Dishwasher

It’s the dishwasher making that awful sound. The whirl and the guttural bellow shaking the counter with it’s perverse gyration. It’s just the dishwasher, a middle class to some, upper class to most, appliance that cleans and disinfects my pots and pans and glassware so I needn’t spend an hour of back breaking labor hunched over the sink; letting the clean water run down the drain where no one will get to drink it. It’s the dishwasher that leaks and overflows onto my laminated kitchen flooring which I often stand and stare at wistfully wishing it to magically turn into hardwood.

I am complaining about my dishwasher- the thing I have to make my life more convenient-while people are dying.

People are always dying. Not to be morbid, just actual. People are dying every day, every hour, every minute another goes. It’s the biggest part of life and it’s the hardest to explain. I looked at my little blonde headed daughter this evening and wondered when it was time to tell her that everyone’s life as they know it ends. When do you tell children such things? Before they see it for themselves? A bug. A pet. A flower. A leaf. Death feeds life.

I am thinking of all those things as I am listening to my dishwasher’s death rattle and wondering what sounds Israeli mothers are listening to tonight. How they might be wondering how to tell their child about the death of a loved one. How they might be mourning the death of their own loved one. Their own baby. I am listening to my dishwasher in frustration and in shame because I was angry at being inconvenienced by a first world appliance that spews fresh water while Mothers hold their breaths waiting to see if the pain of loss will subside long enough to live another minute. That they are afraid to close their eyes and lose the image of their child, their home as they knew it to be only a few days ago.

And I have no rationale left. No linear thought. So I sit, hating the dishwasher while mothers cry in the dark. And I rise to turn the stupid thing off. And I fall on my knees. And pray for a peace that passes all understanding, even when I don’t believe.

Schedule of a Work From Home Mom

6:46 am- Email notifications blinking on phone. Rush downstairs in underwear before child wakes to read through them in peace, star the ones that need attention, pour two cups of scaling coffee down gullet, proceed to open windows and links you will have no time to read.

6:54- Whiny child descends downstairs. She needs some milk. she needs a graham cracker. She needs to pee. She needs to hold my face while she spews morning breath all over my half written email on my phone and cry until she is sufficiently settled on the couch with a Curious monkey brightly displayed on the television. Distraction complete. Back to computer.

7:02- Brood with growing anxiety that you have used the television as a babysitter so you could respond to a few people that are integral to your job performance. Decide that while you’re wallowing, you should multitask and pay bills.

7:03- Realize bills cannot be paid until you complete the work that is still staring at you, blinking, from now, 5 open windows.

7:06- Decide it’s for the good of your child that you have chosen to work from home, shrug off the guilt by promising to whip up nutritious lunch.

7:34- Child catches on that you are attempting a phone call. Decides to remove all articles of clothing and scream into receiver that you are not listening to her. Apologize and promise you’ll call again later for more details knowing that he will never pick up the phone for you again.

9:37- Child in same spot on couch as two hours ago. Has now spread peanut butter along the arm but you have decided that 20 minutes of silence is worth the clean up. Back to the writing and the emailing and the posting and the calling.

10:34- Growing anxiety of trying to monitor child and complete work has life of its own. You need a break from the stress and get up for another cup of coffee. You make another pot, take a breath, say a prayer.

Noon- No work has been done. You are exhausted. Your kid has peed on the floor. Twice. Just to get your attention. You decide a change of scenery would be good for both of you. You attempt Panera for mac and cheese and stare longingly at all of the other stay at home moms who do not have blinking phones and open windows and are staring lovingly into their child’s cheese smeared faces. You hate them. And then you cry. And then you stop because thats stupid. You walk next door to Petco and ooooooohhhh and ahhhhhhh with your three year old about the glow in the dark fish. You feel like a great Mother. You are a great Mother.

12:48- You put child in the car and pray she falls asleep. Please fall asleep. Please for the love of God fall asleep. You are a terrible Mother. Terrible.

1:48- Child finally falls asleep. You are out of gas. You have 13 percent left on your phone. You park and call back in a whisper and have a phone conversation uninterrupted, sitting in your driveway like a weirdo.

2:06- You bring your sleeping child inside to her bed and say Hail Marys to keep her down for at least an hour. You are not Catholic. You don’t think Mary will mind.

3:02- You have made a phone call. You have written three emails and established new contacts. You have written a decent story, with pictures. You are amazing. You can do this. You love this. Super Mom. You are Super Mom.

3:03- She wakes up. You hate this. You turn off the computer because it keeps notifying you of more shit you need to do that you will now not have time to do. You have no groceries to make dinner.

3:30- You throw crabby, disheveled child in the car with the promise of an ice pop to the grocery store. You check emails waiting in line to checkout. Your kid climbs out of the cart while you are distracted and hits her elbow. She screams. You are the lady in the line with the cart full of groceries and a screaming child because you were looking at emails on your phone. You want to scream, “It’s for work! I’m not trolling instagram!” They won’t care. You shouldn’t care. Your kid is crying and you are not thinking about if she could be really hurt. Are you hurt? You assess. Red marks. There will be a bruise. You put phone away. You cry.

4:47- Recheck emails- Did you open this? Did you see this? Did you respond to this? Happened when you put your phone away. You stir dinner on the stove while you click out responses. you burn your finger. Your kid is now rolling in the peanut butter on the couch that you forgot to clean. Husband comes home. How was your day? You cry. Wonderful. You put child in bath.

6:04- Dinner, fed, cleaned, family time spent worrying about what I could be missing elsewhere. Chastise myself for not being present with my family. Hide my phone. throw tablecloth over desktop.

10:45- Husband took bedtime duty-AGAIN- so you could finish working. It should only take a few minutes.

12:36- It did not only take a few minutes. Go upstairs. Check in on sleeping child and husband. Hit pillow. Repeat tomorrow.

Let Me Try Again

I heard it.  I was upstairs in the bathroom at my Mother’s house and she was outside with her newly minted Aunt and Uncle, attempting to ride a scooter just a tad too big for her.  And I heard it as I went to wash my hands before opening the door.  The wail.  Not the attention seeking-I-didn;t-get-my-way wail, but the one that says, “This one actually hurt, Ma” wail.

I came down the stairs to find my little one in the arms of my sister, dribbling blood from her mouth.  We assessed that she had bitten through the inside of her bottom lip, after hitting it on the handle bars of the scooter.  It looked painful.  It looked bloody.  After peering inside and confirming in my best, I’m-not-a-doctor-I-hate-blood kind of way that it would not require a trip to the ER, we got an ice pack from the freezer, wrapped it in paper towels, and proceeded to try and soothe her.  Unsuccessfully.  She was crying so hard that she was stuttering, the halting, half hyper-ventalating cry when you can’t catch your breath and the words you’re trying to say are swallowed by your grief.  It took a few moments before we could work out what she was saying.

“I-I-I-I waaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhnnnnnnt t-t-t-t-t-to try ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhgain.”

She was frustrated.  Not with her injury, but with us.  We were standing in her way of going back outside and getting back on.  My sister asked her if she was ready to go back outside and try again and the tears immediately stopped.  She handed me her bloody paper towel and walked right out the back door.

 

When I have attempted something new that I have never done before and I, potentially, fail, even if it’s the first time, my initial response is NEVER to get back on.  Try again.  I will return to what I know I can do.  And quickly.  But that’s not what we’re called to do, is it? I seldom live like God is bigger than earthly circumstance, even pain. It’s hard for me to see the big picture.

Ellie hasn’t learned how to ride that scooter yet.  But she hasn’t given up, either and it does not affect how she sees herself, or how she knows I see her.  A brave, brilliant girl unafraid.

That’s how we look to Him when we try.

Happy Monday.

Do it Anyway

I am writing a book.  That’s as pretentious sounding in print as it is coming out of my mouth so I figured I’d just get it over with.  I am not a professional writer.  I do not have an agent to speak of.  I haven’t traveled all the continents, had a near death experience, or went to graduate school to become an expert in something useless, but book worthy.  I am writing a book anyway.  It is my first.  I have written bits and pieces over the years, mostly fiction, mostly for children, but this is neither.  I co-wrote a bi-lingual children’s book almost 7 years ago now that we self-published, but this is the first one by myself.  I am both uncomfortable and excited about the idea.  It is nothing new.  It’s the same old story as everyone else, but new because it’s mine.  And it’s necessary.  I didn’t realize how necessary until I was laying awake, narrating my own stories in my mind- with proper punctuation.  I must write it out to stop the narration.  In some ways, I think it might be my big f-you to the MFA grad program I desperately wanted to get in to, and didn’t.  The one I thought I needed in order to write this book I’ve been sitting on.  In other ways, it’s a way for me to remind myself of what I’ve lost and gained- I need reminding every day.  It’s been a way for me to express my joy, my doubt, my disgust and reaffirm what I believe.  How being a daughter, a friend, a wife, a mother has shaped me. And there’s a lot about food, too.  Would it be truly be mine without much talk about food?

All this to say,  though I won’t be taking a break from the blog entirely- in fact, hopefully, there’ll be a makeover pretty soon- that I will need to spend every creative inch I have into the running manuscript on the glaring screen first and unfortunately, you will get what is last.  Don’t be offended, it’s for the good of the cause.  

Pray/send good thoughts my way if you think of it. It’s been hard work to convince myself it was worth doing.  To decide that it will yield no fruit, gain no ground, perhaps touch no lives- and to do it anyway.  Because I have to. Because some part of me was crafted to do this.  This has already been quite the adventure. 

May it be the encouragement you needed this morning to forge ahead with what you’ve always longed to do and stop waiting for it to happen to you.  Everyone perhaps has told you not to- that it’s irresponsible or reckless or too childish.  Do it anyway.   Do it anyway and see how big God is, how great his arm span, how beloved you are. How there was a part of you that was shaped before you were born to be this way.  Do it anyway.  

Today, even. 

Mondays are great for starting over.

 

Subway Stream of Consciousness

Waiting for the local 1 train incites all kinds of insane, intrusive thoughts.  It’s incredibly slow, and it’s easy to get lost in the Motley crew that is it’s passengers waiting in the Christopher St. Station.   Perhaps, outwardly, I’d like to think I fit right in.  Eastern European tourists wearing neon-colored man-pris always ask me for directions to Macys in halting English.  If only they knew the inner dialogue that’s swirling around in my brain.

What is that smell? 

Is it vomit, or Cheetos?

When could vomit be confused with Cheetos?

When was the last time I ate a Cheeto?

I will never eat one again now that I know how easily is is mistaken for vomit.  

Not that I make a habit of eating junk food.  Or anything with white sugar.  Except on Fridays. And Sundays.  And sometimes Tuesdays when it’s five dollar burger night and who can really enjoy a burger unless it‘s on a bun?

That woman wearing the Carrie Donavan glasses with the dog in the bag sporting a RL cardigan better be joking.  And not sit next to me.

I’d actually prefer the usual urine scent over this vom-eeto.  

I’d look that, too, if I choked down a green grass smoothie every day and called it lunch.  

I have to take my Mom to lunch.  Tartine.  Definitely.  Hmmmm. That’s more brunch-y.  Buvette? Too trendy.  Elephant and Castle? Maybe.  Nope.  Tartine.  Definitely Tartine.

Why can’t I just live here? Aside from the fact that I am poor and my entire family is in New Jersey.  

Can everyone tell I don’t live here? I am the only woman in a sea of Rag and Bone wearing yoga pants from the Gap.  I think they can tell.  

Oh my gosh.  It’s well over 5 minutes late and if I miss my 5:33 train I’m going to kill someone.  

What is on the bottom of my shoe?

That is human feces in the corner.  Absolutely.  When did I become an excrement expert? That is so gross.  Everyone else is probably thinking about their next novel or play or song and I am thinking about poop. This is why I haven’t written a book yet.  

I should write a book.  

Should I write it first, and then try to get an agent? Agent, then book? What do you need an agent for when there’s nothing to show? Stupid. Who needs an agent anyway.  

Everyone.  Everyone needs an agent.

I bet that guy over there has one.  

He does.  He’s on the phone rolling his eyes and silently mouthing to his friend, “My agent” as though it was the first dirty word he ever said- with a look of surprise and courage and pride.

I need an agent, clearly.  

I’ll never get one wearing yoga pants , in a ponytail drinking a non-skinny latte.

Ugh.  So much pressure.

 How can anyone live here?

I can’t wait to just get home.

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To the Working Dad

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately dedicated to the delicate relationship between Moms who work outside of the house, and Moms who work inside of the house.  Folks are working hard to validate BOTH choices, both positions.  As a Mama who does a little bit of both, I appreciate the nod.  I’ve amened aloud, clapped myself on the back, re-posted little truth nuggets about how this was the best choice for our family.  But, in every post there’s something missing.  Like, an entire person.  

Rich and I are equal partners.  We make sure of it.  That’s not just about generating income.  He works full-time hours outside of the home, I work a little over part-time.  It’s not just about household chores, either. I do the grocery shopping and the cooking, he does the dishes and the laundry.  I do the bills and the household management, he scrubs the tub and the toilets.  Our equal partnership runs right into how we parent- together.

As soon as Rich walks in the backdoor after work, he doesn’t take a ten minute break to re-adjust to being a Husband and a Papa.  He walks right into it, as though it was what he was waiting for all day.  Because it is.  He calls during the day to check-in.  To ask what Ellie ate for lunch- if she had gone to the bathroom yet, if her tummy ache went away.  He requests pictures for every outing, facetiming in so we could share a moment over an ice cream sundae or a day at the zoo.  It grieves him to not be with Ellie when she has to go to the doctor when she’s sick or to see how much she’s grown.  If I need to go in to work and a babysitter we trust is unavailable, he’ll take the scrutiny that comes with coming home half day so that we’re not faced with the choice of leaving her with someone she doesn’t know. He buys her clothes, sings her to sleep and is, 80 percent of the time, the parent who goes in to sit with her for hours in the middle of the night when she cannot sleep, only to get up at 6 am to take an hour bus ride to a job he hates, but keeps, because it provides.  He is her Papa.  Her everything.  And his heart hurts that he cannot be with her all day.  That other people are in the photographs I send to him celebrating her gym graduation, or a friend’s birthday party.  He gets no time to himself because he chooses us, whenever he can.  He is her Father and he longs to be with her.  With us.  

 We forget that.  As a people, as a society, we assume Dads are grabbing their bags as fast as they can out the door to go their offices in peace, where there are lunch breaks and air conditioning and adult conversations.  Some of them are.  But not all of them. Lets not overlook how it might affect our Dads whose hearts ache when they leave their family in the morning, and don’t feel whole again until they come home. How it’s hard work just to get up and out the door, leaving everything you love behind to spend the day elsewhere. The love of family, the weight of child-rearing, the depth of responsibility is not on Moms alone.  

Thanks, Dads.

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No Room for Too

I am too.

Too old. Too practical. Too concerned.

Too worried.  Too distracted.  Too involved.

Too controlling.  Too soft. Too opinionated.

The too walks beside me, ahead of me, behind me reminding me that whatever I think I may be, he is still attached. Too.

It’s the red letter on my chest when I reach for something just out of my grasp.  Too poor.  Too uneducated.  Too inexperienced.

It’s the backpack, thumping a rhythm above my waistline as I climb with trembling fingers and bloody nails.  Too dumb.  Too fat.  Too slow.

It’s the whisper that silences the outside voices.  Too inadequate. Too yielding.  Too easily afraid.

Too works deftly, nimbly to make you feel all at once that it is possible to be both too much and  not enough.

But I am not Too.

Not really.

I am One.

The one He loves.

And if I am the one He loves, really the One He loves, if I walk like the One He loves, breathe deeply of grace as the One He loves, cling tightly to the promises made to me as the One He loves, remember who I am because I am the One He loves

Well,

There is no room for Too at all.

 

 

 

 

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Those People

We’re becoming the kind of people who have soap spray to ward off bugs on their tomato plants in their garage. 

The kind of people who find some strange pleasure in the methodical washing of the dinner plates.

The ones who try to fix things themselves before calling their father to come over.  Or, at least, watch a few youtube videos before succumbing to a phone call.

We’re becoming the ones to eat in, quiet and introspective.  Ruminating on the gratefulness that floats around the room and covers each strand of spaghetti, fills each glass of wine.

The kind who dream at night about building their own house, somewhere in the mountains on a lake, off the grid where we could retire and have Christmases and summers full of grandchildren’s sandy feet and secret crushes on the newest dock boy.

We’ve become those people.

The ones who sit up late at night wondering if what we are doing is good and right and just.

Are we honorable?

Are we steadfast?

Do we have integrity?

The kind of people who whisper liturgies in the dark and the first light of day because it runs in our veins with the blood of those who went before who wondered and dreamed and strived and loved and our ears are aching with the lack of hearing.

We’re becoming those people who question and doubt and cry and laugh without shame because we have only glimpsed how big God is.  How big we perceive Him to be.

The ones who kiss babies who didn’t come from their own bodies but who somehow feel like their own children.

The kind who breathes deeply the breath of a sleeping child who will not let go and cries with all of the pain and the weight of a parent and prays for another, and another to fill more rooms with Fancy Nancy and Thomas the Train, tripping over Barbie shoes.

The ones who no longer hide when we trip over our tongues, our manners, our common sense.  We are deeply flawed. There is a great beauty to it when you lean close enough to see the Savior filling every fissure, every crack, every pore.

The kind of people who recognize that every step is hallowed, every task holy, every person cherished.

We’re becoming the kind of people who have noticed that we have given wrong answers and right ones and no longer carry the baggage of either.

Those kind of people who are not anywhere close to where they thought they were going to be, but it is good and it is right and it is enough just to be where they are. 

 

 

 

Summer

It’s coming.

You can hear it in the street, the voices of kids who know they only have a few more weeks of school.

The gentle humming of hard working insects.

The thunder.

Summer is coming.

Summer is always bitter sweet for me.

Firstly, it is not my favorite season weather-wise.  I know, I’m in the vast minority.  I hate being hot and sweating.  Abhor would be a more appropriate term.  I hate the allergies and the bug bites and how every meal seems to be comprised of a hot dog on the grill because I can’t cook because I’m SWELTERING.  It is always an off-time, work-wise.  Which is nice for the break, but financially very difficult.  And, when I’m off, I always fabricate these elaborate plans of what I will accomplish with all of this time off…….

But, this summer is a bit different.  Though I’m a tad fearful of losing my income, there is something pressing yet UNRUSHED about the prospect of this summer.  My daughter is three and she will be attending preschool in the fall.  My baby.  Will go to school.  With a backpack and a lunchbox and tales of the playground where I will not be there to make sure she doesn’t fall off the monkey bars.  These precious 8 weeks is a sacred Mama-Ellie time, never to be repeated.  This is the last time my voice will be the only one giving her direction during the day.  I want to make every day this summer joyful, meaningful, restful and thankful.  Just plain full. So, my plans for the summer look much different than ever before.  This is my list:

Breathe thankfulness upon every waking and make it a practice to do it with Ellie

Show your thankfulness for the blessings of our space by organizing, de-cluttering, painting, re-arranging what we have to make it more peaceful and more usable without adding ANY excess “Stuff”.

Tend to the garden with care with El, be thankful for the pulling of weeds and yielding of crops that nourish us.

Build a compost bin and rain barrel- teach El that we are called to care for the earth, and that girls can build things too:)

Take weekly visits to local gardens, the library, a grandparents house for sprinkler runs.

Bake bread in the morning, to remember what a gift it is to have the means to do so.

READ- things that nourish, feed and help ALL of us grow.

NEVER say “hurry up”.  Not once. 

Be creative! Mama loves to write and sing, Ellie loves to sing and paint. All are free and fun! We can create together, separately and together. We were made to do it.

Swim at every opportunity given or offered.  Bring her bike to the park. Dance in the living room. Teach her that our bodies are miraculous gifts that demand celebration! 

Start and end the day remembering, reminding, dreaming.  Remembering the joys of yesterday and today.  Reminding each other of the truths of the word.  Dreaming of what tomorrow, this year, this lifetime might bring.

I am looking forward to this last little summer season of our lives right now and am so looking forward to what dreams are on their way!

What are you doing this summer?

 

 

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Courting Your Librarian

Something wonderful has happened.

After over a year of cautionary approaches, planning visits strategically at the hour of the day in which El is the most charming, well-fed and freshly pottied, attending every single free class offered, we have made and established a genuine rapport with our public library’s children’s librarian.

Librarians are a fickle breed- there are only two kinds of children’s librarians.  The ones who love books and children, and the ones who hate both.  I’ve imagined they’ve all been jilted at the alter and have subjected themselves to a lifetime of the torturous prospect of herding other’s snot nosed, book destroying offspring as some kind of guilty self-punishment.  It’s not your fault, ladies.  Not your fault.  Please for the sake of everyone else,know that we all understand that this was not the quiet life you had envisioned and find a position where communicating with people is unnecessary.  Like, teaching.

The other kind, however, the warm, friendly, book-fairy kind- they are hard to get close to.  Everyone wants a piece.  You have to be steadfast in your pursuit.  Gently title-drop books you know they love.  Dressing your child as beloved children’s character’s often helps.  Coach them in saying things like, “Would Anne of Green Gables curtsy this way, Mama?” and, “Is this science fiction or fantasy?” Always prep your children to ask the librarian directly.  She cannot resist a three year old’s request for books with elephants eating ice cream.  Who could?  

Ours couldn’t.  She finally cracked on a sunless, rainy day when the library was particularly empty.  She was alone, sitting at her desk when Ellie spotted her, ran politely over to her (as I watched in awe of her unusual restraint) and said, “Hi my favorite book teacher!” Bam. Unprompted.  Uncoached.  This kid knew the deal.  She spent the rest of the better part of an hour leading Ellie around the aisles, reading “Bread and Jam for Francis” over and over again, as it was her children’s favorite while I browsed the new cookbooks, checked out Molly Wizenberg’s Delancey, Alicia Silverstone’s “Kind Mama” (sometimes I like to comfort myself with the fact that there mamas more wackadoo than myself out there, and someone saw fit to give THEM a book deal), and the fourth installment in The Game of Thrones series.  And suddenly, the world opened up for us.  The other librarians, seeing my daughter hand in hand with the master herself, assumed we were close friends.  They put in a request for the fifth book in the series, to be waiting for me upon the return of the fourth.  I was secretly informed that if I wanted to watch the series, seasons 1-3 were available on blue-ray, brand new and not even shelved.  Would I like them? My daughter was brought back to the desk with her arms laden with little literary nuggets and I thanked her whole-heartedly, as an English teacher.  The final nail.  Her eyes grew bright and said she was compiling a summer reading list for a high school senior, would I help? 

And just like that, the library was ours for the taking.  We came, we conquered, we left with two Trader Joe’s re-usable bags full and a promise of a stack of children’s books all involving cooking and food, the complete works of Hans Christen Anderson and The Kinfolk Cookbook waiting for us in two days.  Courting the librarian may have been the most lucrative dating I’ve ever done.

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