Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Overheard ... and seen

In the Las Vegas airport, waiting at the gate, over the public address system: "Will the Venezuelan aerobics team please report to baggage carousel 1! Venezuelan aerobics team ... baggage carousel 1! Thank you."


In the San Francisco airport, waiting at the gate, from a early-twenty-something student doing some sort of high-tech internship, on the phone to him mom: "Frankly, Mom, I've learned ... wel, I've learned that Greg is not a very nice person. We're supposed to be sharing a rental car, you know, like you worked out with his mom, but he's always using it and never putting gas in and I don't even get to drive it. You have to call his mom, Mom. I've really changed my mind about him, Mom. I mean, well, I asked him to buy toilet paper because we ran out, and like, just to see what would happen, you know? And, it was like four days and he didn't buy any! What? ... That's not the point, Mom, don't even ask, okay? It was really gross."


Munchkin, muttering to herself quietly, as she clambered up on a chair outside the C-B-, our weekend brunch spot: "This is the chair you sit in when you are sad. You sit with Mommy. On her knee. With a Kleenex. This is the chair you sit in when you are sad."

[Our brunch was marred by tantrums: when she would lose it, I would take her outside to sit on my lap and calm down, explaining that no one wants to listen to yelling toddlers when they are eating their brunch, and that she can't eat pancakes and cry at the same time, so we were just going to relax for a minute, and I would wipe her tears.]


I put Munchkin's clothes on the line to dry. It feels good: the sun is warm and the wind is cooling and the grass is soft and damp under my bare feet; I remember my Mom hanging up our clothes when I was little; it's nice to take a little break from all the reading and writing and planning I'm doing, a simple physical task. I love how they look when I'm done:

A little line of shorts and tshirts and dresses, bright summer colours. I can see them from my kitchen, and from my office. It's soothing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

My sweetiepooper, my baby girl

I'm making lists, lists for home and lists for work, lists that keep the demon insomnia at bay, mostly. Lists encourage my daytime productivity: laundry! bibiographic database! call the contractor! pay residential taxes! rework conference paper! locate boarding passes! They also, though, play into my worst type-A perfectionist tendencies--these lists always have more items added to them than can ever be stroked off, they encourage speed-up, they make me think all tasks are equivalent and equally urgent. And so I try to figure how to order coursepaks (urgent task) and strip wallpaper (not at all urgent task) in the same day, at the same time as trying to plot out three floors worth of structural, plumbing, electrical, and cosmetic renovations to my house when trying to figure out if it's worth insulating either the attic or the second floor or the basement in the next twelve months to get my rebate if it blocks me from making changes later.

Wait. Wasn't this supposed to be a post about Munchkin?

And that's how it's been, lately, me caught up in a fog of urgent and not so urgent details, obsessed with trying to keep a tidy house, a clean house, an organized career while wondering how the hell I can't manage to find 30 minutes of quiet a day for tooth whitening strips.

I sat on the porch yesterday, eating my lunch and plowing through some Erma Bombeck (recall that I'm researching parenting memoirs now)--to be frank, it was a quasi-break. She's a light enough read, and her tales of mothering in the 60s and 70s seem remote to me in some ways: there are no toddlers in Bombeck's oeuvre. But then the sucker punch to the gut, right at the end of If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? Demurring at being called a comic writer, she describes her absolute shock and devastation at her own mother's aging and decline, and her children's growth to adulthood. There's a cheesy bit about not getting terrible handmade Christmas gifts anymore and I lost it.

I'm trying so hard to be everything I was when I was single--organized, tidy, ambitious, thin, stylish, perfect. I'm trying so hard to be everything I think I should be in my mid-30s--accomplished, sophisticated, on the upward track at work. What is happening is that to be these things I'm pushing back against what I most wanted all those years--love, a family, a home.

It's so trite but so true that I'm going to have a lot of years in front of me where no one will leave newspapers all over the dining room table, no one will litter every flooring surface with stuffed toys, mash tiny bags of cookies into powder on the front porch, wipe their boogery nose all over my silk wrap. I can be tidy and perfect later, can't I? The career fast track has many onramps, doesn't it? With four walls and a roof, the house is good enough to live in, isn't it?

I pulled myself together and pulled Munchkin out of daycare. God, she's getting so big, straining out of her 3x clothes now, stomping around like a dinosaur, jumping off the couch and narrating everything. We popped in to Daddy's office to tell him our plans: to the park to see the animals! play in the dirt! go to the grocery store!

I took a lot of photos. Some of them are blurry and imperfect, action shots, life whizzing by so fast:

Some have a tighter focus, character studies. This is the way I see her, the texture of her skin, the quality of an expression, the tilt of her chin, an inner silliness:

We had a wonderful time. I was patient and relaxed, and we just hung out. Three hours of mid-week ... time, together. We examined individual blades of grass, took off our sandals to shake the dirt out, climbed onto riding animals, turned our faces up to the blue sky on the vertiginous swingset. "I'm going really higher, Mom! Really higher!" She's giddy with the motion of it. "Wheeeee! I'm on the swing! Wheeee! It's my very favorite!"

Maybe the day was just too exciting. She woke up at midnight, whimpering from her crib. Still feeling somewhat raw and vulnerable myself, I padded into her room before Pynchon could get there. Patting her and soothing her, I couldn't believe the sheer length, the girlness of her, my onetime baby. "Pick me up," she asked, and Pynchon handed me a bottle, quietly, from the doorway, just like we used to do in another time, another house. We rocked in her chair, and she leaned back into my arms in a way she hasn't done for months, limp and compliant. "Drink, Munchkin," I reminded her as she let the bottle drop onto her chest. "No, you," she asked. And I fed her, feeling the shock of a reflexive, automatic posture gone out of use without my noticing.

Without my noticing. One minute she never leaves my side, and the very next, she swings out of view.

The rest can wait, can't it?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Privacy Survey

Shit shit shit.

I made 300 flyers for this, and I had them this morning, and now they're gone.


Hotel rooms and cocktail parties

There's something soothing, stepping off the elevator into a wide, padded hallway, all the din and the ringing in my ears suddenly hushed and even my footfall disappearing into the silence of busy carpet patternining. Whoosh. The elevator doors close on all the partiers, all the women like me, with nice shoes and fluffed hair and happy smiles and raised voices. Now it's quiet.

I walk down the hallway and the all-encompassing quiet is profound and deeply, deeply calming.

Hooray, hooray, a dinner with my roomates, my absent friends and then a party! A party with giveaway bags and marketing reps but also with more absent friends and buoyed by Redneck and Motherbumper and Amy and Kyla and Bossy and Oh the Joys and Blooming Yaya and Jen and more more more friends I made last year, friends whose happy smiles and hugs of recognition make me comfortable enough to say hello to strangers, to extend my hand to people I've never met, never read, women at the edges of the groupings, clutching their drinks and scanning nametags. Hello. It's nice to meet you. Did you travel far?

I can't do that for long, especially on Pacific time after a mostly-sleepless week in Easter, and I'm tired. As I write this I hear a jazz saxophone echo down Powell street, and I people-watch from our fourth floor room. I let my fatigue settle. I think sleep might come easily to me tonight.

Here's something I'm thinking of: how do we get our selves in that perfect 'between' space, the one between no one is listening and so we don't bother to speak, and the one in which too many people are reading and we take care to moderate our voices? What's the sweet spot, where we are involved enough in a community to feel responsible to be honest and comfortable enough to be real but not so tied up in it that we start to hold back? Because don't we start, mostly, because those hard things, those whispered confidences and confessions, are the things we need to say? Because the social niceties and taboos are killing us?

That's probably not the best lead-out for tonight, but it's what I'm thinking about: how much I have gained from telling my life like it is, how much more I've gained from you all telling your lives as they are, your differences and your samenesses.

It's so nice to be here, here inside my blog and here, here in San Francisco with so many of my favorite bloggers. But the two spaces are different, this here and that here, and I'm trying to figure out how, complementary spaces, neither one the whole story, the full monty.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

BlogHer! BlogHer! BlogHer!


Tonight, I'm bunking down with Assertagirl in the wilds of Toronto's airport district so that we will each be assured of making our early early flights to San Francisco, where we will be bunking down in the Westin with Kyla. Woo! We'll be on the lookout for Bad and Diva in the deadly dull and never short US Customs and Immigration lineup at Pearson, and I'm sure we'll be collecting bloggers into our gravitational mass as the day proceeds.

Gosh, I'm all riled up!

The bag is packed (although now I think I might pull out one pair of shorts, one pair of pants, and a dress--I have a horror of overpacking, and I have to remember that there is swag to factor into the baggage allowance on the way home). The e-boarding passes are printed out. The confirmation numbers are written down.

Are you going? I'd love to see you there, if we've met already--and I'd love to meet you if I only know you digitally. Or is you are lurker and I don't, technically, know you at all :-)

Leave me your plans in the comments! I'll look for you!

This is what I look like when I'm in a huge crowd of people:

Nervous. And shy. I'll probably be stuck to Kyla and Amy, because, well, I already know them and so they're not scary (although, I didn't know them last year, and still I stuck to them. Let that be a lesson to you: watch out for me, I'm a clinger.)


Monday, July 14, 2008

Assorted nonsense

I'm sitting in Starbucks, hard at work on a whole load of important stuff--grad class syllabus! major funding application!--for a meeting tomorrow. Yes, it's 10:00 pm and definitely my bedtime, but my old friend insomnia wanted to have a heart-to-heart from 2:30 am to about 6 this morning, so I'm keeping grad student hours.

I'm at Starbucks, like I said, and on the stereo: U2's 'Gloria', which I used to listen to when working late at night in a total panic when I was in high school. 1988 and 2008 ... conflate.

It's not a bad feeling, actually.


At daycare last Wednesday, as I hustled Munchkin into daycare at the early hour of 10:30 (hey! she's been sleeping in! and eating huge breakfasts! and we take the bus!), my daycare nemesis, B shouted down the hall: "Geez, Louise, could you BE any scrawnier?"

Um, yeah probably I could. Thanks for asking!

Today, I worked from home, so that I could compensate for my princely 4 hours of sleep by taking a nap. Around 4:30, I put on some shorts and sneakers and a clean t-shirt and a leather belt and poured some ice water into a sippy cup and put some graham crackers in my bag: I was happy that I could pick up Munchkin in some play clothes, and with provisions, so we could horse around on our way to the bus.

(You know where this is going, right?)

When I sat on the edge of the daycare sandbox and allowed Munchkin to pour sand over my toes as she nestled her filthy-dirty cookie-covered self into my lap, wrapped in my squeezing arms, B asked: "Do you dress like that to go to work?" [awkward pause] "I mean, not that there's anything wrong with that ... just, it must be nice."


People, she was wearing the same friggin' outfit as me.


Munchkin is getting linguistically very clever. She's been bossy and whiny and tantrummy in all the ways that Two ought to be, and I would be lying if I said the sound of her voice doesn't sometimes grate on my soul. For instance, yesterday morning, her father and I decided we were going to find a new squirrel family for her to live with. Hey, it kept her busy on our walk to Starbucks, looking for her new furry, twitchy family.


Friday morning, we were eating breakfast and the whining was out of control. I stood up and put my face close to hers. "Munchkin. Listen to Mommy. Look in my eyes. That. Is. Enough. No more whining. That. Is. Enough."

She was abashed. She looked at me quietly. I held her gaze for a moment and sat back down to my breakfast. I arranged my yogurt in front of me and picked up my the Local section.

And then: "Mommy? That. Is. Enough reading the newspaper. No more newspaper."



What did I grill? Why, sweet potato fries in a honey-mustard glaze, thanks for asking!

The cell phone is for timing the grilling, and the meat-looking stuff is some chicken for the menfolk (bottom three strips) and some fake chicken for me and Munchkin (two up at the top)

And what do you drink with that? Why, a blenderized (virgin) strawberry daquiri with bendy straw, of course!

Monday, July 07, 2008

A little Hawaiian punch ...

How was Hawaii? Well, my dorm was a little grim ...

But look at the view from my window!

There are flowers absolutely everywhere

Even in the drinks:

Speaking of drinks, Jenifer recommended the 'Lava Flow': I bought this one at The Mai Tai Bar on the upper level of the Ala Moana Shopping Centre. Deeeee-licious on a solo evening jaunt, with book.

Speaking of drinks again (because what's a vacation without excessive alcohol), can you believe that I got carded AGAIN! Dudes, the drinking age is 21 in Hawaii, and I'm 35. My companions marched on into the bar while I was detained by a massive, massive bouncer who checked my Ontario Driver's License, and then stamped my hand. Everyone had a good laugh. And I wasn't even wearing the green sweater!

Alpha DogMa, I know you've waited a long time to see my mustard yellow purse, but how about my new favorite, a lime-green one, leather, on sale at Macy's?

Well, okay, I took a picture of the yellow one, too, just for you:

The best part of buying a new purse (and matching wallet!) was standing in front of the mirror at Macy's, obsessively slinging and reslinging three nearly-identical lime-green bags over my shoulder, taking a full half an hour to make up my mind. I absolutely cannot shop like that at home, and sure, it's a waste of time, but what a delicious waste it is, and I'm soooo happy with my new bag.

Um, did I say 'vacation'? I meant work. Yes, of course. The conference. I gave a paper on community-building and self-reflection in mommy-blogging. Fifty people showed up. It was great! But then, the beach.

I mean, when they give you a sun visor in the conference registration package, you're pretty much compelled to soak up some sun, right? Right?

Friday, July 04, 2008

A little bit of peace

Wow. Your comments on last night's post mean a lot to me. Your support and your understanding and your counsel and your stories, they make me feel a little stronger because if I'm going crazy, I think I'm going to be in very good company, at least.

But today, even after only 4 hours of sleep some good things:

1. Munchkin slept in until 8, and was a perfect dream of a giggly toddler. I brought her to my office on the way to daycare and she was tickled pink to find a balloon in my office and chatted happily with the secretaries. It made me glad to just surprise her like, to find her so happy for such a wee little change in our usually rushed routine.

2. The contractors! Showed up! And although they were here making huge noise and huge mess from 8:15 until after 5, rendering both working and napping by me impossible they: installed the water heater, installed the air conditioner, installed the thermostat, installed the furnace, finished the duct work, replastered all the holes they made in my walls, disconnected an obsolete kitchen range in my office, cut a dryer vent from my foundation. Phew. People? That's it. That's the end of this major round of renos. We're finally done. Heat and water and cooling and laundry. We're done. Amen.

3. Pynchon and I! Went on a date! We went out for a lovely quiet supper together and a long walk down the main drag and then through the neighbourhood. We held hands and talked. We decided, to our mutual relief, that we're not doing anything this weekend, other than shop for groceries. No cleaning. No renos. No long range planning. We're filling up the kiddie pool and looking for recipes for grilled veggies. We've decided to just call a cleaning service to give our house a good scrub while I look for an independent cleaning lady to take care of us on a regular basis.

4. Did I mention the furnace, air conditioner, dryer, water heater and the no more holes in the walls?

I'm taking one of those pills now. I'm going to sleep all night, and then, tomorrow evening, with the house all to myself, I'll curl up with some herbal tea and my bloglines, and hear everyone's news and share some photos from Hawaii, including ones I took just for Jenifer and Alpha DogMa.

Sleep tight, internets.

Eyes Wide Open

I sat in doctor's office, a tight smile pulling my lips against my teeth. "I'm okay. I'm fine. It's really nothing, don't worry."

Pynchon held my arm and leaned in closer to me, whispering support in my ear. The doctor looked at me, kindly. She had nice shoes; she was funny. I liked her. I was embarrassed. We had come together, Pynchon and I, booking back to back appointments for nagging issues we just weren't motivated enough to attend to on our own. I'll go if you go.

Our family doctor was away and the resident, probably, I realized with surprise, younger than us, had ably diagnosed Pynchon's rash and commended him for coming in to treat it. As she explained the treatment and the likely cause, I patted his leg, commending him for his good sense in coming in, showing my support. All aglow from my role as caring wife who was vindicated in her nagging of 'go see the doctor, already, that's not getting better on its own!', I was not really prepared when she turned to me.

"Mimi? What are you here for?" She scrolled through my digital chart, narrating as she went. "Ah, I see you get a lot of sinus infections, oh! And you have a daugther. A toddler? Have you caught another cold, from her?"

"It's nothing ... I'm fine ... don't worry ... it's silly." I just couldn't, suddenly, couldn't say it: I can't cope. I can't sleep. My heart races and my breathing speeds up and I jerk myself away from rest. I lie in bed for hours. I'm so tired I snap at everyone, so tired I can't manage basic household tasks, let alone my very well-paid and increasingly neglected work. I sit in my office and stare at the screen, blankly, dreaming with my eyes open: of rest, an oblivion to wrap around me like a blanket.

I couldn't say: I'm a failure. I'm overwhelmed. It's not like I can't do it all: I can't even do half of what would be just enough. I couldn't say: I'm so desperate for sleep that sometimes I sob from exhaustion, or rage against myself, my own thoughts a poisonous swirl of vicious blame.

Pynchon held my arm, giving it a little squeeze. "It's okay," he said, "you can tell her."

I tried, and I got maybe three words out of my mouth before the tears came, my shoulders shaking. The weight of my failure threatened to crush me to dust. She leaned forward, said soothing things. "You need a vacation," she counseled, "you need to take naps."

I cried harder: vacations are for people who have accomplished their goals, put in their hours, bought groceries for their families, dusted at least once every two months. Naps only seem to ensure that sleep retreats ever further into the nighttime distance, leaving me quietly despairing in a quiet house, too groggy to do anything but worry. Vacations were for people who do not, rather than sheep, count major work deadlines marching across the summer calendar; naps are for people who are not adjusting three times over 9 weeks to jetlag from 3 hour, 6 hour, 3 hour time changes, internal clocks set somewhere in the blank vastness of the Pacific ocean, hungry at midnight, nauseated from sleeplessness at 9am.

We talked. I'm not depressed. I'm anxious and insomniac. I'm very busy and under a lot of pressure and I need my sleep and I simply can't get it. Can't get my brain to turn off even when I have one caffeinated beverage, before 10am, when my bed is used for nothing but rest and love, when the room is dark and quiet, when I'm in bed by 10pm. Can't stop the worry, the fret, the planning. Can't help but tot up the sleep debt in terms of lost productivity to come, a fear of bad moods and ill will. Can't help but blame my own neurotic personality for this problem: when I'm away for work, I sleep soundly and for 8 hours at a stretch. I'm much less comfortable, apparently, at home. How awful.

She wrote me two prescriptions. One, oddly, is for an antidepressant that has a drowsiness side effect. I'm to take this on evenings I feel I'm not going to get to sleep on my own. The other read: "2 days vacation. Naps as needed." This last she wrote for me in hopes of easing my guilt. I'm not sure it's working.

Since our visit to the doctor, I flew to Hawaii (6 hour time difference) and spent a week at a conference, capped off by a red-eye flight home. I have been in complete disarray since my return and parenthood means I can't go to bed at 6pm when I'm overcome by drowsiness, and can't even sleep past 6am, when I'm pulled out of sleep as if from the ocean floor. I can't think, and I'm too exhausted even to pass the time in housework.

I feel broken and ashamed. I feel powerless, and, more than anything, I feel so very, very tired. I just needed to tell someone, and everyone here? Is asleep.