Monday, June 30, 2003

Now reading Three Junes by Julia Glass. The characters seem so real -- I find myself wondering whether Fenno has gone back to NYC yet and whether David and Lil will stay on in the old family homestead. I can tell already that I'll be sad when I reach the end of this book, because I won't be able to spend any more time with these people. A fabulous read.

posted by Marjorie
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Thursday, June 26, 2003

Now reading The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan. What a seriously amazing book -- part history and part gardening, and all so well written. Michael Pollan is among my favorite contemporary writers -- he wrote a terrific essay for Harper's about growing your own opium. Not that I ever would. Grow my own. Anything. Ahem.

Now writing an article about doulas. If you've ever used a doula or been a doula, contact me! Especially if you are not a crunchy chewy mama and thought doulas were totally not for you but you tried it and she turned out to be your guardian angel. (And if you don't know what a doula is then you have obviously never passed a nine-pound ham through your butt, as my friend so sweetly describes the birth process. Or if you did and it was without a doula then I am very sorry for you.)

If I was still young and hip and living in Chicago, I would be just like Mimi Smartypants. Unfortunately I am no longer young or hip. And thank GOD I don't live in Chicago anymore. Nothing there appeals to me -- I don't eat red meat, I prefer the mountains to the flatlands, I need the ocean, and the new Comiskey park sucks. Wrigley's a gem, of course, and ya gotta like the Cubbies. And I'll admit there's nothing more dramatic than lightning in the midwest. But still.

posted by Marjorie
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Tuesday, June 24, 2003

The Little Guy is flirting with giving up his mid-day nap, and I'm j-u-s-t n-o-t r-e-a-d-y. Four of the last seven days have been nap-free. I have an issue with this. Naptime = shower time. Naptime = computer time. Naptime = guilt-free me time. Naptime is a beautiful thing, and I know I'm lucky that a *boy* who is *3* actually has one. But I would like it to continue until the day before he starts kindergarten. Please.

On the plus side, once his naps are gone we can go to 1:00 baseball games. Take day trips. Eat lunch later than other people eat breakfast. Have a life.

Free Food Sighting -- At Seattle's Best Coffee at QFC, broken up blueberry coffeecake and cinnamon twists. Despite my rants against FF I did eat one small piece with my latte. I was feeling sorry for myself -- I was at the grocery store at 7:00 AM because we'd run out of milk for breakfast and I was hungry and wearing the same t-shirt I'd slept in and my hair was pointing up. I was defenseless.

posted by Marjorie
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Sunday, June 22, 2003

slam DUNK! I just submitted three articles and two invoices ... ahhhh ... a quick blog update and then I'm off to take a lo-o-o-ong hot shower, clean my house, and eat something nutritious for a change. My butt has grown roots into this chair, and my hair has just grown plain old roots.

Today's conversation with the Little Guy:

LG: Let's go play at Carrie's house!!!
Me: Okay. We'd better get cracking and eat some breakfast first.
LG: Okay. I'm going to get cracked now.

posted by Marjorie
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Saturday, June 21, 2003

Georgia describes a day at home for her, which admittedly is a day off from a demanding outside job: "baking, a little craft project, curl up on the sofa and watch a DVD, take the dog for a run and go to the coffee house ..." I don't know whether to laugh or cry. It's Saturday, but I haven't showered or exercised since Thursday, I don't remember the last time I used my oven, I gave up running years ago, my sofa is hidden under several geological strata of toys, my DVD collection consists entirely of Thomas the Tank Engine and Rolie Polie Olie, and I could just shriek at the baby mementos that are disintegrating as I type because the very thought of scrapbooking makes me break out in hives. Yeah, that kind of day sounds like heaven to me, too, but it's just not possible these days.

Off to slam dunk the Big Article and then collapse in a heap before assembling the Little Guy's new big boy bed -- a race car that will surely be too exciting to actually sleep in.

posted by Marjorie
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Friday, June 20, 2003

Today's conversation with the Little Guy, as we drove past a fancy artsy fountain:

LG: (Pointing) What's that over there?
Me: That's a water fountain.
LG: What are those things the water is coming out of?
Me: (Foolishly) Uh, that's art.
LG: What is art?
Me: Art is things that are pretty to look at or listen to, but not play with.
LG: Why don't we play with art?
Me: Art is only for looking at, not touching.
LG: Light bulbs aren't art because they're vewy fwagile.
Me: That's right. Light bulbs are not art.

This conversation went wrong in so many places I don't even know how I could have fixed it.

Meanwhile, out to dinner tonight with the Little Guy, I suddenly realized I was wearing my writer uniform in public. Stretchy running pants, the fleece sack, hair sticking up from running my hands through it, and wearing part of my lunch. Plus I had the whole mom thing going on -- the extra 20 pounds, the pale and haggard face, the purse full of fire trucks and legos. My flash of realization was thanks to the four young women who sat next to us and openly stared. It was so obvious what they were thinking -- these cute 20-year-olds who'd spent an hour and a half getting ready for dinner at the Red Robin -- they would never, never let themselves go like this. Oh no, when they had kids they would just make the time to take care of themselves. How hard can it be to just wear a little makeup for pete's sake, not to mention clean clothes? And let's talk about a manicure once in a while! Their disdain was so open. I felt defensive at first -- I used to be you!!! Really!!! Then defiant -- Screw you!!! I am a published author and I have a bank account!!! Then resigned -- Whatever. At least I didn't sink into self hatred and order more fries. I just cut myself a break and promised to try a little harder next time.

I did get good work done today, so that is something.

posted by Marjorie
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Thursday, June 19, 2003

The Big Guy is away on business, schwanking it up in a Washington DC hotel near Dupont Circle. Oh sure, he tried to downplay it, the king-sized bed, the room service, the c-l-e-a-n bathroom. But I know he's doing the mambo, ordering hot fudge sundaes at midnight, watching HBO, and sprawling in the fresh sheets. I spent my morning playing with bubble wrap, the good kind with the honkin' big bubbles. I also made paper chains, colored said paper chains, and ate Lucky Charms for breakfast. And given my exhausted state this morning, I consider it a small victory that I made it through three and a half hours with the Little Guy without turning on the TV.

And now, dear reader, I must turn my attention to the 2,000-word article that is due tomorrow. It somehow ballooned to 11,000 words and is now down to 8,000. I feel like I'm wrestling with King Kong -- I just can't get my arms around it well enough to bodyslam it and call it done.

posted by Marjorie
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Wednesday, June 18, 2003

New Book Alert. I have finished Mother Shock, by Andrea Buchanan. It's required reading for every woman pregnant with her first child (the better to prepare you with, my dear) and every mother with a child of any age (it will save you thousands in therapy bills). And can I just say I love Seal Press?

On to the next: How To Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen. Now, the first thing I have to say is that JF is a hellaciously good writer, and easy on the eyes to boot. The second thing I have to say is this: If you want to know how to be alone, have a baby. JF is swimming in the world of book tours and war protests and radio interviews, cleverly debating the political ramifications of just about everything, wondering how to be alone in the the midst of such a noisy, busy world. He obviously is not a stay-at-home parent. Here is what I hear right now: The computer humming. Birds chirping. Me typing. The Little Guy is off playing with Nanny, the Big Guy is on an airplane, Kitty is asleep, and that leaves me.

Now this is not an entirely bad thing. In my frantic years in corporate America, I often wished for days like this. Quiet days wearing my sweats doing nothing but reading and writing. I guess I just didn't wish for years like this.

All the same, HTBA is a great collection of essays. The first essay is worth the price of the book -- a gut-wrenching memoir of his father's struggle with Alzheimer's Disease. I laughed, I cried, I learned a lot. Get some caffeine, wake up your brain, and read it.

posted by Marjorie
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Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Here is a conversation I had tonight with the Little Guy.

LG: Hey!!! I dropped ice cream on my pants and now they're all dirty!!!
Me: Uh oh. I guess we'll have to wash them.
LG: Why?
Me: Because they're dirty.
LG: Why?
Me: Because you dropped ice cream on them.
LG: Oh.

We're in the midst of another heat wave -- 92 degrees today and sunny. All you waterlogged east coasters just come on out to Seattle and play in the sun.

posted by Marjorie
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Monday, June 16, 2003

I'm thinking about hanging up my writing spurs. I've met with some success -- an 80% acceptance rate, credible publications, great industry contacts, and an open path to writing another book. But it's just too dang hard to do this and be a good mom and a good wife and a good friend and keep the bathroom clean all at the same time. Never mind getting a manicure once in a while.

There's bitter irony in paying a sitter to watch my child while I write magazine articles about how to be a good parent. Today I told the Little Guy I couldn't go to the playground with him because I had a lot of work to do. And he said "I don't like it when you work work work work." And the truth is I don't either. I waited so long for this little guy, and he's my only child ... I don't want to spend his childhood sitting in front of a computer screen.

And yet.

Writing is who I am. It's been part of my core since I can remember. When I stop writing I get wa-a-a-y too talkative, gnarled up, mentally constipated. I'm afraid to let go of this last shred of my old self, especially now that so much of my identity is consumed with being a mother and wife who stays home. Writing is the last outcrop, the last piece of solid rock before a freefall that scares me. Without writing, I'm invisible. I don't exist. I don't matter. What would happen if I let go?

MomBrain indeed.

posted by Marjorie
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Saturday, June 14, 2003

Last night was the Big Guy's turn to put the Little Guy down for bed. I kissed LG goodnight and left the two of them snuggled in the rocking chair reading a book, LG curled up on BG's lap with his fuzzy blanket, sucking his thumb, wearing Groucho Marx glasses. I love three-year-olds.

FFS: Today at lunch, took LG to World Wrapps. A table was spread with small smoothie cups. Again, dirty fingered children were sampling freely. Two nights ago, went to a baseball game. On the way in, two high school girls were pushing free candy bars. On the way out, the ushers were handing out coupons for a free 2-liter bottle of Pepsi. Candy and soda. Hmmm. Why is America fat?

Stealing an idea from Holly. Here are the questions I've been pondering:

Where is the rotten food smell coming from in my kitchen?
Why can the Big Guy eat so much more than I do, and yet be in better shape?
Private or public?
Are the brakes on the Jeep really getting squishier?
Should I go see Oprah in Philadelphia?
Where did Nanny put the shredded cheese?
Is Kitty losing weight because she's old and sick, or is she just weirded out by our temporary house?
Will I ever go back to corporate work? Doing what?
Was Kimberly's first American ancestor a fugitive murderer fleeing Ireland?
How much longer can LG use his crib before it completely falls apart?
Should I attempt to grow tomatoes again?
When is the movie Alex and Emma coming out?
Should I close my bank account?
Will Buffy guest-star on Angel next season?

posted by Marjorie
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Thursday, June 12, 2003

I've been having a dangerous fantasy lately. This is the one where I'm driving on the highway and I see a sign for Vancouver, or Portland, or anywhere far away and I suddenly think "I could keep driving." A glance at the gas gauge, a mental check of the wallet, and the thought again, even louder. "I could. I could keep driving." I've only recently understood that old cliche, the call of the open road. And it does. Call to me.

We are still living in a too-small rental house. Deadlines are pressing. Preschool is ending and the summer yawns before me, a great unfilled chasm of time with a 3-year-old who needs to be entertained. (Did I mention our house is too small?) The Big Guy is traveling again and I am not. And so I dream ... of driving fast, blasting the tunes, wearing my sunglasses and singing loud. The destination doesn't matter -- as long as it's away. Just a little escapism -- that's all I ask!

And I think I do want to drive somewhere rather than fly. Airports just tick me off. The heavy luggage, the lines, the bad food, the smelly cramped plane -- there's no joy in the journey when you're flying coach.

FFS (Free Food Sighting): At Starbucks this morning, getting a latte for the Big Guy -- A plate of broken-up espresso brownies next to the cashier. I watched a little girl (3? 4?) bite one and put it back while her mom was flirting with the barista.

posted by Marjorie
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Monday, June 09, 2003

ARRRGH ... MORE FREE FOOD!!! Kraft will send you a box with $30 of their latest products FREE except for $4.99 shipping. I ordered it just so I can donate it to a food bank.

posted by Marjorie
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I just finished interviewing a family therapist for the Big Article. I used my own experience as context for the interview questions, so basically I got a free one-hour therapy session with the interview. Woohoo! I'm okay, you're okay ...

I like interviewing people. As a WAHM I don't get out much, and I'm a social creature by nature. So it's nice to meet new people, even if it's over the phone, and even if I'll never talk to them again. And I really like the part where I say "I'm a writer for LaLa Magazine." My poor little ego has been curled up in the fetal position for three years, just lying in the corner gathering dust. It's pathetically grateful for any crust of bread I throw to it.

June Cleaver came to life this morning and ironed the Big Guy's shirt. You must understand that I do not iron. I don't think I've touched an iron in ten years -- BG even had to show me how ours worked. But I was having a panic attack over how small my life is and I needed a calming distraction ... something to control ... a way to create order out of chaos. Wrinkled linen fit the bill nicely. I found an old can of spray starch and sprayed and ironed and sprayed and ironed until I felt better. BG went to work wearing a shirt as stiff as the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. He very nicely said that it was fine, just fine, but that he would iron his own shirts from now on thank you very much. And I actually thanked him for letting me iron his shirt. My feminist friends will be staging an intervention any minute now.

posted by Marjorie
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Sunday, June 08, 2003

This time yesterday the Little Guy was swimming naked in the 90 degree sunshine. Today he is sleeping in a sweatshirt and sweatpants under a fuzzy blanket, in 64 degree comfort. How do you spell relief?

A lovely morning off. The Big Guy was nice enough to take LG out this morning and to handle naptime as well, which left me with a lovely five-hour chunk of free time. The house is a wreck and the refrigerator is empty, but I squashed the June Cleaver devil on my shoulder and set up camp on the couch. The latest issue of Brain, Child and the Sunday NY Times is keeping me pretty happy. Ahhh.

More later but right now I'm busy luxuriating.

posted by Marjorie
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Saturday, June 07, 2003

It is brutally hot in Seattle, in the mid-90s since Wednesday. All you Arizona people can snicker if you want to, but here in Seattle we don't have air conditioning. Heck, half the restaurants don't even have a/c. I have seen precisely one person in the last four days who didn't look like a sodden, wilting mess. She was obviously going for the Audrey Hepburn look -- wide-brimmed hat, glam shades, a fitted skirt and blouse, and not a wrinkle or a shiny pore in sight. She pulled it off, with quite a lot of face powder and I suspect not much sitting down. And she was moving extremely slowly. She sure did look the part, though.

The Little Guy spent the morning romping naked with his friend in her wading pool. He has never been barefoot outside, never mind naked. But it was hot and his little friend was nekkid and before I knew it so was LG. The kids were blissed out, stoned on sunshine and water and warm air on bare skin. Lots of amused smiles from passersby, and my friend and I agreed that it would be lovely to be three again. I think a beach vacation is in our future.

I have an interview scheduled Monday morning for the Big Article, and I'm hoping that will give me the raw material and the jump start I need to slam dunk this puppy.

posted by Marjorie
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Friday, June 06, 2003

I said the F word today. Twice. I am officially a mom who swears, a mom with a potty mouth, a mom who needs to clean up her act. I think I said the D word and the S word, too, but it was all in the middle of a tirade which is kind of a blur now so I'm not sure. The cause of all the sturm und drang was my anxiety over a huge article that's due in 15 days but is barely started. I haven't been able to just settle down and work on it already. Partly it's just the usual anxiety I feel when I start a piece -- it's too hot, I'm too hungry, I need more caffeine, where's my favorite writing pen, etc. But partly it's a lack of space and time to focus. Even though I have an office that in theory is mine, it's also full of enormous toys, exercise equipment, the Big Guy's computer, and the whole family's books. So I am rarely alone, and when I am it seems to be in 20 minute chunks -- enough time for pee and tea but not much else. So I was getting all Virginia Woolfy, wanting a room of my own and for people to just leave me alone, dammit. So I was ready to be humbled when, surfing to Dawn's blog, I first learned of Julia Glass. Here are the vital stats: 46 years old. Wrote her first novel, Three Junes, at her kitchen table in a 700-square-foot apartment she shares with her partner and two sons. WON THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD.

Now, I can't write a check at my kitchen table, never mind a novel. Never mind a National-Book-Award winning novel. Never mind that her kitchen is the size of a closet in a teensy apartment occupied by four human beings. How? How???

posted by Marjorie
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Thursday, June 05, 2003

There's a water fountain near here that we call Stonehenge. It's probably 10 feet long and 15 feet wide, and at least 8 feet high. Big stone arches pour water into the pool below, where stepping stones form paths through the water. In the summer it's always full of kids scavenging the coins and splashing and screaming. I brought the Little Guy there today to escape the 85 degree heat (and a house that must have been 100). He was so happy in his little red swimming trunks and monkey t-shirt, sopping wringing wet and insisting on wearing his socks in the pool. And then afterward, running around the outdoor mall in nothing but a diaper. It made me wonder when is the last time I felt that unself-conscious and just plain old happy? It's been a while.

The Big Guy is preparing for his fifth trip to Europe in the last three years, and it's giving me itchy feet. I've hardly traveled at all since LG was born -- once to see family in Maine, twice to see family in Virginia, and once to Salt Lake City for genealogy research. Oh, and a very sad funeral in Maryland. In our early days together we had the time to travel, but not the money. Then we finally had the money but not the time. Now we have the time and the money, but I myself still can't go. I am desperate for a change of scenery.

The last time I traveled was in February, to SLC. It's the only time I've traveled alone since LG was born, and I was surprised and comforted at how quickly I slid into my old persona. Sitting on the floor of the airport terminal, writing in my journal and drinking hot tea without watching out for little fingers ... I suddenly felt like my old self. I hadn't even realized that self was so far gone and yet so close at hand. I want that feeling again.

That got me thinking about Mom Porn. The things that get me all aflutter have certainly changed ... Cooking with the pot handles turned out. Peeing with the door closed. Lying on the couch reading a book with no pictures. Talking with friends in complete sentences. Reclaiming the TV. Yup -- it's porn all right. Forbidden lust!

posted by Marjorie
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Here is an open invitation to my worldwide readership.(Hey, Canada counts!) Please register on my GuestMap to the right so I can see where you are!

Fillermania today. I'm writing a string of 150-word blurbs for $15 each -- 10 cents a word. Sounds like wretched money, but considering that a 2000-word article pays $400 -- 5 cents a word -- I'll stick with the fillers for now. Greeting cards are really the way to go -- at $50 per, that works out to about $5 a word. If only I had some pithy ideas! Unfortunately my brain doesn't do pithy. In fact, I think Ben Stein may have taken up residence in my skull.

posted by Marjorie
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Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Am I the only person who thinks something is wrong with a society that bombards us with food, yet expects women to be skinny and have large breasts? I do not use the word "bombard" lightly. Every day it seems like someone tries to push free food at me. At the same time I'm acutely aware of the correlation between "skinny" and "attractive." I feel ganged up on, and it makes me mad.

I went to a baseball game recently, and it was bad enough that vendors were screaming "ice cream!" and "peanuts!" and "cracker jack!" in my ears. But going in the ballpark and again coming out, the Pepsi people were giving away free cans of Pepsi, right next to the Eskimo Pie people who were giving away free ice cream. At the grocery store, the sample ladies push free lasagna, chili, and tortilla chips with salsa. Go to any Starbucks and there's a plate of broken up cookies to sample. And just yesterday Dunkin Donuts gave away free iced coffee at every DD store in the country. Heck, I've even been offered free food at a Weight Watchers meeting of all places. A few weeks ago I went shopping at JC Penney, where they were having a special sale. All I had to do was eat a free candy bar and look inside the wrapper for my discount. And last summer a Ben & Jerry's ice cream stand opened near me and gave away free ice cream. Hundreds of people were standing in line for a cup of ice cream that would normally cost them $1.50. How much money would you pay to get out of a line that long?

posted by Marjorie
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Sunday, June 01, 2003

I went for a power walk today, up a hill that was so steep I had to hunch over and put my hands on my knees to keep going. I inched up the hill in teeny steps, holding my knees and puffing, feeling alive and happy and at the same time praying that no one I knew would drive by. When I'm exercising, what I feel like and what I look like are two different things. This is one reason I believe in real exercise clothes. Old sweatpants and baggy t-shirts make me feel like exactly that -- old and baggy. But sleek track pants and a fabulous running shirt make me feel athletic, fit, and toned -- as if I could conquer the world. You are what you wear.

If only I could translate that fashion sense to the rest of my life. I think in terms of uniforms. My mom uniform is jeans and a t-shirt, armor against the grass, dirt, food, and other unidentifiable substances that I get smushed in every day. On weekends I wear my wife uniform -- jeans or khakis with a turtleneck or blouse and makeup. I still get smushed, but I do the best I can to look halfway nice. My writing uniform is jeans and The Sack, an unflattering but warm fleece sweatshirt. One of the very few things I miss about working fulltime is wearing fun clothes and makeup and having a reason to brush my hair in the morning.

posted by Marjorie
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