The Long Con

We were waiting for the train the other day when Little Miss informed me that her baby brother was one of her favorite people. I told her that he’s one of my favorite people too, along with her and Manchild and Squish and their dad. It turns out that there is a lot of overlap in our list of favorite people. But unlike my list, hers doesn’t have any girls on it. Just boys. Three brothers and a dad.

I didn’t make the list, she said, because she doesn’t like to go running with me. And I know that. But I’m over half way through my current marathon training cycle (race day: November 12th, near LA) and some of my weekday runs are too long for me to finish before the boys have to go to school. So she rides along and keeps the baby company as I do laps around the park. She sometimes takes books or toys or snacks. Last run, it was sunny and in the low 70s. She had a cheese stick and a hard boiled egg and she took a nap for a couple of miles. And for this I am not one of her favorite people.

I was a little surprised that she didn’t also mention the reading. She can read now, though it is slow going. She needs practice, so when we have story time I have her read to me. It has just been in the past week or two that she has really made a lot of progress and one day last week as I was searching for a book on the bookshelf, she was standing next to me and saw one with “Boy” in the title. She read it and I, being somewhat surprised, praised her effusively and sincerely. I was hit in the face several times for my troubles.

So she dislikes that I make her read, too. And that is probably another reason why I am not one of her favorite people.

(If pressed, she might also add to the list the fact that I strongly encourage her to eat her breakfast, but I don’t press.)

Honestly, aside from the baby—who does bite the hand that feeds him but also looks so longingly at me when we are more than a few feet away from each other that I forgive him every time—I don’t think I am a favorite with any of the kids.

heiseltsvsocean

When I tell Manchild that I am the best mom he’s ever had, he’ll point out that I’m also the worst mom he’s ever had. And Squish will think carefully before coming to the conclusion that Dad is actually superior in just about every way. When Micah bemoans the fact that the baby doesn’t give him the time of day, I remind him that I get them for the first two years, and then I become chopped liver.

But that’s fine by me. I’m not competing with Micah for favorite parent, and I am grateful that they think their dad is the best because he is.

More than that, however, I’m willing to sacrifice being the favorite for a few years—or even a couple of decades—in the hope that my patience and persistence in simply being there will pay off and in 20 years or so, with a little more wisdom and perspective, the kids will be able to say, My mom was always there for me.

When I got out of school, there she was, waiting outside the door.

She sat through my piano lessons and got me to practice better.

Every morning when I woke up, she was there, asking me how I slept.

When I came home from a friend’s house, there she was with a glass of milk and a listening ear.

She waited outside my door until I was ready to talk.

hidingfromthecamera

At the school there is another mom, quite a few years older than me, whose son is a year or two older than Manchild. She loves to see our little family and often brings treats from the dollar store to share with the kids. She moved to New York from Bangladesh 20 years ago. One day last year, after I had carried sleeping Little Miss from the train station while wearing the baby in a wrap, she sat and talked to me as we waited for the kids to be dismissed.
“Your children,” she said, “they will be like flowers in a garden. They will surround you, they will be beautiful surrounding you, when they grow. Right now it is hard, but you are always there. You are always with them, and when they grow, they will be beautiful around you.”

It was a message I needed to hear on a day when I was worn down physically and emotionally, wondering if I just make my own life harder than it needs to be. A reminder that really, I just need to be there, available, attentive.

I am always there, I am always with them. Sometimes I am invisible to them and they don’t see me picking up their dirty clothes or packing up their backpacks or scheduling their appointments. Sometimes I am the punching bag, the scapegoat, the reason they hate reading and playing the piano. Sometimes I am annoyingly cheerful—laughing while the rest of them are crying in the elevator. (And if you have never been in an elevator with 4 crying children I highly recommend it. It’s an unworldly kind of music.)

But there I always am. I see when they are hurt or confused or excited or sad. I am aware of the stresses and the struggles and the joys and the anticipations. I can tell when they need a break and when they need a push, when they need a treat and when they need a nap. I’m willing to listen to the rambling recaps of the book they read or the movie they watched or the game they played at school. I am also willing to be pushed or yelled at or pinched or ignored without reacting in kind. (Though with a good talking to later, when tempers have cooled.)

As time goes on, if my game plays out right, as they look back on the story of their lives they’ll see things they didn’t see before and understand in a new way. And they’ll realize, I hope, that Mom was always there. And while it was annoying and weird and startling and embarrassing at the time, well . . . *fingers crossed* it worked.

Mom isn’t so bad. She’s actually not the worst. In fact, she may even be one of my favorite people. Because she listens. She won’t react. She’ll always be there.

shadowmom

When Time Stands Still

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The kids were running around in the yard, making up games, chasing each other, tossing their stuffed animals into the air and catching them. It was overcast, but warm. The sky gray, the trees green, the air slightly thick with humidity. Micah and I watched them from chairs near the fire pit and felt the moment settle into our brains, find a cozy place, and relax.

This. This was it. This was what we want, and wanted, and hope for forever and ever. Our kids, together. Laughing, playing in the great outdoors. The sun setting, the fireflies beginning to warm up. No schedule to keep, no people to please. Space to spread out, space enough that you have to yell to be heard but you don’t have to worry about bothering the neighbors, about getting yelled back at for being too loud.

And even while the moment made a home in our heads, it was an invader, an anomaly—something out of the ordinary. It is true that summer nights with just the right temperature and just the right amount of freedom (no work, no obligations the next day) are somewhat rare. But ours would normally be spent in the park with a hundred other families, or on our balcony with only the puny green trees across the street and our mini garden growing in planter boxes giving the illusion of “nature.”

*****

Months ago, before our little baby was born, I sat chatting with my midwife about . . . life. About how, with all of the possibilities, we somehow find something to do and we do it. She said she thought it was a wonder that people aren’t just paralyzed by all the other things they could be doing at any given moment. Important things, fun things, “life’s work” kinds of things and “life’s play” kinds of things. Somehow we make decisions and we move forward, leaving all the others behind in the box with barely a backward glance.

It doesn’t feel like a choice most of the time. We have obligations, expectations, other people depending on us. Our choice seems made for us. We’ve put ourselves on a track through our choices and if they have been good choices, and we have been lucky, the track we are on is beautiful and comfortable and challenging and we rarely think that maybe there could be another one that is better.

But occasionally we get a view of one that seems like it might be better. It might be easier. It might lead to somewhere more interesting. And then we have to wonder how we got to here.

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*****

The days and the years slide by quickly now. It’s hard not to think that there are “only” nine more summers before Manchild will likely be leaving home and stepping into his own life. Our life will probably change a lot before then, and after then as well. He’ll be part of those changes, but they may not all be part of him.

Will he remember the perfect summer nights? The ones where we lost time, shed space, and just were? Where we gazed at the stars, searched for the fireflies, chased the tiny pinpricks of light and saw them swell so that we knew how small we were?

Will he hear the laughter and remember the warmth of the night air in years to come?

How did we get to this place? Where spacious summer nights were a special treat to be enjoyed only once or twice a year? Did we do the right thing? Are we doing the right thing?

*****

I got off track. I forgot about the people. The brave people we see, we know, we are inspired by everyday—people who are doing hard things and trying new things and working hard and doing good work. The strangers who give us kind words—words of advice and encouragement—and helping hands.

I forgot about the resourcefulness. The challenges. The determination it takes to figure out how to live here. The puzzles to be solved and accepted and lived with every day.

I forgot about how we get to absorb that energy, and put it back into the world with our own stamp on it. How strangers smile at the kids playing together on the train. How they are happy—or at least willing—to give up a seat for us. We get to serve in little ways, and we get that service back as well.

And even if it feels crowded sometimes, and even if there is never enough time, and even when it seems like there is too much to see and do and hear and feel, it is a blessing to be able to see and hear and feel so much.

And also. When we step back and step away—far away—into the green, gray night, thick with humidity and the sound of children playing . . . time stands still. And maybe it doesn’t matter so much that this is a rare occurrence—that we only get to spread our arms this wide and run this fast a few times a year.

Because when time stands still, a moment is all you need.

Crazy Tough

The other day I got on the train with my entourage, as I often do.

There were not enough seats available, as there never are.

But a couple of hipster guys in the corner saw us huddled around a pole and had mercy. They stood up and insisted we take their seats. My three walking children immediately sat down, while I stood swaying with the baby wrapped to my chest.

The hipsters took over our pole and chatted quietly a few feet away—quietly, but loud enough for a mom straining to hear to pick up on it.

“That’s a lot of kids,” one said. The other quickly agreed.

They kept talking. “I saw this mom on the bus the other day. She had two kids, and then she had these huge bags on each shoulder. They just stuck out behind her. It was amazing.”

crazy mom

They went on like that for  while. Talking about these crazy moms they’d seen. Or these tough moms. I’m not sure which. They seemed to be in awe both about the fact that people still have children these days when there are so many other things you could do with your life, and that moms are so crazy/tough.

Carrying crying kids on public transportation. Wearing babies and bags on their shoulders and maneuvering like its no big thing. Answering question after question after question with zen-like patience and wisdom.

And I couldn’t help but think of the moms I know who are so tough. Who have been through so much. Who get up day after day to do a hard job over and over and over again. And who, so often, are given guff about it.

Put a hat on that baby. 

Shut that kid up.

Watch it lady!

The withering stares and rolled eyes on the airplanes and checkout lines. The barely disguised disgust that you would take children out in public. And the blame if anything happens to go wrong.

Bad mom.

But really, it takes a lot of toughness to take two small kids on an airplane by yourself. A lot of strength to hold two kids’ hands, with another strapped to your body, with grocery bags hanging from each shoulder. A lot of courage to watch your heart scoot out ahead of you on the street, hoping the kid remembers what she’s been taught and stops at the corner.

Those are the things I was thinking of as I eavesdropped on the hipsters standing a few feet away. I thought I sensed some admiration in their voices about the work that mothers do.

I hope I did.

 

The World Keeps Spinning

I know there are big things going on the world. Things that make no sense. Things that are making us all feel a little uncertain about the sanity of our neighbors and countrymen. Things that make us wonder what century we are living in. Things that make us feel small, and things that make us feel big. And maybe, just maybe, it feels like the world has stopped spinning. Or is slowing down while we all stand, mouths agape and off balance.

It’s a mad mad mad mad world. Right?fastfriendsBut here, in our little world, it’s just little things. Little things that let us know that the world is, indeed, still spinning. At it’s normal pace, at least. Maybe a little faster.

In our little world we are learning (and stressing about) how to write 5-paragraph essays and to cite evidence from the text.toothlessoliverWe are losing teeth and feeling pretty pumped about it.

We’re excited about our first gymnastics classes and about sleeping in cardboard boxes.

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And we’re learning to breathe, learning to blink, learning to not freak out when not in direct contact with another human being.

That kind of thing.

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Our newest little person arrived on March 10th at 5:28am. We’re pretty sure he’s the handsomest baby boy we’ve seen in years.

(All biases duly acknowledged.)

And while the world in general seems to be off its rocker, we’re happy to rock our baby to sleep and call it a day.

 

(I’ve had this post in my drafts for a few weeks . . . and just got around to posting it. #newbornlyfe)

Take Care Of Yourself

I have a serious question for you all: What does it mean to take care of yourself? What does that look like to you?

I ask because . . . well, because I was on the train recently and had a delightful interaction with a lady who seemed happy to see a hugely pregnant woman and her 3 children. This is a rare thing to come by—someone who seems genuinely excited, and not just half congratulatory and half questioning my sanity—and so I listened to her. And she, in approximately 30 seconds (as we were about to transfer trains) told me how she has 8 kids, including a set of twins, that they are all grown now, and that it was a wonderful wonderful thing. She was happy for me. I could see her reliving her own young motherhood days in her mind, and it was a place she had enjoyed being.

I thanked her profusely as we scurried out the train doors so we could scurry to the waiting train on the other platform, and she called out, “Be sure to take care of yourself. You take better care of them if you take care of yourself.”

kittyglasses

I’ve heard that before, and I’ve believed it. But I’ve also kind of ignored it. I tend to think that I take pretty good care of myself. I have hobbies. I have ambitions. I pursue them. I shower nearly every day and I often put on foundation and curl my eyelashes (though I save the mascara for special occasions). I prioritize running and I make food that I want to eat—even if it doesn’t necessarily appeal to the younger generation’s palate. I have friends that I connect with regularly. We get together and we talk about all kinds of things—not just about our kids.

So yeah. I’m taking care of myself, right?

Or maybe not? I’m not sure. Because there have definitely been times recently that I’ve thought, “I’ve got to get out of here.” Or, “Something needs to change.” Or, “Today I’m going to do something that I really want to do. Just for me.” And then I think and think and think and think and . . . there’s nothing. I don’t know what I really want to do. I don’t know what would make my heart sing and my soul feel free.

I feel like I should want to go shopping. Get something new to wear—something that I actually picked out for myself because I liked it and I liked the way it looked on me. Or that maybe I should treat myself to a scoop or two of ice cream from Ample Hills that I don’t have to share. Or maybe sit and read a book all day.

But I don’t actually want to do those things any more than anything else. (Maybe because I do also have ambitions and ice cream and new clothes don’t necessarily get me any closer to achieving them.)

One time, I thought maybe I would hop on a bus with my laptop and some books and find a hotel room or an Airbnb for a couple of days. If nothing else, that seemed like a good way for me to tune everything else out long enough to figure out what I really did want and need to take care of myself.

But then I didn’t do it and eventually all my big emotions and whatever else blew over and I forgot about it . . . so maybe I didn’t really need to do that to take care of myself?

Sigh.

Generally speaking, I am a low maintenance person. At least I think I am. I don’t need a lot of attention, and in some ways it feels better to be ignored, or at least not constantly needing something. But I have plants that are supposedly low maintenance as well and they have nearly died from neglect. Even though I see them and I remember them and I water them at least every couple of weeks.

The point being that maybe I don’t know how to take care of things that are low maintenance. Maybe I don’t know how to take care of myself. And maybe one day, I’m going wake up to discover that I’m half dead and in desperate need of . . . something else, something more.

I just don’t know what that might be.

Which is why I’m asking you: What does it mean to you to take care of yourself?

 

Between Worlds

I’ve had a tab open in my browser for months now. I don’t read it a lot, but I do see it frequently, and when I do  I am reminded: other worlds await. I have felt this past year that I have been between worlds. There were so many parts of my life that were going so well just over a year ago. I was sure I was finally finding my groove as a writer, feeling comfortable as a mother, finding confidence in myself and my relationships.

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And then, both suddenly and slowly, that world ended.

*Wipe your tears

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It’s not the end of the world.

It’s the end of a world.

The week after I miscarried (last November), I begged off a writing assignment I had previously accepted. I lost the many trains of thought I was trying to follow into interesting and thoughtful essays. I would sit in front of a blank page and realize it was reflecting my mind and heart back at me. There was nothing there. Nothing to share. I have yet to find my groove or find even a thread that I can follow back to where I was and what I was doing.

It’s the end of the world

you’ve known.

Other worlds await you.

Worlds you’ll inhabit.

Worlds you’ll create.

But in the blank space, there are important things I feel like I have learned about motherhood this past year. For example, washing the dishes is actually not part of the job description. I don’t mind letting them sit while I join in the fun and games for a little while. And that has solved two problems: feeling resentful that everyone else gets to have fun while I have to work, and feeling guilty that I am a mom who is always around, but not always present.

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I have also made an effort to be more forthcoming and assertive in approaching difficult topics with the kids. They should hear things from me and Micah, and know that we are open to talking about anything and everything. We’ve had chats about miscarriage and the various ways babies can be born—surgically or naturally—in the past couple of weeks.  I hope that this lets my kids see me as a person who knows things and feels things.

However, I also look at my kids these days and see how chummy they are, how well they play (and fight) together, and I worry about this baby that is way behind my projected/hoped for schedule. Will he be part of the crew? Or always too little, too young to be included. I look at pictures of the 3 of them, and I can’t imagine another child breaking into that fraternity, and I worry for him, and I think of what might have been.

thehuddle

Mourn now,

my child

Mourn this world

coming to an end.

Grieve the dreams

that will never come to be.

And if my kids’ relationships cause me angst, so do many of my other relationships. I gave myself a pass this year on so many things—including interacting with people. I had no energy for anyone or anything. And so I drifted. I can see and feel the distance in many of my relationships—and in my work, and in my hopes.

I see it and think of it and I wonder how I’m ever going to bridge the gap, to get back to where I was, or even to somewhere better. It feels like too much and I wonder if maybe I’ve just stopped drifting, but I’ll never get up the strength to build anything new, to build any momentum, to become anything new or to go anywhere other than where I am.

I try to remind myself that I have to give it time. I may not still be falling apart or falling away, but it takes time to rebuild, and especially if I am to grow into something stronger and better.

After every apocalypse

you will rise again,

my child.

One world ends,

another begins.

I think of that passage from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, about the house that is being remodeled, about walls being knocked down, new wings and towers and courtyards being built. About becoming a palace. I think of that, and I am comforted, but I also wonder: what if it never gets done? What if the walls get knocked down, but they never get rebuilt? What if the roof is always leaky, the drains are still backed up, and everyone agrees it was better off the way it was before?

After this year of sadness

there’ll be an ascension,

the joy tomorrow

is already inside

the grief today.

I have been waiting and hoping for signs that I am being rebuilt, that my life and my relationships and my family and my work will not suffer permanent, irreparable damage from this past year. I have a seriously hard time imagining myself ever saying, “It all worked out for the best,” even though I can imagine seriously good things rising from the rubble.

But I have also realized that if good things are going to come, if I am going to stop drifting, I will need to pick up the slack. It will take work. And sacrifice. I will need vision and inspiration. And commitment and patience. Lots and lots of patience.

With the new year dawning, I feel more and more determined to find what other worlds are out there, what other places I will find and people I will be, what my relationships will become. I am imagining what it will look like, and gathering my courage to go after it.

elephantrock

Other worlds

await.

Worlds that you’ll make

with your hands.

Dreams of seeds

watered with the now tears. 

I know so many women who have been through similar experiences, whose lives have taken unexpected turns, whose hopes have fallen apart. I see them and I see that life can and does go on, that hearts are healed, that flowers still bloom after even the harshest winters. I am grateful for their lives, for the world they belonged to before they came into mine, a different being. And I hope that, like them, I can move forward. Begin again. Try again. Grow again.

 

*poem by Omid Safi

Pushing It While Pregnant

Last month I ran a half marathon. I was 17 weeks pregnant*, feeling decently good, and in pretty good shape. But I really didn’t want to push it. My training runs, especially my long ones, had been slow. And after so many months of emotional upheaval over pregnancy/non-pregnancy, I was willing to cut myself a break. Then again, one of the (many) things that continued to be source of sadness for me was that I really like to be in good shape when I get pregnant—like, just ran a PR-marathon kind of shape. rocknroll2015

That wasn’t in the cards this time. I mean, I did get pregnant soon after I ran my last Boston Marathon, but then I lost the pregnancy. And in the months of sadness that followed, although I ran, it was half-heartedly. I felt like in addition to losing the pregnancy, I was losing my body (and my heart, and my mind, and my soul . . . ). So getting back into shape for this pregnancy was a minor goal of mine. Maybe I didn’t run a marathon the month or two before I got pregnant, but a half marathon a month or two after was just as good.

Still, I had modest goals for the race. Sub-2:00 is what I told myself. (My PR is 1:36.) I would run, but I wasn’t really going to race. And then, the day before the race, Micah said he was going to run with me. Which is fine. Actually, the other half-marathons we’ve run, we’ve run together, crossing the line hand-in-hand, more or less. But the thing is, Micah hasn’t been able to train well for a few years. And yet despite that, he’s still always the one pushing the pace. It’s . . . inspiring. And infuriating.

So on race-day we lined up together. He promised to let me set the pace. The gun went off, and so did we. It took a few miles to find our place amidst the hordes of runners, but by mile 4 the crowds had mostly thinned out and we weren’t bobbing and weaving quite so much. I was hoping to settle into something comfortable. Somehow, that didn’t happen. The pace kept feeling a little fast. Micah kept finding someone else that we really couldn’t let be in front of us. And every mile, I would listen as my phone told us our average pace. It kept dropping.

Every now and then, I’d alert him to this fact. He seemed unconcerned. I reminded him that he said I could set the pace. He said he didn’t realize I wasn’t. We kept running. By mile 9 I was pretty sure I couldn’t hold onto that pace for the rest of the race, but then, we were running next to a Macho Man impersonator and it was pretty much the best thing ever. (“Hand me a Slim Jim!” he’d grumble as we sped by the aid stations.) We couldn’t let him go. So we kept running.

I was pushing it. Going faster than I’d planned and giving it more than I intended to. Yes, I wanted to be in shape for the baby, but then again, the baby was also my excuse for taking it a little bit easy.

As we approached the 13 mile marker, I felt the baby kick. Micah said it was a sign we should kick it in. We finished in 1:43. Way off “goal pace.” Way faster than I had intended. But really, it felt good to push it, to not make excuses, to really see what I could do.

Before we left the finish coral, we thanked Macho Man for pulling us along in the last mile. Then we met up with some friends for a minute and walked home. Micah talked about how easy it had seemed, how quickly the miles had flown past and I tried not to kick him in the shin. I had actually trained and it wasn’t quick and easy for me! But then, I also wanted to hug him, too, for always always ALWAYS getting me to try my best, push a little harder, keep going a little farther.

It’s always a little nerve-wracking in the middle of it, but it always feels so good to see the result.

 

*I know some people are concerned about running during pregnancy. So here’s the DL: it’s good for mom, it’s good for baby. It strengthens the baby’s heart. And for those who worry about any bouncing the baby may be doing in utero: there is no evidence that there is any harm done to fetus through “bouncing.” Think of it similar to your brain: your brain is also suspended in fluid, and is completely fine as you run and jump and “bounce” it around. In fact, the baby may be safer than your brain, because there aren’t even any bones to hit up against. And even if you were to lose your balance and fall while running (or walking, or whatever), the concern is not for the baby so much as it is for the placenta. If you fall and bump your belly, the baby will almost certainly be fine, but it could cause a placenta abruption, which can be very dangerous. 

The Distance

Quick update since it’s been more than a month since I’ve checked in here. (Sorry! Been working hard on Cocoon and stuff!) So: it looks like we’re going to have a baby. In March. They tell me it’s a boy. Also, I ran a half marathon last month—more on that later. And there you have it. Still mothering. Still running.*firstday

My mind is in a million places. I’m listening, but only halfway. I’m everywhere, but . . . nowhere. Hovering around as everyone plays, does homework, ignores my requests to put their shoes in the shoebox, their lunch boxes by the sink, and their socks in the laundry. (For crying in the mud, we do this EVERY DAY.)

I know all their games. I know why they have a hard time falling asleep. I know who is going to be scrambling to get his homework done by deadline for the next 10 years and who is going to give himself ulcers over missed spelling words. I know everything—the homework schedule, the best friends (one of the Sophias broke to the top of Squish’s list earlier this week), what day the specials are at school. (I’m not quite as on top of the poop schedule as I once was, but still, I have a pretty good idea.)

And yet, despite my intimate knowledge of the intimate details of their lives, I have to work hard to be there. You know? Like I have to make an effort to be part of the family. Despite the fact that I AM the family. I have to be sure to be . . . a person. And not just The Mom. To play soccer with them at the park. To surprise them with cookies after school. To make them laugh. To know—and enjoy—the favorite football plays from the college games we watched and lived and relived over the weekend.

It’s funny that even though I know that this—this building personal relationship business—is, you know, top priority, it so often gets pushed to the bottom of the pile. It gets buried underneath the dishes and the meal planning and the fact that it can be really hard to a listen to a kid tell a story when he gets distracted every five words and has to start over.

But, I will say that the upside (or one of the upsides) of having had a really crappy year (see asterisk below, and then listen to podcast for more info) is that I’ve given myself a break. Lots of breaks. Sometimes I don’t want to do the dishes right after dinner. So I don’t. Sometimes I want to sit and watch the kids play MarioKart. Sometimes I even want to play myself—if only so I can save someone else the trouble of coming in last place. And so I let myself. The dishes are not really my responsibility.

And I hope that somehow my mixing things up a bit, putting first things closer to the front of the line, that sort of thing, will somehow close the distance. The distance between being a presence—an aura, a being who is so ever-present and ubiquitous as to be completely invisible—and actually being present. Being there. Where they are. Not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, spiritually, whatever.

So while I’m flittering around, keeping track of who has art class on Tuesday (both of the boys), and what clothes need to laundered, and who needs to go over their spelling words, and making dinner and making weekend plans and making sure everyone’s bum gets wiped, I also need to make sure I zoom in. Connect. Make eye contact. See what is actually happening as I hover and bob and weave and pop up everywhere all at the same time.

It’s important because I don’t want to be invisible. I don’t want to be isolated. I don’t want to be The Mom. And motherhood is isolating. You’re the emcee who disappears backstage, the statue on the pedestal, the janitor who makes it seem like there are never-ending rolls of toilet paper. People may notice, but they never really tell you. They never really see you.

And I can’t take that kind of distance. Not when I’m living in 800 sq. ft. with these people. 

 

*If you are interested in hearing more about the torturous, tortuous journey to get to this point, you can for sure listen to my podcast. It’s episode 3: The Birth of a Podcast.

Cocoon Stories: Launched and Loaded with Good Stuff

We launched my podcast a few weeks ago. It was a close one. We almost delayed on that first episode. But then we decided that it was our deadline, what we had was good, we could tinker forever or we could put it out in the world and learn from our audience and our mistakes.

Thankfully, we’ve had a really great response so far. Lots of people saying nice things, sharing the podcast, telling their friends.

housemusicians

Ellen and Ben sing and play “Cou Cou,” our theme song.

I published it on a Wednesday afternoon as I sat in our relatively quiet apartment. (Maybe the kids were playing in their bedroom?) There were no fireworks, no handshakes or hugs or backslapping congratulations. It was just me waiting for someone to notice what I’d done. But that takes a while when you are waiting for feedback about a 40 minute podcast. People have to find time to listen. Then they have to actually listen.

After about 2 hours, I got tired of waiting and texted my sisters so they could reassure me that efforts had not fallen on deaf ears. And then the feedback started trickling in. They loved it. Other people loved it. Everyone was excited to hear more.

And suddenly, Valerie and I realized how much we still have to do. Newsletter and social media and outreach and responding to our new fans. (If that is actually what they are.)
newandnoteworthyWe have 3 episodes posted now, and several more in various stages of production and planning. We are getting reviewed and rated and featured on the iTunes “New and Noteworthy” page for Kids and Family podcasts.

We are thrilled and excited and relieved . . . and working hard to keep it up.

 

p.s. If you’ve had a chance to listen, we’d love to hear your feedback. Shoot us a note on our website, or (even better) leave a review on our iTunes page.

How I Met My Mentor

We moved to Brooklyn eight years ago. Manchild was about 4 months old. I was starting grad school at NYU. The program I had been accepted into was an interdisciplinary program and was not what I had planned to do. In fact, I only applied to it after NYU rejected me from the journalism program. However, they had helpfully recommended that I apply to this other program just a few weeks later. I was accepted into it, and promptly turned down two other journalism programs because I knew that New York was really where I wanted to be. I planned to fill my elective hours with journalism classes—assuming I could find a teacher that would let a non-journalism student into his class.

ontheraft

So I did some research. I looked at the intro-to-reporting classes. And I googled the professors. One of them stuck out to me. He had a daughter who shared my named. I sensed an in. So I emailed him. I asked him if I, as an interdisciplinary student with an interest in journalism, could take his class. And I held my breath and waited.

Within a day or two he responded. Sure, why not? was the gist of it. I showed up on the first day of class to find Tim, a somewhat rough and gruff guy who had all the softness of an eggshell. (I know several of my classmates felt like they were walking on eggshells whenever he addressed them . . . .) But I surprised myself by not being intimidated. My pathetic attempt at a news story was the first he critiqued in front of the class and I didn’t even cry when the first paragraph was deemed too long and too wordy and too academic. Actually, I felt . . . grateful. I knew I wasn’t any good. That’s why I was there. To get better. And I appreciated that Tim didn’t bother to sugar coat anything.

I didn’t love being called out and put on the spot, of course, and I also put a lot of pressure on myself to not let my status as a new mom be an excuse for me. So I worked hard. I completed my assignments on time and I stepped out of my comfort zone even more to pitch some of my student work to real newspapers.

By the end of the semester, Tim was asking what I was doing in a silly interdisciplinary program and I was telling him I didn’t really know. He told the head of the journalism program that I was in the wrong place. The head agreed, and let me reapply and be accepted into the journalism program.

The next semester I was a full-time student there, in the second half of Tim’s intro-to-reporting class. I would say that the rest is history, but Tim has continued to mentor and encourage me, even though my career has been mostly fits and starts since I graduated. In fact, it’s often Tim’s voice I hear in my head when I am feeling a little skittish or timid about taking a step forward.
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There have been times when I’ve wondered if I really should have gone to grad school. I’m willing to bet that not a lot of journalists have a graduate degree. But I’m sure I couldn’t have found a mentor like Tim without going to school, and without his encouragement, I’m not sure I would have done anything or gotten anywhere.

So cheers to Tim.

(Photos are from Tim’s lake house. He’s kind enough to invite us out every year.)

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