Friday, August 28, 2009


Yep. It looks Just. Like. That.

Which is the beauty of an essentially unfurnished bedroom. It is easily translated to shoebox for the purposes of a 4YO, pre-K project.

Sadly, the popsicle stick ceiling fan is cut out of the shot. It rocks. And you can't really tell, but that's pPod and the Big One sleeping soundly in the bed, and those are irregularly cut strips of index card (cut by Sir P, himself) hanging as blinds back there on the windows.

Actual window treatments and dressers, art on the walls... all that woulda just made it too hard to "replicate" (as the instructions guided us.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009


At fifteen I was infatuated with Sarah's world.

Infatuated in a wholesome way. In the way girls, at fifteen, are. She was smoother, cooler and infinitely better dressed. She was exotic (Jewish!) and had deli meats and whole grain mustard in her fridge. Her mom smelled like Christalle and wore things that floated as she walked.

We would tan on her deck over the canal. Cool off in her pool. Tan more, and get picked up by cute boys in ski boats that were older and offered cold, canned beer from coolers.

Sarah, of manicured toes in Bernardo sandals... Laura Ashley dresses and Lily prints... recognized that I needed help, and took me shopping.

I had money from a part time job at the evening switch board at Wayne Aker's Ford (there is a story there, too, I just know it...) and babysitting. I showed up at her house with money in hand. Her mom drove.

And together, they introduced me to Loehmann's.

It was a long drive to get there - all the way to the tippy-top end of I-95. I was overwhelmed at first. So much stuff. But Sarah and her mom talked me through it: they KNEW Loehmann's. So intimately, in fact, that underneath a magnet on their refrigerator door was the code clipped out of the newspaper for matching Loehmann's tags to the proper designers that had been cut out of the labels of collars and waistbands.

I quickly learned: this was a place where you got crazy-indulgent armloads of super nice clothes (and the Back Room! O! The Back Room!) and tried them on in a giant room with mirrors all around. No one judged you. No one pegged you as a kid indulging fantasies. In fact, kindly overweight septagenarians would nudge you along as you tried each garment.

The clothes weren't hanger-tired, or last season. Everything was a 'real' brand (once you knew the code) and mark-downs were steep.

I introduced Mom, and in those years when it was just Mom and I at home hunting through the racks and entering that giant dressing room looking for "Loehmann's arm" relief became something of a ritual.

My mom hated that room, and would go to the small dressing enclosures on the sides. But I loved it. I loved the open space, the mirrors all around, the break from claustrophobia-inducing dressing bays.

But mostly I loved the Loehmann's ladies.

Palm Beach Gardens, back then, was still a retirement haven. Consequently, the Loehmann's was a trove of blue hairs with New Jersey accents.

I could stand, modestly covering myself while dressing, and then step back into the giant expanse. Turn. Look at the back of the suit over my shoulder. Perch up onto tip toes (for all those critical heels-and-swimsuit moments that may - any day now - come up). Wait for reassurances. And they always came.

Loud, unapologetic, immodest, unabashed comments about body parts no one was commenting on to me, at 15, 16. "Oh my gawd! Honey you have Got to buy that! If I could wear a strapless bikini! Oy! With those arms of yours! You have to have it! And that tush! So high! Ruthie! Come here and look at this girl's tushi!"

I would costume myself at the Atlanta Loehmann's years later, when trying to look like a 'grown up' for jobs where that was expected of me (and people still wore pantyhose.) Then, in New York, we would trek up to the Bronx and I would search racks for post-maternity clothes suitable for the banking world to which I briefly reported (Insider Club!).

I thought of this because Sarah found me after that NPR bit last week- and re-entered my thoughts. I thought of this, too, because I have a big event next weekend and still haven't found a dress. And it occurred to me, as I was drifting off to sleep... LOEHMANN'S!

I wonder if I can get any sweet elderly Jersey gals to reassure me about my tushi?

No. I was not paid for this post. Neither by Loehmann's, Sarah, nor the coalition of South Florida Jewish Grandmothers. Though that last one would be cool.

Monday, August 24, 2009



1. My son, age four, has been given homework this week. Create a diorama. He is four.

2. There is a debate in schools that keeps surfacing about removing soft drinks, or the rights to sell soft drinks in schools. The 'right' to buy them, and drink them.

3. I learned today - from a friend who knows this well - that it is possible, in some markets, to pay $1000 to enroll your 10-year-old in a single-season sports league.

These are related only in that they all seem to create the same 'whattheheck?' impulse in me. A little repellent, a lot confused. Generally, I don't know how we got here. Specifically, none of it seems it should possibly be relevant to me. And yet, that I am close enough to know of it - or to feel it first-hand, means it is.

I guess my questions are the acceptable part of my back-brain-hosted rant that I don't quite feel like putting out there in its entirety, given what my husband does for a living, given that my name is all over this blog. Given that recent blog-world events remind us that there is no anonymity, anyway.

But, seriously, people.

What happened?

I think the unspoken stuff is all about privilege. About the aching sense that if these things were going on when I was the ages of my kids - they would have been dividing things. Things that made a knot in the pit of my stomach - things I couldn't have.

I can see the eight-year-old me, and the single-income mom that was Mom. And I can see being so left out. And I wince. And I wonder what the point of all of this is - and I puzzle over who we are serving.

I have the time to work on the diorama with my son. We will do this, and it will be fun of sorts. He will be proud. And it will require a trip to the craft store for the kind of glue that can stick three-dimensional objects. And Annabeth and I will do most of the work. And pPod will gobble up the attention. And I will still wonder why practicing his letters, or looking at a color wheel, or counting plastic bears... isn't enough for the second week of school.

I will withhold opinion on the soft drink debate - because it is the school's issue, because no one asked me, and because what tiny retirement I have is partly bundled tidily in Coke stock. It isn't directly applicable to my children because it is a privilege specifically for high school kids - but if it were, they would only be buying with money they earned. At least I imagine that to be the case. Except on the occasions when I would surely relent, and hand them each a dollar.

How did we ever consent to Pepsi machines in schools? Were schools that hard up for money? (Yes, we were.) Are soft drink companies that opportunistic? (Yes, they are.) Are our children so indulged that they cannot go to school for six hours without a pop? (Apparently, again, yes.)

And as for sports... my three will be in less-expensive sports leagues - but they will play and I will pay. For their 7-year-old and 9-year-old selves to 'get in the game' now. So they are 'ready.' I will hesitate - at least one more season - from putting my littlest in anything. But the time will come - likely sooner than I can really rationalize.

Which is to say, I will participate in the madness every step. I will participate, and perpetuate and it will grow a little more. And some of it will create that same cognitive dissonance - the sense that I believe this... and still, sometimes begrudgingly, DO that.

And I will continue to fantasize about raising my children on a non-existent remote and kind island. Where their toys are sticks and coconuts, their education is the tides and home-hewn repairs to thatched roofs. Where friends are like-hutted, and everyone gathers to cheer on the Coke truck - when it comes... only rarely (and never delivering to the one-room schoolhouse).

Friday, August 21, 2009


First day of school for 2/3 of them.

This photo tells the morning: two are versions of proud, eager - the third woke anxious and translated it quickly to mean. He didn't want to be photographed, didn't think his brother (who started school last week) had any business co-starring in his first-day of school shot.

I see so much of them in this little shot, from a phone. So much of that moment - by the back door, bellies full of waffles, posing for mom in her pajamas - clumsily pointing a phone at them because she can't find the damned camera.

Two days into it, and we have clicked into a routine already. There are rhythms.

I envy how much they are in it - the living, the growing, the being. While the adults trudge through, over, around. We are invariably too busy doing to Be. We have to remember to grow - for us, it takes trying.

Intrigued by the past, I have no desire to jump ahead, to see the future. It will happen. And more quickly than any of us can imagine. And bits of now will be part of that eventual Then.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Even my fun little bloggy space gives me homework.

And, avowed commitment-phobe that I am... I avoid it. When I am the only one who needs it, and no one suffers if it doesn't get done.

So now...having avoided, procrastinated, and frittered away hours and days... my post about last week's interview is very nearly completely irrelevant.

I was interviewed - honest-to-goodness - for NPR. I can explain this away, and aw-shucks my way through the (real) point that I didn't feel entirely relevant to the discussion... but be that as it may, I was blown away with disproportionate pride (and a dash of fear.) NPR!

Really, nothing I could conceive of happening to me could make me feel more famous.

The story is here, and is about Mommy Blogs, and marketing... Michel Martin interviewed four of us for the not-widely-enough-circulated and always-interesting Tell Me More. Intimidating enough in itself (she is very good at what she does), the other three also all seemed way out of my league: Kelly Wickham of (Who unwittingly got me into blogging in the first place. The first blog I ever followed - whose wit, honesty, and careful editing never cease to inspire me); Jamila Bey, who also inspires me just by being an actual journalist, living her vocation at NPR member station WAMU-FM in Washington D.C. and blogging with the Washington D.C. Examiner; and Christine Koh, of the blog - who was on the ground floor of Blog With Integrity, the pledge that fueled the discussion and piqued the interest of NPR.

NPR(!) and "real" bloggers who know things. And blog faithfully and consistently about the things they know. And can probably talk at length about "social media." Heady stuff.

I reassured myself that as a blogger with a tiny little blog space, and 29 known readers, and no advertising, and only accidental references to products... I would not be in much of the discussion.

To Michel's credit as an interviewer... I was wrong. Michel very much included me.

And I stammered through responses to questions I had previously over-thought and promptly forgot. Then the fine production teams at NPR fixed it so I sounded nearly intelligent, and not a bit irrelevant.

For all of my excitement, nervousness, and even a little preparation for the interview... I was somewhere else once I was in the control room with a mic in front of my face and headphones strapped to my head.

And, now, a week too late - I wouldn't blog about this at all except that the interview pulled a long-lost friend from the woodwork... with "my sister heard you on NPR..." So. I have to.

Backstory, if you are still with me (and not related to me): I write for a living. Corporate communications. I was managing intranet content for the once big-ass company for whom I do work - and then person, person, person were all 'let go.'

One-by-one-by each, co-workers, colleagues, and friends were invited to go, escorted out, given severance packages. Or not.

Before that happened, we hummed along and completed tasks. We did work that needed to be done - I edited or posted or wrote. A contractor, it was originally a 6-week assignment. That started nearly four years ago. Midway through, we moved. Some 900 miles away from Corporate. My hours were reduced. From full time, I went to three days a week. That they let me keep working was a coup.

Then the scary culling began, and continued. More like a massacre than a cull, really. Those of us left are jumpy, or bitter, or both. They still pay me - not because I am the best at what I do - not because I am the most necessary, or the most competent - but because I am the person without benefits, a little below the radar, capable enough, with a few skills no one really wants to learn.

I started the blog, this blog, as work life made less and less sense. I started the blog so I could talk about whatever might matter to me, and not have it scrubbed for notional corporate acceptability. I started this blog as work was taking over, and I needed to re-evaluate.

On this day, a mixed-up, overwraught, confused and complicated working Monday morning started a few minutes later than it should. It was a messy morning, and the fracas had me late leaving for the NPR studio. A response I received after hitting 'send' for an email to hundreds before leaving my house had me hurtling through traffic - convinced fully and wholly and absolutely that I would come home, later, after the interview - and find that I was fired.

I ran upstairs to dress before leaving (because even over the radio people can hear if you are rumpled, stained, and sporting flip flops) and put my foot through the hem of my favorite decent looking pants. I ripped the hem the rest of the way off and strapped on stylish wedge heels, pretended it looked fine, and ran back down again.

I got lost on the way to NPR. 10 collective years living in Atlanta, and I believed my GPS over my instincts and got hopelessly turned around. I screamed in traffic. My hands shook. But I made it.

An impossibly calm person guided me to the studio, and set me up. Finally established - 30 minutes late - with Michel et al piped through headphones at the other end of an invisible phone, in four other cities. I sat.

Naturally, I thought of my blog. I thought of its title. I thought, in a sort of a loop "What Matters. What Matters. What Matters. What Matters Right Now is Your Keeping Your Job. What Matters Right Now is Not A Couple of On-Air Minutes in a Conversation that is Not Relevant to What You Do. What Matters is Feeding Your Children. What Matters is Not Screwing Up Your Work. What Matters is Staying Visible at the Office. And Not THIS." This was gnawing through my head when Michel asked her first question. I tuned in and out and fretted and answered.

And ultimately, it did matter.

When I got home, and I wasn't fired - it felt great. I replayed the interview in my head with wittier, more trenchant responses... and I later heard the answers I gave, that the good folks at NPR cleverly fixed to be "uhmm" and "errrrr"-free - and found they were almost as good.

I am still blown away that I was included at all.

(Oh, and if you have something you want me to sell here? Send it on. If I like it, you can bet your marketing dollars I will figure out a way to honestly, transparently, and enthusiastically weave it into a story right here. For all twenty-some-odd faithful readers.)

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I wonder, at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning, where this post will land.

I am awake, again and still. No real reason why. My brain hasn't fixed on one thing, the thing that has me awake and troubled - rather it flits through things. Page after page of small anxiety: there is a perpetual laundry basket on my unfurnished bedroom's floor, my office has some papers that have been on the desk a year, our garage is a bit too full of unfiltered clutter, and Annabeth didn't read enough this summer.

A couple of undisciplined hours of non-musing of that sort, and I found myself here. I went through phone pictures and came upon this one, from the summer. Mid-summer, with family, on the Bay, that I wrote about in July. I like it.

It looks like change, this picture. The green of grass, the brown of cut wheat. It looks like human imprint on nature, of protected agricultural space in an area near water - always in danger of being over-developed. It looks, to me, like quiet and someone else's property line (which I know it to be), and it looks like 8:30 in a morning with no real agenda and a desire to push through to the end of a run (also, which I know it to be.)

As of Wednesday of this week, the rest of us will all have Somewhere to be. The older two start school - with backpacks too loaded for their size and homework assignments. Expectations - theirs for a new year, and those thrust upon them by the rest of us. First and fourth grades. Lofty stuff.

Gavin will minister guidance and reassurances to the older set at the same school- those anxious to leave, and the parents that watch them go. I will marvel at that process and wonder about when our kids are that age - if knowing the college process, if being on the periphery of so many teenagers (between football and college counseling... around 100/year... for 20 years - give or take - thousands of kids...) will make it any easier for us when ours matriculate.

Of course, it won't. Not really.

For my littles, it is the special new that is the beginning of a school year. The new that is specific to elementary school: sharpened pencils and book bags with zippers that still stick a little. Scuffless shoes, and sharp haircuts. Skin still warm from extra sun. Brains that fell so easily into not-so-much, now creakily trying to grab hold of words from new teachers' mouths. School lunches on little green trays at weird hours of the morning. Friends not seen in months to whisper to from desks still perfectly ordered.

They all just live here. And for those parents of now teens, their kids live there for even shorter. The littles - more and more as they grow - believe themselves to be wholly separate from us. We know different.. but for this to work, we have to pretend we agree with their version of things.

We are all of us always on the edge of something. For me now, the edge of sleep. The edge of another day. The edge of a new week, and the edge of a new year. The periphery of other lives led, influencer and influenced. I will shuffle them off to school at 7:30 each day. And for a few days - the silence will alternately welcome and confuse me.


Friday, August 7, 2009


He did it, he started! His fourth place to be all day, every day - his first true 'school,' with bigger kids. I teared up, he was unfazed.

pPod starts school Monday.

Public school. The first to do that, oddly enough. Pre-K. Sweet, young, scrubbed, happy, demanding 4-year-olds. 20 of them.

We will walk there. Half a mile. Every morning, through three seasons. Just two of us. We will have stuff to talk about. Every afternoon, we will walk home. We will have Things to Do.

He of white-blond hair and constant chatter. Recent discoverer of computer games. Drawer of pictures, observer of details through his little bifocal lenses.

I like this part - standing here, knowing that in a year this will be the past. I like that we are here Before, and most everything else is after.

I don't like this other part, where soon all this will be gone. Where that little bit of baby, as I say to him, still remaining behind his left ear, might disappear without my realizing it. That I will barely remember this in two years. In four, he will be 8, with all his 8-year-old demands. I will struggle to remember him at 4, the way I do now the two-year-old him.

4, to me, sounds like the end of Little.

He had his hair cut today. When will it be his last little-boy mushroom cut?

I call him over to me, and he instinctively gives me a kiss. He sometimes asks, "am I in trouble?" Disbelieving. His temper can spark and flare. He can scream. I can, too - and I am embarrassed when he sees it. It flames out, and he often returns with his eyes down, a ready apology.

He is optimistic. He is mostly unfazed. He observes and he tracks and he saves it for later. He quotes advertisements like he thought of them, and he shares thoughts of his own that sound written. At the tail end, he is ever in danger of being left out, or over-ruled. He thrives on attention, for moments of being considered equal to anyone, to anything. He holds forth.

He is right there on the edge of the rest of his life. And on Monday, I will walk him a few more steps closer.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


With my first born - nearly 10 years ago now- my well-plotted birth plan was not applicable. The plan, as recommended by my Virginia Highlands pregnancy yogis and my wizened midwife (we were her 'swan song,' the last baby of her last shift) did not address, or even hint at, the 18 hours of labor, 9 on a pitocin drip - finally giving in to the epidural on hour 9.

I went to some strange, charged place - a place where I turned pain into heat and light patterns and I steadily moaned and was vaguely aware of Cat Stevens and classical music playing in the far off near. I was inside the pain, and I was turning it into colors and sounds and Gavin kept breaking through with questions that brought pain crashing to the fore when I answered them. Mom was mopping my brow and quietly counting backward and Gavin, a coach of basketball and football and rugby, kept trying to coach - and I, through gritted teeth - I advised that coaching was maybe not what I most needed at. that. moment.

Polyhydramnios, with a 10+ pound baby inside all that fluid made for the loooong labor, with days of the prodromal stuff, and then those contractions that wouldn't grip. Bass was a huge, hale and hearty baby they swept to a table, where all sorts of ministrations were performed - passages sucked clear. He was waved past me and scooted out to the ICU.

The epidural had, by that time, settled in - I was jelly and distant pain - I was pure amorphous goo. It seemed I would never sit up again, I would never get all the bits of me contained and returned into their rightful places. I would spend my future sliding room to room, slug-like.

It was two or three or four AM and, still gooey and stretcher-bound and stitched, they wheeled me in to the baby. I touched him. Somewhat distantly. And he had electrodes, and beeping things, and was inexplicably behind plexiglass.

In the morning, I scrubbed to my elbows and returned. I tried to memorize his face. He had a lusty wail - his 10 pounds, 3 ounces dwarfing the combined weight of the triplets beside him. We were sheepish, and knew he would be fine. Knew the ICU time was a formality granted in response to numbers on a chart - not in response to this specific giant, stubborn, roaring boy.

I slipped a stuffed cow into his plastic bassinet, certain that when I looked at him next through the nursery window, once he had graduated to the next level of care, that I would have no idea which one was him.

One more day, after three in the hospital and mere hours of true, professionally-observed baby time, they set us free.

We brought him home to our loft - our open space, with painted concrete floors and a distant ceiling and exposed pipes, and a crazy cat that would perch on those pipes and watch us all. (The cat we got, two years earlier, when a dog would be "too much responsibility...")

They sent us there- the thirty-something fully adult us - with rules about wounds - belly buttons and leaky breasts and perineum stitches and hemorrhoids. They sent us there with a couple days' worth of purely practical instructions, a six-pack of pre-mixed formula, and a hospital-issued pacifier. They gave us a few impossibly tiny diapers, and we stole the great hospital changing pads and felt daring. I had my real big cup that served me ice chips. And the baby.

I looked at him, and I looked at Gavin. And I cried. Real tears. Tears that came with hitching breath - fat salty water tears to scare a giant, relatively new husband (I was four months pregnant on our first anniversary) and newer baby-bucket toting dad. I told him, and I meant it like I had never meant anything before, "I am SO glad he is a boy."

"Why? You never said you had a preference?"

"Girls...girls know... they...


.... when you fuck up."

And I cried more.

And I came brushingly close and for only moments - thank God and luck and timing and chemistry - to the darkness of post-partum depression. And it scared me.

I truly felt, at that instant and with no premeditation, that I had dodged something huge. That I was, at that moment, incapable of raising a girl. That I had been, somehow, spared.

Day three home, with my son (the giant he of the ICU and crescendo-ing sugar levels) sleeping and sleeping and being woken up with ice cubes on the soles of his perfect feet and no milk letting down- and me, so determined to breastfeed, so determined NOT to be hysterical, finally calling my midwife. And she. She of years and years of experience replied over the phone with something I heard clearly as "You. Are. Trying. To. Kill. That. Baby. Give. Him. Formula. NOW." And I collapsed and cried again. And then crawled to the tiny bottles, broke a seal, and popped on a tiny nipple.

And he suckled it in seconds, the grayish, impure, pre-mixed formula - 1/6th of the pack. And I gave him another.

And Robin. My former room mate of years, my longest pre-Gavin co-habitating relationship - sage and steady and logical and, at that time, a few years into motherhood herself - swooped over on short notice. And I was still sobbing in a hot bath, and Gavin was away at basketball camp and Robin talked me through the mechanics and tricks of nursing new, and patiently and steadily played the role of lactation consultant and - in what seemed like the third or fourth miracle in as many days - my milk came in.

Which is to say that I caught, in a couple of instances, frightening glimpses of post-partum something. And I was new, and I was Not Capable. I was scared, and I was more stubborn than smart. And I had resources and patient friends and Just Enough stores of sanity and inherited yankee sticktoitiveness and lucky chemistry and notions of Purpose to somehow get through it.

And what if I didn't?

If I were younger, and hungrier, and more alone? What if confusion were not a temporary state for me? If I were weaker and more tired and delivery had been harder or even dangerous? What if something had truly, really, deeply and profoundly, been Wrong with him? With me? With my new and newly strained marriage?

In the news, every couple of years, there is another case. And while I only saw a sliver of what they call PPD - and then only for a few hours, over a few days, a few babies ago - I did catch a glimpse. And I am ever grateful that it was only a glimpse. And I am ever inclined to pray for those mommas that get more than a glimpse, whose friends and family are far or not trusted or kept at a distance and whose demons are not so easily won over by pink toes and blue-white eyes and the smell of breast-fed breath.

When I romanticize the babies (and I do! O! How I love the babies!!) and I lament, on occasion, that I did not capture every single baby moment in boxes I could open on whim... I sometimes let myself also remember, with some clarity, that it is SO not an easy time. It is beautiful and it is perfect and it is delicious and fleeting and every day lasts a very, very long time that is gone in a second... and being another being's every single every thing is the hardest thing I have ever done.

Through those first days, I know the darker side of self-doubt. And I am so grateful for this sense that I dodged something far, far scarier than sleepless nights and college funds.