Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ground Control to Major Mom

I started singing while skiing when I was in my early twenties. I was an instructor then (best job I ever had) and after hours of teaching, I would kill the end of the day by taking as many runs alone as I could fit in – and I would sing. I would sing half out loud, half to myself, slipping into some kind of sweet meditative space, shaking off the day, hugging the hill and feeling fast and happy.

On Sunday, after a few excellent hours skiing with my girls, my cousin and her daughter, I was singing again. First it was “Cradle of Love” by Kelly Willis, a song I hadn’t listened to in a while (and one I only just realized was loaded with all kinds of dirty innuendo). Then it was Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” not the first song on my play list ever, but it was referenced in a book I’m reading so I guess that’s how it showed up in my head.

“Sitting in a tin can, far above the world…”

It’s such a scary song in a lot of ways, but I can relate. The last week or so, I feel the same way: kind of hovering above my life, floating around all disconnected and mildly confused. Not sure why. My friend mentions that January just plain sucks. She’s probably right. But I think it’s more than the month that has thrown me off.

The contractors in my house, sweet and kind though they are and doing the work I have longed for, make for a weird kind of daily companion. Add to that a feverishly sick husband home from work, a broken car, a Giant Three Year Old with massive ‘tude, and our newest housemate, my young cousin, who has come to live with us for a while. (It’s been a week since she arrived and I am only just now settling her in, unloading drawers to give her space, removing little girl debris so that the room can become her own for as along as she needs it.) Plus, I still think there’s a part of me that wants to run away to a permanent girls weekend in Maine.

God, I am creature of habit. When my little ways get thrown around, I get all wiggy and weird and out of it. I know Barack kicked ass in South Carolina (yea boy) and that I have to get new bumper stickers for my new car (!), but I haven’t checked the Florida returns all day. I did finally get some food for the house, filled all the snack jars, and have the laundry under control, ran and attended a couple meetings, sent and returned the countless emails I’ve neglected, but I still have this feeling that I am forgetting something wildly important.

What is up with that?

Tomorrow is another day, and I'm sure I'll land safely back into my life. It’ll be quieter here and maybe that will make the difference. I’ll make sense of my closet, maybe clean out the junk drawer, sort the shoes in the mudroom, figure out how to set the radio stations in the car. I’ll write ten thousand more emails, make some calls, cross more stuff off the list. We’ll finish B’s “Planet-in-a-Can” school project (who knew Jupiter has 62 moons, all of which have to be suspended by wire from the styrofoam orb: awesome).

Jupiter is a mashup of color. The planet Earth, however, is blue…

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ladies Night(s)

I'll probably misspell about 73 words writing this little thing. After three days and nights away "skiing" with a gaggle of girls, it's not only my voice that is shot: my brain is still recovering too. Still, despite windburn, random aches and pains, a renewed love of chocolate covered pretzels (just what I don't need) and bags that need unpacking, I would head back up there in a flash.

There's something about girly camaraderie that really brings out the best in grown-up girls. Haven't laughed that hard, talked that much, relaxed so well in such a long, long time. Long lunches with soup and wine, chit-chat all day and shenanigans all night, secrets told and (most importantly) kept -- it makes up for endless laundry and snotty noses.

For me, it was like time-traveling to high school or college (except without the fake ID). For some of our crew, it was a first-time experience with the kind of chick bonding that takes giggling and coffee klatches to whole other level. It was the ultimate play date. It was a completely rip-roaring good time.

It's gray and windy and cold today. I don't want to clean out my car (how did flour spill everywhere?), or get the ski stuff put away, or turn on the washing machine, or do the dishes. I want to be sitting under blankets with all those girls, solving the world's problems and our own one stupid joke at a time. Oh, and wine with lunch would be pretty sweet too, but I think peanut butter sandwiches and juice boxes are on the menu today.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Homing Device

You know those things they sell in the Brookstone catalog, those little doodads you affix to your keys or remote control so that when you can’t find them, you click a button on the homing pigeon doodad and then those lost items beep-beep-beep until they’re located?

I need that.

I need that for library books, blankets, beloved tiny toys, American Girl doll hair brushes, and everything else that gets lost at bedtime. (Why does it seem that all this crap/really important stuff gets lost at bed time? WHY?)

Somebody invent that stupid thing right now. RIGHT. NOW.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Don't Cry For Me 2

This is Part 2, of two parts.
You will be better served to start with part one.

Don't Cry For Me, Part Two

We were expected at a baby shower on Sunday in Connecticut. By “we”, I mean the girls and me. This struck me from the beginning as odd: kids at a baby shower? Why?

I am old school I guess and also, truth be told, pretty much despise all these rites of passage. My mother was happy to make my own shower a simple event – it was small and fast. It was a gesture, a loving one, and nothing else.

Things have changed since then. Things are bigger now. Even unwed, unemployed, overeducated 33-year-old sisters in law who choose to get pregnant can enjoy the windfall of a baby shower. It's a major big deal; they wanted my kids there. In some ways, it was less important that I attended, and more important that I attended with my kids. I don't really understand that but I obliged.

So the girls and me climbed into the car. We stopped to rent movies; I downloaded a great book. This ride would be amazing. And it was. Until…

The breakdown. What a beat down. We were stuck at the gas station for 3+ hours. There were no tow trucks that could haul the kids and me too. We eventually got a cab to an airport (40 minutes away and out of the way) and rented a car. We were fueled by peanut M&Ms and lemonade, but we got to my sister’s eventually. Got there at 7:30. Left my house at noon. It should have been a three hour trip.

But wait! It gets better. Upon arriving at my sisters, we discovered that R has lice. (Should I capitalize that word: LICE?)

The last time we were at my sister’s house – it was Xmas night – the Giant Three Year Old puked all over the guest room. My sister, she never bats an eye, never freaks out, just lends a hand, throws a load in the wash, cracks open beers for us. She was the one scoping through R’s head and applying the olive oil. She was the one who took care of it all.

We made it to the Shower, though R’s hair was still soaked in grease we couldn’t get out and she hardly looked the showpiece. I cannot imagine what all the relatives thought of her or me. So much for parading your kids…

When we returned home (well after bedtime), I bathed R again: three times in vinegar, and then in the shower for a regular shampoo, and finally with the CVS shampoo that would nix it all.

When it was done, I tucked that little trooper in her bed at last, and he and I shook out our own psychosomatic itchies. Satisfied and exhausted, we plunked down on the couch for what was left: the news.

A woman my age and two tiny children suffered car troubles. No one knows what happened next or why, but each was hit and killed by oncoming traffic. I cried when I heard the news, when I saw their faces on the television, when I listened to the Gramma so much in shock that she was eloquent – her pain so poignant, it was unknowable even to her.

It reminds me to remind you:

Don’t cry for me.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Don't Cry For Me

There are two parts to this. The first part I was anticipating (and writing in my head for a week), but the second part came to me as an unexpected, unwanted reminder that I am not, as much as I might wish, the ruler of my universe.

This is Part One.

Don’t cry for me, Hillary.

Which is not to say I am not for crying. I think every human being should enjoy a snot soaked sob at least once a month. A movie can do it (Walk the Line had me hiccupping, I wailed so much), a good read can do it, my children do it to me all the time, someone else’s sorrow or joy, my own. All of these things inspire the kind of delicious boo hoo that I consider the ultimate detox. I cry in public (at school performances always; in front of friends sometimes after a particularly bad day); I cry into my pillow; I cry on my husband’s shoulder.

And I will confess this: he cries too. My dad did before him -- phone commercials always found him sniffling, always, and he still cries now. My huge mountain man husband weeped at the end of the Bridge to Terabithia. He cried when the babies were born (does any man not do that?) and he cries when they fail or succeed. He cries when I’m upset sometimes and when he lost his cousin. It’s a more quiet kind of thing for him, but he does it. I am used to men crying. Big boys do cry, after all.

But when Hilary had her sniffles, broadcast countless times, even in slo-mo, I knew something big would shift – and not in the way I wished. Her “emotional moment” flooded the dam of feminism in this election, and what a freaking shame that it took that to do it. For days the talk was about her rarely seen sensitivity, her suddenly apparent femininity (uh? wha? has no one noticed she has a vagina?), and what that meant to the voter, particularly the female voter.

She claimed it was “personal” and maybe it was for a minute there, but everything after – the way she shifted the tone of her voice seconds into her victory speech in New Hampshire (google it), the way her entire team has redirected their management and marketing of her – all of everything that resulted from that moment has been plotted, exploited, and sold.

I wish instead what was caught on a film was her in the midst of a screaming, plate-throwing tantrum. I wish we caught her sweat-dripping, head-swooning, mid-heat flash, and still talking. I wish we saw her sneaking a cop at her horoscope, while also reading the seven or eight papers she reads in day. Or plucking a split end while making a deal. Or telling her husband, once for all that “when this whole thing is said and done, you can take you and your penis and stick it somewhere else.” I wish we could see that -- that Woman.

Because that would make great TV (natch) but also spark the great feminist debate we deserve. Crying? Not so much.

Everyone cries (even politicians apparently), and don’t we know by now that tears are not the domain of women? But if the country could see a real woman, the way she really is – plate-throwing passionate, birth-giving strong, multi-tasking amazing – we might have a real idea of what the benefit of gender might mean, if it means anything at all.

For my daughters, old enough to know something is happening in government, but young enough to not understand nor care, I am buoyed by the fact that the choices for me – despite all the nonsense – are as good as they have ever been. I only wish that the first legitimate female candidate for President was not someone who made a deal with a chronically cheating man (disrespect to both she and they) to further her financial and professional gain. I wish she was not someone who now, even after having made that sacrifice, is beholden even less so to herself and more so to the pollsters and managers and voice coaches.

A politician, especially one running for the highest office has to do that, I know. But – wait: sexist remark coming – I wanted more from a woman. I expected more because of the women I know and see and live my life with everyday.

Women who cry, take shit, hurl it back, throw out cheating husbands, take care of kids and parents and grand parents while organizing fundraising walks or runs, who do the walking and the running, who can network in an hour forty people to help somebody in need, who scream and yell to make it right, who advocate for hours to deaf ears about sick kids, who make money and still make time, who make change, real change, every day in sweats or $300 jeans, it doesn’t matter. I know women who never alter the way they talk or think to do the right thing. And I know a lot of them.

Don’t cry for me, Hillary. Please.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Politics and Gossip

That Man and I went out for dinner tonight with a couple who are among our closest friends in town. I have recently fallen in love with the curling iron and so left the house looking like a cracked-out Jessica Simpson.

We met them at their house and toured their newly renovated basement fitted with a bar and all. Within minutes of arriving for all this grown-up-only fun, I had an attack of panic. I had forgotten to set the TIVO to tape the debates!

That Man laughed, "Are you serious? Who cares?"

But I was serious and I do care. Maybe too much, and maybe to the point of obsession.

To be clear here and honest, I alternate my TV and web surfing between news on the election and news on Britney. I am as up-to-date on polls as I am on what that poor girl is doing. And I check in on both at a pace that some might consider unhealthy. I know which is more important. I put my money where my mouth is and also on the back of that sad minivan, my mobile counter-revolutionary kid mover.

But truth is, I find all of this "news" to be equally relevant. My fascination with politics (as if that might matter) and my obsession with Britney (as if that matters at all) are pretty much part and parcel of the same thing: I want something to inspire (Obama!) and something to fascinate (Britney!) to entertain me... I want to be entertained.

Politics and celebrity gossip are working. I am ashamed to admit that, and also proud that I have.

Tomorrow I will scope the TV and Internet for news about what happened in the debates I didn't see. I will also check for news on Brit. Without shame.

You want to know who someone is? Ask for the ugly bits first. As for me, I just give it up without being asked. Lucky you. Lucky me, too.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Oh 08

Happy to report that Santa did indeed come this year, despite Giant Three Year Old’s last minute fears that he might not have been “nice” enough to earn a visit. This made me a little teary on Christmas Eve, thus continuing my multi-year legacy of having a little boo-hoo while putting toys together. It’s a happy/sad kind of sob, anticipating their morning squeals and also the future mornings when they won’t care as much.

Eleven hours in the car, lots of ever-generous family visits, friends in town from overseas, cocktails by the bucket, and wrapping paper everywhere. Christmas cards mailed late and movies with all of us under blankets, figuring out fancy electronics, playing new games, sledding on an 1/8th of an inch of snow and never finding mittens. Enough chili to feed a small town and a road trip to New Hampshire for our annual New Years bash with best friends (and 10 kids), reverting to our wild youth, bacon and egg sandwiches and Advil for breakfast.

Today, the first day back to school, back to real life really, is so strangely quiet. The little we ventured out, the little we saw: the streets were all but empty (parking spots galore!) and there were no lines in the market. It was odd, but also good: hair pulled back in a gritty post New Year’s Day ponytail, I wasn’t too eager for small talk and I was relieved that most people felt as lazy as I do today.

This is how it is after the whirl of the ho-ho-holiday. Like a snowball starting slow down a hill, I get bigger and wilder as the weeks progress, gathering up snow and steam until the crashing smash at the bottom. There I am, in a melting heap, arms one way, legs the other, out of breath, a little dizzy. But it was a great ride.