Clickin’ and Hopin’

When Kairi was a baby, while searching for Halloween costume to make for a three month old, I got an idea to make her little faerie costumes themed after the four seasons as a cute way of tracking her first year. While the faerie aspect didn’t really stick (we ended up with a faerie, an angel, a ballerina, and a dragonfly), we have four canvas prints of our favorites from each session hanging proudly in our living room. I didn’t take any of those pictures—two sets were taken by one photographer [Shaun Goodman/IMG Photography] , two by another [Courtney Taylor Bowls Photography], both friends my husband made by being a very charming and charismatic barista. Courtney also took a set of Christmas pictures for us one year, as well as newborn and nursing pictures once Sebastian was born. (Check out her work. She is insanely talented and if you ever need a photographer in the Richmond, VA area, use her.)

However…I got a little addicted to having professional quality pictures of my kids. But professional photography is expensive.

Fortunately, by this point I’d learned a little more about digital photography.

sebastian flower
October, 2016

When we did our fall session with Kairi, Shaun gave me an overview of some of his lenses, what his favorites were, etc… I ended up buying a lens for myself a few years later, a [lens], that would, unfortunately, be stolen when my car was broken into one night. So after Sebastian was born I decided to go for the lens Shaun had recommended in the first place, a 50mm, f/1.8. I chose [this one] after consulting with Courtney on it, since it was half the price of the name brand, and having just recently changed jobs, cost was a pretty big determining factor in everything we did. I only justified it at all, because I kept getting asked what I was going to do for Sebastian’s four seasons pictures, and I knew there was no way we could afford to book four sessions for him, and I wasn’t 100% certain of how I wanted to do them yet anyway. So I decided to buy the lens and take them myself. They wouldn’t be the same quality as Kairi’s, but if he cares about that when he gets older, I can point out that he had professional newborn pictures and hers were taken with a cell phone—and not even a smart phone at that.

 

Now, flashback: I took a photography class in high school, back before DSLRs. I used my dad’s old SLR from the 70s, and learned how to develop my own negatives, and print my own pictures. As a teenager, it was easy to believe that I would have a perfect bohemian life of a theater person, where I could write poetry and take pictures on the side, and not care how much money I made because as long as I had a roof and a place to sleep at the end of the day, pursuing my passions was more important than anything. I don’t have that life; instead I have a charming husband, two beautiful kids, a mortgage, a car payment, and an appreciation of expensive beer I’m not fully willing to part with.

 

But the older I get, the more time my kids take, the more I struggle with depression—the more I find I desperately need artistic outlets. For a very long time, this was fulfilled through cosplay—starting in early college and continuing until Kairi was over a year old, I took to costumes and crafting, reveling in the creation process as much as I did wearing the costumes themselves. But as she got older and time became harder and harder to come by, and as my body changed, cosplay became a chore more than a hobby, and cons were dominated by eating and nap schedules we had little control over.

 

Enter, writing. Which overlapped with cosplay for a long time. But lately the depression is eating into my ability to write much of anything, much less anything I’m willing to share with anyone else.

 

But I have a camera lens. And I enjoy taking pictures of my kids, which makes photography something that I can incorporate into motherhood a lot more easily than crafting or writing—at least while they are this little. And it’s something that is easier for me to accept being only okay with, because I am so far behind the curve with technology that no matter how much I might develop my own skills, I will never really be able to compete without spending money on new lenses, and on editing software.

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November, 2016. Not as much of a Pinterest!fail as it could be? 

I’m not sure what my next steps are right now. I’ve gotten comfortable enough with my camera on candid shots of my own kids that I want to start moving onto something else, but I’m not sure what. Posed shots, I think. And other people’s kids, for sure. It’s easier with my own children, because I know their moods, I can predict their behavior (a little bit, at least), and I know what environments they are going to be the most comfortable in. Plus there’s just the anxiety of “will these shots be worth this person’s time?” I’ve taken a couple of pictures for a friend—her daughter’s Christmas card pictures last year, and a couple of maternity shots for her this weekend, and while she claims to love them, how do I know she’s not just being nice? Taking pictures of my kids I can watch and wait, and take a picture when the moment feels right. Setting a time and place for someone else puts the quality of the shot entirely on my skill level—which is not that high. But the only way to develop that of course, is to just do it.

I’ll make money with it one day. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get over the anxiety hurdle for photography to be my primary source of income, but I think I can handle charging budget prices to bring in a little bit of extra income–and add a little bit more art to my life, and to the lives of others.

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September, 2016. Billy loves this shot. I see everything wrong with it, but it still came out better than I expected it to!

Trail Review – Pocosin Mission

Last weekend (okay, a week and a half ago), we went up to Skyline Drive to hike the trail down to the Pocosin Mission ruins. I picked it initially since we’d never done it before and it was pretty close to the Swift Creek Gap entrance to Skyline Drive, and it was a fairly short trail. We stuck to this decision after reading that it walked past one of the PATC cabins, and, to quote Billy, “you had me at ruins.”

It ended up being pretty cold the day we went–not cold by winter hiking standards, but it was hovering around 32-33 degrees, which is pretty cold for us.

The parking spur is easy to miss, since it’s not a lot but a small road, but the trailhead itself is very obvious, as it’s a fire road. I’m not always a huge fan of fire road trails, since part of the appeal of driving out of the city is being about to hike on different terrain than the gravel trails of the parks we’re used to, but it is nice with Kairi, whose hiking stamina is still wildly unpredictable.

About a tenth of a mile down the trail, is the Pocosin cabin. We stopped for a snack (Kairi’s favorite part of hiking), and for me to try and take a few pictures of Sebastian for the ‘winter’ pictures of his First Year of Seasons pictures. I’ve wanted for years to camp in the Doyles River cabin a little further south on Skyline Drive because of the gorgeous views, but in my researching the PATC cabins I managed to miss looking up this one, and now that we’ve discovered it, we’re already making plans to spend a couple of nights there for Sebastian’s birthday. The problem with Doyles River, is that once you get off the Doyles River trail, there’s about a quarter mile hike that’s very steep to get to the cabin–with one of us wearing Sebastian (and possibly Kairi), trying to get enough gear/food/water up there for a couple of nights is something I’ve been hesitant to try while the kids are small, but because the fireroad leading into Pocosin is so flat and wide, this seems like a perfect place to start with small kids. (Don’t judge too harshly–it’s been years since I’ve been primitive camping even by myself, and we definitely adhere to the ‘better to be overprepared than underprepared’ philosophy. Especially when it comes to water.)

Even in the cold, the kids loved playing around the cabin, and it still has a pretty nice view. I’m not sure how much you’d get in summer, since the gap in the trees looking at the mountain across the valley (not sure which mountain–anyone know?) seems like it would be pretty filled in when the trees have their leaves, but I’m optimistic that in April we’ll get some nice wildflowers, and the spring buds won’t have entirely obscured the view.

When we left the cabin we continued towards the ruins. You’re on the fire road the whole way, and it’s a gentle downhill trek. There was a lot of runoff on the trail from where snow and ice had recently melted that we had to watch for for about the first tenth of a mile, but after that it dried out, and we got into the sort of quiet stillness that makes me love winter hiking.

The ruins themselves were cool, but probably better for older children than our little ones. The old wooden structure is pretty dilapidated, and because of the cold Kairi wasn’t that interested in exploring it, but I can see it being more difficult to keep her away in warmer weather, and it’s definitely not something I would want a young child playing around in. Plus there was a lot of broken glass on the ground–I hope this is not normally the case, and we would have packed it out ourselves if I hadn’t thought she would try and “help.”

There were some stone structures that seemed sturdy enough to let her climb on however, and she enjoyed those–and it made for a couple of nice pictures.

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I’m pretty sure this would be her facebook profile picture if she were old enough to use social media. 

We just went down and out, but at the ruins there’s a connector trail that takes you, allegedly, to Swift Creek Falls. Maybe when we go to the cabin we’ll try that out, since we won’t have to worry as much about losing daylight by April.

The trip back out showed both of us how out of shape we are, but is really a pretty gentle incline for people who have spent less time parked under a nursing baby all winter long. Kairi would have been fine walking up it by herself if she hadn’t been so cold that she wanted to be worn (she walked up Dark Hollow Falls by herself last summer, so this would have been a breeze!). Back at the parking area I took a few more pictures–and it started snowing! Sadly Sebastian was pretty Done with posing around the time the snow started so I didn’t get any good shots with the snow, but it did treat us to a lovely trip back to the gatehouse–and I saw later in the day on facebook that Skyline Drive ended up closing two hours after we left, so it’s a good thing we didn’t try and add any extra miles to our trip!

Overall–definitely a trail we’ll try again, and we’re looking forward to our trip to the cabin this spring!

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No snow–but he sure was happy!

Lunch Break Activism 

I made 11 phone calls on my lunch break today.

 Looking at my call log on my phone, this took 16 minutes, from the first to last call. And since I called for two different issues, it included the time when I was reviewing and coaching myself through the second round of calls before dialing that first number. 

I hate the phone. I’ve had jobs for so long where I have make a tremendous number of phone calls, but it doesn’t make it any easier every time I have to dial without knowing what kind of attitude I might be met with on the other end. And even knowing that the people who answer the phones of our elected officials’ offices take hundreds of phone calls a day and aren’t interested in anything other than ‘yea’ or ‘nay,’ I still get nervous. What if they challenge me? What if they ask me something and I don’t know the answer, and I completely discredit myself? What if I say the wrong thing? 

The first call I made today was to the chair of the committee overseeing a bill in Virginia that would require employers to allow reasonable time and space for new mothers to express breast milk for the first year of their baby’s life (while, I might add, I was pumping at work!). I stuttered. I said the wrong bill numbers first and had to repeat myself. The woman who answered the phone was very polite, and all she did was thank me, and said they’d had several calls about that coming in and she would be sure to pass my message along. 
And that was that. 

There are a lot of scripts available for what to say if you want to give more detail, and while those help, they also make me nervous. What has helped me is seeing the tremendous number of people commenting saying they called, saying how quick the process was, saying the person on the other end of the phone was polite, saying they only expressed approval or concern. And it really is that easy. And each time, each day, it takes less time to psych myself into pressing the ‘dial’ button. 

So call. 

But beyond that–call to say thank you, to the reps who have spoken up in agreement with you. Say thank you for staying true to their campaigns, for the reasons you voted for them.

And call the ones you voted for when you DON’T agree. I’ve heard far, far too many people–friends and coworkers and strangers on the internet–say “I’m socially liberal but fiscally conservative.” And that infuriates me. Because we’ve had a Republican majority congress for years now, and now all three branches of the federal Government are about to be run by the GOP. So if SO MANY PEOPLE really are socially liberal–why aren’t YOU calling? We need you to call and tell your Republican representatives that you voted for them, but you won’t stand for the way their policies treat women. Treat POC. Treat the LGBT+ community. Treat Americans with disabilities. We need more pro-life feminists who can’t bring themselves to vote for a pro-choice candidate to call and demand equal pay for women, and affordable, accessible contraceptives and comprehensive sex ed. For all the talk on divisiveness right now, we are being steamrolled by partisan loyalty in the people that we elect. ELECT. As in, we chose them. And yet, we seem to just accept that horrible social policies must go hand in hand with conservative spending. 

Call. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s something that can be done every day, on every issue that you find important. 

Rebranding…again

I’m taking a second attempt at rebranding.

The last time I did this, I was gearing it towards something that was taking over my life, but not something I particularly enjoyed. Writing about being a travelling executive mom meant having to deal with the fact that I was doing something that gave me a tremendous amount of anxiety and guilt. Neither of which are easy to process publicly.

Now?

I bought a new lens for my camera last summer and I’m taking pictures of my kids. I’m reading more. We are spending more time together outside as a family. I wrote the first draft of a novel in November.

I’m painfully introverted, and the antenatal depression I had with our second baby has come back as postpartum depression. The world is a frightening, overwhelming place right now, and as it turns out, I’m not in a position to don a pink dress (or blue duster, or modified kimono, or green cloak, or–) and set out to save the world. I have very young kids who need me. I frequently collapse under the weight of the depression and find it difficult to get out of bed, much less lead a revolution.

But I can call my representatives in congress. I can make sure I am raising children who are inquisitive, who love learning, who treat others with kindness, and who respect the natural world.

I can Make Good Art.

And that’s what I intend to do.

The Moving Post.

My Daughter's Gonna Be A Super Villain!

“Have you noticed that [everybody else’s] stuff is s**t and all your s**t is stuff?” – George Carlin

I own a lot of things.  They aren’t big things or important things, they’re just… things.  Bottle caps, ticket stubs, pens, cigar bands, random arcade tokens, etc.  Basically, an assortment of miscellaneous odds and ends that I’ve managed to gather over the course of my life thus far.  None of these items have a use any more beyond nostalgia for a life I’ve since grown out of and bragging rights for some event I can’t remember the details to.

I have nineteen empty bottles that I’ve been holding on to because I like the labels.  Nineteen.  Four of them are special in that I will never be able to purchase them again, but the other fifteen?  They have gargoyles on them.  That’s it.

That’s just one example, but it’s a good one…

View original post 1,342 more words

Re-branding

When I started my new job, I had the idea to rebrand this blog. A lot of the ideas I had for entries seemed to focus more on my family than on vague philosophies about finding The Way. About a month ago I even changed the format and added a header. And a few days ago I thought about creating a completely new blog, with a new URL and everything.

I have no idea if I’m going to do anything with this place, or just continue to use it for those times when I have thoughts I manage to string together in a marginally coherent fashion. Either way, I needed a change. And while I originally thought I’d write a post on the idea of branding, and what it means from a personal standpoint (and not, I might add, a flatiron standpoint), and then, as the new year approached, thought I might write on the new year (though not, perhaps, as optimistically as I did three years ago).

But instead I want to write about Kairi, and the end of a journey.

nursing

I always planned to breastfeed. I have nothing against formula-feeding moms and know that for many, formula is the reason their babies are still here. Or the reason that mom’s sanity is still here. Or some combination of the two. But for me, breastfeeding was just what you *did,* and as long as I had milk and Kairi wasn’t born with anything that would have prevented her from being able to latch, she would nurse.

This isn’t necessarily a post about our breastfeeding journey, because we really were very lucky in terms of that. She latched for the first time about 30 minutes after birth, and never looked back. I hated pumping but managed it well enough to keep her fed while I was a work, and while I had a pretty severe dip in supply when she was about 3 months old, from a combination of travelling, me getting sick, and going back to work full time, once I got that under control we were fine. I even had some frozen milk leftover I was able to donate to another mama after Kairi’s first birthday. The hardest part of nursing for us, was that she wanted to nurse All. The. Time., and in short sessions, which made it hard to do anything when I was home, and ensured she woke up multiple times a night to nurse. And because she loved nursing so much, she loved sticking her hand down my shirt and twiddling (if you’re not sure what that is, it’s exactly what it sounds like and just as annoying). There were a lot of frustrations on my part, but not a lot of actual difficulty.

By the time I started travelling overnight for work, we were down to one nursing session per day, at bedtime, and only on the nights I was home. My supply dropped, and dropped. And around Thanksgiving, she was losing interest in nursing at night entirely, so I decided I would pick a day that would be The Last Day, so I wouldn’t miss it. And I had a few days in mind–Christmas, New Year’s, or her 18 month birthday (which, spoiler alert, was today).

Then Christmas came, and she got sick and wanted to nurse more. And last week she was mostly better, but still very determined to go back to her old habits, and between being sick and getting her molars, bedtime in general was being a nightmarish (see what I did there?) experience, and not the way either of us needed to say goodbye to nursing.

And then…tonight.  I brought my phone upstairs on a whim, since I didn’t feel like going into the bedroom to grab my book. Bedtime was way too late and I expected a battle and figuring I wouldn’t get much reading in, anyway. We sat down. She lifted my shirt, and smiled at me before latching on. And for the first few minutes, she went back and forth between the breast and her sippy cup (again–almost no supply anymore), and at one point tried to put both in her mouth at the same time. And eventually gave up and just…nursed. She popped off one more time to drink from her sippy cup and I switched her to the other side, and she nursed–comfort nursed, rather–with her eyes half-closed and that perfect, peaceful look babies have as they are drifting off, until she fell asleep at the breast and let her head drop beside me.

It was perfect.

So my rebranding isn’t about my blog, or what I want people to think of when they see me, or even what I want out of the new year. It’s about me and my daughter. And that for the first time since she was conceived, we now exist entirely as two separate people. Tomorrow I’ll wake up and drive to Lynchburg, and she’ll wake up, fully 18 months old, with no idea that anything is different. And while nothing will *really* change from this, we both had one last, beautiful moment as one.

sleeping niblet

Goodnight tiny bug. ❤

Happy Birthday to Me

[Originally written on 10/7/14. How time flies.]
Tomorrow is my 30th birthday. And while being married to somebody over a decade your senior gives you a fairly “meh” attitude towards the actual number of your age (I actually forget how old I am quite frequently…), I’ve thought a lot over the last few months about my 20s, where I am now, and what it means to be successful. Seeing as I am going to celebrate 30 by waking up alone in a hotel room 150 miles from home, the lead in to writing about my 30th birthday almost writes itself.
I don’t remember my 20th birthday. I didn’t realize this until just now, when I tried recalling it as a point of comparison. I remember 19, which was a really incredible birthday. I was a freshman in college, and my roommate and boyfriend at-the-time threw me a surprise party. It was in the study lounge across the hall from my dorm, only had chips and soda for refreshments, but there were *so many people* there. Back then I was far more extroverted, but no less a stranger to compartmentalizing my life, and there was a crossover of those compartments that my roommate (one of the biggest extroverts to ever extravert) managed to track down and get into one place, if only for an hour or so. I felt so amazingly, wonderfully, loved. And skipping ahead two years, whlie I don’t remember 20 (it *might* have been because we combined it with a Halloween party? I remember a Halloween party that year at least….), 21 was another year marked with the various social circles I kept–my work friends one night. My family. My work friends from the job I had recently left. My school friends. With my birthday falling on Columbus Day weekend, I had a five day long celebration, and while many drinks were purchased, never got truly drunk once.
And now, a decade later, I am sitting in a hotel room, drinking beer, eating sushi and tempura delivered right to my room, and listening to music playing on a cell phone app, and the sound of a serious thunderstorm. Alone.
But this is not a lament.
I actually got the general idea of this almost two years ago, right after I announced my pregnancy at work. One of the other managers was asking me about my feelings on becoming a mother, and mentioned that she was older than I was, but I had a house (even if we rent), a husband, and now I was going to have a baby. She wasn’t being deprecating, more just congratulating me on what is, I feel, a very white, suburban measure of success (particularly as she isn’t white–and yes, that is significant, as that white, suburban dream rarely takes into account the fact that other cultures don’t share the same dreams, and aren’t afforded the same opportunities to achieve it even when they do.).
Graduate. Get married. Have a baby. These are the things you do in you twenties. These are the things I see friends who have already turned 30 joking about if they don’t have, congratulating themselves on if they do.
My response to my coworker was that success is subjective, and then to point out the numerous trips overseas she’s taken, trips she wouldn’t have been able to take as easily if she was married (traveling together is awesome, but vacations do tend to double in price, especially if airfare is involved). Trips that people who do get married young later can wish they’d found a way to do before they settled down. She brightened a little at that, and began reminiscing about some of the things she has seen. In her 20s. She’s so well-travelled–and that is successful.
I have another friend, a close friend, a friend I admire endlessly, who is just older than me, and is not married and does not have children. We worked together, years ago, and left that job around the same time–where I moved back home and ended up getting married, and finding a job in the same mall I worked at when I was in high school even if in a vastly different role, she has been touring the world on concerts for people you may -may- have heard of. Like Ricky Martin. And Beyonce. Not too long ago her job took her to New Zealand, and while it was for work and not pleasure, my jealously over that cannot be understated. She is successful.
So why, at milestone birthdays, is there such pressure to measure ourselves? Why in general? Why is success ever anything other than subjective?
For what it’s worth–I consider myself successful. I am a wife, and a mother. I recently took a job that allows me to support my family financially. I might not be home as often as I would like, but I have given my daughter the gift of her father, and given her father the gift of time to pursue his dream. I am writing fairly regularly. Maybe not anything that will ever be published, but it is a constant, creative outlet. I bought my first brand new car last month. I have roots. As nomadic as I thought I was, for as long as I spent yearning for the greener grass, I have a solid network of friends, and a city I love and am proud to live in. And I am not sad to wake up tomorrow, alone. It is a side-effect of a life that is different than I ever would have imagined, but one that I am happy with.
And time flies. Ten years ago I was reluctantly pursuing a college degree, ready to drop out to either take a full time job in theme park entertainment, or to be a military wife–whichever opportunity presented itself first. Would 20 year old me be satisfied, that I haven’t been to New Zealand? Would teenage me be anything other than disgusted to learn that she grows up to be a Suit? Because despite this ridiculous measure of white, suburban success, it’s also a white, suburban cautionary tale: don’t give up your dreams for the stable job with benefits, lest you end up with a body that won’t cooperate, remembering everything you *meant* to do. Right now, it’s what we are supposed to want. In 30 years, it will be something I compromised on.
Maybe.
Today, I am happy. Today, I measure success differently than I did at twenty. And I’m sure differently than I will at 40.
Tomorrow, I will start a new decade. And it will only be as different as I make it.
[I should note, here, that I woke up around 3am violently ill from the aforementioned Chinese food, and that sense then I have gained weight, found more grey hair, and an old knee injury is coming back in force. So maybe my 30s suck a little more than I thought they would on their eve. But it doesn’t change the fact that even though the idea of doing a Middle Earth tour is more and more a fleeting dream, I have a happy, fulfilling, sexy, and loving marriage, a healthy daughter who is full of joy and laughter, and a successful career, and that while I might not be protesting in D.C., or chaining myself to Redwoods, I am learning more ways to create private influence within my own life…)

Work-Life Balance

About a month ago I read a  blog post about being a working mom. Or so I thought. Being a working mom myself I got excited, because so many of the posts that tend to come my way are written by SAHMs, and I can only relate to those so much. There are challenges that SAHMs face that I do not, and challenges I face that they do not. Not to say one is more difficult that the other, but I was looking forward to a post about something more specific to my situation. Instead, work meant work-at home, and talked about the difficulties of that–which are, to be fair, immense, if my imagination and the internet are in any way accurate. But as this night I was feeling particularly stressed about working long hours and then coming home and being a mom, I thought I would just write my own post about it. Then the mom job kicked in before I could write anything and I didn’t get to it that night, and then the next day I found out about a promotional opportunity at work.

And I decided to hold off writing my post until I knew if I would get that job (I did!), since it adds an extra dimension to being a working mom. I’m now a working mom who will be working longer hours, traveling overnight 1-2 nights a week, and will take phone calls and answer emails from home. I will travel out of state for meetings periodically. I will spend a significant amount of time during the week away from home. I will miss many bedtimes, will wake up in a hotel half a state away from my family, and will no longer be able to go home and see my daughter on my lunch breaks.

In return, my husband is taking fewer hours at his job, and we will gain weekends as a family. Not all weekends, but far more than we have now (which is none, unless we request them off).

But for my original point–what is it that makes working outside the home hard?

Leaving in the morning. When she’s being cute. When she’s upset and just wants mommy. When it’s a beautiful day and we could go to the park. When it’s dreary and perfect for hanging out inside and playing with toys. When my friends are having play dates. When I pass her off to daddy, or grandma, or our family friend who babysits her once a week, and she cries because she doesn’t want me to let go.

Coming home at night. When she’s in a good mood and I missed it all day. When she’s in a bad mood and I’m exhausted and just want to sit for a few minutes but can’t even take the time to pee to try and unwind from work because she’s trying to climb into my lap, or unravel the toilet paper, or pull all of my earrings out for the drawer she got tall enough to reach since that morning. When I’m hungry and can’t make dinner because she didn’t take her afternoon nap and needs to go to bed so dinner has to wait. When I have an errand to run I can’t put off and we get home after bedtime, and the only chance I even get to cuddle with her is when she’s nursing, and I look at her and just want to cry that another day went by that she didn’t get to see her mommy.

When I see her do something new during the time I do have with her, and when I tell Billy, he already knows because he saw it happen earlier in the week.

When I have one day off and I need to buy groceries, run errands, make phone calls, catch up on paying the bills, do laundry, possibly squeeze in a visit with my friends to remind them that I exist, attempt to cook a real meal, clean up the gambit course she’s created during the week from her toys, and mow the grass, and at the end of the day I feel like I’ve spent about as much quality time with my daughter as I do on a day that I work. When I get annoyed with her for wanting my attention because this is my only day to take care of everything else, and then feel guilty for being annoyed with her because it’s also my only day to spend with her, and all those cutesy memes on the internet about how you can have a clean house when your kids are old because they’re only going to be little once flash through my mind.

When I just want time to myself.

The mix of guilt and exhaustion and yes, resentment, that comes in the time after work, after she has gone to bed, when the only thing I can do for myself is write or watch tv or sort laundry (hah!) because my craft room is a bunch of fabric shoved into a corner in the same room as her crib, and Billy is at work for another three hours so I can’t even take a walk.

So why take this new job? Why add longer hours, less time to do anything during the week, and more time away from home, when it’s already such a source of stress?

Because Billy gets to be home more. He can take on more of the household chores so I don’t have to spend every Saturday morning at the grocery store. Because, by being home more, he can have Billy time, as our babysitting needs will be reduced by necessity so we might be able to take advantage of Grandma to give him a few hours each week to take care of himself–write, get a haircut, even take a nap, which will make him a happier, healthier person.

Because I get alone time. I might spend most of it working, but I get one night in a hotel room every week completely by myself. I am not looking forward to going to sleep without my husband. Or to knowing that when Kairi wakes up wanting mommy I won’t be there. Or to have to say goodnight to her via Skype and not being able to kiss her, or see her smiling at me first thing in the morning. But I will have time to take a shower without worrying that I’m either missing her crying for me when she wakes up early from a nap, or trying to climb into the tub with me despite dad’s best efforts to entertain her. I will be able to pay bills, and make phone calls, and catch up on emails. I might even be able to write. And if nothing else, I get to spend 3 hours in the car each way listening to music, rocking out, and clearing the junk out of my head.

Because for the first time in our entire relationship, Billy and I will get to spend time together on the weekends where we don’t already have other plans. We’ll have days off that aren’t devoted to going out of town, or being social, or running errands. Kairi will get to spend time with both of her parents, instead of us taking turns the way we do now.

Because I’m trading an hour a night during the week where Kairi and I don’t get quality time anyway for weekends where we do.

I’m not fooling myself that it will be hard, or that all of the reasons I listed above that make being a working mom hard will become even harder, or that there are going to be times when I completely regret this decision and want to go back to the old way. But parents are constantly told we have to take time for ourselves. And taking this job has given me a chance to not only get a little bit of time to myself, but that will allow Billy to take time away for himself as well, and that will ultimately give the three of us more time together. And hopefully, the times when I’m not at work, and when I am Mom, I can be mom fully, and without distraction.

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”

We are cynical.

I hesitate to say that the internet has made us cynical, because it hasn’t–cynicism has always been there. But social media has made it easier to find other cynical attitudes and build upon them.

There are two ways I see it happen most frequently.

The first, is whenever a tragedy happens. A school shooting. Violent conflicts in other countries. Natural disasters. As soon as breaking news hits, there’s a race to be the first person to post about it on Facebook. And then once it’s out there, there’s a competition to be the most sympathetic to someone else’s plight. Who can make the most poignant comment about the deaths of children? The most profound statement about an act of war?

And almost immediately, there are the cynics. Someone who posts the everyday statistics of gun deaths followed by “why do we only care when it’s a mass shooting?” Someone who links to places you can donate money to help organizations in the trenches, fighting to make change when nobody is watching, with a smart-aleck comment about how sad Facebook messages aren’t going to change anything. The people who post off-topic conversations and then draw attention to how they aren’t caught up in the trend of talking about [said tragedy here.]

I’ve been both. More often than not, the cynic.

I think it’s all a search for authenticity, personally. That’s a much broader topic than I care to cover here, but ultimately, no matter your social media response, I think it’s a desire to express to the cyber-aether that you know something has happened in a way that isn’t just parroting what the person before you said. Maybe because what happened is too horrifying. Maybe because you feel helpless. Maybe because you don’t really care all that much but don’t want to appear heartless. (Or maybe because you don’t really care and want to make that known). But the sympathetics and cynics alike are all trying to acknowledge awareness, in whatever way seems best for them at the time.

The other cynicism I see isn’t as much a product of social media, but of academia, and that is the idea that pop culture is the numbing of society, and that if you’d rather play a video game than read a history book, watch a tv show than spend time in a research library, that you’re–whatever it is they say. Weak-minded. A drone. Something about False Idols.

I haven’t been there as often. But I have. Sometimes. It’s okay to obsess over a TV show, but only a smart TV show. I’ve struggled to make peace between the fact that I am a raging fangirl and the fact that I read non-fiction for fun, grow some of my own food, and look up to people in academia who dismiss fandom as trite and unenlightened. I have frequently referred to the “____ and Philosophy” books as ‘Pop Philosophy,’ and admitted they are enjoyable reads, but dismissed them as having no academic merit.

Maybe it’s a way of shutting millennials out of discussions about climate change, terrapsychology, philosophy. Maybe it’s a hipster thing, for millennials who want to sound like they are above their peers who go to see movies on opening weekend, and flock to twitter after a season finale to flail about a fictional world. That discussion is also for another time though–a time that talks about Jung, Lewis, and Campbell, about archetypes and myth.

This discussion is about Robin Williams, and the complete lack of cynicism I’ve seen on social media since the news broke of his passing.

I haven’t seen people clamoring for the best eulogy, or trying to break the news in an authentic way. I haven’t seen the predictable commentary on the cause of death (unless you count the outpouring of support for mental illness, the genuine messages of hope and love for people fighting a similar battle, and the links to places to find support). I haven’t seen the cynics, mocking people for getting upset over the loss of somebody they never knew, while children are dying in the streets overseas.

I’m not saying those posts aren’t out there–but they’re not nearly as vocal as they normally are.

What I see, are people talking about the impact his movies had on their lives. People bonding over which one of his films were their favorites. People remembering the laughter he brought to their childhood. People connecting.

I remember, back when I was in college, defending Theatre as my major. I remember having conversations about making the world a better place, and feeling a degree of shame that here I was, learning lighting design, and costuming, and how to create art, while elsewhere in the world there was genocide, deforestation. That bees were dying and the oceans were rising, while I climbed up and down ladders dropping colored gels into lighting instruments that cost more than a huge number of American families make in a week. A month. My defense was always: people needed to escape. They needed to smile. They needed to feel. That art as a craft might not do much for world hunger, but that it served humanity, and that it might bring humanity to the people who could do something about world hunger. That if I could be a part of something that made people smile, they might go back to their lives a little more willing to focus on something bigger.

It felt like an excuse. And maybe it was. Maybe it was my own way of justifying my disappointment in myself that I wasn’t protesting in the streets, or joining the Peace Corps, or focusing all of my energy into research that would help people on a more quantitative level.

But if anything, I think the response to Robin Williams’ death shows how important art really is. That no matter who we are or where our priorities lie, that no matter the helplessness, heartbreak, or cynicism we might feel at things out of our control, that we need those things that unite us, connect us. That we need common ground. That we need to laugh.

The world is so divided. Politically, culturally, idealistically, financially.

But one thing we all have in common is the amazing depths of emotion we are capable of. And art brings us to that.

And today we lost an artist who could tap into that, and remind us that whatever else was going on that it’s okay to cry, but especially that it’s okay to laugh.

Invisible Mileposts

I live by invisible mileposts. Or at least, I did.

Maybe it’s a complete indecision about what I actually want to do with my life–I have a broad, overall idea of how I want my life to go, but ultimately, there are so many things I want to do, to study, to learn, to influence, that trying to narrow that down makes me uncomfortable. What if I choose the wrong one? What if I choose too soon and miss an opportunity? Why can’t one person do everything?

So, I look at short, achievable goals.

Make it through to the weekend.

Just get to the con.

Get through this month and finances will be a little better.

At work I’ve lived this way for a long time. I worked seasonally for a very long time–working in theme parks, there was always an end date to my job, so no matter the stress, the drama, the financial strain, the whatever, there’s been an end point.

It’ll be easier at the end of the summer.

The season is almost over.

Or —

The season starts in just a couple of weeks.

And the same went for my off-season jobs: I worked in theme parks for the majority of the year, and looked for seasonal work in the winter. As a result, my early employment history is very variegated. I have stage management, retail, administration, and…laser quest? All within a few years of each other. So as an adult, once I graduated and got a “real” job, there’s been a sense of impermanence about it the whole time I’ve never been able to identify.

This is a good job until I go back to school.

This is a good job, until I get to a strong enough point in my research to feel comfortable contacting industry professionals.

Then I got promoted. Then it was a good job, until we decided to start a family.

And then that opened up a whole new set of variables. I never planned to be a working mom, so now the milepost was, work until we were financially stable enough for me to not work (or at least, to work part time) so we could have a baby.

Then we decided to have a baby anyway.

So then it became–just make it until the baby’s born.

Going back to work after my maternity leave ended was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I like my job. And I don’t think I would be a very good stay-at-home mom. But those first few months were an impossible adjustment of learning to balance two things that require 150% and don’t make compromises, and learning to be at peace with only giving about 90% to both, and learning to accept the reality of that.

But I was also out of mileposts. We weren’t–and aren’t–planning to have another baby for another couple of years, so I didn’t have a family change/maternity leave to set as the light at the end of the tunnel. I all but abandoned my research within my first year in my current position, so I didn’t have the “one day when I’m published” goal. What I had, was my husband’s goal of a promotion in his job, and the knowledge that once that happened, I could reduce my hours to part time. But without a clear timeline for that–it’s always been one of those situations that could happen in five months or five years–I couldn’t segment my time.

So I latched onto Kairi’s first birthday. The whole time, the whole struggle at figuring out how to be a working mom, has been about making it through that first year.

Why?

Billy says, as a joke-that-isn’t-a-joke, that it’s about being able to celebrate keeping an entirely dependent human alive for a full year. I think that’s partly true–the fear of SIDS was a huge source of anxiety for me, at least at first, and crossing that first birthday definitely reduces a lot of that stress.

Regardless of the reason, Kairi’s first birthday was an invisible milepost for me. It was the thing I told myself I had to make it to when I felt like I was drowning–at work, at home, as a wife, as a mother–if I could make it until she turned one, things would get easier. I didn’t know why–I would have the same job. Billy would have the same job. But something inside of me was utterly convinced that things would get easier once we made it through that first year.

And the thing is…they have.

For no reason.

Billy and I still work opposing schedules and usually only see each other at night. Our finances haven’t changed. I still see Kairi for about an hour a night on workdays, and our weekends are still filled with errands. I don’t have time for my hobbies, I don’t have the energy for mommy-and-me projects like I wish I did, and family outings are things that require advance planning and time-off requests that still usually fall through.

But things are easier. Lighter. Happier.

True, as she gets older, Kairi is better at keeping herself entertained. I can set my purse on the floor and she will amuse herself tearing through its contents long enough for me to do the dishes. I can leave the pantry open and every bag of tea I’ve ever owned might be strewn across the kitchen, but I was able to make dinner. If I wear her, she’s content to hang out on my back while I do whatever it is I’m trying to do. But what is the difference between the week before her birthday, and the week after?

The only reason I can come up with, is that I don’t have an invisible milepost anymore. I don’t have a great what-if (A Great Perhaps, if you will), that will be a change from whatever difficulties I’m facing in the Now. And when you remove that “I just have to get to ___” mindset, what’s left is finding balance in where you are. You’re no longer rushing through your current experiences, already living with one foot past the present.

It doesn’t work for everyone. And a few years ago, it wouldn’t have worked for me. And it’s not about a lack of goals–Billy and I both still have goals, but we’re not basing our present actions around an endpoint once a certain goal is met. We’re not waiting for a current situation to end so we can move on to the next one. We might be working on future goals, thinking about what is to come, but not defining what we’re doing now by the moment that it will end and we can start focusing on another end point. (Okay… I say both of us, but this really isn’t news to Billy. He’s always been better at living in the moment than me…)

Without a point of expectation for when things might change, the present is the definition of the experience.

And it makes it so much richer, and so, so much more fun.