Sunday, May 29, 2011

Benjamin of Greatness

Blogfriends, there is an emergency! Ben reports a concern that some of my HappyNashes posts might portray him in a negative light, most specifically his advice to me that I mention in "Boy," when he told me not to worry about feeling disconnected from C right after his birth, because it was just a little trick of nature. This simply will not do. When B is concerned about his online reputation, the only thing for a wife to do is counteract this by explaining, in great detail, his greatness.

Ben's greatness comes in the small moments, his daily faithfulness and acts of love and loyalty. I could tell stories all day long but I will pick a couple that stand out. Reasons he is awesome:

Reason #1: I scalded myself with tea, and instead of laughing he demanded a bag of ice from the Food Court Wendy's for me.

When we had been dating only a little over a month, I was gesturing wildly and somehow managed to spill an entire Venti size Starbucks tea (Ginger Peach!), full of nearly-boiling water, all over myself. I was embarrassed but he was so nice about it. I went to the bathroom to salvage my dignity, and while I was gone he sweet-talked a bag of ice out of the Wendy's employees for me to put on my scalded shoulder. Yes, I said shoulder. I don't spill hot tea on my lap or leg like a normal person. I spill it on my shoulder. He probably wanted to laugh at me. But he didn't.

Reason #2: He compliments dinner.

Ben has long work days, sometimes coupled with music practices right afterward, and often arrives home in a state resembling Wile E. Coyote crawling across the desert, tongue hanging out, seeing a mirage of water off in the distance. He pants, drops his briefcase, and collapses with a cartoon cloud of dust onto the floor. Okay, so maybe it isn't quite that dramatic, but let's just say, some days his work really takes it out of him. But when he eats dinner, he tells me it's good and rinses his plate and puts it all in the sink before settling on the couch to look through the ACME catalog. It might not seem like a big thing, but it's a consideration that I appreciate.

Reason #3: He takes care of the yard.

This is not a small thing either, but I can say that in five years of being married I have never once touched a lawn mower, edger, or weed whacker. I am semi-willing to do so, but I have never had to. Even in the dead of summer, when only snakes, lions, and prehistoric locusts venture outside, he risks life and limb, mauling, snake attack, dehydration, and heat exhaustion to take care of it.

Reason #4: He fights the snakes.

Sometimes we find snakes in the yard. I am not afraid of roaches, spiders, lizards, or other creepy-crawlies, but I am terrified of snakes. It doesn't matter to me the size, shape, genus, or species of the snake. If it slithers and has a forked tongue, I turn into a teenager in a horror movie, clutching the side of my face and jumping up on tables and screaming like a lunatic. I am even afraid of snake eggs, because in my mind there are tiny spring-loaded death-embryos waiting to burst forth and immediately kill and eat me. Hate them. And when snakes appear, even though Ben hates them probably as much as I do (although I will specify here for the sake of his reputation that he is not afraid of snake eggs), he always goes out to do battle, and doesn't complain about it.

Reason #5: Ambition.

I have a mild level of career ambition. There are things I want in my present and future work life. But Ben's ambition is like my ambition... on steroids. He is always looking for ways to move forward, better himself, move ahead, work harder, etc. His ambition has resulted in a stable financial situation for us, and an environment in which I can work part-time and stay home with the kids, without crippling anxiety about the monthly bill totals. The absence of the clenched-fist-of-money-worry in the pit of my stomach is a huge deal.

Reason #6: He has a bad memory, in a good way.

I can't tell you how many times we have had a difference of opinion, and I spend the whole next day worrying about the tense conversation we had. I talk to him and say, "I'm sorry the way our conversation went last night," and he doesn't even remember what I am talking about. I'll be snappy and mean about something and a half hour later when I apologize he just laughs and says, "Oh, that. It doesn't even bother me." He leaves the past in the past, which is a great skill, and one that I can learn from.

All in all, Ben is a great husband and father, and I still find lessons for myself in his personality. Since I met him I have become more relaxed, kinder, MUCH less sarcastic, more able to enjoy the big and little things in life, happier, better fed, gentler on myself, and in general a better person, and a better connoisseur of rare Scotch whiskeys. If not for him I would be trapped in an IKEA-decorated apartment watching Nora Ephron movies and trying to think of new sarcastic comments to say as I drank cosmopolitans.

Friends, I shudder at the thought.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Girl Books

I have been cleaning a lot lately and getting rid of books I don't need, and it's nice to get some space on my bookshelves. Something I have been thinking about, as I come across my old childhood favorites, some of which I still have (ahem... the whole shelf of Little House books... ahem), is the library I want to build for Norah to read when she is between the ages of maybe 8 and 13, those years when I lived almost entirely in my imagination. I was thinking of my favorite books that I definitely want to have available for her to read. Here are the ones I have thought of so far:

My Side of the Mountain/George
Calico Captive/Speare
The Witch of Blackbird Pond/Speare
The Tillerman Family series/Voigt
The American Girls collection
The Little House series/Wilder
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn/Smith
Secret Garden/Burnett

That's all I have so far but I am sure there are more. What was on your Greatest Hits list when you were younger? Have you gone back and re-read any of them?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I love my son, and even as much as I love him I find it difficult at times to really relax into that love. It's hard to explain because I never experienced it before him, but it's something tenuous, like walking around your living room on tiptoes only or opening the car door and walking inside even though it's raining and you have no umbrella. It's uncomfortable and tense and vaguely irritating -- being so aware of the love -- even though there's no real reason for it to be.

A year or so after he was born my husband told me he thought it was an evolutionary thing, an easy out given to me by mother nature, since if he had been born in a cave instead of a scrubbed hospital with three different vending machines by the door of the maternity ward, it would have been "touch and go" with him -- that nature knew he was in danger and so gave me, as a kind mercy, a sort of space without even much air in it, a gap between myself and my love for him, so that motherly love was something I visited, in the same way I visited him in the ICU. Intensely, with great concern and anxiety and tenderness, but still in a temporary way, knowing I would be heading home later in the car.

Today I tried on purpose to relax into it, to carry on easy, flowing conversation and pay real attention to the wonderful person he is, and the result is mixed and unexpectedly painful, the same tearing-my-heart feeling I felt in his first few days. I am sure all parents feel this at times, but today it hit me, a backlog of tenderness, this love I have for him.

I have thought for as long as I have been thinking about it at all that perhaps I do not feel enough tenderness for him, or that he might feel me as a chilly and only vaguely affectionate person sometimes, when old memories try to crowd out the sunny baby days we have here in this messy house. But I realized tonight, as he sat up in bed, smiling into my eyes as he sang me his favorite song from preschool (Zippedee Doo Da, with arm motions!) that in fact my love is too much to think about, instead of too little. I let in little bits as I can, like a trickle from a garden hose slowly filling a water balloon stretched tight over the nozzle, and try to get used to having a heart so full it hurts.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Moving On

This has been a rough and discouraging week, from housekeeping to weight loss to health. I have been really really tired lately, and nothing seems to help, not even sleeping a lot. It just feels like something is out of balance, but I am not sure what.

Overall, it's one of those weeks where I feel like all I do is work, and yet nothing gets done. I have a headache right now, and I have taken medicine and it won't go away, and I haven't lost any weight for two weeks. I can tell I'm burning out when all of a sudden I am a giant pile of excuses. I get all negative with my weight loss group, start getting angry at people with their cliche advice about "watch portion size". The hard thing for me about weight loss frustration is that there is no one to blame -- I did the work, and I didn't get the results. It's literally no one's fault... but I'm still 23 pounds from my goal. And failure just makes me want Reese's cups even more ;D So far I have resisted, though. Honestly I probably just need a nap.

On the good news front, I have a funny story about Norah, or at least it's funny to me. Ben and Chris ate pizza last night for dinner, and this morning, I offered some cold pizza to C for breakfast (he likes it). The scene went something like this.

L: Want a piece of pizza?
C: Sure!
(I get him pizza and he starts eating it. Norah is watching closely.)
N: (babbling)
L: What, Norah?
N: Wa peesa peesa? Ya! (makes sign for "more" and points to the fridge)
L: You want a piece of pizza too?
N: Ya! (makes sign for more)

So I gave her a piece. What could I do?? She meticulously pulled off all the pepperoni and cheese and ate it, and then handed back the old triangle of bread. I think language development is the most fascinating part of watching babies grow up. I love it so much. I remember when C was a baby and first doing sign language, and he would sign "more" when I finished reading him a story that he liked, to tell me he wanted me to read it again. It probably doesn't sound that amazing, but when you have seen your little bean start out as a tiny yowling infant, every little thing they do to connect with the world is fascinating and amazing to you. And I like seeing that little spark of pride when they figure out how to tell you what they want. ;D

Happy Friday, everyone!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Submission #2

After my dreadful query fail I took a moment to nurse my wounds (and lash out unfairly at door-to-door salesmen) and then came back to the keyboard. After some reflection I think the article I was originally working on might be a bit too ambitious for a beginning writer. I am still working on it, but I am waiting to try to pitch it until I have some more experience with editors and publications.

So, in the meantime, I submitted a personal essay for consideration to a smallish publication that specifically wants thoughtful but not sentimental essays about motherhood. Right up my alley? Perhaps?

Of course right after I submitted it I noticed a spacing error and a typo. Sigh. I think they are minor enough that I may still be considered. I will update you when and if there is news on that essay!

Think happy thoughts for me, and for heaven's sake, don't mention Canada.

Monday, May 9, 2011

An Open Letter to Door-to-Door Salesmen

Just another day of trolling through suburbia, offering me an "in neighborhood" discount on security systems and auto glass. You see my house; a standard suburban single-family home. You see my car -- a 1999 SUV. Toys in the yard. Jackpot.

Let's talk about the issues that we're facing here. First, it's between the hours of 1pm and 4pm, which are prime naptime for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. When you walk up and pound on my front door, which is just a few feet away from my baby's crib, it's gonna piss me off. When you stand back from the door for 45 seconds, then walk up and pound again, it's gonna piss me off even more. If for some reason I would have been inclined to buy your product, having naptime interrupted will sour me anyway, no matter how many "special discounts" you throw my way.

Let me explain something to you about naptime. And I don't blame you for not knowing; by your age and gender I am guessing you have never spent time as an in-home caregiver for two children under the age of four. It goes something like this. I take care of my children full time, and on top of that I work for 15-20 hours as an online instructor. In order for this to be a financially viable option, I use little to no paid childcare. This means that my only available work times are (1) while the children are asleep at night and (2) while the children are napping. Naptime is not the hour for bon-bons and soap operas; instead, I hunker down for maybe 45 minutes or an hour and a half of intensive class discussion, grading, and answering emails. When you wake my children up by knocking on my door to sell me a new windshield, when you can clearly see that my windshield is not broken, what that means to me is that I will not get enough sleep that night, because I will have to stay up late to make up the work time that you have just cost me.

And let's go a step further. I don't blame you for seeing me as an easy mark. Suburban, nice home, decent car, cares about family and safety. But when you interpret my stay-at-home status as an indicator of affluence, that's where you go off course. In the current economy, I might be the least likely person on my block to make an unplanned purchase. For one thing, I am still living in my house, which means I haven't foreclosed, which means that I am making mortgage payments based on an inflated home value that was in place when we made the home purchase four years ago. Secondly, I do not have a full time job, which is why I am home and you see my car parked in the driveway, which means that we are not a two-income family; more like a one-and-a-half-income family. It suits our needs and it is a good thing, but it does not make me rich. And furthermore, the more you interrupt me, the less I work, which translates into less earning potential for me, because part-time work is not based on a generous package of benefits and salaried time; instead, I get paid just for the work I do. No doubt this makes sense to you as a commissioned employee.

Lastly, as a busy mother and wife, I take care of business. If I need a new windshield, I will go get one; I will not sit around in my house hoping that a door-to-door windshield salesman will come by and rescue me from my hopeless predicament.

So next time, do me a favor, and when you zero in on my house, stop your hand just before it knocks on my door and ask yourself,

1. Is it 1pm-4pm?
2. How would I feel if someone randomly forced me to stay up late by preventing me from completing my work?
3. Would I be inclined to purchase something from the person in item #2?

Consider the answers to these questions carefully before you proceed with the knocking, and for heaven's sake, if you forget and knock once, don't knock twice. I guarantee that I heard you.

If you are looking for someone to boost your commission, try finding the forwarding addresses for all the previous owners of the foreclosed and burned houses that line the street. Freed at last from their mortgage payments and riding along on a tide of insurance money, they are much more likely to be able to afford whatever it is you're selling. When you try to sell to people who still own their homes, you are barking up the wrong tree.

Me :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Query #1: FAIL

I sent out my first query today. It is for a kicky little article I wrote about a way of cleaning in which you go square foot by square foot. I'm actually pretty proud of it.

I submitted the query to a really nice magazine based in Toronto.

In Canada.

Where they don't use feet.


This is one of those days that I am happy to x out on the calendar and just move on to the next one...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Happy Hour

I love this hour of day, when the kids have just gone off to bed; maybe they are still awake, C looking through a book and N playing with her toes, but they will drift off to sleep soon. Now that it is getting close to summer, the days are longer and the sun lasts until my magic hour, so I can look out the front door window and see down the hill, or stand outside for a moment -- no bad mostquitoes yet.

I am on day 5 of South Beach Diet Phase 1, which means that at this point I would trade my kingdom for a piece of bread. Only in certain moments, though. It is nice to make forward progress so I will take the cravings.

A good side effect so far (granted it has only been five days) is that I feel like I might be a bit milder. I had a lot more patience with the kids today. Of course, that could mean that tomorrow I will be on edge, but let's hope not.

I have made some progress with simplifying -- there have been several times in the past week in which I could have chosen a complicated way of doing something and a simpler, less glamorous way, and I picked the simpler way, and it turned out better every time.

Aside from that, the planets finally aligned and I got some research time, and I am working on an article. I am nervous about coming out with this goal, but I might as well -- I want to be a freelance writer! I have done some research on how to start, and what it looks like is that I need to develop about a dozen articles, and shop them around to local/small markets, and keep submitting them all until somebody accepts something. So I am working on my first article now. What I think a good goal for me, at this point in my life and with my other obligations is to make a goal of creating one new article every month, and keeping everything in submission until something gets accepted. I think the format will get easier for me as time goes on.

I had a funny thing happen as I was getting ready to go out to the library on Monday -- I got nervous! Why would I be nervous? I spend hundreds of hours reading and researching for my thesis and education, and I know my way around the research process. In fact, to be honest, I really enjoy it. I could go into a library and emerge twelve hours later, stumbling, starving. I realized I was nervous because this is something I really want. This might not seem like a big deal, but connecting with a real desire is something scary for me at this phase in my life. There are so many things that can derail even a simple plan; to have a multi-step plan seems almost foolish or dangerous. But this is something I want, and there's no better time than now to pursue it, and I have to move forward with some intellectual pursuits or the next thing I know I will end up in PhD school, and (no offense to any of my friends working on or having earned their PhDs!!) I think I would rather eat a raw horse than go through that.

So I will be updating here on my progress. Chances are this progress will be dull ("Sent out another article today... still waiting...") but if I start now and keep trying, eventually one day I will have learned enough along the way and I will be successful.

Right now I am writing an article that I care deeply about, and I will shop around for a market for it, but after that I want to start with a market and write for it instead. I am thinking of profiling a few local farms for the Eastside Chronicle -- they told me I can submit anything whenever I want, so that might be a good place to get clips and start writing.

Wish me luck!