It is here I pay the bills, write my blog, go through paperwork, and of course, eat ice cream.

But last night for no particular reason, I suddenly decided to get off my lazy butt and brush my teeth during a commercial. When upstairs I saw Tator's door was closed and the light still on. So I went in to turn it off. As I reached for the light I realized there was something red on top of the lamp. At first I couldn't identify what I was looking at or that anything was overly amiss, but when I reached for the item I figured out what I was looking at - and what was happening.

The red plastic fireman was slowly melting onto the hot bulb (we hadn't yet converted this lamp to the energy-saver ones). I turned off the lamp and pried the gooey, slightly smoking mess off the bulb.

As I looked at my peacefully sleeping little boy, covers thrown off and padded bottom up in air, the could-have-beens began whirling around my head and my heart started pounding. Why had I come upstairs early? The extra half hour I would normally have been downstairs with eyes glued to the box could have been enough time to turn the smoke to flame. And with his door closed to curb the constant trips downstairs... it's too much to contemplate.

Intuition. Can't explain it. Don't discount it!

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9.07.2009

One of those moms

Yes, I am one of those mothers. I forget when it's picture day and I send my kids to school with bed head and a paisley-print shirt that clashes with the purple splash background. I leave the snacks by the door when we leave the house forcing my daughter to face complete humiliation and disappointment when she doesn't get to be snack leader that day. I neglect to read the "school spirit" day list correctly and send her to school in pajamas on a regular day.

And I didn't read the section of the handbook that clearly stated my son needs to be "bathroom independent" to attend pre-school.

It had crossed my mind that he might need to be (just as it had occurred to me that I should probably read the package of papers that came in the mail two weeks before school started), but I dismissed the thought because he is still so young (three in two weeks) and every mother has told me how much harder it is to potty-train boys. So as I sat with my 36-year old butt overlapping the sides of the tiny chair listening to the teacher at the parent meeting, I felt the sweat pooling under my arms.

... and at 9:30 we will potty them. They will go into a stall and do it all themselves... of course, we'll talk them through it for as long as they need, but we teach independence here...

I'm picturing my baby boy behind a closed stall door crying that he "can't do it" as the pee-pee collects in his pull-up.

A mother asks what happens if there is an accident. If they are just wet they will get themselves changed, including putting their wet clothes in a bag. But anything more solid will warrant a call home and the offending matter and its owner will have to cleaned up by the parent who apparently can just leave work or the grocery store to attend to her incontinent child. The blood rushes to my ears. As I will be teaching in town 40 miles away while Tator is in school, a full diaper would have to wait a very long time to be taken care of. And so it means that my mother, who is scheduled to pick him up after school, will now have to come into town early in case her grandson lets loose his bowels.

OK, I realize it is my fault that I didn't clarify this requirement and work on it over the summer, but I am now stuck. The teacher assured me they would work with me, but it might be that... he's not quite ready.

All my mother-pride comes flying to the surface. I'm imagining the shame of hearing my child is not "getting it" and needs to learn this skill before he will be accepted. I have failed my child. While I was trying to be a good mother not pushing the bathroom issue and making sure he was ready to want to do it himself, I have inadvertently kept him back in another way.

He is socially ready for pre-school. He is good with other children and his teachers are always surprised when he has a rare bad day at daycare. He can count to 10, his speech is clear, and the connections he makes sometimes astound us. But maybe I have babied him. He is my boy, my baby, my last-born. Compared to his big sister, I knew he wasn't capable of certain things, whereas when she was the same age I had nothing by which to judge her skills so I probably set my expectations higher. She was fully potty-trained by two and a half.

The first day of pre-school is two days away and I'm so nervous. We have been working on the issue and Tator is excited when he goes by himself. He knows that is how he will be able to go to what he calls Crystal School. But the idea of getting him to "go" as on demand before school so he can then wait until they are all "pottied" strikes fear in me. You cannot make a child poop, you just can't! (Not without risking some psychological scarring... thanks, Mum).

So, while I should be excitedly anticipating my son's big day I am instead wringing my hands waiting for him to come tell me he needs to go as I have asked (implored) him to do. When I ask him if he wants to go his answer depends on what is going on at that moment. There's no way the potty trumps Elmo or his bike. He gets stickers and lots of yahoos when he does, but he's still got a long way to go.

On Wednesday, I will hand over my son to Mrs. H and pray with all my might that my smart little man will understand that in those rooms he is no longer a baby. I hope he also understands that when he comes home he will always be my baby, no matter how big he is or what big boy things he learns to do.

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9.04.2009

9.02.2009

Women and W(h)ine

I read it on my friend's facebook profiles, I hear it on the phone, I hear it from my own mouth.

Man, I need a drink!

Mothers who have had a bad day with the kids, after the bath and bed, turn to the bottle for relief. And it is accepted that this is OK. And it is.

Within reason.

On NPR's OnPoint this morning the conversation was "Why Women Drink." Two recovering alcoholic mother/authors told their stories and those of others who had found solace in the sauce. Women who hide the empty bottle at the bottom of the trash and buy a new one to fool the spouse, or who get up at 3AM to get work done in order to start drinking earlier. Women who drive with their children in the car after one too many.

Those examples may seem a little extreme, but the point was that when you start centering your life around the drink - thinking about it all the time - you may have a problem. And when you start giving yourself limits (because you are aware you need them) but you can't stick to them or you make up an excuse to have "just one" (Jonny was such a brat today, I deserve it!), then it might be time to think about getting help.

Personally, I have only just discovered the wonders of a drink after the bedtime battle. I have never been a drinker - it was not a social norm in my family - and I somehow escaped the enticement of it as a teen and young adult. Yes, when there is a bottle in the fridge I look forward to enjoying a glass (and frequently I forget when there is one there), but when there isn't one, I don't even think about it and have a cup of tea instead. And I am so grateful! But I do understand.

I have written before about the pressures society puts on women - and we put on ourselves - to be perfect. Perfect mother. Perfect wife. Perfect housewife. Perfect employee. Perfect citizen. Etc. Etc. Etc. Whether we are working outside the home, stay-at-homers, or lounge-by-the-poolers, every situation carries its own stress. Wine is a sophisticated way to dull the anxiety, ease the frustrations.

Who wouldn't want a fairly inexpensive, easily accessible, socially-acceptable form of stress relief? Who doesn't deserve a reward at the end of a long, exhausting, infuriating day? Why shouldn't friends gather and commiserate together in the way reminiscent of their younger, childless days? Stress does need to be exorcised but drinking it away does not make it go away. It just numbs you to it for a while.

And if it is done with other girlfriends it may go unnoticed as a potential problem. "There is no gauge," was the way I believe it was termed by one of the guests on OnPoint. This means that others close to us must speak up - it may not make a difference at first but it will "plant the seed."

Please don't get me wrong! I love a glass of sweet white wine (I know, I know, dry red is so much more sophisticated but I ain't all that) and I am not trying to preach. I am just hoping that through google and my 20 or so readers I will do my tiny part to get this information out there. I didn't know how big a problem "mommy drinkers" had become (has always been?) and it scared me to hear it.

Tonight I won't have a glass because there isn't any in the house. But tomorrow I might. You have one too. But PLEASE be aware! The pressure to do and be everything to everyone is not worth the cost you may be willing to pay.

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9.01.2009

Alone!

I am in love with this day.

Not that it started that way. Far from it.

I woke up to some loud DJ yelling that pointing out hypocrisy made his day (the dial had apparently slipped off the familiar and soothing voices of NPR). When I went downstairs I discovered the kitchen mess was unchanged from the night before - I guess the fairies had gotten caught up elsewhere with no cell phone coverage - and I was faced with couscous crumbs and chicken carcass. Later, while attending to a wardrobe emergency of 1st Grade proportions, my abandoned coffee cup was snatched up by Tator who poured the contents down the toilet and then dropped the cup on the floor - one of my favorite sun-yellow mugs, smashed.

But now. The school bus has taken one away and daycare is occupying the other. I have hung up some posters around town for my next workshop and had a cup of coffee and a moment with my journal at the bagel shop. Now home.

This is my first full day alone since school started last week. And the weather is glorious. It is days like this that remind me of why I love this part of the country. The sun is bright and the air is dry with a hint of fall. The breeze is enough to sway the laundry on the line and make the trees bob ever so slightly. I can sit on the deck in perfect comfort listening to squirrels chatting, Chickadees dee-deeing, grasshoppers chirping, and flies buzzing.

And what makes this day complete? Doing what I love - writing about it.

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