Tuesday, August 22, 2017

This is 40: Part I

My 40th birthday is approaching at a rapid rate, and while I’m pretty excited for what the next decade has in store, I’ve also been taking stock. Like, hey Beck, are you better off now than you were 10 years ago and what have you learned? What are you still learning? What are you sort of thinking about learning but don’t want to devote your time to yet? What do you not care to ever learn? And believe it or not, these are helpful categories by which to live your life. I mean, don’t start categorizing your life this way if you’re nailing it. You do you. But for me, I work well with lists. And repetition. And at least thinking about self-improvement, which is step one. Oh, and spoiler alert: I’m terrible at taking my own really helpful advice, like, 75-80% of the time. So do with that what you will.

Basically, if I look back over the last ten, five, or two years of my life and I’m more or less making the same mistakes without any tangible improvements anywhere, um, wtf. What’s the point? I’m not saying change your personality every few years – that would make you a psychopath or a politician. Neither are things you should life-goal. But if everyone else is always the problem or you’re 15 pounds heavier than you’d like and it’s been a decade? Either change it or embrace it, but for the love of God, please stop talking about it. Which is what I tell myself every single day. And then I eat cake to silence that know-it-all voice inside of me and she is happy and full and lulls off into a deep, dark sleep.

Sorry, I’m back.

Anyway, since I’m trying to get and keep my compass straight, one of the ways in which I’m choosing to do this is by sharing, which holds me accountable and gives you something to read and judge and feel superior to! But since you’ve all volunteered to be here, you guys are the best captive audience. You chose this! You signed up for this! (hears Road Runner sound as readers run far, far away from the blog as they yell “just tell me about your underpants! You’re not Oprah!”)

Well, that was nice while it lasted. Hi mom and dad! Thanks for continuing to read.

So today I’m looking back at question one: are you better off now than you were 10 years ago and what have you learned?

Well, let’s assess: Ten years ago I was picking up the pieces of a seriously failed relationship with a seriously wrong guy who I was seriously in love with for reasons I struggle to remember now, which is good and bad. I was pretty sure I’d never have kids and wasn’t really keen on the idea overall – why on earth would I want to commit my life to diaper duty and raising little humans when I was living paycheck-to-paycheck in a rundown one bedroom apartment in New Jersey with my cat? To be fair, I’m pretty sure the little humans didn’t want me as their mom then, anyway, as “hot mess” does not a good mom make.

But the end of that relationship was a turning point for me. One that would either define me or not: it was my choice. It was messy and humiliating and raw and haunting. And, if I’m being honest, it took me longer than I’d like to admit to really, truly get past it. But holy crap, even I got tired of hearing myself be sad after a while, though my friends and family were too kind to say that first. And I decided that I needed to do something tangible, I needed to set a goal and stick with it, and I needed it to work. God, did I need it to work.

Meanwhile, during this time, I was in the first year of a job that I desperately wanted as my career, yet struggled to find my footing with for a while before getting it right. However, the silver lining is that this job was filled with really incredible people who have stayed friends long after leaving those four walls. Not the least of whom was CB. And since I had a lot more free time on my hands all of a sudden and a lot of demons to chase me all over Hudson County, I decided to take up running with him and some others who took to the Hoboken sidewalks each day at noon to run and talk and get some fresh air (I made up the “and talk” part because CB did not enjoy the “and talk” part most days. He’d prefer I’d “and not talk,” but he had the added luxury of being way faster than me, so he would literally just run away.)

Sadly, one of the best post-running pictures of me.
Um, and when I say that I “took up running,” I mean that the first few months I ran it was hard to tell because I looked more like a sweaty, doughy, pale girl who was speed-walking wrong. Thankfully, my coworkers were too nice and encouraging to admit that I really should just stop and go have a doughnut. Instead, we struck up conversations and friendships and, before I knew it, I was running! I mean, I was still sweaty and doughy and pale, but I wasn’t speed-walking wrong anymore! And I was starting to feel better.

Sure, there were still days there where I’d run so fast and hard and alone, even while surrounded by friends, because life isn’t a movie and emotions aren’t black and white. But the alone days receded into the background over time and a handful of friends and coworkers signed up for 10ks, half marathons, and full marathons almost solely because, I think, they felt bad for me. And my “leadership skills” (which my daughter’s cartoon has taught me is a nicer word than “bossy”) were persuasive as hell.

Before I knew it, I’d finished my first marathon. And it was just shy of two years after what I thought was the end of life as I knew it. And, in all honesty, it was. THANK GOODNESS. And like that, my story was changing. Goal set; goal reached. Hmmmm……

What did I learn? I learned that heartbreak is real and you can’t fake your way through it. I learned that friendship is real, and you need to lean when you need to lean. I learned that my family is strong, supportive, and fiercely protective and they listened to me cry and make mixed tapes through my feelings for a way long time. I learned the bumper-sticker truism that you can’t control what happens to you, but you sure as hell can control how you respond to it. I learned that some people lie. I learned to believe people when they show you who they, good and bad. I learned that crying isn’t the worst thing and laughter doesn’t go away. I learned that the depths of some people and their willingness to help will humble you, and you won't know how to ever say thank you, and they're fine with that. I learned that everything is temporary. I learned that cats are great company. I learned that hard work does pay off. I learned how to live alone. I learned how to be scared and do it anyway. I learned that there’s always a next chapter. I learned to find my voice and how bad it feels when you don’t use it. I learned how to run! And I learned when to stay.

And you know what else I learned? That I’m terrible at dating. Like, really bad. Like, when friends are feeling down they ask me to re-tell stories they’ve heard 50 times about various dates I’ve been on over the last 10 years. Like, there’s a reason I stayed home with my cat and watched all five seasons of Gilmore Girls on Friday nights, you guys. Like, I’m epically bad at it.

Oh! Which taught me the very important lesson that I still exercise routinely: PLEASE look at who you’re texting before you hit send. Please. I’m begging you.

But that’s a story for next time…..


Happy Tuesday! 

Monday, August 14, 2017

When CB Met Becky: The Anniversary Edition

The other day I was talking to some co-workers about a time, years ago, when CB and I were just friends and one of them said “I just love the love story of the two of you.” And I laughed, because hearing your relationship described as a love story sounds odd unless you’re, like, a Disney character. Or Harry and Sally. But this week marks our three year wedding anniversary, and as I look back over these last three years, I can’t help but see the eight that came before it, bringing us to this place in time, looking at our two daughters giggling in hysterics on our bed over nothing in particular except how fun it is to be little.

And what I see over these last eleven years is a man I met at the tender age of 28, who shook my hand and welcomed me to the very first day of work at my new job. We sat next to each other and shared a cubicle wall, and what CB didn’t realize was that the simple act of being nearby meant that I’d talk to him about everything, endlessly, for the next several years (or the rest of his life…). He didn’t have to do too much responding, just the occasional nod/interjection to let me know that he was still awake/sitting there. And that suited us both just fine, as it turned out. But over the course of the first year of working together, I chipped away at his determination to keep his personal life and professional life separate and private. He shared with me, once, that he didn’t like making a big deal out of his birthday, and certainly not at work. And so of course I figured out when his birthday was and made sure to put balloons on his chair, complete with a card and a cupcake so that he felt celebrated and important. It was clear to me early on that he didn’t really know what was good for him and just needed his world expanded a bit – in the form of balloons and sugar, mostly.

Then, about a year and a half into working together, a relationship I’d been in for years ended painfully. I wasn’t keen to talk about it much, which made CB the perfect person to tell. So on a Monday morning in September, I walked over to his desk and whispered – a first for our relationship – and filled him in that it was over. As I started to walk away, he stood up and said: “C’mon, let’s go to that milkshake place I told you about. I know you can drink a milkshake at 9am, that’s right up your alley.” And so we went. And it never came up again, unless I wanted it to. He never asked me for any of the sordid details – the only person in my life able to make that claim -  though over the years I provided them here and there. Which was one of the first signs to me that this guy was different. And trustworthy. And seriously knew how to make me feel better in times of need!

So it should go without saying that we were soon more than just co-workers and running buddies, we were friends. He mistakenly introduced me to a large portion of his family/friend circle on his 30th birthday at happy hour one night, and as he says, “that was the beginning of the end.” While everyone else assumed we were into each other, we were very clear that we were not. However, true to form, they ignored us both and insisted we should just give up the charade and fall in love already. Which we promptly did about five years later, thankyouverymuch.

And when we did, there was no turning back. This thing that wasn’t a thing, then became a thing, now sees us as parents to a 2-year-old and a 7-month-old. It’s seen us spend the last three years excitedly awaiting our first daughter. And getting hit with the shock of new parenthood and total exhaustion. Figuring out how to fight and forgive, and learning that one of us needs to be well-slept at all times for the two of us to balance life without a knife-fight. It has seen us excitedly awaiting our second daughter, while figuring out how on earth we’re going to have two babies with two different sets of needs. It’s seen us having zero idea what two kids under two was going to feel like, but mainly just relishing in the fact that all four of us get out the door each day with our clothes right-side out most of the time.

It’s seen us poorly navigating the Hong Kong airport, giving life to the now commonly-used phrase “We would for sure be the first couple kicked off of the Amazing Race.” It’s seen us forgetting to say hi to each other and then remembering how important that is each day. It’s seen us sleeping on the floor of the living room together as each of our girls enjoyed their own room during sleep-training.  It’s seen us doing the Parent Zombie Shuffle through our mornings, packing diaper bags and refilling diaper bins and cleaning up literal spilled milk and sticky, syrup-y tables. It’s seen us laughing through almost every experience we’ve had, and crying when it was needed. It’s seen for-real fear in our eyes during pregnancy and childbirth, and for-real relief at their end. It’s seen us collapsing onto the couch at 7:30 each night after we’ve put both kids to bed, the house quiet, and our will to cook anything other than a salad at an all-time low. It sees us talking about an episode of “El Chapo” that one of us couldn’t get through because it’s an hour of reading television and that totally defeats the purpose, you guys. But since it’s such a good show, I depend on CB to stay up until 8:30pm and read it all so he can fill me in on what happened after El Chapo crossed over the border to El Salvador because it was just about to get crazy! It sees us realizing that I’m “The Throw Up Parent” because the other parent in the equation starts to dramatically gag and potentially vomit when he sees, hears, or smells it. It sees us still laughing at his cheesy puns and my ridiculous sports observations and knowing each other’s “look” for everything from “I know, right? This person is ridiculous,” to “I know, right? I can tell you definitely want to scratch my head while we watch ‘Flipping Out’ right now, so let’s do this!”

And it sees us having no idea what we were in for when we said our vows and laughing that we ever thought we had a clue. Because while sleeping on the floor of your living room and cleaning up vomit does not make for great wedding vows, as it turns out, it does make for a pretty great life. And our vows still hold true…except for the one where he promised never to leave his dishes next to or in the sink when the dishwasher was empty. But overall, they’re still going strong!


Happy Anniversary Week, CB...it’s totally a thing! 


Monday, August 7, 2017

Things I Shouldn't Have to Say Out Loud

Things that I’ve done in the last month:

  • Asked what year it was as I was filling out a check. TO BE FAIR, I wrote “2017,” so I’m still with the times. But as I wrote it I was like “it definitely isn’t 2017. Crap, is it 2016 or 2018? Oh no, I don’t know what year it is and I’ve either gained or lost time!” So then I double-checked real quick with CB and he was like “how about you get some sleep and I’ll finish doing whatever it is that you’re doing.” 

  • Poured my coffee into a baby bottle. Which is sort of genius because, convenience. We have more bottles than we do regular cups, I’m pretty sure. But also, I then almost fed it to our baby, which hasn’t been discussed explicitly on BabyCenter or anything, but I’m guessing it’s frowned upon since she just started being able to gum her applesauce. 

  • Had an entire conversation about me wetting the bed, even though I didn’t wet the bed, but my husband figured it could be a possibility and so we had the conversation much later than we should’ve. Like, CB thought maybe I’d wet the bed, made the bed anyway, and so when I pulled the covers back to go to bed later that night there was still a big wet spot. 

Me: “Ugh, I totally forgot that I spilled Fiona’s bottle here this morning and now it’s still wet!”
CB: “Oooh, is that what that was?”
Me: “Wait, you made the bed knowing that it was wet?”
CB: “Yeah, I thought it would dry. And I didn’t know what it was.”
Me: “What did you think, that I wet the bed or something?”
CB: “I mean, I wasn’t sure….”
Me, laughing: “We have so many problems! First, you thought it was entirely possible that I wet the bed. Which I should be offended by, but, fair enough point. But second, the fact that you thought that maybe this was pee and then just made the bed anyway disturbs me.”
CB, laughing: “I thought it would dry!”
Me: “I never want to sleep in pee-dried sheets!”

And then we started laughing too hard to talk.


So, you know, if you haven’t done any of these things in the last month…you’re winning. Happy Monday! 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

I'm Slowly Dying/Losing My Senses

The other day I got copied on an email from a co-worker who was emailing our building admin to tell her that there was a “very strong smell of gas.” Apparently, everyone around me was getting the “very strong smell of gas” as well. And this turned out to be for good reason, as the building admin replied that they were using some sort of torch and laying tar on the roof and so that’s why everyone was smelling it.

So I emailed a co-worker/friend and said “bad sign that I didn’t notice?” and he wrote back “a bit.” But then I couldn’t tell if he was kidding because, no joke, I didn’t smell a thing. So I was like “no, seriously….are you still smelling it? Like, it’s currently happening as we type this?” And he confirmed that he was not joking, it currently smelled, and wtf is wrong with me?

Which then led to a rabbit-hole Google search that lasted nearly 30 minutes to figure out what I was dying from, other than gas-related brain death.



And we laugh, but this is concerning. Not because I’m dying of something and my lack of smell is the first sign. I mean, that might be it, but that doesn’t concern me. What does concern me is that I can literally be oblivious to the “strong smell of gas” that all other human beings around me are experiencing, yet I literally have to leave my desk with someone is eating loudly in my vicinity.

Other things I haven’t noticed in real life:

A giant crane that was outside of my work building for two years, that I walked underneath every single day, and didn’t notice until a co-worker casually mentioned it and I said the words “what crane?” and meant them.

A giant driving range along the side of a road I would run by on a weekly basis without noticing it until CB casually mentioned it one day and I said the words “what driving range?” and meant them.

A sliding glass door that my face met at full speed when I was in high school, so violently that my friends then put a giant, taped X on the glass so I wouldn’t do it again. Because that was a likely outcome. And I was not drinking.

A regular bedroom door that my face met at full speed when I was at a New Year’s Eve party a few years ago . Thankfully, only one very nice friend witnessed it as I tried to casually walk away as if it hadn’t happened. I was drinking.

Yet, if someone is eating a banana nearby, or using the wrong version of “there/their/they’re” in an email, or clicking their pen during a meeting, IT’S ALL I CAN HEAR/SEE. Which says something about me, though it’s unclear what that something is. Mainly, it tells me that my children should depend on their father for the big picture stuff but come to me if they want to know the best way to multi-task what you’re doing while counting the amount of times someone slurps their soup during lunch. Which is a skill, if you’re me, because otherwise you’d be unemployable because all you can do is focus on the fact that they’re the worst.


Happy Thursday! 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Stop Talking.

So yesterday afternoon a memo circulated around my office stating that, due to necessary replacement of a water main, our office wouldn’t have running water during working hours. And then there was a list of nearby places who would have running water that offered to let us pee at their building for the day instead.

Which basically should’ve led to me emailing my boss to tell him that I would not be at work on Wednesday. Or, more precisely, I’d be in NYC and about a block away from work, but in the nearby bathroom most of the day because I pee every hour since hydration is important and maybe my kidneys are malfunctioning due to over-watering? Either way, don’t expect productivity out of me today, career, because I’ll be busy remembering the three-digit passcode associated with the down-the-street bathroom on the 9th floor that inexplicably is passcode protected from all of none of the people who work on that floor (it’s an empty floor).

But I didn’t send such an email because I’d like to keep an air of professionalism, so instead, I put all of that embarrass yourself energy into panic-talking to the security guard at the front desk of the bathroom-rental building I have visited four times already today. And we all know I do this, the panic-talking thing, but why do I always feel the need to double-down and make it worse?

Me: “Hi, I’m just here from the building down the street and we were told we could use a bathroom on the 9th floor.”
Security guard: “Uh huh.”
Me: “Oh, ok, so it’s ok for me to go up? I don’t need to sign anything?”
SG: “No ma’am.”
Me, giggling for some reason?: “Oh ok, I guess that makes sense that I don’t have to sign in every time I want to pee.”
SG: staring at me.
Me: “Ok, so any elevator is fine?”
SG: “Yep.”

Me, pushing button and waiting. And sweating.

Me: “God, wouldn’t it be awful if I had IBS or something? Those poor people. I’d probably just not come to work.”
SG, cracking a smile: “That’d be bad.”
Me: “Right? I should be grateful I guess….That I’m not one of those people….Or that I don’t have a stomach bug--”

“Ding!”

Me, thankfully getting on the elevator, doors closing: “Thanks!”

And then I went back three more times. And each time she would see me, she’d put her head down and pretend to be doing something else. As you do when you’ve really enjoyed your interaction with someone who can’t stop talking about potentially sh*tting their pants.

Anyway, if you’re peeing at your own leisure without inputting a passcode every time, consider today a success, people!

My home away from work. 


Happy Wednesday!  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

In Which I'm the Opposite of Zen

So I’ve been on this, apparently, never-ending journey of trying to be a little bit better each day. Or at least each week. For sure each month. Or, like, every quarter definitely. And part of this journey is to not let the little things bother me so much since they’re unimportant nuisances that only get me aggravated and have no real place or meaning in the world. EXCEPT THEY’RE IMPORTANT and nobody seems to care.

So what are these little things? Below is a very abridged list because this blog could go on for eternity. To be clear, though, this is not a passive-aggressive list aimed at CB, though he should definitely pay attention to a few just for his own self-improvement purposes. In general, however, this is aimed at society. And, I mean, if you’re being honest, maybe this is less about me having to change my reaction to these atrocities and more a public service to humanity to get it together already.

Let’s proceed:

Not clearing your time on the microwave.
People, this should be considered a hate crime. And for some reason, when it’s an uneven number left on the screen, I mentally melt even more. I know this is an unhealthy obsession, but living with a man who never clears the time is like living an awake nightmare. And then coming to work and walking among others who never clear the time is almost more than I can take.



Not pulling the shower curtain closed.
Less egregious than the microwave time, for sure, but still pretty offensive to my senses.

Leaving cabinets open.
We’ve been over this before and I do believe it may have been in my wedding vows because I’m the ultimate catch and CB is so lucky.

Chewing.
If I can hear you chewing, I’m unable to focus on anything else. And the saliva chew sound is the ultimate worst. I used to actually have to get up from the table in high school when my dad would eat a banana. My ears were going to explode and my anger would rage like a hot volcano just beneath the surface. Since that’s a normal response to someone eating a banana at breakfast.

This sign.
This sign is a few blocks from my  house. This is a professionally made sign. Who didn’t notice this? WHO DIDN’T NOTICE THIS?




Wearing furry slipper shoes outside.
Ok, so it’s possible we’re getting out of “pet peeve” territory and more into just annoying trends. But please tell me you’ve noticed and fought hard against this trend? For some reason this summer I’ve noticed an inordinate amount of women wearing what look to be flip flops with fur on them. Like fuzzy slippers that housewives in the 1950s wore, except now they’re outside.




Yes, I realize it’s risky to come back to blogging out of the blue with a pet peeve rant, but I feel this is why you come here. Straight talk from an insane person. Please tell me I’m not alone here. And what have I left out? (insert a long list from CB here who has to hear this living list on a weekly basis….)


Happy Wednesday! 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Don't Be That Guy

As a mom, I spend a lot of time thinking about our kids, who they may become, what I hope for them, etc. And since CB and I have lofty aspirations for the girls, our overall hope is that they aren’t giant a-holes. I mean, the toddler age does resemble some a-hole adults who I've encountered, but it’s more akin to my drunk friends and me in college. Like the other day, my toddler started crying – with full, thick tears – because I wouldn’t let her repeatedly bang her head up against the wall and told her to be kind to her body. And earlier that day, she threw herself down onto the ground and started tantrum-crying for CB because he helped her out of her car seat and was holding her book bag. We’re such monsters.

So as I walk through life and observe those around me, I realize that I’m focused much less on, say, what career path they choose to take and much more on them never becoming the people I'm about to describe below.

Dear Girls,

Please don't be:

The “that’s not my job” guy.
This person can either actually say those words or simply imply them by their actions. Either way, I loathe him.

Example:
I was at Starbucks the other day and they’d run out of half and half. Since I like my coffee to resemble nothing really all that close to coffee, I searched until I saw someone in a Starbucks uniform who wasn’t insanely busy. And actually, I sort of nailed it since this kid was slowly walking out of the back room without any sense of purpose. Perfect!

Me: “Excuse me, would you be able to refill the half-and-half? It seems to be all gone.”
Him, half-looking at me: “Uhhh….” And then he trailed off.
Me, standing there looking around, worried that I’d somehow asked a customer this question by accident. But no! The uniform!: “Oh I’m sorry, are you on break?”
Him, still half-looking at me: “No……”
Me, starting to get nervous out of being confused: “Oh….ok……so would you be able to bring out more half and half?”
Him, walking towards the counter, away from me: “Could you ask someone else? I have to do something.”

And then he walked over to the counter. Where he got a plastic cup of ice. And then walked into the back again without looking at me.

So.

Don’t be that guy, is my point. And while this is an egregious example of someone literally giving zero f’s, there are way more subtle examples everywhere. So, just don’t be this guy in spirit or in practice, ok? Because, as my children, then I’ll be a failure as your mom and I’ve reserved being a mom failure for those times (called current life) where I give you mac n’ cheese three times in one week and that’s only because I ran out of frozen chicken nuggets. Also, don’t bother emailing me about these choices, mom-shamers, because I’m onto you and I, too, give zero f’s.

The person who sends these emails to my Spam folder. 


Have higher aspirations, kids.

The person who takes up the entire damn sidewalk.
You know exactly who you are. You are the person or persons who either (a) walk(s) your dog on an insanely long leash that stretches across the entire NYC sidewalk. Hey, guess what? Other people live in NYC and also use this sidewalk occasionally. I’d like to not have to jump-rope your dog’s leash so that I can get to the subway. And the fact that this seems to annoy you that I’m doing this, makes me want to just scratch at you until you understand how sharing space works. Or (b) walk(s) with your group of friends and there are four or five of you and you somehow think that I should just scooch on over to the street to walk around you guys. Firstly, I can see that you have friends. Rubbing it in my face that you have friends who can walk in a straight line doesn’t make me feel less than. It makes me want to also scratch at you. But secondly, who taught you rules of the road? Because that’s the person I need not to be for my own children, so that people don’t scratch at them publicly or shoulder-check them on purpose out of sidewalk-rage. Not saying I've ever done that, but....I can imagine it happening, is what I'm trying to say.

The person who gets onto a packed train with their backpack on.

Ok, so I realize that I might look a little unstable with this one, since I actually pulled out my phone and took a picture on the crowded train of the guy shoved against me with his damn backpack on. Those are my angry sunglasses in the photo as well. I was too embarrassed to actually just “click” right in his face, so I did it all stealth-like from underneath. But you get the point. 

You’re the worst, this guy, and everyone is thinking it. I can’t believe you didn’t hear me hate-thinking about your choices during this entire 7 minute trip. I’m a loud thinker! And I also tried doing the shame-look at you a few times, too, but you either didn’t care, couldn’t see my eyes through my sunglasses, or thought I was trying to pick you up.

So don’t be this guy, again, is my point.



The person who needs a safe space from ideas that are different. Please don't be that person. Learn to live in the discomfort that is differing viewpoints. Viewpoints that make your blood boil and stand against the very things that you are? Figure out how to counter those viewpoints logically, rationally, and go ahead and throw some passion in there. Rise above. But please don't tell me you need a safe space. You know who needed a safe space? Malala Yousafzai. You know who doesn't get a safe space? Me, when someone gets on the train with their backpack, no matter how badly I want one.

I do realize that some of these seem city-specific, and that some make me sound crazy - that's not news. But again, my dear daughters, it’s not just the practice, it’s the spirit behind the intent. Which is what I will explain to you once you're old enough to understand. At the moment, I find myself breathing in and out slowly and with purpose when you ask me for milk and then I say “Ok, let’s go get your milk” and then you start crying hysterically because I left the room to get you milk. So we’re a few stages away from the “don’t be that guy” conversation, I do realize this. But it's coming. And now we're all prepared.

I love you.

Love, Mom


Monday, April 17, 2017

For Anna

The 1980s were filled with lots of pretty terrible ideas: big hair, ‘New Coke,’ and shoulder pads come to mind. But one 80s-specific trend that was, in theory, a terrible idea turned into one of the best little things to ever happen to me.

Back around 1984 or 1985, my elementary school hosted a balloon launch. But not just any old balloon launch where a bunch of little kids stand around in a field and watch balloons fly up into the air, never to be seen again. Nooooooo no no no. Remember: this was the 1980s. This balloon launch was special. Because at the end of each balloon was the FULL name and COMPLETE home address of each and every little tiny person who attended my school.  And since I was one of the said little tiny people at that time, I dutifully filled out my little 5x9 index card and launched it into the air for strangers to find so that they could write back to me and teach me about being pen pals! Or, you know, come and murder my family and me in cold blood. 
Dear Stranger, Feel free to come kill
me at any time...here's my address! 


Luckily for the 1980s, kids were busy being warned about the dangers of people luring them into their windowless vans with puppies and Halloween candy with razor blades in them to worry about a silly old pen-pal endeavor. So, you know, launching balloons into the air with all of our detailed contact information attached was perfectly fine! What could go wrong?

Well, for me, nothing. Because while friends and even my own sister had some luck with random strangers finding their weird, lonely balloons and writing them back once or twice, I had the great fortune of my weird, lonely balloon wandering from a park in Michigan into a field in Meadville, PA for Mr. Fox and his dog to find. And his wife, Anna, wrote me back. And she continued writing me back for the next 32 years.

Mrs. Fox was never Anna to me, she was always Mrs. Fox since I was raised during a time when respecting your elders was a thing and I was 8 years old. And even on her return address label she wasn’t Anna. She was always Mrs. Dan Fox.

She had beautiful, old-school penmanship. The kind of penmanship where you could tell there was time spent practicing. Unlike my penmanship, which looks a little like a cross between a ransom note and someone writing their name with their non-dominant hand.

She would write on flowery stationary – both sides – and ask all sorts of questions about school and my friends and my hobbies. She’d remember every single birthday. She’d remember every single holiday. At Christmas, she’d always send an ornament and a gift.

When I moved from Dearborn to Farmington, her letters followed. When I moved from elementary to middle school, her letters followed. When I moved from high school and then college – her letters followed. And all the while, we never met. I think we exchanged phone numbers once – there may have even been one phone call back in the day. But otherwise, it was a relationship built upon words. A relationship built upon the randomness of the wind and the lost art of letter-writing. And I cherished it for three decades.

When I moved to New York City, Mrs. Fox’s letters followed. And, to be clear, they were always from “Dan and Anna Mary.” But I’m pretty sure, similar to how CB’s names are on the Christmas cards we send out each year, Mr. Fox had little involvement with the actual mailing and writing. But he, too, was a huge part of my life in stories.

I learned of their nieces and nephews, their travels, their church activities. I wondered – more than once, but never to them – how two people who were so clearly made-to-be-grandparents never had children of their own, while quietly being grateful that they’d adopted me as their honorary granddaughter. I’d sometimes let six months go by between letters, always apologizing and sometimes rushing through a brief update of my oh-so-important life and, without fail, about 3-6 weeks later, I’d get another flowery letter in the mail.

In 2009, the flowery letter I got also had a newspaper clipping attached, and it was news that Mr. Fox had passed away at the age of 91. And some questions were answered that day, via his obituary. Mainly the ones too delicate to ever ask about.

Nonetheless, while the handwriting got a little less legible over the years, the stories never got shorter and the questions never waned. As she aged, she seemed to cherish the photos I’d send her of various life events or random fun things I thought she might enjoy.

Which is why I was a little concerned when, last spring, I didn’t receive a response back after I wrote her with news of my second pregnancy. She’d been so excited to see the pictures of my littlest – and now oldest – daughter growing up so fast in her first year, so I figured it was likely just the result of older age, some health issues over the years, and less energy. So I wrote again over the summer, right around RJC’s first birthday, complete with pictures and updates. No word. Then Halloween came and went without a card – which had never happened in all of the years we’d been corresponding. And then my fall update went unanswered. Then my birthday passed. And then I started Googling.

I knew she’d had a stroke within the last few years – she’d written of it often and apologized for her handwriting, to which I would laugh and tell her I was just happy she was still writing letters! And each time I’d type her name into the search field, I’d hold my breath and wait.

Nothing.

A few months later. Search field. Hold breath. Nothing.

And then today: search field. Hold breath. BING. There it was. The very first result.

Mrs. Dan Fox; Mrs. Fox; Anna was gone. Passed away at her home, no further information given about the cause, though I have a few guesses. All of them peaceful, since that’s how life should work.

Thank you for showing me love all of these years. Thank you for being my third grandmother. Thank you for caring. Thank you for writing. Thank you for following me through the first half of my life. Thank you for finding my balloon that day.

You will be missed. Your ornaments will hang on my tree and your flowery stationary will stay safely tucked inside my keepsake box next to the bed so that I can share your stories with my kids and remind them that strangers can become family, and family isn’t always made up of the people with whom you share your DNA. Hell, in my case, you never even get to meet some of them. But that has little import, as it turns out, in the end.


Rest in Peace, dear friend. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Kind of Love Letter

Full disclosure: I wanted to have this written and ready for Valentine's Day. And then I blinked and it was March and I was like, crap. But then I realized that I could be nice to CB on days that weren't mandated by Hallmark and so...here we are. 

When I was younger, I thought I knew what love was. Real, true, it'll get you through anything kind of love. And the reason I knew this is because I had a very specific list of what that love needed to look and act like in order to win my heart. It wasn't scientifically proven or anything, but I was pretty sure I'd nailed it. The list included: 

Tall
Dark hair
Funny
Smart
Lived close enough to me so I didn't have to exert too much effort
About my age
Ambitious
Curious
Smelled good
Could support himself

...and the deep, thoughtful list goes on and on. Looking back on it, I didn't have extraordinarily high expectations. I also didn't have any idea what love actually looked like. 

And then I met a tall guy with dark hair who was funny and smart and lived close to me and was about my age and was ambitious and curious and smelled good and could support himself. 

So I married him.

Luckily for me, he also had characteristics that actually mattered. And over the last two and a half years, we've gotten married and had two kids. So we're nothing if not efficient (efficiency! Also on the list.) Anyway, having our first daughter felt like a bit of an up-hill battle, at least for me physically. I've written here before about the health issues I faced and the after-math of postpartum stuff that I dealt with, and so I won't delve back into that. But my second pregnancy was much smoother. The only real issue is that my pants got tighter, faster, and I was chasing around a toddler this time. Other than that? Smooth sailing. 

Until, of course, it wasn't. 

The morning my second daughter was born, we took the typical hospital family photo - me in bed, looking stunning and well-rested, holding our little girl, CB next to me looking equally well-rested, clean-shaven, and handsome as ever. And when most people look at that photo they probably see the obvious - two happy parents and one confused little newborn. But when I look at that picture, I see something else. Actually, it's what's not in that picture that stands out to me the most. 

What's not in that picture is the 24 hours leading up to it when I was so violently ill that CB would be awoken from a dead sleep on a narrow hospital couch and run to my side with a bucket while holding my hair back so I could dry-heave from the magnesium coursing through my system. I mean, don't get me wrong, we were grateful for the drug that kept my body sedated enough not to seizure or stroke,   but there are only so many times you can hurl in front of your husband before you start to worry that the bloom might be off of the rose....

What's not in that picture is CB standing by my bedside while I lay there so uncomfortable and feverish and IN LABOR that the only thing that brought me comfort was him gently scratching my head and running cool washcloths over my face. Also what's not in that picture was how terrible my hair looked because he scratched my head so many times that it looked like bird's had nested on my skull and were violently looking for food to no avail. And he didn't tell me because "you had enough going on, I didn't want you worrying about your hair." 

Um, the man knows nothing about me. Have we met? You must ALWAYS tell me when my hair doesn't look good, because it's always on the verge of breaking out of my control and it's my number one fear in life to look exactly how I looked for, apparently, three whole days. God. That should've been on my list.  

Anyway. What's not in that picture is the husband and father caught between not wanting to leave my side and needing to go be with his littlest daughter in the NICU so she could be held and kissed and loved. 

And what's not in that picture are the countless sleepless nights, endless poopy diapers, blissfully happy cuddles, tear-inducing laughter, and outright delirium that accompany most new parents. The picture doesn't show the five years that led to this life we love. Or the people and places who paved the way for us to get there. It doesn't show the compromise, arguments, shared values, stolen moments, and everyday routine that goes into making a marriage work. And mostly, what's not in the picture, is just how bad my hair looked.

And for that, I'm eternally grateful. 

And so this is the part where I'd wish CB a Happy Valentine's Day and call it a win. But now that idea is shot and so, I'll simply throw him a high five and say what I always say: "Nailed it." 

Happy Wednesday, everyone! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Conversations from Cohabitation

The other night, while watching a documentary, I turned it off 30 minutes in and started hysterically crying. Which led to this conversation:

Me: "I don't understand how you're not crying right now."
CB: "If I'm crying, something is seriously wrong."
Me: "I don't understand. I cry on a weekly basis."
CB: "Yes, I'm aware."

Silence.

Me: "Like, not even just sadness, happiness, too."
CB: "I know. You almost cried the other day when Rauri did something cute. You've told me that you have a weekly "good cry" in the shower. This isn't normal."
Me: "It's my normal."
CB: "Which isn't normal."

Silence.

Me: "I feel like, if I'm between, say, a 1-4 or a 6-10, I'm crying. I basically have to be right in the middle, emotionally, or I'm just crying. I can't be too happy or too sad. I mean, my boss has seen me cry on multiple occasions over both."
CB: "If I ever cried in front of my boss, I'd quit my job in that moment."
Me: "Which would definitely make me cry."
CB: "Also, just so you know, if you ever catch me "having a good cry," that's when it's time to commit me."
Me: "Good to know."
CB: "The sad part is that I won't know when to commit you."
Me: "Probably when I stop crying."
CB: "Noted."

***

That same night, after leaving the TV on in the other room, yet turning off the documentary, CB and I had the crying conversation in the bedroom while Fiona was fast asleep in the living room. After about 45 minutes of talking, there was an eerie red glare coming from that room.

Me: "Is that the tv that's red? Why all of a sudden is the tv red?"
CB: "I think the Netflix screen went into sleep mode and it's a picture of something red."

Silence.

CB: "Or the baby is on fire. One or the other."
Me, laughing: "Well now I have to go double-check that she's not on fire! I mean, I'm 99% sure she's not, but I'd feel terrible if I didn't check."
CB: "Who says we're not good parents?"
Me: "Most likely our kids, when they can speak."

For the record, she was not on fire. So we're amazing parents.

Happy Wednesday!


Monday, February 6, 2017

Throwing back and coming back!

I'm making it a point to start writing again, you guys. Let's see how it goes....but the start of it is by re-posting this post from 2015 when I had my first daughter. It's still accurate with number two, though I think I'll be adding to this in the next few weeks......though I'm happy to report that shower AND leave the house all the time! Which doesn't sound like a normal accomplishment for an adult, but all the anxiety I experienced and isolation I created has luckily not become a reality this time around. Hooray! So a note to all of you new moms out there going through it - it gets better and doesn't always happen again if you decide to do it again! Bonus.

Enjoy! Thanks for sticking with this blog and checking in periodically to remind me you're out there and somehow want to keep reading!

Disclaimer: apologies in advance for those of you who really are hoping this doesn’t turn into an annoying/boring mom-blog. For the next few posts, it might. Because I’ve turned into an annoying/boring mom. I hope to resume my natural position of annoying/boring regular person who happens to have given birth, but that may not happen ‘til September. Oh also, I say “butt” and “vagina” a lot. So you’ve been warned (CB).

So I’ve been out of blogging commission these last several weeks because a human – complete with shoulders and fingers and a whole big head of hair – decided to come out of my vagina and then demand that I feed and bathe and dress her while never once saying thank you or please or even offering to pick up the tab once as a gesture of good faith. And I’ve decided to go along with this one-sided deal because sometimes she smiles at me as if she recognizes that I’m the same person who had that cozy, handy uterus she grew to know and love for all of those months. And her smiles are super –cute, you guys.  

Also, because her dad and I drank too much wine some time back in October and basically created her life, so I’d feel kind of guilty leaving her with a note on the front step of one of our neighbors being like “she’s cute but also can blow gas like nobody’s business. You’re welcome and thank you.” And because our neighbors would probably recognize her as that kid belonging to the sleepy couple that used to shower a few months ago and then bring her back. And I’m uncomfortable with confrontation, so we’ll go ahead and just keep feeding and bathing her so that it doesn’t get awkward.  

Plus, since motherhood has made me a ball of anxiety that doesn’t want to let my daughter out of my sight, it’d probably make that whole “abandoning your newborn” thing a little more challenging. But mainly because our neighbors would totally bring her back.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post: a person grew inside of and then exited from my body and now I can’t sleep/don’t sleep/shower/go hang at the bar because LOVE. And hormones? And instincts. And a lack of prescription Xanax. Which people sort of prepared me for? But not really. Plus I wasn’t listening because it wasn’t happening yet and I’m kind of a control-freak who figured I’d totally ace this mom thing while also being able to shave my legs.  

I have not, if you’re wondering, aced either of those things.

So, in order to continue the trend of giving completely helpful advice to people who won’t listen until after they’ve already experienced something they could’ve avoided had they listened, jeez, I’m going to go ahead and list off some of the things I wish I’d known prior to having my daughter (who I love and adore and am staring at out of the corner of my eye as I type this because, hello, were you listening? I have anxiety issues that are irrational. And because I had a dream about her falling out of her boppy last night and now I basically can’t deal.)

You will catch poop in your hand. This is less something I wish I’d known and more something I just sort of wish I’d known wouldn’t actually be that big of a deal. I mean, I’d rather not hold another person’s poop in my hands, as a general rule. But if it has to be anyone’s, may as well be my daughter’s poop, is my thinking? Basically because I know she can’t help it and would totally rather take care of this whole thing herself, if she’s being honest. But since she’s just now starting to realize that her hands and feet are attached to her body, and still accidentally hits herself in the face at least three times a day, I’ll do the poop-catching until she’s at least a few more months old. Which I believe is what good parenting is all about.

You will love/hate your spouse. Not sure if this is universal, but for the sake of my marriage, I’ll assume yes? Because there are several moments where you will have simultaneous feelings of complete love and absolute hate for your partner. Which sounds harsh, especially when talking about the person you have chosen to spend the rest of your life with and is the father to your child. But, um, it’s true. (oh hi, CB!  You can skip this part, it’s not about you at all so go ahead and just re-read the earlier paragraph on catching poop. I love you. Bye.)

Like, the other day I looked at CB holding our daughter just after feeding her and thought how fortunate she and I were to have him. They were so adorable, he was so helpful, and I had 15 minutes to just sit there and not be a baby-manager.

And then the very next moment he complained about how tired he was (after his 8 consecutive hours of sleep) and if I hadn’t been so ACTUALLY tired from my 1.5 hours of consecutive sleep the prior three nights, I would’ve hit him. And it would’ve hurt for sure, because that was some visceral rage right there.

But then he cleaned her poop-up-the-front diaper and gave her a bath and I loved him wholeheartedly again. Until he left all of the dirty bottles on the counter before heading out to his job where he gets to hang with other adults for eight hours and I cursed his name under my breath so that our daughter wouldn’t worry about being the product of a broken home.

Oh also, he’ll love/hate you right back. So it’s a reciprocal thing which makes it totally fine.

Man, I should really be a life coach.

Procreate with someone you like. Not just someone you love. Because love won’t save you at 4am during gas and screams (the baby’s, not yours – though it’s not out of the question). Like will.

Like will get you to see past the fact that neither of you have showered, thought about, talked about, or even hung out around the idea of personal hygiene/grooming for a few days and it’ll move you right into acceptance that this is temporary and one or both of you (hopefully) will attempt to woo the other in the not-too-distant future. And like will also help you remember that you felt hot-body feelings for this person at one point (which is how you got yourselves into this mess blessing in the first place) and that they’ll eventually come back to resembling the person you married once you’ve used deodorant again.

You will show literally anyone your vagina. I mean, not, like, when you get home and your in-laws come over for dinner. But while you’re in the hospital, prior to giving birth, I assure you that you will get to the point where someone will enter the room and you’ll be like “Do you need to see my vagina? Ok. Here.”

Which is totally weird, I know, but I spent the first three-to-four hours of my 26-hour labor experience trying to be coy. Like, someone would come in to check my cervix and I’d have my knees together, all lady-like, trying to be dainty. And then the nurse would explain that that’s not a helpful position to be in for cervix-checking and you’ll make your husband turn around because the cervix isn’t one of your sexier parts.

Cut to: three hours later when you just stop pulling the sheet back up over you b/c that’s a lot of work and leaning/bending is hard and why fight it?  Here’s my vagina. I’m so sorry, housekeeping-lady-who-just-wanted-to-empty-the-garbage – I have no dignity left.

And most importantly…..

You poop babies. WHAT? Yeah.
Why hasn’t anyone ever, in the history of writing about birth, EVER mentioned that when you’re fully dilating and approaching the time at which you’ll finally get to push out a person, all of your normal contractions stop and it suddenly feels like your baby is about to come out of your butt?

MY GOD, you guys.

To be fair, a friend of mine did mention the pooping babies thing to me about a week or two before I gave birth, but I forgot about it because it sounded gross and ridiculous and it wasn’t happening yet (see above rationale for this). But then it WAS happening and so I turned to CB and was like “Ok, so I know we’ve gone ‘round the bend in the over-share department these last 24 hours, but since you’re the only person in the room, I need to tell you this: I’m pretty sure our baby is going to come out of my butt, and unless I missed something in health class, I think that’s the wrong place?”

And then he went to McDonald’s to get some dinner and bleach his eardrums.

So I texted my friend Beth (the person who’d actually told me this prior to labor):

Me: So is this normal or weird that it feels like the baby is about to come out of my butt?
Beth: Uh, we talked about this. Normal. Call your nurse. You’re about to have the baby!
Me: Really? That’s kind of embarrassing. Plus, I think she’s on her dinner break, I don’t want to bother her.
Beth: You’re having a baby. Call your nurse. Seriously. I can’t believe you’re even texting me right now.

And then 35 minutes later my daughter was born. Out of the normal part. Not my butt. (I think).

So ok, this wasn’t a comprehensive list of things to know, but it’s a list unlike what I’ve seen on all of my mommy blogs. I mean, no offense, but telling me to bring my favorite music with me into the delivery room and having a birthing plan was unhelpful, ALL PREGNANCY BLOGS. Because I assure you that my birth plan would’ve included a lot less butt-pushing and a ton more Beyonce music had this at all been within my control.

Which it’s not. Because it’s about babies. And the only thing you really need to know about having babies is that the control goes out the window once you’re catching poop and showing the security guard your vagina.

And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done with my life, hands-down. And probably the smelliest.

Glad to be (kind of) back! Thanks for your patience, blog-readers!