I’m Back!!

I don’t believe in writer’s block. I probably did at one time (I believed all kinds of crazy bullshit before I had children) but not now.  Having said that, I have no idea where to start.

Let’s start with what I haven’t been doing. I haven’t been blogging; I haven’t been working on my novel. What the hell have I been doing?

Well, I’ve never lacked for hobbies. I’m brewing beer; I’m bottling my first batch of apple wine. It will be ready in a year – you can all come over. It started a few weeks ago when I complained loudly to my husband, “We used to MAKE things!!! Now we just take care of the girls, and when we’re not, drink wine and beer and watch Anthony Bourdain. Well, that was big a wake up call. Now we MAKE wine and beer and watch Anthony Bourdain. There’s a huge difference…

Aside from rocking out on hops and pectic enzyme, I’ve been working, transitioning, and thinking things over.

Last night, I was having a talk with Mumu about how her day went: if anyone guessed what we’d put in the mystery bag, what the boys who make bad choices called her on the bus, hot lunch entrees, and her least favorite subjects. She blew the mystery bag thing by confessing “velvet” to her bestie in the ladies room right before circle, the boys called her butt cheek (super rude, but I suspect it was in response to one of her haughty lectures), chicken patties (score!), and math.

I said – I know it’s hard, but I think you’re going to be really good at math. She scrunched up her face. My husband overheard us, and then at dinner, he tried a different tack. He said – You know, Mumu, I’ve heard that people who are good at math make more money and live in nicer houses.

Without missing a beat, my daughter looked around us and said, “Oh, I guess you’re not good at math…” (not snarky, totally earnest) and I just about spit out my home-brewed IPA while my husband (the scientist) sputtered…what! I’m very good at math!! But perhaps not as good at logic, being schooled by a 5 year old…

We are striving to be more realistic in our expectations. My husband and I are lucky; we both have jobs we enjoy. We get frustrated, we get tired, we whine in secret, we want for more, but at the end of the day, we are doing what we want to be doing. We just happen to be doing it from a rented duplex, with a 70s kitchen, that will probably never live up to Mumu’s exacting standards. We love the town we live in; it’s perfect; so perfect, that we will never be able to afford a house here.

There may be people out there who have it all, but we will never be among them. No injustice, just choices. I love the field I’ve in; I’ve loved it since I was a kid. My education, my experiences, my life, has been built around it, but too be honest, I made more money, and had better benefits for far less work when I worked in an office. Certainly, I could do it again… I don’t want to. My husband is the same. Academia is not where the money is, but it’s where he wants to be, it’s what he finds rewarding.

I read somewhere that there is a motto among the super geniuses of Silicon Valley. First make meaning, then money. We’re realistic enough to know that even if we accomplish the first, chances are, the second will not follow. Now I’m a reluctant adult, but I do have my moments. Who knows what the future will bring, but if I can, at least occasionally, make both meaning and alcohol, I will be content with that… at least for now.

P.S. A big thank you to Sadia, who is beautiful inside and out, for coaxing me out of blog retirement with her encouragement, and to those wonderful ladies who wrote nice things to me. I didn’t write back (I’m a butt cheek, sorry…) but I heard you, I still hear you, and it means everything to me.

Call it Fate

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
-C.G. Jung

I’ve always wanted therapy and never been able to afford it, or maybe I could afford it if I re-aligned my priorities and stopped being such a cheapskate. Regardless, I am therapy-less, and have no one to helpfully point out to me my unfortunate habit of making the same mistakes over and over. And yes, I have always called them fate.

It’s buzzard luck. I love that phrase; it means bad luck that never ends. That’s what it is, it’s buzzard luck, and mean people, and that town that didn’t get me, my boss wanting too much and the kids acting out and not getting enough sleep and not making enough money and being too tired to write and the kids not eating a bite of the  labor intensive meals I make, and the IRS audit, and the huge loss we took on the house, and that old hag upstairs banging on the ceiling when I’m trying to bust out to Elvis Perkins in Dearland’s “Shampoo.” That’s what’s holding me back.

That, and all the events I need to plan for work, the press releases still to write, the reporters and designers to call and email and send chocolates to. And that play date- how could I have forgotten snacks again? The other Moms must think I’m such a mooch. And great, the Friday nanny quit to pick up extra shifts at Starbucks, and the new nanny has to get back surgery, and the new new nanny wants a raise. After one day. And I can’t find the mittens. There must be 10 pair and I can’t find even one. And the living room is a mess again, and why does this entire load of clean laundry smell like poop? Now I have no clean socks for crazy sock day (let alone crazy ones). Wait- did Lulu eat anything other than blackberries yesterday? Why is Mumu crying because her sweater has stripes? It’s a damn nice sweater. Don’t forget to take them back to the Pediatrician today for a second attempt at a physical.  Why couldn’t she get on the damn scale the first time? How could I have forgotten to return the 4 ft llama to Mumu’s class? Who forgets a 4ft stuffed llama? Where the hell did that koala in a sack come from? And why haven’t I written back to those people who wrote me beautiful emails about my blog? Why am I such as ungrateful asshole like that? Why haven’t I written any blog posts? Why haven’t I been leaving comments on other people’s blogs? Why am I neglecting my blog relationships? How could I have forgotten it’s International Night at school? Then Bring Parent to School Night, and Morning Brunch with the Principal to follow. Why is the car making that godawful sound every time I drive in the rain? Where can I find a mechanic that won’t keep it for two months then return it in pieces that I have to sell for scrap? Why did I not sue that guy six months ago? Why does my husband keep losing the Tom’s on Maine Kids strawberry toothpaste? It’s getting annoying.

When we first moved here we lived out of suitcases for months, waiting for our things (getting fuzzy with jungle slime) to finally arrive. I didn’t have any of my pots and pans and so mostly I used the kitchen for dancing. I would twirl to mixes my brother made me, and that’s where I heard Elvis Perkins. “Shampoo” is such an odd song, but really spoke to us at the time; my husband and I would drink wine and play it over and over, “Sweep up little sweeper boy, it’s you who’s got the wig on now..” Somewhere along the line we lost the sweeper boy, then very nearly lost the house. Lost everything, really. But lots of good things happened too – new careers, a great school, birthday parties, and riding our bikes to the beach. And what I’m now realizing is that none of that, good or bad, is buzzard luck or fate; it’s just life. It’s my life, and it is not holding me back.

My favorite part of “Shampoo” is the part where Elvis Perkins sings, “You are worth your weight in gold, you are worth your weight in sorrow, baby, though you may never know why.” That’s how I’m trying to think of life –  worth its weight in gold, worth its weight in sorrow- and I know why. My babies; I’m holding them right now.

Jungletwins Turn 4!

Nothing left for us to do but…….DANCE!

They say nothing changes New Year’s Day, or, that’s what Bono would have us believe.

And he’s right (sort of). My general habit is to write a New Years post full of bullshit. It’s not intentional (the bullshit part), I mean, I believe it at the time. I think amazing things are possible and probable in the new year, and then I’m crushed when the year becomes as tangled and exhausting a knot as the previous 12 months, and despite my optimism, blind determination, and ridiculous schedule, I’m never any closer to getting my shit in order on the last day of the year than I am on the first.

This time of year I set lofty goals for myself – like picking the clothes up off the closet floor, sleeping more, and showering at least every other day. Maybe I’m aiming too high.

On this, the last day of the year, I feel tired more than anything else. I’m not depressed, not cynical (no wait, I am cynical- absolutely I am). But I am proud of many things I’ve achieved this year. Or some things. Actually, one thing.

When I was 8, my best friend at the time lived one street away and owned a small but extremely terrifying poodle. Every day I would go to her house determined to pet it, make nice, and every day it would chase me and bite me in the ass. That’s how I think of New Years.

I am finished with making nice. And rice. I always f-up rice too; I just won’t make it anymore. Anyway, I know after all our disappointments, time will not turn around and spontaneously love me. The slate doesn’t wipe clean at midnight, the bite marks don’t vanish, and while I don’t hate the new year, I am wary as hell. Wary, I say, as I tongue my temporary crown- the one the dentist put on because my molar snapped in half. It had dissolved inside. My tooth dissolved, like a friggin’ meth addict’s (not my dentist’s choice of words).

Today I’m packing my parachute- updating my resume. I’m where I want to be, and feel like I’m working harder, smarter, than I ever have, but it simply may not be enough. So we’ll see. Head is out of the clouds this January. It’s wearing a big helmet, ready for hail.

But this doesn’t mean I won’t be celebrating. I have bubbly, and sparkly hats, and two very excited 3 year old girls. We’re making fairy cakes and bead necklaces and sticker charts with glitter. We’re watching a kid movie, and staying up as late as we want. In the morning I’ll watch my girls feed each other oatmeal and it will make me deliriously happy.

And I don’t want to imply that I don’t have goals for the new year, or that I’ve given up on getting my shit together; I do, and I haven’t. I want to go Thoreau (and rogue) in 2012. I’ve always been into selectively using Thoreau’s advice; traveling, moving to new crazy places, doing ill advised things and telling people to leave me alone because I’m sucking the marrow out of life when they question my judgement. I’ve been all about the marrow sucking, but I’ve never attempted the “simplify, simplify” thing- in fact, I’ve gone to great lengths to do the opposite. I’ve toted useless junk of many kinds all around the globe, and it’s time to clean house.

My goal for the new year is to give away something every day- to find homes for the things I do not need. I thought of selling those things, since I don’t really have any money, but selling takes time away from my children, something altogether more precious, and possibly prevents items from going to the people who need them most. And anyway, they will be doing me the favor- simplifying my life, teaching me to be a more generous, grateful person- and that is payment enough.

So I am more cautious this year, but not without hope, or a plan.

And you never know, maybe I’ll take my novel down from the shelf one of these days…

Jobs and Marriage

I read an article weeks ago about a book coming out dealing with the longevity of marriage – what it takes and how much. It blew my mind, but probably not for the reasons the book’s author intended. It was full of titillating facts; it said people married in the long-term think about divorce 14 times a day. I find this mind-blowing. I’m dying to know what couples have this kind of time. Seriously. And this was about typical couples, couples with no abuse going on, couples you see at the grocery store and Target.

So what gives? I don’t have time to think about anything 14 times a day, no matter how disgruntled I may be. I think the problem is that there’s no secret to marriage, no revelations really, and all of these diet! marriage! success! books need some phony formula or discovery to get attention and followers. Marriage is awesome, but marriage is work, just like work is work- there’s no weird shortcut through your neighbor’s lawn that will lead to happiness.

One point in the book/article did resonate with me, however. It said the happiest couples are those that have their own individual pursuits, as well as a copasetic partnership; that those who relied on their spouses for fulfillment ended up lonely and bitter.

This is true. I get along better with my spouse, my kids, myself, since I returned to work. If I were smarter, I would have realized this earlier, and made time for my personal passions while I was still a SAHM. And its interesting, because I don’t enjoy work all the time- I find it stressful most of the time, but it is truly what I want to do.

I used to crew on a badly designed, beamy ass schooner off of Long Island (I say badly designed not because I have anything against beaminess  but because the friggin thing couldn’t tack on sail alone) and there was this Relief Captain one week who was telling me about her life in some crazy Caribbean island I can’t even remember the name of, and how much it pissed her off when tourists squealed, “You get to sail for a living! You’re so lucky! You must love it!” and she’d say, “Sailing SUCKS, but it’s all I know how to do.” Sailing was her true marriage, so much so that she wrecked  her actual marriage for it- thus completing the dyslexic version of Looking Glass’s classic 1972 ballad “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl).  Hey- you drink enough rum with strangers on creaky old schooners, you learn things…

Anyway, it’s work., it’s all work, what we love. And I think of that Relief Captain chick often nowadays, particularly when people say they envy me for having such an “easy, stress free job.”One woman actually said that to me, and several, including my own mother, have expressed similar, albeit more tactful sentiments.  And I keep thinking- are you fucking kidding me? You think I have an easy, stree-free job? Are you working all weekend, every weekend? Are you organizing a fundraiser  to support a cause that breaks your heart, with a work load that breaks your back, and shitting yourself because you haven’t sold any tickets and you’re terrified you’ll run the business into the ground and let the cause, the artists, your employer, everyone- down? Because let me tell you, it sucks. But it’s what I want to do.

The Dues

I’m seeing a lot less of my children. They’ve been my full-time job for the last 3 and a half years, but now I have another full-time job. Yes, my initial plan was to work only few days a week and retain my status as a SAHM. Plans change. Things change. I’ve changed. I wanted more, and as Mr. Hoots famously told Ernie, “You gotta put down the ducky if you wanna play the saxophone.”

After curbing all professional ambition for the last 3.5 years, I wanna play the saxophone BAAAAAD. So I put down the ducky (2 duckies). My husband is holding both duckies (and they are pecking at him furiously) until next week, when he has return to work for the fall term. The girls go back to school, and when they’re not in school, I’m not home, he’s not home, they’ll be with a nanny. 2 nannies (though only one at a time). 2 nannies for two duckies at various times throughout the week. It’s a big, beautiful, hypothetical plan I’m sure will fall to pieces when tested, and then we’ll have to papier mache those pieces back together and try something else.

One of the Nanny’s started weeks ago, and she’s wonderful. She’s not really a Nanny, she’s an art instructor. She’s been picking the girls up from summer school on Mondays, driving them to her house, and helping them paint with acrylics and glitter. They love it. They love her. Silly me, I thought they could only love me that quickly, not some random stranger. But no, and it’s for the best. Oddly, we all miss each other less than we thought we would. When the girls are focused on school, then paint and glitter, they aren’t thinking about me. When I’m focused on my work, I’m not thinking about them. We all find each other at the beginning and end of each day, and we all enjoy what we do in the middle, independent of each other.

But God I hope that second Nanny works out, or I’ll really be up shit creek.

It’s interesting, I played the saxophone for years, but never got any good at it. Mr Hoots could tell you why: “You’ll never find the skill you seek till you pay your dues…” If you learn anything from my blog, let it be this: Take all your parenting advice from owl puppets and Mick Jagger; everyone else is talking rubbish. So anyway, I wasn’t “a natural” at the sax, or parenting, or even my current job. I made, and am making, tons of mistakes in all three pursuits. The only difference with the latter two is a willingness to pay the dues, something mandatory in raising children and starting new jobs.

So my situation isn’t perfect, but it’s working, because we’re all working at it. Not very cleverly put, but I’ll leave the poetry to Mr. Hoots and the Stones- I’ve got work to do.

New Blog!

Yes, it’s true; I’ve been cheating on my blog. It started with neglect, progressed to adultery. It hasn’t even been 24 hours, and already I’m confessing.

The abridged version of the whole affair: I started a new job; they hired me to work 1-2 days a week. After I had worked for a week, stuff happened, and suddenly I was offered a full-time position. Sweet.

I love the new job. It’s difficult, it wears me out, it taxes all 3 of my brain cells (the only survivors of the toddler twin parental brain implosion of 2010), but I LOVE it.

It’s in art, which was my field, my life, up until the twins were born. It’s glorious to be back, though to be fair, I cannot currently be called a success in the field, not in any way, shape, or form. I keep reminding myself that it’s been less than a month, and Rome wasn’t built in a day. My strategy is to bust ass (my ass), using every ounce of knowledge, creativity, and determination I can muster, and hope for the best.

And start a blog.

My new employers have given the go ahead, but they don’t have any experience with blogs, and I get the impression they think it will have no impact whatsoever on the business. They’re probably right. I did a fair amount of research within the field, however, and found that just about everyone else has a blog, so it’s certainly worth a go.

I wrote my first post yesterday, puts tons of tags on it, and already it’s had a grand total of……wait for it……1 hit!

Not a promising start, but I will persevere.

And if you are kind-hearted enough to check out my new blog (still under construction, pretend not to notice), thus raising its stats–which let’s face it, could not be worse–I would be most obliged. And if you leave a comment, I will love you forever.

Email me for the link: jungletwins at gmail.com, or leave a comment with your email here, and I’m email it to you🙂