Measure distance covered in the length of a song

Imagine geographic area given the musicians to roam

Number songs down before destination done

Hit corner by time clock hits the next minute

Shave time off ETA

Not late until start time elapses

Envision window into where you are

Just how close, closer,

            every inch, every minute, every mile

Pray for a well-played EP


How many gentle moments do we poison each day when we cling to our expectations?  When we are imagining breakfast while we rock the baby, we miss the joy of rocking, we lose a precious moment with the baby – and we still miss breakfast.  When we simply rock when we are rocking, and then eat while we are eating, we become more open to the blessings available in the moment.

 Some expectations are extremely difficult to relinquish.  Some of us still expect our parents, friends, or spouses to finally become the loving people we always wanted them to be.  We think of how it might have been if only the right person or career had come along.  Some of us are still so attached to these hopes that we have not yet really begun our lives in earnest.  We are still patiently waiting for the world to match our perfect picture before we start.  How much longer can we wait?


from Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood

by Wayne Muller

Not All Accolades

To all the parents subject to end of the year festivities this week . . .

Maybe, amidst the pride for your child, there are other emotions.

Maybe the reminder that your child is another year older, another year closer to leaving your nest brings a sadness to the celebration.

Maybe all the social connections your child is making reminds you that her web is ever widening and you can’t climb each ring with her.

Maybe the fact that your child is not traveling in social circles makes you mourn the life you thought he should have had.

Maybe you’re dreading a long stretch of uninterrupted time with your child – not because you don’t love him, but because there are countless hours you are expected to fill and that’s an emotional burden your psyche is not prepared to bear.

Maybe you’ve done the math and know this is the year your child would’ve reached that big milestone – if he or she were still here.  

Maybe you’re just barely making it through the day and the thought of one more ceremony to attend is exhausting.

It’s okay for ambivalence, wistfulness, sadness, and annoyance to mix with the pride.

Parenting never asks just one thing of us.

I see it, I see you all.



The Push and Pull of Motherhood

It all starts with a push.  It is through a woman’s labor, a forceful push, that a baby – and her mother – is birthed.

From that point on, it is all about pulling.  A woman, now a mother, pulled in eight thousand different directions a day.  Literally, she is – calls for food, cries for comfort – but that’s not even of what I speak.  I’m speaking of expectation vs. reality; perfection vs. attainability; manic striving vs. sanity.


From that first push, and from that first pull forward, the unwitting conditioning of our ideas and carrying out of motherhood shape our every decision, every day, our very psyches.

The other day, I kicked my kids out of the kitchen while I made the cupcakes they requested for Easter.  My second oldest had requested red velvet, which we’d never made before.  Why, suddenly, did she want this new and different flavor?  Could we not keep it simple, especially surrounding a busy holiday?  But then, I could’ve kept it simple by redirecting her to a different flavor or even buying a ready-made mix.  Instead, I half-kiddingly offered the metaphor of red for Christ’s blood.  She was sold.  And I began research on homemade recipes with less artificial ingredients than the mixes.  Again, could’ve kept this simple, but looked for the simplest one I could find that was sort of in line with the husband’s and my new trying-to-be-healthy-ish regimen.


That morning, the second oldest and I participated in an impromptu Girl Scout cookie booth.  I came home to prep appetizers for a dinner party at a friends’ that night.  Then I set in on the cupcakes.  The cupcake-requester was nowhere to be found, most likely buried eyeball-deep in her iPad after a morning of social interaction.  Her next youngest sister saw me gathering supplies and asked to help.  At this point, I was up to my eyeballs in a messy kitchen and bad humor.

“NO,” I replied far too emphatically.

When I saw her sad little face, I almost reconsidered, but held my ground, knowing that with limited time and remaining fuse I’d do far more damage than that to her poor little soul.

By way of a conciliatory carrot, I said, “You can help decorate them when they’ve cooled.”

As I prepped the rest of the recipe, I felt guilty.  These were cupcakes for a family celebration of Easter, requested by the kids most excited about the holiday.  Yet, the kid who’d started this whole evolution was MIA and I’d sequestered the rest.  Was I not sucking the joy out of this?  Was it about having a finished batch of red velvet cupcakes or letting my daughters participate in a fun activity?

When describing the frenetic events of the weekend to my therapist today, but before I got the part about my guilt, she congratulated me for sensing my limit and taking steps to keep from flying right over it.  When I told her how I perceived it, she said that I had been well within my rights for self-preservation by prepping the cupcakes myself.  She pointed out that I welcomed them in decorating the cupcakes, which is all kids really want to do anyway.

It did occur to me that, had I removed that fail-safe for myself that day, it wouldn’t have been a June Cleaver moment even if mother and child had made cupcakes together.  It almost certainly would’ve ended badly.  Just the night before, I’d dropped the f-bomb as we all made Resurrection cookies together.  Jesus would’ve been proud.

Looking back, I can see how it would’ve ended.  I would’ve needed multiple ‘come to Jesus’ moments afterwards to recoup.  And yet, the guilt still came in the moment.

And that is the pull modern mothers have.  We have been conditioned to do all manner of June Cleaver, Martha Stewart, Mother Earth type of things for our children, our families – even to the exclusion of our sanity.

Motherhood, parenthood, by its very essence, is sacrifice.  But there is no sense giving all of ourselves if everyone involved is miserable.  Even cupcakes are bitter to the taste buds when made with resentment and frustration.

The journey of motherhood started with a push.  That doesn’t mean we have to be pulled apart from that point forward.  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  And no, I’m not saying we should push our kids around.  We mustn’t remain static in the face of our conditioning.   There has to be movement both towards our children and our own self care.

After all, my homemade version of red velvet cupcakes were vegan – with store bought cream cheese frosting.

How Low Can You Go?

My head keeps butting up against expectation

No amount of plying with my pronged horns can make it go away

Some holes poked, but never enough to tear the fabric,
to crumble the wall,
topple the tower

I can peep through the hole, see the happy people on the other side

Those who can see their blessings
who are pleasantly surprised by the unexpected
those overwhelmed by the ordinary, everyday miracle

Setting the bar is fine
but those who only try to go over
are always left in limbo

The Mother of All Father’s Days

Is it wrong that I enjoyed Father’s Day more than I enjoyed Mother’s Day this year?

My parents and father-in-law came over for a casual brunch, which gave me the impetus to clean the house, but not so much pressure that I obsessed over the tasks for which I did not have time.  Said brunch gave me an excuse to make one of my favorite casserole recipes.  We enjoyed a nice, relaxed visit together.  My husband devoted the rest of the day to smoking some ribs on the deck.  Slow cooking gave us the chance to sit on the deck together while the kids played and we relaxed.  As an accompaniment to the ribs, I tried a new recipe of zucchini fried in beer batter, which allowed me to sink myself into savory, lemony fried goodness.  I read al fresco, tickled my babies, and even had a last-ditch burst of energy to dust, mop, and change the linens of my bedroom.

Holy schnikes – we had a good day.

As the cool breeze riffled the pages of my novel, a slight wave of guilt sloshed at my conscience.  I was not supposed to having a nice, relaxing day.  I was not supposed to be enjoying myself.  I was supposed to be making the day of the father of my children.

Being as I can rationalize anything, I petulantly argued to myself that, since Mother’s Day usually sucks, why shouldn’t I have fun now?  Why should I martyr myself more than I do any other day since no one does it for me?

Now, before you get your dander up, my love, (yes, I’m addressing you dear husband) – I am not begrudging you your special day.  You are a fabulous husband and father and always deserve a day to put your feet up after all the hard work you do.

I just thought it was pretty ironic that I had more fun this Sunday than that sacred Sunday in May.  Besides my selfish rationalizations, I think it also had a lot to do with expectations.  I had none yesterday – except helping the kids make his day special.  There was no high bar for me so I surpassed it easily.  Having a beer and reading my novel in the middle of the day was a pleasant and most welcome surprise.

Damn Hallmark and the jewelers and florists make anything less than a champagne brunch with a string quartet fall flat.  I don’t need diamonds, but the social expectations make me feel like I need something different, something to make me feel appreciated, valued.  And I deserve that – all mothers do.  But whatever nebulous idea I have in my head of what a special Mother’s Day looks like never materializes.

So Sunday we (I hope my husband did, too) had a good day.  I’ve been toying for a while with the idea of an anti-Mother’s Day.  (I’ll get around to writing the manifesto at some point)  But maybe I just had the inaugural one.  And it could really be any one of the 365 days in the year.  Any day that a mother takes time for herself, eats good food, enjoys her children, and has a good time with the joint caregiver of those children.

Happy Day, people.  Now go eat some fried zucchini – and enjoy it for gosh sakes!

nom nom nom

nom nom nom

Iron Age

Last weekend, my husband and I watched The Iron Lady.  We’d seen previews for it and were intrigued.  We wanted to see Meryl Streep taking names and kicking butts, which ironically I’d never thought Margaret Thatcher had done.  While she was in office, I was too young to know more about her role in history than her name and position.  It never occurred to me the struggles she’d encounter not only as prime minister, but also as a woman fulfilling that role.  Now, as a grown woman watching this cinematic portrayal of her rise to power and its aftermath, I was angry and heartbroken.

It starts off optimistically enough.  I thrilled in her preemptive speech to her future husband before she accepted his proposal.  She would not bow to society’s ideas of what a woman, wife, and mother should be.  And he agreed!  She would be free to do as she desired with his freely and happily given support.

Then we see Ms. Thatcher as a hard-faced deserter as her children cry at the window as she heads to Parliament, shoving toy cars in the glove compartment on the way.  We see her daughter jealous of her own spotlight being stolen.  We see her husband questioning her devotion to her family in favor of ambition.


Why must a woman be vilified if she desires success outside the realm of motherhood?  Even more so if she harbors such desires in the midst of motherhood.  Yes, there are only twenty-four hours in a day.  Yes, there is always the threat of feeling as if she’s failed on both fronts.  Yes, children demand an inordinate amount of growing, coaxing, and coddling.  She needs to prepare a person ready to face the challenges of the next generation.  But what about the challenges of her own?  Why does motherhood take her out of the equation in facing and solving those? 


Why is there a prevailing thought that a woman must subvert her own self in order to grow the ones that came out of her?


Even with all her success, Margaret Thatcher couldn’t completely change the direction of that stiff wind – at least in this film.

In the speech to her future husband, the young Margaret Thatcher said she did not want to be trapped in the kitchen, hands in the dishwater.  The film ends with her doing just that.  I couldn’t help but think that plunging her hands into that water washed away all merit attached to her ambitious acts.  It called them all into question.  Had she made the wrong decisions?  Set the wrong priorities as a woman, wife, mother?  All joy that she’d excelled in at least the public half of her life was stolen by my doubt that she felt she should have chosen the private half instead.

It shouldn’t be a choice.  Or at least not a mutually exclusive one.

Iron is malleable – especially when it’s heated inordinately – which is a good thing because it looks like society will continue to rake women over the coals for the unforeseeable future.

Eat the Frog

I’ve been doing a lot of that lately.

Suffering through those things I don’t want to do in order to get to the ones I want.

Problem is, by the time I eat said frogs, I’m usually too damn tired to do the things I want, which never really were obligatory anyway.  Or, I take so long staring down the frog or pretending I don’t hear him croaking that I have just enough time to gulp him down hurriedly before the sun goes down; it’s time for dinner; time to pick up the girls from the bus stop.

Procrastination and perfectionism are not mutually exclusive.

When, pre-move, I described how I was failing to meet my goal of packing five boxes per day, an acquaintance pointed out how I couldn’t possibly be an overachiever and a procrastinator.  Luckily, another such duality came to my defense.  She concurred, that, oh yes, it is possible to be so worried about doing something perfectly that it stops you from attempting it at all.

In college, I grabbed a pamphlet from the career center on procrastination.  I’ve since thrown it out – though it took me quite some time ; ) – but it laid out similar terms.  I didn’t necessarily agree with it.  I am not one obsessed with the pursuit of perfection.  At least not overtly.  I understand the human condition and all its frailty.  I like to think I empathize and can forgive our various faults.

But do I refuse to start projects until I have sufficient time to complete the entire task?  Yes.  Will I stay at that task far into the night or despite my husband’s repeated attempts to beckon me to the dinner table until it is finished?  Yes.  Will I avoid beginning a task until I know exactly how to execute it?  Yes.  Do I fail to commit to a task until I know I can fulfill all the obligations that go along with it?  Yes.  And regardless of all reasons not to start, do I place an unrelenting sense of guilt heavy upon my breastbone until I do start?  Yes.

Hmmm . . . maybe I threw out that pamphlet because I was not ready to see myself in its words.

What is it with these freakin’ frogs?  And why do they all float on lily pads obscuring what murky depths really cause all this angst: ANXIETY.

Because that’s what it really is, isn’t it?  I worry about getting things right because I’m anxious.  I put things off because they make me nervous.  Or I’m worried about getting it all done.  Or I’m worried I’ll run out of time.  Or it’s an unpleasant task.  Or it’s out of my comfort zone.  Whatever hue or size these amphibian friends and foes come in, they’re all from the same frog mother.  And what a mother-f*&%$#@ she is.

The more I learn about myself, my reactions, feelings, and disposition, the more I realize how much of my life has been colored by anxiety.  I don’t know if I’ve ever known what it is to live without it.  There was a time when I didn’t know I was living with it, but looking back, now I can name it unequivocally.

A very talented writer friend of mine just shared a story wherein a character and her mother try to pinpoint the exact origin of the mother’s obsessive-compulsive disorder.  They realize that not only is it impossible, but it is a form of obsession in and of itself.  What does it matter where it began?  One must learn coping mechanisms to take forward with her.  I find myself doing this repeatedly with my anxiety.  But why?  When did it start?  How?  What purpose does that serve beyond making me more anxious?  Why roll back the reels over those years over and done – and with a pretty good measure of success?  Why create suffering where there may have been none?  Or where there was some, but where I had the wherewithal to function despite it?

Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me, but I feel that the fact that I’ve reached a point in my life where I can’t hack it when I previously could makes me a failure on some level.  I know this is my masochistic overachiever unrealistic hair shirt-wearing self, but it is still part of me and I can’t turn it off no matter how hard I try to push with my rational self.  And all that croaking just reminds me of it.  Why do I get a mental block when I assess my to-do list?  Why can I not complete tasks that I know will reap rewards?

Guess the only way around it is to choke the frogs down before they choke me.

The Alpha and the Omega

There are moments when I catch glimpses of the mother I used to be.  The one I was when I had one baby.  The one I was when I was more frequently in a good mood or less stressed out.  The goofy one who sang silly made-up songs.  The one who danced with a baby on her hip till her legs gave out.  The one who wasn’t so beat down she just tried to get through her day.  The one who could spend time with her children rather than refereeing them.

I see her in the smiles of my children.  The looks of surprise.  The glances at each other and back at me before cracking up.  The silly giggles that roll from their bellies and out through their lips.

I see myself in the mirror and I see a girl child who somehow ended up in charge of three of her own.  A girl who still sees herself as growing and learning.  A girl who still wonders at the dynamics of her own mother/daughter relationship as she builds ones up with her three.

Will they see me for who I am?  A person, who in motherhood and life, often makes it up as she goes along.  Someone who loves them fiercely, but wonders how she loses herself from time to time.  And who opens her eyes from time to time to see the true incarnation of who she’s supposed to be – to them and herself.

Yes, the image will change.  The lines will deepen, the colors fade.  But it should only be a deepening, not a swallowing, a sinking.  The original image is in there somewhere.  A fire in the eye, a shape, a sparkle of laughter.

How do I flow gracefully into the deep while allowing the light bubbles of my past to filter through?  How do I get from the beginning to the end and honor both all the way through?  How do I reconcile the woman and mother I’ve always wanted to be with the being I’ve become?

This House is My Baby

Three years ago, I was in the midst of the maelstrom known as kitchen renovation while designing my own dream space in utero.  In a house too small for three children and no money to move, we decided to do what we could about the logistics of our life.

We messed them up even more.

We ripped out the kitchen, thinking a more streamlined area would ease prepping and feeding three little mouths.  Streamlined is not a word to describe a kitchen reno or raising three children.

Demo started one month and one week before my due date.  Anal retentive to begin with and unknowingly suffering from a fledging case of postpartum depression, my list-making, obsessive planning, and futile attempts at control began.  I created calendars scheduling every detail.  I pushed my father-in-law to speed things up.  I perpetually pissed off our floor installer for constant e-mail updates.

I wanted that kitchen done before the baby came.  I needed running water to clean bottles and babies.  I needed the nasty mastic under the formerly linoleum floor covered up so any residual dust wouldn’t assault my newborn’s fragile airways.  I needed life in some kind of stasis before all hell broke loose.

How a finished kitchen would have prepared me for what happened in the delivery room and beyond is beyond me.  But I felt that some measure of control over my physical world would provide me some sense of control over everything else.  Well, I may not have known that then, but I can certainly see it now – especially since I’m trying to do it again.

Nearly three years to the day after the first pull of a crowbar in our kitchen, we’ve contracted a purchase and sales agreement on a new house.  Gorgeous kitchen aside, we’ve reached the limits of this house.  With one daughter just starting kindergarten and another young enough to make the switch to a new school hopefully not too traumatic, it seems like the perfect time.  Well, sort of.

With interest rates historically low, causing a backlog in bank closings, and a seller who has a cat with special needs (don’t ask), getting into this new house in time for the first day of school is becoming increasingly difficult.  And I can feel the anxiety ratcheting up as a result.  I can feel that nag mechanism gearing up for e-mail assaults on my realtor, unrealistic expectations from our loan officer, and an overall sense of unrest at the universe’s apparent disregard for my wishes.

Every fiber of my being is screaming – make it happen!  It must happen!  You have to get these kids in that house so they can find a home for their lunch boxes and a place to lay our their clothes for the first day of school, make a dry run to the bus stop, and get a feel for that new place as home before they have to figure out a new school, too.  It’s mommy guilt and good planning and type-A personality all rolled into one.  It’s also unrealistic.  Well, sort of.

If I felt any different, I wouldn’t be myself.  I just don’t roll that way.  And it’s coming from a desire to have the best for my children.

It also feels incredibly familiar.

Since 2004, I’ve been pregnant in two and a half year cycles.  When my youngest passed two years and seven months, I realized that was the oldest I’d ever had a child without expecting the next.  And I held my breath for the next three months.  No child number four, but we still embarked on a tumultuous endeavor: this whole house-buying thing.

This house has become my baby.

Apparently I cannot live through a two and half-year cycle without giving myself something to obsess about until it comes to fruition.  But while I see the parallels between my behavior now and then, at least there’s no such thing as post-house-buying depression – not until the first mortgage payment is due anyway.

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