August 26, 2009

Hang Ten

Max found our wedding album the other day and has delighted in looking through it over and over again. It makes me happy I went through a crazy nesting and scrap-booking phase while I was pregnant. I culled through the millions of boxes of wedding pictures I had and painstakingly pasted my favorites into a scrapbook replete with my lame attempts at making them cute and clever with paper.

I also, during that hormone crazed trimester, insisted I needed to make new curtains for our bedroom. I lugged out this old sewing machine my aunt was going to toss before I saved it, called a friend to show me how to load the bobbin and I was off. Off my rocker. I made the most hideous curtains I have ever seen, but I stayed up all night to do it and frankly, if you consider I had not sewn anything since high school home economics class, they weren’t half bad.

At least that is what Mike said when I woke him up at 2am to hang my freshly made curtains. He really is a very good husband when I think about it. That is, when I quit nagging him long enough to think about it.

Max and I were looking at the wedding photos for the 50th time and for the 50th time I was having to answer the question, “Who’s that?” while he pointed to the pictures of my mom.

My answer is always the same, “That’s Mere, my Mommy, but she is heaven with Sam.”

And he says, “Yeah, Sam was old and she died and went to heaven with Mere and the other dogs.”

It makes me wonder what on earth is going through his mind. Does he imagine my mother surrounded by hundreds of dogs, laughing and frolicking with them? That would be kind of cool to me, but I think Mom would be slightly miffed by all those dogs all over here and would not consider it her version of heaven.

But maybe it is Max’s version of heaven, being chased and licked by hundreds of tail-wagging dogs.

This Saturday is the 4 year anniversary of the hurricane. My mother did not die during the storm, but I equate her death with the storm because everything seemed to happen at once in one ugly blur – the evacuation, the storm, the levees breaking, not being able to go home, the birth of Max in Houston and my mother’s ultimate death 6 months later.

It was nice to look at the wedding pictures with Max and remember that life was once calm and predictable, then there were the chaotic years of the storm, and now, the tide is going out again. It is the ebb and flow of life, and I’m just surfing the waves, hanging on, and hoping the board doesn’t rear up and smack me in the back of the head.

August 21, 2009

Me Mind on Fire, Me Soul on Fire

Max’s first nanny was a Tulane senior named Robyn. She came to us in January of 2006 and worked as Max’s nanny until she graduated in May. She didn’t need the money. In fact, she drove to work in her Mercedes sports car, but she liked kids and wanted to do some work. I was a nervous wreck when she started because this was my baby and here I was hiring a complete stranger to care for him. Sure, I would be right upstairs working, but what if she abused him? What if she did not love him as much as I did?

The first time she met Max she asked if she could take his picture to send to her Mom back in Jersey. I went nuts in my head, “Her mom? Yeah right, more likely the kingpin of whatever baby trafficking organization she is privy to!”

But, when I opened my mouth, what came out what, “Oh sure.”

To my surprise, she handed the phone to me to take a picture of her holding a smiling Max.

Oh, I get it now. You LIKE babies!

I firmly and assertively told her that under no circumstances would she be driving Max around in that sports car of hers and maybe, after she had been working here for a month, she could take him for a walk in the stroller, but only around the block.

But then, we all fell in love with Robyn. Max was small, maybe only 4 months old, so he still took 2 naps a day. Robyn would climb into my bed with him to snuggle and sleep with him. And he loved it. This is a child who still sleeps pressed up against me every night.

I would be working upstairs and hear her chatting away with him. She would read books to him and play with him for hours.

By day 3 she took him for a walk in the stroller and by week 2, she took him to lunch with her friends, his car seat wedged in the tiny back seat of her car. She patiently listened as I gave her a long list of instructions – don’t leave him in the car even for a second, make sure he is snapped in, drive carefully, don’t talk on your cell phone while driving, don’t bring him around anyone who smokes…in short, you have my very existence and reason for living in the back of your car, so please drive carefully.

Robyn was more than a nanny, she was a member of our family. We loved hearing about her friends and her family. She would tell me all the places she had brought Max that day – to Tulane’s campus to meet her roommates, to a sushi place for lunch with her friends, shopping with her mom. He was just one of the girls after a while, I think.

When Valentine’s Day rolled around, Robyn gave Max this big fuzzy lobster wearing a hat. When you pressed the button on his claw, he would sing Buster Poindexter’s “Hot, Hot, Hot.” His whole head and lips moved. And it was LOUD. Max was terrified of it. We sat it on a high shelf in his room for a while and then one day, long after Robyn had moved back to New York and taken her bright light with her, he asked us to hand it to him. He had already been through another nanny and graduated to play school. He was still scared of Jacques, our name for the obnoxious lobster, so he asked his Daddy to hide him in the shed out back.

But even Jacques' exile to the shed could not quell Max’s fearful curiosity. Slowly, he started going out to visit Jacques occasionally and finally, one day, decided Jacques could come back inside. Quite quickly Jacques progressed from being a scary loud red blur that warranted only a place next to the dryer, to a full-fledged member of the family. He was dragged over the place and even had his hat chewed off by our Boston Terrier. (Thankfully, Max grew up with the dog and is very forgiving of his predilection for eating toys.)

The other night, Max and I were lying in bed together. Our nightly routine is long and some nights I relish it and some nights I just want to read a book. This night, we were having fun. Jacques was next to Max with his head on the pillow, covered in Max’s favorite blanket. Every time I did something to ensure Max’s comfort, Max did the same for Jacques.

Finally, in an attempt to coax Max toward sleep, I said, “Jacques is tired, he is going to sleep,”

Max replied in his sweet little Mommy-is-a-fool voice, “No, Jacques is not going to sleep because his eyes don’t close.”

My, how my little boy has grown.

August 17, 2009

Why Are You NOT Here?

"It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes..." - Henry David Thoreau

Recently I decided I needed to dress better. This is not entirely true, but it is less embarrassing than the real story which involves a very awkward conversation with my boss telling me I needed to dress to the title on my business card. Whatever the impetus, I went to Ann Taylor and attached myself to the sales lady. She patiently brought me skirts and jackets and pants and shirts that were tailored. Elastic waist linen pants, white Hanes t-shirts and flip flops are indeed my real uniform, but, alas, clients frown when I show up dressed like that.

I got a jacket, skirt and shirt. It went so well, I went back the next week for a pair of grey pants. $400 dollars later, I left with 2 skirts, 3 sweaters, 2 shirts, 2 camis and a new Ann Taylor master card. That second sales lady was much better at her job than the first. One of the skirts is a high-wasted lycra thing. I thought it seemed a little snug when I tried it on at the store but the sales lady assured me it was supposed to fit like that. I was so overwhelmed at this point that I just said fine.

When I got home, I tried it on again and it seemed a little snug, but maybe that was the style. But the third time I tried it on, I knew it was not right. Clothes you wear on land should not be as tight as the clothes you wear in water. There are no Spanx that could hide what this skirt was so prominently displaying. I decided to return it and I have not thought about it since.

The point of this story is that although I often labor over a decision, once it is made, I usually don’t question it. The hard part for me is just making the decision. Some people make a quick decision and then spend all their time wondering if it was the right one. I am more likely to just sit with something for a while and mull it over for a long time.

That is what I am doing right now about blogging. To blog or not to blog, that is the question.

A couple of things happened last week that are making me weigh this decision. There were some ugly comments that upset me, followed by a colleague of mine saying I should shut my blog down immediately because it would ruin my career and surely the Gestapo would storm my house and take everything of value, or some rant like that. I am beginning to question his sanity, but still, his scare tactic worked. When I reminded him that I don’t blog under my real name, he pointed out that my blog is linked to my facebook account.

Oh, right, that.

On the other hand, I also had handfuls of people telling me they love my blog and they love to read it.

Hmmmm, so what do I do?

I’ll tell you what I do, I follow my heart. I live what I preach – a life of honesty that is not ruled by fear. (Yikes!)

In the eternal words of Popeye, “I yam what I yam.” You can dress me in a suit and slap heels on my feet, but at my core, I am still me. And I will continue to be me long after my career is over and the lights have dimmed.

When I am on my deathbed I won’t think to myself, “Gee, I wish I had pretended to be someone else more often in my life. I wish I had spent more time hiding my real feelings and less time honestly sharing with the people around me.”

I won’t wish I had let my childhood dream of being a writer wither away and die, only to supplanted by what society deems right and good. (This is where you insert the National Anthem…)

No, my friends, I will not stand idly by and watch my very soul be crushed by the ridiculous rules and regulations of modern day society! (But, I will dress better when I have to.) I will continue to post my wackiness whenever I can (although not under my real name) and I will continue to wonder in print about the effectiveness of airline security measures, for I am a free thinker!

And so, my dear friends, thank you for your support and your comments. The reason I blog is because I am a writer and I always have been. I just got lost along the way.

August 6, 2009

Tacky Gold Footballs

When my mother was asked on her deathbed of she had any regrets, she responded, “I wish I had been nicer.”


The woman was a freaking saint. She was loving and patient and brilliant and funny and everything you want your mother to be. I do not ever remember her uttering a harsh word to anyone (except George Bush, but come on, who hasn’t?)

But, then I thought, maybe she wished her thoughts had been nicer. I get that.

People who kind of know me would say I am a very nice and kind person. But people who really know me have seen the dark side of me, especially the people who knew me before I quit drinking. Those unfortunate few have definitely seen my Mr, Hyde and it ain’t pretty.

When someone posted a hurtful comment to my blog yesterday, I will admit, my first thought was absolutely not, “oh he/she must be hurting in some way.”

My first feeling was “ouch.” It hurt. It stung, and then, somewhere in there came fear - fear of being mocked, fear of not being accepted or loved. I am, after all, no different than any other person on this planet – I want to be loved and accepted by my peers. After toying with several different versions of a reply, most of which were expletive-laden, I settled in on kindness.

Before she died, I asked my mother how she was so nice and how she had become such a wonderful person and how on earth could someone as damaged as me even reach for that level of humanity. “Pay it forward,” she said.

I miss her so much. She was so beautiful and so smart and I so wish she was here to guide me.

But she is not. And I am here.

My heart is big and I wear it on my sleeve. That is what I was thinking last night as I was going to sleep, pondering the day’s events. I was feeling fearful that I was not a good mother, that I was making a fool of myself on a daily basis by even pretending to be a writer and that a colleague I respect and adore had lost respect for me.

And so, my head wandered to my heart and how for so many years I worked so hard at keeping it all hidden inside and pretending like nothing effected me. And then the pressure of that enormous job got to be too much and I decided it was easier to just take my heart and my emotions and place them where they belong…right out on my wrist like a prom corsage.

And then the memories rushed through my brain like flood waters. I went to the Brother Martin Homecoming Dance with someone, [although, sadly I do not remember who – let’s call this mystery date Jack] and he gave me one of those wrist corsages. I don’t know if kids today still do that, but for some reason every dance involved not only the laborious process of sifting out a date, but also buying a dress and making sure your date knew what color the dress was so he could bring you a corsage.

Although I was grateful for the wrist corsage, as I do not like still to have anything pinned to my clothes, this thing was like a banquet centerpiece and it had mini gold footballs stuck in it. I spent the whole night trying to lose it on the dance floor. Every time I managed to ditch it, Jack would come running up to me, “You dropped this!” or “Look what I found!”

That is what my life is like these days, every time I try to hide my heart and the feelings inside, they keep reappearing, strapped to my wrist, replete with tacky charms.

August 4, 2009

Love and Other Odors

I was on vacation last week. I started an entry that was going to be a funny day-by-day diary-like account of the week, but by the entry for Day 5 I was too depressed to make it funny. Vacation is freakin’ hard. If you don’t have kids, you won’t get this, but if you do, you know what I am talking about.

The 10 days I was off of “work” were the longest 10 days of my life. Why, you ask? Because daycare was also closed for those 10 days. I had 10 consecutive days with Max. TEN. And while I love that little munchkin more than life itself, he is demanding, irrational and sometimes just an ass hole.

I spend, on an average work day, a lot of time alone. Max goes to daycare at around 8 and I work alone, at home, usually until 5pm. Then I pick him up. Although I talk on the phone with people, it is not unusual for me not see another human being all day. And frankly, I like it that way.

This vacation meant all day, every day was spent with my shadow right next to me. He slept with me, he whined at me, he hit me, he spit at me, and at one point, I believe it was Day 8, I locked myself in the hotel bathroom to cry with the sounds of him on the other side of the door whining “Mommy.”

I now know why and how people snap. I get why some mothers just one day pack their bags and walk away. I am not saying I am going to do this, but I now completely understand why some do. My mother stayed at home with 4 children. And we were whiny and lazy and unappreciative. I don’t know why she stayed.

It seemed that the more miserable I was, the clingier he got. He could sense that I was fading, vanishing from existence with each day of vacation. I tried to be happy, I suggested pool visits and games, but he knew I was faking it and balked every step of the way. He whined for his pacifier (which he only gets at night) all day long, he whined that his stomach hurt (which it did because he held his shit in for 4 days) he whined that the pool had closed (which it was and it was moronic because who closes a pool when there is a clap of thunder 25 miles away) but when he started whining for me to hold him when I was already holding him, I snapped. I cried. I cried because I do not like being a mother right now and I cried because I missed my own mother and I cried because I will not be free for a long time.

I will be tied to this little boy forever and for the first time, I was saddened by that.

He can sense this in me and he does not know what to do, so I am hugging him more and telling him I love him. I do love him. Very much. But right now, it is hard to like being with him. He is irrational and willful. He makes outrageous demands and is willfully disobedient.

Last night we were lying in bed and he was singing to himself. I held him tight and told him I loved him. He stroked my hair and snuggled in close and said, “Mommy? You smell good. You smell like pizza.”

From a three year old, there are no sweeter and more poetic words of love than those.

And, I know this phase will pass. He will get over his bizarre toilet hang ups, he will eventually enter the age of reason and one day, he will not want me around all the time. He will be embarrassed to be seen with me and will make me drop him off 2 blocks away from his friends.

But for now, I have a tiny tyrant in my life and he smells like hot dogs and urine.