Summer of Independence

Child blowing bubbles in park

It’s still weird, the silence in the house. I wander around the living room, puttering, putting away toys and books and crayons. I make tea and sit by the kitchen table waiting for the water to boil. I suppress the urge to peek out the front door, walk down our driveway and look across the parking lot to the grassy area where Sam is playing with the neighborhood kids.

It’s a recent development, this sudden burst of independence—last year, at four-and-a-half, he was too young to wander far from our front porch. But this year, it’s a regular occurrence. A couple of kids knock on our door and Sam swooshes past me to put on his sandals, standing still just long enough for me to smear some sunscreen on his neck and face.

He usually returns sweaty and muddy, with the names of new friends and tales of new adventures spilling from his lips, as he chugs ice-cold water and kicks off shoes.

We have our rules: You don’t go into other people’s homes. If you see a gun or anyone playing with a gun, you run home like a motherfucker (we don’t use that word, of course, but in my mind that’s how it goes.) You don’t get into anyone’s car. You don’t accept candy or food or drink without asking me first. You don’t help a stranger look for a puppy or a bike. You don’t go out onto the street.

Read my latest on Brain, Child

A book!

I almost started out this post by explaining and sort of apologizing for the title — it’s not really “my” book or anything… But I will not explain and apologize, because I am proud to be included in Full Grown People’s next anthology: Soul Mate 101 and Other Essays on Love and Sex.

 

Soul-Mate-101-coverthumbnailThe book will be available mid-September, but you can pre-order now! I am excited to be sharing space in a real book with other great writers. And Drew is excited that something that I wrote about him made the cut.

I also wanted to take a moment to welcome all of my new followers! Suddenly there are a lot more of you thanks to this post that sort of-kind of went viral. I am used to it that it’s usually my mom (hi Mom!) and my brother (Hey there!) and a few friends reading my blog. But now there’s a lot more of you. So yay! And welcome!

Retail Therapy

Tangled hangers drive me crazy. I usually don’t have the patience to untangle them, but the whole purpose of this exercise is to untangle, tidy, clean, organize.

retailtherapyI flop on the bed next to the piles of clothes and work on the hangers for a few minutes until I can line them up, all of them facing the same way. I hang them back in my closet, at the far end, so that when I need a hanger I can just reach back there for a fresh one. How very grown-up—this supply of hangers.

It’s been over a year since I moved my clothes into this closet. It’s the biggest walk-in I have ever had, but I have to share it with my husband—his shirts hang there, in order by color and day of the week. Light baby blues, some yellow, grassy green ones, a few whites. All one-color, the same conservative Oxfords. A couple of khaki pants, suits. One hanger with ties. That’s all he has. That’s all he needs.

My clothes threaten to spill over onto his side. Shoes are piled on the floor and in two shoe racks. My feet have gotten bigger since my son was born and I can’t face the fact that I have to get rid of so many pairs. The shelf running on top of the bar with the hangers is packed almost to the ceiling—once these were tidy piles of sweaters and t-shirts and jeans, but now they are a jumble of fabric, most of it unreachable.

I haven’t been sleeping well. Stuff wakes me at 2:00 a.m. or 3:00 a.m. every morning, and some days I stare in the darkness into the closet with its military precision on one side and its bohemian confusion on the other. Maybe this is what’s not letting me sleep, I think, this mess, this disorganized void staring back at me.

I drink a glass of wine every night for a few nights and that helps.

Read the full story on The Butter

Writing Revenge

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She hated the mornings the most.

Her muscles ached from lifting the kids, from carrying the laundry basket up and down, up and down, from sitting on the floor for hours after school, playing, pretending.

Always pretending.

All she wanted to do in the mornings was light a cigarette and get to work just like that, in her ragged t-shirt and shorts, her eyes still crusty from sleep.

But no. The children woke as soon as they heard her stir and were on top of her, their long limbs around her waist, hands in her hair, sticky, wet kisses on her mouth and cheek. She struggled to get out from under their wiggly weight, away from their giggles and sweet morning breath. She had things to do.

Read the rest and vote for it on Mash Stories!

Hair and boobs

On the morning of my 39th birthday, I was grateful for two things: my hair and my boobs.

There were other things too, of course – the way Sam buried his little face in my hair at 5:30 in the morning. The way he and Drew planned how to surprise me with breakfast and cake and presents.

But my hair and boobs were on my mind the most because in the week leading up to my birthday, one friend had to shave her head and another friend found out she might be losing her breasts.

I sort of hate to feel gratitude like this—it seems like such a selfish feeling. Like by being grateful I am saying that I am grateful that YOU have this horrible disease and not me. I am grateful that I have my hair, but too bad about yours. That’s clearly not what I want to feel. So rather than grateful, I feel cautious, suspicious: maybe this thing didn’t get me—yet—but the next thing will. If it’s not cancer or divorce or a sick child, it will be something else. There’s always something else.

I am 39. I still don’t get a lot of things about life. Eyeliner. Why boys don’t call when they say they would. I am pretty crappy at marriage and I am winging this parenting thing every day. I am baffled by love and most cake recipes. I am at a crossroads in my career. I had hoped for more certainty by now, more wisdom, more knowledge of how the universe works.

Instead I am finding that the only thing I am certain of is the randomness of it all. Of the many, many ways life can be lived and the many, many ways life can turn and change in a second, without much consideration for what I have planned. A chance doctor’s appointment, a weird lump, a driver with a bad morning, an airline pilot with the wrong anti-depressant, a loose screw in the machine—none of it is up to me.

All of this is unsettling, especially when the bad stuff is happening to people I know. But the bad stuff makes me even more aware of how we are in this together, how over time we all grow our own tribes—some distant, some not. I never dreamed of having a tribe so far-flung and random as the one I have now. The happiness, the everyday silliness, the heartache, the pain, the diseases—it is all so close to me as I scroll through names of friends and acquaintances. Years and years ago, without all of this fancy technology, none of their pain would have been mine—and none of their joy, either. I would not have known about shaved heads or lumpy breasts or broken marriages, or sick babies. But now I do, and I can’t un-know any of it. The news pulls me in and I feel helpless in its face.

I am 39. And I still feel ill-equipped to react like a grown-up. I still don’t know the right words, I feel awkward and tongue-tied when my distant tribe needs comfort. I want to be there – but instead all I do is read their bad news and sit with it, taste its gritty, bitter chunks, feel its sadness, its stupidity, its unfair, luck-of-the-draw freakishness. I hate it. I don’t feel grateful that this time it’s not me—I feel pissed that it’s someone at all. I still foolishly believe that these things can’t happen to me, when I KNOW that they can. My heart aches for my friends and the rest of me feels numb and paralyzed with fear for them and fear of what and when comes next.

As I was appreciating my hair and my boobs that morning, I was also thinking about how little we can ask from the universe. Pretty much just this—to be kept whole. Healthy. Close to sweet baby skin. And that’s about it. Wishes about careers or money seem like a luxury. So what?

So here we are. I am 39. I have learned nothing. I have boobs. And hair. And not much else is certain.

Buying Self-Confidence (and Belts) at Taekwondo

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Illustration by Abigail Gray Swartz

My 5-year-old son bounced toward me with his new trophy and his bright-white taekwondo belt that he had just received from his master. “Mama, look, I did it,” he said, beaming, as we embraced. “We are so proud of you,” my husband said as he took a turn hugging him.

Just a little over two months ago, during his first taekwondo class, my son sat on my lap and cried. “This is too hard, mama,” he said, sobbing. “I can’t do this.” But we stayed for the class, and by the end he was intrigued enough that he wanted to come back. So we did. And now here he was, taking his first test to receive his first belt.

But if I want to be honest with myself, he failed the test. He messed up his form and forgot one part completely. His master was standing right in front of him and helped him out quickly when he stumbled. He gave him an encouraging lecture about respecting his parents. And then he told him that he passed the test. Which he clearly hasn’t. Not really, not objectively.

The full story is on Motherlode

 Copyright 2014, The New York Times Company.

My Husband’s Always Traveling. How Is It Affecting Our Son?

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Last night my husband’s suitcase was on our bed again. I hate to pack, but I like to help him because I know that otherwise he will look like a sad, worn-out businessman at his destination. I can fit about a week’s worth of shirts and ties and sweaters into his carry-on, and they usually make it to Chicago or Cleveland or Richmond or Kansas City without a wrinkle.

We moved about a year ago for my husband’s job and a promotion, and now that things are going really well for him, his trips come more and more frequently.

I am excited for him. We are young, not yet 40, so when should he move up and ahead in his career, if not now? He loves his job and wants to feel like what he does matters in the world. But lately I’ve been feeling uneasy about his days on the road. What is the purpose of all this? What are we sacrificing as a family?

Read the full story on The Mid