And for once I was SuperMom

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Time on Yourself

My eye slides through the crack in the door.  The laser like line of vision scans the wee bumps of my baby’s back.  I hold my breath as I look for hers.  I don’t see it.  I don’t see the rise and fall.  My peripheral vision goes white and all sound is sucked out as I open the door and stumble towards our bed.  I start to feel my head lighten and breath go as I look harder at her back.  Then I see it, the little expansion of tiny ribs as she breathes.
I almost fainted because I thought my child had stopped breathing.
Awesome, Lara.  Make another victim.         
I went on a training backpacking trip, it rained for eleven of the thirteen days.  Each day we would get into camp late.  Night had already fallen, we were wet, cold, and tired.  We would be stumbling around like zombies collecting firewood and making shelters.  Everyone in my group would just keep going.  One night I thought, ‘this is dumb,’ and I stood creaky on my boots behind a tree and peeled off my sodden clothes and put on the clothes that I had been keeping dry in my pack.  The warm cloth gave me energy allowed me to complete the chores necessary before dinner and bed.  I learned that I need to take care of myself if I want to do a job well.  Stumbling around, in unfocused headlamp beam, with numb hands and head was only making the job of setting up camp harder.  If I took five minutes and got warm I could do it faster, happier, and better.
Of course as parents we should take care of ourselves.  What does that mean?  And how much?
In this country of ‘I’ everything.  What does that mean?  A friend in bible study said sometimes she gets a few hours of time away from her kids, and then she just wants more.   We all laughed.  Oh, how we get that.
Today at the library book sale the volunteer cashier cooed over my sweet little girls and then handed me a flier for an author lecture.  She said,
“Maybe a chance for mom to get a night away,” I smiled.  We’ve all been there.  In this, the trenches of parenting.  What she didn’t know is that last night I’d been out to drinks with a friend to celebrate my birthday.  I’d been tempted to call it off, to cocoon after a long day, but Scott looked at me, out of the corner of his eye, over a baby’s shoulder and said,
“You should go.”  And I did.
Then today Emma was cute.  She was sweet.  We had nice moments together.  I wasn’t worn to a nub, snapping at her every motion. 

I do a few things to make sure that I take care of myself.  Now that I’m feeling more and more back to normal after pregnancy I have the energy to run in the morning before Scott leaves for work.  That’s changing in to my dry clothes, so I can get work done. 
Nap time.  Those few hours, or hour, that both are girls are asleep in the afternoon.  The past few days I have spun a bit.  Not knowing how to spend my time.  Get necessary chores done?  Like calling the cable company to dispute a bill?  Sorting baby clothes?  Sweeping the entryway?  Or take care of myself by doing the creative things that ping pong about my head all day long?  Paint?  Work on an illustration?  Write?

How much time do you spend on yourself?  How much is just good self care, and then how much is being selfish?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I'm sitting nursing Carys, my leg extends before me. My eyes travel downward, taking pride in the shape of my calf, a shape hard earned by years of hiking and running. My eyes land on the third toe on my right foot, the nail polish has been chipped away leaving an island of sparkly peach in the middle of the nail. I stretch each foot out, spreading my toes for examination, an archipelago of poorly cared for toes.
I usually do my toes while Emma bathes, she plays with plastic dolphins and cups while I file and clip. This is the time that I have found most convenient to do it.
Our pastor spoke on rest a few Sundays ago. He knew that our congregation of parents of young children was breathing,
“Rest? Impossible!”
He spoke about the re-framing of rest for your stage of life. That setting aside work and playing with your children can be a form of rest. 
 But what if you're always with the kids?

I sat there thinking about how I spend my time? I thought I had really good time management skills. I learned those in college, right? Play here, study here, work here, finish what's due sooner first, right? I feel a bit as if those skills have been smashed to bits.
When I was first married to Scott and we lived with his parents every Sunday would roll around, and Scott would turn on a game, his mother would plunk down and knit or read, and I would spin. Just spin. I have all these rules that I follow for productivity, and no TV or reading until 7pm is one of them. At the time I was working as an artist, so do I do art? It's not like my job was drudgery at the time. I finally landed on drawing, I would hone my craft, but not necessarily work on anything that would eventually be for pay.
I sat there thinking guiltily of all the hours that I spent watching TV. What have I gained from all those hours of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives? Not much. So when Scott finally assented to canceling our cable I was eager. Scott claims that watching TV is not rest but just inactivity.
So what is rest?
Apparently I don't want to spend those precious moments that I have for rest on my toenails. So I don't. I used to, but, wow, I just had so much extra time. Sometimes I think about those days and I shudder. I should have accomplished so much. Written books, painted masterpieces. How much did I fritter away on toes and TV.
Too much.
Rest is whatever renews your strength. That changes based on how tired I am. Book? Sometimes. Prayer? Usually. Painting? If I'm not too tired. I'm learning how to work on paintings when I'm tired, maybe just a watercolor wash in the background, nothing too hard or I might make a mistake.

Can you imagine if they sold time on Wall St.? How many of us would be crowding in, shouting, yelling, trying to purchase a few more moments. How many of us spend our days trying to wring the very last bit of meaning out of each minute?

Then there are the kids. Like trying to take a nap in the middle of a hurricane.
I guess I just wish I was more organized about it. When I first dove off the high dive into stay at home momhood I had dreams of organizing the days. Monday is wash day, Tuesday is baking day, Wednesday is cleaning day, and so goes it. I haven't though.
Once upon a time I wondered how much I exercised. Is it three times a week? Once? So I started to keep track. Now when I run, I get to write on 'R' on my calendar, when I do yoga, a 'Y.' Should I keep a time diary? I've balked at the suggestion, afraid I would be depressed at the minutes spent wallowing on Facebook, or staring at
Maybe I shall, call it 'The Great Time Experiment.'
One of my friends used to hand grind her own flour, yep, you read that correctly.  I was asking her about the grinder clamped to her counter, and she said that she had stopped and pointed to a picture taped to her cabinet door that said, 'How you spend your days is how you spend your life.'  That seared.  

What do you think?  Should I do it?  Should I write down what I do each day, hour by hour?  Would that be scary, depressing, or maybe a happy surprise?

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I sat in the corner, computer on lap, busily typing away, trying to wrap my mind around story lines or articles, trying to say important things.  My mind kept fogging, I begin to think that iced latte didn’t really make a dent.  An elderly gentleman comes in the coffee shop.  His slow cane aided shuffle leads him to the only open chair in the coffee shop.  He plunks down, old bones sinking into leather comfort.
I’m watching him from over his shoulder, he removes his white cap, his fleece coat reminds me of a horse blanket, I think to myself,
‘He’s not to go to buy coffee,’ and indeed he doesn’t.  He just sits.  For about forty five minutes and then he leaves the shop.  I wonder what he thinks about this all.  There are people all around him tapping on phones and computers.  One woman studying Equine medicine, another studying nursing, and the rest of us staring intently into screens, I’m sure we all think that we are important.  The line at the counter grows long and short, long and short.  Girls in too tight shorts, older women in comfy shoes, men hair gelled on a break from work.  Busy people, busy lives.
I wonder what he thinks about this all.                          
This man in the white cap and horse blanket coat.  Surely he has seen it.  All of it. 
I wonder what he thinks about this all.
Is the buy-ness worth it?  Are the computers silly?  Is the coffee worth four dollars?  Are we all as important as we think we are?
His white cap looks expensive.  His too big coat too hot for the early fall weather.  I wonder who he is.  What he’s seen.  I don’t disturb him, because I’m busily tapping away on my computer, staring at my screen, trying to say important things.  And that is not our way, Americans don’t talk to strangers.  Especially not New Englanders. 
I look at the other people in the shop, no one talks to each other, stand in line alone, sit alone, and drink alone.  Do we all want to be alone? 
Right now, I do.  I think of the hungry need awaiting me at home.  Then I think, ‘wouldn’t I rather have it that way?’  To go back to a home full of people who need me and love me?  Rather than to an empty home.
A man takes a break from his computer to ask me if I can get on the internet, I tell him I don’t even try.  I’ve retreated to this shop to write, to take a break from the wasteland of the internet.  An attitude that I have that I have realized is rare, the need to unplug, to stop ingesting.  The need to rest, and the need to create, to push out the thoughts in my mind rather than watch viral videos or read the opinions of people who think themselves important.
I wonder about that man again, does he go home to a house full of people?  Or does he come here just to see people?  Why do we end up alone when we’re old?  How does that happen?
Maybe I need to enjoy this time of life, the little ones that cling, the little ones that need.  Several times in the past few days I have thought, ‘I can see how people get addicted to this.’  How they have baby after baby.  In some ways it’s nice to be needed, to supersede yourself into their needs, to forget your own ambition because there are dishes to be washed and tables to be dusted.  I hold onto personal ambition, it would be so simple to let go.
I want to ask that man, what have you learned?  What’s important?  Are we important?  Are the babies important? 
I wonder what he thinks of all this?

Sunday, September 9, 2012


There is a phenomena about.  A rash of something across New England.  You see it the second you enter Logan International Airport.  You see it all over the streets.  Everywhere.
Dunkin’ Donuts.       
What is the big deal with Dunkin’ Donuts?
As a West Coast girl Starbucks is really my second home.  Actually independent coffee shops are truly what I desire, but those seem to be hard to come by up here in the NorthEast.
So when confronted with this epidemic of donut shops selling mass produced fried pastries and maybe not the best coffee ever sold I had to decide how I felt about this.  I think there is a continuum for understanding the world.  Those that have lived in one place their whole lives see their home as the best place ever, nothing compares, there is, literally, no place like home.  Those that have moved and travelled understand that each geographic region has something different to offer.  I am pretty far removed from my home town of San Diego.  No longer believing that the only place in the world that one should live is southern California I approached this move to New England with new eyes.  People ask me if I like it here and I usually say,
‘Might as well.’ 
So I eye the orange signs that line our windy old roads here and wonder, ‘what about you?’  I could rail against it and refuse to set foot in a ‘Dunks,’ as the locals call it.  I could stomp around and say disparaging things, and hiss phrases like ‘corporate coffee.’  Or I could be an adult about it.  The way I feel about Dunks can be summed up in a few clich├ęs:
11.        ‘Fight ‘em or join ‘em.’  When it comes to mass quantities of caffeine and sugar, let’s be honest, I’m joining.
22.       ‘Don’t look that gift horse in the mouth.’  I have small children, they often have a drive-thru.
33.       ‘Any port in a storm.’  I have small children, I’m tired.  A box of donut holes is a pretty effective tool in behavior management.
I also have noticed that New Englanders are more protective of their traditions.  Back in the west if you make fun of the Rally Monkey, they’ll just shrug and say, ‘Yeah, I don’t know what a monkey has to do with baseball, but, hey, it’s a monkey!’  Here you make fun of Wally, and I’m a little afraid that they might cut you.
Does America run on Dunkin?  This part certainly does.  It might not be the best coffee I have ever drank, but this iced latte ain’t half bad.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


I went back into the kitchen, gathering food and dishes as I went.  I went back in and kept washing.  In our home we have a rule, who ever cooks dinner doesn’t have to wash the dishes.  But Scott was talking to our guests so I kept washing.  I started to feel holier than thou, a true servant.  Here I am just keeping on working.
Then I thought, ‘That’s silly, you’re just washing your own dishes.  It’s not like your serving anyone.  Your husband would probably tell you to sit down, you’re just staving off your own aggravation.’
But what if I washed someone else’s dishes? That would be service.  Right?
Because if I wash my own dishes over and over again I would like to think that I’m serving my family because I’m doing all this work for them and don’t we reward the hard workers in our culture?  But do they really care.  Scott will often tell me to stop and rest.  But then there is all this crap in the sink.  I’ve been bodily thrown out of the family kitchen by at least one brother and one brother in law. 
So I’ve washed a lot of dishes in my life.
What if at the end of the day we all switched houses and washed each other’s dishes?  If I came over to yours and you came over to mine and we all washed each others.  That would work right?  Because then we’re serving each other.  Right?
I hate cleaning.  I used to like it.  The feeling of satisfaction in a clean floor.  The accomplishment of a clean counter.  Now?  If I never washed a dish in my life I would be happy.  Time is so short, the hottest commodity on my tiny little version of Wall St.  Here it is: my dirty apartment, begging to be cleaned when there are paintings to be painted, children needing to be hugged, and children needing my attention.  All my attention.  Like little crack addicts, they need just one more hit.  There’s only so much Mommy in the bag. 
Then that Mommy has to fold laundry and wash dishes.
A Kenyan friend of mine, she’s middle class, and she has two house workers.  One that comes daily and one that comes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and helps with the laundry.  She has two small children and works full time.  We were talking about differences in the US and Kenya, she lived in both places and had kids in both places.  She looked at me and said,
“I don’t know how American women do it.”
Neither do I.
Don’t look too closely at my bathroom floor.
Just don’t.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


We cut our cable.  To save money.  Not because we’re better than anyone else.  Just broker.
That essentially means that I don’t watch TV.  Nothing on network really peaks my interest.  Well, not during the summer anyway.  I  have read about three books since.  Finished a painting, and blogged more.  This has been good for healthy creative production.

A friend of mine watches the Bachelor Pad.  A show that doesn’t peak my interest.  I looked at her one day, and said,
“What is it about that show?  Why…?”  She looked back and said,
“Same thing with you and Sister Love, it’s just trash,” oh.  I get that.  Some of you know this, I have a problem with TLC.  In that, I love it.  I watch that crap.  Like, a lot. 
No longer though.  NO trash for me.  Just healthy books and stuff.

Then it happened, someone shared an article on facebook from  I read it.  Then I clicked on another link and I read that.  And then another, and then another.  I feasted on the trash.  Like a one year old with their first piece of cake.  I shoved huge globs of trash in my mind.  Smeared it about on my cerebral cortex.  Until my computer got stuck in a pop-up.  Damn thing just kept popping up, I couldn’t get out of it.  I was so embarrassed.  Caught red handed.  I control alt deleted my mind out.  Finally it worked.  I just closed the internet and walked away.  No more.  Serves me right for eating all that trash.
Why do we need trash?  I keep thinking of pioneers, what did they do in the evening?  They didn’t surf the internet or watch loads of heinous TV to decompress.  They wittled or knitted.  Things some of us might consider work.  Or hard.  They might have just gone to bed.  Slept when it was dark, rose when it was light.  That makes sense, right? 
What’s happened to us?  Are we over entertained?  Is it the advent of electricity?  I would love to blame it on something as innocuous as Benjamin Franklin’s discovery.  I don’t think I can.  Are we de-sensitized?  Are we living vicariously?  . Do we do it to feel better about ourselves?
It's not one of these things, it's all of the above.  
We are over entertained.  Look at how much we pay our athletes and movie stars, we pay for what we value.  
Is it electricity?  Yep.  Because before it we would have had to do things by candle light, we would have been more connected to the outside world.  We would have more in their rhythms, rather than staying up late in the electrified boxes that our homes have become.
We are de-sensitized.  Look at the rise of shootings, is that because people are watching violent TV and playing violent video games.  Yes, it is.  A friend of mine said once that she would rather her children see sex on TV than violence, because at least sex is natural.  Violence is not.  A few years ago it might have shocked us to watch Hoarders, saddened us or upset us.  Now, we revel in the freak show...well some of us do.
Yes, we are living vicariously.  Maybe my friend is watching Bachelor Pad to reminisce about the one that got away.  Or to admire the romance and drama.  (That friend reads my posts, I'm sure she'll read this, and then think about it. She's cool like that, and I hope she tells me exactly why.)
I know that I do it to feel better about myself.  I may have too many possessions, but at least I’m not a hoarder.  
Is it really all that bad?
Yes.  Yes it is.  I don't think we need this.  You might say we need it to de-stress.  Do we?  Do we really?  After that internet trash fest I stayed up about a half hour later than normal because I couldn't stop myself then when I got into bed I was amped up from screen time.  I would have been better off just reading a book.  
But Lara what do you do on those nights when all you want to do is just veg out in front of the TV?  I read and then I end up in bed at some ridiculously early hour.  Which is probably good for me, because if all you want to do is sit and stare at something maybe you're just tired.
And I think the Bible says something about only putting good and wholesome things in front of your eyes...something like that....