I am obsessed lately with reading the obituaries. I guess it happened when I turned 30. Well, lots of things happened when I turned 30, like gravity, an unavoidable fear of dying, and an appreciation for balance of all kinds. Balance while holding an infant and buttoning Shelby's pants, balance in my diet, balance on a surfboard, and balancing my time. I read the obituaries to make sure that life is being lived long enough, in my opinion. For example, if I scan the pictures and birth years and come across anyone who was born in the 1940s (around my parents' age), I scan it to see how this life related to mine. Were they married, had grand kids. If I come across a tragic end to life, say a teenager, I always read the entire article to find reason for this wrong doing. Recklessness? Disease? I know this all sounds quite morbid, and more so now that I'm putting it in print, but it's the truth. I think I am reading for reassurrance that life won't cheat me. That the odds are stacked in favor of getting it all done before my time's up. So, the book I just finished, Water For Elephants, is narrated by the main character as he sits in a nursing home, forgotten by his own family, and recalls the exciting story of his life after college on a circus train. It reminded me that old people weren't always old. That my parents will some day be "old people". That I will someday be as old as my parents. My grandmother recently said to me, "I used to live. Now, I just exist." It is a really honest statement. At this point in my life, I am truly living. Every day, something different. I had a conversation with a fellow colleague (in the mommy career field) this morning about the book and I was reminded to appreciate the chaos in which we exist, because before we know it...it will be gone, they will be grown, we will have slowed, and life as we know it will change dramatically from this fast paced craziness we know and, when pushed, admittedly love. Carpe Diem, people. It'll be over before we know it.
Me, "Hey, Shelby, it's daddy on the phone for you." Shelby, "That stupid guy?" Moral: Beware your children, they will shame you when least expected.
FINALLY, I'm back online and feeling sentimental and a little Merry Maniacal as I tackle Santa's gift list after hours. The family is nestled all snug in their beds ......, while I'm at the laptop and Pa in his cap, they'd all settled down for a long winter's nap (well, we hope it's long), Out in the living room there arose such a clatter, Mom's dusted, decorated and wrapped all christmas matter. What to my red, puffy eyes should appear, but empty bank accounts, bills and dirty laundry drawn near. The house was a mess, it happens so damned quick, I heard hubby snoring, that lazy dick. I got down to business, went straight from my work, poured myself a martini, then turned with a jerk. And laying the laundry piles aside as I rose, from the chair onto my ass, catching sight of my toes. My head how it ached, my butt dimples, how merry. My back cramped from that behemoth baby I carry. I stood to admire my broad, flabby belly, that shakes when I laugh, yell, or anytime, really. I spoke not a word, just a sigh to myself, sent a wish for a maid, or a small house elf. Then popping the pimple on the side of my nose, added facial to my wishlist of leather handbags and new clothes. For all those mommies who are doing their job right, "Merry Christmas, goddamnit. And for god's sake, get some sleep tonight!"
When was the last time I blew in the door, announced I was off for an impromptu overnight with my friend, threw a few things together, kissed John and waved goodbye? Um, 3 years, 4 months, 18 days, and roughly 23 hours ago. The day I became a mother I kissed spontaneity goodbye. Now, fatherhood, apparently, is an entirely different story. John just called from work to say there is a seminar in the Bay Area he wants to attend tomorrow and found a ride that leaves this afternoon. So, he returned home from the office, tossed a change of clothes in a bag and kissed me goodbye. Don't get me wrong, he's earned his stripes as daddy and breadwinner in this house, and by all means should attend a work related seminar for the betterment of his career. I'm just realizing the ginormous difference between my role and his role as a parent. I'm full-time, he's part-time. I can't even go to the grocery store on a Saturday afternoon alone for one hour without equal time spent in preparation: pumping a 4 oz. bottle, arranging the diapers and changes of clothes, and leaving a list of directions for naps and routines. Now, this recent daddy absence does allow for a change in attitude from my perspective. Once the girls rule the roost for a night all the routines change. I will not touch the laundry, dishes or garbage for the next 24 hours, and refuse to harbor any guilt towards my shrugged responsibilities. I will indulge in a mid afternoon cocktail and I will initiate a dance party in our living room, complete with disco lights and dress ups at the witching hour when John normally relieves me. We will not pick up our mess. I will not prepare a balanced meal as dinner will be served as a single course in one bowl that Shelby and I can eat out of simultaneously...cereal, mac n'cheese, ice cream. As you've guessed, bedtime routine has already been abandoned for a dog pile in my bedroom and a date with Shrek 3 on my laptop. Tomorrow we will sleep in, lie around in our pajamas until I can no longer hold out for coffee (making coffee is not in my job description), at which time we will drive to the local patisserie where Shelby will be allowed to choose her breakfast (which inevitably ends up being the same pink, fish-shaped cookie she picks every visit), and then we'll waste our day away on the grocery store's carousel ride, renting movies and eating junk food. All fun will cease upon John's late night return at which point order will be restored to our household.
First off, I will never have more children. Between the two kids, I think I was up seven times last night. Second, I have this neighbor that has an admirable ability for rolling out the welcome mat and inspiring me to be a better hostess. How often do you show up on some one's doorstep unannounced to meet a smiling face, one that's genuinely happy to see you? It's one thing to arrive at a friend's house for dinner when they've prepared for you, scoured their bathrooms, set the table, stocked their fridge, and tidied their living room. It's a whole different ballgame when you have a surprise guest standing on your doorstep. How often does that homeowner invite you in, offer you coffee, urge you to sit, be comfortable, eat, laugh, stay? One that even tolerates your toddler who dribbles crumbs and breaks Barbie arms, your infant that inevitably needs to be breastfed the moment you walk in the door? Asks if your giant chocolate lab would like to come in, too??? Well, I know someone who does ALL these things. She's an anomaly, she's ready to drop everything to chat, her house is always in fair order (by this, I mean, not so perfectly clean she doesn't live in it, but tidy enough to always be presentable), AND she is the mother of FIVE kids (FOUR of which still live in her 1200 square foot home). Okay, so maybe she's a little crazy. Got me there. This year, I'm trying to set my standards for a "guest-ready" house at more attainable levels, because guests don't see it with the same critical eye. And I'm trying to open my door to friends and neighbors when they come by, at any time, because I LOVE it when they do it for me. And I'm leaving my coffee pot on all day, just in case. And I'll be working on my "I'm-so-happy-to-see-you-face" in place of my "Oh-shit-what-are-you-doing-here-please-don't-look-over-my-shoulder-face" when I open my door. I hope you, too, can be inspired by my neighbor's genuine hostessing. I'll be popping in to check on your progress!
When I got pregnant with Shelby I was a recovering marathon addict and a newly evolved triathlete. My hard body grew a bump and nothing else. It was a record pregnancy that I successfully powered through to run my last 4 mile workout at 9 months! Looking back I could only imagine what my neighbors were thinking...."Is that woman gonna run to the hospital?" My mother was convinced all that bouncing around to the fetus was going to cause major repercussions, including, but not limited to, hyperactivity, an inability to concentrate, and brain damage. After Shelby was born (completely normal, by the way) I immediately returned to workout mode, infecting John with the bug, and pushing us both to complete The Wildflower Triathlon in 2005. When I got pregnant with Ana my goals become more realistic, my body softened to a pliable goo, and I grew varicose veins in all the places you wouldn't want to imagine. By the start of my second trimester I was on a strict diet of milkshakes and french fries and napping three times a day. Good old mom had her theories about this kid, too. I became the general contractor on the job site as we remodeled our newly purchased bungalow and pushed the completion of our kitchen to beat the arrival of new baby. All my conversations regarding product orders & subcontractor appointments began with, "I'm X months pregnant and the clock is ticking....I need this kitchen finished in X weeks!" My mother would shake her head every time I recited our latest setback or additional expense, and then she would launch into her theories of how my second child was channeling all my hostility and stress in utero and how it would come out incapable of handling everyday stress, that she would be an unhappy baby and ultimately an unhappy adult, that because I was so preoccupied by the progress of my home, my child would be aware that she was not a priority in my life and would harbor that hostility towards me for the rest of her days. Some of my mom's other theories: Drinking an occasional beer or glass of wine during pregnancy will cause the baby's eyes to grow so far apart on their head that they'll resemble more of a fish than a human. Eating too much tuna fish will result in a concentration of mercury in the baby which, as everyone knows, leads to hearing loss (what?!). Consuming excessive amounts of carrots causes their skin to turn orange. Exercising regularly throughout your pregnancy cultivates a thin, frail infant with emotional turmoil and ADD. Well, the whole point of this story is to recap my recent return to the workout world. I, like all of you, pay for a gym membership that I've successfully ignored until last weekend when my baby sister suggested we meet up for a "little workout" (in retrospect, meeting up for a "little beer" would have worked out much better). So off I went, dusty gym bag in hand, John and the kids safely locked up at home. My sister then educates me on the use of the "Smith Machine", leg squats, and an unrealistic set of numbers and weights I'm supposed to embrace while keeping my chest lifted. Being the older sister and reminiscing to my days of muscle prowess, I attempt to keep up with her. Let it be known that my sister was the prototype for "Sport Barbie" and spends all her free time at the gym. Long story short, I made it to the second machine and had to retreat to a treadmill before my legs buckled. A day later and I couldn't squat down to pick Ana off the floor and I discovered that my toilets are WAY TOO low to the ground. She wants to go back to the gym today but any more leg exercises and I'll have to pee standing up.
First of all, no service person, contractor, or the like should ever call my house before 7:30 a.m. without apologizing for calling so bloody early. I'm all for getting things done in the morning, but at least acknowledge that you're calling at the crack of dawn with an apology to soothe my hangover when I answer. Of course, you wouldn't know that my old drinking partner and her fam showed up last night for dinner at our house. And you couldn't have guessed that she and John each came to the table with multiple bottles of great wine. The standout being a 2000 Peachy Canyon DeVine Cab Sauv, decanted and showing rather well for its age (okay, that was the first bottle we drank and I can't really remember any of the ones that followed...red, white, beer, tequila?!?). As I drove past the high school on my way to drop Shelby off at preschool (thank god for that break today!), I couldn't help but recall the mindless days of my teenage years....drinking myself into a stupor only to awake the following morning with a clear head and a tight stomach, hitting the snooze button a few times before I rolled down to the kitchen where someone made me breakfast, riding off to face my day of socializing and sitting still while someone else performed educational lectures, made lists, and filled my brain with interesting information. Seems like yesterday I was the kid going to school instead of the parent. So, I'm turning up the radio, wishing for a cigarette, hanging my hand out the window and grinning at the day before I realize that I'm 31, driving a minivan with two car seats, and rocking out to Barney the whole way home. Here's to the flat stomachs of yesterday.
In 40 mile an hour winds, John and I stapled a huge sheet of opaque plastic across our front windows last night to avoid any further damage to the interior of our home during this storm. You can only imagine what this has done for our curb appeal. And the ambiance inside is really phenomenal. Reminiscent of that fatal shower scene in Psycho, only bigger and brighter. Normally, no visibility in my living room would completely freak me out in a claustrophobic sort of way. But, this strange white light filtering through the 10 by 10 foot space is eerily comforting as I drink my coffee. Like being in a tanning booth with a sofa and a fireplace. I'm sure my neighbors woke up this morning wondering what the hell "those people" are up to now? One step forward, two steps back.