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Learning and trying to be kind and living my life as fully as I can stand it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

34 of 40

Written summer 2016

I'm on call today but didn't get called out to work. At first it was good. I got most of our bedroom cleaned. . .or at least what we would consider cleaned in that there are no longer piles of my clothes on the floor in front of the closet and I've gone through the Goodwill bags to make it easier for us to someday get them out of the house. Even though some of them are filled with kid clothes that they probably don't take but I don't know where else to take them.

Now it's 5pm and I miss my kids. Miss them being with me. Hate them being away from me for so long. Even though I know they are probably having fun. And yesterday afternoon when they were with me I was just so done. So tired and not getting anything done, no energy to get anything done. Parenthood is a mental illness. I want to be with them all the time, I feel not quite right without them, but then I'm with them and it's so hard I want to crawl under the covers and watch old Gilmore Girls episodes. Not hard as in challenging, though at times it is. Hard as in the surface of a rock rubbed against your skin. Painful, a dull pain. Boring. With moments of such sweetness.

My friend Maia just spent a week in Nicaragua. There's a picture of her surfing and looking at it made me feel. . .like that is ten worlds away from me. Not just the surfing part, because I've tried it a couple times and gotten pummeled and scared and never made it to my feet. But the solo trip away from my kids for a week. I'm thrilled for her that she did it. I want to do it. And it feels. . .impossible. Which is crazy because it's not like I love my kids more than she loves hers. What is it then?

I fold tiny clothes that aren't even tiny any more, just too small. And I miss their tiny baby selves even though I'm so glad that part is over. But over for good? I just. . .it's hard to take it all in. I don't expect to enjoy every minute but how do I constantly feel like I might be missing it, even when I'm sitting right there?

33 of 40

Written sometime in 2016

I'm like a spy. Sitting in a staff lounge and a young doctor comes to give report to a slightly older doctor. He starts venting about a difficult patient, how she doesn't want to do anything they say and keeps saying she wants to leave. How many times he's had to visit her bedside. He sounds so frustrating and I really do get it. It's important to be able to vent, especially to a hopefully safe person who can take it in and help you process it. Or just help you by listening.

And I also want to ask him "Have you ever been a patient?"

My guess is he will say no, but who knows? We contain multitudes.

In the conversation I am having with him in my head he says 'no' and I say "se nota" because I am thinking in Spanish right now, trying to get my Spanish back where it needs to be. And because some words and phrases feel gentler and at the same time more encompassing. It's not me saying "I can tell" or "That's obvious" It's me saying, Yes that can be noted. At least that's how I translate it for myself.

I want to say, "Being a patient is scary. And hard. And painful. And with all that, you don't stop being yourself. Or at least if you're lucky you try like hell and sometimes succeed in staying yourself, even with all the assaults on your body and mind and self-awareness. You don't just hop on board and become compliant because that's the best thing. That's what will make you better. That's what they're telling you to do. If you're ornery outside of a hospital bed, you will likely be ornery in the hospital bed. Possibly more so. Or the experience might turn you into a meek little kitten. Who knows? The thing is, it is the patient going through a transformative experience here. There is no steady ground to stand on. You are afraid, out of power, out of control. It is hard to know what is what.

So be frustrated, young doctor. Let it out where you can. And then take a deep breath and remember or acknowledge that it feels a lot different to be in the bed than it does to stand next to it.

32 of 40

Written April 2016

Playing golf is a good activity for parents of young children because it there are so many similarities. Fun, frustrating and makes your arms sore. Riding ATVs in sand dunes is like raising toddlers in that you are barely in control, sometimes exhilarated and acutely aware that if something happens to you it will be bad news for a lot of small people.

We took a vacation. Turns out, that was a very great idea. It's not quite 8am and I'm awake, because I'm not much of a sleeper-inner. The beauty of not quite eight o'clock is that I am alone. No one is touching me or demanding breakfast. I have time to slowly wake to the day, which never happens at home.

We've exhausted ourselves--no laying by the pool or reflexology. No walks on the beach, except the short one down to the water's edge in Pismo where we awaited the shuttle to come pick us up and drive us down the sand to Steve's ATVs. No novel reading, though I did read through most of a bizarre local newspaper full of murder plots and corrupt politicians. We watched two movies. Went out to eat. Walked down the hill into the small town of Avila Beach. Hit the Farmer's Market where we bought tacos from a stand, meat piled so high on top of those corn disks it was impossible to hold. Best food we've had all trip.

Turns out the best way to appreciate your own young children is to go to a Farmer's Market without them. There you can admire the beautiful, lively, flirtatatious babies and toddlers that don't belong to you. So many babies made eyes at me and it was probably because I was smilingly looking at them, like I used to before I was a mom. When I longed for a baby and imagined myself strolling through the tents with my cuddly baby strapped to my chest. Last night we could hear the sounds, questions and tantrums, of other peoples' children, miss and admire ours from afar because they weren't there, and fully acknowledge that if they were there we would have our eyes to ground-level, chasing and grabbing and coralling. There would be no flirting with other babies because I wouldn't have the energy or attention-span to look at other peoples' babies.

I don't know why it never occurred to me before I had children that some of the childless people and couples I was seeing did have children but had left them elsewhere.I thought I would be forever changed as a mother, that people would see it on my skin whether the kids were with me or not. And I am forever changed, but it's not always apparent from the outside.

This trip has been full of noticing how much and what the kids would love. The playgrounds, one in the sand and one just across the street. The dogs running in the sand. The lizard doing push-ups in the sun. The golf cart. The sweets. They would have so much fun here. We will hopefully bring them someday and see how different it is to be with them. How it is no longer easy to stroll down the hill to the beach--crossing the big road with the four of them would be tricky and a short walk becomes a long walk with all those little legs.

My body feels good and strong with muscle aches from being well-used. We push each other to do more--without him here I would have spent the whole trip lounging. Without me, he wouldn't have sought out the adventures I found. We have fun together. We'd forgotten what it felt like.

Next year I will be 40. This translates into not being able to tell how old people are. We stood in line for nachos and then in the same line again for a watermelon agua fresca. The four young women ahead of us started out in their 20s but the longer we stood behind them, the younger they got. Perhaps high school? How is it that so many people inhabit the ages we have already lived through? How can I simultaneously remember exactly what it felt like to be sixteen while looking at sixteen year olds in wonder and confusion, trying to imagine what it feels like to be them?

There are so many different lives to be lived. So many places to go. So many ways to step outside your own life for a moment, to see it through new, rested eyes. To remember what it felt like before. To imagine what it might feel like someday. Vacation. I highly recommend it.

31 of 40

Originally written 2/28/16

How do I live beyond the map? I cheat and hide myself to myself. I go outside the lines and then drown in guilt or pleasure or anguish but go back again and again because I feel most alive there. Or I get drunk. Or high.

In my drinking days, my partying days, which just felt like regular days, I loved how it felt to weave drunkenly through a crowd to find the bathroom. Bathroom mirrors are the best for looking in and seeing your own soul. I would stare at my own eyes because you can't stare into your own eyes and feel my skin vibrate, my balance wobble, my body hum. I'd feel cocooned, in a moment of escape, loving the sense of being outside myself. Different than myself or perhaps most myself.

When I heard XIII by Adrienne Rich read aloud it meant nothing to me. When I went back to read it to myself, my eyes skimming quickly over the words as they always do, it bloomed. I felt the feeling of being in a car, off road, alone or together but away. There is something about driving. Huh. Somehow I just realized that.

How do I live beyond the map? I step away from what I'm supposed to do.  A found day is the best, richest kind of day. Not a day off that I've planned in advance but one that gets plucked in the morning after waking up and saying Nope, not today. I will not do what others expect me to do.

Secrecy keeps me alive sometimes. Even though it is almost always shrouded in guilt and self-recrimination. I find ways to cover up how little I got done so no one would guess that I laid on the couch watching Spotlight, giving into my stomach ache and watching great acting a few days before an Oscars whose movies I've seen none of.

30 of 40

Originally posted 5/26/16

We have a lot of birthdays coming up. A family of Gemini, literally and astrologically speaking. First my mom, then the bigs, then my husband, then the littles, then his mom. Birthday-palooza.

Today was a partial workday for me so I've been reading up on policies and doing some Spanish practice while the kids are with Stephanie. I've also gotten coffee for the house, gotten some blood work done, gone to the bookstore, eaten lunch in a restaurant by myself and gone to Toys R Us.

Toys R Us. . .I've been twice since having kids. It's not my cup of tea, with its aisles and aisles of multi-colored landfill items. Does that sound bitter and harsh? I know, right? Buzz kill mama. It's how I feel though. I just. . .don't want the kids to have a lot of toys. Even though I remember longing for toys when I was little. Seeing commercials and shouting "I want that!" or "That's mine!" Coveting the colorful dolls with many different pieces. My Little Ponies. Barbies. Cabbage Patch Kids. So many to want. So out of reach. I can sing along to the old Toys R Us jingle. . .I don't want to grow up, I'm a Toys R Us kid, there's a million toys something something that I can play with."

We'd sometimes get or see the big fat Toys R Us catalog and turn slowly through its pages. We almost never went.

So I went today to do some birthday shopping while I have some time to myself. I knew what I wanted, more or less. When I got to the desired section I blanched at all the choices. Can't someone just tell me which is the best? Or the. . .best for my kid? How do I decide? My decisions were made based on the apparent quality and my ability to make not glaringly gender-based selections. The only one is pink and covered in princesses and stars? No thank you. There will be time for each of them to be drawn towards characters and colors. . .it's started happening a little. I don't want to sow the seeds myself though.

I stood there and contemplated the options and eventually went back to the front of the store for a cart. These are some big items and I couldn't carry them all. I felt profligate. It felt like a bit too much. But also exciting to imagine how much they will hopefully like our selections. I think. I hope. They're only turning two and three. . .how many gift experiences do you remember from that era of your life?

Still, it's exciting to provide the excitement. To imagine the smiles. To have a chance to spoil these little people I love so much. To think about how much they can do now, and how much they will keep learning. To try to pick things that help them get stronger, help them play in new ways, give them wiggles in their stomachs with the feeling of anticipation. My babies, getting bigger.

My sister and I have our birthdays one week apart. Two years, minus one week. My kids are one year plus two weeks apart plus their birthday twins.

29 of 40

Written today 2/28/17

There are people who know me in real life who don't like to read my blog. I don't blame them for this, nor do I expect everyone who knows me to read it or want to read it or even be interested that it exists. One reason someone has given me is that it feels intrusive to read it, even as he acknowledges that I'm putting it out there so I must think it's ok for people to read it. Another reason someone I know has trouble with it is that sometimes it is so painful to read, especially when I write about feeling depressed or about how hard things are.

I have struggled with how to write this blog because it is all deeply personal but I don't want it to be my diary. I have kept journals for decades, on and off. I think journaling is actually necessary for my well-being and I don't do it much these days because it gets crossed off the list in favor of other tasks, other pastimes. Even though it is essential. Not only do I think journaling improves my writing but it also helps me get some of the junk out, some of the raw emotion that I just need to get out but not necessarily share with the internet. It feels dramatic to write share with the world! Ha. But it is in essence sharing with the world, no matter how many people currently read my blog, because it will be out there for anyone to find at any time. My kids could read all this some day. Or future employers. Or constituents if I ever decide to run for office. Ack.

I have also struggled, often and in an ongoing way, with feeling too serious. Too intense. Not fun. The book I chose for my neighborhood book club last night was about a woman dying of cancer. Among other things. I mean, she wasn't dying of others things, the book was about many other things. Because of course death and dying is also about life and quotidian tasks and relationships. I was momentarily embarrassed. . .no not embarrassed but taken aback to hear the other members react to the depressing choices I make in our group. The familiar "What is wrong with me?" voice piped up in me. Why so serious? Why not more fun and free-spirited and light-hearted? Why didn't I think the book was depressing? What does that say about me?

Reading through my old posts as I hit Publish, I am struck by how often I mention feeling depressed. Especially the last one where I talk about wanting to run away. It's scary to put that out there, not because I feel scared by that feeling but because I feel scared and worried about how the people who love me will feel. I worry about that a lot--how will me telling the truth make others feel? Or, what if I say this out loud and then feel differently tomorrow? How will the people who I talk to handle that? How will they know what is real?

I am an up and down kind of woman. I often wish to be more even-keel. But that's not me.

This is not my journal. It is my art. Sometimes my art veers into too much journaling, too raw. And that is one of the main reasons I get scared to post certain things. I want to sit on them, wait to edit them more, take stuff out. Make them make sense. But not today. Today is raw, unfilted posting. I'm feeling kinda ack about it. But onward we go. This break is to assure the people who love me that I am ok. I am not sunk in a depression. And it's ok if you don't want to read it, no matter what the reason.

28 of 40

Originally written 2/11/17

Grieving. Somehow reading in The New Codependency that the obsessing, guilt, fear and control are all feelings we feel when we're grieving smacked me over the head. Even though as I write those feelings down I'm not sure if they're even the ones I feel the most. As if "the most" matters in this context.

I am grieving and have been grieving. The loss of my pre-child self. The fact that motherhood is so much harder and more painful than I ever could have imagined. The fact that wanting to be a mother made me turn away from other relationships because I couldn't imagine how we would find our way to parenthood together. The pain that has kept finding me. And all I want to do is run. Away, away, away. Numb. Make it go away.

27 of 40

Originally written 8/2/16

Sometimes the words don't come. The idea of sitting down and trying to make some sense of the tangle in my mind pre-exhausts me. There are so many other things to be doing and right now I bore myself. Plus I don't feel like being told I'm so hard on myself. Bored of hearing that too.

August 1st. New hard copy calendar. Fresh start. I like these fresh starts as though turning over a new physical page will help me turn over a new self page. On the new page I won't need or want to hide on my couch watching Gilmore Girls reruns, ignoring the fact that I have a husband and kids until they come back home. On the new page I won't lose library books and I will be able to think of cool recipes that don't involve turning on the oven or stove since it's 100 degrees where I live. On the new page I won't be surprised to discover that I get depressed in the summer.

26 of 40

Original date unknown

Today is a kid-free day, the day of the week in which I have childcare and no work. It used to be the day I took Bart into the city for the job I started over a year ago but I am one foot in, one foot out with that job, in a holding pattern while we figure out what comes next for them. I didn't mean to stop going into that office on Mondays but life got hectic and the little girls started having school on Mondays and I didn't always go into the office on Mondays anyway. Sometimes I worked from home and I thought I would keep working from home but the addition of school for the girls and a new job for me and. . .I stopped having energy and attention for that job. There was also the great flea infestation of Summer '16 along with some marriage challenges and the usual life with four kids stuff. It just. . .changed and with less time and less energy I could see more clearly which things were feeding me and which weren't.

Except that is still hard to see and know. I have a new calendar which always gives me new life, the idea that I can bring order to chaos, pretty colors and lines and made-ahead plans. It soothes me for a while, before I stop remembering to bring it with me or lose interest or get into a funk. All of those things have happened so far this month, in August when the new calendar started. I like a calendar that starts in August because all these years later it still feels like the new year when school starts.

I've never been much of a list-maker, except in certain circumstances like when I worked in Placement and had to write out my to-do list every time I got off the phone to make sure I didn't forget something vital like "Find a home for that liver". I worked with someone who made complex to-do lists with tasks ranked in order of importance, including everything from things he needed to do to make himself feel whole to things he needed to do to be a successful adult. Practice yoga vs. go to the bank. Because there is only so much time in a day and whether you make decisions ahead of time or not you will end up living your values by the mere fact of how you choose to spend your time. The days are filled with choices, even when it doesn't feel like it.

It always felt like cheating to me to write things down only to cross them off, like I wanted credit for something I'd already done and that shouldn't count. But maybe it can also be a way for me to stop being unconscious of all the things I am doing and maybe it would be okay to give myself more credit.

25 of 40

Originally written 8/30/16

I'm starting to see it, how fast the time goes. It's been the one consistent comment people have made over the past three years. My husband and I would lay in bed, exhausted and depleted, talking about how it must be true since everyone said it was and wondering at what point we would start to feel that way. I'm starting to see it.

My eldest daughter has such long, beautiful legs. I hesitate to even use the word beautiful because she is so lovely and perfect and I don't want the world to hurt her or judge her or even think of her beauty as something to be commented upon. She is tall and strong and sure and thoughtful and so beautiful it hurts me to look at her sometimes. She's become a kid. I can imagine asking her to walk to the store to pick up some milk. I wouldn't, because she would need to cross streets and talk to strangers and it would be scary for her and way too scary for me. But I can see that she has the ability and the courage to do something like that. The self-possession.

Has it gotten easier? I'm not ready to use that word because it is so far from easy. It keeps changing though and there are more moments of sweetness where the four of them are playing together without fighting, without intervention. We went to a wedding in Sun Valley, Idaho a few weeks ago which deserves it's own post though I might not probably won't get to it. At the reception my son walked past me to gather his sisters as he said "We're going to hang out, Mom."

Oh. Ok. Have fun? When did you turn fifteen?

Several months ago I asked for topics you would like to see written about on this blog. A friend asked/suggested that I describe my kids. I've thought about that often since then. About the reasons I haven't wanted to and still won't. And the reason I do want to and might.

24 of 40

Smoked a bowl tonight after a long, emotionally difficult and raw day. Immediately had a dozen of pure thoughts (can they be pure if I'm stoned?) Couldn't write without leaving and disrupting bedtime so I stayed put as long as possible and now I've forgotten all of them. And a kid just called out, not asleep.

I  am a mess. In this new administration. Thinking about racism. Feeling sexism. Working too much but afraid to stop. Wanting to parent more but afraid of hating it. Of failing. Tired of hearing myself talk about the same old shit, especially vulnerable when I'm unexpectedly talking to a friend about it in the height of feeling like a freak, like an overthinking blind person who can't see myself at all and doesn't know how to stop talking about it. But it helps.

It came to me tonight, maybe again, maybe for the first time, that I need to work on being a safe space for women of color. Probably for other groups but that is where I'm starting. And it's hard to be a safe space for a lot of reasons. One is that I'm having a lot of feelings myself and I need a place for them to go, for them to be ok. Because they are real. And I don't need to worry about saying the right thing, about contributing my voice. I need to listen and pay attention. I am afraid to ask questions but I want them to know I am paying attention. Not so I get credit for it but so they get what they need. Even writing they sounds fucked. And it occurred to me during bedtime that what I need is for people to tell me they hear me, that I am doing a good job. So maybe I can find a way to do that for women of color. For all women? How much energy do I have? Is that even an ok question to ask? How bizarre is it to not know how to judge myself? To have a group of people telling me I'm too hard on myself. And another group of people not directly telling me but still telling me that I'm not doing enough? That in the Bloom world it feels revolutionary to take time for myself, to care for myself. But in the social justice world people are screaming "It's not about you!"

Both are true.

Just like the march reaction. Both are true except there's probably way more than both. It made me feel good that people who know me assumed I was going, wanted to march with me. Was that because I felt acknowledged for being involved? For paying attention? I do feel like I'm paying attention. But I also feel like it's not enough.

23 of 40

Today I didn't eat lunch until about 5pm. Almost exactly 5pm since Burma Superstar re-opens for dinner at 5 and I got there a few minutes after and the dining room was half-full. I sat alone at a square, wooden table and ordered the tea leaf salad, the samusa soup and some coconut rice. I knew I wouldn't and couldn't eat it all in one sitting and I also knew that I needed life. Life in the form of rich, tasty, special food full of flavor and warmth and depth. I wasn't escaping. I was walking outside, away from imminent death and towards sensation and mindful enjoyment of being alive. My job is hard.

I soaked in my privilege.

That I can afford to eat at a restaurant for lunch.
That I live in a place where such food can be found.
That I was eating in a beautiful room surrounded by lively, different-looking people.
That I have healthy children.
That I stumbled into a career that feeds me.
That I get a chance to sit and eat alone.

Many other things. When I left the hospital I brought with me a thin journal with a green, textured-paper cover and a folded-up New York magazine, along with two cellphones work and personal. I didn't know how I would want to occupy my mind during my meal--I mostly sat there and soaked in the space, tasted the food, thought about the day. Then I was thinking too much and I opened up the magazine to give my mind and myself a break.

I finished what I was going to eat and looked up at the two black women getting ready to get settled at the counter next to me. Stunning adult daughter solicitously asking her mom if she would be ok sitting at the counter. I was eavesdropping, looking their way. The daughter smiled at me and said hello.

I'm about to pay my check, I said. You can have this table.

They said yes and the mom got down off her stool and came to sit across from me as I waited for my check and my to-go boxes.  She and I talked--about where we lived, the restaurant, what I did for a living. She asked me if I were a vegetarian, I'm guessing based on my order. Which made me think her daughter was probably a vegetarian.

Her daughter had gone to talk to someone else in the restaurant and then came back to us. The mom asked me what I was doing for the holidays, which gave me pause and then made me think we were talking about Labor Day. I said I was working today and tomorrow and then I'd be with my family Monday. And you?

Just staying home, she said.

A meal away from my kids feels like a holiday sometimes, I said.

Which led us to talk about kids, and my passel of children, which brought the usual exclamations of joy and confusion. We smiled and commiserated and looked at photos. The daughter practically did a laying on of hands in sympathy for me, which I appreciated and which told me she was a mother herself. It was a lovely pre/post meal exchange.

I walked out, onto the streets of Oakland, feeling refreshed and grateful and privileged.

That I have the chance to

talk to
learn from
laugh with

other people in the world.

22 of 40

Originally written. . .some months ago

Sometimes I think if I actually wrote about how hard it is to raise four kids under the age of two-and-a-half people would just start showing up at my house trying to save me. Or save us. I just started a sentence describing this past week, with a handful of sick kids and a sick mama and I got bored in the middle of it. Who really cares? Everyone has sick kids, every parent gets sick, everyone tries to keep their house clean, their bills paid, their dog's nails clipped. It's nothing new or special--it's just in bulk and it is relentless. But I think all parenthood is relentless.

I love these bright, beautiful children so much. I could stare at them for hours. It's the spilling, gate-smashing, screeching, bottle-spilling, whining, needing, door-to-the-bathroom-opening everything  that makes it so hard. The projectile vomit just when I was already at a breaking point, making me burst into hopeless tears in the kitchen before taking the blue Ikea highchair out to the courtyard to spray it off.

Complaining feels at best lame, at worst risky. Like tempting the gods of fate to even think it's too hard.

A year has passed since I wrote the words above. Not exactly a year because a year ago today I was in the hospital for a colitis flare that wouldn't end and I wasn't doing any writing in the hospital. I was resting and ordering meals from food services. I broke, physically in a way that got me hospitalized, but I know that physical break was caused by the mental and emotional breaking that had been going on for months. That and the stupid colitis that I wasn't ignoring so much as was just gritting my teeth and bearing it because I didn't think there was anything I could do to make it better. Except for maybe entirely change my diet to eat only whole foods and no dairy and no gluten and no sugar and. . . no.

What is really possible? I don't mean in the sense of "Anything is possible if you try" though I guess I do mean it in that way. The truest of true ways which for me comes down to what will you give up or change in order to do the thing you need to do? If you can even figure out what the thing you need to do is.

Months ago I picked up a Brene Brown's book Rising Strong for the third time. It hadn't been meeting me where I was up to that point, though I'd loved her earlier books. I picked it up because it was in front of me on the table and I brought it with me on BART on my way to see a play at the Berkeley Rep. The chapter grabbed me, because it started with a personal story and because it ended with her therapist asking her "What if everyone is just doing the best they can?"

This question sent the author into a rage and she fought it, the idea, for weeks. She asked everyone she came into contact with, coming up with her own qualitative data about what it means if you believe that is true about people and what it means if you don't.

I usually don't. And I haven't believed it about myself for most of my life.

I put the book in my bag as the train pulled into my stop and walked up the stairs into downtown Berkeley. As always, the energy of a city, of people walking quickly around me, dressed in different styles, talking about different things, pulled my heart up and out into the world. It's one of my best mes, the city me. Also the alone me. My god do I love to be alone. The best alone is alone in a sea of people. My favorite. I walked to the theater and met up with my younger brother. Better and better.

The play was Aubergine. It was exquisite. It was about grief, which I was expecting, but was welcome and timely as I had just started my new role at work where I specialize in grief. The characters were quirky and bold. And at one point one of the people in the show asked "What if people are just doing the best they can?"

Zing! Okay, god and the universe. I am listening. This message is meant for me today.

So I've been carrying that idea around with me for months, holding it up as a lens when I need it to see others in a different light. It helps. More than that, I've been wrapping it around myself as a cozy blanket when I need it. Maybe I'm just doing the best I can.

Right now, with what I have. With the energy I have possess, with the mental toughness available to me in the moment, with the truth surrounding me, the what is actually happening surrounding me. I've started to understand the concept in a different way. That it's not exhorting me to do the best I can, in the best of circumstances as though all I have to focus on and worry about is doing this one thing to the absolute best of my ability. Because let's be real, I can do lots of things really really well and I expect that of myself. Expect it to the point that if someone says I did great and lists ten things I did well, I shrug as if to say but yeah that's what was expected. But if someone says one thing I could have done better, I wear that like a mantle until I can force myself to stop thinking about it. Because all this time I've been interpreting Do your Best to mean--imagine the most wonderful way in which this thing can be done and then get as close to that image as possible, whipping yourself for missing the mark which will almost always happen.

Sheesh. It hurts me to write it out. So very hard on myself and often on others.

21 of 40

My sense of smell is getting more acute. I take this as another sign that I am getting more into my body. It's a funny one because my mom and sister have such powerful smelling powers that it really impacts their lives whereas I could never smell anything. One of them would practically double over in disgust at the smell of pee in a a BART tunnel in San Francisco, I wouldn't even notice. Last week I walked into my house and got smacked in the face by the stink of cat piss. Which pissed me off because seriously, no one else in the house noticed this? It was like a pee sauna sinking into more pores.

More than once in my life my mom has come to visit my new apartment and freaked out at the smell of gas. I didn't smell a thing.

My mom would ask me how a place I was travelling to smelled--what does Jamaica smell like? What does Peru smell like? Huh, I would think. I don't know. And then even once I tried to figure it out. . .I still couldn't smell anything.

Similarly but totally differently, my sister was afraid to walk the dog in the dark because she feared for her physical safety, sexual or otherwise. I never felt such fear. I thought it was because I was cool, above it. Probably it was because my body had stopped reacting in such a way that I would recognize the warning. Or I was just so used to ignoring its (aka my) reactions that I didn't notice them. I was mugged in Madrid when I was twenty. Heard pounding footsteps behind me in the twilight as I walked home from a movie. My narrator, constant internal companion more familiar to me than any part of my body, went into slo mo. This is bad. An arm grabbed me around the neck, from behind. My narrator expressed surprise. I always thought I would fight back in this situation but I find myself helpless, unsure what to do. Kick backwards? The next thing we noticed, my narrator and I, was the view of the dark sky as I opened by eyes to the night, lying on my back alone on the sidewalk. The police department gave me Valium in Spanish and I still step aside when I hear footsteps behind me on the sidewalk, even in Laguna Beach in broad daylight. I feel those footsteps in my body in a way that can't be ignored. Those two men took away my sense of safety in the street and I raged against that as much as I mourned the irreplaceable photos from the days before digital.

The problem with waking up to what my body is telling me is that I am so full of rage and grief.

20 of 40

Last week I called my aunt just to chat. I was en route from somewhere to somewhere else, stopped at a gas station. It's three hours ahead her time and I'm not sure what she was doing but she answered and we asked and answered some questions about ourselves and each other in not-quite-rapid-fire rhythm. She asked about work and I said it was great.

"So you feel like everything is working out?" she asked.


"I don't feel like everything is working out," I answered. "I think I feel more like myself so I'm more able to handle it when things aren't going great."

When it came down to the question of whether I would stay at home full-time with my kids or work, I thought I had a choice. And yes, super luckily enough for me and for us, I did have that choice. We could more than survive on one income--many people do not have that luxury. Also luckily for me there were scores of women before me, before us, who fought and pushed to be able to have more choices. I am grateful for the choices, and the right to choose, that I have.

I didn't and don't have a choice about who I am, though. And who I am is better with work in the equation. Work, especially work that I love, helps me recognize myself. It gives me a container for many of my thoughts. It tires me out mentally. It helps me step outside of myself and look around. Parenthood does some of these things for me too, in ways that I anticipated and in ways that surprise me. I didn't know I would try so hard to train myself away from my faults, or what I see as my faults, in an attempt to only pass on good things to my children. I didn't know that my lack of ability or interest to keep a clean house would weigh on me so much. I didn't know I would sometimes feel afraid of being left alone with my children--at first because there were so many of them and I was so emotionally overwhelmed and depressed. And then just because of the long stretch of afternoon hours and a sense of dread as I wondered how I would fill them.

We want to raise good quality little people and we want to provide these offspring of ours with good childhoods. I don't think those are always the same thing. There are plenty of people in the world who had shitty childhoods by most definitions who turned out to be good, strong, kind people. And then there's the complication that we all get to go by our own definition of good. What makes someone a good person? What makes a good childhood?

I watch my kids play "going to work." They did this before I was working so much but they all seem to do it a bit more now. They load up a bag or a bucket and wave, saying "Bye!" with a determined look on their faces. I recognize their expressions from previous conversations. "Are you going to work?" I ask.


Or my son will pull on a pair of gloves and grab a few tools and head off. "I'm going to work," he declares.

Or someone will grab a notebook and some pens and say "I'm doing my homework."

They are surrounded by examples of people doing work and it seems to be something they like rather than something they eschew. This makes me happy. Not because I think someone needs a job to be a good person but because they are acting out what they see around them and they get to see both of us leave sometimes to go to work.

19 of 40

Written 12/19/15

Keeping house is not my jam. Housekeeping? Keeping the house clean? I'm not sure what the right verb for it is but I don't enjoy it and I don't feel good at it. Not being good at things is also not my jam.

How common is it for people to always be thinking about how they could be better? Does everyone do it? I mean, I wish I could either get better at cleaning my house or find a way to stop caring so much about it. It weighs on me. I want it to be pretty and soothing to be here, in this physical space. Instead I walk the length of my funny-shaped, windy house as though I am passing through a cluttered obstacle course. Shift your hips to slide between three hampers of clean laundry, bend to pick up the Jack-O-Lantern water cup, ignore the expired driver's license on the muffled wood floor beneath the drawer they can all reach and get into now. We need to empty that but neither of us ever does it. One child had a thumbtack in her mouth earlier today. Can't believer I'm recording that in the written, online annals of our family history.

A large part of the mess is always mine--I am not neat. I wonder if and how I can teach my children to be neat when it's not something I really know how to do. Know how. . .it's probably just a matter of picking things up as you go, of taking five or ten minutes to clean up the kitchen after the kids eat, to make sure to put things where they belong the first time.

Written 12/30/15

We are getting our asses handed to us in the parenting department lately. Every day when the kids are all finally quiet in their beds we just look at each other expressionless, souls crushed a little bit more. That sounds dramatic and probably is overly so. . .but I've lost all perspective to know what is what. What day is it? Who is awake? Where are the childrens? That "s" was a typo but it seems so apropos that I'm leaving it.

The older twins started climbing out of their cribs. . .last week? Earlier this week? It seems like forever ago. It has effed shit up for us and for them. Bedtime used to be a mostly delightful affair. Sure, there were sometimes tears from one or two of them for a few minutes but those rarely lasted long.  Two of our four love sleeping like their mama. One doesn't like going to bed but is damn cozy once she settles in and she has a hard time waking up sometimes. The fourth could take or leave sleep if given the choice--and mostly he would choose to leave it. Needless to say this child discovered a whole new world once he climbed out of the crib.

18 of 40

Written 11/28/15

Insecurity and eyes that can't see the truth have hit me, strong and hard. Have you heard of body dismorphism? The disease that keeps someone from being able to see what they really look like. Even writing that sentence fills me with sudden self-loathing and the thought of why the fuck would anyone want to read this shit?

I know it's not reality or at least not the only reality but there it sits. Like an elephant on my chest. Inescapable with a choking scarf of such familiarity that the disdain for not being able to do the things I know will help bring me out of it. Blech.

Written 12/2/15

So many words careen through my head and yet nothing sticks to the page. I'm drowning in self-consciousness.

In high school I fell in love with the athletes and the actors. The ones who would lose themselves in whatever they were doing--eyes fixed on the basketball hoop, unfazed by the crowd. A looseness in the body, at ease and in an element. Completely embodied, outside of the mind. Ego-less.

A month ago I was completely unconcerned with what people though of me. I felt such clarity. I knew who I was and what I wanted, without a doubt. It was heavenly.

17 of 40

Written 2/25/16, unfinished

How much is your time worth? Like, how much money would you charge for an hour of your time? The past two years have me thinking about the answer to this question so much more than I ever have before.

I've never in my life asked for a raise. Which is typical for women in the United States. I've been given several raises. One or two bonuses based entirely on my individual work, other bonuses based on the performance of the company. Two promotions. In my past job I made more money than I really ever expected to and, most of the time, I felt well-compensated for the work I did. I was also in the position of determining other people's raises, in discussing the rate of pay for certain jobs, in being on the receiving end of requests for more money. I'm not new to trying to determine the value of someone's work or time but I think about it anew.

About a month ago I asked Stephanie to take the kids on Thursdays, bringing it to three almost full days of childcare out of the week. I did it because a) I was losing my mind and by Thursday had a hard time not taking it out on the kids and b) I needed some child-free time to get household stuff done and c) I had it in mind that I would like to start doing more work for pay and wanted to grab time in her schedule while I had the chance.

Three days of childcare? What am I doing then? Am I still a stay-at-home mom? That's so many days that they're not with me.

Wait. Oh yeah. They're with me when they wake up and before they go to bed and there are seven days in a week and. . .okay, I think we still get enough time together.

So what to do on that extra day? The possibilities swirl around me and turn my head with their siren songs.

Clean the kitchen.


Get the car washed.

Clean our room and get rid of the ten bags of stuff that's been sitting there begging to be taken out.

Cook some meals, not just for tonight but for future meals.

Take a yoga class.

Take a shower.

Call some patients and get paid.

What will serve me? What will serve us? What makes it worth it, the fact that I'm paying someone else to watch my kids? Am I allowed to collapse on the couch and do nothing? I already do a surprising amount of that.

Going from having a steady income for most of my adult life to having none, and then a little one, has been hard. As I knew it would be. I feel. . .less like this money that we have is mine. But I don't want to ask for permission to spend it because. . . I mean, because aren't I earning my keep? Yes, of course I am. But that of course doesn't feel as sure as it should.

How much do you pay someone to do what you do the rest of the time? Not only because this is how Stephanie makes her living and supports her family and I want us to pay her at least a living wage if not more but because. . well because, this is what I do. So how much would I want to be paid? Not only that but there is hardly anyone in existence who can come into our house and watch all four of our kids in a way that makes us feel secure in the knowledge that they are safe and happy. It's priceless, really. So how do I put a price on it? Especially when we chose to live mostly off one income so that I could stay home with the kids.

When I took the job I'm doing now and was asked what my rate way, I said $50 dollars an hour, based on what I was making in the last project management job I did. I did no market research and I didn't take much into account beyond "Can we pay for childcare?" When I admitted that rate to some people in my life I was somewhat berated for underselling myself and taking way too little money. I felt ashamed, like a failure, like I didn't know what I was doing.

I also started worrying about underpaying Stephanie. When we hired her I was home all the time and the two of us took care of the kids together. Now I was going back to work on my Stephanie days and that changed everything. No more days of the week with two adults who could take the kids out on adventures. No time during the week where I could leave the house and go get groceries because do you want to go grocery shopping with four young children? No, no you do not. No time to discuss the kids and discipline and sleep and whatever else needed to be discuss. That all has to be scheduled now. Were we paying her enough?

Value of a dollar. Debt going into the marriage, 403b. What we each think is worth spending money on.

16 o f40

I set myself the goal of posting daily in the days leading up to my 40th birthday, even as I recognized that it was the type of goal I would most likely not meet. Doing things daily isn't my jam. Finding time to write is hard. Finding myself in a brave place where sharing my words with the world is hard.
Tomorrow is my birthday. I have not been writing every day. For the past couple days I thought I would just say forget it, I did what I could, that is enough. No one cares if I don't do forty.

But wait.

I have many unpublished drafts, sitting here waiting for me to get back to them, kept unshared because I wanted them to be better, because I felt shy or raw, because they didn't flow in a sensible way. And of anything, that is my wish for myself as I get ready to meet another year, a new decade. To drop the fear of not being enough. To stop hiding the imperfect, the unfinished. 40 here we come.

The next spate of posts (and the few before this one) were originally written at various times over the past two years. It will probably be confusing to read them all in a row. But maybe it will be great. We shall see.

15 of 40

Written 12/15/16

6th grade was the first time someone asked me what kind of music I listened to and I knew instinctively that "musicals and folk music" was the wrong answer. My seat mate Andrew Kim used to write down the weekly Top 40 on a sheet of notebook paper--his handwriting so small and perfect it looked like the letters were typed. At some point he gave me a tape: Every Rose Has Its Thorn by Poison. My musical education had taken its next step, though I can't say it every progressed much beyond listening to the radio and listening to the music my boyfriends played. And I kept listening to, and loving, musicals.

I've been listening to Hamilton a lot lately. It's a musical about the first Secretary of the Treasury--one of the founding fathers. So random and so incredibly fantastic. The songs are great, the singing is gorgeous and fun, the story is interesting and important. And timely. It's a story about the founding of this country--can I say the creation of this country? The land was here, there were people here--these songs are not about that or them. These songs are about the conflict and excitement that went along with winning independence from England and the early days of being the United States of America. My favorite song changes depending on the day and my mood. I love the king of England and his funny break-up songs. I love the women--their voices and their thoughts. I love the men--their duels, with both pistols and words. There is a song about falling in love. A song about not getting the one you want and continuing to long for him. A song about taking your shot to make the most of your one life. And a song about parenthood that I keep going back to.

Dear Theodosia, , what to say to you?
You have my eyes
you have your mother's name.
When you came into the world, you cried
And it broke my heart

I'm dedicating every day to you
Domestic life was never quite my style
When you smile
You knock me out, I fall apart

You will come of age with our young nation
We'll bleed and fight for you
We'll make it right for you

If we lay a strong enough foundation
We'll pass it on to you
We'll give the world to you
And you'll blow us all away

It's sung by two fathers and their voices along with the words capture so much of what it feels like to be a parent. A pang, a deep hope, a powerlessness, an eye to the future. It helps me imagine this group of young men not yet three hundred years ago--fighting to win their points, wanting success and power and money, all of them white, and on some level wanting to build a country that they would feel proud to pass on their children.

Not quite a month ago I stood in the small hallway between my children's bedrooms and listened at the door to my younger girls' room. It was quiet. The day before was Friday the 13th in November--the day many people were killed in coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris. On Saturday the 14th I heard soft stirring noises in my daughters' room and quietly opened the door. Daphne, my youngest, was awake. Cleo, her twin sister, didn't budge. I picked up my cherubic, blonde, blue-eyed girl and sat in the rocker with her. She laid her head against my chest and I rocked her, pushing my feet against the carpeted floor. There was no sound except for the rain from the white noise machine. Rocking, rocking, rocking. My child safe in my arms. I felt a deep desire to just keep rocking--it was enough action to feel like I was actually doing something, but it was soft and quiet and comforting, all of which I needed.

I thought about other parents in other parts of the world and how, no matter what their religious beliefs or country of origin are, they too would probably like to take a quiet moment and rock their children. Even terrorists probably would. That is confusing.

Parenthood is not the essence of everything. It is not for everyone. These days it is the essence of most things in my life because it is what I'm doing--what I spend the most time doing and thinking about. I spent the 14th of November with my four kids and my husband. We went to the marina in Martinez and played at the playground. Went for a walk in the grass, stopping to pet dogs and watching ducks and seagulls swim in a pond. We stood outside the skate park and watched a skater dad with three 9-11 year old boys. It was soothing and painful to watch my children. I felt foggy and dimmed, unsure what to do or say and then continually drawn back to being with these young people--encouraging my son to walk a bit further, finding rocks for them to thrown into the creek, watching the little ones navigate the descent of a steep hill.

I do not think all people are good. I do not think everyone's intentions are noble or right. I know mine aren't always. Hopefully they are most of the time.

14 of 40

Originnaly written on 1/11/17

Oof I am feeling triggered right now. Bursting out of my skin, mind racing, can't settle down to figure out how to calm myself. I found my way to Bloom, one of my happy places, so I can sit in beauty and drink healing tea, listen to good music, see faces of friends and gather my pieces

It is confusing to sit on the couch and listen to a man calmly speak about the importance of our democracy and the hard work it entails and feel tears falling as we move one step closer to saying good-bye to the first president I have actually loved and then pick up the newspaper two days later and bounce from paragraph to page, reading of the fierce dismantling that is threatening to take place. I don't and haven't expected uniformity but it feels so jarring to know that as I'm listening to Barack Obama, feeling pride and hope, others are booing him and saying he's the worst thing that has ever happened to our country. That he speaks of the fact that more U.S. citizens are insured than ever before and the incoming administration speaks of Obamacare as an unmitigated disaster that must be destroyed.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

I took our son to his speech assessment today and the practitioner triggered me over and over. Our boy did so well--naming every single picture on the cards and adding more detail than necessary. Not hiding his face in shyness or fear. Listening to her and following instructions with that clear, open, beautiful face of his. And I know, and have known, that he is hard to understand and he needs help pronouncing many of his words. Even as he strings together the most complex sentences of any of our four children. I know he will be ok and there are people to help him and he will get the help he needs. I talked to him about it in the truck afterwards, telling him that we will see an ENT which stands for Ear, Nose and Throat, doctor who will help us figure out how to clear out the fluid in his ears that is making it hard for him to hear. And then we will go to some other appointments so that people can help him practice pronouncing some of his words. He listened. And he said "I don't talk so good because I have allergies." Prounceed with a soft G (or is a hard G?" Whatever G sound is the wrong one. Which sounds so cute. He didn't sound sad but the tears came for me and they're coming now. I don't want him ever, ever, ever to feel like he is not good enough, that there is something not good about him. Even though I tell him and his sisters that we all need help sometimes, that we all make mistakes, that we all know and understand some things better than others. Flaws aren't unacceptable. All of that and it still makes me cry.

A few days ago I read an article about a local high school that is trying to secede from our big, unwieldy, behemoth of a school district to start their own. It is a racist move, cloaked in other words so well that the people instigating probably don't even know or believe it is racist. They speak of it as protecting their kids, advocating for what their kids need, you would understand it if you had kids, that's why we moved to this neighborhood to keep our kids away from those other kids. . .
Which is saying that they think its OK for it to cost more to give your kids what they need. And if you can pay it, in this case those higher home prices, your kids deserve to have what they need. And those other kids don't.

Can't there be enough? Can we work to give all the kids what they need and not have that be a pipe dream?

13 of 40

Started on 8/2/16.

For years, most of my life, I've felt the lack. Wanting to be more. Wishing my breast were bigger. Wanting to have some of the things I see other people having. Having a hard time celebrating others' success. Eating two donuts from the plate in case they disappear and I regret not having more. A sense of scarcity. Why? From whence did it come?

I see it in one of my daughters now and wonder if she is learning it from me or if she has it in her blood from me or if this is a human trait that everyone has. I don't see it equally in each child so it seems. . .like a thing that some people have more than others. Or don't have. The fear of not being enough, not having enough.

I want to lay it down now.

There is enough.

I read this today, half a year after writing it, and it strikes me how much this feeling of scarcity rules us all. How can there be enough? I somehow know intrinsically that there is enough and yet feel in myself and see in others how we grab and hold tightly in an attempt to keep from losing. Like privilege. How scary it is to acknowledge that, as hard as my life is sometimes, it is easier than most. And that living in a world based on giving people who look like me more means that others have less, others have not enough. And if I sometimes feel like I don't have enough, how can I give some away to make sure others have closer to enough?

There is enough.

Monday, February 20, 2017

12 of 40

This is kind of a parenting blog though I write less and less about parenting. Although I think about my kids and about how I parent them quite a bit, I also think a lot about myself, the problems in the world that I want to try to help fix, my marriage, my work, my writing, etc. Last week in a phone conversation with an old friend, who is also a relatively new parent, I said "I always wanted to have kids mostly because I wanted to experience myself as a mother." He held back his laughter for a minute or so and then said "Someday soon I will make fun of you for that statement." Rightfully so.

The reasons I don't write much about my actual children are as follows:

1) The internet still feels new to me. New in the sense that I did not grow up with it and I have a hard time imagining/understanding the impact on my children to have details or stories about them published on the internet for anyone anywhere to read whenever they want. It makes me nervous and feels intrusive even though I love other writers' children unabashedly from afar based on the blogs they write.

2) It has taken me decades to understand that my mother does not know me better than I know myself. Not just my mother, actually. I am still stepping into the truth that I don't have to rely upon others' observations in order to know myself. I know myself. My mother is a writer and an observer. She started and kept a journal for each of the three of her children from birth until we each turned eighteen when she gifted us, one after another, with our books. I loved getting mine and still like to read it, seeing new details each time. I thought I would do the same for my children and actually purchased beautiful diaries for each one, kicking myself every now and then for how infrequently I have written in them. It felt like and was such a gift to get words about myself. I was and am grateful for her time and attention. My mother has made the three of us feel so special and important, not just with her love but with her noticing. It is nice to be seen like that. And. It has sometimes been hard to put certain descriptions down with a "No, that does not say how I really am." It can be hard to feel separate, able to self-define. This is not her fault, not something she has done to me. It a puzzle piece that fits into how I see myself and how I am re-learning to know myself. And I feel afraid to put into words the things I notice about my own children because more than anything I want them to find and know who they are in their own hearts.

Addendum to this is that as I write it I see how hard it is for me to claim my space. To allow myself opinions and beliefs, even if they aren't "right" or definitely true or without fault. It is easier for me to make space for others to be themselves than it is to make that space for myself. I am in process.

3) I often worry that I don't even really see my children. I am an observer too and I thought I would be a much more intentional parent, Instead its like standing in a hurricane, head spinning, waiting for a moment of peace. This is probably one of the most painful parts of motherhood for me--that I don't take the time to soak up who these individual little people are. That I am missing it. And yes I know I need to give myself a break in so many ways. This one is persistent.

More often lately I want to sit down and write descriptions of these wonders who live with me, who I had a hand in making. But these are the reasons why I haven't.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

11 of 40

Originally written 12/7/16, posted now

I thought I had a choice and I really did in the sense that I did not need to work. We didn't need me to work for the money, though more money is usually nice. I dreamed of being a mom for so many years. In my 20's I would hang out with my friends who were moms and sit and chat with them as their child played in the sand and I would quickly think No way. Not for me. I will want to keep working. Wait, back up. For years before that I assumed I would work and have kids because I wanted both and it seemed like if I wanted both I could have both. But the more grown-up I became the more the math made less sense. And not so much the money-making math but the time-having math. How exactly would it work to have a job and a baby? I mean, they both seemed to require so much time. And by so much I mean. . .all of the time. I felt a little let-down.

I like working. I've almost always liked working. Up there I wrote out "have a career" as the thing I wanted and then backed up to delete it because, though I wondered and compared myself against the careers I was aware of, mentally holding them up against me like dresses trying to see which one might fit me, I don't think I felt strongly that I wanted to be an X like I thought I needed to be a mother. Jobs I've liked have been ones that made me think on my feet, make decisions quickly. Jobs where working hard made a difference and I could see results. Jobs where I interacted with other people. Hostessing, organ placement, Lawyer Referral where I answered phone calls in Spanish and English and talked to people about why they thought they needed lawyers. Even being the Assistant to the Director of Latin American Sales for a company selling heavy-duty diesel parts. I was often bored and surfing the newly-discovered internet though that mostly meant Craigslist and emailing my college roommates, I liked the parts where I was translating Spanish/English or Sales/Engineering. Liked helping people make the connection.

In that job, my first real job after graduating college, I spent a lot of time folded into my cubicle which faced no one and where no one but my boss, who was often travelling, could see me. I could hear the sales calls and the racist comments some of my co-workers made on the other sides of our walls but those felt less like co-workers than weird tent-city neighbors. I was in my own world unless I was on the phone or meeting with Jorge or sitting in the office of the HR Director-turned-friend Michele. She and I spent hours talking which in some ways I thought was weird but in some ways I now see as tangentially at least in the realm of her job. But not really. We talked about a lot of different things, including romantic relationships and by that I mean specifically mine at the time with my live in boyfriend and her marriage. She didn't disclose secrets of her marriage to me, nor would I have wanted to hear them, but she sometimes told me things like the fact that she, or he, always left the cabinet doors wide open and that he, or she, always got annoyed about having to close them but that figuring out how to deal with that type of thing was what long-term relationships were all about. I bring her up because she said at least three things to me that have stuck in my mind like rubber cement:

Don't feel guilty if you quit this job. Do you think they would feel guilty if they fired you? It's business. They would go on without you without a second's thought.
It's good for you to be working and be in school because under the glaring light of your attention your boyfriend will wilt like a flower in the blazing sun.

And then after my transplant:

If you are ever in the position of having to choose between having health insurance and buying groceries, your friends will feed you. Don't ever let your coverage lapse. (because in the land before Obamacare if I fell off my group plan for even a minute I would be booted off those in a heartbeat due to how insanely expensive I am to insurers)

I always knew I wanted to stay home with my kids before I even thought much about stay at home mom vs working mom. It was less about what I thought would be best for the kids and more about my own desire to be with my imaginary kids. To learn from them and to learn about myself with them. Aside from loving small children and loving to teach I imagined that being a mom would be the ultimate combination of being indispensable (why didn't I think that part through more?), illustrative and self-aware by nature of being in a new and unreproducable life experiences, Being most-loved seemed nice too. I was always the one who could soothe a baby, get her to smile and coo. I had my ways and babies always relaxed into me. But they also always lit up like the sun at the sight of their mothers and I wanted that. I wanted to know what that felt like. Plus I was already thinking a lot about what it meant to be a person and I wondered how that would look as the parent of growing, developing minds and hearts.

What I never thought about was that it might not be a choice for me. Yes, I could stay home and raise them but I would not be well. My mind would be going, going, going, churning, burning me up and I wouldn't be able to stop it. It's a lie to say I never thought about it because how could I not? I knew my propensity for self-analysis. I knew my mind. My cyclical moods, full of energy and hope sometimes, unwilling to get up from the couch, wondering why I ever thought anything was a good idea other times. 

When I went back to work part-time, I felt better. For lots of reasons--getting dressed up and thinking about what to wear, taking the train into the city and getting to absorb the people around me or getting to read many pages of something, walking around the city, being noticed and cared for like having someone hold an elevator door for me. Sitting across from my old doctor turned friend and now colleague to brainstorm the program we were building. Having successes. It felt good but more than that it relaxed me. It took me out of my mom-self and gave me some of my old, cherished but until now underappreciated identity. Because while I knew I liked working, I didn't know I needed it to be ok. To be sane. Is that an overstatement? I don't think it is.

This blog was born during that full-time mothering period of my life and it has suffered since I went back to work. Before it was a challenge to find the time but the words burned their way out of me because they had no where else to go. I mean, I talked to my friends or with groups of women in my yoga studio and I had moments of release but the writing was the result of the constant thinking, thinking, thinking that was going on as I took care of my kids. Strapped them into carseats which is its own marathon activity to the point that I still plan my day and spontaneous stops based on how many times I'm willing to take them out and put them back into the car. It's hard to appreciate the physical and mental toll waged by the maneuvering of semi-compliant limbs of others as you bend and squeeze and turn them into their car seats.

Yesterday as a work day was notable for the fact that two separate colleagues told me without being asked that I am so hard on myself. I didn't feel like I was being hard on myself, though that is the single-most common descriptive comment I hear from others. It gave me pause because I hate hearing it and because when I held it up against myself I didn't feel like it fit. At least not then. Which then made me think harder to try to figure out why my self-awareness can be so off in that particular area. How do I get better at that? Do I try? You see where I'm going with this? This is how I tend to think, no matter what. So with small children and few other outlets or inputs it was a whirling, swirl of a mess.

What does it mean when working is your self-care? Because work is not self-care. It's medicine. Draining, difficult medicine that takes up a lot of time from the things I'd often rather be doing. Things which when I wasn't working I never did. Like cook or garden or write or do yoga. I mean, I don't do any of those things on a day I'm with the kids.

10 of 40

Written sometime last month, posted today

Three things happened yesterday that pushed me into taking a seat today.

My sister is a PR boss and has been for a long time. This post is not about her though I want to mention that I mean she is a BOSS, not just a boss. She rules in her field and out of it. Because of her profession she gets emails/has access to people looking for specific types of stories or certain types of people to interview. She's sent me dozens over the years and I can never get it together to respond in time mostly due to the disconcerting paired habit of perfectionism and procrastination that I have.

Yesterday she sent me one from a writer looking to interview people who have built their brand using blogging and/or social media. I wrote back "Cool! I'll send her something." And then put it away. Then happened to look at it again and noticed that the deadline was in two hours. I almost didn't do it but instead took the time to fire off 300 words trying to fit into the chosen category. It was rough but I was glad I did it anyway. And in the exercise I found a little gem that has been rolling and bonking its way in the rock-polisher of my mind for the past year or month or something. The last two sentences, after scrapping and slicing things in order to get in under the word limit, were:

I have a lot to learn about building my brand logistically but more crucially to me this blog has been helping me build my actual brand in life--as in, finally standing in my own values and saying them out loud. Being me, all the time. 

Oh. Right. Yes, that's it exactly.

I haven't been writing much lately for many reasons, not all of which I will list here. One of the big ones is that I have been deeply affected by my continued education about the racism and sexism in our culture. Pushing myself to find ways to challenge them and break them down. Seeing the ways I contribute to each of those ugly, unacceptable -isms. Making mistakes. Committing microaggressions and getting slightly more aware of them, even as I worry that I'm missing more of them than I'm catching. Noticing the times when I don't speak up. Seeing the ways the tears come, unexpectedly, when I'm talking about the way Hillary Clinton was treated. Trying to figure out how I am going to fight when I don't feel like a fighter, to make time and take risks while also somehow staying safe. I think about all of this a lot. It's affecting my insides--not my sensitive stomach but the fibers of my self. And I've felt scared and vulnerable about writing about it publicly until I got it right. But I won't get it right for a long time. And that is one of the main aspects of my brand--I will keep questioning, keep worrying and wondering, and keep wanting to get things right. Other people are doing some or all of that too. So I'm going to try to write more, risking offending people or pissing people off. Risking boring people--not this again, why doesn't she go back to writing about toddlers drinking bottles? It's just all mashed in together, that's why and I know everyone else is holding similar unmatched but picked-anyways bouquets.

The other thing that happened yesterday is. . . .I have no idea because I wrote this last month and I don't remember what else I was thinking about. So here is yet another fragment to be shared with the internets 

9 of 40

I am not depressed in today's world. I am. . . tired. Bone tired and brain tired. But otherwise ok. Good day with the kiddos yesterday, left the house trashed. Can someone tell me how to have a good day with the kids and not leave the house trashed? Husband shared his ideas with me yesterday as I lay sprawled on the couch, feet in his lap, recovering from a day of parenting. Today is a waiting day. Waiting to help. Waiting to speak Spanish. Waiting to interact. So for now, writing and thinking and reading and watching.

Originally written 12/4, posted now.

The words.will not.come.

My mind is full of thoughts. None of them want to be committed to paper or the online equivalent. I am just dripping with self-consciousness--my skin is crawling with it and it winds itself around every word. Ugh.

There is a possibility I am depressed. Note to readers: I am not about to be hospitalized and there is no need to intervene. At least I don't think so . . .heh.

Reasons for being possibly depressed:

1) The holidays. I hear they get people down. Maybe now they get me down?

2) The sad, horrible, scary, violent bullshit that is in the news almost every day. Bullshit trivializes it but that is the word I am using for now.

3) The comedown from my flying high, "I can do anything!" post-hospital experience

4) Change in diet from super clean, healthy, mostly gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free back to my regular eat anything and everything and don't pay attention to the effects on my body and mind

5) Weight gain (spending many days in the hospital with gastrointestinal issues left me quite svelte there for a while)

6) Lack of yoga and exercise in my life

7) Lack of time to myself

8) Big fight with a main person in my life

9) Stay-at-home parenting is hard

10) House-wifery is not my forte so I am constantly surrounded by evidence of things I am not good at, such as cleaning and clearing the mounds of crap off every available surface in our house

11) Stress from working part-time, mothering almost all the time and trying to find time to do the other stuff that needs to be done

12) Cold and dark time of year

13) My brain chemistry

14) Umm. . .this list seems sufficient

I am not light-hearted or fun these days. I am heavy and blue and want to eat sweet, heavy, comforting foods and drink booze and hide under blankets and wait for the joy to kick in.

8 of 40

You know what's weird? To choose to hang out in ICUs instead of hanging out with your adorable toddlers. Just saying.

Here is a list of the articles I have saved from Facebook:

10 Habits to shape a kind, well-adjusted kid
     Posted on Motherly, written by Rebecca Eanes, saved from The Gottman Institute's post on 2/15/17

How to Break the Cycle and Raise a Self-Assured Daughter
     Posted on Parent.co, written by Angela Arsenault, saved from The Gottman Institute's post on 2/15/17

24 Marriage Lessons Every Couple Should Learn
     Posted on The Huffington Post, written by Dr. Margaret Rutherford, saved from The Gottman Institute's post last week

Why parents need to teach middle-schoolers kindness, from the author of Wonder
     Posted on The Washington Post, written by Amy Joyce, saved from Life with Greyson and Parker last week

Simplifying Childhood May Protect Against Mental Health Issues
     Posted on Raised Good, written by Tracy Gillett, saved from The Gottman Institute's post last week

Unputdownable: 17 books I read in 24 hours or less (because they were just that good)
     Posted on Modern Mrs Darcy, written by Anne (no last name listed), saved from FB friend and neighborhood book club friend Katie

Thread about Trader Joe's dinner options, frozen or otherwise, posted on local moms' group

#FailOn Challenge
     Posted on Cody, showed up on my feed because at least three of my friends liked it

Thread about Costco faves for toddlers, posted on local moms' group

Thread about wild, full moon energy posted by my acupuncturist

The Madness of King Donald
      Posted by New York Magazine, written by Andrew Sullivan, shared by friend Lee

21 Secrets emBody--Dirty Footprints Studio. Posted by friend April. These self-paced workshops take you on twenty one incredible journeys with artists from all over the world - teaching intuitive embodied art making classes near and dear to our hearts. You can learn more here: bit.ly/emBODY-21secrets-workshop-MILAGROS

Sausage Egg Roll in a Bowl--recipe shared by Amanda

Thread asking for the following recommendations : What are books you know and love that feature a badass woman, trans or gender-nonconforming lead - especially of color, including folks of multiple abilities? This could be fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, poetry...multiple languages encouraged! Multiple reading levels encouraged! I am building out the adult library for the folks I work with, who have all experienced gender-based trauma (sexual and intimate partner assault, trafficking, economic abuse), so please keep this in mind 

Looking at this list I feel:
-surprised by the content

Last month's saves are more political. This month's are more marriage/child focused. That feels in line with where my head and heart are.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

7 of 40

Originally written 11/12/15.

How do you know if you're depressed? No, I mean, I'm really asking you. A question posed to those of you who have experienced depression--how do you notice that you're in it again? Is it obvious? Does it take a while for you to recognize the symptoms? I'd love to know.

I have heard myself say "I'm not depressed" a few times in the last month. Each time I say it I notice the words leaving my contained space and entering the world where I lose control of them forever. And then by the 2.5 time I hear myself saying to myself "Huh. There it is again." And by the third time it's "Except maybe I am?"

I am being so hard on myself. Every where I turn I see something I wish were better.

I wish my house were cleaner.

I wish I was a better decorator.

I wish we didn't have so much shit.

I wish I had more of my project done.

I wish I felt how I felt before. Except I don't even waste time wishing that because I know that's not how it works.

Today, February 11, 2017 I am not depressed. I am not happy. I recognize myself in these words written more than a year ago, knowing I just felt depressed two weeks ago and knowing that I am out of it now.People who love me say to me "I just want you to be happy."

Is that something you actively pursue? Happiness? Is it a state of being that lasts or is it moments?

My weeks of Scandal-binging left me with a half-written post in my head "Lessons learned from Olivia Pope" Half-written is an exaggeration. Partially, sporadically written in my head.

I may never write that essay for others to read. I do carry her words in my head--

What do you want?

Friday, February 10, 2017

6 of 40

Originally written on 11/2/15, never posted.

What makes you feel alive?

Do you know?

If you don't know, I hope you'll start asking yourself this question and trying to find the answer, or answers.

I just walked home in the rain, carrying a black umbrella, wearing black knee-high galoshes, striding through the world as the water poured down and I felt so good. Felt my arms moving. Felt my feet hitting the ground. Felt my body responding to the change in the air that comes with rain. And rain after so long? A real rain after so long? It was as though I was one with the parched, drought-plagued earth of California. The relief coursing through my cells reminds me that you can get used to anything. Used to telling your toddlers to turn the faucet off, not to wash their hands again, and trying to find a simple way to explain a drought. Used to days and weeks and months and years of no rain, or not nearly enough of it.

5 of 40

My new favorite sweater is not new--I've had it for a few years. It's baby blue, baby soft cashmere. Crew neck, preppy, pretty-Mommy, East Coast. Burberrry so fancy and high-quality. And full of holes.

The holes are not intentional. Well, the moths who made them intended to do so but I mean they're not part of the original design. That probably goes without saying as I don't think I've ever seen a spider-web, loose-knit cashmere sweater before. Actually as soon as I wrote "loose-knit" I could picture it and I bet they're out there. I digress.

I bought this sweater at Divine Design with my friend Maria, several years ago. My memory counting backwards in an attempt to place any event in actual time gets extremely foggy--I can barely remember my own wedding anniversary because the past several years have been so bizarre that the two thousand tens all blur together. But my last Divine Design trip was pre-kids for sure, and pre-marriage. Not pre-man-who-is-now-my-husband though that's where I get confused. I remember the two of us travelling down to LA together but I don't remember going down without him. So the sweater is around five to seven years old.

Divine Design was a fundraiser that Project Angel Food held every December in an old department store near a hotel where they hold award shows in LA. Held over a three-day weekend the discounts got deeper each day, down to 75% by the third day. They had everything--lingerie, evening gowns, fur coats, denim, floaty Bohemian sundresses and tunics, club outfits, baby clothes. One year we left with a Vera Wang wedding gown, tagged with the wrong size and unbelievably inexpensive. The prospect of being a weird single girl with a wedding dress hanging in her closet was discussed as a major deterrent to the purchase but the deal was so good we couldn't pass it up.

Maria and I usually went on the second day when everything was 50% off. Designers donated their wares and the rest of us got to pour in through the front doors, eager to find amazing deals. Mostly women, though they carried men's clothes and furniture too, some of us tried on clothes in the make-shift aisles if we didn't feel like waiting in line to stand in the circus-tent dressing room in the center of it all. The mood under the tent was congenial, all of us looking frankly or sidelong at the others, peeping possible steals as others tried them on, admiring or judging naked or almost-naked bodies as we stood together as women of all ages and skin tones. We went a few years in a row--it was a not-to-be-missed event--and I always walked away with a wide array of colors and styles, reflecting my eclectic and undecided style.

All the proceeds went to Project Angel Food--an organization committed to bringing meals to people left house-bound by HIV/AIDS or cancer. For some reason they always had a huge Barbie display, which was always hard for me to resist but which I always managed to resist because I wanted to save my money for clothes.

It was the perfect shopping event--super sale, fancy designer clothes and all the money went to charity anyway so on those items where you might be sitting on the fence due to price or implausibility, you got kicked over to the Buy side of things easily and almost every time.

The year I bought the Burberry I think I also walked away with a floor-length evening gown among other things. I wore the sweater a couple times to work but that was it. I always liked it when I wore it but I inevitably spilled coffee or food on myself or did something else to it that necessitated taking it to the cleaners. So it usually sat in the dirty clothes bag or folded up under some other sweaters, waiting to be remembered.

And then one year it got discovered by moths who recognized its superior quality and munched happily away on it I was so bummed when I found it because it is such a beautiful sweater. Was. I couldn't bear to throw it away and I didn't know if I could donate it, since it had so many holes. So again it sat, unworn, waiting for someone or something to change its fate.

One day recently I found it again and held it up, trying to figure out what to do with it. And then I put it on, because it was warm and so, so cozy. Soft as a dream. Gorgeous. And I kept wearing it, mostly at home but more and more I'm wearing it out of the house. To yoga or to the doctor's office. Now that it is ruined I can enjoy it worry-free. I don't think I've spilled on it once. And it feels like I'm treating myself because it feels so damn good.

Now one of my new goals is to start allowing myself to enjoy things like that, full-out, even when they're not full of holes. Wow. Revolutionary.

Friday, February 3, 2017

4 of 40

Doctor's appointments I have participated in so far this year:

January 6th Routine colonscopy for me. (It is bizarre to live a life where this type of test becomes routine) Diagnosis: ulcerative colitis not quite in remission but getting closer.

January 6th Audiology appointment as part of speech evaluation for one child. Diagnosis: chronic fluid (uninfected) in ears

January 11th Speech evaluation for child Diagnosis: speech therapy needed after hearing issues addressed

January 11th EMDR therapy for me. Diagnosis: we have a lot to work with here

January 13th ENT appointment for child. Diagnosis: tubes in ears after child no long has cough (ha ha ha aka possibly never)

January 23rd Pediatric check-up for all four children. Diagnosis: everyone has a bad cold.

January 26th EMDR therapy for me. Diagnosis: can I carry Melissa around in my pocket to help me deal with my life?

January 27th General Practitioner visit for me. Diagnosis: I have a bad cold.

February 2nd Dermatologist for me: Diagnosis: two pre-cancerous spots frozen. Self-diagnosis: oh damn, I see by my skin that I am almost 40

Later this month we have:

February 8th Annual hepatologist visit for me. EMDR for me

February 13th Tubes for child

Well shit. No wonder I'm so tired.

3 of 40

Written on 1/30, not posted because yuck there's some gross stuff in here.

Ashamed. Afraid. Entitled. In need. Frozen. Grief-stricken. Jealous. Lacking. Down. That's an attempt to sum up what I feel like on the inside. I want to be stoned and sit in bed watching Scandal all day until I fall asleep again. I like being on the outside watching other characters maneuver through their lives. It doesn't matter that it's not real, that someone wrote the scripts for them. I want Shonda to write my script so I can stop thinking about what to say, what to do.

So so tired.

I didn't drive to an airport and I'm so grateful to the people who did. I haven't called my rep for weeks. Unopened bundles of Times sit in piles inside and outside the house. Shorn piles of branches and leaves, the detritus of the hours of yardwork my husband did yesterday while I lay in bed. I feel like nothing.

My kids practically live at Stephanie's and I feel sad about that.

I can't work harder. That I can't do.So I need to do things differently. But I can't figure out how or

I feel mad at everyone else. Blaming everyone else. But then it must be me right?

I feel guilty not having my kids when I'm not at work. I don't allow myself that.

I appreciate how Shonda holds up "normal" as a goal but not really a good thing

I don't speak for white women. I feel called to stand up for others just at a time when I'm finally learning to stand up for myself. And I resent it even though I know it is my responsibility. And god that is painful to admit.

I picutred moments I would remember. Moments when I could feel it. Instead it feels like a hurricane. And I can't savor it because I'm just waiting for it to be over. So I can be alone.

And since I seem to imagine things in a better light than they could ever be, I'm afraid that my feeling of wanting to be home with the kids actually will make me miserable like I was before. I can't trust myself.

2 of 40

My new therapist Rebecca whom I've seen three times after a year's worth of loved ones and health professionals asking me if I didn't think talk therapy might be helpful told me last week that I have a habit of making things happen with the force of my will. Yes, I said. That resonates.

Sort of like declaring that I would write daily in the weeks leading up to my 40th birthday, despite the fact that the words haven't been coming to me for months. Despite the fact that I feel so roiled up inside and raw outside that the idea of committing words to print has been making me feel naked. Despite the fact that I don't trust myself lately. Not to know what is true or how I feel. But if  I say it, I will do it. No.

Instead I got sick and fell into a deep depression and have spent the past almost two weeks tucked under my electric blanket who I named Maurice, binge-watching Scandal at a rate that is embarrassing to admit. I shut down everything. Hardly saw my kids. Barely interacted with my husband. Called in sick to work (I was, in truth, sick). I did what I could to numb myself, make my brain stop thinking, hide from the world.

It made me sad to not mother my kids very well, to choose to spend time away from them only to watch TV in bed. But it was what I needed.

It made me ashamed, of my privilege. That I am white and not immediately threatened by this administration. My silence felt like violence. I wasn't doing enough. I wasn't showing up when others were and others needed to. It was what I needed. But I knew and know full well that most people wouldn't have that option. It felt shameful to take it.

I feel bored of myself, of the things that bother me that I can't seem to get over. And that is where I have been. That is the truth of where I have been and what I needed.

Yesterday at an all-staff meeting we sat and listened to a survivor tell his story. The story of how he almost died from 4th degree burns on 40% of his body and all the things he is grateful for, all he has accomplished, his deep appreciation for the work we do and the tissue donors who saved his life. He started by telling us to think about our own lives as we listened to him. Think of the struggles we are facing and apply his story to our lives. He spoke of the power of our attitudes to determine our fates. I felt a little stirring inside of me, the call to snap myself out of it, shake it off and deal with things as they need to be dealt with.

And then I felt a quiet No in response. No. I will get there eventually but that is not where I am.

It feels gross to write this, to think about posting it. But I'm writing it and I'm posting. Not proudly, very honestly.

I showered today, I'm writing. I took care of preschool business and I'm taking care of some stuff for work. Next I will clean the house and go get some groceries, including cat food because the neighborhood stray who has been strutting in through the cat door and eating our cats out of house and home. My kids are with Stephanie. I don't feel good yet but I am on my way up. And if I keep waiting to have words to share that don't make me cringe, there won't be any words on this page for a long time.

Now to see if I can find a way to post 38 essays in the next 25 days. It won't be pretty but what is these days?