And Thank You!

Today is a post of happiness and pleasantries. For the first time in I don’t know how long, it’s not putrid and humid or morbidly sultry out. It’s warm, sunny and breezy. My legs aren’t sweating to high heaven and I don’t have a raging case of road rash on my thighs. This is big, people. You would think I got tossed from moving vehicles ala Fall Guy with all of the heat discomfort I get, which is embarrassing considering I work in a luxurious office all day.

I took a walk for lunch and stopped at the local farmers market. White tents everywhere, bright flowers in buckets on the pavement, a terrible live band playing on the stage. The sounds of the fountain in the center of the plaza, ethnic food stands celebrating this week’s contribution to our melting pot. Fruits, vegetables, breads, and even scary ass live bees at the honey stands mix in with the earthy scent of all of the fresh herbs. Honestly, it’s my absolute favorite place to be in the city from summer to fall. I don’t leave there with a trendy reusable bag full of strategically placed baguette and bundles of bright flowers like the polished women do in every movie I have ever watched, but I do get honey for the boy and berries for myself and just kind of feel part of it all when I am there.

On to the cheese portion of the market. More importantly, those who sell the cheese. I always walk to the Amish stand that sells bakery goods and cheese, for I love the Amish so. Especially the men. No, they don’t always look conventionally handsome and it does appear that they in fact, really do not use any electricity at all. But I will keep this short. They aren’t preoccupied with all of the filler and garbage in life. They build the communities they live in, the furniture they sit in, and they grow righteous beards when they marry in lieu of wedding rings. All of this and cheese too? Sisters, please. Judge all you want, but it makes me want to give it all up and build a cabin somewhere and render my own lard.

The snooty French crepe guy sweats his ass off making sweet and savory crepes for us, all with a look of sheer disdain for the portly Americans waiting in line for his goods. He seems actually annoyed that we patronized his business. I think he just wanted to stand there, be French, and let us all know that he makes crepes that we don’t deserve. But it’s hot, and he wears sexy t-shirts, and I can’t judge him because this post is about pleasantries. Besides he once made me a wickedly delicious fresh blueberry, lemon and goat cheese crepe. To that I say Merci!

I stop over at the fancy natural soap stand, hoping to find fancy, natural women working there. But instead I find a hipster. I ask if any of their fancy natural soaps are suitable for washing my hair with, because my hair is a mess. He says “sure! I do!” and I look at his hipster mop and could feel the grime itching my scalp as we spoke. So no. However, olive oil soap that smells like basil and lemons really should have its place in society. It also doubles as emergency pesto. Thanks, hipster!

I stroll over to buy some giant sunflowers for the older ladies I work with because it just seems like that kind of a fucking day, you know? The flower lady is all sunshine and smiles and acts like anyone would if they were peddling petals all day. By this time, you should just picture me skipping through the crowd, blue birds flying around my shoulders, cellulite free, no debt, and no need to ever wax my mustache again because it mysteriously vanished. Because that’s how I felt. It’s how I genuinely really felt. Moments like this are seriously worth remembering and sharing. To know they exist and will exist again the next time I am feeling like I ate dirty sand for dinner and then had no toilet paper afterward.

I grabbed a delicious cold leek quiche on the go from a pastry stand and ate it on the way back to the office. It was absolutely divine. I walked past a church and made a last-minute call to drop in, say thank you and leave. Regardless of what my thoughts are on religion or God or Buddha or Goddesses or The Golden Girls, someone or something deserved some props for this day. I came back to my office, distributed my sunflowers to the ladies, grabbed a glass of water and then welcomed a visit from my boss who stopped by to show me plans for the new space where I will be Grand Poobah. Honestly, what a soul-sustainer of a day, dudes.

I have some theories on good moments and  the people who worry about the other shoe dropping so much so that the moment is no longer good. It’s two-fold. The first part is that when you wear ill-fitting shoes, the shoe will drop. Just like when you are living in a manner that isn’t you, or when you are making the wrong decisions, or compromising things you shouldn’t. Of course it will drop. The second part is that if you just take the shoes off and skip through the farmers market, you have no shoes to worry about. Only flowers, Amish men and their cheese, and the sounds of the fountain in the center of the plaza. Pleasantries. See?

Bebe

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Cold Red Birds

I haven’t written in quite a while because my heart hasn’t been in it. At all. I have been in a funk for the better part of a year now, with little relief in sight. The last 3 years for me, and my family have been life altering, challenging, depressing, and long. Unemployment, schooling, developmental delays with our son, therapies, career changes, and corporate douche baggery have put me in quite a tight spot mentally and physically.

We suffered yet another set back this past weekend. My husband has a history of back problems and has had two surgeries to show for it. His body gave out on him this weekend and we are back to square one. No work, no school, and quite possibly, no income. It’s not pretty. It just isn’t.

However, in the midst of this latest downturn, I have to admit I don’t feel so defeated anymore. I think that the universe is pushing me to break of out of this funk, this constant shell I have been crammed into, and try to see things differently. I sat down and just tried to concentrate on keeping my mind still instead of wandering off to places unknown on the inside. I say that because in the past few months I have shut down so completely that I actually have a full plan on how to survive the inevitable zombie apocolypse from beginning to end, but couldn’t plan my son’s birthday party.

In doing this I came to the conclusion that I really did just muddle through these past 3 years instead of actually surviving it. I always kind of prided myself on being this human form of the grand canyon. Just let the water take me where I need to go and carve me into shape. I had some ups and downs and a couple of observations and revelations, but the same ferris wheel of shit keeps spinning. The universe keeps bringing me to the same spot, over and over. Obviously, I need to revisit myself before I can get anywhere new.

I am not sure how this is done, but I have some good ideas. I am trying to learn the virtue of being still. Now, I have no problems at all being still physically. That’s a given. But my mind is a spinner. I will worry myself into oblivion about so many things, but never really find a solution. 

Embracing anger, disappointment, boredom and frustration and then letting them go. I love feeling these things, and that’s my problem. I love having layers but they just kind of suffocate me. I was so angry about work, about being the money maker in the family, about my son and his love of hating me, that everything became a chore. The very act of breathing became like a chore to me, and how fucking shallow and mundane is that? It’s just not cool.

My life isn’t a chore. My family isn’t a chore. My job is a chore. But that is so for countless people. After I meditated about this as much as I could, I came out feeling surprisingly calm and collected. Now, this could be that awesome feeling of euphoria before the nervous breakdown sets in. It could be a higher power showing me a lot of mercy and just scaling back the drama so I can make it through this week. I wish I could say I am stealing my husband’s painkillers. But I am not.

I listened to some holiday music with the boy on the way to school and just kind of felt the cold, looked at the trees, and listened to the sounds. It was a rare “in the moment” feeling that helps a day start out nicely and rounds it out successfully. It reminded me of how much joy I get from seeing birds in the snow. Specifically cardinals. Everything is so white and icy and still, until a cardinal flies by and perches on a branch. It stands out, it endures the winter, and it makes all of that white look splendid.

It is a pretty bird year around, but it takes a snow storm to bring out it’s true and fiery beauty.

*Authors Note-I found this photograph online and cannot track down the photographer. It does not belong to me and I do not take credit for it.

Superhero for Hire

2009? What a freaking year…I usually spend my end-of-December making goals, setting a path, examining life and learning, but this winter well, I have been just showing up and seeing what happens.  I admit, I have drug my feet on thinking back over this past year.  It was so huge.  HUGE.  I didn’t know if I should look back and if I did, would I be too overwhelmed?  I was being chicken shit, I admit.

However, Superhero Journal always has a way of making me think about myself and life a lot more thoughtfully and artfully than I usually admit I need to do.  Need is exactly what it is.  I need to do this in honor of this year of my life, if for nothing else.  To honor one of the biggest years I have ever experienced.

Her recent post, Completion Ritual for 2009, got me thinking and on a path to do just that.  2009 was a year of intensity.  There isn’t a better word to describe it for me really.  I entered my last trimester of my first pregnancy, a pregnancy I always hoped I’d have but never allowed myself to daydream about out of fear.  I gave birth to a gorgeous little spitfire who completely opened my heart.  Opened?  Hell, she reached in and grabbed it from my chest Indiana Jones-style and pinned it to the outside of my jacket lapels so it would be exposed to the elements.  So I would feel everything.  Also, sadly yet proudly, I went down to the bottom, the very bottom of despair and halfway back up of one of the darkest periods of my entire life mentally.  I found myself in the process and am fiercely holding on to me as I finish my ascent up to where I want to be.

Everything, every single emotion I felt in 2009 was intense.  There was no room for wishy-washy, no room for blahs or brush-offs.  This was it, man.  This was all of it, all at once, for me to experience.

So here goes my Superhero journey…

1. What do you want to acknowledge yourself for in regard to 2009?
(What did you create? What challenges did you face with courage and strength? What promises did you keep to yourself? What brave choices did you make? What are you proud of?)

Answer: Most importantly, I was allowed to create the life of one of the most beautiful human beings I have ever met.  A little girl so excited for everything, so sure of herself and so easy to laugh, that she makes me a better person for knowing her and we have yet to even have a conversation.  A little girl that showed me exactly the woman I always was and the person I want to be.  A little girl that means absolutely everything to me.

I don’t want to dwell too much on my PPD, what I went through, but I always always always want to give myself compassion for getting through it.  I did.  I got myself to the doctor, I got myself to not get in that car and take a handful of pills, I got myself in a headspace that could survive.  Thankfully I was surrounded by people that loved me and wanted me to stick around, but I did it.  Me.  I have never been so brave, quite frankly.  I will forever be proud of this and I will always look back at this time whenever I face a challenge in the future.

I kept a promise to live for myself and take care of those I love.  I am most proud of this.

2. What is there to grieve about 2009?
(What was disappointing? What was scary? What was hard? What can you forgive yourself for?)

If you asked me months ago I would have said my girls’ birth.  It took quite awhile for me not to be disappointed about how it went down.  Now though, I look back proud.  So, moving on from that…disappointing?  Scary?

I’m not particularly keen on focusing on the negative any longer, regretting, that sort of thing.  There are things I wish I would have done differently.  I wish I would have taken care of myself better: my health, my weight, my alcohol intake, surrounding myself with people that really cared about me.  But I’m working on these things now.  Onward and upward I say!

I forgive myself for not feeling more grateful for everything that is already good in my life.  I forgive myself for my jealousy and hateful feelings towards others.  I forgive myself for not putting my needs first always.

3. What else do you need to say about the year to declare it complete?

(What is your primary intention or theme for 2009? Is it the year of joy? the year of self-care? the year of partnership? Stand up and say it proud, “2009 is my year of….”

2009 was my year of new beginnings!  After all this looking back, all these new themes and feelings and emotional states in my life I’m pretty sure I went through labor in more ways that just for my daughter last year.

So just to sound like a complete god damn hippie, in 2009 I gave birth to myself.  In 2010?  It’s time to get to the task of raising me up right then.  😉

-Lulu

DiST uburbia

Suddenly, my child is 8 months old.  Suddenly, I come home from work and she’s standing at the coffee table on her own knocking everything off the flat surface to the floor and laughing hysterically.  Suddenly, she is eating 3 huge meals a day, plus bottles and still needs snacks.  Suddenly, she crawls away only to come immediately back for a hug.  Suddenly, I’m a mom to a baby, not an infant.

Where has the time gone?  I feel like it’s been a whirlwind of maternity leave, going back to work, dieting then not dieting, caring for the baby, feeding baby, making baby food, fighting depression setbacks, visiting family, hiding from family, smelling her neck, co-sleeping, trying not to co-sleep, and trying to find balance that always eludes me.

Did I mention we even moved in the meantime?  We moved to the burbs.  How cliché, I know.  It was a fast move sparked by a shady landlord, a drunk guy smashing beer bottles in our building, and rising costs of living in the city.

I miss that stupid dirty tiny apartment more than I care to admit.  It was where we brought her home, where she was conceived, where my pregnant self cavorted for 10+ months, the shelter we found upon moving back to the city we loved all those years ago when we escaped our hometown.

The night we moved out we met our new (now old) downstairs neighbor. They are artists from Italy and so very sweet.  They helped us move the huge furniture and refused payment.  Our bottom floor neighbor gave us her address so she could come to our kid’s first birthday.  On the flipside, we’ve been in the burbs for over 2 months and no one has said shit to us other than nearly kill us with their SUV.  I feel so outside and alien here.  Not to mention poor white trash.

I know I hate it here internally for selfish reasons.  For kid reasons?  Oh god it can’t be beat.  A spectacular library with all sorts of kids programs, great books and music and DVDs for us, you name it.  Everything we can walk too, safely at night.  We’re taking her to see Santa soon, who will be riding up in a fire truck in the middle of town.  We’re signing her up for swimming classes, little gym, we take her swimming weekly as a family for free…the schools?  Oh dear sweet god I almost can’t wait for her to start school they are that good, and public.

For her, I love it.  I adore it.  For us, I’m bored out of my fucking skull.

The fact that I haven’t even felt creative enough to hang any artwork or decorate, take pictures, something I used to devote whole weekends too, has not escaped me.  I’m adrift in this white walled, way too quiet apartment lately just trying to find my footing.

Sure, my new life lately is 100% taking care of the little lady, so I wouldn’t have time to wipe my ass if it weren’t for the 8 hours I spend at work.

It’s amazing how all of those moms used to smile and nod at me, they knew.  Those bitches.  They knew the second my daughter was pulled from me I would never be the same.  Not in ways I expected though. I thought I’d worry about protecting her or worry about providing for her sure.  I knew I would find happiness in new ways, but I never thought I would need to mourn the old ways a little too.  I would happily put off my personal interests for storytime at the Library.  My new hobbies are bathtimes, stories and snuggles.

And I am so insanely happy and fortunate.  I don’t lose sight of that.  Oh dear god am I so in love with that little girl.  I get surprised at how these new details of our life excite me.  I find myself telling coworkers no to invites for cocktails after work so I can delight in giving her a bath every night.  I hurried and got groceries yesterday so I wouldn’t miss putting on her PJs.  I long for weekends so I can sit in our house and just play on the floor with her.  I smile when I feel her climbing up my legs for me to pick her up.  Hell, this morning I found myself on Google looking up joining a MOM Group that I could take her too on the weekends.  Dear sweet baby Jesus, what has happened to me?

Yet I admit, there are times I feel restless.  So are these the sacrifices we make for our kids then?  Willingly, we give up our dinner parties, our high heels, our shopping, naps, showers, sex…all those vain materialistic things from our 20’s for a new life of Yo Gabba Gabba and finger paints and suburbs full of stuck up white people.  We do it whole-heartedly, but is it okay to daydream about those vain hobbies for a bit while emptying the Diaper Champ without feeling like you are being a bad mom?

Just to secure my place as a huge entitled asshole, I’ll throw this out there: Is being a mom enough?  How come I keep looking back at that stupid apartment and that big overpriced city and wanting both lives still?  Why don’t I just settle into this role and shut the hell up?

She will leave one day.  I don’t want to find myself 20 years from now not knowing my husband or what in the hell to do with myself now that she’s backpacking in Europe.  I refuse to be a shell, not knowing who I am after she’s gone.  I refuse to get lost completely in raising my children, but at the same time I don’t want to take them for granted either.  I want her to know I’m a person, a whole person that loves her no matter what but still makes time to stay me.

Dear Life: I’m patiently awaiting my guidebook for all this.  Please Mr. Postman, note my forwarding address.

-Lulu

Next week’s subject: Nap?  Nap, hell.  You clean when they sleep.

Super Baby Food

During my kid’s 4-month appointment, my pediatrician, Hot Doc (we either see Hot Blonde Doc or Doc that looks like Blythe Danner from West World fame, it’s always an adventure) advised us to try feeding our daughter solids when we think she’s ready.  To start with a tablespoon and see how she does.

This got me all excited.  But first, a little history.

I breastfed as best I could for 2 1/2 months even though I had very little milk and it was crippling to my self esteem.  I wanted it.  I had a breast reduction when I was 17 so I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t care.  I wanted to make something from my body to give to our child.  My emergency c-section was so awful and clinical that breastfeeding seemed like the only natural thing I had left to do.  But it really didn’t work that well, I was kidding myself.  It took 9 days for my milk to come in.  I did skin-to-skin with her for hours, warm washcloths on my boobs, Mother’s Milk tea that tasted like sticks, oatmeal for breakfast, I stopped taking pain meds from my surgery early.  EVERYTHING. All with the added bonus of having to use an annoying nipple shield every single time she ate, even at 2:00 a.m.

But after it was all done, I am fiercely proud of how hard I worked at it for as long as I did and I would never look at the experience in a negative light. All I have to remember is her little face looking up at me half asleep, throwing her mother a bone and pretending she was getting full from something I was giving her.

Now it’s been a few months of formula feeding.  I don’t cringe giving her formula, I’m not that much of a conspiracy theorist.  It’s just, well, I don’t have any input into it.  The only thing I have to do is make sure we have some.  I give the nice cashier at Target my $24.99 and she gives me a container of powder that some machine lovingly made for my kid.  That’s it.  So the prospect of feeding her solids that I could make really sparked my interest.

I’ve been digging into a few books here and there, but the main one I love is Super Baby Foods.  It’s a mom who wanted to give her very premature twins real food, when it wasn’t a common practice in the 80’s, to help them stay healthy.  She ended up writing a book which is the easiest how-to book I think I’ve ever read.  My sister made baby food for her kids a few years ago, so I did have some resources close to home, and she even recommended this book.  However, like any older sister that wants to “do it herself” this book is helping me feel smart and leaves my sister to enjoy her life instead of being on the phone with me and my 1,200 questions.

Now listen, I barely cook dinners at home.  I work full time and when I get home I make quick meals.  The weekends are when I shine in this department.  That being said, feeding our infant homemade foods for EVERY MEAL was a daunting undertaking to wrap my incredibly busy brain around.  Once I started though, another reason kicked in that got me where it counts: my wallet.

I made 21 servings (1 oz.) of organic sweet potatoes that I baked, pureed and froze all by myself from start to finish in under an hour, for $4.00.  I made enough oat cereal for 3 months for $1.50.  That’s right, I’m a frugal lady.  Sure, my kid will get organic whole foods I can feel good about, but what really gets me all tight in the pants is saving mega $$$ on baby food.

I realize on The Crab Bucket, we ladies like to talk all emotional like.  So book reviews are a little out of the ordinary.  You do whatever you want.  We don’t judge around these parts unless you fill your kid’s bottle with Mt. Dew and leave him in your parked car outside a club while you’re stripping for dollars.  Ladies, use Diet Mt. Dew.  It’s fewer calories for their little bodies.

I, personally, just couldn’t get why it was so important to me, why I got all excited to cook for once in my life, until now.

Feeding our babies, from the second they are born, is our main task.  The professionals sure make us feel that way, anyways.  The hospital weighs them immediately and continue to weigh them to make sure they are gaining.  On the dry erase board in my room I remember writing down every feeding, every poop to make sure everything corresponded.  You have follow up appointments to ensure they gained back their birth weight.  Their weight and height and head circumference is put on charts to make sure it’s growing at the right pace.  Even your car seat is based on how much your kid weighs.

It seems our only job for those first months is keep them alive with sustenance and love.  The love comes natural, if you’re lucky.  The sustenance can come cheaply and healthy and just as easy.

Why wouldn’t those ice cube trays full of frozen avacados make me all giddy?  Of course seeing her eat a spoonful of cereal that I made for her makes me just as melty as those dark mornings on the couch when she’d nurse, occasionally looking up at me to smile or put her hand on my face.

I have come to expect motherhood will completely change me.  But I never thought I’d get all weepy over sweet potatoes going round and round in a food processor.

-Lulu