I Just Want You To Be Happy

I used to be a sort of harsher version of myself. Maybe we all did? I was a lot younger and had seen a lot less and knew virtually nothing and I had these ideas. About what you should do, what we could do, definitely what you shouldn’t do. Always what you shouldn’t do.  The right way, the wrong way. How to be happy, how not to be happy.

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Even when it wasn’t cool anymore to think your parents were the coolest, I still thought mine were. My mom was really good at intimidating people with minute facial expressions and my dad was always smarter than the Jeopardy contestants. Because I also sort of wanted to be cool in my own right, I tried to conceal how fun I thought they were while in the terrifying halls of high school or middle school or whichever windowless nightmare it was. But at home I was always trying to get their approval. And, I should add, always getting it.

They were never stingy with love. Or attention. Or time. Or anything. They listened to our terrible songs and watched our impromptu plays and listened to my lectures about fossils given wearing a t-shirt of people hugging the earth.

But when I asked them what should I be, where should I go to school, what is the best job? They always said ‘whatever makes you happy.’ This was the vague and cryptic kind of answer a neurotic person like me hates. It’s like when I would say ‘do we have enough?’ and I meant STUFF or MONEY or things that keep us safe and they’d say ‘we have enough love which is enough of everything.’ Say what?

Whatever makes you happy was the worst thing you could say to 1998 me. I want answers. I want to make YOU happy mom and dad. There has to be an answer. There is always an answer. When in doubt, choose C? Wasn’t that the rule?

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Eventually I made the choices without them telling me what to do. I chose a school. A dorm. My friends. My major. My man. My plans. I made them all and they listened while I moaned over the wrong ones and patted myself on the back for the right ones. They listened and then probably hung up the phone and laughed and laughed.

Oh our sweet girl, they probably said because they love me so much, there are no right and wrong ones. Just this one then the next one then the next one.

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Now that I have kids I thought maybe this ‘whatever makes you happy’ thing would be one of those instant mantras I’d adopt. But I didn’t. I mean, for the most part  but…let’s not go wild. Whatever makes you happy, but maybe let’s not be a goth ok? And also I don’t really want you to drive a Hummer? But other than those and a few other small very specific stipulations, go nuts.

Maybe all parents have those stipulations deep down, but the line just isn’t the same if you say ‘whatever makes you happy, save for this short list.’ Takes away that ‘cool parent’ feeling you gave yourself by being so permissive, I guess.

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Tonight we went to a local play. The point was to bring attention and funds to the issue of Colony Collapse Disorder. Any kids in the audience dressed as ‘pollinators’ were going to be asked on stage. My girl puts on wings just to go to the mailbox so she was PUMPED about this. And she loves the idea of a stage, and being on it. She hasn’t had much experience performing in a formal sense, but if you count our living room, kitchen, bathroom, her bed, the library, the airport, the sidewalk, and every other place she’s ever been, she’s an old pro.

She sat somewhat patiently through the first act but mostly just couldn’t stop asking. ‘When do I go on the stage?!’ only to be tempered by her realization of the matter at hand. ‘Wait…are all these bees DEAD?’

She was dying for her chance to be up there. She was so excited. I could see it. Truly, really, a sparkle in her eye.

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She followed the directions and went on stage, slowly but confidently. She pollinated some things, and then went and had a seat on the edge of the platform. It was nothing, really. But she was on fire. She was elated. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her feel a feeling like that, and I know I’ve never felt the way that made me feel.

She was BEAMING. I cried. People thought I was crazy.

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I have no idea if she will maintain an interest in theater. Or performing at all. Maybe she will use it as a creative outlet just for fun or maybe she will get a scholarship to an arts school or maybe she will become famous around the world. Or maybe she will never set foot on a stage again.

I don’t care.

I just want her to be happy.

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I Know What You Need

I recently went out to dinner with two of my closest friends. I see them once a year, 50 times a year too few, and during the reunion of our families we made a point to carve out a few hours for ourselves. Just us. To get out as many words as possible without someone interrupting with an issue of potty/booger/sharing/hungry/you name it.

We left 7 of our 8 children, only the newborn got a free pass, with their 3 fathers. We slid into the mini-van and rode to the restaurant with empty carseats and half-empty sippy cups and leftover art projects and our voices filled the space left by the lack of children screaming/singing/crying.

The restaurant was a new, adorable, farm-to-table joint where the water glasses were mason jars and the waiter was straight out of Portlandia and the menu had the word ‘ragout’ on it. The hipsters know how to make a cozy little spot.

The meal was delicious. ‘Tapas’ style local food which consisted mostly of bread and cheese in various forms. There was alcohol to the degree that three nursing mothers can allow for, there was the requisite and delicious dessert.

The restaurant was nice and the food was great, but it wasn’t really the point.

We spent the entire meal talking. Taking turns talking while the others took bites of artisan Brie and passed around a newborn ripe for cuddling. Laughing loudly together while the other patrons wished they were in on the joke. Weeping openly together over the shared pain of loss and the acute ache and agony of motherhood while our waiter tried to think of ways to not feel awkward about us. The best he came up with while watching us wipe away tears was “You probably need something chocolate?” Not bad pal, this will add to your tip.

It’s true that a fancy meal with foods I can’t pronounce, sitting down in a tranquil setting, eating with both hands from dishes that someone else both prepared and will clean up is a luxury for me these days. But the truth is I can be physically nourished just as well eating stray grapes and leftover sandwich crusts and cold spaghetti washed down by cold tea.

What I needed so badly like a B12 booster was the company I had during that meal. The sisterhood, the sounding board for my joys, the company for our misery, the beautiful love. So much love. I need, on fairly regular intervals, to be with people who love me no matter what I say because I can occasionally say some pretty harsh things. People who get me no matter how weird my ideas are and nod through my explanation of why it makes sense to google the endings of movies before watching them. I need face time with people who respect my need to avoid feeling my feelings while still pushing me to cry. In restaurants.

You need this too. You might need this more some days, weeks, months or years than others. You might be a mother, or not. You might have a great family network, or not. You might like artisan cheeses, and if you don’t you are incorrect.

But understand this: no matter your state of mind or your phase of life, your state of being requires this kind of connection. This source of fuel. I know what you need. You need this.

You don’t have to be in a farm-to-table fancy hoo ha place. Meet at a coffee shop. At Arby’s. In the parking lot of a gas station. This is a petty detail.

You don’t need to cry until you laugh, but if you don’t you should try harder. You don’t need to cry in front of strangers, but you probably will if the conversations takes all the right turns. You will feel your feelings and share your fears and sip your drink so slowly. You will drain your stress while filling up your tank and feel simultaneously sad that you can’t do this more often and so very lucky that you can do this at all.

If you don’t have friends who will listen and hear you and not judge or at the very least keep their judgement deeply buried in the name of love, call me. A friend who will laugh at your jokes (you are funny!) and confirm all your doubts (everything is going to be FINE!) and tell you the truth about your thighs (no one cares if they touch…NO ONE!), you must identify this friend right away. If you can’t find them, I’ll do this for you. If you don’t think I’m your type, I’ll find someone who is. Maybe my calling is a sisterhood matchmaker, I’ll make you a match.

I know what you need. You need this.

sistas

 

 

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On A Walk: Camp Edition

Camp is my happy place. My peaceful zone. When I listened to meditation tapes in preparation for an unmedicated labor I used camp as my place to visualize. It didn’t work, unfortunately, because that was really really painful you guys, but this place is such an escape. It’s the nostalgia of my childhood with the peace of nature with the joy of watching my dogs and kids be truly free here. It’s fresh air and clean water and quiet.

Where you are from camp means ‘sleep in a tent’ or ‘go to summer camp’ but where I’m from it means head out to a cottage or cabin in the woods and wear your old clothes and forget about shampoo and read dusty books and sleep at odd hours. It means checking for ticks but not being bothered by it, it means eating a lunch of watermelon and potato chips, making s’mores and digging for worms that we will probably not use to catch any fish.

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All of these photos are unaltered. #nofilter, as the kids are saying these days. Because camp has no need for filters. It’s as beautiful as it was 100, 200, 500 years ago. We make our footprint here but feel more conscious of tiptoeing on this piece of Earth than on any other. DSC_1086 DSC_1087

If you set a rescue dog from the desert and a gypsy child from everywhere lose in these woods you can see the way these creatures were MEANT to live. So free. So dirty. So curious. So brave. So very very happy.DSC_1090 DSC_1091

That gypsy child and those rescue dogs become a cross-species team hunting chipmunks and flowers and the perfect stick and around every corner is more of the same beautiful adventure.DSC_1092

I always love the me I am at camp. In my most comfortable clothes with my barest face and my barest feet and my bare soul drinking it all in. With a baby on my back. So I’m all of the aforementioned plus quite sweaty. Always so sweaty.DSC_1093

We were raised by a a middle class country kid turned hippie who married a working class city girl turned hippie who brought us here as much as is humanly possible in the schedule of working people with busy children. And they taught us to use this place to practice creativity and to catch-and-release creatures smaller than us, to shoot guns but only at milk jugs, to soak up the silence so we can appreciate urban sounds.DSC_1095 DSC_1097 DSC_1098 DSC_1100

When I was a kid camp was all about my adventures and now it’s about their adventures and what greater adventure could there be for me anyway?DSC_1101 DSC_1102 DSC_1105

At camp you learn that every long day can be cured by a cool soak. Every tired heart can be healed, even just a little, by a day here. DSC_1110

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On A Walk: Around Here

This blog has suffered badly under the regime of Baby Ondine. Time I spent quietly typing away my deepest thoughts to all the internet is now spent lying in nipple prison with a baby who doesn’t HATE sleep but only LOVES sleep when I’m doing it next to her. But life is full of seasons and this is a season and this too shall pass and what doesn’t kill us and something inspirational inserted here. *yawwwwn*

Meanwhile as I’m not blogging we’re still here. Working. Running. Playing, eating, talking, laughing. Fixing the house and visiting with friends and planning for the next big adventure. And while our plans are always grand for now our radius is nice and small. A few blocks. A couple miles. For a while, just a little while, let’s not go any further.

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On A Walk: Frozen Spring

Remember me? One month ago we left Japan and headed back to Michigan. In a flurry of bags and then sweat and an unexpected overnight in Chicago and voile, we are here.

Since then it’s been non-stop jet lag recovery, unpacking, reacquainting, more unpacking, home renovations, more unpacking, some lounging, working, and just trying to enjoy a chaotic daily existence. It shouldn’t be hard because LIFE IS GOOD but sometimes it just is, you know?

The other thing is, and I hesitate to even mention it because like…what is the point, but the weather. Has been tough. The snow melted (mostly) then piled up again and then melted some more and is hanging on in some corners. But I’m from the north of the North so I get it. It’s fine. But just some SUN would be nice. Some sun. A little sun.

So when some sun showed it’s face, we got out. To a beach where we walk a lot. To a familiar place. Because weather and unpacking and jet lag be DAMNED, we are home. Home. It’s so good to be home.

That being said I need caffeine. So much. All the time. Have you ever been up at 3am Googling ‘4 month sleep regression’ mostly just to get confirmation that other people feel your pain and live to tell the tale? No? Then I don’t want to hear it.

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Honestly, this is her in a nutshell. This outfit. My god.IMG_1853 IMG_1854

The epic battle of keeping a jacket on a toddler in subfreezing temperatures. IMG_1855 IMG_1857

Obviously I want to interact with my kids, but I’m not putting the coffee down. Not now. Not ever.IMG_1858 IMG_1859

I might be biased but is this not one of the most handsome men you’ve ever seen? The background isn’t bad either.IMG_1860_2

Little O is ready to try a cafe au lait. Sister girl is as tired as the rest of us.
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In his happy place.IMG_1870 IMG_1871

‘Let’s pretend this is snow!’ Sure. Snow that will be in your hair and our car forever.IMG_1877 IMG_1878

The earth made this, mannnnnnnn.IMG_1879 IMG_1880 IMG_1881

This timer shot worked out really well, I think.IMG_1882

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This is Not A Birth Story

I’ve sat down to write the story of Ondine’s birth several times. And nothing comes out. So many words and feelings fill my head but I seem to lack the ability to actually let them filter through my fingers onto the keyboard.

Since having my own kids, I have always enjoyed reading the birth stories of other women. They can be joyous or sorrowful or frightening or hilarious. Some are detailed and some are vague. The women who write these stories can edit them however they choose because the story is theirs. They are stories told by women about an experience only women can have and no matter how the story is told or who does the telling it’s a powerful narrative indeed.

It took me almost 6 months wot write down the experience of V’s birth (and O is only almost 4 months) but once I did I felt very liberated. Liberated by letting out my frustration at the way some things had gone, by expressing my acceptance of my own fear, and sharing the joy of daughter’s arrival. It wasn’t the ‘perfect’ birth story because there isn’t one because it is what it is and it happened how it did and I was so happy to share.

This time I can’t quite release the way I did before. I want to share. To add to the narrative that I enjoy being a part of. But…I’m not sure what’s stopping me. Maybe I just need more time.

The logical side of me finds this annoying. Nothing went wrong, everything went well. No complications, in a safe place, the best situation I could hope for. I delivered little O in a women’s clinic instead of a hospital. I had lovely midwives and a nurse with me when I needed them, I had Dave with me the entire time, and my doctor popped in to say hello for a few minutes. This is the exact balance of medical safety and natural non-intervention that I wanted the first time and sought out this time. Continue reading

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What Drives You

I’m probably the last person in the world to talk about this Cadillac commercial. I saw it while we were watching some of the Oscars. So obviously it was aimed at fancy people. Or people who like to think they are fancy?

I honestly had to ask myself for a moment…is this for real? So I looked it up in my spare time ie: a month later.

It’s for real. If you live sheltered from commercials like I do and haven’t seen it, it’s here:

Or if you’d rather not let this beautiful man ruin himself for you with this script, the transcript:

Why do we work so hard? For what? For this? For stuff? Other countries they work, they stroll home, they stop by the cafe, they take August off. Off. Why aren’t you like that? Why aren’t we like that?

Because we’re crazy driven, hard working believers, that’s why. Those other countries think we’re nuts. Whatever! Were the Wright brothers insane? Bill Gates? Les Paul? Ali?

Were we nuts when we pointed to the moon? That’s right, we went up there, and you know what we got? Bored. So we left. Got a car up there, left the keys in it. Do you know why? Because we’re the only ones going back up there. That’s why.

But I digress… It’s pretty simple. You work hard, you create your own luck, and you gotta believe anything’s possible. As for all the stuff, that’s the up-side of only taking two weeks off in August. N’est-ce pas?

The first ever ELR.
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So once you’ve soaked that up, I’ll just let fly with my personal analysis of this. Heavy on the sarcasm.

Unfortunately, they lost me in the first lines. Implying that strolling home by a cafe is…undesirable somehow? Perhaps driving home in the dark in the stop and go traffic of many suburban commuters is better? Ok sure. Let’s say that. Cafes are awful and strolling is the worst.

And taking August off? How horrible that must be for those socialists with their healthcare! I’m actually surprised we didn’t get a healthcare jab in this commercial somehow. They are probably going to the cafe during that month! THE CAFE!

But to answer the question posed to me by Cadillac: why aren’t we like that? Is it, as they posit, because we are “crazy driven, hard working believers”? The short answer is no. But let me explain. Continue reading

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