Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A New Rite of Passage

It's an exciting time in a woman's life. Choosing colors and themes, invitations, the cake, the favors, the guest list, the travel arrangements for out-of-town guests... There's so much to do, and so much passion goes into each decision. This is a day a woman will remember for the rest of her life, and the attention to detail is exciting, exhausting, and all-consuming. And today, I find myself in the throws of this celebration.

No, it's not a wedding. I've been married for almost ten years.

It's the First Birthday Party, and it is the new Rite of Passage for my generation.

Birthdays were always a big deal in my family. We had a party every year without fail. And not just a cake and a few presents either. My sister and I spent every birthday with twenty or so friends at Chuck E Cheese's, or the skating rink, or the bowling ally, or at home with some elaborate activity like a video scavenger hunt once we were old enough to drive. (yes, these parties continued through high school) But we knew our family's emphasis on birthdays was unusual.

Now, as we both head into the Mommy phase of the birthday party adventure, we have some serious pressure, because with our children an their peers, these full-blown parties are not unusual at all. They feel, quite frankly, expected. The first 365 days of life are no longer celebrated by having some family over and serving the baby some cake. No, Mommies today are expected to have elaborate themes with elaborate cakes to match. My sister had a beach party for my nephew, complete with message-in-a-bottle invitations. Another close friend was up all night before her son's birthday painstakingly pouring a zebra-striped batter for her zebra-striped cake for her zebra-themed party. And I have already started with plans for the big day here, even though Lily's first birthday is 47 days away. (Of course, now that I did that math, I'm a little panicked. Only 47 days! And her party is two days before her birthday! I need to get moving!)

So how in the world did this happen?  Consider the fact that with reality shows like "Tori and Dean," we're now able to watch celebrities plan their eleborate bashes. And if it's good enough for Baby Stella, it's good enough for Baby Lily. And then there's the fact that so many of us are college-educated-career-women-turned-stay-at-home-Mom's. We've been in charge of big projects at work for years. The baby birthday party is a natural outlet for these now rarely used skills. And come on. A little bit- if we're being really honest- is the idea that these parties are the perfect opportunity to show the world that we are the perfect combination of hip hostess, nurturing homemaker, and provider of baby fun.

So where does the pressure come from?We totally, absolutely, 100% do it to ourselves, and we love every minute.

Now, I need to get to work on those invitations...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

I am a New Yorker. As a citizen of the Big Apple, I have become accustomed to being asked for money. On the subway, on the corner, in the park- panhandlers are everywhere. Generally, people begging for money on the streets of New York are harmless- a slight nuisance. They ask, you ignore them, the end.

Yesterday, however, I had two encounters with panhandlers that were so aggressive that they went so far as to offend me, and quite honestly, frighten me a little. 

Panhandler Number One was approaching people on the R traing into Manhattan from Queens. I was playing Sudoku- medium difficulty- and was making record time. It is usually easy to ignore someone while playing Sudoku on an iPhone. But it's pretty tough to ignore someone who taps your knee and then puts his hand in your face. "No!" I said, making no effort to hide my disgust. I'm not usually rude to strangers, but seriously. Who did he think he was touching my knee and then asking for money? Don't worry, I still set a new best time on my Suduko.

Panhandler Number Two came up to me at Starbucks, where I was sitting at a table, working on Ryan's laptop. "Excuse me, can I just talk to you for a minute?" She then sat down in the booth next to me, trapping me, as I was sitting in the corner. She was crying. (or pretending to) "I'm just trying to get something to eat. Someone just took my luggage from Penn Station. I'm here for my mother's funeral." Wow. Talk about rotten luck, eh? Hungry, and your mother died, AND someone stole your luggage?

Under normal circumstances, I would humor an interaction like this, (much to the dismay of anyone who hangs out with me in the city...) and offer advice-suggest she go to the police and report the crime, etc. But my panhandler patience was all used up for the day. And anyway, the woman had managed to slide her hand over my iPhone which rested on the table.

"I am NOT in a position to help you," I said, yanking my phone out of her hands to emphasize my "not."

She started to object, then stopped when she saw the look in my eyes. She 
moved to the next table, and got through her sob story another three or four times before getting kicked out of the store.

I am not a hardened New Yorker. I would be described by most people who know me well as extremely generous. And I most certainly know what it feels like to fall on hard times. And maybe that's why it made me so angry. I don't blame people for being financially needy. And I don't blame them for being desperate. But what upsets me so much is the way they assume they need the money more than I do. Yes, I'm sitting at a Starbucks. Yes, I have an iPhone and a laptop and a Vera Bradley bag. But they have no idea what my situation is like. (They also don't know that the bag was a gift, and the computer is borrowed...)

I have friends who made twelve thousand dollars last year and are in serious financial trouble. I have friends who made over a hundred thousand dollars last year and are in serious trouble. So for anyone who likes to make decisions about people's ability to help- whether you're a bleeding heart or a tea partier or a subway crazy- do me a favor. Save it. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Six word stories

Some facts:

1- I seem to have gotten really busy lately.

2- I feel strongly about my commitment to blog every M-F.

3- Sometimes I have trouble thinking of blog topics.

4- I am working on editing the book (and then dialogue) of a new musical for MRC. The general idea is- use fewer words.

5- There are a few people who just started reading my blog who want to catch up.

6- I am entertained by writing exercises like the six word story.

Therefore. I present to you, all of my blogs so far, summarized in six words each. Enjoy.

About me: An Autobiography in Decades
Almost 35, starting a blog today

Get A Job (Sha-na-na-na)
Need more money but can't work

At the End of the Day You're Another Day Older
Mommy Days: always long, usually rewarding

Why I Write:
I write for aesthetics, education, therapy

Beware the Ides of March
Daylight Savings Time Makes Depression Worse

On Baby Sock Bunnies and Other Very Important Tasks:
Sometimes crafting makes me feel better

Wearing O' the Green
Go Bobcats, go bobcats, go bobcats.

Wearing O' the Green Part 2
We just beat Georgetown? Really? Wohooo!

Sticks and Stones
Dear Republicans: please be nice. Thanks.

Adoption Stories Part 1
People say ridiculous things to me.

Here's to the Super Heroes
Woman are gorgeous, intelligent, brave, flawed

(no title)
Sometimes depression sneaks up on me

Freelancing and Calendars and To-Do Lists (Oh My!)
Time management will kick depression's butt.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Freelancing and Calendars and To-Do Lists (Oh My!)

Being a freelancer is so weird. I worked all day today. I'm sure of it. But again, I find myself at the end of the day having trouble finding something to point to and say, "I did that. Here's what I accomplished." Furthermore, I never left the house. It's a bizarre feeling. But here's what I *think* went down.

I updated my calendar through June. This took nearly three hours.

I sent about thirty emails to prospective students and producers and writers and actors.

I spoke with my producer/co-founder/best friend on the phone about our next three projects. I also spoke with another actor about an upcoming project. 

And now it's 9:30. And there's still more to do. And I feel really unfocused.

So here's what.

If anyone were to take a look at my calendar for the past several years, they would notice that the April's all have something in common. They are, for the most part, blank. April must be a vacation for me then. Not hardly- in fact it's generally one of my busiest months. But every year around this time, for reasons I've already described, my inner brat tells me that I'll just remember. That I can just play it by ear. 

But not this year.

This year I will keep my calendar up to date. I will follow my routines. And that's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Today was one of those days. Nothing was wrong. Nothing bad happened. Lily was a good girl all day and we had lots of sweet little moments. I didn't get any bad news, my medication is just fine, I wasn't having particularly bad thoughts, no one is sick or injured. But despite all that, I just didn't feel up to doing anything. Ryan got home and I handed over the baby and then slept for three hours. I was exhausted just from getting through the day.

Fortunately today was a day I could afford to lose- I didn't have any appointments or a long list of must-do's. And I'm feeling a little better now. I made a conscious decision to rally after my nap (this is not always possible) I just ordered a pizza from D'Angelos, (which is the absolute best pizza in the world) and after dinner I plan to have some coffee and work on the house. So it will be just fine. But still. This is what it's sometimes like living with chronic depression.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Here's to the Super Heroes

Last night I participated in a focus group. I was paid $150 to sit in a room with other women and have a conversation. The exercises were very similar to so many I've done in education classes, (especially those that focused on educational philosophy) I can talk, I may have an opinion or two, and hey, times are tough. So the experience was overall a pleasant one for me. (Although it turns out the research was for a perfume company, which is fairly hilarious since I lost my sense of smell in a playground accident when I was nine. But that's another story for another day.)

The focus group was made up entirely of women ages 35-50. Since I'm not *quite* 35, I was the youngest woman in the room, but I felt like I belonged and I quickly became a leader/ spokesperson. (gasp. I know.) But there was something one of the women said that I found absolutely heartbreaking, and I'm still thinking about it today. First, a brief overview of the evening's activities.

We started by choosing a picture of a woman. Then we gave her an identity-a name, a career, a background, etc. Our character was gorgeous, at the top of her career game, and about to make a major career change. We then answered questions from her point of view. A fun exercise, challenging at times, and a good way to get to know other New York women.

But the whole time, this one woman in my group looked miserable. She harumphed at every idea, she sat with her arms crossed, and she had an overall air about her that suggested that she thought the rest of us were absolutely ridiculous. 

At the end of the evening, we were asked how much we felt like we put ourselves into the characters. Obviously, we put a lot of ourselves in. Wasn't that the idea? The moderator asked if anyone felt like they were entirely, 100% unlike the character. And, up went the hand of Miss Grouchy Face.

When asked to elaborate, Miss GF told us that the character was completely unrealistic. She was gorgeous, confident, successful, fearless, and without flaw. We had created a Super Woman, and she just didn't think there were people like that in this world. Or at any rate, she didn't know any.

I vehemently disagreed. So of course, I sat quietly with my hands folded and vowed to write a blog about it. Oh, wait. No. I raised my hand.

"I think she's completely realistic. I know lots of women who are gorgeous-as gorgeous as the woman in that picture- and intelligent, and successful, and brave. And just because she's successful doesn't mean she's flawless. And of course she has fears. She just succeeds in spite of them."

Most of the women in the room nodded their heads with me, but I still thought about Miss GF all the way home.

My female friends and family are gorgeous. They are as attractive as the woman in that picture. And they are intelligent- they have street smarts and book smarts and Mommy smarts and every kinda smarts. And they are accomplished. I know Broadway stars and TV producers and executives and employees of the month and Mommies who make nutritious meals. And they are not flawless. And they have fears. And they are really amazing people. 

I am so sad for that woman today that she doesn't see the women in her life through this lens, and I'm even sadder that she doesn't see herself that way.

So. Hey, Women In My Life. In case you didn't know it, you are Super Heroes. And if anyone tells you any differently send 'em to me. I'll go all focus group on 'em.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Adoption Stories- Part 1

In the spirit of people saying really stupid things, my sister and I collaborated on the following cartoon. It speaks for itself.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sticks and Stones

I love facebook. As an NYU alum, I got involved in facebook relatively early. (NYU is, afterall, "almost" ivy league...) And now nearly everyone I know is on it, and I'm glad. I chat every day with my sister for free, I'm able to connect to people from high school and college, I have a place to post pictures of my daughter for my family to see, and I'm able to market theatre events to hundreds of people quite easily. 

But there's one aspect of facebook that I find hurtful, both as a person and as a citizen, and that is the way we use it to promote politics. Don't get me wrong- political debate is important and part of our country's foundation. But are we debating? Or are we treating politics like a sporting event with winners and losers, us and them.

Last night our House voted in favor of health care reform. If you are a regular reader, I'm sure you can guess that I believe this reform is for the best. I admit that there are things concerning this bill I don't understand, and I'm guessing that if people are really honest, they would admit that they don't entirely understand it either. I wonder, for example, if people can answer- with certainty- any of these questions:

1- How much will this bill cost you personally?

2- If you already have health care, what changes will this bring to your family?

3- In what way-philosophically- does providing health care differ from providing education? (or roads, or security...)

I am someone who will likely benefit from this bill. And so when I read things about "those people" written on the walls of facebook "friends," I can't help but take it personally. (for example, I wouldn't describe myself as "entitled," and I'm pretty sure I did not just single-handedly kill freedom.) And when I read accusations of bribes and threats, I can't help but feel defensive on our President's behalf. (Although if there is evidence to this, please let me know, as something should be done. You might want to also check out the actions of lobbyists for the insurance companies while you're researching, though.)

Freedom of speech is important. Facebook is an unbelievable networking tool. But what happened to manners? And kindness? And sensitivity? Not only is this mud-slinging highly ineffective, it's rude.

So here's the deal. Let's keep political debate alive. But let's use facebook for the educational tool it could be. Give me facts. Give me something to think about. But when you're talking about us bleeding hearts, consider using kinder words. We are, by nature, sensitive people. ;)

Our country is in crisis, people. This is something on which we can all agree. Let's be kind to each other, shall we?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wearing O' the Green, Part Two

We just barely made it to the Bobcat Bash in time to inhale some cold burgers. We missed the National Anthem, our seats were way at the top, and people were giving me funny looks. "You're here for Ohio?" the man in front of me asked. 

"Go Bobcats!" I replied.

"Heh. Good luck," he teased me.

The teams were introduced and I clapped for each player- politely for the Hoyas (I'm from Ohio, afterall) and more enthusiastically for the Cats. I watched the crowd around me go wild for Georgetown. There were some green shirts in the mix, but we were considerably outnumbered.

But I was just happy to be there- happy to have my alumni association nametag that said 1998, happy to have my green and white pom-pom, and happy to be watching the Bobcats play.

I settled in my seat, ready to spend a few hours reminiscing about cheerleading, and band, and friends, and parties, and roadtrips.

But then, we scored first.

And then, we scored again.

"We're winning!" I joked to my Dad. "We can say we were winning at one point!"

But then, at the half, we were- wait, still winning? Yes! We were still winning! By sort of a lot!

The drunk dude next to me was baffled. "Man, I had money on Georgetown. Who told me to go with Georgetown?"

"Everyone," I replied. "But they forgot to take into account our heart." (yes, I really said that to a drunk dude at a basketball game. Once a cheesey cheerleader from Ohio, always a cheesey cheerleader from Ohio.)

We sat and cheered for the beginning of the second half, until things started to swing Georgetown's way. "Uh-oh, I don't like where this is headed," my Dad said. I nodded, but in my head, I knew. And the Bobcats regained their big lead. And we sat, in hushed excitement, for the longest last-third-or-so-of-a-basketball-game in my life. My chest was tight. My stomach was burning. And with about two minutes left to play, it became clear.

Oh My God. We're going to win.

We got control of the ball with about half-a-minute left, and stood at our end of the court, dribbling while crowd- the whole crowd, even the Hoyas- got to their feet. A standing ovation for an unbelievable upset victory.

As we left the Dunkin Donuts Center we could hear a mix of reactions. Some congratulations came my way- I was one of the few people in green- many were just shaking their heads, and I even heard a few say outloud "seriously though. Who the hell is Ohio?"

Driving home, the tollbooth guy took one look at my get-up and laughed. "St. Patrick's Day was yesterday!"

"No, no," I said. "Ohio University. We just beat Georgetown in the NCAA tournament."

"Wait- Ohio beat Georgetown?!!"


"Wow- that was a good game then!"

And it was.

They just didn't take into account our heart. Hey, according to "Damn Yankees" it's all you need. It's the heart that makes Matt Lauer chest bump an intern on the Today Show. The heart that makes someone leave at 10:30 am and return home at 2:00 am for one basketball game. The heart that will beat in so many of us as we crowd into bars across the country with other Bobcats tomorrow afternoon, making strangers into friends. The heart that beat in all those students pouring into Court Street last night, celebrating like we'd just won the whole damn thing.

It's the heart of a Bobcat, and it makes anything possible.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wearing O' the Green

I was up late on Tuesday night working on my shirt- cutting the sides of the plain green thirt and tieing them, giving the sleeves a cuter shape, making a little stencil so I could sponge on that all-important little white symbol... It might seem silly to create a special shirt just to celebrate one day, but this isn't just any day. This is a day when I celebrate who I am and where I'm from. My green tshirt let's everyone know about my cultural pride, and that's important to me. 

No, I'm not Irish.

I'm a Bobcat.

And today, I'm goin to the dance.

I'm sitting on the MetroNorth as I write this- I am on the third leg of what will be a very long journey. It started early this morning when I packed the diaper bag and woke Lily earlier than usual so she would be post-nap for the babysitter. Then I showered, got us both dressed in our green, carried the baby, the diaper bag, and my bag to the bus stop, (the baby carrier is in the car) put $2.25 in coins in the little machine, took the bus to the subway stop, balanced the baby on my hip and the bags on my shoulder while I dug through my wallet for another $2.25, (a neat trick, since Lily is fascinated by my wallet) made and fed Lily a bottle on the subway, dropped her off with a caring amazing generous babysitter in midtown, paid another $2.25 to take the subway to Times Square, transferred to the shuttle train, ran to the main concourse to buy a ticket, couldn't find the machines, called Ryan in a panic, found the machines, bought the ticket, couldn't find the track, then found the track.

Just in time to see the train pull away.

So I'm on the next train, which left 27 minutes after the one I intended to take. And I will ride this train to Connecticut where Ryan works so I can pick up the car.

And drive it back home.

Because I forgot the tickets.

Some of you may be thinking that this whole thing is insane and way too much work. Other people would have given up long ago. Those people clearly did not go to Ohio university. I'll make it to the game. And I will Stand Up and Cheer.

I am a Bobcat, and I bleed green. Go Cats.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On Baby Sock Bunnies and Other Very Important Tasks

"The wise woman does what she knows. 
If it's fighting, she fights. If it's sewing, she sews." Jason Robert Brown

I started my day with news of another financial frustration. It was news I needed to know, but could do nothing to fix. It was just one more blow in an already frustrating time. So I think it's pretty obvious how I've spent my time today. 

Making a little stuffed bunny out of a pair of outgrown baby socks.

After all, Easter is in a few weeks. And Lily will need to have a bunny in her basket. And we have all these little socks. And I have to do something, or I'll go crazy. 

I have no means of making money right now. I've tried. And since we don't have any money, I can't really take Lily anywhere. And I can work on the house a little. And I have. But it will really only be damage control with Hurricane Lily. So that's only going to bring me so much satisfaction.

But this afternoon, there is a stuffed bunny where there was once only a pair of socks. And for today, that's enough.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Beware the Ides of March

I had a rough day yesterday. I rely on little baby cries to wake me, and those cries didn't come until 11:00. For the rest of the day I felt Iike I was in a fog. I couldn't get a grasp on what time it was, Lily was off of her schedule, I wasn't hungry so I kept forgetting to eat. I was, in a word, confused. (I know I'm opening myself up to a lot of potential teasing here from friends and family admitting I was confused- mostly lookin at you, Tom.) 

Lily was still up at 10:00, and when Ryan expressed his frustration over it, I reminded him. "Well, it's Daylight Savings Time." (It's amazing how obvious things are when they come from the Mommy perspective rather than the trying-to-take-care-of-myself perspective. Thanks, universe, for Mommy wisdom.)

Daylight Savings Time. I hate this time of year. And not just the first few drowsy days, either. While everyone else is enjoying the extra sunlight, I'm fighting a depression for weeks. And it's not just me. This is an issue for most people who have chemically-based depression. A few years ago I had this conversation with my therapist:

Me: I don't know why I'm feeling this way. Things are going well.

Doctor: Seriously? You really don't know why you're feeling this way?

Me: *blank stare*

Doctor: Mindy. We have this converation every year. 

Me: *blink. blink*

Doctor: Daylight Savings Time.

Me: Oh. I forgot.

It turns out that Daylight Savings Time can mess witha person's seratonin levels so badly that it can take weeks to recover. Awesome. Another thing for people with depression to battle. And even more difficult, it's something that's putting everyone else in a great mood.

So, for the next few weeks I will try to remain positive and hopeful. I will do my best to eat well and get enough rest. I will force myself to leave the house and enjoy the sunshine that is contributing to my insanity. And I will remind myself that I am not being difficult or crazy. This is all just part of living with a chronic disease. But with knowledge and experience- and a lot of work- I can do my best to fight it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Why I Write

I've been thinking a lot about writing lately. The reasons are obvious enough- I recently started a blog, our theatre company hosted a literary reading on Saturday, and "Freedom Writers" was just on tv. While my interest in  writing has been renewed over the past week or so, I've always written. I used to make up stories and keep journals. I even won the Young Authors Competition in my town twice. (Interestingly enough, it was in historical fiction both times- a genre that could not interest me less now.) And until high school, "a writer" was always my answer to the "what do you want to be when you grow up" question. 

But even given my lifelong relationship with writing, I have difficulty calling myself a writer. I am a musician. I am a teacher. I am a wife, and a Mommy. And I have facts to back up my use of these titles. Degrees, and resumes and legal documents. I don't have this kind evidence stating I'm a writer, so I struggle with the title.

Two years ago I was sitting in a Starbuck with a red pen and a hundred or so pages of my memoir. A man sitting near me asked me, "Are you a writer?"

"No," I answered. "I'm a music teacher."

"Did you write that?" he asked, pointing to the stack of pages on the table.

"Well, yes-"

"Then you're a writer," he said plainly.

I'm not sure why this stranger felt it was his responsibility to help me define my identity. I'm also not sure why strangers have personal conversations with me everywhere I go, but that's another blog for another day. And further, I'm not sure why his argument- that I'm a writer because I write- is enough for me. 

But the fact remains. I write. And sometimes people read. And now I write a blog every weekday. So today, as an exercise inspired by the essay "Why I write" (Jackie, who wrote this essay?) I present to you my "Why I write" exercise. 

I write because sometimes I have words for things that other people don't have.

I write because I can't afford therapy anymore.

I write because my daughter doesn't happen to need her diaper changed right now.

I write in hopes that people might understand me and the silly things I do sometimes.

I write because I know I can't be the only one who's been through this.

I write because the more I do it, the more I need to do it.

I write because it's something I can control, with a result I can understand.

I write because it sometimes comes easily to me, and other times it is the most difficult thing I could possibly do.

I write to laugh at myself, and to allow others to laugh with me.

I write because I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to.

Friday, March 12, 2010

"At the end of the day you're another day older..." Les Miserables

Throughout my adult life I have had a variety of work environments and schedules- from a 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM public music teacher schedule, to a 4:00 AM to 2:00 PM barista at Starbucks shedule, and every combination of freelance teaching and performing in between. But whatever the job, I always ended my day with an understanding that I had worked. One of the most difficult adjustments for me, then, has been ending my day feeling like I haven't accomplished anything. There are dirty bottles and dirty diapers and toys on the floor every evening, just like the evening before. So yesterday I became the subject of my own little sociology experiment. (warning: in my 8 years of higher education I only earned 3 C's. One of them was in sociology. But I think it was because it was an evening class.) Every hour or so I stopped and wrote down what I had been doing. So here it is. A day in the life of a stay at home parent. As a writer, I know it's a long read. As a Mommy, I know it was a long day.

7:30 AM

WhywhywhywhyWHY is Lily awake? She was up from midnight until 2:00 because she's getting a new little tooth, and even worse than the pain, her nose is all stuffy and she's having a lot of trouble breathing. I finally fell asleep sometime after 3:00, so when she was up 4 1/2 hours later I listened to her cry for a while hoping she'd fall back asleep, but eventually I gave up. So good morning Lily, and good morning Matt Lauer.

Lily was soaked through her jammies, and she clapped her hands while I changed her diaper. Thank you, I'll be here I'll week. I handed her a bottle but she didn't really want it- too tough with a stuffy nose- and I started my morning routine*: make the coffee, feed the cats, take my medication. I dropped one of my pills and never found it. Since I cut them in half, that's two-days-worth. Crap. Those are kind of expensive.

8:30 AM

Ways in which we have practiced the word "no" so far today: pulling the folded laundry out of the basket, playing with the phone charger, (she is obsessed with cords) crawling through her spit up and trying to lick it off the floor, pulling down a box of cd's, and reaching for the laundry detergent. It was way out of reach. But still. Let's not even reach for it.

9:30 AM

We moved into the nursery so Lily could play while I put some clean laundry away. The big closet is in her room, so all the clothes for the whole family go in there. It's easy to imagine the logistical problems that go with this situation.

I got her to finish her bottle by holding her in the rocking chair, and now she's down for her nap. I'm guessing it will be a long one. I checked craigslist for job listings (there was nothing for me) while I had some breakfast- peanut butter and jelly on a flour tortilla- (yeah, I know. I'm going to the store later) and I'm getting ready for Mommy Time**.

There are four Mommy Times on my daily to-do list. This is a time when I just hang, and I may not do anything else on my to-do list. Sometimes I check my facebook or chat with my sister, but today it will be a nap for sure.

There are also several "Lily Times" on my list. Both Mommy Times and Lily Times are not-so-subtle reminders that this IS what I'm doing. Spending time with my daughter and giving myself mental and emotional rest are valid uses of my time.

11:30 AM

That was a much longer nap than anticipated, but I suppose since I only got 4 1/2 hours of sleep last night, I'll cut myself some slack. Lily's still sleeping- time to take advantage of that.

12:15 PM

I had just enough time to Get Dressed to the Shoes*, drag a baby wipe across my face, brush my teeth, put some make-up on, and pull my hair back in pigtails before Lily woke up. On "What Not to Wear" they would call my pigtails "I-give-up hair." I wonder if Stacy and Clinton babysit... And anyway, I think I look kinda cute.

I threw some of last night's macaroni and cheese with peas in the microwave for Lily's lunch and put her in her highchair. But it was way too hot. So I ran to the fridge and gave her some baby yogurt while the pasta cooled in the freezer. And now, it's way too cold.

Since Baby Bear's porridge is not available I decided to give it to her anyway. Baby's first pasta salad. She was eating it off of the little baby fork pretty well, (we just introduced this yesterday. Worlds easier than the spoon. An exciting development in Mommyhood.) but she kept grabbing it out of the bowl. So I dumped it out on her tray and let her have at it. Now I'm watching her pick up each little peace-sign-shaped pasta (that's right, peace and peas) with her teeny fingers and shove it into her mouth. Peace, indeed!

1:30 PM

I vacuumed the living room rug while Lily finished her lunch. I am generally not a great housekeeper- I'm working on it but I have a long way to go- but I vacuum every day. I have two cats and a baby who likes to eat cat hair.

After Lily's lunch, we had our first diaper dash of the day. Lily does not- I repeat does not- like to have her diaper changed. Or rather, she doesn't like to sit still long enough to have her diaper changed. So I took off her diaper, she crawled away, and then sat- poopy butt and all- on the rug. Fortunately Zoobamafoo distracted her long enough for me to get her cleaned off, and I put on a new diaper while she stood (yes, stood. She's a very busy girl, this was a necessary skill for me to develop) in front of the tv. I cleaned the poop off of the rug, and whew. Clean. Dry. Fed.

Since the diaper change we have been to Rite-Aid (for formula and diapers) and sat and watched Sesame Street. Lily crawled up on my lap to watch. This is new, and I can't imagine anything sweeter.

This update brought to you by the letter "N" and the number eleven.

2:30 PM

Miss Lily and I have each hit a wall. We have not had enough sleep. Silly new teeth. I gave her a bottle, rocked her, and put her in her crib. So far, so good. I wouldn't generally spend two Mommy Times napping, but wow. A few more minutes please.

3:25 PM

That was just enough rest to get me through the afternoon. Thursdays are phone call day, and on today's list- calling the adoption agency to disuss finalizing. I'm dreading this becaue I feel like I'm going to get scolded. Our finalization is taking far too long, but even things like going to NJ to get fingerprints (again) can be costly because it means a day off work for Ryan. Ugh. I am bribing myself with hot chocolate.


As anyone could have told me, that was not so bad. I now know exactly what we have to do to finalize, and I even spoke with the lawyer. Why do I avoid silly things?

I had a few minutes to straighten the damage Hurricane Lily did this morning on the living room before the screaming began. Lily was awake. So I went in her room and picked her up. Screaming continued. Maybe she was hungry. I set her down to make a bottle. Screaming ecsalated to hysteria. By the time I returned to her room with the bottle, I was entering the scene of a full-blown fit like I have never seen from this child. We're talking about a red-faced, foaming-at-the-mouth, multiple-snot-bubble, can't-breathe tantrum. She did not want her bottle. She did not want me to hold her. She mostly certainly did not want me coming at her nose with the blue turkey-baster situation. (but she really needed it, and if she was screaming anyway...) I sat with her on the floor and rubbed her back until she was calm enough to pick up, then I held her tight and sang "Hold On." And then, she was fine. Perfectly fine. It was terrible and beautiful all at the same time. And now we're playing on the floor with her little car. Beep-beep!

5:45 PM

We've been playing quietly for the past hour or so- watching Sprout and investigating our toys. We also had an apple for a snack- I hold the apple slice while Lily knaws at it- and I realized I hadn't eaten since that peanut butter and jelly burrito. I really can't eat while Lily is crawling around, so I put her in her highchair, gave her some yogurt snacks, and rolled her up to the tv while I ate the can of soup I bought at Rite-Aid. (all the while feeling guilt about using the tv and snacks as distractions.) We played peek-a-boo and throw-down-the-toy-so-mommy-can-pick-it-up while I ate, and now the baby girl is sitting in her highchair playing the piano. I just got a text from Ryan saying he just left work- he should be here in about an hour. We'll watch Sprout in the meantime. Franny's Feet is on. But I've seen this one.

6:30 PM

Daddy's here! We've been wrestling on the ground, (Lily and I. Not Daddy and I) I am barely awake, and I just need more sleep. Which is exactly what I will be doing. Right here on the couch.

8:00 PM

I just woke up- for the fourth time today- and Ryan has given Lily a bath and a bottle and she's nearly asleep on the couch. Awesome.

9;30 PM

Went to the grocery store to get some chicken legs, green beans, and bread, (no more peanut butter and jelly burritos for me). Then I did a quick Swish-and-Swipe* in the bathroom, then Ryan and I talked finances for a while. This is a regular part of our day now, and we're getting pretty good at staying calm. Today's topic: paying $120 to get our fingerprints done in the next few days to finalize the adoption before May so we don't have to pay &400 for another home visit. Total anticipated deficit for this weekend- approximately $220. Awesome.

Ryan just brought the chicken into the living room. Time to eat.

10:30 PM

I haven't moved from the couch. Our financial discussion has sent me, as usual, to craigslist, but this time there was a job that was perfect. Like, seriously perfect. So I submitted. Which takes a while when you're cutting and pasting everything on an iPhone. I'm torn between sending out an emergency message to all the prayer warriors in my life and just letting it go because I'm so frustrated. (prayer warriors? Are you there? Go ahead and give this one a shout-out for me)

Rallying to work on the house more. As soon as Marriage Ref is over.

11:35 PM

I've been going through the mail for twenty minutes. There's that much junk mail. And, ok fine, I haven't done it in a few days. (probably because the mail contains items like an electric bill for over $900. I'll call them tomorrow.) I'm easily distracted this evening- I had a long text conversation with my sister about Almond Joy Bits vs/ coconut M&M's. Then I was working on Decluttering* by collecting trash from around the house, and that's when I got distracted with the mail. Sigh. Focus, Smith.

12:45 AM

I was taking out the trash when I dropped the trash can on my foot. It really hurt. I sat on the couch and pouted for a while, and I thought about packing it in for the night. It's been a really productive day. But I've come this far, and I felt like if I took things one item at a time I could probably get a little more done.

So, I've cleaned two Hot Spots* while texting with my sister, and I'm just about ready for my bedtime routine.

Meanwhile, the jerk downstairs is playing his video games too loud- again- and Lily is whining. In her sleep? Let's hope.

1:55 AM

Hot spots: put-out. Floor: swept. Pajamas: on. Tomorrow's clothes: laid-out. Teeth: brushed. Face: washed. (and by washed, I of course mean with a baby wipe). Dishes: done. Well, a few dishes are done. At least there will be bottles and coffee mugs in the morning. Sink: Shining*. Baby: still sleeping. Calendar: double-checked. Doors: locked. Lights: off. Husband: moved from couch to bed.

work here is done. Right after I check craigslist just one more time.

So what did I learn from this experiment. Most of it is obvious, so let's just hit the bullet points:

1. I do a lot every day.

2. Time for myself is imortant and earned.

3. Acknowledging that I'm getting a lot done gives me the energy to keep going. I haven't finished every single thing on my to-do list (the way I did yesterday!) in at least ten months... maybe not ever.

4. Knowing that I'll be sharing what I did all day with the cyber world put me on my best behavior. Which helped me get so much done. Which helped me feel better about myself, and which also helped my morning go much smoother today. Ah, accountability.

I challenge you to conduct your own day-in-the-life sociology experiment. Let me know what you learned!

*I follow the flylady system of home/time organization and management. Items marked with a star are her brilliant ideas. Items with two stars (**) are things I created based on her system. Please check her out at She changed my life!!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Confessions of an Almost Stage Mom

My daughter is doomed.

She lives in New York City with a theatre Mommy and an interior designer Daddy. She came to us two days before tech week, so she spent time in a Manhattan theatre before she ever slept in her own nursery. She saw Barefoot in the Park twice before turning three weeks old. She participated in fringe festival events. She's been to rehearsals, and voice lessons, and artistic meetings. And last week, she went backstage at The Lion King with her babysitter, where the cast oohed and aahed over her.

She is doomed to a life in the theatre.

I try to keep things in perspective. Really I do. When she sits quietly in her high chair and listens while I teach a voice lesson, when she crawls over to the piano and stretches up to reach the keys, when she claps during the Oscars, I remind myself that while it's adorable, it's not necessarily, at not-quite-10-months-old, an indication of her interest in a performing arts career.

And anyway. Even if she was interested in performing. I would know how to control myself. I am a very healthy, relaxed, go-with-the-flow kind of Mommy. I could never be one of those crazy stage Moms that you see all around the city. "His agent likes this shot the best, but I don't know. I think his lips look too red in this one."

So when I saw a casting notice on craigslist for a student film matching Lily's description exactly, I knew I had to reply. 

OK, not exactly. They were looking for a boy. But if there were any shots where the audience would be able to distinguish her gender for certain, she wasn't doing it anyway. She looks like a baby. All babies look like babies. They're androgenous. So, she's perfect. And I sent an email that said so.

I immediately pictured how much fun we would have at this film shoot. Lily loves cameras.  Looking at them, smiling for them, she just loves cameras. What a fun day that will be! And anything that's fun in this city that we don't have to pay for is a gift. Soon, I imagined telling our friends and family that Lily got the very first part for which she ever submitted. I went to bed excited to tell Ryan that his daughter was going to be in a movie. I checked my email one more time before falling asleep. After all, it's a student film. Students are up late. And I just know that when they see my Lily, they'll cast her immediately.

Except, that was a few days ago, and I still haven't heard. No big deal, they really wanted a boy. So then why do I keep checking my email, expecting to hear that she's been cast? 

The other night, I checked my phone- again- and when I saw-again- that there was no email offering Lily the role, I got really frustrated. Far more frustrated then the situation warranted. But then. In a moment of clarity that John Bucchino brilliantly calls "a glimpse of the weave," a subconscious thought came so close to the surface I could almost hear it.

Maybe it was the voice of an angel. Maybe I was too exhausted to fight my subconcious. Maybe I just needed to take a clonopin. But whatever the source of my clarity, there it was.

"I just need something to work out. I just need to be chosen."

After months of financial struggle and job hunts, I was putting my need for validation and control on my teeny daughter who doesn't know what a student film is, let alone that she'd been submitted for one. I could suddenly see myself standing over Lily with false eyelashes and a weave on Toddlers and Tiaras. Those mommies aren't so different from me.

So I caught myself. And I get it. And I've backed off in my head, and the whole thing is really very silly. And I'll still joke about knowing what Lily's career will look like. ("The Lion King," then "Hairspray," regionally somewhere, then a break for high school...) And I know I'll never really be a crazy stage mom, because I'm far too level-headed, I care way too much about my daughter, and anyway I know too much about what's effective in this business to try and pull those shananigans. 

But the next time Toddlers and Tiaras is on, I might look at those women with less judgement and more understanding.

Although. If I start talking about spray tans- intervene. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Get A Job (Sha-na-na-na)

It's 11:15 am, and I'm in my pajamas. I'm sipping my coffee and watching Martha Stewart. She packs each individual article of clothing in a zip-loc bag with a piece of tissue. Really, Martha? My daughter is napping- sort of- and I'm trying to decide what I'll do today, other than play knock-down-the stack-of-blocks and what's-in-the-purse.

Like many of you, I am thrilled with this life. I feel blessed to be a stay at home parent, (yes, parent- not just Mom. S'up, Tom?) and I'm able to laugh at how much my life has changed. The problem- like for many of you- is that we do not have enough money.

I repeat.

We. Do. Not. Have. Enough. Money.

When we decided to start the adoption process in May of 2008, we were doing pretty well. My husband had a stable well-paying job, and I was teaching at a local college. We were doing well enough, in fact, that when we got approved for adoption and were officially "waiting," we decided I would stay home. Our wait wasn't long- a few months later the gorgeous, outgoing, 12-day-old Lily came into our lives.

Then the bottom dropped out of the economy my husband lost his job I got a part time job then I lost that part time job then he got a new job and he takes on freelance clients but in 2009 we made fifty-eight thousand dollars less that's right fifty-eight thousand dollars less than we made in 2008 and it's just not enough.


I know what you're thinking.

Get a job.

That's a great idea. I'll get a job.

I started with that local college. The one where I used to work. Their enrollment is down, so even though I was only taking a maternity leave I was back to low woman on the totem pole, so there was no room for me.

Great. So I'll find a new job. Are you hiring? Here are my requirements:

1. I need to make at least $30 an hour. Sounds high, right? OK let's do the math. The other day someone offered me a job for $20 an hour. A generous offer, for sure. Babysitting is $10 an hour, and I have to pay the babysitter at least two hours longer than I actually work. (travel) It costs $4.50 round-trip on the subway, and my net is $15.50 for the day. To be away from my baby girl for six hours. So, my $30 an hour pay requirement stays.

2. I have been teaching music for ten years, I have two masters degrees, and I founded and now operate- with my best friend- an Off-off-Broadway theatre company that has skyrocketed to success in just eighteen months. It hurts my soul to be quiet when I think I have a good idea. If I think there's room for improvement, I will tell you.

3. I have been so fully involved in teaching music theatre for ten years that I have no experience in any other field. At all.

4. Because of my theatre company, my church, and my love for my family and friends, I'll have a lot of schedule conflicts.

Am I hired?

OK, you've stayed with me for this long, and I can only imagine it's to see if I have a point. Unless you just genuinely enjoy self-indulgent whining. So here's my point.

I am one highly-educated stay at home parent among millions. We're doing the best we can with what we have. We can't just get a job, and furthermore, we don't really want to. We have long-term plans that involve continuing our careers (yes, Dad, I have a plan.) But for now, this is what we're doing. Be patient with us?

Now if you'll excuse me, Dragon Tales is on.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

About Me: An Autobiography in Decades

I was born in 1975. This means several things. First, it means I am 34. Yes, I know, 2010- 1975= 35. I haven't had a birthday yet. Lay off. Second, being born in 1975 means that my life is divided quite neatly into decades:

The 70's
Ah, the 1970's. OK, truth be told I don't remember much of the 70's. But unlike many others from this time, my hazy memories can not be attributed to my Disco Party Lifestyle. It's because I was a baby. But I rocked it out from 1975-1979 as much as any toddler could. I wore teeny tiny bell-bottoms. I watched my older sister feather the sides of her hair. I belted Queen at the top of my lungs. "Bomp bomp bomp- you never wanna bite the doct-ah!!'" (Fortunately my older brother in all of his 70's Afro awesomeness corrected these lyrics for me before I really embarrassed myself.) And I watched the original cast of SNL do their thing. Why was I up so late, anyway? The 1970's. I may have been little, but I was there, man.

The 80's
In the 1980's, I was a kid. I was a Simon Kenton Elementary Colt, and a Roosevelt Middle School Teddy. (OK, Teddy Roosevelt, I get it, but no one thought that was a bad idea? Really?) I saw ET in the theatre. I watched the Smurfs on Saturday mornings and I wore rainbow colors to the skating rink. I owned the original Thriller LP- the one that folds out. With the tiger. (oh... to still have that...) I saw New Kids on the Block in concert and I danced with a boy to "Lady in Red." And then, in 1989 I graduated from middle school. Rockin' in Time with the Class of '89.

Why do I remember these things? And what information is being pushed out of the way by the theme to my 8th grade graduation? I
suppose I'm lucky to have such vivid memories of the '80's. But the hair. The hair I would like to forget.

The 90's
In the 1990's, I became a young adult. I went to Springfield North High School where I cheered for the Panthers, and Ohio University where I cheered for the Bobcats. I tight-rolled my jeans. (not for the whole decade. Just for those first three or four years when we did those things.) I graduated with Zach and Kelly and Screech. I also graduated with Donna Martin and Kelly and Dilan. I had my first love, and I found my forever love. I studied Mozart and Chopin and listened to Aerosmith and Garth Brooks. (don't judge) I turned 21 and I wore jeans and work boots to bars. And in 1999 I left Athens, Ohio ready to start my life.

The First Decade of the Millenium
OK first of all, do we know what we're calling it yet? Because "The First Decade of the Millenium" is really obnoxiously long. For our purposes here, it will be TFDotM. But whatever we end up calling it, in TFDotM, I- well, I'm not really sure. That's the funny thing about hindsight. It gets clearer as one moves further away. But here are some things I do know. In the past 10 years, I got married, started my teaching career, became more interested in theatre, became obsessed with the Internet, moved to New York, studied music theatre at NYU, started a theatre company, and- right at the very end of the decade- became a Mommy. So what does TFDotM mean to me in the grand scheme of things. I suppose I'll let you know in another ten years.

And what does this decade have in store for me? Let's find out together.