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Archive for June, 2008

Unicycles

Yesterday was a really rough day for me.  It started with the writing issues, worked its way into a lunch out cut short because I had to scoot home for a delivery, wound its way through a truncated trip out to the drug store, and ended up with me clinging stubbornly to feeling low.

Because, yes, sometimes I can admit how stubborn I am.

C and I had it out a bit about my isolation.  See, I don’t go anywhere.  Maybe to the grocery every few days, but other than that…well, the last time I went out with a friend other than C was in November of 2006.  Before last Thursday, the last time C and I went out by ourselves was in October 2007, right before the baby was born.  Every other social opportunity has been a family function.  And so, in my weakened state last night, I decided that this must be because I am shameful to be seen with.  (Sometimes that little lunatic portion of my brain takes the reins and works the rest of me into a huge lather.)

The long and short of it, folks, is that I have next to no friends.  C has friends.  From time to time, not frequently but several times a year, he goes out and socializes.  I do not.  And what’s more, I really don’t try to make friends.  C doesn’t try either, but he’s out doing more things and is around more people.  And it isn’t fair that he gets to go out more than I do, but it also wouldn’t be fair for him to stay home just because I never get to go out.  And herein lies the rub.

I suppose part of it comes from having this sort of idea that when you got married you had ‘couple friends’.  You know, like we’re a couple so we have the same friends or some of the same friends or at least we’d have people to go out with or have over from time to time.  You know, play Yahtzee and drink wine or something.  (I have no idea what I’d pictured us all doing but it’s there in the back of my mind nonetheless.  It’s prudent to mention that the idea of company gives me hives but I guess in my mind I glossed over this little fact.)
Another part comes of wanting things to be easy for me.  If C is out meeting people he can pre-screen them and I don’t have to deal with being the cloth diapering, peak-oil worrying, hairy-leg sporting, tattoed hippy freak amongst a world of Gap shopping, nanny having, pedicured Ladies who tote their children around in expensive strollers.

Is it becoming clear how much I think of myself as Other?  In some ways I think I make myself out to be more interesting than I am.

I feel at home in my  home.  I feel at home with my children, whether it’s coloring a flowerpot with Lucy or flopping around on the bed with Chico.  I feel at home with C, both when we sit in silence and when we have heated debates about politics or anthropology.  As soon as I leave the house, I turn up the music really loud and I walk as fast as I can to wherever I am going.  I hold doors for people and I am painfully polite to store employees and other customers, but I wrap myself literally in layers of clothes or figuratively in the music I am listening to.

I am acutely aware, too, that my social discomfort makes people think I do not like them.  This is a tough one for me.

I am trying to write all of this to know that I am being honest with myself.  Because really?  Something’s gotta give.  I’m tired and sad this morning, and it isn’t going to get any better until I figure out why I’m so worried about being embarrassing to be around and how to lower the wall around me enough to give myself a chance to actually embarrass myself.

I don’t even know if this is making any sense.  Hell, I’m not sure it makes any sense to me.  There seem to be a bunch of issues at play with my whopping insecurity right there at the middle like a blind crossing guard letting them run out into traffic while I try to pass through the intersection riding a unicycle.

I know I’ve written about the friend thing before, and it’s part of the package, but I can’t help but think that there’s something else.  I think maybe it goes back to what I wrote yesterday about wanting someone else to be in charge.  I don’t want to have to find friends, I just want them to happen.  I don’t want to have to try to fit socializing into my life, I just want to be invited somewhere.  Otherwise it just seems like more work and it’s easier to sit on the couch watching crime dramas.  And I’ll cop to this one too–I am jealous that C has friends who want to hang out with him because I am never invited.  It is always assumed that I will stay home with the kids, and it makes me feel like the ball and chain because either I complain about it and I’m the wife who wants her husband to be as miserable as she is or I invite myself along and neither of us has fun because we’re at the mercy of a babysitter who doesn’t want to be watching the kids until 4 am  Or midnight even.  I don’t have an answer to that part except to say that I don’t want to be someone to be escaped.

I don’t know.  It’s all of this and more.  It’s every fear I have about myself and probably a few I hadn’t realized.  It’s a really huge pain in the ass.  It’s making the people around me miserable, which is going to make them not enjoy spending as much time with me.  It’s self-sabotage.

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In Charge

It is virtually impossible to write anything meaningful while one’s child is singing ‘On Top of Spaghetti.’  This was going to be the first line of this post (ok, it still is).  It was composed while perched on the john at around 9:06.  I was interrupted by Lucy attempting to scale my lap at around 9:10 because she wanted to ‘watch me write.’  Then she asked to adopt another bat.  We opted for a Great White Shark.  I turned on some music answered an email, replied to a comment, and turned on the fans.  I typed that well thought out first line and now…

Nada.

I have no idea what I was going to write about.  And I do mean no.freaking.idea.  This is the second time in 3 days that I was all excited about writing and then ended up with bubkes.  It is soooooo unfair.

A few days ago I wrote about how fulfilling I find staying at home with my children.  Today I will cop to one of my biggest frustrations:

I can’t get anything finished.  Ever.

I try to take 8:30-9:30 every morning to write.  I’m not exactly a morning person, but I have trouble inserting writing into the rest of my day.  So first thing it is.  It was fantastic when Lucy was still in school and was gone for the day.  I could get up, make coffee, get her ready, nurse the baby and put him down to play.  I had both the computer and the living room to myself.  Even if I didn’t get anything out, I could if I wanted to.

It’s my own fault for being easily interrupted, and it’s my own fault for not trying to switch my writing time to the evenings when she’s in bed and C at class.  It’s even my own fault for not writing on paper anymore.  But all fault aside, here I sit trying to write, with an empty brain, a baby crying, a child shouting, a husband lounging on the couch, the Clash playing, the television on and I’m ready to cry myself because again I’m going to have to stop writing to go be a grown up.

So there.  It isn’t all sunshine and diamonds.  Some days I want somebody else to be in charge.

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Lovenote from Con Ed

I got our green power certificate dealio yesterday from ConEd, letting us know that we used 3521kWh between January and December 2007. We used 5560 kWh for the same period of the year prior, meaning we used 2039 kWh fewer. Our Riot numbers (June 07-May 08 ) have our home usage at 3349, which is even lower! Which means that we really have made a significant reduction despite starting out at well below the national average. I am psyched!

I feel the need to mention yet again that we do not have electric heat or cooktop. Although I am virtually certain that our use of heating oil was quite low last year as we only ran one heater for half of the winter and no heaters for the rest. Our cooking is natural gas and I have no idea what we use. Also, our electric doesn’t count laundry, but our machines are run on cold, are front load, and I use the dryer for one load a week.

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During my brief stay at college, I had a poster of SARK’s How to Be An Artist bought in one of those huge poster sales at the campus center (I got a Skinny Puppy poster at the same time, which sort of exemplifies how much I was caught between stompiness and hippiness, but that’s not relevant to this post.)  The line that always stood out to me the most was ‘Plant Impossible Gardens.’  In fact, it popped into my head this morning as I was in between watering plants and making coffee and negotiating with Lucy about the watching of Discovery Kids.  As I booted up the computer, she was leaning over Chico in the stroller, his face turned up to hers as though her hair was the rays of the sun.  Every time he looks at her, it’s as if he is trying to soak up everything that is Lucy, big kid, friend, mentor.

I have finally figured out what it means to plant an impossible garden.

We came home from the beach to our home, minute in comparison to where we were staying and far less manicured.  It was hot without an air conditioner, sticky.  I had left my bag of dressy shoes on the floor of the bedroom and the dress from the dinner on a chair in the living room.  The desk was still covered with papers, the dining room table with some of Lucy’s drawings and my poor, poor seedlings.  I sat on the couch to nurse Chico and it was glorious.  The heat, the art, the wash hanging in the foyer and the thick air.  It’s mine, it’s the way that I want to live, and it’s where my children are growing and learning.  This feels so very good.

Within moments of getting back, Lucy had set up a picnic in her room.  C and Chico attended while I took my canvas bag to the grocery for soy milk.  On the way, I organized my thoughts to begin writing a new essay (!!!!!!!!!!!!) while listening to Tom Waits croon God’s Away on Business.  Later, C and I made plans to pick up the meat/egg/bread/everything else order together with the farm share today.  And it felt good too.

My little flowers are thriving despite having (and because they have) a mother who is perfectly imperfect.  In my garden, we stay in our pajamas until we have to go somewhere and we make everything from art projects to messes.  We get paint on  the carpet and sometimes leave dishes lying out.  I will give away half of my wardrobe before I let go of a single piece of Lucy’s artwork, and I gladly give up half of my living room to store materials for future projects.  They will always have to put away their things at the end of the day, but we’ll always make room for their treasures.

For my part, I’ll try my best to feed them and water them and guide their growth so that they will grow up to plant impossible gardens of their own, no matter what they decide to cultivate in them.  And I will try my best to set aside time each day to enjoy this little plot I have made.

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Last night. C and I scrubbed the academic/hippy off of ourselves and put on Grown-Up Clothes for a dinner for the organization that I volunteer for. I was instantly reminded upon arrival of how much social settings make me feel like I’m playing adult for the night. Which I am in a way, I suppose. I am also reminded of how much more comfortable I am with written communication than verbal. I sweat and fidget and try my best not to make a fool of myself but I usually end up feeling like I’m stumbling over my words or worse, sounding like Ralph Wiggam. I’d make a horrible salesperson, and I think I need to work on a spiel about myself that doesn’t make it sound like I think people are wasting their time talking to me, especially as I start to meet other parents and people in the neighborhood.

In some ways I wear the moniker of Stay at Home Mom around my neck like an albatross. I truly love being home with my kids. I love strapping Chico into a carrier and traipsing around a museum, and I love washing veggies with Lucy with music playing. I love when people ooh and aah over my helpful/beautiful/kind children. It fills me with pride. But it came out when C interviewed me for an ethnography about mothers and toy choices–I am uncomfortable with the gender implication of being a housewife. Not for other women, mind. But I feel decidedly guilty for staying home and liking it. You know up at the top where it says ‘You don’t need a blog, you need therapy’? You are here.

When the project was finished and C let me read it, I didn’t like the way I ended up sounding. The words he used were mine. The analysis was fair. But compared to the other women he interviewed, I sounded sort of…domestic. I didn’t like the implication of being the ‘at-home mom’ because despite knowing that I am not defined by my title of mother, I feel as though I need to explain that I still have interests outside of motherhood and keeping house. I throw myself into my job as mother just like I have with every other job I’ve had. And, maybe most importantly, I feel as though I need to explain that I never planned on being an at-home mom or housewife or anything that even remotely resembled anything domestic.  I ended up here, and I found it fulfilling, and I stayed.  I just don’t like talking about it.

When it comes down to it, it’s the last-ditch bastion of Women’s Work.  No matter how many fathers opt to stay home while their wives work, they can never be stay-at-home moms.  A woman can be anything she wants to be, but as soon as she has a child, she adds the title of mother.  And I guess for me it feels sometimes like I have to justify being Mother when so many women are Mothers And…

Despite all of this wild exposition I’m having this morning, it was a lovely dinner, though.  It was the first night C and I have had alone since the meningitis hospital stay, and I came away feeling rather lucky to have such a supportive husband.  I also woke up feeling very much like writing, which hasn’t happened for a while.  I’m a bit rusty, but hopefully can get back into the swing of things without too much angst.

I’m having a lot of trouble pushing the publish button on this post.  I’m always afraid to admit how much I worry about what other people think of me.  Because, you know, you might think less of me for it.

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Mmmmmmm.  C sauteed ours up in oil and merlot vinegar with red pepper and garlic, and they were delicious.

Lucy and I had a nice walk to the CSA pick up, and she has expressed interest in trying new foods again like we did last year with the farm share.  I don’t know if I can get her to try chard though.  She doesn’t do cooked veg except for a newfound love of steamed broccoli.

Otherwise, we are getting ready for a night out tomorrow for C and I,  followed by a weekend at Grandma’s for the kids and I.  Daddy gets to have a nice break from the rabble while I get to lounge beside a pool.  Fair trade, I think.  Of course, I’m going to need it by the time it rolls around because it’s packing time again, and this time I have another wee one to contend with.  I’ve gotten less ritualized about packing since we stopped flying, but I still have to have a good list going to get anything done, and my list is barely begun.  There is swimwear to handwash (I think I’ll introduce Lucy to No Impact Man’s bathtub stomp method to which I cannot find a direct link but it’s there somewhere and you should be reading his blog anyway.)  There is an apartment to ready to be cleaned (which is a gift from the gods this week, I swear.)  There is a me to ready for the dinner (I ordered a swanky new nursing dress so that I can nurse Chico right before I run out the door and as soon as I run back in because I’m not sure if he’s going to do a bottle but I haven’t tried it on.  Or pumped, for that matter.)  I threw out all of my makeup except for powder and lipstick so the temptation to get uber-made up will not be there.  My hair is such a mess that I can only pull it into a bun or leave it down.   I cannot wear shoes with a closed toe so I will be rocking my Birkenstocks, which is tacky but easier than trying to walk in the surgical shoe and a heel.  I refuse to buy new shoes, especially open-toe ones which I hate with a passion.  Am hoping nobody will be looking at my feet anyway.  All in all, it may very well be an occasion wherein I leave the house looking like a total mess.  Meh.  And, in between all that, we have laundry to do to take with us, a ton of greens to eat before we go, and Lucy has somewhere between 5 and 10 projects she wants to do.  It’s gonna be a busy day.

I would have gotten much of this done yesterday except we were making things.  Making things is far more fun than cleaning things or packing things.  A pox on responsibility.

In other news, I have a new mesclun sprout.  I don’t know how, or when, but it snuck up on me and was proudly standing up between the pot of vermicompost and an old newspaper.  This pot hasn’t been watered in months.  It’s like the Gardening Gods felt bad about my seed woes and sent a gift.  I also have several sprouts in the pot of vermicompost.  I don’t know what they are, though.  It looks like maybe cukes.  How about that.

Can you tell that I’m freaking out about getting everything done?  I don’t need coffee in the morning, I need oxygen.

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On Saturday we had a guy come in to fix the wall around our a/c where the plaster/paint had gotten all screwed up by a clogged weephole.  He took one look at my pitiful seedling collection and commented that we should’ve started earlier.  I was a bit defensive at first, but even I had to admit that it was true.  I started late and they just haven’t grown like they should have.  Sigh.  I’m torn on what to do.  I guess I’ll keep them going because it certainly won’t hurt anything, but I have to face up to the fact that we aren’t going to be eating from the balcony this year.  So much for the growing challenge.

The basil, however, is looking pretty good and getting big.  So that’s something.  I have one little peppermint guy who is trying desperately to stay alive, and my peppers are still growing, albeit slowly and in no way close to fruit.  The strawberries are damn near microscopic, and I have no idea why their growth is so stunted but they are cute anyway.  The parsley and cilantro died out a month ago; I think I’m going to cheat and buy a couple of herb plants next week.

I’m bummed, but at least now I know to start earlier next year.

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