Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Parenting Tips I Learned From NYC

When I moved to NYC after college, I was constantly doing and saying things that made me stand out as an outsider. I made eye contact with everyone. I didn’t know how to ignore anyone. Eventually, I learned. Thank gods I did too because these skills quite useful when dealing with toddlers.

Here are a few parenting tricks I learned from living in NYC:

Avoid eye contact.  If you make eye contact, smiling may have unintended consequences. These consequences are unpredictable. You may end up being overwhelmed by the power of human connection. You may be followed around when you try to leave by someone demanding your personal attention. You may get feces thrown at you. Or you may see your soul in their eyes & cry from the beauty of it all. You just never know.

Ignore anyone who is being pushy & demanding/whining for your attention. You don’t want what they’re selling. Do not engage. Otherwise, you end up just giving them what they want so they will shut up – it may be $10 for their crappy CD or letting them eat popsicles for lunch while riding the dog. Either way, if you give in now, it will be harder to stay strong the next time.

Learn to eat everything standing up. The cheapest (& often best) food in NYC is sold out of trucks or restaurants with little to no seating. Sitting down to eat in NYC means you’ve got time and money to spare. As a parent, it means you have a nanny. I’m not judging if you do have these things. I just envy you. A lot.

Master the art of being completely aware of your surroundings. Walking down the street in NYC is a bit like a dance. At any given time, you may have to navigate through people, scaffolding, and dogs in sweaters while avoiding pools of bodily fluids on the ground. Which is pretty much the same thing as walking through my house, except replace “scaffolding” with toys and randomly rearranged furniture. Oh, and our dogs don’t have sweaters.

Finally, small acts of kindness are in your best interest. A clear example of this is what happens when someone has a stroller in a subway station. The best way to get your stroller up or down the subway stairs is to just walk straight for them like they are a ramp. Inevitably, when you are a step away, a stranger or two will grab the front wheels and help you carry the stroller up the stairs. You can say thanks, but they won't hear you - they have places to be & don't have time for the consequences of eye contact. 

I have always opened doors for people. It never seemed a big deal to me until I tried to get my double stroller through the ridiculous doors at Barnes and Noble while hurried patrons tried to squeeze past me. I remember thinking, “This would never happen in NYC.” When someone finally grabbed the door and held it, I wanted to kiss her with gratitude. But she was on her way before I could say thank you.

The most important thing I learned from NYC, as a person and a parent, was to be kind to people without expecting so much as a thank you in return. 

We are all in this together. If any one of us falls down, we all suffer. 


Friday, January 09, 2015

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?


January's always bitter
But Lord this one beats all

You're told that the New Year begins on January 1st, because the old year ends on December 31st. But January is not a beginning, it is a transition. Janus is the god of gates, of doorways - that place between where you've been and where you're going. The threshold over which new brides are carried, the doorframe upon which a mezuzah should be placed. The interstitial space. This is January.

Janus sees the past and the future. Looking forward while looking back, but never looking within. What's gone before is reviewed, what's yet to come is planned, but what is... that gets lost, swallowed, forgotten. Where the other months are enjoyed, January is barely endured.

A space of unknowability, the place of transformation that we pretend happens immediately. Though it feels like stagnation it is the necessary delay, for nothing happens instantaneously. It is the pause, pregnant with possibilities. We think that because we know where we've been and we believe to know where we're going, we know where we are. As though it is the past and the future which locate the present.

I know where I've been. I know the trajectory I intend to go. But January is bringing about a hell of a metamorphosis, one I will only understand in hindsight. It has pried my frozen hands from the delusion of control, but the sensation hasn't returned to my fingertips. And while I realize these pieces of me have not been wrenched out - amidst this rearranging there is an emptiness and an ache. But I must keep a warm heart, staying supple and malleable. If I freeze, I'll shatter in the wind.

Tonight outside my window
There's a lonesome, mournful sound,
And I can't help but thinkin'
'Bout the ones the wolves pull down

I wrote this blogpost originally in January 2011. I had just started receiving letters of rejections from PhD programs (for the second time) and had learned the real extent of our fertility issues. After I placed my son for adoption in 1998, I had two goals: to be a professor & then to be a mother again, when I could provide a stable home.

In January 2011, I felt that both of those dreams were wrenched from me within days of each other. That is where I was when I wrote this piece & I am reposting it because that's not where I am today.

Today, I am grateful to have escaped the abusive relationship I had with academia.
Today, I am listening to my sixteen month old twins giggle as they chase each other around the house - occasionally, stopping to wave or smile at me.
Today, my spring has come even though the snow is falling outside.

So I am posting this in case you are in the midst of a dark winter. I promise you, your spring will come. Until then, I've got extra blankets, hot cocoa, and mulled wine. You're welcome here anytime.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Old Flames & New

The night we met I showed him my stretch marks. He called them flames.

Ten years later, candles burn in our bedroom as he strokes my belly and kisses the new flames our children etched into my skin.

Monday, January 05, 2015

No Resolutions Here

In late November and early December I started making plans – thinking about the things I would do after the holidays and in the upcoming year. Switch my blog from a blogspot to something more like a “real” website, finish the steps to actually launch my Celebrancy business, apply to the numerous freelance jobs I keep finding, and so on and so forth. I couldn’t start any of these endeavors immediately because I knew I would be abandoning my computer while in Utah to visit family. As such, it was convenient to imagine a post-holiday Liz who would be well rested and motivated.

I have an amazing imagination.

Since getting back home, I have wanted to write and simultaneously not wanted to write. I haven’t had anything good to say because I have been so exhausted that everything, the good and funny stuff included, has been experienced through a sour disposition. Even the best coffee tastes like crap if you’re sipping it into a mouth full of piss and vinegar. So I’ve kept my mouth shut.

I had expected to come back to real life, take a couple of days to adjust, and then regale you with my stories of air travel with twin toddlers. But we've all been sick, are still sick or getting sick again and just thinking about the plane rides makes me tired. I will tell you this: there was a hasty diaper change that occurred while taxiing to the runway involving a escaped poop pancake. I didn’t get caught & I covered everything in hand sanitizer, so I consider it a win. That’s really all I have to say about traveling. Maybe after more sleep I’ll write more. Maybe I’ll never have anything further to say about it. Feel free to place your bets with your favorite bookie.

Now I’m home and the year has ended. Goodbye 2014. Those dreams and aspirations I had prior to vacation feel a lot like New Year’s resolutions. I hate New Year’s resolutions, largely because they often result in a bunch of people refusing to eat cake or drink on my birthday. Early January birthdays can be a bitch that way. Even so, it’s time for a change.

I need to distill those previously mentioned goals into the desires behind them. Strip them of their self-important resolution-ish-ness and see what’s left.

~I want to write more often – not just blogs, but stories and ceremonies too.
~I want to contribute to our income.
~I want to do more stuff that has nothing to do with my offspring.
~I want to have more time with My Love.

That’s it. My focus and time has been filled with the kidlets for almost a year and half – more if you include the time spent pregnant and preparing. It’s time to pull back and expand the frame of my life again. That’s really all I want & put that way, it doesn’t even sound like a resolution.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Flight Suggestions


We’re flying to Utah for the holidays. In preparation for flying with fifteen-month old twins, I have developed a massive case of anxiety & a few theories about how air travel might be improved.

You probably know that kids under 2 can fly in your lap. This saves you the cost of paying for a seat they will refuse to sit in & earns you the disdain of your fellow passengers. (Except the old lady that reeks of cigarette smoke & coughs like the she has the plague. She wants to kiss your baby, probably on the mouth.)

You may not be aware that the airlines only allow one lap infant per row – nod knowingly with me, twin parents. So, Craig & I will be sitting across the aisle from each other, each with a kid in our lap, on most of our flights. For one flight, we could only get two aisle seats in sequential rows. Which means the kid in the row further back can torture both parents simultaneously by kicking the seat in front of her. Perfect.

Anyway, this brings me to my first suggestion. The airlines have to keep track of which seats have lap infants because they cannot have two in one row. The airlines also keep track of which seats have been purchased. I propose that airlines indicate which seats, if any, will have lap infants during the seat selection process of purchasing tickets. Let’s be honest – nobody wants to sit next to the parent with the lap infant. You can be a perfectly nice human being and still not enjoy the prospect of being squished up next to a baby, doing normal baby things like crying & pooping, for HOURS. I expect to hate it & they’re my kids.

I’m willing to bet some people would look at different flights rather than sit next to a baby. At the very least, forewarned is forearmed. If I knew I was going to be seated next to a lap infant, I’d bring noise-canceling headphones, sleeping pills, and a $5 pashmina from a street vendor that I could throw away if, let’s be honest – when, it ends up covered in baby excretions.

My second suggestion is to help counter that anxiety I mentioned. Imagine: the moment you confirm that you are flying with children your itinerary gets forwarded to your primary care physician who writes you a prescription for the anti-anxiety medication of your choosing. Brilliant, right? Then you might be able to figure out how to pack extra clothes, toys, food, diapers, bottles, and the all-important Benadryl into your carry-on luggage, without innumerable panic attacks. Maybe. As long as you stop picturing your child having a complete meltdown mid-flight because you packed the wrong color pacifier, while the asshat two seats over loudly expresses that HER kid wouldn’t dare act like that.

Speaking of that lady, my final suggestion grew out of a desire to ingratiate myself to her, as well as the other hypothetical passengers I keep imagining. I thought it would be a nice gesture to buy them all a drink. Then I remembered that the cost of airline tickets during the holidays ate all my money. So, I propose that the airlines offer a complimentary alcoholic beverage to any adult passengers seated within two rows of a lap infant. On any flight with more than two lap infants, ALL adult passengers should be given a free alcoholic beverage – except those within one row of the lap infants – THOSE poor sods should get two free drinks, minimum.


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Forgive Me

When you died people said,
“It’s okay to cry.”                         [no shit]
“It’s part of God’s plan.”             [fuck your god]

Nobody told me I would wake up one day
and forget to cry.

That day was today.

I’m sorry, Love.

Finding Light in the Dark Season

As a child, I used to listen to Christmas music and bawl. Good King Wencesles could reduce me to tears in ten seconds. The Little Matchgirl took five seconds, if that. There’s something about the winter that makes the tears flow more easily. I suppose it could be seasonal affective disorder, but that feels disingenuous to me.* 

Winter is a time of hibernation, of dying, of darkness. Maybe I do just crave some extra Vitamin D, but it feels like these emotions are natural for me. They feel as natural as the calm sense of reassurance that floods through me when I bask in the sun. Denying the dark emotions is to deny half of myself. The longest day of the year must be countered by the longest night and so it is within me as well.

That the cycles of my emotions might follow the cycles of the seasons seems as it should be. It is my understanding that most Christian religions believe Jesus was actually born in the spring, but celebrating his birth during the winter feels more necessary. Yes, there’s the whole "celebrate around the time of the pagan holidays" thing, but I think – no I feel (it’s the winter, I feel things instead of thinking them these days) – I feel that there might be more. 

The celebration of the lights that is Hannukah, the return of the sun marked by Yule, the birth of the Son on Christmas – here we are, as human beings, in need a reminder that it will get better, that the light will return to us. We will feel the warmth again.

I used to make candles on the autumnal equinox and burn them all night on winter solstice.

Between the cost of traveling to see family, gift giving, and having to turn on the oil heat – winter is definitely a time of scarcity. I reach for the light, for the warmth, for the promise of fecundity. For the past two years, I have been able to find that promise within my home. 

The fertility treatments that brought us our twins were done in the winter. I love this fact. I now have new dates to celebrate in the winter. We transferred the embryos on 12/12/12. I found out I was pregnant the day after Christmas. What more promise do I need, that we will find the sun again and life will grow out of the darkness than the laughter of my children? My beautiful, improbable but not impossible children, who began to grow in the darkness of winter. In the dark midwinter, they are my light. 

Although a spice-scented candle & a glass of mulled wine certainly wouldn’t go amiss.

*I am not discounting the existence of Seasonal Affective Disorder, nor meaning to imply that it is something people should just suffer through. I only mean that I do not believe it is an appropriate diagnosis for myself.