April 7, 2014 § 3 Comments
I started this blog in 2007. Back then, it was little more than a blip in the blogosphere that represented– at least to me– a promise to myself that no matter how terrible things got (re: working in commercial real estate), I would keep writing. Through a combination of luck, perseverance, and some talent I’ve been able to spend most of my professional life in the creative services: writing and creating in some capacity.
When I no longer needed this blog for that purpose, it became something else entirely. Over the years it has shifted and changed to accommodate my life and what I need from the blog. (I hardly ever go back and read old posts; they truly make me cringe.) About two years ago the blog finally became something I was deeply proud of. No longer a ranting humor blog, it had finally turned a corner to become the thoughtful, unapologetic exploration of my life, emotions, feelings, and expectations. It’s been said of me that I lack a filter, but the truth is actually quite the opposite. My seeming lack of filter is my filter. I seek to engage myself– and those around me– in a constant conversation about what is true and what has value. I do not create content for shock value. I put myself out there in hopes that someone, somewhere will connect with what I am saying and think a little bit harder about how they feel. For some people it’s refreshing, for others, unfortunately, it’s offensive.
So what’s this about? Ugh. Right.
These are my truths; my thoughts and feelings about what it’s like to navigate life. Choices are a bitch: they elevate and advance us, but they also preclude us from so many things. My point in my post last week about the worthiness of parenting was not to vilify my tiny human, but to help others understand what a deeply challenging role parenting is, as well as what it means to choose the role of a parent over that of so many other available roles. I love my tiny human. I love him very, very dearly, but I cannot– and will not– say that his appearance into my life hasn’t thrown me into a tailspin of contemplation and questioning.
Author is loved. If I didn’t love him, I wouldn’t hook myself up to a goddamn milking machine every day for eight months, or roast tiny game hens and puree them up like poor people pate. I wouldn’t spend every last dollar I make on his nanny or cry myself to sleep over whether I can give him the future he deserves. He is loved not only by me, but by his “pups” and his Gami and his Mimi and Panda and Grand Bear, and all the other friends and relative with whom he Facetimes every week.
But like I said before, he can be a teeny tiny fucker. And if that’s too much to hear, you’ve come to the wrong place.
January 4, 2014 § 3 Comments
It’s only a matter of time before I leave you all for something bigger, better, brighter. For years I’ve toiled away on this blog, exposing my deepest insecurities and most intimate thoughts– for what? Your fleeting admiration? A few comments? The occasional like? It’s not a life I’m cut out for living. But getting free shit? That’s a life I was born for.
That’s right. I got a free thermometer. Braun sent it to me because I am so mather facking good at this whole mothering thing. I’m an influencer. (That means that right now I am infiltrating your brain and making you do things without even knowing it.) No, really. As it turns out, no one cares about me. All I ever needed to do to become popular on the internet was have a baby. If I’d gotten knocked up at 16, I probably could have skipped college, gotten in early on the Facebook thing and had a best seller by the time I could legally buy cigarettes. Wish I would have known. Stupid education.
But I didn’t. And it looks like it may not matter because even with that useless college degree, I got a free thermometer. The beauty of my free thermometer is two fold. First, if you’ve ever had to take a baby’s temperature, or stuck anything in your own asshole, you know that it’s not fun or easy. (At least not all the time.) As it turns out, as much as I adore the in-ear thermometer, baby don’t dig. My new, free, thermometer works by swiping it across your forehead. I have no idea how well it works on my child, but the two or three hundred times I’ve taken my own temperature, it’s been downright blissful. Plus when I thought I was dying, the hubs seemed to be able to swipe it across my forehead with similar ease. The second thing about my free thermometer (besides that it was FREE and incredibly validating) is that it’s a gateway thermometer. This is going to be my new life. Today it’s a free thermometer, tomorrow, who knows.
I have some ideas.
As many of you may not know, I have a very big birthday coming up. It’s divisible by ten and three. As someone with so much influence and savvy, it makes perfect sense that brands would be clamoring to send me the top items on my list. For free.
Why? I will tell you why. The publicity. The access to impressional folks such as yourself. I’m going to build a birthday empire. (DO YOU HEAR ME, BRANDS? WHEN YOU SEND ME FREE THINGS I WILL PEDAL THEM! I AM SHAMELESS! I WILL SAY WHATEVER YOU WANT!) Do you see what I’ve done for Braun? Do you see how many fractions of a thermometer I’ve sold?
So here’s the list.
All-Clad: You wonderful, wonderful stainless steel people. I need a 12 quart stainless pot. It’s a black-eyed pea emergency. If I have to make New Year’s peas in that shit hole pot for another year, I won’t need luck, I’ll need a good lawyer. You send me the pot and you’ll get access to all these people. And I’ll post my black-eyed peas with some hash tags. Sound like a plan?
Wusthof: I don’t usually do well appealing to Eastern Europeans. Something about my humor not translating. But let’s cross the bridge of friendship and hug overlooking Free Shit Lake. I need some good knives. Not a whole set, but a few good ones. I could have gone to Henkel, but I came to you. Because I know you want in on this. Danke.
Whole Foods: Truthfully, I’m a little offended that you haven’t reached out to me. I’m from your hometown. We went to high school together. I am loyal. I never complain about you. I don’t care where you source your fruits from. Yay Colombia! Yipee Peru! I think that a few well-placed gift cards could really boost your brand. And by well placed I mean in my palm. (Not to be confused with palm oil. Bad. Unless you stock products that use it. In which case we will overlook a few dead orangutans.)
Amazon: I have no idea what you plan on doing with all those newspapers, but while you’re figuring that out, why don’t you boost your online sales by throwing this gal some gift cards? I’m Prime. (Like actually, I am a Prime member.) I’m a mom. I’m hip. YOU CANNOT GO WRONG WITH THIS INVESTMENT. I will blog all about the things I am going to buy. And then when I buy them… I will post PHOTOS. You read that right. PHOTOS.
Design Within Reach: You are not within reach and we both know it, but you are within reach of the dozens of people who read this blog and with a simple gift of a Herman Miller Eames Lounger (black with cherry), you could boost your sales by a staggeringly insignificant amount. AND you’d be my friend. And I promise to start every blog post in 2014 with, “as I sit here in my Eames lounger from DWR…”
Let’s start there. I’m not saying I’m not open to other brands, but I don’t want to open the floodgates too quickly. There’s enough of my 30th birthday to go around.
Happy Birthday, me. And thank you in advance, All-Clad, Wusthof, Amazon, Whole Foods, and Design Within Reach. Gems, all of you.
(In all seriousness, though, I’d like to thank @Klout and @KloutPerks and the good folks at Braun (@BraunTherms) for the free thermometer. It really is a nifty little gadget that I do recommend– whether you’re a baby or have a baby.)
January 1, 2014 § 1 Comment
I have some ideas for you.
I don’t want to make you feel like you’re not capable of doing this on your own, but I have some wisdom to share. I did my term and if I knew then what I know now, I could have saved the girl a lot of heartache.
First, remember what you are: time. Give of yourself freely. Remind her that you are there for her to enjoy, not rush through. When she is on the verge of panic, give her the moments she has forgotten. The ones when the baby was small. She will remember to slow down and breathe. When she is happiest, stand still. Give her a second or two to be there with nothing else to consider. When she is in pain, fly. Go as fast as you can towards something brighter and more beautiful, but remember to give her enough time to heal. Do not give her to 2015 broken.
She has a big birthday coming. She loves birthdays. She loves birthdays more than anyone I’ve ever known. Call upon the years past to bring joy and celebration. But do not allow her to dwell. Encourage contemplation, but insist on optimism. While you may be only the present, remind her of the future and all the exciting things yet to come.
I did give her a baby, but I also took many things with me. Remind her to wear a supportive bra. Encourage her to love herself by working hard to be healthy. She’s going to fight you on that one, but be firm. Give her some good sleep and maybe she’ll be able to get up and go to the gym. Maybe.
As time we are unstoppable, but as people they are not. Be sure she spends time with people who matter, whose love and friendship can be grown and cultivated. Especially those who may not be here forever.
Give her a few seconds every day to find perspective, a few minutes to notice how the baby has changed and how beautiful her husband is, a few hours to do something that makes her happy, and a few days every now and then to play hookie.
Keep her safe. Carry her across weeks and months. You have no choice but to allow pain and suffering, but keep your cadence and continue your measured march forward so that there will always be a new day, a new light. Let her fall into your rhythm, find comfort in it, but do not allow her to cling to it. She needs your structure for strength, but she needs to find her own strength, as well. She’s a tricky one. She can be broken by the very materials that build her.
Love her as I have. Watch her closely. Be good to that little boy. He is small and perfect. Together we will make him big, but he can remain perfect. Teach patience through pace and certainty and resilience through chaos and uncertainty.
2014, I trust you with her. I will be sad to say goodbye. I made many missteps, sometimes allowing my ambitions to make me forget who I am, but I loved her and gave her so much. When you need help, I will be there. I will offer you my memories, my lessons, and my experiences, you only need to ask. I am not perfect, but I am what I am. The year is gone. I am done.
Take care. And good luck.
November 19, 2013 § 8 Comments
| This post may contain content unsuitable for children and the impressionable. |
Saying that parenthood is a club is obnoxious and makes all your childless friends want to kill you. Unfortunately, much like being a cancer survivor or divorcee, being a parent is something you really don’t “get” until you’re in the throes. You can intellectualize the experience. You can understand the statements being made by parents– “I think I’d rather be dead”– but you can’t truly internalize these statements until you’ve been there. How do I know this? Because I spent 29 years pretending I totally understood when my friends told me they wanted to jump off bridges. Turns out, I did not understand. Not until my little toesies were gripping the edge of said bridge did I reflect back on those friends and think, “oh my god. you were not kidding.”
But this is the circle of life. It’s a series of epiphanies about how someone else felt and guilt that you did not react appropriately. Your relationship with your own parents improves mightily when you realize what an assbag you are for complaining about not having the perfect childhood. You’re lucky you came out alive. So long as no one tried to diddle you, you’re fine. Now move on.
The hubs and I aren’t reading any parenting books. Primarily we don’t care, but we also don’t need any standards set that we know we won’t meet. Sitting in a mommy’s group last week I listened to one mom cry (CRY!) because she read a book about making her baby sleep 12 hours by 12 weeks. It worked perfectly for her sister-in-law, but 12 weeks had come and gone and her baby was only sleeping 6-8 hours a night. She actually used the word “failure.” Meanwhile, elsewhere in the United States, a woman is being arrested because her child was found eating herself in a cage. Let’s employ a little perspective here. Your cashmere swaddled bundle of 8-hours-of-sleep joy has the memory of a goldfish. Cage girl is going to be fucked up. It’s highly unlikely she’ll forget that time she ate her arm.
Aging has (in my experience) little to do with wisdom and everything to do with perspective. Maybe perspective and wisdom are actually the same thing… (ZING!)
I look back at pre-baby Caroline and I miss her, but I also think she’s a dumb ass. I don’t blame her, I’d be a dumb ass if I were her too. (Ha. See what I did there?!) But pre-baby Caroline didn’t understand her own reality relative to what it was to become. There is a legitimate grieving period that takes place when you take on a small child. The old you is gone. And while your life will normalize, it’s not going to ever go back. You have to say goodbye. And that goodbye is a big ball of hard. It involves facing your mortality and understanding the cyclical nature of all things, but most of all it just sucks so hard to realize that you will likely never feel okay signing up for the Santa Speedo Run again. Shit ain’t right.
But, there’s a silver lining. Seriously. Your brain actually changes.
I spent nearly seventeen years throwing up my food. I joke that I liked to have my cake and throw it up too, but obviously eating disorders are no joking matter. (If you or someone you know is suffering, I encourage you to reach out. Life if too short to be living in constant fear of food.) It started when I was in first grade and continued well into my twenties. I will not lie to you, to this day I think the sick Caroline looked fucking phenomenal, but I also know how much turmoil lurked within and I know that I don’t have the emotional or physical energy to be 130 pounds ever again. I used to dream of being pregnant, not because I wanted kids, but because I wanted a break. I wanted air cover to eat. I wanted to be able to put something in my mouth and not have to explain to myself what I was going to do to make up for it. Or figure out how to throw up in a public place.
Now let’s fast forward.
Yesterday I was at the gym. I look terrible. I was there in a feeble attempt to kick start the rejuvenation of my body, but I could not help but be distracted by the form staring back at me in the mirror. To be clear, this is nothing new. I’ve been looking at this alien form for a few months now. When I look in the mirror, I see a body of smooth lines and clear, youthful skin has been replaced by… lumps. Deep purple stretch marks make an interstate map out of my huge, efficient breasts. If my nipples could talk they would tell me to fuck off. Their once pink color is gone. They are dark and National Geographic like. Hours on a breast pump has pulled and stretched them to awkward protrusions. They are cracked and sore and angry.
The stretch marks don’t stop there. My thighs– the Carsey wonders that once never touched– are now smooshed together like two obese people on a JetBlue flight. My stomach is jiggly and shaky and deformed. My arms have little wings. When I wear pants (or pant, singular, as only one pair fits) the excess Caroline bubbles over and makes my shirts catch. (Which is only made more attractive by my breasts tugging at the top.) All in all, I’m a train wreck. And the silver lining? I really just don’t care that much. Not in a “I’ve given up” kind of way, but in a way that acknowledges that I made the choice to go whole ass with the Ben & Jerry’s during my pregnancy and now I’ve got other shit to do. The gym simply isn’t my biggest priority. Not by a long shot.
And when I see skinny 23-year-olds prancing around half naked, I actually smile and think “you go girl! You walk around half naked in 43 degree weather.” Because I know that one day they will cross the bridge. They’ll find themselves staring at a foreign body in a mirror and thinking about how fucking hot and amazing they used to look and feeling bad about giving me stink eye when I rolled past them on the side walk with my bulky form and screaming baby. Every thing comes back around.
It’s still not easy to be a plus-sized version of myself, especially not when I have to go home for the holidays, but for now I sort of see my body as a recovering vessel. The small boy used it to create a perfect little environment for baking to optimal cuteness and then left me with some broke ass shit. And it’s probably not the last time he’s going to pull something like that.
September 17, 2013 § 3 Comments
After realizing that Zooey Dechanel was actually a disappointing guest on Conan and it seemed safe to transfer the small boy from my arms to the bassinet, I got into bed. I laid there for about thirty minutes before it became clear that I wasn’t going to be able to sleep until I wrote some things down– epically important things: things that cannot wait until the morning. (Plus by morning I’ll be fucking miserable because I didn’t get any sleep and the thought of writing anything will seem unfair and terribly hard.)
If something were to happen, there are plans for the small boy. He’ll go live with our best friends, the ones who know us well and know what we kind of life and lessons we would want him to have. It’s a surprisingly difficult conversation to have, not because your facing your mortality, but rather because you realize you have to tell your family that you love them, but not enough to let them raise your child. The hubs and I thought a lot about who the small boy would go to, but the choice was pretty clear. Certain friends know you better than your family, and in a completely different way, and it’s those parts of us that we want him to be exposed to. Even if we’re not here. Plus I always thought it was weird and creepy when people lived with their grandparents. (I also wondered if they woke up every morning just a smidge nervous that someone was dead. I would.)
But there are other things that the small boy should know, things that need to be stated, things that may fall through the cracks or be assumed but never said and I need to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Dear Small Boy. (Or maybe you are now Big. But to me you will always be small.)
I want you to have influences. So many influences: good, bad, beautiful, ugly, gay, straight, white, black… even Asian. Grow up knowing that you are a city kid, a Boston-born boy with East Coast sensibilities, but never be of this city, this coast, or this region. Remember that you have Texas and California deep in your heart and soul and knowing the south and west will be a part of you. Weigh them with equal merit– don’t judge accents, your Mimi and Gramps have them, don’t judge sparkly flip flips, your Gami owns 100 pair. Don’t believe that buildings and sophisticated streets are better than wide expanses of endless earth, just know that they are different. One day you can choose one over the other, but you’ll do so knowing that you could make a life in either. And even though your Mama has always hated California, you should give it a shot. They have nice weather.
Fall in love with people before gender, age, or ethnicity. If you promise to do this, I promise to love whomever you bring through the door. Be true to your feelings, but always remember that everyone has their own feelings. Navigating the angry sea of conflicting emotions is not for the faint of heart, so learn to say you’re sorry when you are and never let anyone tell you that your feelings don’t matter. People who say that deserve to rot in hell.
Speaking of hell, while I hope you don’t decide to be born again or Mormon, the journey of faith is one that you get to take on your own. Don’t fall victim to propaganda and even in the throes of salvation, try to keep an eye on objectivity. No matter what faith you choose– even if you choose none– I know wonderful people who can help you down your path. And if you decide to be an evangelical, practice your witness on the homeless people on Newbury, not your parents. Everyone has religious freedom around these parts.
Don’t buy cheap toilet paper. And don’t buy Scott. I think it’s very strange to wipe yourself with a toilet paper named like a boy. Charmin is for bear bottoms and the preferred tp of this household, but so long as you’re not using Scott or CVS brand or some other subpar nonsense you are free to choose among the name brands. (If you decide against Charmin, I think Cottonelle or Quilted Northern would be good choices.)
Buy Viva paper towels. I learned this from your great grandmother. If you find yourself in a retail establishment that doesn’t sell Viva, you can get by on a roll or two of Bounty. After that you need to just order them on Amazon. You get free shipping on the 12 pack if you’re a Prime member. When you’re older and are faced with hiring a cleaning person, you will find that they use WAY less when provided with Viva as opposed to the cheap alternatives. So really you’re honoring tradition and making a smart financial move. Which will matter to you, as you’re a Virgo.
Marry a Tampax girl and never trust a Kotex girl. Whores, all of them.
And unless she has a Masters Degree from Harvard or some sexual magic trick, be leery of girls who use applicator free tampons. There are bigger things we can worry about keeping out of landfills. That’s practically masturbation.
Even when women are running the world and men feel belittled and emasculated, always open doors and offer your chair. It’s not about equality, it’s about manners. And no matter how digital the world becomes, get a pen and write thank you notes. The fate of the written correspondence is on your shoulders. It’s a beautiful art, don’t kill it.
Small boy, your name is going to drive you bonkers. It will be mispronounced and misspelled your whole life. There will be days– maybe even a lifetime– when you curse your parents for not just naming you Arthur, but your name belongs to you for very good reason. Every story begins with an author. You have a whole life to write the story you want to be your own. Make choices that make you happy, but always make sure they make you proud of yourself. Be inspired, take the road less traveled, read books, listen to music you love, even if other people hate it, and if there is something you are passionate about, be truly passionate. Find something that matters to you, no matter how small, and believe in it. There is no meaning of life, but there is always meaning in intention. Make bold statements, deliberate choices, and be self aware, but never self conscious.
Do hard work that pays poorly for at least one summer. Do easy work that pays well for at least one year. Neither is reality. For the rest of your years and summers do work you love that pays fairly.
Should something happen to me, small boy, you probably won’t remember all of these things. You might forget to buy the right toilet paper or use the wrong brand of sour cream. These things are forgivable. So should something ever happen and we’re not there to remind you every single day, just try to remember this one thing:
That’s all we ever wanted.
June 19, 2013 § 2 Comments
If someone would do me the favor of writing me an advance check that would eliminate the need for a day(ish) job, I am all set to write my series of pregnancy and parenting books. There will likely be three or four in the series, but since I haven’t even gotten my human yet, I can’t be entirely sure that it won’t be closer to 6. Like Game of Thrones only less like Game of Thrones and more like Game of What the Fuck Were YOU Thinking.
We’re in the third trimester. Unlike the prior trimester– the second one– which was a big bag of lies and deception, this trimester feels like pregnancy. I’m no longer wondering whether people aren’t giving up their seats because they can’t “tell” if I’m pregnant, but rather standing uncomfortably close to people who won’t get up so that they may enjoy the feeling of being trapped and wonder what exactly that smell is. (It’s not a bad smell, per say, but it’s not anything easy to identify. Some combination of powder, corn chips, an Inkan village, and peppermint.) There are also entire days that go by when something doesn’t feel quite right, but it’s not until I’m in hysterics, naked, at 2AM, eating Triscuits, that I realize I it’s just hormonal. That happens. You spend the day wondering if maybe you forgot to eat or take medication or poop and in the end you realize you didn’t forget shit. Your body actually does chemically hate you.
Periodically I have an enlightened moment in which I realized I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life, not only by being knocked up, but by marrying the hubs, living in Boston, choosing the career I’ve chosen, picking the apartment I live in, driving the car I drive, along with a whole litany of other things. (Fuck this fucking shampoo and it’s stupid fucking smell and the people who make it.) In those moments I find it’s best to simply lie on the floor and let the tears flow silently from my eyes. After ten or fifteen minutes I usually feel better and then commence the Kafka-like task of rolling around on the floor like a bug on its shell trying to get up. That either ends in laugher or another 10-15 of silent tears.
But by far the most rewarding part of the third trimester is watching our inner parents slowly creep out. We’re slowly becoming comfortable judging our friends and the choices they’re making with their offspring, confident that while we don’t have the baby here yet, we’ve clearly observed enough to be superior. Turns out the hubs is the horrifyingly irrational and overprotective one, determining everything introduced to the nursery a murder weapon in soft, organic clothing. As for me, I’m more of a mad scientist. “If we do this, what do you think will happen?” (Cue disconcerting laugh.)
In all seriousness, though, shit is getting real and the conversations about who he will be when he grows up have quickly shifted to “who the fuck is going to take care of him after six weeks?!” The books we’re reading no longer mention lower back massages and pregnancy friendly sex positions (like we’re having sex…), but what to do when your mucus plug makes an appearance in your tent sized panties or how to cope with giving birth in a taxi. (Pull over. As if the backseat of a car isn’t how you ended up here in the first place, Dirty Legs.)
One thing we’ve been very diligent about is training ourselves to stay focused on our baby, not other people’s babies. I know first hand that grade A underachievers can still grow up to be real people. (Uh hem… every member of my family. Immediate and otherwise.) The small boy may not be speaking on time, but so long as he eventually finds an acceptable form of communication that doesn’t require poo flinging, I think we’ll be okay. He certainly doesn’t need to go to an Ivy League college, but it’s important that he not limit his options via laziness. Like his mama.
Already we see it emerging. Friends asking friends if little buttercup is rolling over yet or lamenting that moonbeam hasn’t found her hands yet. Frankly I wish I’d taken me a little longer to find my hands– what’s the big deal? But the creeping envy and judgment is there. Meanwhile, despite the pregnancy books that insist the small boy must be having a party in my uterus, he continues to prefer a more sloth like existence. The day is dead to him, the night an opportunity for some light rearranging. Something could be wrong with him. Or he could be exactly like his parents.
Stuart has provided some much needed context for our upcoming parenting endeavors. His continued belief that the changing table is a luxury cat bed has ruptured the hubs’ brain and his crying for love despite having food, water, and a perfectly good home is a daily reminder that if I don’t grow some patience soon someone is going to take my baby away. (Which would be really tragic, but also good fodder for a book…)
With the light shining opaquely up ahead, I’ve realized three things:
1. This was absolutely a poor decision.
2. Poor decision making is a hallmark of my life
3. The hubs has even less of a clue than I do
But all of that has led me to a very Zen-like place (save the aforementioned naked Triscuit binges). Every great decision of my life has had those exact things in common. I’m like a Phoenix or a Lotus flower. Poor decisions are a breeding ground for great Caroline success. I’m an adversity master. And while the hubs isn’t exactly a Lotus flower, he is consistent, even if it means consistently telling me I’m wrong.
Wrong I may be, but at least I don’t think a pacifier is a baby suffocation device.
April 16, 2013 § 9 Comments
Yesterday around three o’clock I heard two cannons go off. It was Marathon Monday and the finish line is just a few blocks from our apartment, so it made perfect sense to me that someone would be firing off celebratory cannons. (I recognize that in the aftermath of the last 24 hours you could be wondering what special breed of idiot I am to think that, but in my defense, it’s a historic city and for some reasons I always associate cannons with something exciting happening.)
But then things got weird. Through the open windows that welcome the sounds of the south-side of the city, came sounds like thundering cattle. Within ten minutes I could detect a concerning number of ambulances and sirens. My cannon theory was coming unraveled. Then the hubs texted, “Caroline. Turn on the news.”
Definitely not celebratory cannons.
I’m not here to wax poetic or compare tragedies, but I will say this: the last time that someone said those exact words to me I was a senior in high school. My dad walked into my bedroom early on a September morning, pulled the covers back from my head, and said, “Caroline. Turn on the news.”
There were no celebratory cannons that day either.
In 2001 I lived so far away from New York that my mourning was little more than shock-induced patriotism. To this day I do not think any of us can fathom what truly took place on those city streets except those who were there. Then it was 3500 miles away. Yesterday it was three blocks. The tragedies incomparable, but the understanding that one brings to the other is invaluable.
Twelve years later and I’m almost thirty. I’m five months pregnant with a small boy. Another small boy, an eight year old, is killed three blocks from my house while cheering on his dad at the Boston Marathon. My small boy is snug as a bug in a uterus, bouncing up and down on my bladder like it’s a trampoline. Another small boy was waving a sign and bouncing up and down to get a glimpse of the finish over the taller crowd. My small boy is just learning how to live. Another small boy is dead.
The hubs texts again. This time it’s an expected stage of disbelief and grief. “Who the fuck sets off a bomb at the marathon?” I don’t have an answer. Then it’s his first paternal declaration, “Our small boy is never going to a public event. Ever.” Again, I don’t have an answer.
But I do have an answer. Our small boy will go. Because fear of tragedy will only breed in him a fear of life.
I don’t know how to raise a small boy into a grown man. I haven’t been given my parental membership card and I’m fairly certain that whomever is responsible for issuing them realizes I probably don’t deserve one. But I know that our small boy has to be given a chance to see the world as good, even if we’re standing in the wings, sick with worry. When he asks to climb higher, I know we need to respond with an emphatic “yes!” and try not to follow it up with a million caveats.
“Climb higher, small boy, and tell us what you see.”
And one day, a day I know will come sooner than it should, something terrible will happen. A single moment of bad will create a thick cloud of uncertainty and our small boy will look to us to tell him what it means. And while we may not be card-carrying parents, I know we have a responsibility to give him an answer. And though we’ll remember other small boys, like the one who died cheering on his dad at the marathon, we’ll also remember the grown men who rushed forward to right all the wrong, to clear the cloud of uncertainty.
“It’s a reminder that bad things happen. And then good things kick their asses.”
April 8, 2013 § 1 Comment
You may chalk this up to the crazy rantings of a pregnant lady, but I advise you to take heart. Deep inside this whale-like form is a struggling housewife, desperate for answers.
Why does my vacuum suck so bad? I mean that both figuratively a literally. Why am I forced to go over and over every surface innumerable times only to watch the same string of fur or crumb stay exactly where I– or Stuart– left it? Why do I diligently buy those hard-to-find S bags on Amazon.com month after month when I know that they are doing nothing but trapping invisible particles from an invisible place in my apartment, not the real particles from the rug or hard wood floors?
I’ve done a lot of soul searching on this topic. I’ve applied my analytical and strategic brain to the task, devising a system for rating the vacuum difficulty of an apartment and I’ve rated ours as a two. Out of ten. There are no plush rugs hiding unknown specimens between their fibers, no crevices in which small items can cling to avoid the suction that has come to claim them. Only shiny hardwoods and the occasional close cropped rug. Essentially what it would otherwise take to vacuum this apartment would be a swift wind in a focused direction.
Admittedly we have a cat. That’s why I gave the apartment a two on the difficulty scale instead of a one. He does have fur, but as my husband pointed out, it really shouldn’t rival that of some of our more masculine friends. I personally have the hair of a cancer-ridden fairy and the husband doesn’t ever disrobe so I’m fairly certain any shedding he does is confined to his garments. But, yes, we do have Stuart and he does shed fur. Which is actually why we have a vacuum, rather than a Swifter.
Before you start down your twenty questions to prove this girl is stupid path, let me review some of the things I’ve checked about my vacuum: all the filters are clean and intact, there does not appear to be anything clogging the hoses (though that’s only because I have to stick my hand into the vacuum with alarming frequency to dislodge NORMAL VACUUM SPECIMENS and send them along their merry way), and I change the bag very regularly (even though the little light on the vacuum has never told me to). Additionally, I’ve never tried to vacuum an animal directly, pick up large pieces of cloth or clothing, mix cement in the hose, or do anything crazier than vacuum my living room. And yet. And yet. And yet.
What hurts the most is how much I believed in you. I wanted a Dyson. I’ve wanted a Dyson since that snively British man showed me the light and made me feel like a total asshole for not thinking of ball technology myself. But instead I bought an Electrolux. I bought it because it was supposed to be reliable. It was the vacuum my parents and grandparents used. I remember when they bought one from a door-to-door salesman. I believed in my Electrolux because I wanted to believe in America. I wanted to feel the loving arms of tradition wrap around my skepticism and show those snooty Brits that I don’t need a ball or it’s fucking technology! I have a piece of vacuuming history in my house.
And you proved to me that I should have clung to that man and his ball as if they were the last great hope for cleanliness. Because now here I am sweating like a coal laborer after attempting to vacuum a sum total of 400 square feet and finally giving up. My vacuum, the vacuum I saved for, invested in, and hoped would be my friend for many years, is a piece of shit. And I’m angry about it.
I took some time while going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth over the same spot on the rug to think about all the things I’d rather do than have to keep vacuuming with my Electrolux Harmony vacuum cleaner. I’ve compiled a short list for you:
• Be a prisoner of war
• Give birth to my baby through my nose
• Clean my apartment with tweezers
• Take a group of special education children to a water park
• Show up at a tent revival dressed like a whore
• Get a prison tattoo
• Model for Sports Illustrated
• Buy a better fucking vacuum
I suppose at this point there’s nothing I can do. I made my choice and that’s what life is, right? Making the best decision you can based on the information you have and then living to regret the fact that you didn’t just buy the most expensive one to begin with. But now I’m staring down the barrel of parenthood and I don’t have a choice. I have to live with my crap-tastic suckless vacuum cleaner. At least I know I wont accidentally vacuum up a pacifier. Or a kid.
I hope you’ll take this to heart. I hope you’ll take the next Harmony prototype into a room and vacuum with it before you put it on the market. You’re welcome to borrow Stuart if you want to add some kitty fur to the test cell. (I’d take him out before you start actually vacuuming, though, he doesn’t react well to machinery.)
I wish you all the best. Even though I got the worst vacuum ever.
March 19, 2013 § 4 Comments
As I laid upon the cold tile floor of the bathroom at the Michael’s craft store in Everett, Massachusetts, I made the decision to die there. It wasn’t a dramatic decision. I didn’t recount the moments of my life that meant the most to me, or the people I wished I could reach out to one last time; I simply gave up. Sprawled upon my $99 Michael Kors puffy coat from Marshall’s, my past season Cole Haan bag contracting ebola in the corner, I resigned myself to a much quieter and lonelier death than the one I had imagined for myself.
I always thought my death would be something tragic and unbearably sad. While I don’t wish to be cut down in my youth, many movies portraying grieving young husbands has led me to imagine Corey– the strong, silent lead character– cast into an ocean of unbearable grief, vowing to never love anyone ever again after losing the bright and promising light that was his young, beautiful wife. (Though we all know he’d end up turning to one of my best friends [likely H] in his time of grief and they would end up together. Each would act as shocked as the other. “It just happened.” they’d say. And we would all judge them, though eventually it would blow over when someone remembered my benevolent and forgiving spirit. “She would have wanted you both to be happy.” someone would say. And I would be dead, and unable to say, “Fuck no I don’t.”)
But there on the bathroom floor of the Michael’s in Everett, Massachusetts, I realized there would be no tragic accident, just a slow leaving of life from my body as I laid there and wholeheartedly wishing that I’d never left my house. It’s hard to imagine these dire episodes of my first twelve weeks of pregnancy, but without warning I would lose the will to live. One moment I’d be tearing stickers off the wall and imagining crafts and the next I’d be cuddling with discount ceramic and hoping for a swift end. The child was trying to kill me. And all I could think was whether I should go ahead and kill it first.
When the hubs and I first found out I was knocked up there was a three or four day window before I started wanting to die. During that time we did the cute things a lot of first time knocked up people do. We squealed a little and said a lot of “can you believe this?” and “OMG we totally fucked up.” We made all the appointments and kept the secret as best we could. And we contemplated a name for the growing human being. Not a final name, but the name we would call it while it was a genderless cell mass. We spent days going back and forth. I wanted to call it “puppet” while the Mr. wanted to call it “pip”– short for pipsqueak. We never did agree on what we would call it and for a little while we each referenced it in different ways.
And then the little fucker started to try to kill me. From the inside. Weeks stretched on where the only thing I thought about was ending my existence. My usually vegetarian and greens-filled diet turned beige. I was nourishing our embryo with the Welfare Diet. A steady stream of white carbohydrates and cheese. I showed up to on-site client meetings with sea sickness bands and a big gulp of ginger ale and spent most days texting the hubs to let him know where I wanted my funeral held. I even picked out a play list.
Eventually the name conversation became moot. The unborn Beaulieu was dubbed “the dragon” with little to no fanfare. It was apropos and far less shocking than calling it “the little fucker.” A close second. As the days and weeks wore on, the dragon continued to wage war. Morning sickness is for pansies. The dragon brought on life sickness. Every hour of every day I wanted to crawl back into bed and leave the cruel confines of the earth. I read books with a bucket next to my bed, though in a sick twist of fate I never once threw up. There wasn’t a single, physical sign on my blackness and suffering.
I finally told the doctor of both my unbearable sickness and my ill will towards my unborn child. He handled it really well considering the sobbing and womb-extraction hand gestures I was employing. He assured me that it would get better and not to worry about the dragon. To the best of his medical knowledge it could not, at this stage, physically feel my hatred. I had plenty of time to infuse love and adoration and end up with a baby who felt welcome. He prescribed some medication to help with the nausea and then– to the shock and horror of the hubs– put an ultrasound in my lady parts and confirmed that the dragon was right there, doing evil twirls and having a gangbusters time. (The hubs was pretty much sunk at that point. He was so in awe of the little fish swimming around in there he forgot all about my pain and suffering. He was a DAD. I was not so easily sold. I think I need better proportions before I feel motherly.)
Shortly after our doctors visit, my sickness not alleviated in the least, I lost my will to live yet again. This time it was at the Shaw’s grocery store. After two and half hours of walking through the aisles unable to form cohesive meals in my mind or cart, I realized I was going to have to live there. I lacked the will to make it to the check out line and the thought of trying to get home was too much. I rolled my cart into a corner near a bench, parked it, sat down, and began to weep. It was over. I hadn’t felt such desperation and loneliness since the Mr. left me in Paris without a cell phone and didn’t show up for lunch. I knew I was going to die at that cafe by the Eiffel Tower. The French would never accept me as one of their own. My frame was too thick and my body too fleshy. I wept then too.
After some time the hubs called. He was really worried that I’d been at the grocery store for three hours and had stopped responding to text messages. I explained that I’d lost my will to live and was trying to find a way to get home. Having been through it before, he wished me luck and told me to call him if I needed him to come and retrieve me. I told him I didn’t. I just needed time.
I didn’t die on the floor of the bathroom at the Michael’s or on that bench at Shaw’s. I didn’t die on any of the unsavory surfaces I sprawled upon in those first twelve weeks. It’s as shocking to me as anyone. I did, however, learn that I am not of pioneer stock and do not wish to be. I do not like to be afflicted and will therefore need to pick any future children out of a catalog.
Low and behold, on the day of the 13th week I rose like Jesus. Forgetting my cruel crucifixion, my life resumed almost as if nothing had happened. I kept waiting to be stricken in the Target or the Panera but it never happened. The dragon had moved on.
It was busy making me fat.
October 12, 2012 § 1 Comment
It’s election season again which means a few things. First, it means that I have to avoid going onto Facebook after having so much as a deep inhalation of wine for fear I’ll defriend 63% of the people I know. It also means that I get to buy all sorts of awesome Presidential swag which is up there with sitting on a bench at a mall after drinking too much wine and “observing” the passersby. If you know anything about me, you know that I will do pretty much anything for awesome swag. I work with start ups because I love the pace and the innovation, but mostly I do it because they always have cool shit to give me. I recently acquired the sweetest zip up hoodie from a current client and I’ve treated it much like a puppy might treat its most beloved stuffed friend. I should have washed this thing long ago, but the thought of having it out of my site is too much to bear. I simply can’t do it. I’d rather repel human contact than wash it. And I have.
So you better believe I purchased a whole Obama (oh, right, like you didn’t see that one coming) swag bag, including the SINGLE MOST OBNOXIOUSLY AWESOME T SHIRT EVER: Texans for Obama. Nothing chaps the ass of a conservative more than seeing an outright anomaly like that. It’s like seeing a woman CEO. They see it, but they just don’t get it. Why is that woman not fetching water on her head?
Election season also marks a period of time in which the hubs and I have absolutely no idea what’s happening if it didn’t happen on MSNBC or NPR. I didn’t even know Andy Williams died. That’s a true story. My favorite Christmas crooner died and I was too busy watching Lawrence O’Donnell lose his mind over his distaste for Good Ole Mitt to notice. It’s a sickness. I serendipitously learned that with my satellite radio I can tune into MSNBC and listen until I get home and can join the hubs. But, in case you’re thinking, “wait. that’s so wrong; so one sided” you should know that we do occasionally switch over to Fox news to make sure we disagree. So far, there hasn’t been an issue.
But politics aside (I don’t want to lose both of my blog followers), election season reminds me that the spirit of lively debate is a big fucking lie. I file it under collaboration and compromise. Total bullshit. Compromise is just two people losing. As for collaboration, let me just say this: blarg. Collaboration is founded on the premise that two minds are better than one. A premise that I agree with, but that’s called ideation. Collaboration is usually one person, generally with my personality type, trying not to be overbearing while coaxing the equivalent of nothing out the six other people who either don’t care, are too afraid to speak, or just want to argue with me. To make things worse, it’s the person like me’s job to say things like, “awesome” “great thought” “tell me more” when what I want to say is, “are you fucking kidding me with this drivel? Turn on your goddamned brain and give me something that’s going to further mankind.” And believe me, if “we” come up with something good, it’s a win for the team. If I come up with something bad, I will be standing all alone. It’s happened a few times.
Just like all girls are not pretty, all ideas are not good ideas. There are some really stupid ideas. Lighting yourself on fire, for example, is a stupid idea. Chelsea Clinton is not pretty. These are not things that we sit around and dispute. These are things that we accept. The spirit of debate assumes that there can be two answers to every problem (not true) and that there are no indisputable facts (not true either). I refer to the Chelsea Clinton example above. (Though I will say, since I know Bill reads the blog regularly, she’s done a damn good job with what she has. The entire country mourned the election of her as our first daughter back in ’92, but a hair straightener and some microdermabraison has done incredible things for her appearance. And her spirit.)
But getting back to the spirit of debate. I hate finding people who like lively debate. There is almost nothing worse than someone who loves to “engage in a lively debate.” I don’t want to engage in that. I want to engage in a conversation in which you agree emphatically with everything I say, cannot stop nodding your head in agreement, and finish almost all of my sentences before we squeal and say, “OMG! I TOTALLY AGREE!” And you know why that is? Not because I have any problem with being wrong, but because most people don’t know how to debate. They think the point is to change my mind. If you want to change my mind, you best get in line behind my mother and her 28 years of ineffectual attempts. Debate is about civil disagreement and presenting compelling evidence to support an idea or action. It’s not about disagreement. You don’t win because you felt good. If that were true I’d have had a lot more second dates in my life. I date that back. I’d have a lot more first dates. I’d have a lot more of a lot of things.
This is by no means a commentary on the debates of the last few weeks. I don’t want to touch that with a 26 foot pole, but rather the tension that is created between friends and strangers during election season. Everyone gets all feisty and competitive. You’d think making a comment about Ryan’s ears was treason, punishable by death. HE’S NOT YOUR BROTHER. HE’S A POLITICIAN. And the man has hugemongous ears. You could shelter a Haitian family under there.
We can disagree about business strategy, what to wear to an interview, how to train a puppy, or who to elect for president, but it’s not a personal affront, it’s a difference of opinion. When we pass hatred and vilification off as disagreement or debate, we’ve missed the point. And the opportunity. My mother hates that I have the mouth of a sailor. And she’s presented her case. And while I understand her position and agree with her feelings in so far as they relate to her, they case isn’t compelling enough to me personally. And last I checked, my mom doesn’t hate me. She doesn’t take away my right to augment any given point with use of the word fuck. She just cringes. And lives her life.
So maybe think about this during election season: you have a choice. Using choice to limit the choices of others is a tough proposition. So no matter your politics, think about what things matter and what things make you cringe. Because, truthfully, cringing isn’t the end of the world. Cringing has brought great change to this country and this world.