Friday, July 23, 2010

The Not Dark Enough Midnight of My House

As you know, I'm kinda an insomniac. I spend a lot of time lying in bed, trying to get to sleep. Or get back to sleep if--heaven forfend!--I have to get up to go pee at night. In any and all cases, utter darkness is best. I like to snap off my reading light and have that moment of panic where I can't tell the difference between my-eyes-are-open and my-eyes-are-closed.

I rarely get to experience this panic.

It's not like it's bright enough in my room that I can see my fingers when I wave them in front of my face after I turn the light off. It's bright enough in my room that I could paint my fingernails after I turn the light off.


Part of the problem is the 'character' and 'charm' of the hundred-year-old house, where the door to the master bedroom has so shrunk that the latch no longer catches and the door has to be held shut with a garbage can. Or that the door in question has in fact shrunk so much that even when fully closed (with the garbage can) a fairly sturdy halo of light still penetrates the jamb around the entire perimeter. Nor even that the self-same door is shrunk so spectacularly that one of the wood panels has split and admits light through its very damn centre.

No. The main problem is Munchkin, and her need for the hallway light, compounded by the regrettable placement of this light square in the middle of the three foot hallway span that separates our rooms.

If you were to go look up there right now (you could see quite well; every damn light is on) you would notice that Munchkin's door is 'halfway open', with the effect of the hallway light being strong enough on the head end of her bed that you could count her eyelashes with no extra illumination.

Sometimes, when she's well and truly asleep, we'll close her door to a simple two-inch gap, and turn on a more distant hallway light (it's a really big hallway; there's three different, separately switched light fixtures, not counting the two in the two stairwells. Really.) while we switch off the one that so offends me. And then sometimes, when we're well and truly asleep, she opens her door up all the way again, and turns the light back on.


What we never do is turn the light off completely. Sure, when we do that, I fall asleep like a champ--but then Munchkin screams me awake sometime between midnight and dawn, in high dudgeon about "MY LIGHT! MY HALLWAY LIGHT IS NOT ON!"

As it is, she wins. Me, I pull strands of my own hair across my eyeballs. I hold my palms tight against my eyes when I make the high-wattage 20 foot walk down the hallway to the bathroom, and back again. But it rarely works. The lights are killing me.

The long dark midnight of the soul? I wish.

On the upside, with all the lights on, Munchkin now has no qualms about getting out of bed in the middle of the night to go pee all by herself, then put herself back to bed. We know she's done this because she tells us. And she doesn't flush.

I'll sleep when I'm old, right?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

My Yoga B0dy

It's hot.

Thursday night, Pynchon and I went together for our weekly yoga date. It was so hot and muggy, we drove, instead of biking. I've never really done much yoga in the summer, and not in a third-floor studio in a hundred year old building in a heat wave.

It was really hot.

Unrolling my mat onto the hardwood floor? Um, a little warmish. Sitting quietly in virasana and meditating? Too hot. Standing and raising my arms above my head? MUCH TOO FRIGGIN' HOT. Three minutes into class, I tore my shirt off in a fit of heat rage. I chucked it on the floor behind me.

So now I'm in a yoga class with something like 15 other people, and my husband, and I'm wearing quite small and tight yoga shorts (like abbreviated mid-rise bike shorts) and one of those fancy-shmancy Lululem0n yoga bras that is essentially just a really short, lined tank top.

Holy Jesus.

When I started doing yoga, about a year and a half ago, I was really intimidated by all the hard bodies and the fancy clothes. The kind of competitive athleticism of it. I had some oversized, very long shirts (to hide my very squooshy post-baby tummy) and dark, wide velour track pants (to hide my lumpy legs). Really, I've never been one to want to show off my body in this context; since I've given birth, at least, I'm pretty sure my body looks a lot better with clothes on.

Don't worry--this post isn't going where you think it is.

As I do more and more yoga, my clothes have got a bit tighter, and a bit shorter, for a couple of reasons. First, as my teacher is always telling us, the more advanced student isn't one who does 'harder' poses, but one who does all her poses with a greater degree of control or precision. So if my teacher is going to help me refine my trikonasana (Triangle Pose), she needs to see the arch of my back foot, the outer calf muscle in my front leg, the state of my inner thigh on the back leg. Second, I'm working out a lot harder now that I'm stronger, and holy mercy, I'm too hot bundled up to the neck in all my layers of layers.

It was hard for me to move from full long pants to shorts, though, and it was sheer heat exhaustion that prompted that purchase. Now I can see when I bend over into uttanasana (Forward Fold), for example, that my legs have wrinkles. When the hell did that happen? But I can also see--holy crap!--that every leg muscle engages and that I'm becoming very, very strong. I can see that when I lift my pinky toe, there's a carving of muscle up the side of my calf. I can still see leg wrinkles, and ingrown hairs, and more spider veins than I care to acknowledge, but overall, the feeling I get--get this!--is of strength, and beauty.

I feel beautiful at yoga. Not beautiful in the sense of sexually attractive, but beautiful in a kind of physiological, anatomical sort of way: all these muscles and bones and ligaments and skin, all working in a unit, making this beautiful shape--a straight line from ankle to to hip, a long spine. A strong shape, controlled but free.

And so when I took my shirt off, and felt the bareness of my poochy tummy, my knobby scarred back, my million moles, I was self-conscious for about 10 seconds. Then I just felt the relief of having removed the sticky t-shirt, and the beauty of a long stretch. Shit, I went upside down with no shirt on, and with a purple face and a belly button now significantly closer to my ribcage than before, I felt, again, beautiful, doing a tall forearm balance. Open from the heart! Floating ribs back! Push up through the heels! Strong. Powerful.

When I started doing yoga, if I may be frank, I was hoping to hit some kind of moment where my tummy might be flat, or my butt might get a little higher, where I wouldn't want to hide in my baggy clothes. What's funny is that I guess I've hit that moment of not wanting to hide, but it's not because the outer form of my body has changed all the much (you can see that I've got stronger, better defined muscles, but yoga doesn't do much about cellulite or that band of extra belly skin that resulted from pregnancy). It's because I see my body differently now, at least when I'm on the mat.

I'm not going to be marching around the studio in my bra as a habit, but if I have to rip my shirt off again, on pain of fainting from the heat, I don't really think I'll worry about it. Oh, how wonderful!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Nightmares and Demolition

In the last year, I've had one nightmare that recurs. It goes like this. Pynchon and I take possession of a new house. The dream starts with me just inside the threshold, confused. I'm trying to have a good attitude, but I'm surprised. Sometimes the surprise is that I'm in a different house at all, that it turns out we've sold our house and moved somewhere new. Sometimes the surprise is that the new house that we've moved into is ... gross.

This is where the dread starts.

I move deliberately through the new house and try to stay calm: it's much smaller than the house we've given up; the kitchen has a puddle of water in the corners; the dining room has a six foot ceiling; there are metal bunk beds in the cavernous but rotting basement; the second floor is accessed through a claustrophobic crawl space; once, memorably, there were tigers in Munchkin's new room. The general vibe is dank and brown and 70s shag.

This is where the panic starts.

I start to try to 'remember' why we sold our house to move here, realizing with a punch to the gut that it was the wrong reason, the wrong thing to do, oh my God, can we undo this, can we get our house back, no no no no no. Sometimes at this point in the dream I'm screaming and flailing in anger, but other times, I'm wailing and sobbing with utter heartbreak.

Then the dream just kind of continues, the awful house reveals its full awfulness, I try to cope by suggesting improvements, I desperately try to convince Pynchon to try to get our other house back, I tear at my own soul for being so stupid as to sell it in the first place, and then eventually I wake up.

I've had this dream probably once or twice a month since the business with the condo developers started. This week, I've had it every night. Every damn night, and, bonus, during my nap this morning.

Chew on that for a minute, okay?


So, it seems I'm not over the whole forced-sale-of-the-house business yet. Although, interestingly, the house I usually seem to be freaking out over losing in these dreams is our new house, not the first one (usually).

The condo sales are going ... not so well over there, apparently, which is why more than two years after we were forced out of this--

--it was still just sitting there, forlorn, blinds down, weeds growing.

Oh yeah. With this stuck on the lawn:

Suddenly this weekend, though, the developers tore the porch off. (I can easily enough keep track of when this happens, as I live, remember, 500 feet away). And today, up went the hoardings and in came the machines. Munchkin and I drove by on the way home from preschool to take pictures. "That's an old house, Mom! Look at that old house!"

Are they tearing it down? Now? Is this the source of the nightmares?

And what does it mean, this constant, repeating nightmare. Is it so literal as this? Or am I worried about a metaphorical homelessness? I did just submit my tenure package, a pretty stressful process that brought out, let me be frank, the worst in me. Maybe I'm feeling only tenuously rooted now that my whole future is up in the air. That seems reasonable.

Pynchon quite reasonably notes that we sold that house for a huge profit, enough to finance the 500-foot move into a much better house on a nicer street and have money for renovations and now we have lovely neighbours and no one can put a condo on top of us here. True.

So what's the dream about then? What do you think?

* PS: compare the house pictures. Notice there's a new highrise behind the house? That's the condo behind us that got announced as an infill project the day we moved in. Condo fever!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dinner During Dora

Cloud had a great idea for a series of posts on "Dinner During Dora"--you know, meals that you can whip up in the time between "Hey, are you ready to explore!?" and the final "Click!"

That's 22 minutes if you're using On-Demand cable, or DVD, which we do. Go!

Felafel During Dora:

You need:

* red onion
* tomato
* avocado
* lemon juice
* mayonnaise
* felafel mix
* pitas (I like to use tortillas instead -- less bread-y)

You do:

1. Mix felafel mix in a bowl according to directions: it should look a tiny bit soupy, but let it sit for a few minutes to start to thicken into a paste.

2. Peel and chop the avocado; in a medium sized bowl, mash it together with a tablespoon or so of lemon juice, and about a half cup of mayo. Dice a smallish tomato, and about a quarter cup of red onion, and stir in. This is the sauce.

3. Shallow fry the felafel: fill a frying pan about 1/2" deep in cooking oil. Heat it up to medium high. Roll felafel mix in your hands into Little-People-figurine sized balls. Fry on one side for about three minutes until golden brown. Flip 'em over and fry for another three minutes. Remove them from the pan onto a plate with some paper towels: blot!

4. Open the pitas. Spread thickly with the sauce. Drop or crumble fried felafel balls onto the sauce. Roll up and secure with a toothpick.

5. Serve with a simple green salad. (This stuff is FILLING.)

I usually have enough time to set the table, even, when I make this. Do you guys like felafels? God's gift to vegetarians, if you ask me. Yum! And meatatarian Pynchon often requests this meal, hooray.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Absence and the heart

"Oh, the liquor was spilt on the barroom floor! And the bar was closed for the night! The house mouse peeped from his little mouse house! In the glow of the pale moon light!"

What the hell is she singing? Pynchon and I exchanged confused looks as we zipped up the 401 to this unexpected musical accompaniment. The mouse, it turns out, drinks all the spilled liquor off the floor and gets belligerent, looking for the 'gol-darned cat!' Gramma had been coaching Munchkin on the lyrics the whole week she'd had Munchkin to herself Way the Hell Up North.

While Munchkin was on her holiday Up North, I was in England, at a conference, and Pynchon had to stay in Small City to work a ton of overtime, and so our whole little household blew apart to the winds for a week, with no Internet or phone connections between us. And when Pynchon collected me at the airport, and then we collected Munchkin at her Auntie Soosee's, we all looked at each other afresh.

Holding down the home front by himself for the week, Pynchon secured his dream job, full-time and permanent. On her holiday, Munchkin learned how to swim and was determined to now tip the scales at a full 50 pounds. Away in England, I tried to get by for a week with no Internet, by doing yoga on the pebble beach at Brighton. I got a tan. Things are different; we are different.

It's amazing what happens, sometimes, when you give everything a little breathing room.

So, err, yeah. You can see the segue into the blog business coming, right? The blog has had several months of breathing room. I didn't quit, but I didn't write. And now coming back and having a look around, I am both amazed by the detail and richness of the record of my life that's contained here and also by the really incredible community of support and friendship in which it circulates. Circulated? There's a lot of stuff from Munchkin's early years I would not remember if I hadn't written it down here; there's a lot of Stuff from Munchkin's early years I felt at the time like I would not have survived if you hadn't supported me.

But do you know the most amazing thing that's happened since I started this blog? I became Mom. It's a role I now inhabit fully, like I have mothering toes and mothering hair follicles and mothering knuckles. I don't feel like I'm ... pretending, or faking, or muddling, or not-quite-mom-enough yet. That feels pretty good--it feels natural, or at least naturalized, now.

(Yeah. We've got all our ducks all in a row over at our hizzouse.)

I certainly don't mean to suggest that I'm perfectly confident, or free of ambivalence, or well-accomplished, or not sometimes pulled in different directions by different parts of my life (mother, wife, woman, professor, sister, daughter, researcher). That's not it. Rather, I don't think that "Mom" is someone I'm not sure how to be. It's what I am, already, even as some of the tasks associated with the position are ones I haven't tackled yet. Dealing with ever-changing new stuff is part of "Mom," so I guess I'm doing it right.

And so, thinking about what "Mom" means has lost some of its urgency for me, and maybe this is why blogging has lost some of its urgency for me. There is a kind of irony in blogging, a kind of 'meta-' to it, as though writing about what it meant to be a mom would turn me into a mom that knew what it meant to be a mom. I think I know, now.

But I like doing this; I like writing about my family life, if only so that I can remember it later. I like sharing it with however many of you still haven't moved me to the 'defunct' folder of your reader. I have other things going on now, too, now that mothering has become more verbal, more interpersonal, and less physically and psychically gruelling. I'm doing a lot of yoga; I'm more and more engaged in my research work in social media; I am working on my home reno and interior design skills.

All the blogging guides tell you this: find your niche. Maybe it's your passion, maybe it's strategic, but find your little corner of the world and work it like crazy. Do that one thing and do it, do it, do it. So blogging as a new mother seems likely to succeed in the standard ways--pull together an audience, get some numbers, get known, in that small niche. That was then. Blogging for me now, like my mothering, is more diffuse, not so reliably niche-y. More like my life now: really full, but not of the same thing all the time.

"Mimi on the Breach"--it was about me, ostensibly, right from the start. "Me," when I started this (Christ--FOUR YEARS AGO), was about trying to get a toehold on this whole 'Mom' thing. "Me," now, is about more things, not instead of but in addition to mothering. So I guess we'll see what happens now.

Goodness, back when I started, 'Miss Baby' was two months old and went to bed at 2am. I had three reliable commenters (Her Bad Mother, CinnamonGurl-that-was, and Bubandpieand-that-is-now-Bea. Imagine!), and a total weekly readership of six people. Now I get more PR pitch emails every week than I used to have legitimate readers. Weird.

How about you? Are things changing for you? How are your families? How are your lives?