- Rushing, rushing, rushing.
- I plan to take a breath when my butt finally hits the front passenger seat and our wheels start rolling toward Vermont (land that I love…). I’ll take an even deeper breath when we cross state lines.
- Returning to the state where my heart lives always ends up filling me with an uncomfortable mixture of contentment and sadness. It fills me up and deflates me.
- Impromptu to-do list:
- LAUNDRY! Pack.
- walk dog
- post office
- Levi bath, me shower
- print directions to Fairfield
- The foliage is flat this year. Mostly pale yellow, green, and brown, missing the vibrant reds that signal fall in the Northeast. The trees seem to be saying, if you don’t believe the scientists, believe us, waving their yellow and green flags of warning.
- When I was a kid, my parents would always say, “It’s nice to go away, but it is sure is good to be home.” (I think every parent says this)? I’d wrinkle my nose in confusion and distaste and think, What’s so good about being home? Now, after a brief stint in an Airbnb, I feel grateful for the familiarity of my own bed, my own kitchen, my own coffee. The comfort of knowing.
- My desk is a mess. It hinders my ability to think clearly. My eye repeatedly drawn to the haphazard piles near my elbows.
- Only one day trip left between now and Thanksgiving, and that fills me with relief (see #6). Like the messy desk, too much time away from the daily routine boggles my mind.
- Once in a P-town bar, I was approached by a lone girl high on something. She carried a suitcase and a broken ukulele. She asked me if I was boggler. Told me I looked like a boggler–something about my eyes. Bogglers, she explained, were prophetic souls who could see things the rest could not. I told her I wasn’t a boggler.
- I’m attempting a 10 day “gutbliss” elimination diet. No dairy. I just added almond milk to my coffee, and it zapped all the joy from my morning.
- The weather lately, though never the same, seems consistently ominous. Too hot. Too cold. Overcast skies, but no rain. Intense wind. Humidity. Deluge.
- I love catching the sight of the underside of leaves as they whip in the wind. The milky whiteness, rarely exposed to the sun seems to portend something. Stay away, it says.
- On a coast far from here, Hurricane Nate touches down. We are always untouched here, except for by the news cycle. And whose heart can keep up this hurricane season?
- I have a Victoria Secret bra, hardly worn, that I want to donate. I have money I can give. But to where, to whom, how, which victims? I start ticking locations of need off on my fingertips.
- My dog runs up the small hill in our backyard. Squats. He only has sight in one eye. It’s sad. He turns nine this month. We’ve had him for seven years.
- I hear my son’s voice throughout the house. Storytelling. A born storyteller. I imagine him kissing the Blarney Stone one day, enhancing his “gift of the gab.”
- My wife solo parents while I work. I solo parent while she works. We are almost never alone together.
- It’s time for my morning staple: english muffin with almond butter and banana slices.
- Nothing makes me long for body under blankets and more sleep than the sound of rain.
- Trying but failing to stay calm as I look ahead at a three day work week, and, already defeated, know I cannot possibly get it all done. It will be okay, I tell myself over and over, and despite the evidence that everything always is, I refuse to believe.
- I love go getters.
- Sometimes I tire of trying to be a go getter.
- Perhaps it’s actually just the alliteration that I love.
- Last night I spent an hour and half at the mall. I felt like an alien dropped onto a strange planet. I people watched, squinting my eyes against the bright Vegas-style lights, and fretted over shoes and earrings–generalized accessory anxiety. I missed reading to my kiddo.
- It’s morning now, and I’m back in my element: fairy lights in wine bottle, himalayan salt lamp, fountain pen, journal, coffee in pottery mug. (I admit how precious this all sounds).
- In the baby monitor, I watch my little man kick and stretch. I brace myself for the sound of his voice calling out. I missed reading to him, but I also often miss writing for me.
- It’s Friday morning, and I’m ready for the weekend to be over already. I tell myself no travel during the semester. It’s too stressful, and here I sit with four weekends of travel ahead of me.
- I’ve memorized where the floorboards creak. I can sneak past kiddo’s room in cat-like silence. This involves walking balance-beam-style all the way to the lefthand side of the hall. It requires careful balance and sure-footing–both of which are a challenge at 5:30am.
- Dear September–I’m ready to shut the windows now. As much as I’ve enjoyed the nights of fresh air, the strange hours being kept by our neighbor’s grandson are becoming my strange hours. I don’t do well with strange hours.
- It feels strange–unnatural–to patter around the kitchen, making my morning coffee barefoot in shorts and a tank top. It’s nearly October. Today’s high will be 90.
- Lately I have an insatiable hunger.
- This is going to be harder than I thought, harder than it looks.
- I want that first sip of coffee. My tongue is raw and burned anyway (from that insatiable hunger which causes me to shovel food into my mouth without caution), so I might as well go for it.
- If I were meditating right now, these reflections would be coming fast and strong, jumbled and loud. But I’m writing, so they trickle and squeak.
- My toes curl around the wooden spindle support of the table in front of me. Outside my window, birds sing like it’s May. It’s September. My window has been open for a week.
- I push my glasses up on my face and brush imaginary hair from my face and eyes. It gives me something to do.
- On lunch, I will meet my wife to play tennis on the city courts. We try to do this at least weekly. We are the only people who utilize the courts, and for a half an hour each week, it’s just us, focused on each other and a little chartreuse ball, against the background noise of skateboard wheels rolling and cars whooshing.
- Ten minutes at the writing desk, and the kiddo just woke up calling, “Didi,” and looking for the ball he has been dreaming about all night.
- I notice on the calendar that September 10th was Grandparent’s day–another Hallmark holiday that we never celebrated, but suddenly I’m struck my the fact that I no longer have any living grandparents.
- I have to go pretend to be Thomas the Train now. Peep peep.
I’m embarking on a new self-imposed writing adventure:
“520 Moments of an (Extra)ordinary Life”
This will be a weekly post of ten moments (or reflections) on life for one year (52 weeks = 520 moments). My life, more specifically. My life as a mom, teacher, wife, caring (anxiety-ridden) citizen, daughter, sister, writer, and so on. Inspired by the writing of Katrina Kenison, I originally planned to call it “520 Moments of an Ordinary Life,” but decided to use add the “(extra)” as a way of speaking back to or putting pressure on this idea that mediocre is good, admirable even, something to strive for. Don’t get me wrong, I loved O’Reilly-Davi-Digui’s post. As did many of my friends (like minds and all that). My quibble is mostly a matter of semantics. What if the life she is describing, isn’t actually mediocre? After all, it’s hard to argue that Kenison, who has published four books and gives (sold-out) workshops and readings all over the country, leads an “ordinary life.” She leads the kind of life most aspiring writers dream of. This is not to say, that I don’t understand the way in which these writers are using terms like “ordinary” and “mediocre.” Kenison writes about her sons growing up, her garden, the death of close friends–the things we all experience. O’Reilly-Davi-Digui describes being middle-of-the-road regarding everyday things like keeping house and body image:
What if I am a mediocre home manager who rarely dusts and mostly maintains order and makes real food but sometimes buys pizza and who is horrified at moments by the utter mess in some areas of her home.
Ultimately, I know we cannot just eliminate the words ordinary or mediocre when it comes to describing things, for how would we ever get a sense of scope and scale; however, my (extra)ordinary is an attempt to on that idea, if only for a moment. My approach is/will be akin to the Bella Grace mission:
We believe: An ordinary life can be extraordinary, there is beauty in imperfection, and that magic can be found in the everyday.
In the end, though, this challenge is more about writing than about what I call it. It’s about having a race to train for and staying motivated. It’s about ensuring my ten blog readers have something to read at least weekly.
This writing practice is inspired by all the wonderful list-makers out there: Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp” has always been a go-to for my work and my teaching. Daniel Nester’s (also inspired by Sontag) Shader is list-like collection that started as a kind of blogging challenge. Most recently, I’ve been loving Alisha Sommer’s lists of ten on her blog.
Week one post to follow. Stay tuned….
We get our first birthday party invite in Levi’s daycare cubby. We don’t really know the little girl, but the rule is that if you want to invite one kid from your child’s class, you need to invite the whole class. This is not a dilemma for us: We will never invite one kid from his class. Two introverts, we deliberate over whether or not to attend. “I just wish we knew who was going to see if we will know anyone,” my wife keeps saying.
“Honey, we don’t know anyone,” I keep reminding her.
Still, I think this might be a good way to meet other parents from Levi’s school, and so shyly, nervously we show up. We scan the large room filled with tumble mats, balance beams, bounce houses, and parachute cloth, looking for familiar faces. There aren’t (m)any. The mom of the birthday girl comes up to greet us and points to her husband. We wave and then settle in, alternately chasing our little guy around and watching in wonder as he parallel plays alongside his classmates.
At one point, they round up the kids for parachute cloth games—versions of “Row Row Row Your Boat” and “Wheels on the Bus.” I watch the children and primary colors pass by me, ‘round and ‘round, while trying to catch a quick video of the moving target that is my son. As I move my arm and observe the party through the screen, I suddenly become aware of the other parents. I note their wrinkle-free faces, tanned and taut skin, white teeth, lack of bags under their eyes. I take in their energy and realize suddenly that my wife and I are probably old enough to be the parents to some of these parents. I swallow deeply and let out a little breath. Is this why none of the parents walk and talk with me as we exit school after drop off each day? Is this why I am never one of the moms standing in the hall or parking lot chatting each morning? At the end of the day I squat near my son at the low-to-the-ground snack table and talk to him, while around me parents exchange tid-bits. They ask questions like: “Did you already travel to London?” “I go to my conference when Diane gets back.” “We should get together….” From my vantage point of looking up at all these young faces, I get it. Hanging out with my wife and I would be a bit like hanging out with your parents. And who wants to do that on the regular?
While being queer parents has seemingly been a non-issue, I start to feel like maybe the real gap between us and other parents is the rather hefty age difference. Or perhaps this is all in my head. It could also be my introversion coupled with my walk that’s nearly a run (I’m late for work, people!) that send the message to other parents: Don’t talk to me! On the other hand, age differences—even at the stage in life where we tend to group people by decade—can feel very real, especially when the age differential puts you in different decades! Despite it being increasingly common for people to have kids later in life, this tends to be defined as (early) in one’s 30s. Parents with the kind of grey hair and neck wrinkles that I have are still fairly difficult to come by.
This summer I met two moms on a local beach who are 46 with 3 year olds (and 5 year olds). I’ve been both inspired and comforted by this chance encounter everyday since. When school started this year, we ran into one of the moms at parent night! We chatted again and, to our surprise, discovered that our kids had been enrolled in the school the year before as well. We were unsure why our paths hadn’t crossed previously. In thinking about this, it seems to me that part of the reason I hadn’t noticed this other old(er) mom during the year prior is that she just doesn’t stick out as, well, any different than the moms in their 30s. And that too, comforts me, because maybe it’s the same for me. Maybe the red letter “O” (for old) that I feel adorns my chest while in a gathering of daycare parents, is only visible to me.
In my pre-child life, a friend and I would always remark on how our lives were like a house of cards or a carefully aligned row of dominoes. Assuming everything went exactly according to schedule, then the house would stay standing and the dominoes would fall in perfect execution. All it took, however, was one small diversion from the schedule–an unplanned vet visit, a fire to put out at work, an illness, a fight with our other half–and chaos would ensue. This is, of course, the case with anyone’s life; however, some people are better in chaos than others. And a rare few actually thrive in it.
One aspect of parenthood that I still cannot seem to adjust to is the frequency with with the cards shift and the dominoes fall out of alignment. As Levi has gotten older, we’ve been able to more easily establish and maintain a routine. We are just about to hit the year mark of him being in daycare (!!!), and that alone has required more consistency in our day-to-day life. His sleeping has been in the realm of regular for just over a year now as well (perhaps we have daycare to thank…). However, whereas in my old life, my perfectly constructed plans could stay put for a few months at a time, in my new life (yes, it still feels new to me…), we are lucky to get through a full week without some kind of disruption or sudden change to the course we are on. Cards flying through the air; dominoes run amuck.
Lately I feel like I’m getting better at rolling with the endless punches that parenthood uppercuts my way. Like a GPS, I’ve developed this skill of immediately recalibrating when a change in the routine has occurred. I start mentally shifting hours, moving plans to other days, reconfiguring dinner, removing a workout, sneaking in writing time. This morning, however, as I chased my poor dog with diarrhea through the neighborhood, soaking up heavy morning dew into my wool socks and squinting in the thin light of early morning for any signs of poop on the neighbor’s lawn, my newly found skill wasn’t apparent. Nor was it apparent this morning when I woke at 5:20, cleaned up dog poop in our bathroom and then discovered the filter to my Aeropress was missing. I fumbled around, tearing the kitchen apart in search of it, finally realizing that Dawn must have accidentally thrown it away yesterday morning while cleaning it. [A side note regarding parenthood: you are forced to multitask, but you are doing it with a very minimal amount of brain power].
[Update: Dawn dug through the trash and rescued the Aeropress filter. We’ve returned to the route…].
This week is coming to a close and we’ve survived not having daycare (they’ve been on a three week break); unplanned vet visits, interrupted sleep, and lots of poop clean-up due to poor little Rasta’s bouts of diarrhea; the missing Aeropress filter; and bees starting to enter our home due to a nest in our fireplace vent (and subsequently unexpected visits from local bee experts–none of whom seem equipped to deal with removal). I’ve somehow managed all of this with only one glass of wine and half a pint of ice cream. Tomorrow school year number two starts for Levi. We are old pros now, and I expect a smooth transition back. But you just never know….