What I want to be when I grow up

So I went to this reading and came home with a stomachache

I went to Anne Lamott's reading tonight (at the bookstore down the hill from my house, I walked, not that I'm, you know, BRAGGING or anything). I almost didn't go, though, because I couldn't find anyone to go with me. All the people who'd want to go to that sort of thing were regrettably out of town (how dare you, Friends Of Me) and I couldn't con anyone else into it and I just didn't WANT to go by myself. There's the whole "ooh, I don't know how readings WORK at this bookstore, what if I go to the wrong SECTION, what if I stand there looking STUPID, what if everyone knows what's going on except for ME, how come I SUCK SO MUCH" issue. And then there was the fact that I knew I would be Impacted Somehow and I wouldn't be able to talk about it because no one else would have experienced it and that is just a big fat bummer. 

But then I was all, "Come on Self. Bird By Bird is what made you think you could pull of NaNoWriMo and YOU DID and you also think Anne Lamott says things in ways that no one else says them and you will kick yourself for God knows how long if you stay home because you're feeling lame and loserish. Also, you can WALK THERE. For shame!"

So I went. But not without a lot of, "Are you SURE you're okay with the kids? Because I can TOTALLY stay home." 

Of course none of the lame and loserish things happened, although what I thought was early enough CLEARLY wasn't early enough and I was stuck standing way far in the back. And I knew absolutely nothing about her new book and now I know too much because Anne Lamott stood up there leading a group conversation about destructive teenage behavior, namely drug use and hooking up. 

SHUDDER. 

So part of me was all, "Oh dear God. Hello nightmares!" But then I also felt sort of... I don't know. Privileged somehow. Because I think this woman is terribly gifted in talking about things most people don't talk about with giant groups of strangers, or even faceless swaths of anonymous readers. I wanted so badly to hear her say something about writing, but she didn't, not really. She mostly talked about being a good person. Being the kind of grown up your kids wouldn't mind being themselves one day. Living authentically. Knowing your own truths. A lot of blah blah whateverness that sounds like blah blah whateverness coming from other people, but coming from her it just sounds like what she's meant to tell us. 

When someone asked her about her response to a certain group of people with, shall we say, some rigid thinking and principles, she just sighed. She said that she has a lot of opinions, opinions she knows are RIGHT. She's right about everything! Trust her! But as you get older you realize: no one cares what you think. People are going to believe what they're going to believe. People are ENTITLED to believe what they want to believe. And you can talk about it and argue about it and almost always lose, or you can be happy. And I was all, "Yes! This is why I don't like to write about Controversial Things on my BLAWG! Ooh, I want to know what Anne Lamott thinks about BLAWWWGS!"

Anyway. I walked home, my head full of writerly thoughts, mostly woe about the cartoonish simpleness of MY teenage characters, who are not doing ANY drugs or ANY hooking up and oh no, if that's what I have to write about if I'm writing about teenagers then I am DOOOOOOMED.

By the way, I was not one of those teenagers. I think there must be some of us out there. I mean, some of my friends were total potheads, but I pretended not to know about any of that, I mean, HAVE YOU MET MY PARENTS? and I think this what Anne Lamott meant when she said you can't be friends with your kids. I also finally understand why my dad drove us to (at midnight) and from (three in the morning, usually) the discos, quite possibly his LEAST favorite way to spend a Saturday night, with nary a complaint. Well, not that going to an Anne Lamott reading taught me that, I'm just bringing it up. Oh man, you know this Adjusting To The Move thing is killing me with the kids, but maybe someone could hurry up on that Age Preservation thing so I can have an almost-three-year-old forever and never ever have to think about "pharm parties" OMG.

I need some cake. MEDICINAL cake. Later dudes. 


Most likely to succeed

Oh man you guys. I know I'm venturing into First World Problems Happening To Spoiled Has Everything She Could Ever Ask For Annoying Even SHE Can't Believe She's Writing About It Blogger territory here, but SERIOUSLY. I feel like every day has delivered some sort of delicious oh-please-sir-can-I-have-some-more? emotional beating and I want a break. Smothered in hot fudge, preferably. 

It's not really the mom stuff either. Some of it is my utter impotency when it comes to managing my two-year-old (and if one more person wants to delightedly tell me how three is ten times worse, I will take my sinkful of dirty dishes and chuck it at that person's head.) Some of it is not having any idea what is up with him this last week or two. And yes, some of it comes from the fact that it takes half an hour just to get READY to walk out the door and someone always poops after I've got her coat and shoes on, MOLLY. So sure, the mom stuff isn't exactly a cakewalk lately. 

But I feel like I've had all these Irritating Situations pop up this week, requiring me to act like a Grown Up. And not, like, Take Responsibility kind of grown upness, but Sticking Up For Yourself grown upness and Fixing Stuff and Advocating and Knowing What's What. I mean, I don't want to talk on the phone with my FRIENDS. Don't tell me I have to explain an issue over the phone with my DENTIST. HORRORS.

I don't want to call the dentist or the real estate agent or the doctor. I don't want to confront anyone or manage any situation or cause a fuss. Why am I so concerned about all of these people LIKING me? Why am I worried about how I'll come off when I ask a simple question to which I most certainly deserve an answer? Why is it so hard for me to ask for what is mine? Why am I worried about their impression of ME when THEY are the ones who need to sell THEMSELVES? 

GAH!

Okay, and maybe it's the mom stuff too. We took the kids up to bed at seven and at nearly nine they are still griping and whining. I've already made myself hoarse with shouting, I've already moved them into separate rooms, what else can I do? At this point I'd settle for Quiet. 

They are both sick, which is lovely. 

When I met my old boss for lunch yesterday he kept wanting to know What I Do and it's always a little intimidating talking about this with him, since I always get the feeling he is not so impressed with my stay-at-home-ness. He knows Important People and his wife knows Really Important People and the man can namedrop all day long and am I looking for part time work? and he can hook me up whenever I want and hmm, that kind of writing doesn't sound like REAL writing and am I SURE I'm not interested in this contract gig for so and so? It's fun, you know, and when I worked for him I was fresh out of college and it was just him and me and his dog in the office and it's a little like your dad worrying if you can pay the rent that month and if your boyfriend is treating you nice and all that. So I love him, I do, and I appreciate the fact that if I DID need to find a job he would bend over backwards to help me out. But I don't want one. Not right now.

THAT SAID. I wipe noses. My husband just told me that he might have class two other nights a week next quarter. I've bitten off all my nails. I get a stomachache before I have to call the dentist to tell them they did something wrong. I can't figure out what's up with my kid. I eat everything remotely sugary in my house, and can't motivate myself to exercise in the afternoons. I told him I wrote a novel, but I haven't, really, and lately I'm embarrassed every time I look at it. This writing ISN'T real writing, is it? And I think I'm just feeling like I need to succeed at something here pretty soon. I think right now I will succeed at finishing off this bag of chocolate chips. 


Seven Quick Resolutions

1. I resolve to bake more. I love baking and baking took a decided hit in 2009. This should coincide with my next resolution which is

2. my resolution to NOT lose weight. I KNOW. I have many many thoughts on the recent fitness/fat internet kerfluffles, all of which shall go unpublished except for: I am in a good place. I am happy and comfortable doing what it takes to be my current size, and while I'm sure there are people out there - including, sometimes, myself - who think I could stand to lose another size or two, I'm ready to prioritize other parts of my life. At the same time

3. I resolve to not GAIN weight. 2010 shall be the Year of Maintaining!

4. I resolve to set the table more often. I LOVE setting the table! Funny, since I distinctly remember hating it when my mother asked me to set the table. But I have many pretty dishes and place mats and glassware and I'm not even talking about fancy things that you only use for holidays. Instead of throwing some plates onto a cluttered dirty table when Phillip walks in the door, I resolve to do my best to use my table for showcasing dinner, not showcasing a weeks' worth of mail, an assortment of dirty bibs, toys I've taken away from the kids, phone chargers, cameras, remotes and purses. 

5. I resolve to write more about the churchy stuff. There. I said it.

6. I resolve to attempt something professional this year. Yes, I have no idea what this means either. Perhaps it means Submit An Article. Actually, I'm pretty sure that's what it means. But it could also be Get Someone To Pay Me For My Obvious Expertise In Social Media. Or even Learn How To Use Freaking PhotoShop Already. You know, something for the resume.

7. I resolve, for the gazillionth time, to be a better commenter. Every once in a while I sit down and respond to every single comment on a particular post, but I am crap at commenting on YOUR posts and everyone knows comments are better than emails, especially email responses to comments YOU left (well, I guess that DEPENDS, but in the Public Recognition and Affirmation Of Your Online Presence Department I think comments are the clear choice). 

I hate resolutions. I can't believe I actually came up with these. Boring! Trite! Who cares! Now I'm off to SET MY TABLE for our much-looked-forward-to New Year's Eve dinner with friends. Happy New Year to YOU! And see you in your comment box. xoxo


What might have been

One side effect of writing 27,000 words about teenagers in 9 days (SO FAR!) is that you spend an awful lot of time thinking about being a teenager. Not just any teenager, mind you, but the teenager you once were. I don't think I have to explain why this is not always a fun place to be.

In addition! One side effect of being a rabid Mad Men fan is understanding that you have no choice but to stay up late to watch the season finale in real time, a privilege not afforded to any other show. (How people manage to watch The Biggest Loser in real time is BEYOND ME.) Which meant I was up another hour after THAT decreeing [SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!] that I shall NEVER get divorced EVER EVER EVER and WOE and SNIFF and WAH and can we have Season 4 now please?

Actually, Phillip and I stayed up talking about What Ifs. I'm not sure we've ever had that conversation before. Who we might be married to if we weren't married to each other. What we might be doing, how we might see life differently. Kind of a scary dangerous place to go, right? But it was actually kind of fun, which I think means that we are fairly confident in each other and our relationship. Whew!

It was just a strange and swirly combination of all the things I've been thinking about over the last week. I've been living in Teenage Girl Brain where you think you're going to marry your high school boyfriend, or sometimes you get a whiff of Reality and resign yourself to visualizing who you WILL marry and of course he will be all these THINGS. And you will go certain places and do certain things and live with these goals in mind and PEOPLE. Phillip is NOT what I pictured when I was fifteen! Or even twenty, for that matter, when I was sitting around waiting for him to realize I existed.

I think I've written before about sitting up one night, mere months away from my wedding, and having the slightest of panic attacks because it had only then occurred to me that Phillip was missing a few of the Required Attributes. Basically I was sitting there wringing the sheets over the fact that Phillip did not (and does not, alas) read novels. How could I marry someone who DOESN'T READ BOOKS?!?!?!

In the end (which was only an hour or two later, THANK GOD, we all know I can let these sorts of things DRAG ON) I realized that even if I found a nice guy who read books and measured up in all the other designated areas, I would still want Phillip. Problem solved. Bring on the marriage!

But until last night I'd never heard Phillip's take on the exact same subject. VERRRRY INTERESTING! Apparently, and SURPRISE!, I am not exactly who he imagined EITHER! Shocker! He had always imagined for himself a career-oriented Asian-American girl. My thoughts immediately flew to the more, ah, successful couples we know: people who have important or at least importantish jobs and disposable income, the female half of whom would not be happy as a full time stay at home mother. Maybe this is weird but I can totally see Phillip living that life. I think, in a lot of ways, he'd have an easier time of it if I were 1) profit-driven and 2) Asian and 3) WAS MORE LIKE HIM.

And since I can't just let something go, I had to share what I'd pictured: an artsier fartsier type of guy, someone who not only read novels but liked to stay up late talking about them, who worked but knew work was only for funding travel and creative pursuits. In other words, someone MORE LIKE ME.

Phillip was pretty adamant about how it was RIGHT that he married me. I am the right person for him. He went on and on about how he's always pretty slow to make big decisions (OH REALLY?) but he'd never been slow about me. (A point we debated due to the aforementioned Waiting For Him To Realize I Existed which he then rebutted with some valid points I won't bore you with, at least not in this post, and now I agree.) While I, of course, was wishier washier and went off on my whole "but I CHOSE you" theory and "soul mates shmole mates!" blah blah blah. The fact is, we don't know what life would be like had we married other people. (IF we had married other people. It's not like I had a throng of suitors banging impatiently on my door.)

That said, I am not sorry I don't know. I feel like it turned out pretty well, don't you?

Teenage Girl Brain doesn't know this, though. Sure, some of us marry our high school sweethearts, but most of us don't. Most of us go out with total boneheads and immature jerks and spend many a night despairing that anyone will ever love us, that anyone will ever really KNOW us. I've been living in that place for nine days, and it made last night's conversation that much sweeter. 

P.S. As we were trying to describe The Person We Thought We'd Marry, Phillip paused, trying to find the right word, and I proffered: "someone with a work ethic?" Because GOD KNOWS I couldn't care less about a career, I'm anti-9 to 5 and completely stymied by people who answer work calls after hours. And Phillip, because he is the best husband in the WORLD even though he thinks the EXACT OPPOSITE of those thigns said, "No, you have a work ethic, just not for PAID work." Which is TOTALLY DIFFERENT, right? Maybe I can stop beating myself up about the lazy? Because: nine days, 27,000 words. Some of you may chalk that up to "obsessive" instead, but I hereby lift the self-imposed lifetime guilt sentence for apparent lack of work ethic. WOO!


Gifts

Ever since I went to that workshop a weekend or two ago I've been thinking more and more about where I put my energy. Especially these last few days when I've spent so many hours writing. It's only been four days, but I'm already wondering if this is a way to create a habit, if, when Phillip goes downstairs for his nightly hour or so of homework, that will be my time to write. I'm excited thinking about it, because that's definitely an area where I know I went to expend energy, and where I know I'm not doing enough.

But there are other places that don't feel that way. Or only sometimes feel that way. I think back to that workshop and try to figure out if those are places where I feel 'gifted'. And it's not that I don't want to do anything I'm not gifted in, obviously, but sometimes I fall into the trap of feeling like I HAVE to do something because it's a GOOD THING TO DO even when I DON'T WANNA. The example the priest at the workshop used was volunteering at a soup kitchen, which he dreaded and hated. Was it a bad thing to do? No. Was it something he should never do? No, of course not. But did he need to feel guilty about not wanting to work in a soup kitchen when he was obviously gifted in other areas and found joy volunteering and serving in other ways? NO.

So I have a few soup kitchens in my life. None of them are as... worthy as a soup kitchen, I should say. But I have a few Good and Fun For Other People things going on that I don't always feel Good or Fun about. But sometimes I do? So it's confusing? I guess my three years on the church committee is a good example of this. Was it a good thing to do? Sure. Was it the best place for me? Was it the best use of my time? Doubtful.

Anyway, I've been thinking about these things and today I was feeling sort of down about one of them. I was comparing myself to everyone else and thinking: gee Self, you sort of suck at this. Maybe you should step down. Maybe that would be a GOOD THING. Maybe it's OKAY to suck! OWN THE SUCKITUDE!

Right? Totally okay things to say to yourself. But I swear, not a minute after I decided I would put in my resignation, I got an email FULL of affirmation. FULL of encouragement. FULL of gratitude that I was involved. So I ask you, good friends in the Internet, what the heck am I supposed to do with THAT?!

Well, of COURSE I did a complete 180 and am now totally and complete re-energized in this particular department. Nothing like a little flattery, eh?

AND THEN (and this is the OTHER thing I've been thinking about re: gifts) I was all, "OBVIOUSLY The Person Who  Sent Me The Email has the gift of Encouragement!" I've been sort of annoying with the Gift Labeling lately. As I sat through the workshop I wasn't only tallying up my gifts* but all of my friends'. I'm such a dork. 

Like, I was thinking about this one friend of mine who always knows what to DO. I mean, physical tangible things to DO. (This would be, for the uninitiated, the gift of service.) When both of my babies were teeny tiny she would come over and suddenly all my dishes were washed. I wouldn't even notice her doing it. Or when we get our kids together to play, she always picks up the toys and cleans up the lunch dishes. I don't do this at her house. I HATE admitting that, but I don't. And it's not because I don't WANT to, I just don't even THINK about it. I suppose that could mean that I don't want to, because if I wanted to I'd be thinking about it, but I liked the way the priest put it. He doesn't have the gift of hospitality. He doesn't walk into coffee hour and notice who is sitting by themselves. It's not even on his radar. And that's how I am with other people's dishes. NOT ON MY RADAR.

But it's totally on my friend's radar. And I have another friend who, I've noticed, always says the right thing in a crucial moment. WITHOUT FAIL. I don't know what gift that is - wisdom? knowledge? - but SERIOUSLY. I know this because I'm the one sitting there all "Uhhhhmmmm" and she's asking, like, INSIGHTFUL QUESTIONS and singling out the IMPORTANT ELEMENTS. Whatever gift that is, I DO NOT HAVE IT.

I know this isn't any great revelation or news to anyone, but the idea that I don't have to be good at everything, that I don't have to LIKE everything - that knowledge has been freeing in a new way lately. In the last couple weeks I've been giving myself more grace than usual. Which is, I'll just say it: MIRACULOUS. Instead of being jealous and/or coming down with a total inferiority complex next to the friend who always knows what to say, I've been able to remind myself that THAT IS HER GIFT. And IT IS NOT MINE. I'm the friend who, when another friend was informed of an unthinkable family tragedy, sat her butt down in front of the computer and found the fastest cheapest plane ticket out of Seattle. That's the kind of thing I can do.

I do it with you guys too. Some of you leave the most encouraging comments or send the most affirming emails. I suspect things about you based on your own blogs. And I've met some of you in person, and I know you have the gifts of craftsmanship and hospitality and faith and teaching and pastoring. It's so much FUN, this gift deciphering. 

Aaaand, I think that's enough procrastinating for one evening. I'll be lucky if I make my daily quota today. LE SIGH.

*when I use the word "gifts" I'm using it in the context of "spiritual gifts" or, in the Catholic tradition, "charisms". I'm not referring to the "fruits of the Holy Spirit" found in Galatians, but an unspecified number of spiritual gifts (again, according to the Catholic tradition) that show up primarily in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. (And yes, I totally just looked in the book for that information. SUE ME.)


Aspirations

I am reading Anne Lamott's Bird By Bird. I'm less than halfway through, but this book has already replaced Stephen King's On Writing as my favorite book about writing. Not that On Writing isn't good. It's excellent. Bird By Bird just happens to be written especially for ME. Or, at least, it seems that way. 


Like every other blogger you know I entertain hopes of writing a novel one day. I have a thumb drive full of what I call "starts". Things I started writing until a month later when I discovered I hated all the characters, or it wasn't the story I wanted it to be, or I kept writing the first three pages over and over and over, or I realized I didn't have the life experience necessary, or, and I am not making this up, I couldn't figure out what to name my main character. 

I am terrified I will one day misplace this thumb drive or it will melt in a fire or a thief will make off with the storage box of loose papers and receipts and cards and notes where I keep it and I will lose them all. On the other hand, I am terrified of ever reading them again. They are THAT BAD.

But this is why Bird By Bird was written for me. I love Anne Lamott, by the way, and think her book Operating Instructions should be passed out at baby showers, and I swear she has taken all my writing neuroses and patted them down into paper and made me understand that everyone wants to burn their first draft. That it's okay. That you probably SHOULD. But only after you've written the second draft.

I didn't tell you that a few months ago, while I was sprawled on my bed waiting for the stomach flu to use up its 24 hours, I came up with my next "start". I don't know what it was about losing seven pounds in one day, but it just sort of came to me. I've been thinking about it ever since. I haven't written anything, of course. It's much easier to read books about writing than to actually write. 

Today I was telling someone that I'm afraid of resenting Phillip if and when he goes to grad school. Because he'll be doing this new and exciting thing and I will be home feeding children who don't want to be fed. (Seriously. These two cannot possibly be MINE.) We started talking about what else is out there. My little online world, obviously. My devotion to the internet runs deep. Certain family or churchy pursuits. But I have to say I don't envy Phillip's career or his hours away from our house or his hopeful upcoming opportunity to write heaps of papers. Those aren't things I want to do. If there is anything Else, it's probably something I will write. 

(How nice for me, huh? The luxury of choosing Art over Paycheck. Sometimes I think I could just retitle this blog First World Problems.)

I know a million people think they have a novel in them. All of them write better than I do. For SURE all of them have more drive in their pinky fingers than I do in my entire being. I rather like whiling my afternoons away in the front yard, blowing bubbles and digging in the new sandbox. Spending naptime on the treadmill thinking about My Book and then going upstairs not to write, but to eat lunch in front of brain-rotting television (au revoir LC!) and maybe think some more about My Book. I really do have to name my main character. I am not a likely author, is what I'm saying. Bird By Bird is convicting me, but I still have to write

Anyway. I am sitting here using Phillip's laptop while he cleans up the entire kitchen, a pile of unstuffed cloth diapers in front of me. There's always an excuse not to start writing, and this time it's 1) wanting to post something for Tuesday and 2) twelve stretched out BumGenius one size pocket diapers. 

I also have my own bathroom. SCORE.

Tonight we are doing grown up things. I am updating The Spreadsheet of Budgeting Awesomeness. Phillip is poring over thirty pages of mortgage refinancing documents. Guess who is sleeping? OH YES. I shall now wait while everyone knocks on the nearest wooden surface.

Sometimes I have to pause a minute or two and take in the Grown Upness. Over there is the television I OWN. Over there is the high chair MY KID sits in. Over there is the freezer which houses the ice cream that I can eat WHENEVER I FEEL LIKE IT. (Except I'm not buying ice cream these days, due to avoiding a sucky part of being a grown up that is having to spend money on bigger pants.)

Most of the time I hear myself saying, "Mommy says NO!" or "Do you want to sit in the corner? THEN STOP POKING YOUR SISTER" and it's no big thing. I am the adult. I'm in charge. Don't cross me, mister.

But other times I'm all, "REALLY? They're letting ME do this?"

Maybe it's all this talk of refinancing. We have one of those mortgages that freaks out on you something like five years after you sign the papers, all, "Oh YEAH, you thought you had THAT rate? Well let me show you THIS RATE, SUCKA!" So you know, that's kind of nerve wracking, especially when your neighbors have had very hard times selling the exact same kind of house you live in, and where another one of your neighbors will probably want to sell right when YOU want to sell, which is too bad for you because they did all sorts of cool stuff to their house while you went around destroying things with red paint and babies.

Anyway. I somehow went from deciding in which European country I would blow my [very small] savings to discussing how much we're willing to pay for refinancing closing costs. (Answer: none! I swear my husband can smell "no fees".)

But it's not all gloom and doom and which kind of laundry detergent should we buy. Last night we were a tiny bit giddy what with the baby going to bed at a decent time and Phillip could not keep his secret any longer. He was going to take me to this hotel, and he wanted it to be a surprise, but how is he supposed to produce surprises when I am the most planny person on the planet and DUDE, he was SO not even going to TRY packing an overnight bag for me.

So it's not a surprise (and really, how glad am I that he didn't attempt to pack my bag?) but HOW COOL IS THAT? I'm excited. ONE of these days we'll be able to leave Molly overnight, right? Please God?

It's morning now and Jack somehow left his Adorable and Chipper Personality buried in the blankets in the crib because what I've got today appears to be Total Pest. I mean, all this carrying on when your dad leaves for work is getting RIDICULOUS. Is it really so horrible to be left with your mother? Your mom is awesome!


The volatility index

I have a new mental exercise going on lately. It's called: Squaring My SAHM Status with These Desperate Times. In other words, what am I doing carving pumpkins with my kids while my husband puts the more-expensive-than-it-used-to-be food on the table?

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Sure was fun!

I think the bit of SAHM guilt in me is showing itself in new and exciting ways. The guilt is there in the first place because I am constantly feeling like I'm getting away with something. I mean, I get to stay home and play with my kids instead of going to an office. Every single day! Even on the days when Jack decides that afternoon nap isn't worth his while (like today, hence the fork in my eye) I still can't really believe I get to do this.

"Aaaaand," says the guilt, "maybe you CAN'T!"

I've been reading a few trillion blogs about the Dire! Economy! and soaking up financial advice (which is funny because if there is one thing about which I know NOTHING it's finances) and getting all anxious and worried. Do we have enough in savings? Are we spending too much on groceries? Can I quit Target? People, I have recently agreed to give up my landline. HELL HATH FROZEN OVER.

And then I will sit and wonder if I should go out and get myself a job. I could work part time and not pay for childcare, due to the grandmothers who've often told me they'd step in and help. I could most definitely work a flexible work-from-home type job. The extra money would be super nice. When I look at that budget spreadsheet I slaved over and then never used, I wonder how we thought we'd manage all the things we manage and then I remember: I used to have a job. How are we going to refinance our house NOW? Now that I'm eating bon bons staying home with the kids all day?

I wouldn't feel confused except for the fact that in the last few weeks I've been mulling over the topic of Vocations and how very strongly I feel that I am supposed to be home with my kids. At this point in my life. I WANT to be doing this, but it's only recently that I've felt like this is a vocation. And that all the things that pop up in my life and shriek "TRY ME!" I need to put aside until my kids are bigger. These are mostly church things, different ministries here and there that sound interesting or fulfilling in some way. Or even just the fliers from the nursing home where I used to volunteer. I can't do that with two little kids. There's a LOT I can't do with two little kids. It's not that I shouldn't do those things, I just shouldn't do them right now.

And I wonder if a job fits into that as well. It is still somewhat miraculous to me that I don't have to work. We honestly didn't think we could manage on one income (and maybe if you checked out our finances you'd be wondering if we really ARE managing!) but we have yet to move into the cardboard box. And if circumstances aren't [yet] pointing me in that direction, maybe I am just supposed to stay home with my kids. And Fat the Bunny.


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Didn't take long, did it?


Let me tell you about myself

In the course of investigating this freelancing stuff and seeing what kind of writing is out there, I've become rather demoralized and depressed. There is no way I can write for publication. Am I kidding myself? After reading a most hilarious (and true) piece about baby sleep (in American Baby, August 07, by Heather Swain, which I cannot find anywhere online, curses!), I put my trusty laptop aside to weep.

I can't even bring myself to continue my horribly dull and painfully vapid posts re: new momness HERE. If I do not want to bore the American Public, I certainly do not want to bore my beloved Internet. And yet, I am somewhat of a Compulsive Blog Poster (definition being: someone who really really hates whatever she last put up on her website, and is compelled to post something else immediately, just so the last post can disappear into the archives.)

So instead of waxing un-rhapsodic about my darling boy for the 497th time, I've decided to tell you a few things I haven't told you. About myself. Because that is not horribly dull or painfully vapid AT ALL.

Seriously. Random. Things. Flee! While you still can!

Here is a picture of the things I bring with me to my parents house every week.

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Are you as concerned about my propensity towards Pink and Flowery as my husband? The first bag is one of my [many] Hawaii souvenirs. I needed it to carry home all my tropical Hello Kitty dolls (which comprise the rest of my Hawaii souvenirs). That one is my "work" bag. It contains my laptop, my reference books and forty-seven copies of magazines that will never consider publishing the likes of me. The second bag is a gigando floppy cotton bag I picked up at the Gap one summer on clearance. I'm not sure what appealed to me, other than the Pink and Flowery (or, in this case, paisley). I used it in Hawaii as a beach bag and now it's my Sleep Bag. It contains the three different blankets Jackson needs for sleep (swaddling blanket, top blanket, soft blanket he sleeps on even though the doctors say babies shouldn't sleep on anything softer than a cold slab of marble). I also use it to hold the toys we shuffle back and forth to Grandma's house and anything that won't fit in the diaper bag. Which is the next bag and, quite possibly, my favorite bag ever. This bag has the diapers and the fifteen extra outfits and the Cetaphil cream and the nail clippers and all the other accouterments I haul around only to justify the crazy number of pockets inside that diaper bag. The last bag is a new one. It holds one box of rice cereal, one can of formula, one Born Free bottle (I just ditched all my Avent bottles in the interest of protecting my family from leaching chemicals in plastic, because I am paranoid and one of those obnoxious kinds of people) and a coated spoon. This picture does not include my purse and the Bumbo seat, which are also schlepped back and forth once a week. Getting out of the house is a twenty-minute process, people.

By the way, here is what Jackson thinks about rice cereal.

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My parents' house is very cold. This is because the thermostat is broken and also because my parents' like their living room at a temperature sufficient for keeping meat. It's funny, then, that my grandmother is now kind of sort of living with them, as her house is warm enough to grow tomatoes in January. My relatives wear shorts to Christmas Eve dinner at Grandma's house. My parents' house is also very loud. This is because my family is loud and also because certain members of my family seem to be going deaf. But even before the onset of deafness, yelling was a way of life. I know, because my bedroom used to be right next to the kitchen, the living room and the telephone table in the hall. Hell is being sixteen years old and having to wake up at 5 am because your mother is calling the United States to talk to your hard of hearing grandmother. There's really nothing you can do about it, except put the baby to sleep as far away from the kitchen as possible.

I can count to ten in Tagalog. I'm sure I've told you that before, but is IS my best party trick.

The biggest fight Phillip and I have ever had took place in the parking lot of our university's fitness center- a very large fitness center with a very large parking lot. We weren't married then. It was at night and I believe there was some teenage girl-like throwing of car keys on the ground and stomping away while shrieking that someone would just "WALK HOME!" It's funny now, but it was ugly then and probably what made us decide to get married, seeing as how if THAT fight didn't break us up, the power of inertia was obviously very strong and we might as well make it official.

I won my television at a work event raffle. Then it lived in its gigantic box in Phillip's rental house shed until he nervously asked me if he and his roommates could put it in their living room. I love that television. Once we buy our flat screen (oh yes, it will happen), my television will become a family heirloom, to be passed down through the generations.

I regret the fact that I didn't glam up for my wedding. My cousin did my hair, which immediately fell out after the ceremony and looked awful. I put my makeup on in the car using the rear view mirror, I swear, right before pictures. I didn't wear any jewelry, although I probably wouldn't wear any jewelry now either. I didn't bother with these things because I wanted to feel like myself. I thought I would feel silly with a ton of makeup and hairspray. Phillip and I were very nervous about being the center of attention and I didn't want to be a "bride" necessarily. I wanted to get married, have a big party and quickly escape. I didn't think I could be a gorgeous bride so I didn't try. I loved my wedding, but I wish now I'd tried to make myself beautiful, just once.

If I think really hard about Kid Number Two and when I want him or her to arrive, my only concern is that he or she doesn't show up until I've lost all the baby weight. How shallow is that? The newborn period? Bring it on! Manipulating two naptimes? I can do it! Figuring out a budget with two kids and probably having to move out of our house? Awesome! Just let me lose the Jackson weight first.

I am already obsessing about my Christmas party. What we'll do, what we'll eat, how I'll decorate. In a few weeks I'll start obsessing over the fact that no one will want to come and the few that do will have work parties scheduled for the same night. I do this every year. I think people only come to make me feel better.

If I could write like anyone in the entire world, I would write like Lois Lowry. Because she can write books like Number The Stars and The Giver, and also write books like the Anastasia Krupnik series, which were my absolute favorite books for YEARS. (Possibly still. Do not judge.) I suppose I could wish to write like JK Rowling and make zillions of dollars, or Margaret Atwood, who is powerful and freaky, or Jane Austen, who is Important, or Meg Cabot, who is funny and marketable, or Edna St. Vincent Millay, my favorite poet, or Carson McCullers who wrote my favorite high school book, The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, but no. I pick Lois Lowry. Her characters are real. Her humor is real. Her stories are either every day and amazing or out of this world and amazing.

I think Jackson is the cutest baby of all the moms group babies. I'm sure all the other mothers think their kid is the cutest, but they are wrong.

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Woman's work

I've never been career-oriented. My only goal for post-college employment was to work until I had enough money for another jaunt across Europe. As long as I could pay for cable and wine in the meantime, I was set. Getting married changed all that, of course, especially getting married to Mr. Must Have Entire College Education Fund Saved Up Before We Even Discuss The Possibility of Children. Ahem.

But anyway. Jobs. What are they good for? Every once in a while I would feel tremendously guilty about my lack of initiative, my lack of anything even remotely resembling ambition, but I'd always find a way to rationalize my disinterest in Getting Ahead. It just wasn't for me. I can't walk in heels, let alone stride purposefully in a power suit. Anyone who can't handle ordering pizza over the telephone is obviously not made for upper management.

It wasn't easy, this deciding a career thingie wasn't going to happen, but I made my peace with never having a business card to hand out and figured I'd eventually have babies, thereby justifying my lifetime of un-productiveness in the workplace. How ironic, then, that having a baby makes me feel like I can finally do the work I really want to do.

(Even more ironic when you consider that at age 20, my painfully intense feminist self was horrified, no, destroyed, when my favorite Non-Denominational College Fellowship staff worker left campus to have a baby. And handed over her NDCF responsibilities to her husband. Who was a star. And did amazing fabulous work while his wife stayed home and changed diapers and for all I knew became an emotionally and intellectually stunted 1950s housewife complete with full skirt and chocolate chip cookies. How often do I want to slap my college self? ALL THE TIME.)

Before I had Jack I viewed this pregnancy thing as a Get Out Of Work Free Card. I didn't think I'd escape work permanently, seeing as how I own a home in sort-of-ignoring-the-whole-housing-crisis Seattle and also because I like to buy things. But I'd get a few months off at least and then I'd only go back part time. And part time meant not answering phones or sitting in an office or never seeing the light of day from October through March. I thought I'd find something that paid enough to fund my eyebrow waxing habit, at the very least. And I never saw myself as completely dependent on my husband. Ever. Mostly dependent, sure, but I could treat myself to a coffee and say, "Hey, I'm not taking money out of the grocery budget- I earned this latte."

A few days ago my old boss called me up and said, "Uh, that part time work proposal you sent me?" (During the pause I refrained from saying, "THAT WE DECIDED ON TOGETHER BEFORE I HAD THE BABY YOU BIG DOOFUS.") "Yeah, well, that's not going to work out."

So there you have it, Internet. I am officially unemployed. It is, I will admit, a very strange feeling. I've been working since the day I arrived on my college campus. Even when you count the handful of summers I bummed around various places, the bumming was possible because I worked my ass off during the months before, and I always had a job lined up for when I returned. Now? I didn't buy a sweater today, a sweater that I NEED and that was ON SALE, because I am living off someone else's paycheck. And that paycheck has to pay the mortgage and the cable bill. It took everything I had not to buy that sweater, people. I looked awesome in that sweater. My depressing post-pregnancy self needed that sweater.

The craziest thing about the baby so far (okay, at least right now) is my discovery that (gasp) I still want to work. I want to work on my own terms. I want to try a few of the things I thought I might try if I ever got the chance. In many ways, going from an office worker to a stay at home mom is the most liberating thing that's ever happened to me. That and having two grandmothers and a handful of church ladies who want to take my kid off my hands for a few hours a week, making it a lot easier for me to figure out how to work from home. I am going to buy that sweater, dammit.

What I want to try (and I can't believe I'm telling you this, because it's like hanging out a big DOOMED TO FAIL sign) is freelance writing. Lots of people are freelance writers. I own several How To Be A Freelance Writer books. I've kind of sort of figured out who my audience is, the things I'd like to write and where I might submit. In other words, I've done all the easy stuff. Now I have to actually do it. (Again with the Doomed To Fail!) If I can hack it, it'd be my dream job. Writing! On my own! From home! It's certainly not perfect. I will, for example, have to use the phone every once in a while. I will have to sell myself. I will have to write things that are not made up and make sense and aren't thrown together haphazardly at 10:30 on a Saturday night while Phillip is tending to a screaming child and I have already polished off the wine. (What? Why else would I be hammering out a blog post late on a SATURDAY NIGHT?*)

Sometimes, like right now, I think I should just be a mom. Being a mom is good enough. I can go to my three moms groups and be involved in my church and visit my mom and go shopping and sing 'Swinging On A Star' to my kid and make my own baby food. I might suck at being a mom sometimes, but no one is going to fire me (ah Jackson, how you will want to fire me one day!) and I'm the boss. We'll just make Phillip's paycheck work and I'll finally learn how to stick to a budget and I'll make the house a happy place to be. I WANT to do those things. But I also really want to try something new. I have the freedom, I have the opportunity. There's a 99% chance I will bomb (have you met my complete lack of discipline?) but... I really want to work.

And not just because I want to go back and buy that sweater. I'm as shocked as you are.

*The boy went down but we were working on hour two, people. HOUR TWO. Right when you think he's learned to self-soothe, he stabs you in the eyes with the pacifier.