Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Will you be my friend? (It sounds desperate written out like that.)

In fourth grade, during recess, a girl walked up to me while I was on the swings. She asked, "Do you want to be my friend?" I was taken aback; I remember that. I have no idea how I responded to her request, but I hope I was open and kind. I suspect I was not. I don't remember us becoming friends.

I do remember that her name was Amy and she was adopted. I remember aching for her when she was teased about this matter. Though I never teased her myself, in the grade-school hierarchy of desirable friends she was among the flawed. I must have rejected her invitation for friendship, perhaps a greater cruelty than teasing. How could I have been any higher than she in social status? I was alone on the swings, not with a playmate. She must have noticed and thought, there is a girl who, like me, needs a friend.

Yesterday evening in the grocery store, I think I may have been asked for the second time in my life, "Do you want to be my friend?" This woman, who looked exactly like the kind of person I might be friends with, walked up to me, a fat baby strapped in a carrier against her chest.

"Your baby has the most beautiful eyes," she said.

"Thank you."

"How old is he?"

"Three months." She stood waiting for me to take her cue. "How old is yours?"

"Five months."

I returned her initial compliment and made appropriate googly faces at her boy. The woman lingered.

"What's his name?"

"Desmond," I answered. I thought that would be it for our grocery store chatter, that it was time to go back to perusing cheeses.

"This is George," she responded. "Is Desmond your first?"

This was beyond a quick compliment from a stranger in a grocery store, wasn't it? Yet I was reserved. It was part-shyness, but I also didn't want to seem desperate or crazy--not like her--a woman who actually seemed perfectly nice. Should I have exchanged numbers with her, I wondered after we parted ways. I saw her again a few minutes later when I went to checkout. She was in another line, already at the register. After I payed, I looked for her in the parking lot, imagining I might chase her down and admit, "I don't know anyone in Austin who is anything like me and also has a new baby! Do you want to trade numbers?" But she was nowhere.

Why was my immediate response to again be taken aback and to judge her as desperate or crazy? Why couldn't I identify our commonality? Certainly it was not because of playground politics. I guess I wondered, who does that as an adult, asks a stranger to be friends? Would it have been too weird to channel fourth-grade-Amy and--my heart open to the possibilities--and say to the stranger eager to converse, "Yes! Let's be friends"?

Thursday, December 8, 2011


A few of my friends emailed to encourage and reassure me after reading these last few entries. So I also realize I must sound like a really sad and desperate new mom. I need to say that I hope people can pick up on humor in what I've written thus far, with the exception of that "Overwhelmed" entry. The day I wrote it, I'd recently returned from my first plane trip with Desmond. I had a horrible sinus infection and I'd gotten him sick too. It was a humbling and frustrating moment to realize that even when I'm sick and exhausted and all I want to do is curl up and sleep away my illness, I've got to attend to another human being.

My oldest sister, who was here for Desmond's birth and to shepherd us through our first week with him, told us repeatedly, "Just wait until he's three months. It gets so much easier." That I have finally made headway on a freelance editing job I took on before Desmond was born and that I am finding the time and energy to get back to blogging is testament to this. The successful traveling has helped too (no tears from Desmond during either plane ride!).

I'm feeling good and grateful about a lot right now, including the first meal I've cooked since giving birth. For the past three months, we've either eaten meals others have cooked for us (and we're lucky for that) or Chris has done the cooking (exhausted after a night up and a day at work), or we've had take out. But no more!

I've been longing for Desmond to give me one 1-hour nap and a 2-hour nap instead of three 1-hour naps. Yesterday, he did it! That first hour I'd been doing as many brief chores as I could in anticipation of his waking, and then the hour ended and he didn't wake. I thought, "Huh, what else can I get done?" and did a few more quick chores. Then he still wasn't up, and I wondered, "Should I wake him?" Then I thought, "No, fool! Cook dinner! Fast." I have never peeled, seeded and chopped a butternut squash so quickly. And I got the onions, ginger and garlic chopped and sauteed just as fast. I added the squash to simmer just as Desmond woke for his feeding and play time.

After he ate, I set the cooked squash aside. The dogs, Desmond, and I pulled ourselves together for an evening walk. This time I managed to pick up the dog poop. I felt stupidly proud. By the time Chris got home from work, I'd added stock and cream to the squash, pureed the mix, and butternut squash soup was on the stove. I felt like I could breathe easily.

My love for Desmond is so very big. It feels good to be at the point where I can enjoy it more thoroughly, even with a bad day here or there, and even though I find myself wondering if I'm doing things "right."

By the way, this entry is brought to you courtesy of Desmond's second consecutive day of taking a 2-hour nap. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What to wear

I've decided that yoga pants, a T-shirt, and sneakers are perfectly acceptable to wear seven days a week. What not to Wear TV folks, come talk to me when your day revolves around a 3-hour schedule that consists of breast feeding, bottle feeding for forty minutes, playing with an infant for an hour (singing "The Wheels on the Bus" and "On the Road Again" over and over, dangling toys in baby's face, cheering him on during "tummy time," "reading" picture books, intermittent diaper changes), and then trying to get him down for an hour nap as fast as possible so that you can, in that hour, do any combination of the following: eat a bowl of cereal, shower, pay bills, make and eat a sandwich, do dishes, laundry, nap, vacuum, give dogs much needed attention, get on the computer to buy more formula and wipes, research day cares, work on the freelance project you took on before baby was born, search job postings and/or write a cover letter even though you have no desire to go back to work. And when you hear baby making noise ten minutes earlier than he is supposed to (Aren't you entitled to the full one-hour nap?), you will beg under your breath, "Please don't wake up; please don't wake up." He will let out a wail, and you will look down at yourself in those yoga pants and that T-shirt, remember that you made it out of your pajamas that morning, and say, "Damn, I look good," before you begin the 3-hour cycle again. I am learning that part of being a good mom means being forgiving of myself where and when I can.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's a cold, crappy world

This evening, miserable as it was outside, the dogs needed a walk. I needed a walk. Desmond needed to be exposed to the elements. We'd all been shut in the house and isolated from the world for too many consecutive hours.

I am a responsible dog-walker. When I walk my dogs I bring along plastic bags. I pick up their poop, stinky, slimy as it may be. But in the 38-degree, dimming day, pushing the stroller with one hand, steering the dogs with my other hand, plastic bags crumpled in the pocket of my swollen jacket, after the dogs stopped to do their thing, I looked around and walked away like a teenaged shoplifter with a brand new lipstick tube clasped in my hand. My heart didn't even speed up as I pushed the stroller off and steered the dogs toward home. It's like I was a dog-shit-leaving pro.

It had been enough effort getting myself out of pajama pants and into jeans, socks, sneakers, a sweater, a down jacket, then bundling Desmond in socks, pants over his onesie, more pants over those pants, booties over his socks, fuzzy hooded bear coat, setting him into the car seat, setting the car seat into the stroller, shoving a blanket over him, then getting leashes onto the dogs and those empty plastic bags into my pocket. Out in the winter cold, no hands easy to free, it felt like performing that one last responsible act would be impossible. Sorry neighbors.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Tomorrow my son will be three months, which means he is officially no longer a newborn, but an infant. I never new there was a marked distinction until I saw it on the internet yesterday.

Overwhelmed is a word that has been in my vocabulary too much lately. I feel overwhelmed, still. There are still days, like yesterday, and probably today, when I don't make it out of my pajamas. I constantly feel as if I don't know what I'm doing or wonder if what I'm doing is "right". I look at job postings, because I need to find one, but I feel incapable of writing a clear, articulate cover letter. My brain feels like mush. Taking Desmond out on a walk in the evening feels like a major accomplishment. If the dogs come along, it is an even bigger accomplishment.

I don't know how women who go back to work at six or even twelve weeks manage. At the same time, I don't think women who go back to work soon after having a baby would know how to manage at home any better than I do.

And this is all that I have it in me to write at this moment. I'm sick today, as I was yesterday, so my mind is even mushier than usual. Rest while baby rests. Here I go.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lessons from my mother

I have been thinking about my mother today.

When I was fifteen, she underwent triple bypass surgery and avoided the heart attack that was on its way. Nine years later, when I was twenty-four, she suffered a massive, debilitating stroke. Nine years after that, she died.

So, for nearly half of my life, I remember my mother in sickness. Tired, recuperating, healing, at times an insomniac, at times depressed.

That's not to say these are the only ways I remember her. They are not. Afterall, she was a whole, multi-dimensional person. I could write about the many other ways I remember her. Here is just one, the one that struck me today. Through all of these cycles of unhealth, unwell-being, my mother was never afraid of dying. "When it will be my time, it will be my time," I heard her say more than once. The tone behind those words, calm, peaceful, accepting. Not defeated, but brave and practical at once.

A former boss used to ask all the time, What am I supposed to learn from this? And if her employees were experiencing a particularly challenging situation, she would pose the question to them. "What are you supposed to learn from this?" Today I have wondered, what lesson can I take from my mother possessing a calm, peaceful acceptance of what is?