Friday, May 31, 2013

Parenting is hard

By the time I reach work at 8:15 a.m., I am exhausted. Every day. I have already fought a major war and survived (if by the skin of my teeth). There may have been tears in the car. There may have been children crying, while being forced to get dressed [when they preferred "naked, naked"] or in their car seat [when they preferred to be snuggled by mama all morning at a leisurely pace]. There may have been a long and irritating stop at Dunkin' Donuts for a severely overpriced breakfast because though Daddy and LG had time for French toast and bacon, Mama had time for nothing [not that anyone is jealous or anything...]. There may have been a fight with a spider IN THE CAR WHILE DRIVING ON THE HIGHWAY AND NEARLY KILLING ONESELF...aghghghghghghgh!!! There may have been lots of "fuck this and fuck that" yelled out loud while stopped at a red light with lots of traffic. There may have been a run-in with another driver who thought it was a good idea to honk at me because she could not wait for five measely seconds while I looked at my receipt in the Dunkin' drive through. There may have been wistful thoughts of an alternate life in an alternate universe. There may have been all kinds of regrets, including not saying something nicer to husband before driving away, just in case one of us dies on the road today - **God Forbid**. There may have been a sick amount of cigarettes consumed. There may have been. These are all theoreticals, of course!!!!!!


The quote that is on my computer at my desk at work is this. [I am assuming by her words that Pema Chodron never had two children at the age of 40, but I am too tired to google it, so what the hell do I know? She probably did...]


Patience is a way to de-escalate aggression and its accompanying pain. This is to say that when we're feeling aggressive - and I think this would go for any strong emotion - there's a seductive quality that pulls us in the direction of wanting to get some resolution. We feel restless, agitated, ill at ease. It hurts so much to feel the aggression that we want it to be resolved. Right then we could change the way we look at this discomfort and practice patience." ~ Pema Chodron


Thank you, Pema. You are right, of course. I will work on it.

Breathe. Breathe.

The song I made up for Lucy, based on Grandma Char's lifelong advice, would be good for today:

"Just breathe, just breathe,
When you're getting upset, just breathe.
When the world seems hard,
And you're tired in your heart,
The best thing you can do is

Fucking spider.

Okay, breathe...


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

W.S. Merwin, for a Wednesday morning

Variation on a Theme

by W. S. Merwin

Thank you my life long afternoon
late in this spring that has no age
my window above the river
for the woman you led me to
when it was time at last the words
coming to me out of mid-air
that carried me through the clear day
and come even now to find me
for old friends and echoes of them
those mistakes only I could make
homesickness that guides the plovers
from somewhere they had loved before
they knew they loved it to somewhere
they had loved before they saw it
thank you good body hand and eye
and the places and moments known
only to me revisiting
once more complete just as they are
and the morning stars I have seen
and the dogs who are guiding me


love this. ~Ally

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Writing at the bookstore

One of my favorite and most relaxing things in this world is writing at a coffee shop or bookstore with cafe. The best is Atomic Coffee in Fargo, ND, but at this point in the parenting journey, I am not picky. Currently I am at Books-a-Million in Concord. There are groups here in the cafe, of knitters, discussers, and many singletons doing all manner of whatever on their laptops. Glorious! With my overpriced mocha and chocolate chunk cookie to spur me on, I join them, blissfully, and child-free, many thanks to my husband.

Writing is my emotional release, and an excellent way for me to find out how I am doing. The extrovert in me benefits tremendously from the talk-to-think concept, in which through words, I can locate my truths. Talking it out, even in this current state of not many friends to get together with, helps me sort through my ideas, formalize my goals, and sift through my tangled emotions. At other times in life, I used piano playing, yoga, meditation, or a very long walk up a country road. At this point, I carve out an hour here and there, with babysitting or dad at home manning the fort, and race to the bookstore to have these peaceful moments to myself.

I thought a long time about parenting...fifteen years to be exact. I pondered the need for selflessness, and over time, began to welcome the ending of The Allison Chapters. There is only so long one person can focus entirely on themselves, using each moment of the day to "self actualize" or "find oneself." She is found, already! Enough!! I know myself, as much as anyone really can, and I have seen with open eyes my unfinished projects, my fear-driven actions (or inactions), and my personal growth. I have looked deeply at what I want out of this life, as who knows for sure if we have more than one. I want to create meaningful days and years. I want work that is more vocation than career. I want to contribute, to make a difference in the lives of others.

And during those years, I thought I would travel, get out of debt, do some crazy things - like join the Peace Corps, live on a fishing boat, and ride the train across the Canadian Rockies. Well the reality is, I did almost none of those things. I spent several years doing irritating and frustrating jobs, then spent several years finishing my college degree and pursuing more education, new careers...and subsequently ended up just about where I started, doing administrative work [read: being someone else's glorified secretary], a role I finally came to terms with.

There are things I am good at, like loving, cooking, reading and writing, and thinking up creative games for the kids in my life. There are things I suck at, like making money, pursuing my greatest dreams, cleaning my side of the bedroom, and using my infamous sewing machine. I have pages and pages of notes for other ideas (some even written), sewing projects, dog training, and organic farming. What?! For some reason, yes, I always fancied myself an organic small time farmer. Do I buy organic? Not always! Do I garden? Not more than a few pots of herbs every summer that end up overrun. Am I even good with plants? I would call mine a "grey thumb"...I rarely kill my plants, just mangle them and render them unrecognizable. They all grow crooked, weird, and end up as "bad hair day" plants. (Reflecting my inner self??) But oh, do I love them...yes, probably too much! I recently went back to work after a four month maternity leave. The plants in my office are blooming flowers and look better than they ever have...they appreciated a little Allison-free time, I suppose.

I have twenty-seven minutes left on the Me Time clock. My minutes these days are precious, I tell you. Every one is spoken for, with two babies at home, a husband, and a part-time job. Even the cat vies for my time. He does not get a lot of loving these days, as Mama usually feels "used up" at any given moment.

People keep telling me that as the children get older, I will have time again to focus on my interests and goals. I hope this is true. There are still things I want to accomplish that don't have to do with my children. Even some goals that are about them need to be done when they are not around, like planning educational activities to enthrall their creative senses.

What I was getting at, is that ahead of time, I knew I would need to put my self on hold, and I was emotionally prepared to do this, or so I thought. In reality, when that particular rubber hit the road, it proved to be much harder than expected. Mama still wants moments to be a woman, an individual, a wife, and a person outside her milk-providing, ass-wiping duties. Mama still wants to be Allison.

And so I will write. It is the least I can do right now. To prove, if only to myself, that that girl is still in there. Thoughts continue to swirl. Ideas continue to erupt. And Allison is alive and well. Waiting for a few moments to herself. And she's okay, for the most part, with waiting.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

poems for Wednesday

sugar is smoking
by Jason Schneiderman

it's amazing how death

is always around the corner,

or not even so far away

as that, hiding in the little pleasures

that some of us would go

so far as to say

are the only things

keeping us alive

About This Poem

"When I wrote this, I was thinking about how a coping mechanism can outlast the trauma you have to cope with, and how any accomplishment also contains a seed of self-destruction. I recommend pairing this poem with a chilled glass of Sutter Home Moscato, followed by the Pet Shop Boys song 'Was it Worth It?' The poem is dedicated to Mark Bittman."
--Jason Schneiderman

Life is Fine
by Langston Hughes

I went down to the river,

I set down on the bank.

I tried to think but couldn't,

So I jumped in and sank.

I came up once and hollered!

I came up twice and cried!

If that water hadn't a-been so cold

I might've sunk and died.

But it was Cold in that water! It was cold!

I took the elevator

Sixteen floors above the ground.

I thought about my baby

And thought I would jump down.

I stood there and I hollered!

I stood there and I cried!

If it hadn't a-been so high

I might've jumped and died.

But it was High up there! It was high!

So since I'm still here livin',

I guess I will live on.

I could've died for love—

But for livin' I was born

Though you may hear me holler,

And you may see me cry—

I'll be dogged, sweet baby,

If you gonna see me die.

Life is fine! Fine as wine! Life is fine!

borrowed from

Friday, May 17, 2013

What they don't tell you in the baby brochure

Parenting is hard, on relationships, on marriages. The pictures of cute couples happily smiling with their babies on those minivan commercials and kleenex ads are not always accurate. Yes, of course, you both have fun being parents together, and as a friend assured me, it is MUCH more fun than being a single parent. [There was a time I considered doing this, on purpose. What on earth was I thinking?] You share the special moments, revel in baby reaching those growth milestones, and share confused looks over what to do with the screaming creature at all hours of the night. You laugh together, so you don't cry your eyes out.

But what they don't tell you is that you will have very little time, and virtually NO energy, to connect with each other. Sex will possibly become a distant memory. You will look in the mirror at your mama body and wonder, "Oh dear god, what happened here?!?" and, "Will anyone find this floppy bag-o-flesh appealing again?" [At this point, dear reader, if you have no idea what I am talking about, kindly keep that shit to yourself! The only way we are coping is by believing wholeheartedly that this experience is normal!!]

Your vacations will take on a Chevy Chase-like quality. You may find yourself at a gorgeous beach resort...stuck inside because your crazy toddler decided suddenly she hates the feel of sand on her toes. You may find yourself out to eat, trying so hard to enjoy the pleasure of someone else cooking and cleaning up for you...but you're unable to relax due to the screaming of a wee babe, who has no sense that this really is inappropriate in a public setting! You may become the person who you swore you would never...the parent who lets the kids run around the restaurant. Yes, it is true. Why would someone do this?? TO AVOID A SCREAMING FIT, DUH! [The neighbor's dinner will be much less disrupted by a little running around, believe you me!] And here's the rub: You may find yourself secretly and abhorrently admitting, "Boy, it WOULD be nice to have enough room, you know, three rows of seats...a minivan." Shuddering thoughts! Not for the weak of heart.

I always wondered how those sad, older couples ended up looking blankly out the window while they silently ate dinner at a b-rate restaurant, while we, lovingly and communicatively, delighted immensely nearby. Well, those folks are probably really fucking tired! They spent so many days and nights focused on and caring for the kids that they literally cannot remember anymore what used to interest them, attract them, or make themselves tick. They just want a moment's peace! It has been so long since they had a decent, honest conversation, that they literally can't think of ANYTHING to say. And frankly, they just don't have enough energy to care. Um, yeah, I imagine...

I made the mistake of asking for advice on the FB for how to stay connected with your spouse after children. I did not receive much hopeful advice. Some folks whose children are quite old now had nothing to offer. Ack. Others railed on about the infamous "date nights." Who are these people who have so many babysitters lined up that they can actually accomplish a date night? Are their mothers young enough to handle two raving lunatic children and can wrangle them into bed on time without needing a drink and smoke after? More importantly, how do these parents have extra money to afford such a ridiculous thing? Do you have any idea how much babysitters cost these days?? If we had enough money to afford an evening worth of babysitting, we wouldn't have enough to go out! And what are we gonna do, have sex in the car? We are way too old and out of shape for that. Ugh.

There was a phenomenon in my parents' house after us kids grew up. My dad would "act out" whenever we came to visit. He was not as nice to mom, and would say outrageous things and pick unnecessary fights. Mom said, "Oh honey, he's not like this when you're not around," as if that was a reasonable explanation. Was he really so jealous of mom's undivided attention on us? I know he loved us! In fact, I was just remembering the time when he hugged me on the back porch in Texas, right before he moved away, ahead of us, to make a life for us in Pennsylvania. He cried and said, "Be good to your mom." It hurt his heart to leave us, even temporarily. But when we all lived together during those teen years, he was often remote and unapproachable. A confusing mix of emotions to comprehend.

I hate to say it, but I can imagine this happening to me and my spouse. If we survive these early parenting years [and we have our doubts], and find a way to communicate again, I bet we will be so clingy for each other's attention once we finally regain it that we will not want to tolerate the children's neediness again. Obviously, this isn't the whole picture. But I am just saying, a lot about my parents' behavior gets clearer the older and more experienced I get.

My husband and I desperately love our children. We want to give them everything...not material things, but our attention, time and focus, and everything we have to teach them. We want them to feel safe and loved unconditionally at home. We want them to have a calm and gentle place to call home. A cleanish place, not a dump. A calmish place, not a life of chaos and rushing around. Well all this takes an extreme amount of energy on our parts. We both work outside the home. And then we work all night at being a family, at keeping our tempers in check, at becoming more patient/loving/open, less judgy/bitchy/sarcastic. We want to give them our very best.

Many articles will tell you the best way to lead your children is to uphold a firm foundation - the attentive, trusting marriage. This is hard. It must take every ounce of strength and consciousness you have. Because honestly, we are doing our very best and we are struggling, daily. There's not enough left over at the end of the day, at the end of the task list, once the wee tots are quietly off to bed, to fawn attention on each other. I usually crash on the couch in front of the mind numbing TV [and I thank God for it, so don't give me any "Blow up your TV" speeches]; husband sinks into the Internet, inch by inch until he is no longer recognizable. He works on his art. I work on my lists for tomorrow. Then there's laundry, endless fucking piles of laundry. Dishes. Playdoh schnivlets stuck to the floor. Sour milk-soaked bibs in every corner of the house. Legos in the weirdest places, toys clogging the tub drain, diapers piled to Kingdom Come, and half drunk glasses everywhere you look. We don't even have time to finish a damn drink anymore! By the time that chaos is reigned in, and I do mean minimally, we flop and beg Jesus [or whoever] to recover us enough for the hours to come.

My mama "job" literally does not end. After watching maybe one full TV show, it's time to wake up the baby for his night feeding [so we can sleep longer later]. And then it all begins again: gas, teething pain, burps that get stuck, too hot, too cold, wet diaper, snuggle me, cuddle me, move me, put me down, pick me up, feed me, burps getting stuck, et al.

I pray for the strength to make it through these early years. I do not want to rush them by. I know for a fact I will miss them, as I already mourn the rapid passing of time. Already too much has gone by and I want to capture it all in porcelain to keep on a shelf so I can gaze upon it lovingly in my old lady years. Already I feel the oppressive guilt of unconscious living. I really don't want to take a single moment for granted. And I worked in healthcare too long to not be aware of the real possibility of sickness, death, and tragedy. I want to revel in these beautiful children, to relish their every moment, giggle and sigh. I love you darlings! I do! [Guilt, guilt...]

We are learning the true meaning of commitment: the plodding of one foot in front of the other, one day and one day, and then a week and then a first birthday party, and soon the baby clothes are shipped off to consignment. My husband, my love, I vaguely remember you. We were not perfect, or seamlessly connected up until the moment of parenthood's arrival. We were not perfect then, and never will be [damn the humanity]. But can we survive this, gracefully?

We named both our children after grace, as we were so thankful for them. I still thank them, in the dark at night while putting them to bed, for coming here, for choosing us in particular to be their parents. It is a precious gift to grow these babies. I will be glad for every day with them.

But I miss you, love. And I pray we can come out of this ultimate Refiner's Fire [we foolishly thought marriage was the fire, a ha ha ha] and still know each other. Or get to know each other again. I hope all these tiny moments will stack up with some kind of gracy-glue to become a lifetime, a family, and the meaning of real love.

These are just a few of the things the brochure did not warn us about or offer strategies. So we pray. And choose to laugh. And well, one foot, one foot...