May 28, 2009


After I had Max and the hurricane hit and my whole life seemed to turn upside down, I started having this really intense ear pain. It actually felt like someone was sticking a toothpick in my ear, or worse, that something was in my ear, like a roach or an ear wig or something disgusting like that.


I went to the ear doctor and he didn’t see anything. He did, however, notice that I was clenching my jaw a lot and surmised that it was this activity that was causing the ear pain. I asked him what I could do about it and he said, “Stop clenching your jaw.”


And so I did.


I made an honest effort every single time my ear hurt to relax my jaw and unclench. I remember once leaning over into Max’s crib and almost going blind from a flash of pain in my ear. Sure enough, my jaws were locked.


After a couple of months of making this effort to relax, I quit having the ear pain and it has never come back.


But, I still notice when I am clenching my jaw and still make the effort to relax. I’ve had to do that a lot over the last couple of weeks and for no good reason. When I was doing it before, I had reason – new baby, deluged city, dying mother, and crumbling marriage – that is the stuff that deserves body-altering stress, you know?


My big stress now is the fear of losing the good things in my life – my job, my child, my husband, my stuff. And, really, isn’t fear of that just a complete waste of time and energy…and jaw strength?


I’m struggling with very simple and worldly nonsense. I feel like I am failing at my job, that I am a fraud and that everything I do is an exercise in futility and nonsense. This is where I usually launch into some speech about wanting to do something more meaningful, but that would take way too much energy and way too big of a pay cut.


Instead, I want to care less about the nonsense, about what people think of me, about my nonsensical need to be liked by people, even people I hate. It is none of my business what other people think of me. I know that my son loves me and thinks that I am the bees’ knees. My husband, hearing me complain about a colleague in California, offered to board a plan and go kick his ass. I declined the offer, but the gesture was oddly sweet.


There is a line from one of my favorite books, (The Way to Love by Anthony De Mello) that sums it up…”What makes you happy or unhappy is not the world or the people around you, but the thinking in your head.”


And so, just like I made the conscious decision to stop clenching my jaw, I need to make the conscious decision to change my thinking. Instead of crying because an old business colleague does not like me, instead, I will be grateful and filled with joy that I am loved by a whole host of wonderful people.


Instead of wrenching my hands in fear about losing my job or failing to impress my boss, I will go to sleep at night knowing I did my best and was honest. I will be myself and not worry whether that is what people want…it is what they get!


Today, my friends, my campaign to do to my head what I did to my jaw begins. Let the wild rumpus start.



May 21, 2009

Samanta The Wonder Dog - R.I.P.

I put Sam down on Monday. She was nearly 16 and she was old, but, still…I miss her and wonder if I didn’t just kill my dog because it was too hard for me to watch her slowly die? She fell down the stairs a couple of weeks ago, and frankly, falling head over paws down 12 steps and the off the landing to the floor when you are a 16 year old dog is a life changing event. And for her, it definitely was. She just wasn’t the same after that fall.


Still, she would try to follow me upstairs to my office each morning. So, I started putting chairs at the foot of the stairs so she wouldn’t come up. I would go up and sit and my desk and Kenny, the spry Boston Terrier would come up and then we would both sit and listen to Sam nosing the chairs trying to come up.


She was the most loyal dog in the world. Since I work from home alone in an office flanked by Sam and Kenny, I dubbed Sam the Chief of Security and Kenny the Chief Operations Office. Sam took her job very seriously. Kenny, on the other hand, just drags his ass on the carpet and chews on his paws. Slacker.


Sam, although for the most part by this time, was deaf and blind, she still would lie by my side prepared to attack any one who might come near me. Sure, she was a little slow on the reflexes toward the end and likely would be nipping at the heels of the masked intruder after he bludgeoned me, but at least she was still suiting up and showing up every day, which is more than we can say for Kenny.


Don’t get me wrong, Kenny is a great dog. He plays with Max and he is cute a button. But, still, he’s not Sam. Sam kept Kenny in line and walked her beat each day and night. She made sure no one came up to the house unannounced and more than once, on sunny days when we had the house open, caused us to not get mail.


I will miss my Samantha. I will miss Max petting Samantha and loving on her, although she had taken to nipping at him a bit. He did not care for that part. It hurt his feelings I think.


Sam started out rough, like most dogs do. She took forever to house break and even when she was house broken, at one point she took to pissing in my bed when I was at work. She would somehow pull the covers back, pee in my spot and then somehow put the covers back in place. This meant I would already be sitting in dog urine before I realized the bed was soaked. I never figured out why she did this. It happened maybe 5 times over the course of 4 years. That was plenty enough, thank you.


In spite of all that, she was the best and most loyal dog in the world. And I will miss her.

To read my post from last year on Sam and why I loved her so much, click here








May 14, 2009

Here and There

I am sitting in the JetBlue terminal at JFK airport in New York. It is 9:00pm on a Thursday night and my flight is delayed. Until 10pm. I won’t get home until 12:30am. And I am lonely. There is a family waiting to get on this flight to New Orleans. It looks and feels like they have 13 kids and that they are all 3, but I think I might be exaggerating. You get my point though, there are kids and they are everywhere. Their mother is a shell of the woman she used to be. Sure, she still looks great – she is thin and her hair is a cute bob, but if you look closely, she has chocolate smudged on the shoulder of her shirt and I know I heard her say at least once, “if you don’t stop that right now, we are going home.”


Really? Are you really going to pack up all 13 kids, go back our through security, get the car from long term parking, cancel the vacation to New Orleans and drive back to Any Town, New York because Junior is rolling around on the terminal floor? I didn’t think so. You know you’re not, Junior knows you're not, and you know Junior knows you are not, but still, you are desperate, your nerves are frayed and if Junior does not get up off the floor, YOU are leaving all 20 kids (yes, they have multiplied somehow) in the JetBlue play space with their marginally engaged father and YOU are going to go home. And never see them again. Ever.


I have been there.  We’ve all been there. Still, when I am here, where I am now, alone in an airport, sans my 1 kid who sometimes feels like 8 kids, I miss that feeling of slowly being emotionally and mentally waterboarded by a demanding toddler. Or 13 toddlers. I miss the feeling of dirty little hands touching my face, or the tug on my pants leg, or the occasional random bite or scratch. Don’t get me wrong, when I am there, that place where if I am touched one more time with a dirty little hand, or I cannot believe you BIT me, I often wish I was where I am now. Sitting in an airport, anonymous and free to read a book or type on the computer and stare at the wall.


But, right now, I am here and I am lonely. It seems everyone, even the clean up crew, has a kid in tow and they are all cute. Their little cheeks long to be pinched and their tiny bow mouths call out to be gently kissed. I have to restrain myself, lest I end up in airport jail for the night. The headlines would be horrifying and I would be quoted as saying, “But his little butt called to me to be squeezed.” Surely, anyone who has laid eyes on a 9 month old butt knows resisting the urge to give it a playful pat is akin to heroin detox.


I had lunch today with a friend who is married but has no kids. He and his wife have been married for 8 years and they are discussing the matter. They want to have kids, but they are doing what we all did – freaking out at the prospect of doing something that changes your life radically forever, never to ever be the same again…ever. You know that scenario. Anyway, I told him that had I realized earlier in my life how much I would love being a mom, I would have started much earlier and had a lot more kids. But, I am weeks away from 40 and my husband is days away from 47 and it seems…impractical? Or maybe just insane to entertain the thought of doing it all over again. Sure, having a kid not in the midst of a hurricane and a mother dying is probably not quite as harrowing as just having a kid, but probably not that much less harrowing.


My friend quoted a line from a movie he had seen. He has no kids so he can see movies. Fancy art house movies with random violence and not feel it to the core of his being because all emotional reaction has been wrenched from the core of his being and been placed right out in the open. Does that happen to everyone who gives birth, I wonder? Anyway, it was beautiful and, of course, I don’t really remember it exactly because I was busy scarfing down my lunch. But, it was something to the effect that a man’s true love is a woman’s body and a woman’s true love is her first child.


And I tearfully nodded in agreement with a mouth full of spicy roast pork with string beans. The day I had Max and they put his squirmy little body on my chest, I felt, for the first time in my life, love at first sight.


And gone was the ruthless bitch who could watch any movie about any random child abduction or murder and simply say, “this is fiction and not real.” Today, I can’t even watch Law and Order SVU because too often a child is in danger or missing or dead or horribly abused. Fiction or real, stories like that hit my heebie jeebie, which, oddly enough, seems to be at the base of my spine. (I realize no one except my sister will understand what the fuck I am talking about here.)  


So, here I am, at the airport, stealing glances at other people’s kids, trying not to look like a nut job, anxiously awaiting my flight…which was just delayed another 30 minutes. I wonder if that mother is now wishing they had just gone home?

May 6, 2009

Negotiations and Love Songs

After Max was born, I could not, for any reason, imagine leaving him in that big beautiful crib by himself. Actually, he was born in Texas in the middle of a hurricane. We had evacuated to Houston during Hurricane Katrina, the city flooded, and we couldn’t go home. So we rented an apartment and the night Hurricane Rita made landfall, my water broke. So, when we brought him home from the hospital, it was to a shabby apartment in Houston that was outfitted with used and IKEA furniture. There was no real crib, just a portable crib that was kindly handed down from a generous stranger.


He was tiny and fragile and all curled up like a sleeping kitten. When I put him in the portable crib next to my bed, I could no longer feel his tiny feet against me or hear the soft hum of his breath. And, his legs didn’t stretch out like he enjoyed the vast space of the crib. Instead, he seemed to pull them in tighter like a mini agoraphobe rejecting the world outside.


Being a female human who has never been routinely abused or set an animal on fire, I did what came naturally – I picked him up and I put him in bed with me. I snuggled him in right next to me and we both promptly passed out.


Some of the mothers I told this to gasped in horror. There were “tsks” and knowing glances between them. The only thing stopping me from reaching out and smacking their smug faces was the baby in the sling on my chest and, of course, the fear that they really did know something I did not.


They warned that I had done it; I would never get him out of my bed. He was going to want to sleep next to me every night and would be a handful and probably I had completely ruined this child and should just throw him away and start again fresh with a new baby.


They said I should “ferberize” him. That is a fancy term for putting your baby in his crib and letting him cry until he either falls asleep or dies. I am more likely to beat my baby with a shovel than I am to let him wail himself to sleep, so that was out of the question from day one.


It’s been three and a half years now and those other mothers were right – Max does still sleep in bed with me. Each night, he starts in his own bed. I lie in bed with him and we read books for a while and then we turn off the light and hug and sing and talk about the day and when it is quiet, he snuggles up to me and falls asleep. I then get up and go about the night – filling the dishwasher, folding clothes, watching my TIVOed shows  - you know all the important stuff that has to wait while I spend all this time, you know, being a mother and bonding with my son and making him feel important and loved.


Then, I go to bed in my own bed. But, at some point each night, Max wakes up and ambles into my room. He climbs up in bed with me and snuggles right next to me and we sleep. I wake up in the morning with his sweet little face telling me he loves me and that he wants to help make the coffee. He brings me my pajama pants and my glasses and looks genuinely pleased that I have lived to see another day. Which, in turn, makes me genuinely happy to have lived to see another day.


My point in all of this is that the other night, I was lying in bed with Max and he didn’t want to go to sleep. He was indeed tired, but he didn’t want to go to sleep and was fighting it and was very angry that I was being the meanie who was making him stay in bed. As he quieted down, I told him, “I love you” and he said, grumpily, “I don’t want you to love me.”


I am an adult, a secure adult. I know he was angry and I was more impressed with his cunning ways than I was offended or hurt by what he said, but it got me thinking about love and being loved. There is a Paul Simon song called “Hearts and Bones” and there is a verse that puts it just right:


Why won’t you love me
For who I am
Where I am
He said:
cause that’s not the way the world is baby
This is how I love you, baby


We don’t get to choose how other people love us or if they love us. Max can tell me he doesn’t want me to love him, but I always will, from the bottom of my heart.  I can cry and scream because I think {insert name} should be this way, or do this, or if {insert name} really cared, he would blah, blah, blah. But, the reality is, we are lucky to be loved at all.


And, I went to sleep with my boy curled up next to me, his sweaty little head resting against my cheek, thinking how lucky I am to be loved. Yes, those mothers were right – I did do something that first night with Max that radically altered the course of my life – and I am forever grateful for it.