Mourning and Joy

Thinking of my mom’s dear friend who passed away a couple of days ago at the age of 80. I have memories of going to her house during summer vacation, running around in her garden, and sitting on her couch watching videos on MTV while keeping an ear out for the mention of my name as they spoke Japanese in the kitchen.

Like my mom, her friend was a young child in Okinawa during World War II. When I think of how little they had as children, I gain perspective on how little we actually need to be happy. My mom and her friend had quite a lot in common. They started their lives in dire circumstances, but survived and went on to live long, beautiful lives. They married soldiers whose jobs took them all over this big, beautiful planet. They found joy in gardening, traveling, and raising their children.

80 years no longer seems like a long enough time to be here, but when I think of the way their lives started, I feel lucky for every day that I’m given with family and friends. I plan to spend even the worst days finding moments of joy.

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“Serendipetty”

Some things are bumming me out lately and most of it is out of my hands. I can probably control some of it, and I can certainly figure out how to deal with the rest. I will say that the right song always seems to magically appear when I need to hear it. Cheers, Tom Petty. I needed this today.

Well I know what’s right.
I got just one life.
In a world that keeps on pushing me around but I’ll stand my ground.
And I won’t back down.

Her First All-Ages Show

First concerts are a big deal. My first is slightly embarrassing: New Kids On The Block, Oakland Coliseum. Give me a break though. I was an eleven year old girl in 1989, and I hustled to get those tickets. One of the after-school clubs at my brother’s high school was raffling off 4 tickets to see them. I had a little bit of babysitting money*, but not enough to buy myself a concert ticket. I went halvsies with every New-Kid loving middle school girl in my class and bought twice as many raffle tickets as I could have afforded on my own. My plan worked when a little girl named Georgia won. I remember wearing a teal sweater with my tightrolled jeans and teasing my bangs to the heavens.  I wanted to look my best if I was going to be in the same room as the love of my eleven year old life. At the end of the song, “My Favorite Girl,” my favorite new kid pointed in my general direction. I was seated in the back of the nosebleed seats, but I was certain that he meant ME.**
*In the 1900’s, people trusted eleven year olds to watch their babies.
** baby narcissist

Last night, my daughter went to her first real concert. She’s not going to remember it but I will never forget it. We have been to street festivals and such, but last night, I took my 2 year old daughter to Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia to see Ingrid Michaelson. Her ticket stub is saved and will be placed in a ticket stub album as soon as I find one that I  love. Jealous? I am! How amazing would it be to have one of those from babyhood through adulthood? One day, she will start her own collection of stubs and will have the honor of attending the first concert of her choosing, but I’m hoping to cultivate a love for music early so that she never knows life without it.

I was nervous. I packed a huge bag of toys and snacks. I decided early on that we would just leave if she started to get bored or toddler-crazy. I bought ear plugs to protect her hearing. Would she wear them? (Yes! There was no objection to my sticking foam plugs in her ears.) My friends and I purchased orchestra seats, but planned to sit on the lawn so we could get up and wander around as needed. After a few days of showers, the lawn was wet and it was an unseasonably cool night for June, with temperatures in the 50s. We ditched the lawn plan and settled into our warm, dry seats with our fingers crossed.

The opening act was a trio of baby boys called Jukebox the Ghost. I wasn’t sure if she was going to be into it, so I pulled tiny Elsa and Aurora figures out of her overpacked Minnie Mouse backpack of tricks. She found the coloring book that I was trying to hide because we weren’t sprawled out on a blanket. There was a lot of stuff on our laps. But then the music began. Her eyes were fixed on the middle of the stage where the drummer was planted between the guitar player and the piano playing lead singer. After studying him for a moment she launched into her own air drumming set. She was into it.

Right before Ingrid began her set, more people piled into their seats. My girl could no longer see  the stage from her own seat so she climbed on my lap. I was surprised that she sat there relatively still, but she was so happy to watch the show. Her little head rested below my own and I breathed in the smell of her lavender baby shampoo. The warmth and weight of my child enjoying live music on my lap was a thing of beauty. She was mesmerized with Ingrid’s performance. In between songs, my daughter’s sweet little voice could be heard singing the refrain from the last song.

Ingrid began to play her song “Everybody.” My girl knows this song because it is played at the end of the movie Ramona and Beezus, based on the book by Beverly Cleary. I was obsessed with the Ramona Quimby books as a child. The movie is adorable and I love that my kid loves this story that we will eventually share in book form. Ingrid started to sing the first few notes and I felt my daughter’s body take in a deep, sharp breath before she turned around and looked at me with the most exquisite smile and said, “Ramona song!” Magic.

We left when Ingrid started singing a softer song and my daughter remembered that she was two and started acting a little silly. It’s not standard practice for me to leave a show early, but I wanted to get my girl out before the crowd left en masse. Also, bedtime. I didn’t want to turn a late night into an all-nighter. She went to bed a couple of hours later than usual, but she woke up the next morning acting giddy, silly, and joyful. She also asked me to put on Ramona and Beezus. I happily obliged. This musical little Quimby loving sprite is definitely mine.

So tell me about your first concert. Who did you see? How old were you? Parents, tell me about your experiences with kids at concerts!

For The First Time In Forever, I Went Shopping By Myself

If time travel is ever possible, this post will explain to my younger, childless self, why today was such a big deal that I would put it in my top ten (maybe top twenty) best days of my life.

It started when my boss texted me to tell me that the snowy roads were messy and I could stay home today. She knows that I am anxious about driving on icy roads. I admire my friends who work in health care and have no choice but to drive in terrible weather. Since I do not save lives for a living, I don’t see a point in risking my own. I chose to take her word for it that the town where I work was worse than where I live.

I had already dropped my daughter off at my parent’s house for the day. I was already on my way. I posed the following question to a mom’s group on Facebook:

So I was heading to work and my boss texted that roads are messy and I can stay home. I already dropped my girl off at my parent’s. Would you a) just go to work, b) go home and do productive things around the house, c) pick up kiddo for (ANOTHER) snow day, d) go to the movies. 

The ladies did not disappoint with their answers. A chorus of B and D answers encouraged me to enjoy the day to myself. Boy, did I ever. I’m not really a shopper anymore, but for the last few months, I’ve carried a list of things to buy if I happen to see them while I am out. I needed a ticket stub journal, desk organizing things, pot holders. Super sexy stuff.

First, I went to Target. I needed to buy nighttime diapers. Exciting! While there, I discovered so many things that I never see when I am shopping with my two-year old. I have had a couple of Target gift cards for more than a year. This is absurd. I am at Target all.of.the.time. I usually race through the store in hopes of finding what I need, while crossing my fingers that my girl doesn’t notice every crappy toy with a Frozen sticker slapped on it. Today, I took my time. I was so excited to mindlessly shop, that I was *smiling* at strangers. I found my desk organizing things, a new book, a cute new wallet, pot holders, a place to store my ticket stubs, and diapers. But… I forgot to pay for the diapers. As I loaded my car, I noticed the box of diapers on the bottom of my shopping cart that I forgot to mention to the cashier. I put it in my car. I’m not going to lie. I thought about driving away, but I have this annoying habit of always doing the right thing. I walked back in to the store, told the customer service guy what happened, and paid for the diapers. He gave me 20% off for being so honest. What?! They were already on sale. We’re talking a few bucks here, but it felt better to save a few dollars instead of stealing several more.

Lunch time. I live in the suburbs and since I wasn’t sure about the roads, I wanted to stay local. I was about to go to Chipotle for lunch when I realized, I do not have my husband or child with me. For the first time in forever, (damn it, Frozen,) I can go wherever I want! I went to a pho restaurant because I was blissfully alone. I wouldn’t dream of taking my kid to a joint that doesn’t serve crayons as an appetizer, and my husband wouldn’t dream of trying something on this fantastic menu.

What do you think when you see someone dining alone? Are you sad for them? Aw, poor lady has no friends. Or, aw, poor guy is lonely. Dude. Stop. Eating alone is magnificent. I feel the same way about traveling alone. I think it’s because I like myself. I’m also reaping the wonderful reward that comes with aging: not giving a **** what people think. 15 years ago, I would probably just go without lunch before sitting in a restaurant alone. Today? I proudly requested my table for one. I enjoyed consuming pho along with the words of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken.
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I love my friends and family, but sometimes it is a joy to silently take in the noise of restaurant patrons chattering away without the pressure of having to converse.

My next stop was Macy’s. I had a couple of gift cards to spend there and I have been wanting a new, structured tote to replace the slouchy, impractical bag that I have been carrying for far too long. Without paying a cent of my own money, I left Macy’s with a bag that was on sale for $200 less than the original price. I am not a shopper, but this was kind of thrilling.

New Bag - Macy's Ladybug Wallet - Target Yay, gift cards!

New Bag – Macy’s
Ladybug Wallet – Target
Yay, gift cards!

At this point, I’m looking for the piano that is going to fall on my head.

After leaving the mall, I went to Home Goods, knowing that they carry the kid’s gardening tools that I wanted to buy for my daughter’s Easter gift. I used my remaining Christmas money to purchase that gift and a few fun things for myself. As I paid for my things, another customer told the cashier why her credit card didn’t work. He nodded. She walked away. He told me that she yelled at him and my maternal instincts kicked in. I told him that working retail is really hard and people are unreasonable sometimes. I told him that the only thing he could do was just continue to be kind and hope that kindness spreads. I have a day off filled with consumerism and now I think I’m the Dalai Lama.

My last stop before returning to reality? Home. I unwrapped my purchases and got to work. I organized the junk drawer in the kitchen, organized my desk, and then I assembled my daughter’s Easter basket and hid it in my closet. I kind of listened to the Parks and Rec cast on my DVR’d episode of Late Night With Seth Meyers while chopping veggies for dinner. Finally, I went back to my parent’s house to pick up my girl. I spent my day shopping, organizing, and enjoying an unencumbered existence. I could actually hear my inner voice thanking me for nourishing my own needs.

Thanks to the women who encouraged me to enjoy my break today, I now have the following organized spaces to enjoy:

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The junk drawer becomes the organized drawer of miscellaneous things.

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Ticket stubs and guitar picks. Swoon.

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Everything has a home. My wonderful husband is cool with a framed pic of me and my favorite rock star on my desk.

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A home for three of my favorite people. Hubby, Tori Amos, Baby

 

And my Easter shopping is done! Instead of a basket, I purchased a pretty storage basket that we will keep in her playroom for toys. No waste!

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Gardening tools, watering can, The Velveteen Rabbit, and bubbles.

There you have it, time traveling me. Being a mom is hard. Really hard. It’s so hard that finding time to buy bubbles for your two-year old’s Easter basket is actually tricky. Doing ANYTHING alone is huge when you’re parenting a toddler. Now, show me how to visit 1995, please.

This Mom Went To A Rock Show And Went Weeeeeee All The Way Home.

Last night, I hung up my mom hat and let down my rock and roll hair. I went to the 9:30 Club in DC to see the band The Wild Feathers with my friends Sheila and Melissa. Going to this show was in the stars. Melissa casually brought up the show in a FB message last week, saying that she was thinking of going to this show. I asked if tickets were still available. While she found out about the ticket situation, I found a just-in-case babysitter and Sheila confirmed that she was free. Because the music gods are kind and generous, tickets were available, we were all able to go, and the cherry on top? We discovered that the show was super early. Doors were at 5 o’clock! This meant that we would have time to get to the venue, have drinks in the cavernous basement bar of 9:30 and actually hear each other talk, see a fantastic rock show, and best of all… be home and asleep by 11 o’clock. Yes, I am old and the mother of a toddler. Sleep is everything. (I recently said Dave Grohl is everything. I guess sleeping with Dave Grohl would really be everything? I’m certain he would think so, but enormous ego be damned, I still love him.)

So, this band was really great. Melissa, Sheila and I love to share music with each other. The Wild Feathers album magically appeared in my mail box one day after Melissa discovered them. Sheila was lucky enough to see them a few months back, opening for another band that she loves. Their harmonies are just beautiful on the album, and their performance was lively and tight. I’m a little embarrassed by the tweet that I wrote during the show, enchanted by the new song that they played.

My idiotic tweet: Songwriters make my heart hurt, even in the happiest time of my life. Are you ****ing  kidding me with these new lyrics, @TheWildFeathers?

The Wild Feathers retweeted this, but thankfully, they did not ask me which line gutted me so. I don’t remember. It’s not like I was a waste-face, but my alcohol tolerance is not what it used to be. I told my friend on our way home from the show about the exhilaration of being at a concert. I explained that women are constantly thinking of what needs to be done next. Our minds are never still as we worry about all of the things. For me, going to a rock show is bliss. For a couple of hours, I am completely relaxed while exciting and/or beautiful sounds are screaming and/or delicately whispering  in my ears. For a couple of hours, nothing else exists.

Those words escaped my mouth and I felt the icy glare of the judgmental mom who lives inside my brain. Let’s call her Blaire. She’s a real bitch and I try not to believe anything she says. Last night, Blaire was gossiping to other fictional moms about how “Stephanie forgot about her daughter while she was drunk at a rock show on a weeknight!” Listen up, Blaire. First of all, my daughter is two and I don’t have to be at work until noon so weeknights mean nothing. Secondly, this is a batshit and unnecessary argument that I am having with myself. Finally, it is absurd to think that I can’t have a moment of transcendence just because I am a mother now.

Luckily, I came across this blog post by Liz Gragan, written in response to this NY Times article by Heather Havrilesky, both affirming my case against Blaire’s judgment. Havrilesky writes that “The current culture demands that every mother be all in, all the time.” Later she writes, “Somehow, as we’ve learned to treat children as people with desires and rights of their own, we’ve stopped treating ourselves and one another as such.” Gragan’s response is that it doesn’t have to be this way. That it’s perfectly okay to retain your own identity after having children. Actually, I think that Havrilesky is saying the same thing, but she is just noting that it doesn’t seem acceptable to not let motherhood be an all-encompassing role. For me, Blaire’s voice is our culture’s voice screaming that I would have time to be Super Mom if I wasn’t selfishly seeking booze in nightclubs with bands and girlfriends. But… my voice, which is probably more crass than Havrilesky and Gragan’s, but in complete accord with what I think they are saying, says screw that. Like most parents, I want my daughter to grow up to be happy. If I’ve learned anything in my first two years as a parent, it’s that children learn most from modeling our behavior. I want her to be responsible, to do well at work, and be a good mother if she chooses to be one at all. I think I’m doing okay on those counts. Most of all,  I hope that she sees that I strive for balance and harmony, and that I find those things because I recognize that my happiness and well-being are as crucial to nurture as all of the other things on my neverending to-do list.

Here’s a video of Left My Woman by The Wild Feathers. So, the first line is disturbing. Maybe I just don’t get the metaphor? Creepy opening vibe aside, this is the song that was playing when the band let the audience take over the chorus. It is always chilling and awesome to sing in unison with a bunch of other blissful fans.

Christmas Wishlist

I hate writing a gift list. I know it’s helpful, but I prefer to be surprised with something that the gift-giver thought I would love. I usually do. Alas, I have been asked to create lists for the two Secret Santa exchanges that I am participating in and I don’t want to be difficult. Feel free to just use these items as inspiration for your own ideas, Secret Santa! Everyone else, I’m posting this here because this is actually a little bit fun – to shop and not spend any money is a lovely thing.

Things I want but probably won’t buy for myself. Click photo for link.

Van Gogh Starry Night pendant Etsy

Scarves This one is from Old Navy, but I’d love almost any scarf. I’m into plaid, polka dots, stripes, and most patterns. I’m not afraid of color, but black always works, too. White is a bad idea unless coffee drips become fashionable one day.

Funny things. It doesn’t have to be a tee shirt, but I like things that make me laugh.

Notorious R.G.B. sweatshirt.

Sweet Melody Alex & Ani bracelet in Rafaellan Silver Also love the leather and antique collections.

Lush Bath Bombs Any except for the seaweed one. It was lovely, but it made a HUGE mess of my tub!

A Beautiful Mess Happy Mail subscription. This is a pricy one since it is a subscription service, but I’m mainly putting this here so I remember to think about it if I ever want to treat myself. 🙂

 

Gift Certificates are FANTASTIC. Some say that they aren’t personal enough, but I love having the option to splurge on something weeks or months after the holiday has passed. Fear not. If I am given a Target gift card, I am not using that on basic toiletries or cleaning supplies. I will stash that card away for something special that I really, really want.

Stores where gift cards are appreciated, in any amount.
Macy’s
Nordstrom
Target
Anthropologie
Paper Source
http://www.uncommongoods.com
Ticketmaster (they’re the devil, but I need to go to shows)
Etsy
Amazon
Southwest Air
Barnes & Noble
iTunes

For a general idea of things that I love, think kitschy, unique, fun. I love sending and receiving real mail, so cute stationery is a plus. I love things that symbolize peace and kindness. I lost a silver necklace with a delicate lotus charm that I purchased at a holiday market one year in NYC. I don’t remember the name of the artisan, but I liked that it wasn’t a mass-produced piece that anyone could have. I’m not a hipster or snob though, and if things are popular because they are made well or serve a great purpose, great! I need new things in the kitchen like oven mitts (Sur La Table has cute vintage looking sets) or Silpat baking mats and that is something I’ll probably never feel like spending money on.

Rattling off random things I love:
Music, elephants, guitars, (guitar lessons?) books, notebooks, stationery, stickers, notepads, red wine, coffee, delicate necklaces, chunky watches and bracelets, hair things, fun beauty products that I never splurge on, Chanel Chance perfume, Thymes Lotus Santal lotion, In Style magazine, Real Simple magazine, cookbooks (I never did buy the Smitten Kitchen book and I meant to. Martha Stewart or any other books about one pot, crock pot, or easy meals works,)  mix CD’s.

Things I do NOT want
I am slowly decluttering my home, so while certain home decor things may be absolutely darling, I don’t have the space for most of these things. Picture frames are sweet, but I am trying to only buy black frames. Most of my frames are IKEA Ribba frames and I like the consistency on my picture wall. I don’t want things that only serve a decorative purpose. I have a small house with very limited storage space, so I need to make good use of every thing.

I don’t know if this is helpful for the two people who have to buy me something for Christmas, but I’m super easy to please. And in the unlikely event that some benevolent admirer is wondering, “what could I send to Stephanie to brighten her day,” anything on this list will do.

 

Bunnies or Goldfish? My Choice is Not a Criticism of Yours!

This is a fantastic post about motherhood! Sometimes I feel that it’s just easier to not say anything at all about my parenting choices because I don’t want to seem judgmental and I don’t want to be judged. We aren’t all going to make the same choices, but I’m sure that we can agree that most of us are just doing the best that we can. PS. I TOTALLY have goldfish *and* bunnies in my cabinet.

Mom Upside Down

best bunnies

Dear Courtney,

Do you ever feel like motherhood is a competitive blood sport?  Do you ever feel like the other moms are constantly watching you from the corner of their eye, checking out your stroller, your diaper bag, your discipline, your kid’s snacks and clothes and toys and, and, and.

I feel it.  All the time.  And I’m totally, 100%, over it.

Until I realize I’m not.  No, in fact, sometimes I’m an active participant, in an almost subconscious way.

Example:  Not long ago I was on a zoo date with another mom and her two munchkins.  At lunch I pulled out juice boxes for my kids; she pulled out water bottles for hers.  Immediately I felt self conscious.  I began to stumble around and explain, “I probably should make mine drink water too.  We don’t do juice often, but we had these left over from that party… actually my kids almost never…

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