Friday, November 11, 2011

Operation: Normalcy

It dawned on me recently that as a mother, I have made it past the "survival mode" period. Sleep and I have become great friends again. "Reunited and it feels so goo-ood." If the kids want or need something (there is a difference), they can use their words and we communicate. We are out of those wretched diapers, although I still wipe a bum now and then. I no longer think to myself, how am I going to make it through this day with my sanity intact? I am in the clear, as long as I don't have another baby, (an entirely different beast I've been grappling with lately... I am thinking it's time for a pet).

With the exception of the inevitable communicative virus and the occasional nightmare, I'm sleeping again, which makes me a pretty normal functioning human being. The times of waking six times per night and getting three short hours of interrupted sleep are over. . . Hallelujah!

Phase one: complete.

Phase two: Enjoy.

The ages of three and six are pretty darn enjoyable. The boy is cuddly, compassionate and he sure does love his mama! Big sister is still completely innocent, but on the cusp of becoming a "big kid." Sure, they fight like cats and dogs (I literally just stepped away from the keyboard to break up a kitty-puppy fight), but deep down it is clear that they enjoy each other's company. Life is pretty swell in the Robertson household. (I think I may have just jinxed myself).

There was a frightening period when the husband and I would attempt to go on a date, and all we seemed to be able to talk about was the kids. That was terribly scary. Had we become those people? I am happy to say, no, we hadn't. Just like every other stage of parenting, that too was just a phase. I seem to have regained my self-identity, and am not only a mother. He never really lost his. . . he's solid like that.

The kids are working on a puzzle, and I have a little bit of time to type out my thoughts on my attentive keyboard. Today will be busy: auction meeting to raise money for Haley's school at ten, and a play date with a new friend at noon. I may get to go to the gym for an hour or two before we the sitter arrives so that we can go celebrate a friend's birthday at the wine bar. We'll be home by eight, at which time I'll crawl into bed with a book before dozing off for the night. It's not exactly what I envisioned for myself before we had children, but honestly, if I had something else envisioned I do not remember it.

It's smooth sailing from here. . . or at least until we hit the tweens; something I'd rather not think about at all until I am absolutely forced to.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

i am a little teapot

my contents are on the edge of boiling
i hum softly- blending in with the sounds
the pressure builds too fast
and so loudly, without warning, i scream

there are no words
to take the place of the water
which has gotten so hot
that it changes form

i need a new form.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I am thinking of....

I am thinking of changing the title of my blog, although I have always thought it would be a clever title. I don't want to be a misanthrope-- not even occasionally. I think that for someone to lack faith in humanity as a whole, they must have a lot of hurt buried deep in their hearts. I don't want to be that person.

This will be a short post, but to the point. I wonder if it's possible to just let it all go. Let go of all the hurt, pain and memories that have caused me to be an occasional misanthrope. "They" say that you can forgive, but you can never forget and I wholeheartedly believe that. The problem is: I have a ridiculously good memory, and there are some things that just need forgetting.

For me, this week has been one of the toughest and one of the most enlightening; and today I am going to try to let go of it all. I thought I had coined a new term when I came up with "debilitating nostalgia;" --memories that flat out knock me down and out, refusing to let me move forward. A smell, a sight, any trigger--and I was overcome. Then I read an essay by Freud on Melancholia. My term has already been coined- and by Freud himself. I am not an absolute Freudian. I disagree with many of his theories; but when I read this essay, I think he really hit the nail on the head. Anyway, my point is that there is a lot of hurt, and it is so insanely deep. I have lost something and I don't know what. I don't want to feel that way anymore--so I am letting it all go. I think that many people feel similar feelings, otherwise I wouldn't share such a personal story.

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A life without moderation

This September our children turned six and three years old, respectively. I tend to get carried away when planning birthday parties, (a subject that deserves it's own blog post), so this year I made a conscious effort to keep things simple. In some ways I succeeded, and in some I failed. I wanted to celebrate their lives, rather than getting caught up in all of the hoopla that accompanies a child's birthday party.

Haley's favorite pastime is hanging out at the beach. Toss some friends into the mix, add a bonfire, throw in the ingredients for s'mores and you've got Haley's utopia. I didn't bother with a BBQ, because that would have been a lot of work. Instead we played games, danced to some awful (oops, I mean fun, music), and hung around the fire roasting marshmallows with our closest family and friends. It sounds simple enough, but it was enough to give me an anxiety many little details involved in making her birthday just right. We didn't go overboard with gifts, for once. We stuck to our guns and got her one nice gift, rather than many gifts.

Same thing for Sam. He got to plan his own party this year. His specific requests were: family only, mac'n'cheese, watermelon and a sword-fight. We stuck to his plan, and it was honestly the best party ever. He got to do all of the things a three-year old boy likes to do, and I didn't have the stress of supervising a bunch of kids or entertaining their parents. We also bought Sam a few of his favorite things for his gift: two matchbox cars, a few bags of marbles, and some plastic dinosaurs and bugs. We kept his gift under $30 total, and he didn't know the difference. More isn't always better.

It is so nice of everyone to get the kids thoughtful gifts, but this year it was a little out of control. They received so much stuff that they couldn't even keep track of who got them what. I am not complaining about people's generosity and thoughtfulness at all; but what I am saying is that maybe tons of gifts aren't necessary. On the same tip, were aren't even into October yet, and there is already talk of Santa Claus and more presents. I do not want to raise children who think they need possessions in order to be happy. I want them to appreciate the people who come to their parties more than the gifts that arrive with them.

I think the overabundance of gifts this year was a good thing in a sense, because it really pushed me to have a talk with Haley about how fortunate she is to have what she does. The day after her birthday, we were laying in bed talking about all of her nice things she got, and I suggested that for Christmas, maybe we should only ask for half of the amount of stuff we normally do- and the other half, we should wish for a less fortunate child to get instead. I really wasn't sure how she'd react; I mean, she is six after all, and what six-year old doesn't like to have lots and lots of new toys??? We discussed the local Toys For Tots program, the international program "Smile Train," and "World Vision." Haley decided she wanted her "big gift" this year to be a sponsorship to World Vision, so we decided to look into it further.

When we sat down together in front of the computer and looked up World Vision, we got really excited. She got to pick whether she wanted to sponsor a boy or girl, what age, and factor in similar interests between herself and her new friend. She chose a little girl who was born on her birthday, and who likes to draw and do math. She thinks it's amazing that there is a little girl somewhere across the world, with the same interests, same birthday, whose favorite subject is also math! Each profile comes with a description of the child, their family, and their living and health conditions. Researching the children opened up a dialogue about what it means to live in poverty, what those children have to live without, (things we all take for granted everyday), and what our small monthly donation would give them.

We noticed that half of the kids from that program don't attend school because it's not available and/or they can't afford it. Many of them do not have clean drinking water. Lots of them have dirt floors in their houses. We live such a cooshy life over here in the U. S. of A.; taking for granted our clean water, never having to listen to hungry tummies, and we are disappointed when the last of our 25 gifts have been opened, and there aren't any more. I am really hoping that Haley, our kind and sweet and empathetic Haley, loves this experience. I hope that as a family we can start to live more moderately, and without the need for more, more, more.

Maybe this is a start.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday Blues

Decades of searching, picking up treasures, smelling the flowers and watching them whither. Such a tedious process, seemingly endless. I thought I had figured it all out. Learned how to dance without being too self-conscious, how to chime into a conversation with license behind my words, and how to feel less uncomfortable in my skin. It's funny (not really funny) but painfully odd, how quickly all of that can change. Painfully odd, how self-assured one can feel for such a brief period before shrinking back into nothing.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Honesty is the Best Policy: Says Who!?!?

wait... is this the best idea?

When I was a kid, I remember my father's biggest rule was that we never lie. Telling the truth is important! Now, twenty five years, one husband, and two kids later, I wonder about this "truth" and how much we should be following it.

Sure, I want my kids to tell us the truth. Without it, how do we properly gauge a situation and decide what is right or wrong? I guess it all depends on the magnitude of truth. If we demand it, are we sure we are willing to hear it? What about white lies? When are they okay? I think I've used them in the past for the benefit of others. I specifically remember a time when I was fourteen years old. One of my parents asked me a question and assured me that they wouldn't be mad if I told the I told the truth. Big mistake. I guess it wasn't the truth they wanted to hear. I guess I should have stuck with an altered truth...a white lie...just enough information so that no one would get hurt.

It's been something I've been grappling with lately. Is the truth always the best route? Why do people tell the truth when they know it is only going to hurt someone else? My logic, and please, please, please tell me if I am wrong, is that people unload the truth on others as to unburden themselves of guilt. This sense of guilt or shame eats away at them, and so in doing the "right" thing and being honest, they tell the truth. So is honesty the best policy, or is it just plain selfish?

As a self-proclaimed Occasional Misanthrope, I tend to be cynical at times. At this particular time, I am feeling cynical about honesty as well as it's proponents. I mistrust it's motives. What a conundrum. Honesty? A white lie? Lying? Who really benefits from honesty??? A "friend" of mine decided one day to be honest with me. I learned what a terrible person I have always been from her perspective. In being honest, was she doing me a favor? Considering the way I felt afterwards, I would argue against it. Just saying. Honesty-shmonesty.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

And That's When Something Phenomenal Happened

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As a kid I remember adults constantly asking, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" I recall many of my answers, always different depending on the day; but some of them included the professions of dentist, lawyer, doctor, Olympic swimmer, teacher, mermaid, marine biologist and a baker. If I remember correctly, my responses were always met with amusement and followed with the canned answer: "you can be anything you want to be when you grow up!" I don't remember how I felt about that exactly, but it was somewhere in the middle of 'that's what people always say' and 'of course I can!'

I sincerely wonder at which point in my life I stopped believing that I could truly "be" whatever I wanted to "be." I cannot remember. For about the first six years of your life people encourage you to be outgoing, confident, and to chase your dreams. Somewhere soon thereafter the child is encouraged not to think too highly of themselves, because that is arrogant and conceited. I am guessing it is during this transition that children become confused and begin to think that there are restrictions to what they can and cannot accomplish. How very sad.

After a decade of community college (most of which was half-assed and coerced), and many menial positions as a secretary, file clerk, and coffee brewer; something clicked with me internally. Let me quickly say that I genuinely believe that ALL jobs are important, but those positions were just not fulfilling for me. I felt like I was wasting my life. I felt like I had more to offer than that. I felt a little bit (okay, a lot) of insecurity knowing that most of my peers had their University degrees and I did not. I found myself keeping quiet during conversations when I had something to say, afraid that I lacked the license to contribute my two cents. Alas, I had already gotten married and had children so it was too late to finish college and pursue a career in something I felt passionate about; right? Wrong.

It was shortly after our daughter's third birthday when I had what some might call an epiphany. I was talking with her about what kind of job she thought she'd like to have when she grew up. She said, "I want to make coffee drinks just like you!" It was cute and it was sweet, but she is a tremendously bright girl with the potential to do anything. ANYTHING. It was then and there that I began to wonder why I failed to have enough confidence in myself to pursue my true interests. When I told her "you can be anything you want to be if you work hard for it," I truly meant it.

And that is when something phenomenal happened.

In that instant I started to believe it not only for my children, but also for myself....for the first time ever. I knew deep down in my heart that if I wanted my daughter and son to chase their dreams and interests, then I would have to do it myself. More importantly though, I believed for the first time that I deserved it. I started listening to the advice and confidences I offered to my children, and began to offer them to myself as well.

A month later I re-enrolled at the local community college. Low and behold, I was one (yes one- as in a single) unit away from receiving my Associates Degree, making me eligible for a transfer agreement to UCSC. I knew it would be difficult being a full time student while raising a newborn and a preschooler, all the while maintaining a home (aka, "re-entry student"), but I finally had the drive and determination that I had lacked for so long. More importantly, I finally had the confidence. I listened to to the words I told my children and I applied them to myself.

I graduated in a year and a half with a Bachelors degree in Literature- a subject I have always loved. The English language lacks the words to describe how amazing I felt when I graduated with three different kinds of honors. I felt even more amazing when I got my dream job two months later as a writer and editor. And now? Every single time that I tell our children that they can be anything they want to be in life, as long as they try their hardest and believe in themselves....well, now I know it is true.

I guess what I am trying to say here, is that when you bestow your children, friends or loved ones with words of encouragement, always know that you are equally deserving of those words.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Best Decision We Ever Made

I remember so vividly the day Kevin and I decided that we wanted to have a baby. We had been married for about a year and a half, were living in San Francisco and were merely babies ourselves at the tender age of twenty-four. We were on the Geary bus when I nervously brought the subject up, fearful that he'd shoot it down once again. I could barely contain my excitement when he replied without reservation, "O.K., let's do it!" I was excited, nervous, and my palms were sweating as we rode the over-crowded 38 MUNI bus headed towards Ocean Beach.

We were young, in love, and our biggest responsibility was taking care of our cat and making sure we got to work on time. We had only lived in San Francisco for a year and couldn't afford much, so we lived in the "Tender-Nob;" definitely not the place you want to raise a child. Although the apartment was nice, the view from the window was, well....colorful. Junkies shooting up, pizza men being chased by pimps (no kidding), fire engines roaring by every three minutes; all highly entertaining to watch at two o'clock in the morning but obviously not the ideal environment for a baby. We decided to move back to our beloved Santa Cruz, where kids rode their bikes to school with their surfboards in tow. Shortly thereafter we had found jobs, and were fortunate enough to live in "the beach house." We were excited and nervous knowing that we were making a HUGE decision that would change our lives forever, as I am sure everyone trying to get pregnant is.

Many people in our position wait until "the time is right," but we really believed that now was as good of time as any. We talked about how if we waited until we had enough money or owned a home, or any of the other prerequisites that "responsible" adults wait for, we'd be sixty years old before we had a child. Undoubtedly there were naysayers who thought that we were irresponsible for bringing a child into the world before we were "ready," but we were ready. It was sometime in January that we found out we were pregnant, and it was such an exciting time. I loved being pregnant and did everything by the book. I was not scared about the labor and delivery whatsoever; but I was suddenly scared to death about being someone's parent! Having a little person who is completely dependent on me was a daunting thought, but the fright always left as quickly as it came.

Fast forward five years and a second (wonderful surprise) child later: our lives have certainly seen it's share of uncertainty. Living with our parents during a terrible recession, colicky babies, sleepless weeks resulting in a semi-psychotic young mother; it was during these times when we thought, hmm.....maybe we should have waited until we were "ready." And then we come to our senses and remember that even if we'd been more financially prepared or owned a home of our own; having our children was well worth the worry, the mishaps, and even having to live with our (generous and understanding) parents while we got back on our feet. Stressful times to be sure, but an experience that all brought us closer as a family.

Today is Saturday. It is nine o'clock in the morning, and I've been awake for two hours. The 'pre-children me' would have easily slept in past noon, rolled out of bed for lunch and maybe gone back to sleep to rest up for a Saturday night bar crawl. As I write this, our children are playing a newly discovered game of marbles, Sam is wearing his Halloween costume from last year (it's August), and we are about to walk to the Farmer's Market for some delicious treats and fresh flowers. I am thirty-one years old, and our oldest child will start first grade next week. I am beginning an incredibly exciting job in two days, and my husband has worked his way into a fulfilling career that he loves. Everything has fallen into place despite our unpreparedness. We followed our hearts, ignored the warnings, and today I am grateful for these little people that have made my life worth while.

I am not sure why I decided to share this. I think that sometimes I am just so overcome with happiness that I can't keep it bottled inside. I am more in love with my husband than the day I married him and today we will watch our little children with amusement, knowing that we made the right decision six years ago. :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ice Cream really does cure the blues!

The day after I began this blog, my children requested that we go strawberry picking at our favorite berry farm. I was in a bit of a slump and wanted nothing more than to lay in bed all day, or at most sit on the couch. Now for those of you with children, you know that they don't slow down just because you do. For those of you who don't have children, I will just say that they don't require any less attention or care just because of flu's or blues.

Around ten in the morning, we collected our baskets, put on our berry picking shoes, and sluggishly I drove the fifteen miles to Gizdich Ranch in good ole Watsonville, California. Before I knew it I was back in Mom-mode without a care in the world. We were in the sunshine, in a field of strawberries that were absolutely perfect for the picking and it was just the three of us.

Blues? Gone.

So now we have about seven pounds of fresh strawberries that will go bad in the next day unless we do something with them. Not even Sam can eat that many strawberries (and the kid can eat A LOT of strawberries). It has been at least a year since we've broken out the ice cream maker, so we decided that all we needed was a good recipe. Thanks to the ever-amazing world wide web we found one, and once the kids went to sleep I plopped myself down in front of the television and hulled about three hundred strawberries. An hour of alone time in front of the TV is nearly impossible to come by anymore, and it was just what I needed. I didn't watch anything good- I think I was actually watching an episode of "Hoarders," but sitting on the floor with a bucket of handpicked fruit in front of me, all alone, was pretty much heaven.

Right now, as I type, I am listening to the whirling of our ice cream maker and am patiently (yes, patiently) awaiting the fruits of our labor: homemade fresh strawberry ice cream. Such a simple task with such sweet rewards. The kids got out of the house and visited one of their favorite places, my blues were instantly gone, and now we have a delicious treat to share with friends after dinner tonight.

Moral of the story? Get outside and get your hands dirty. Create something, and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I would do anything for love, but I won't do THAT.

There is a burning question that I've had for decades now, and I fear may it may never be answered. The answer is not of great consequence, and if it were to be answered, it is unlikely that my life would be changed even in the most mildest of terms. Still, it is a question that comes to the forefront of my mind on occasion and I wonder what YOU think about it.

Here we go:

Meatloaf (the musical artist- not the cake-shaped dinner dish made of beef and ofttimes served with ketchup) did a song called, "I would do anything for love." Some would say it's one of the greatest songs of all time. I say it is quite arguably one of the worst songs of all time, but that is neither here nor there. So the question: what is the "that?" He sings so convincingly, "I would do anything for love....but I won't do that!" WHOA! What is he talking about? Disowning his mother at the request of his wife? Having a menage a trois? Killing an annoying co-worker? Or perhaps jumping off a really tall bridge (cause that's what everyone else did)? What is the "that," and has anyone every wondered this very thing themselves?

Here is the link to the song:
..let's discuss.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Misanthropless Day

There is a downside to writing a blog centered around the state of misanthropy: my life and the people in it more often than not redeem my faith in humankind. Last night for instance, I watched my husband and about eight of his friends surf at dusk with the fervor of a bunch of ten year old kids. Big, strong, hardworking, (and quite handsome I should add) men, playing together like children- just like they have been doing for thirty years. Meanwhile our kids and I sat on the beach building impressive sandcastles and tunnels which served as homes to the large and creepy sand crabs we caught. A friend and I played an unsuccessful, yet very fun game of paddle ball as the sun began to set at Black's Beach, aka: our back yard. My point: where do I find the dislike and distrust I so often embrace? On this occasion, I do not.

If I looked hard enough, surely I could find things that are capable of driving me crazy. Like the countless cigarette butts that people leave on the beach, for the birds to mistake for food, or for my kids to add to the top of the sandcastle as a flag. Or perhaps the skim-boarders that somehow have a magnetic pull towards my two year old. THOSE THINGS ARE DANGEROUS! But that's where it ends. After a stressful few days, relaxing on a beautiful night on the beach, talking to a friend who happens to be a fantastic listener has for now redeemed the value of people; at least for this occasional misanthrope.

The ugly is always out there, but so is the beautiful. I guess we see what we look for. <3

Friday, August 12, 2011

mis·an·thrope ...... \ˈmi-sən-ˌthrōp\

So about a year ago I came across a new word which quickly became a staple in my daily vocabulary. Misanthrope. On the fateful day of discovery I felt that I was, by definition, a misanthrope. Good 'ole Wikipedia defines the word as "a generalized dislike, distrust, disgust, contempt or hatred of the human species or human nature." Yes, rather harsh, I know; but don't we all feel that way sometimes? Maybe some more than others. Maybe only on occasion.

Now, I feel that I have excellent reason to label myself as such and when I am in a state of misanthropy, the single best way to shake it is to write it out. I have asked myself time and time again, who wants to hear the rantings of some middle-class, thirty-something, wife and mother of two; who in reality has it pretty darn good? Maybe no one. Or...... maybe all of the other occasional misanthropes who find themselves worked into a tizzy over one or all of the following things:

1. People who walk the wrong way down the sidewalk, causing others to clumsily evade them.
2. When at a four way stop, people are being so very kind and generous, that they sit there, insisting that one of the other three cars go on ahead. No one goes. Finally, after thirty awkward and wasted seconds, you finally make the decision to go- even though you were the last person to arrive at said stop sign.
3. Dog-lovers who insist that owning and raising a dog is exactly like child-rearing, and then proceed to pull out 28 photos of Fifi on their last Hawaiian vacation.
4. Slightly overweight/extremely unmotivated people who opt to use the motorized carts in the grocery store; who shoot you nasty glares because you don't move immediately out of their path. (You are lazy, not handicapped).

So by now you get what I am saying, right? These are not major offenses and are probably no reason to even get perturbed; but to the occasional misanthrope they are inexcusable offenses of humankind. This blog will serve to both alleviate the ridiculous tension I allow to build up because of my daily interactions, and hopefully to supply you with a good laugh too.

Oh, and if you are an occasional misanthrope (or even a permanent one), you are NOT alone.

Thank you for reading my silly blog, and feel free to leave comments on what it is about humanity that makes your skin crawl for no good reason.